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Smooth moves towards fibre broadband

Here's a little history about fibre optic telecoms in the UK and why it's more rubbish than in other parts of the world. It all started in the 80s...

Here's a little history about fibre optic telecoms in the UK and why it's more rubbish than in other parts of the world. It all started in the 80s when BT approached the government and suggested it could switch the whole country over from copper cable to shiny new fibre optics.

The then Conservative government, headed by iron lady Margaret Thatcher, refused. Her decision was based partially on BT's insistence that, in order for it to invest, the restriction preventing it from sending TV over phone lines would have to be removed. It was also partly because she was concerned about a lack of competition for the BT monopoly.

Fast forward to 2008 and while BT is sending TV over phone lines, we still don't have a nationwide domestic fibre telecoms infrastructure, apart from the Virgin Media network. Of course, there are patches where fibre is used, including new-build towns like Ebbsfleet. There are some sewer-based, third-party fibre roll-outs happening in Dundee and Bournemouth, but most of us are stuck with ageing copper cables in our homes.

If you're rich enough, you could always get a leased fibre line to your house, but the cost would be prohibitive. In short, Thatcher got it wrong. We don't all have fibre. The Koreans and Swedes do and have incredible broadband speeds in certain regions as a result.

The good news is BT is finally planning a fibre roll-out. As you can imagine, it won't cover the whole country and I'll wager that if you live in a rural area, you're bang out of luck. BT plans to spend £1.5bn on the roll-out, which will reach some 10 million people by 2012. Initially, speeds will be 100Mbps but will eventually go much higher. We sincerely hope this fibre diet plan goes more smoothly.