back to article Digi minister Matt Hancock: Britain needs go full fibre. And we're not paying for it

The UK's digital minister Matt Hancock has said pure fibre and 5G are the priority for Blighty's digital infrastructure over the next decade - but has indicated the government won't be paying for it. Speaking at the Broadband World Forum event today, he said by 2020 the volume of global internet traffic would be 95 times what …

  1. Locky

    To those who say it has been tried and failed

    "I say go to Hull"

    Going to Hull has never been the problem. Getting out of Hull however...

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: To those who say it has been tried and failed

      Also, for the bits that don't have fibre... One site I deal with has a great 8/1 line. And it's only costing the same as the 80/20 I have with Zen outside hull.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Fibre! Fibre! Fibre!

    - "Minister, we also have G.Fast which could save a heap of money and use existing infrastructure."

    - "Stuff and nonsense, I want fibre and I want it spelling my name in lights."

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Why not copy Switzerland?

    Out of the EU but trades with them. Oh no, not that bit. The gigabit over copper bit. We've loads of copper in the ground. Up the voltage or whatever tech magic they do and easily get 100 Meg + speeds. No more digging up roads etc.

    1. WonkoTheSane

      Re: Why not copy Switzerland?

      The problem with that is that BT cheaped out and used aluminium instead of copper for a while

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Traffic volume

    "by 2020 the volume of global internet traffic would be 95 times what it is now."

    98% of which will still be porn, cat videos and google. Do we REALLY need to be able to watch porn in glorious 8K hi-res colour on a 60-inch screen? (Ok, possibly a bad example...)

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Traffic volume

      Yes, yes we do...

    2. noboard
      Thumb Up

      Re: Traffic volume

      I don't know, but please sign me up for the study to find out.

  5. Anonymous Noel Coward

    I miss the term "Information Superhighway."

    We need to bring it back.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      How about "Superdigital Motorway"?

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        It's more like reasonably ok A road at the moment.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Britain needs go full fibre"

    Bran Flakes should see to that.

  7. noboard

    Free wifi on trains!!!

    "He said free Wi-fi should be available on 100 per cent of trains by 2020"

    Someone should tell him it's not free, the cost will be added to the price of the ticket. Given how shonky the wifi is on a train, I'd rather have a cheaper ticket and pay for the wifi if I need it.

  8. theModge

    Train WiFi back haul

    free Wi-fi should be available on 100 per cent of trains by 2020

    Getting wifi on a train is a piece of cake, there's plenty of power on a train and it's a small area after all, two access points per carriage will cover it nicely.

    Oh? You want to get data from the train to the rest of the world? Now that is an expensive problem. There's loads of expensive solutions of course: The track is a great place to lay fibre along side (ish) and you could then put up towers with radio transmitters - (frequency and power chosen to cover the gap between poles nicely at a good future proof data rate) then have receivers on the train. You wouldn't even be the first to do it - it's been done on Moscow metro apparently. Now imagine the expense of doing that for an entire national network. Now times it by five because railway companies can make *anything* expensive. Now consider how sodding expensive tickets are at the minute and you'll see why that won't be happening. There are people (Italians IRCC) trying to make the cheaper by using existing towers (for GSM-R) and using WiFi custom antennae to make the signal directional along the line and high gain, that's cheaper and I'd be interested to see how it turns out.

    The only solution I've seen that looks affordable suffers from not really offering people what they want: a caching server on the train and an app you have to run on your phone \ laptop to receive the content they provide. Some news and entertainment, railway related info (delays, connections etc) and the option of selling people films or music from a server on the train. Even coupled with the single 4G connection which goes up and down like Cameron on a pig farm that's not much use for those wishing to work \ read the register \ rad Reddit.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Train WiFi back haul

      If UK governments had been sensible and mandated that mobile providers gave (good quality)100% UK coverage (inc data) then (bar tunnel situations) getting decent data signal on a train would be less of a PITA and the on train wifi solution would be easier (let's face it most train users only want on board wifi as not getting mobile data on train routes due to aforementioned pants coverage).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Train WiFi back haul

        If the government had mandated 100% coverage your mobile phone bill would be two or three times what it is today. Network build isn't free.

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Train WiFi back haul

      Or they could just improve the mobile network along a track with a leaky coax solution (not powerful enough to affect other base stations). They could even make it their own network and have a roaming agreement. This works great in the channel tunnel.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always find it fascinating how so many people seem to think data is carried from "the internet" to a persons computer via magic and that everything between the internet (or google/amazon/itunes) is not only magic but also free!

    1. Commswonk

      And in turn I find it extremely worrying that some of those people seem to be El Reg contributors.

      1. Geoffrey W

        I don't understand why I can't just download some fast broadband like I do with all my music. I've been looking all over bit torrent and Usenet but haven't found any yet. Is there some dark web site sharing it?

  10. Anonymous Cowerd

    My father lives in Hull...

    His comments about the (monopoly) broadband are unprintable.

  11. inmypjs Silver badge

    Why Why are all politicians complete morons?

    "but has indicated the government won't be paying for it."

    Well I'm glad the tax payer isn't going to be paying for it, however, here is a clue you dumb fuck - no one else is either because for almost everyone there is no value in gigabit speeds.

    I am techy, a heavier than most internet user and could get 300Mb cable from Virgin and would not pay for it. Download a full HD movie in 5 minutes they brag - well it is going to take me an hour and a half to watch it so - so what. If I did get virgin cable I would be wavering about 100Mb being worth the extra over 50.

    "full-fibre solution can be economic," citing the Gigabit City project in York"

    Yeah right. I read laying fibre past the subscribers cost around £500 each and laying into and the modem I guess another £300 each. Talk talk are charging an already loss making £23 a month (way less that virgins cheapest 50Mb offering) to get subscribers signed up. There is no chance it will ever break even without it being a bait and switch deal with substantial price hikes in the future. So no it isn't even close to being economic you effing idiot.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Why Why are all politicians complete morons?

      Well said - assuming that service availability/reliability and QoS are sorted out, the general economic case for mega speeds is (IMHO) weak.

      Downloading your 8K vids in 10 seconds flat is all well and good for a consumer, but economically it only benefits the VoD supplier and the media creators (and indirectly their own suppliers), NOT the wider economy.

      I realise the "640K should be enough for anybody" argument could be played here, but until physical objects can fit down the internet there has to be a "fast enough, not fastest possible" mantra for publicly-funded broadband.

      No-one is asking why a particular speed is chosen for these announcements (i.e. why 100Mbps and not 20Mbps is desirable in the use-cases) and in isolation it is meaningless if contention or reliability targets or SLAs are not also specified.

      1. Commswonk

        Re: Why Why are all politicians complete morons?

        See title; because politics seems to attract more than its fair share of narcissists who believe that their success at the ballot box and elevation to some sort of ministerial post was based on having all sorts of magic powers and furthermore automatically confers on them all sorts of secret knowledge denied to the proles*.

        It's not limited to politicians; we've all had managers who believe that their appointment conferred on them powers of divination denied to us lesser beings, and that any knowledge they don't have is not relevant anyway.

        * Includes me, I have to admit.

    2. Richard Simpson

      Re: Why Why are all politicians complete morons?

      I too am waiting to find out what all this extra bandwidth is for.

      I recently upgraded my ADSL to VDSL and went from 3Mb/s to 40Mb/s downloads, BUT, I only decided to pay the extra because of the previously abysmal upload speed (a few kbit). The new 10Mb/s upload speed makes access to file shares as work easier so working at home is more practical and my mother-in-law can now browse our photo collection over the VPN, but download wise I haven't seen a huge advantage. Sure, the software updates download faster but that can happen in the background anyway. iPlayer/YouTube etc still works just as well! I am now being offered an upgrade to an 80/20 service for a modest one-off charge. I'll probably take it, but only because the monthly fee doesn't increase.

      The bottom line is that since I haven't got a big benefit from going from 3 to 40Mb/s download I am really struggling to see how I would use Gbit speeds!

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: Why Why are all politicians complete morons?

        2 years later, do you still feel the same way? I've got 3.5Mbps in theory, and few things work great with only 350kbps upload speeds!

  12. Creamy-G00dness

    What about the BT handout??

    Forgive me if i am incorrect but didn't we already pay for BT to give country wide access to fibre?

    And then if i remember correctly BT Sport was born and no one has heard about our tax handout since.

    This is the second story on El Reg where the government appears to be putting the responsibility onto local councils and other company's to roll out fibre when we have already paid BT for the job to be done.

    Looks like the our dear leaders once again have both hands on the rug that we are stood on.

    1. Commswonk

      Re: What about the BT handout??

      Forgive me if i am incorrect but didn't we already pay for BT to give country wide access to fibre?

      IIRC you are incorrect; BT was given a load of money to provide broadband, and it has achieved that tolerably well, as long as you* think that FTTC provides a decent enough service for the majority of users.

      BT was not handed enough dosh to provide FTTP; neither was it required to. FTTC was / is the best way of getting a "large" number of users on to a "reasonably fast" broadband service.

      * Risky admission; I am one of those included in "you".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about the BT handout??

      No, the government made money available to subsidise broadband rollout (it didn't specify what type) in places where it would otherwise be loss-making to the provider. As FTTC is a tenth of the cost of FTTP that's what was chosen; pretty good broadband to as many people as possible with the available money. It wasn't enough money to do 100% of the country and it wasn't enough to do FTTP.

  13. -tim

    Who is going to do the work?

    I expect the UK is much like Oz where you have to be the right type of telecoms person to deal with fibre.

    Most of our guys are on the older side so while they do know the risks of pulling the lid off a pit and upsetting its resident, they aren't so good at dealing with stuff that is less than 1/10th the size of the wires they were trained on back when they could see much better.

    So how do we find several thousand people to do this work when they have to train for a while, get involved with a very expensive van fitted out with even more expensive gear for a job that will dropping like an auto workers job prospects in the next decade?

    I figure if you can find a way to get people with my grandmother's ability to deal with fine silk style knitting combined with crazy people who are willing to drive to odd areas and open pits and make sure the area has no snakes, spiders, crocks or sharks then we could get our NBN rolled out in a reasonable time.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Working with fibre providers to find a solution

    "working with fibre providers to find a solution". Translation: vested interests have retarded fibre broadband development and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. If you want fiber broadband at your current price then you'll have to move to south Korea.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom is part of the problem

    Ofcom regulations require service providers to support power on a copper line, so that an unpowered, old-fashioned wired telephone can be plugged in AND in the event of a power failure and emergency situation, be able to use that phone and whatever CPE on a battery backup.

    How many people still use those old wired phones? How many people wouldn't just use their mobile in the event of an emergency?

    It's archaic rules like this that make is artificially difficult and costly to move us to a full fibre world.

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