Government must do more to improve UK broadband coverage and speed
The Government needs to speed up the auction of spare 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum and increase the target for super-fast broadband (24Mb or more) coverage to 98% of UK premises.
Those were two of the key messages from the Westminster eForum on "Delivering the UK's Broadband Future" this morning.
The current target of 95% coverage could leave an area equivalent to Suffolk, Norfolk and Northern Ireland without a decent high-speed broadband service, according to Alastair Davidson, managing director for Government, Mobile and Enterprise at Arqiva.
While the Government remains committed to creating "the best super-fast broadband network in the UK by 2015", Simon Towler, head of spectrum and broadband at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport admits that the target will be "tough to meet".
"Spectrum is badly needed and we want the spectrum auction to happen as soon as possible - we need to get on with it."
And he says the Government supports the EU-wide target of achieving 30Mb broadband for all by 2020.
"There's a broadband speed arms race developing, with more and more businesses demanding higher speeds," says Towler. "Broadband must also be mobile: the UK is addicted to its smartphones."
MP Rory Stewart is pushing for an increase in the target for UK broadband coverage from 95% of premises to 98%. That must include rural communities who currently have no broadband connection.
To that end, the government has allocated £18m to the rural broadband community fund targeted at the most remote areas, plus a further £150m for infrastructure support.
Meanwhile, BT says it is on target to roll out fibre optic broadband to two thirds of UK premises by 2014 and will be able to deliver a 100Mb service to 50% of its UK customers by 2020 - or maybe sooner.
Virgin Media says it will offer 100Mb to all its customers by mid-2012.
According to Ofcom, 86% of UK premises currently have access to 2Mb broadband or more, and the average broadband speed is 6.8Mb.