Stephen Timms, the UK’s Minister for Competitiveness, has called companies including BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB, Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse to a summit meeting to discuss building a network that would allow consumers access to the internet at much higher speeds than currently available. ‘Ultra-fast broadband is going to be a key future technology that will allow our businesses to innovate, grow and create wealth. We need to be discussing…how we can put this new network into place, because delay could be a barrier to the future success of our economy,’ Mr Timms said.
Virgin Media, the cable operator, is expected to add to the pressure on other telecoms companies – particularly BT – by announcing plans to roll out broadband access at 50Mbps from next year. Virgin says it plans to make the high speed service available to 70% of its customers by the end of 2008. However, Virgin Media’s network only covers about 50% of the UK population, and the government is keen to see BT, whose network reaches almost all the population, build a higher-speed network. BT currently offers broadband speeds of up to 24Mbps, but such speeds are only available to about 10% of customers who live very close to telephone exchanges.