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Tuesday, 22 November 2016 17:32

Autumn Statement’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund could signal end to UK’s digital divide, says optical communications expert

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Aston University’s Chair of Optical Communications has welcomed the news that Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce £400m investment in fibre to the premises in the Autumn Statement.

Professor Andrew Ellis comments: “The proposed investment could go a long way to tackling the digital divide that currently exists in the UK, as long as it is targeted in the right way.

“Technologies such as G.Fast, recently developed by major industry players, will serve cities and other densely populated sufficiently where distances to the nearest cabinets are relatively small, so Government needs to focus its investment in areas less likely to be served by these initiatives. If targeted at traditionally harder-to-reach areas such as rural districts and market towns, this investment fund could give the economy a major boost.

“The commercial case for infrastructure development is lower outside urban areas, where service variability is also greatest, but the potential for economy growth is just as great. This means investment may need to be focused on larger operators that already have existing customers in these less densely populated areas.

“The Government rightly recognises that ‘fibre-to-the-property’ is the future, with technical capabilities of commercial solutions far outstripping even the promised capacity of alternative options. Unlike ‘fibre to the roadside cabinet’, which has been the focus of investment so far, providing fibre to the property removes the distance dependence of broadband and offers significantly higher speeds. This will eliminate the confusion of “up to” speeds which plague disappointed internet users.”

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