After last week’s angry exchange of letters, UK ISPs including BT and Vodafone have been making a point about addressing rural broadband coverage.
In its letter, the CEOs of Vodafone UK, TalkTalk and Sky UK claimed BT serve up less than 10 mbps broadband speeds to roughly 8% of UK premises, and while BT disputed it to be nearer 4%, nonetheless it has been making an effort to resolve poor rural connectivity.
Up in the Outer Hebrides, BT is working on a proof of concept trial with roughly 20 households to deliver Long Reach VDSL (LRVDSL). BT says LRVDSL operates at higher power levels and makes use of a wider range of frequencies to improve the performance, speed and distance of its broadband.
Openreach CEO patriotically said early trials are looking positive and that the technology could become the ideal solution to providing connectivity to households positioned an extremely long way away from the cabinet.
“This is a British Innovation story, and our world class labs are pioneering a technology which could improve speeds for thousands of homes and business across Scotland and the rest of the UK – particularly those connected by long lines that are between 2.5km and 3.5km away from the cabinet,” he said. “Our lab tests prove that Long Reach VDSL has the potential to boost speeds over such lines which are typically found in remote parts of the UK.”
However, in the letter to BT signed by its rivals, gripes were made about BT’s insistence on investing in copper as part of the access network.
“You state that we have overlooked Openreach’s investment in ‘fibre broadband’, which we assume to be a reference to investment in the FTTC copper/fibre hybrid product. This goes to the heart of our disagreement over the level of ambition we should have for Britain’s broadband infrastructure. Although BT believes G.Fast is fit for the future, as your customers we simply do not.”
With that in mind, it looks as though Vodafone, TalkTalk and Sky will still be unimpressed at BT’s reliance on copper.
Elsewhere in more rural parts of the UK, Vodafone has launched its 4G service on the Isles of Scilly in the South West, and Vodafone UK head of mobile networks Kye Prigg said connecting islands and extremely remote areas of the country is one of the biggest challenges for the operator.
“Rural and remote locations often miss out on advantages provided by modern communication tools, due to the complexity of delivering network coverage,” he said. “This can be because of the geography of the area or difficulties with planning permissions in places of outstanding natural beauty, so it’s great news the Isles of Scilly is now benefiting from our best network ever.”