10 years on – life with broadband


Photo credit: Theo R

It was exactly 10 years ago to the day that I first got broadband installed at home and I wanted to commemorate that momentous day. I went from a 56kbps modem, which would have to make a call each time I wanted to get online, to always-on broadband at 512kbps.

On paper it was ten times faster, but this was warp-speed compared to dial-up. The experience was a complete step-change. Imagine you had only ever had a black and white TV set and then one day someone came in and gave you colour with full HD. Like that, but more so!

On the 8th June 2000 three NTL engineers visited my flat to install, and then marvel at this new high-speed internet (it was so new none of them had experienced it before).

My experience as a broadband early adopter tells the story of the excess of the dot com / technology-media-telecoms (TMT) bubble with many promises made, and in the end a lot of investors and companies left with shattered dreams.

I was living in Glasgow at the time, and four different telcos had all been promising they would launch broadband in 2000. The TMT bubble burst in March 2000, but the investments and preparation for launching broadband to the public had been many years in the making.

The contenders:

1. BT, using ADSL over your traditional copper phone line. They eventually launched in August 2000, but with very limited availability on just a small number of local exchanges.

2. NTL (now Virgin Media), using their fibre optic cable TV network.

3. Scottish Telecom, using their Fixed Radio Access technology from Ionica. Sadly as Ionica finally closed operations in 1999 it left ST with an unsupported technology and broadband was never launched wirelessly, and in fact their entire FRA business was closed soon after.

4. Atlantic Telecom, using Israeli military technology. Unfortunately they went into administration in 2001 and what could have been a decent business died due to over-expansion and poor investment decisions.

Looking back it’s amazing what has happened since, and the internet is still a wild-west, winner-takes-all environment. As Gary Vee says, “the internet is still a teenager and hasn’t even had sex yet.”

The opportunities are still huge, and the costs, both for internet access, as well as infrastructure costs to build a business online, are now much lower. YouTube is only five years old but yet it seems like it has been around forever.

Ten years since I first got broadband we have near 100% broadband coverage across the whole of the UK. Average speeds are around 4 Mbps, around 100 times faster than you typically got on dial-up, but still well short of the world leader, Korea with average speeds of 20 Mbps. The fastest broadband speeds in the UK are 50Mbps from Virgin Media, but where will be in another ten years and what revolutionary new businesses and business models are yet to be enabled by the internet?

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2 Responses to 10 years on – life with broadband

  1. Good article!

    I’ve just gone from living in a city (cable broadband, courtesy of virgin) which was brilliant, to living in a very small village in the middle of nowhere. BT provide my internet at around half the rate of what Virgin did, and it shows.

    I hope in 10 years time, people living in the countryside will have the same access speeds as those in the city!

  2. Alex Brown says:

    I can’t even imagine to think what the next decade might hold … but how exciting to think about it!

    Fab blog Scott.

    Alex
    Customer Experience
    Virgin Media

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