TalkTalk says the telecoms industry needs to focus as much on fibre adoption as it has done on network construction if the UK it to realise the full benefits of ultrafast broadband.
The operator, which doesn’t own any network infrastructure itself, has commissioned a report that claims one third of households face being left behind unless authorities and the wider industry take action.
Two thirds of the country can now receive gigabit broadband through a combination of fibre to the premise (FTTP) and cable, while Openreach, Virgin Media O2, and several altnets have committed to go even further by the end of the decade.
Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk’s chief executive, says this progress is evidence that the collaborative approach between authorities and the wider industry can be successful and wants it to be replicated to drive adoption.
“You’d be forgiven from thinking on the outside that once the cable has been laid in the ground it is job done. This is not the case. The technology is useless unless people use it,” Harrison told Connected Britain 2022 in London.
“There needs to be as much focus on getting connections in home as much as there is building cables. There are many barriers [to adoption].”
TalkTalk’s report says the industry should adopt an ‘FTTP-first’ mindset and clearer terminology, while the government and Ofcom should refocus targets to reflect adoption rates rather than coverage. It also wants incentives to drive takeup, clearer frameworks and a more ambitious target for the switch off of the UK’s copper infrastructure – driving efficiency and quality of service.
“If we all do all we can to make takeup as easy as possible, we will see faster build, greater visibility in society [through marketing] and more people will get [fibre],” Harrison continued. “And together we can bring forward the copper switch off date.
“Unless we don’t do this, millions of people won’t adopt fibre even if it’s running past their front door.”
Openreach, one of TalkTalk’s wholesale suppliers, was in agreement. Katie Milligan, Openreach chief commercial officer, said that although customers appreciated the speeds once they took out a fibre package, getting to that point could be a challenge.
“[A lack of awareness] is something we’ve seen in the industry as a while,” she said. “We do need to increase awareness and incentivise customers to get onto the platform.”
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.
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