Arqiva: Procurement of ‘superfast’ broadband must not come at the expense of delivering basic rural connectivity
Arqiva, the communications infrastructure and media services company, has urged the governments in Cardiff and London to focus on ensuring internet access for all, rather than aspiring to provide the highest speeds possible to those already with broadband.
According to Ofcom, around 64% of Welsh premises have access to broadband – below the national 71% average. Arqiva estimates that the broadband not-spot problem can be addressed for around £30m – a small proportion of the budget allocated to improving nationwide broadband.
Speaking at a cross-party inquiry by the Westminster Welsh Affairs committee into broadband provision in the House of Commons, MD of Government, Mobile and Enterprise at Arqiva Alastair Davidson highlighted that there are around 90,000 premises in Wales that cannot even receive a basic 2Mbits/s broadband service – the minimum level of service people should be entitled to expect.
Julian McGougan, head of regulatory and public affairs at Arqiva, said:
“The problem we have at the moment is the debate both in Cardiff and Westminster is dominated by superfast, superfast, superfast – along with the idea that anything less than that is somehow not worth having.”
“We have consumers standing outside a Ferrari garage with their noses pressed against the window and both governments are saying, ‘You’ll have one of those soon.’ The problem is, some of those consumers are in line to get a Ford.”
“There is a real worry that when the pot runs dry some of those people who were in line to get a Ford won’t get one because the money won’t be there. These are many Welsh consumers who have got nothing now; there is a real risk they will still have nothing in 2015. Meanwhile, their friends two miles down the road have got the Ferrari they were promised.”
In December 2010, Arqiva’s pioneering 4G LTE trial in the Preseli mountains in West Wales demonstrated that with the necessary funding, a fixed wireless broadband solution could quite capably bring 2Mbits/s broadband in peak times to users, with far higher speeds available off-peak. Built in conjunction with Alcatel Lucent, Arqiva’s LTE network is capable of delivering speeds of over 50Mbit/s using 800MHz spectrum, freed up by the digital TV switchover. 2Mbits/s broadband is fast enough for almost any legal activity consumers use the internet for (including iPlayer), and is far quicker than many rural consumers (including SMEs) have today.