Our recent poll featured a question we had originally asked back in 2009, giving us an opportunity to see how the public’s attitudes and expectations of the UK Broadband Universal Service Commitment has changed.
We received over 2,400 responses to the poll, which closely matches the response level in 2009, allowing us to compare the two results quite well. The two results are surprisingly similar, with a small shift towards faster speeds after a three year gap. The current Universal Service Commitment target from the UK government still sits at 2 Mbps, significantly below the speeds which respondents told us they would expect as a minimum. The suggestion is therefore that the public expectation for broadband is still vastly different from the goals the government has set. In fact, the expectations are more in line with the European Union plans for 2020.
|2009 Result||2012 Result|
To get some idea of how realistic users were being, we also asked those voting how much extra they would pay for a service that would double their speeds. The response suggests there the public has become used to speed upgrades that come at almost no extra cost. For example, the similarity in pricing for BT Retail’s ADSL2+ and FTTC products via its BT Total and BT Infinity brands. The major competitors to BT Retail, as in TalkTalk and Sky are charging more for their fibre services—£10 to £30 extra per month.
While 35% are looking for a better service at the same price, the number of people willing to pay a reasonable level of premium offers some encouragement to investors, particularly for those services that may be able to operate in the more rural parts of the UK at speeds exceeding the USC level. We are expecting that fixed wireless operators in particular are going to try and be aggressive in service roll-out to areas where they are guessing local authorities will rely on slower options like BET (Openreach Broadband Extension Technology that can just about provide 2 Mbps). The Service Exchange Platform from Fluidata may even allow some fixed wireless providers to sub-contract their service to these hard-to-reach areas, as a key requirement of the local authority projects is that wholesale access be available.
While not everyone is willing to change provider, a massive three quarters have shown a willingness to switch provider if it met their desired speed. This suggests very much that who ever wins the race to be first to an area with a product that meets residents’ speed and price point expectations may be able to grab a large share of the market.
There are another three years before the 2 Meg USC comes into effect, and based on current progress we not likely to see service availability in any areas until mid 2013, with the bulk of work for both the final third and USC being rushed through at the end of 2014. The scoring system proposed means the Government is 99.9% sure now of being able to pat itself on the back in 2015, unless projects suffer total failure, but it is likely to be a hollow victory, with work on the next level of upgrades having to get underway almost immediately.
The EU target of 30 Mbps for all in 2020 appears to have driven the BDUK to update the target for UK broadband projects from 24 Mbps to 30 Mbps. Alas the BDUK section on the DCMS website is appallingly out of date with regards to news and still lists 24 Mbps in its glossary. Whilst no-one wants £10,000′s wasted on a pretty website, tasking one civil servant to update the site weekly should not be beyond the abilities of the BDUK team.