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UK has 40 next-gen local broadband schemes

Local authorities help residents create networks

While the UK's largest ISPs are starting to put their next-gen broadband schemes into action, the Communications Consumer Panel says there are already 40 localised super-fast broadband schemes in action in the UK.

According to a report by the advisory panel many of the schemes, which range in size from 30 to 55,000 households, are being financed with the help of local councils or regional development agencies.

Author of the report Roger Darlington said the smallest is a project known as 'Bradnet' in which a resident of Bradley in Hampshire is monitoring a super-fast broadband network that connects just 30 homes.

Darlington said the biggest trial was taking in place in South Yorkshire. Partly funded by the European Commission, when the project is complete it will see 55,000 households given access to 100Mbps broadband.

"There were a lot more than I realised, which reflects a certain amount of frustration that people are not seeing super-fast broadband rolled out as fast as they would like," said Darlington.

However, not all of the projects are being run by local authorities. In Alston, Cumbria, residents are laying their own fibre network.

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"It is vital that they are not standalone but can operate with each other," said Darlington. He also added that the small schemes were no replacement for fibre services from large ISPs such as BT, which is planning to roll out a nationwide fibre network.

However, according to management consultancy Deloitte, the economic downturn could force nations into investing in one single super-fast broadband network, rather than continuing with the practice of multiple networks providing high-speed services.

In a report by its Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) department, Deloitte says it may more economic sense to invest in a single fibre network and share the cost between multiple operators.

"Regulators may determine that the fibre connectivity market is not sovereign, and that the case for a single network, with shared ownership and open access, might be the best way forward," says the report.

The cost of rolling out super-fast broadband across the UK has been estimated at between £15 and £25bn. The government has recently indicated it is considering investing in upgrading the UK's ageing copper network, but has yet to confirm how much financial help it could offer.

See also: Bournemouth to get 100Mbps broadband by March


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