Fibre cables are needed to support superfast broadband connections and BT is supposed to be replacing the existing copper cabling across the UK.
However, millions of homes and businesses still rely on old-fashioned copper wires and critics say Openreach has been using these outdated copper wires, instead of fibre cables.
Nick Jeffery, chief executive of Vodafone UK, recently blamed ministers for failing to force BT to replace the old and outdated copper lines. He said UK homes and businesses still should have access to faster technology.
Fibre-optic cables allow much quicker download speeds and the government is already investing millions into updating the UK’s broadband infrastructure to take us into line with other European countries and world leaders.
Mr Jeffery said: ‘There is no conceivable way that this 20th-century infrastructure is fit for a 21st-century digital economy … Why take a technology deployed in the last century and try and stretch it to the limits of physics to do something that is still inadequate for creating the digital economy that we know we need?
‘In parallel, you have absolutely the right technology being deployed pretty much everywhere else in the world.’
Historically, the UK’s phone lines, based on copper wiring, run along the streets in ducts and from telegraph poles. These copper cables, however, can only carry up to 10mbs, the absolute minimum homes need in order to use the internet, according to Ofcom. This, says the communications regulator, is not good enough and will not support the requirements of homes.
The estimated cost to connect every home with fibre optic cables is in the region of £20 billion and although Openreach is installing fibre cabling in to many streets, copper cables are still being used to connect the homes to the nearest junction box.
This mix of fibre cabling with copper connection is slowing down broadband speeds rather than increasing them.
These speeds are also dependent on distance from property to the cabinet.
Claire Jones, of broadband comparison website Uswitch, said: ‘There are now growing numbers of people working from home and they need a reliable connection … if different people in your household want to be able to do multiple things online at the same time then fibre is a much better option.’
The Government gave Openreach £1.7billion to ensure everyone had this type of connection and Digital Minister Matt Hancock, claimed this had to be done before it focused on fibre-optic cables.
Copper technology puts Britain behind the rest of Europe.
In Spain and Portugal more than 80 per cent of premises have direct access to ‘ultrafast’ fibre-optic cables – compared with about 2 per cent in the UK.
Vodafone’s Nick Jeffrey said connecting premises directly with fibre cables should be standard practice. But Mr Hancock said: ‘We have got to complete the rollout of the current copper to the premises technology, so people can have that basic level of service they need to participate in the internet economy.’
‘The national drive to get fibre in the ground is mission-critical to make Britain successful in the 21st century.’
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