Broadband has been a huge success in the UK with more than half of all UK homes with a connection, at an average speed of four megabits a second (Mbps). But there are fears that the country is being left behind in the push towards next-generation networks.
The UK's current broadband network is predominantly based on copper wires designed for telephone calls, and in the coming years the hardware will reach its technological limits, putting a cap of 24Mbps download speeds on connections. The technology, called ADSL, also suffers from issues such as falling speeds with greater distance from the exchange, noise on the line, limited upload speeds and slowdown when more people are on the network.
A future download speed of 24Mbps might sound fast, but other countries around the world are offering 40Mbps and even 100Mbps connections right now. An extensive network of fibre optic cables has been touted as one solution but a UK-wide fibre to the home plan would cost £15bn to roll-out and some in the industry question the financial wisdom of such a network and whether it is needed at all.