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UK Broadband Market Gone Wild

Could it be that Britain is edging towards a major high-speed deployment? Minister for Competitiveness (and ex-telecoms analyst) Stephen Timms is expected to call in BT and other telco execs today for what promises to be a heavy meeting; see here and here for details. The figure of £7bn mentioned is believed to be for a deployment of fibre to the street cabinets.

There are reasons to think some of the telcos who will go to see Timms might be keen on the idea. After all, cable neo-monopolist Virgin Media has just given up on its plans to deploy triple-play over ADSL outside its cable footprint, thus leaving Cable & Wireless’s troubled DSL operation (ex-Bulldog) hanging again. However, Virgin is going ahead with the Sky Sports clone channel they are developing with Setanta.

Carphone Warehouse, meanwhile, who led the “free” broadband burst in Britain, is having some problems of its own; it’s running out of metro backhaul in London. This is roughly what you might expect; selling the product for cheap with no explicit limits, Carphone must have had to pack its infrastructure ruthlessly, and now the cracks are showing. They showed plenty of moral fibre going ahead with it, a certain amount of dietary fibre marketing it, and now they are desperate for optical fibre.

Obviously, the best strategy to adopt in this situation is to bribe more people to sign up - right? Well, that’s precisely what Carphone is doing - giving away Playstation 3s to new subscribers. Which is rough on other retailers, but will do nothing at all to help Carphone’s creaky backhaul net or creakier balance sheet.

And, apparently, the industry still hates its customers.

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