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Long-Term Economic Indicators: Fibre Futures PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 14:43

Long-term predictions are notoriously difficult. 

A marathon is long enough for the finishers to be spread over several hours.  

A race that is spread over a decade or two inevitably results in even greater variance.

But this is not any conventional race – for two reasons.

Firstly, what is at stake is economic and societal wellbeing.  So this isn’t a race to be ignored. 

Secondly, the race started some time ago.   Unfortunately the UK has not yet turned up at the starting line and shows little sign of getting ready to run.

The latest reports of this race – the ‘Race to Fibre Maturity’ – are shown in the graphic below.   ‘Fibre Maturity’ is not really the end of the race – it is merely that stage when the runners will reach the 20% mark.  At that point, 1 in 5 buildings (households and businesses) will enjoy fully-fibred future-proofed symmetric digital connectivity. 

By the time the UK gets to that point the front-runners will be well out of sight.  Advanced countries will be . . . more advanced.

Question:  Does this really matter?

 It matters if: 

  • You believe that a data tsunami will be triggered by ever-demanding video technologies.
  • You believe that the UK needs to trade efficiently in a globally connected world.
  • We need to create employment and be an attractive destination for investment.
  • We want to develop places and communities that work and live well together.

 It really doesn’t matter:

  • If you think we can all get by in the slow lane 
  • If Upload is less important than Download – even beyond 2022
  • If you imagine that Fixed is less important than Mobile
  • If some new technology will arrive to outpace fibre-optics
  • If our brightest children must seek work far away from home
  • If building economic resilience is ‘just like all that climate change tosh’
  • If our greatest economic strength lies in heritage tourism
  • If the national PR budget can afford to convince citizens that black is white

Let us assume that China, USA, Russia, Canada and Japan have all gotten this wrong. 

Say we assume that they are all wasting their money on building future-proofed digital infrastructures. 

Let us suppose that even Germany will stay the course and resist the deviant digital direction chosen by France, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands . . . . . in fact by around 23 of the EU’s 28 nations.

That, I suggest, is a fairly big bet on economic futures. 

But then, as their Lordships reported yesterday, we are already falling behind with insufficient digital skills. 

Note to policymakers:  Any chance we can keep the lid on demand?


 * Defined as 20% Household Fibre Penetration.  Extract from presentation at FTTH2015, Warsaw



Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 19:15

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