Monday, December 06, 2010

Superfast rural broadband

The Government outlined today its plans to roll out "superfast broadband" to rural areas, which the operation of the market continue to undersupply. The obvious problem is that rural population density is low, so that long runs of cable are needed to connect to households. If that cable is copper, attenuation will be so extreme that "broadband" will in reality become narrowband - dial-up modem speeds.

The answer in principle is fibre: to, or near-to the home; but this is very expensive to deploy. An alternative is to use wireless (e.g. 3G Broadband or WiMAX) but again the cost-economics to deploy the necessary base-stations are poor: how often do we fail to get even a 2G mobile signal in rural areas?

Satellite has been mentioned but geostationary satellites are 22,000 miles up and this introduces terrible latency for interactive services such as Skype. Also, due to such distances the equipment is expensive.

So, as usual, it all comes down to cost and therefore subsidies. We are still waiting to see who gets the contract to run this programme on behalf of the Government. My name went forward in November as part of one consortium but unfortunately we were not selected.

After the weekend thaw it's become frigidly arctic again and the cat is increasingly desperate to find warm places to sleep. Mostly he lies out next to the warmest radiator he can find ...

... but walking into our bedroom this morning I was surprised to discover this under the duvet.