The Next Generation Broadband project, under which Wales is set to become a world leader in broadband technology, is a great example our forging the way. One might expect me as the Director of BT Wales to welcome this step, given our success in bidding for this extensive project to bring fibre broadband to homes across Wales, but it really is brilliant news.
The benefits to Wales are not solely down to the fact that there will be a massive 96 per cent fibre broadband coverage across the country. By choosing BT to deliver this network we will also support a competitive market between internet service providers. You don’t get that in most of Europe.
BT offers all of its networks, including newly laid fibre that we have been rolling out across Wales, on a wholesale basis to its competitors. The element of competition and choice that this will open up for consumers will ensure that this is a network that really delivers. It’s a pity that Virgin Media won’t reciprocate and open up its network.
Despite some perceptions, the UK is already among the leading countries globally in its fibre deployment through commercial investment. Singapore, which is around the same size as Anglesey but a much easier prospect for fibre deployment because of the number of high rise buildings, has often been held up as a world-leading example. Yet in the UK, every three months BT is rolling out more fibre than Singapore has today – and that is without the huge government subsidies in Singapore and with significantly more democratic accountability.
In fact, BT is committing £220 million of its own money into developing Wales’ broadband network across some of the most rural areas – and there are not quite as many of those in urban Singapore! Even though it is still a fairly young technology, leaps forward in research and innovation already promise to magnify the impact that fibre broadband will have on our economy in the future. It really will be a ‘future proof’ network.
BT continues to innovate in WiFi and wireless. Its work with Everything Everywhere in Cornwall will help advance 4G mobile technology. This innovation has already shown that by sharing infrastructure facilities, 4G mobile broadband – which ultimately relies on fibre – could be made available to even the most rural areas. This gives all the more reason the welcome the fact that by the time 4G is rolled out, BT’s network in Wales will be extensive.
Thanks to BT’s investment in broadband deployment, in which we stand alone from our competitors in the size of our commitment, Wales isn’t in the doldrums when it comes to broadband technology. It is time to talk up Wales as a place to do business, with a strong broadband network and an even stronger one on the way, rather than doing it down by characterising ourselves as a fringe economy.