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UK Misses Out In World Fibre Rankings

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The UK has still not entered the worldwide rankings for fibre-optic broadband deployments, while Asia and the US surge ahead

Households with fibre-optic connections are growing steadily, with Canada and Malaysia joining the list of countries with at least 1 percent of homes connected to fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in 2011, according to the FTTH (fibre to the home) Council.

However, no new European countries entered the list last year and despite investment into its broadband infrastructure the UK is not on the list, the council noted.

Europe lags

South Korea leads worldwide in the proportion of homes connected to FTTH networks, at 58 percent, followed by the United Arab Emirates at 56 percent, Hong Kong at 45 percent, Japan at 42 percent and Taiwan at 29 percent.

Japan leads the world on the number of homes connected, at 22.2 million, followed by China with 16.9 million, South Korea with 10.4 million, the US with 9.6 million and Russia with 4.5 million.

In Europe, Lithuania leads the rankings with 28 percent of households linked to FTTH, followed by Norway with nearly 15 percent and Sweden with nearly 14 percent.

Canada entered the list last year with 1.24 percent of homes now connected, while Malaysia is another new entrant with 3.42 percent linked, according to council’s report.

The council noted that FTTH roll-outs grew last year in spite of an unfavourable economic climate. “Since the previous edition in June 2011, Europe has added more than 600,000 new FTTH subscribers,” the report said. “FTTH adoption is clearly growing, in spite of the current economic climate.”

FTTH roll-out within the European Union grew at an annual rate of 41 percent in 2011, with more than 5.1 million FTTH subscribers and 28 million homes passed by the end of the year, the report said.

“We are concerned that there is no new entrant from Europe,” said FTTH Council Europe president Chris Holden in a statement. “On the positive side, we see a steady growth in our region. Still, there is a long way to reach the Digital Agenda targets of the European Union to ensure that more than 50 per cent of the European households will use broadband connections of 100Mbit/s or more in 2020.”

Britain’s FTTH plans under questioned

The UK government has committed to rolling out Europe’s best superfast broadband network by 2015, but the House of Lords said last week it would carry out an inquiry into those plans.

The analysis will be carried out by the Select Committee on Communications for the House of Lords, after it issued a Call For Evidence, to gather feedback from interested parties about BDUK, the gody set up to drive superfast broadband into areas that would not normally see a fibre deployment.

The government believes that its commitment of £530 million to BDUK, to drive the roll-out of superfast broadband to the third of UK homes and businesses that would otherwise miss out, is enough money.

That money has already been divided between the various county councils, unitary authorities etc, all of whom will have to bid for their share of the fund, but also come up with their own funding as well, at a time when many frontline council services being cut.

The government believes that under its current strategy, 90 percent of the UK population should have access to a broadband connection of 25Mbps by 2015, and that everyone should have a minimum of 2Mbps or greater.

The government’s rhetoric on broadband and its commitment to these minimum speeds, whilst sounding laudable, has raised a few eyebrows among industry experts and observers. Simply put, many do not believe the £530m of public money is enough cash to make good this commitment.

Tom Jowitt contributed to this report.