Plodding Partners Leave Base Camp

UK no longer on the bottom rung of the Full Fibre ladder

Recent virus-struck headlines have poured scorn on the UK’s lack of pandemic preparedness compared to countries like Germany. Data contrasting a dangerously-run-down country versus Teutonic health and efficiency has been given the ‘oxygen of publicity’.

Fibre to the home/building rankings — FTTH CE 2020

Today however, brings news that our two counties share a similar lack of preparedness — but our stumbling progress will be celebrated, no doubt, because we have at last left the bottom rungs of the Full Fibre ladder. Both UK and Germany are listed in the top five for fastest Full Fibre growth rates. Still some way to go before we catch up with Kazakhstan but, by next year, we might even overtake Croatia.

This is new territory for those reporting on the . Before 2019 the UK did not even clear the 1% hurdle to join the league table and Germany only made it a year earlier. Why so slow to join and, now, so fast to grow?

Both countries share a common communications legacy — a strong copper network — and, until recently, both held out against Full Fibre to defend telephonic revenues. BT was part-owned by DT — an investment that did no favours to the German telecoms pension fund. ‘Sweating the assets’ with all manner of technical halfway fixes (and weasel wording) to, Canute-like, resist the tide of technology has finally been exposed as, yesterday, the Speaker of the (virtual) House of Commons ‘failed to make the connection’ with a remote MP.

It has taken a pandemic to teach every isolated household that responsiveness is key. Talking technical was never sexy — latency was a drag — but now, not just on TV News slots, but everyday between your own family, the constraints of copper connections are, annoyingly, real.

But the good news is that the growth of Full Fibre networks is growing almost as fast as in Sweden 10 years ago. Full Fibre took off early in places like Sweden because of necessity but in the UK and Germany they thought they could get by, perhaps, without investing. All that changed in 2018 when the City realised the foolishness — even Canary Wharf was ill-served by copper. Politicians finally realised that the national champion wasn’t communicating, and all manner of petty restrictions were getting in the way of new providers.

But today, all that is consigned to history and the UK is falling into Full Fibre line with other parts of Europe. And more than that, we’ve learned, again, that responsiveness is key in the massive online battle to beat the virus — it’s called response-ability.

Fresh thinking for economic & societal development: David Brunnen on Municipal Autonomy, Intelligent Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store