UK's super-fast broadband review to be published

Plans to build a super-fast broadband network to help Britain’s economy stay competitive and enable people to download films and music in seconds will be published in a government-commissioned review on Friday.

The study will explain how the state could help pave the way for the next generation of broadband internet connections, which will be up to 25 times faster.

Business and Competitiveness Minister Shriti Vadera ordered the review in February to see if public money should be used to build the network to help businesses cope with the rapid rise of e-commerce.

Francesco Caio, vice-chairperson of Lehman Brothers who led the review, is expected to recommend private investment by broadband providers over public funding.

Replacing the current network of copper telephone wires with a faster fibre-optic system would cost billions of pounds, Caio said in an interview last week. It could be overtaken by other technology, such as wireless internet, in a few years, he added.

“You might run the risk of putting £15-billion into the ground,” he said in comments reported on the trade website,

Last week, the Broadband Stakeholder Group, the government’s advisory body on broadband, said it would cost up to £28,8-billion to give every home a new fibre connection.

Internet usage in Britain has rocketed from less than 10% of the population in 1997 to 70% in 2007.

Fifty-six percent of all households had a broadband connection in 2008, up from 51% in 2007, according to National Statistics.

With the boom in internet traffic, online videos and other data-hungry services, the government and private firms have been looking at ways of speeding up the network.

The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform wants internet speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

A megabit is a measure of the speed of data transfer. Home broadband links are typically about four to eight Mbps.

Broadband providers are testing fast connections in Kent. Virgin Media has a 50 Mbps trial in Ashford, while BT is offering a fast service at a new housing development in Ebbsfleet. - Reuters

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