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Fibre-optic broadband

The development of next-generation fibre optic broadband networks have been given a boost by a funding pledge from the UK government.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which is backed by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, is providing £1 million for research and feasibility studies into improving consumers’ broadband connection speeds through fibre optic broadband networks.

Funding will be divided up into 13 grants of between £30,000 and £100,000. The investigations will principally focus on discovering ways of building fibre optic networks more cost effectively and ensuring that they will reach the maximum number of consumers.

One key facet of the scientists' work will be research into construction of passive components. At present, these are both costly and complicated to build, especially in the case of tunable lasers. TSB also hopes that its project will pave the way for the companies participating to take part in Continent-wide schemes, also intended to boost broadband speeds, and help bring 10Mb broadband a step closer for Britons.

Mark Biddle, a spokesperson for TSB, said: "The challenge is to identify ways to address the technical issues facing the introduction of Ultra-Fast broadband within the next decade and to build European collaborations to exploit the technology.”

News of the project will be a fillip for rural communities who appear to be at risk of missing out on next-generation networks. Concerns in this respect were raised last month in the wake of comments made by the communications minister Lord Carter.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Lord Carter warned that there would “certainly be 25-30 per cent of the country where there will be no economic case for building a next-generation fixed network".

His remarks prompted an outcry from rural business groups. The Country Land Business Association was particularly vociferous in its criticism and urged the government to “stop and consider the damage it is doing to rural areas”.

At present, the sole mainstream UK broadband supplier which provides a fibre optic service is Virgin Media. However, although the company offers broadband products with speeds of up to 50Mb, these are principally only available in urban areas.

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