The UK broadband market has being turned on its head with the news that competitive operator TalkTalk will offer gigabit broadband service packages at the same price as DSL-based services, starting at just £21.70 (US$34.15) per month for an 18-month contract.
It looks like an offer that will challenge potential customers (who might think there must be a catch) and also challenge incumbent national operator BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), which is pressing ahead with a copper-based broadband service strategy based on the broadband speed potential of the emerging G.fast technology. (See BT, Allied Telesis Foresee Broadband Future and BT Puts G.fast at Heart of Ultra-Fast Broadband Plans.)
The catch for most of the UK is that this service is only going to be available (initially) in one location -- part of the city of York, in the English county of Yorkshire, covering about 20,000 homes and businesses. That's because TalkTalk, along with fellow competitive broadband operator Sky , is taking capacity on the fiber network being built and run by wholesale operator CityFibre , which has York as its flagship city rollout. (See CityFibre, TalkTalk & Sky to Speed Up York FTTH Rollout and TalkTalk's Small Fiber Beginnings.)
That corner of York is just the start, though. TalkTalk and Sky have launched an online campaign that enables residents to request rollout in their area of the city, in much the same that Google has done in its broadband markets in the US. CityFibre is also either building fiber access networks, or is in discussions to do so, with up to 30 cities across the UK, so, in theory, York should be just the start of the UK's Gigabit revolution. Sky, of course, will be pitching its services to York homes and businesses too, though it has been a little less vocal about its plans so far.
What is going to be interesting is the reaction of early adopters and the reaction too of TalkTalk and Sky: Offering a gigabit service is one thing -- getting people to sign up for it is another matter, as network operators and municipalities have discovered in the US. (See 6 Steps Towards a Gigabit City and AT&T: Building Gigabit Connections Is Just the First Step.)
We'll be getting some of the early feedback and experiences in late September at the Gigabit Europe 2015 event in Munich (September 29-30), where CityFibre's director of strategy and public affairs will be providing an update on York and other UK city developments.
The road to gigabit broadband will be a long one for many in Europe -- some may never need to get there, of course. There will be many different business plans and network rollouts and Light Reading plans to track the key developments and report on the early movers. If you have a gigabit story to share with us, please get in touch through the message boards below.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading