How Britain is sleepwalking into a two-tier Internet future
I’ve been watching the mobile networks in the UK closely as they roll out and launch their 5G networks; technologies that aim to replicate and beat the speed and latency offered by 3G/4G, and fixed line broadband operated over a copper telephone line.
One of the first serious plays, given almost no phone compatibility at the moment, looks to be 5G Broadband from Three.
CEO Dave Dyson says that the service is going to”revolutionise the home broadband experience”. That it will; we already know from 4G that, if you’re fortunate enough to be in an area, well, a room, of good coverage, you can get decent Internet access without a telephone line. That means no waiting for installation or activation, and no hassle if you’re short-term renting.
But these minor conveniences should not be masquerading as the silver bullet for broadband. And the prospect of 5G broadband must not be allowed to impede on the delivery of the most important digital driver for our country’s future.
Fibre to the premises.
Fibre to the Premises, or FTTP, means fibre optic cables providing Internet access at the speed of light to homes, shops and offices. It’s the purest technology we have for delivering Internet access and the gold standard in every way.
What does Dave’s marketing team, happy to proclaim that we should ‘forget fibre’ think Three’s 5G network is built on? But then they’re also claiming that if it’s not Three it’s not ‘real’ 5G, so I think we can classify their technical competency as ‘limited’.
5G can, over time, improve Internet access for all of us, opening up new possibilities for connected applications, particularly when mobile. I’m a huge advocate.
But it is vital that we invest in the backbone of our country’s digital future, and that means supplementing or replacing the copper telephone wires across the land with fibre optic cable. Dave’s assertions go down in flames the minute landlords start providing a Wi-Fi service to tenants powered by FTTP.
We must all resist the temptation of relying on our mobile networks to provide the next generation of fixed Internet access, sacrificing speed, reliability and capacity for ease and convenience. Only then can we truly embrace, participate in and, hopefully, lead the digital future that’s coming.