It is generally acknowledged that universal super-fast broadband would benefit the UK’s economy and help close the gap between urban and rural economies and between northern and southern economies. Ideally the UK would have a universal fibre to the premise infrastructure with extensive high speed wireless resources at the edges of the network. This would mean that all broadband users would be able to wirelessly access internet and other resources at speeds of 1 Gbps from their smart-phones, tablets, TVs and other appliances. Service providers and App developers would find new and creative ways to bring novel services to businesses and domestic customers. But the commercial business cases for investment in universal coverage do not work and the public subsidy required to make it happen is variously estimated at between £10Bn and £30Bn for the fibre networks alone.
The Institution of Engineering & Technology studied the underlying issue, and recognising that public investment of this size is unaffordable in the foreseeable future, took a different approach. Their key underlying principle is that it is not necessary to have such high speed capacity available everywhere at all times; it is enough if the device or appliance which is using the connectivity finds that it is not constrained in its demands by the network infrastructure in place. This can be achieved by a combination of technical standards, network architecture and smart regulation which work together to organise the demand for bandwidth in real time.