In one respect at least Ofcom’s recommendations from its Digital Communications Review announced last week quickened the pulse of investors in future-proofed fibre infrastructure.
Serious analysts described the moves as “a huge boost in helping the nation catch up with other countries’ increasingly advanced broadband infrastructures”. In media interviews, Ofcom’s Chief Executive Sharon White was keen to point out that UK had already achieved 2.6% penetration for Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) as an indicator of progress.
That 2.6% figure contrasted markedly with the report just seven days earlier that the UK had once again failed to reach the threshold of 1% penetration for inclusion in the European league table of optically connected homes and buildings.
Close inspection of Ofcom’s report reveals that the data was not Ofcom’s own assessment but relied on estimates by consultancy Analysys Mason – and, in turn the consultancy’s data supports a 2% UK penetration achievement in availability (not actual connections) of FTTP – a figure that compares unfavourably with Denmark (over 30%), Spain (over 60%) or Japan (70%).
So, discounting the quoted 2.6% figure (which may simply have been ‘over enthusiasm’), the 2% availability figure, if customer take-up were then estimated at 25%, would explain the difference between last week’s Ofcom-induced excitement and the previous week’s FTTH Council Europe disappointment.
Does this matter?
Supporters of BT’s Fibre to the Cabinet strategy and their plans for G.Fast would say not. What matters, they’d say, are not massive headline download speeds but sufficient capacity with which we can get along – leastways for the time being. Others, of course, profoundly disagree – pointing to demands for symmetry, lower latency, future-proofing and an altogether better use of the UK’s energy supply.
There is another reason why the presentation of statistics matters. Regulators – particularly those who would claim to be evidence-led – should surely be expected to present their views in ways that can be fairly understood by their primary audience, the citizens, businesses and public sector agencies on which the economy depends.
Ofcom’s outputs last week were greeted with mixed reviews – a welcome for clear intent on competitive Duct and Pole Access and severe doubts on the practicality and efficacy of such measures. It is now for Ofcom rapidly to pursue their recommendations with renewed vigour – if only to prove that they were not misguided in stopping short of full separation of BT and its Openreach honey-pot.
This article was first published by Total Telecom 07/03/2016