As an indicator of a sea change in the UK’s digital policies, perhaps nothing speaks louder than Ofcom’s first appearance on stage at the annual FTTH Council Europe conference.
Steve Unger, Ofcom’s CTO, chose to give a UK perspective on FTTH and openly acknowledged that the UK has not been at the forefront of fibre promotion. He explained however that a major shift is underway – and possibly not before time. He was speaking as part of a panel of European regulators and just before the much-anticipated release of the latest FTTH European league table.
The new entrants this year are Austria and Serbia but, alas, the UK has still failed to clear the entry hurdle of 1% penetration of full fibre (FTTH/B).
Speaking of the major shift in UK policy, Steve Unger was questioned on the emergent issues around 5G. He cautioned that at this time the definition of 5G was still unclear. At the same time he acknowledged that 5G Mobile would be critically dependent on fibre backhaul – and suggested that the FTTH/B terminology should be inclusive of Fibre to Small Cells.
Prior to that remark he had noted the significance of sharing passive infrastructure (holes and poles) in reducing the cost of fibre deployments. He also suggested that a third major operator deploying fibre at scale should join the current duopoly of BT and VM.
Steve finally reiterated Ofcom’s primary concern to ensure a ‘good customer experience’ – a position that will surely be tested as broadband users increasingly look towards an unconstrained future.