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UK finally makes it onto Europe’s list of the top countries in fibre broadband (right at the bottom)

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UK falling behind in fiber broadband network race
As the UK slides further down the broadband rankings, can a new approach to rollouts fix the problem?

The UK has finally made it onto Europe’s table of top countries in fibre broadband to the home (FTTH) and to the building (FTTB). Admittedly, the UK is still at the bottom of this European table, which requires a penetration of just one percent to qualify. This compares with Latvia, which topped the table for the third year in a row with 50.3 percent, though it’s only 11th worldwide. Happily, Ofcom, which regulates the UK communications market, has plans to improve things.

The table was published at the FTTH Council Europe conference held in Amsterdam this month, along with the FTTH Market Panorama prepared by IDATE.

According to the Market Panorama, Spain added the most new FTTH/B subscribers with 1,858,743, ahead of France with an extra 1,480,220 subscribers.

FTTH European ranking table 2018

Of course, not everyone who can get fibre broadband actually subscribes to it. The average availability for the EU’s 28 countries is 36.4 percent, while the average take-up rate is only 38.2 percent. However, in many countries – including Andorra, Belarus, Belgium, Latvia, the Netherlands and Romania – the take-up rate is over 50 percent. This is obviously important to ensure the profitability that drives investment.

The UK now has a penetration rate of only 1.5 percent and a take-up rate of 13.1 percent. This is desperately poor, but a marked improvement. The report says that FTTH/B subscriptions grew by 83 percent compared to September 2017, and there are now 369,250 UK subscribers out of 2,817,000 homes passed.

In some ways this gives a misleading impression of Britain’s broadband because of the popularity of FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) services such as BT Infinity. This uses old copper wiring and VDSL2 to deliver high-speed broadband from the street cabinet, but does not count as FTTH/B. According to Ofcom, the UK ranks second in the EU’s “big five” countries in ADSL. As a result, around 94 percent of UK premises can get “superfast” speeds of at least 30 Mbps, though only 45 percent subscribe to them.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)    

Ofcom published its £200 million plan to support full-fibre investment in July 2018. Its stated goal is “to deliver full-fibre to 15m premises by 2025 and to all premises in the UK by 2033”. Before that, says Ofcom, the UK government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) will allow people and businesses the legal right to request a decent broadband connection, “delivering download speeds of at least 10 Mbps and upload speeds of 1 Mbps by 2020”. Currently, only two percent of UK premises can’t get those speeds, according to Ofcom (PDF).

The UK’s progress was reflected at the end of the FTTH Conference when Greg Mesch, founder and CEO of CityFibre, was presented with the first Charles Kao Award (named after a Nobel prize-winner for optical communications) “for his extraordinary contribution to the acceleration of full fibre deployment in the UK, a country that has until recently sat far behind in the European rankings for FTTH/B access” (PDF)

CityFibre and Vodafone plan to cover 5 million homes by 2025.

Other companies are also contributing to the growth of FTTH/B in the UK. TalkTalk has set up a new company, FibreNation, to deliver fibre to 3 million homes, Virgin Media plans to reach 4 million premises by 2020, while Hyperoptic is delivering a full fibre network to 50 towns and cities. As usual, however, BT will be a major contributor, with Openreach planning to cover 10 million homes by 2025. There also are a lot of smaller contributors, many of whom are members of INCA, the Independent Networks Cooperative Association.

Copper switch-off

The real problem with the UK’s slow progress in FTTH/B is that it delays the desired “copper switch-off”. This is essential to avoid the high cost of maintaining two different networks. It will also increase reliability, reduce maintenance costs, cut energy use by 40-60 percent, and increase customer satisfaction, according to an FTTH Council Europe report by WIK-Consult (PDF).

Of course, switching off the copper network is one way to drive users to move to fibre broadband. Without that, idleness and inertia would keep many users on copper forever.

Australia started its copper switch-off in 2014, and New Zealand is also making progress. In Estonia, Telia has already switched off 70 percent of its copper exchanges, and Sweden 42 percent. This may involve using wireless connections rather than fibre for rural areas.

However, copper switch-off is a new idea to most UK users, and it may be another decade before they even have to think about it.

FTTH Global Ranking table 2018

No European country makes the top 10 in the world rankings for the adoption of FTTH and FTTB.


FTTH Council Europe

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How To Earn Microsoft Reward Points While Playing Your Xbox Series X|S

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If you have an Xbox Series X or S, that means you already have a Microsoft account, and, presumably, you’ve linked the account to your console. If you haven’t, you’ll need to sign into the Microsoft account you want to use for earning rewards, so that when you play games and make purchases, the points go toward that particular email address. You can check out the points you’ve already earned, as well as various ways to earn more points, by heading over to the Microsoft Rewards user portal on the Bing website. You can also use the Microsoft Rewards app on Xbox.

If you want to grow your points by playing Xbox games, you’ll need to sign up for the Xbox Game Pass subscription, which provides customers with a large library of games they can play, as well as some other perks. Points are earned by completing quests in games that are available in the Game Pass library. Microsoft says you can view these quests in the Rewards app under the Xbox Games Pass section. If you haven’t yet downloaded the app, you can get a snapshot look at how the rewards process works on the Xbox Games Pass Quests web page.

According to Microsoft, it adds new quests to this section of the Rewards app on a daily basis. Keep in mind that you’ll need to manually head over to that part of the app when you finish a quest in order to redeem the points. Once those points have been applied to your account, however, you’ll be able to redeem them for rewards within the same app.

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The 1993 Aston Martin Concept Car Perfect For Any James Bond Villain

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Cream leather, chrome, white dials, and a thin-rimmed steering wheel tell the story of an Art Deco cabin modernized for the mid-1990s. The dashboard, pedals, and wheel featured extensive nickel plating, says David Dowsey, while the dashboard was made from a single piece of laminated beech wood.

According to a Discovery documentary about Lagonda — and in what must have felt thoroughly futuristic at the time — the concept featured an integrated satellite navigation system and built-in laptop computers for rear passengers (or Bond villains) to work on. A final flourish saw the car’s steering wheel move out of the way when the driver’s door was opened.

Although it would surely have been toned down for a production version, the concept’s retro interior details are reminiscent of the Jaguar S-Type that arrived in 1999. At the time, both Jaguar and Aston Martin (as well as Land Rover, Lincoln, and Volvo) were part of the Ford-owned Premier Automotive Group.

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Netflix And GM Have Teamed-Up For A New Super Bowl 2023 Ad Featuring Will Ferrell

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According to a press release from General Motors, the auto giant teamed up with Netflix during past championship games to show off its then-brand-new Ultium EV platform. This year, the ads feature former “Saturday Night Live” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” star Will Ferrell driving around a new GMC Sierra EV in the Netflix original “Army of the Dead.” An ad also features Will Ferrell in the back of a Chevy Blazer EV in the “Squid Game” universe.

Netflix says that it’s already committed to putting as many EVs in its original programming as it can. As such, a Chevy Bolt will be present in an upcoming season of “Love is Blind,” a Bolt EUV will appear in “The Brothers Sun,” a GMC Hummer will star in “Queer Eye,” and Rob Lowe will drive around a Cadillac Lyriq in “Unstable.” 

Blatant product placement can be hit or miss, especially when it comes to a huge financial decision like a car. However, stuffing shows full of EVs with the help of GM is certainly one way to get people talking about electric cars.

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