broadband Business

Future Broadband Planning Requirements

It seems to be one of those weeks where UK broadband stories are coming thick and fast. Not only that, but more and more people are pitching in with considered opinions on stories and, in fact, the comments are beginning to make for far more valuable reading than the original articles! And perhaps that could be the case here too. 😉

I want to follow up today on two stories that have broken this week on new build and broadband.

The first story was on ThinkBroadband, regarding a new build housing estate in West Yorkshire and broadband availability for the new homeowners in Calderdale. ThinkBroadband believes that this new estate will have a reasonably good chance of achieving that oh-so-elusive “superfast” connectivity from cab 106 — approx 93% chance of greater than 30Mbps. (Bear in mind that this is only in reference to download, so anyone looking for a reasonable upload should hold their horses before buying!)

The ThinkBroadband article makes the point that though this is not a rural cab it has been funded by BDUK, which if you recall was for the Final Third and rural properties, so questions probably ought to be asked as to why taxpayer money is being used to fund what should have fallen into BT’s commercial rollout in Halifax.

Oh look, in the comments! Questions *are* being asked!

John Popham notes:

This is all good news for the people who live in this area, but….. this is a relatively new housing development built well beyond the point when most of society realised that broadband was an essential component of life. And now, the taxpayer is having to subsidise their connections. This does not make any sense at all.

Can it be that difficult to put planning conditions into new developments that they must make provision for fibre-to-the-premises connections? From the developers’ viewpoint it would help the properties to sell.

Popham makes an extremely valid point that should be raised over and over again. Why have planning agencies, housing developers, and the government not yet cottoned on to the importance of building homes that are broadband enabled? Isn’t that like building houses that from the moment the architect gets involved are not legislated to be environmentally friendly, cheaper to heat, with a reduced carbon footprint and so on? Ah….no, we have not yet mastered that either.

So whereby countries other than the UK can 3D print a whole house out of recycled materials for less than £1500 in a couple of hours, we have not yet quite gotten around to enforcing environmental standards on new build, let alone tech requirements?

Business internet security

New scheme for replacing copper with fibre

I note the new scheme for pressurising BT to replace it’s copper local access network with fibre has not been completely going to plan as thieves today accidentally stole lengths of fibre by mistake. Doh.

The gang, who must surely be Fibre To The Home activists, are obviously from a Rural Cadre. I can only think their education suffered early on due to not having access to the internet and they found it difficult to tell the copper (Cu) apart from glass (Si). 

Also their thinking is misguided if they think that BT will replace the stolen copper with fibre.  The BT insurance policy is almost certainly “like for like”. So stolen copper has to be replaced by more copper. Doh again!

In any case on this occasion they went and pinched some Virgin Media fibre in Leeds. Obviously couldn’t spell either!! BT – Virgin Media – hard to tell the difference eh?

There is of course a serious side to all this in that thieves are apparently going around stealing copper as it has doubled in value in the last year.  BT’s network is easy game. Thanks to @bungieboy for the lead via twitter and ElReg’s Chris Williams for the detail.

Business media

Rural broadband on the BBC news this morning

The BBC has picked up a rural broadband news item this morning with another community rolling out fibre, this time with a 20Mbps broadband service, presumably with a bigger backhaul than the 2Mbps that serves Wennington and Wray (see posts from 2 weeks ago).

I suspect the media is building up for more coverage when the Digital Britain Report is released in mid June.  There seems to be some disagreement in Cumbria as to the efficacy of the investment already made in the area. Whether individual communities already get coverage or not is somewhat a moot point really.

I think the issue that is quickly going to overtake us is the adequacy of the  “up to 2Mbps” speed being bandied around as a target by Government as a Universal Service Obligation.  Many city dwellers already have access to 40 or 50Mbps and with BT’s Fibre To The Cabinet trials about to start this figure will become very much the standard to aim for, unless you live in a rural community that is.

Whilst BT CEO Ian Livingstone maintains that 2Mbps is good enough for most people’s uses, experience in the Far East, where high speed internet access isn the norm, have shown that people’s online behaviour does change as faster speeds become available. They are more likely, for example, to watch High Definition video online.

This is all going to add pressure to ISPs’ networks but I do believe that the UK is being shortsighted in not considering a ubiquitous Next Generation Access fibre network from the off.

Business internet

FTTH final installment

For completeness the last two videos in the series including the connecting and lighting of the fibre. You need to follow the posts from the beginning of the week to get the full story.

Business internet

Episode 2 – JFDI – Just Farmers Digging for Internet access

This is episode two of the Lancashire based rural soap opera in which farmers dig for victory in the Battle of Digital Britain and Fibre To The Home. Yesterday’s post attracted a lot of attention which suggests there is a great deal of interest in this subject. 

Note in this acronym infested industry I had never quite understood (I’m an innocent boy from small town Wales) what JFDI meant and obviously kept quiet about it to avoid embarrassment.  Now I realise it stands for Just Farmers Digging for Internet Access! :-).

Looks like there might be a third episode coming along in this video manual on how to lay fibre. NTL et al take note!

It really does feel as if you are there when you watch this video. Good luck to all rural dwellers everywhere.

broadband Business internet

Farmer Rolls Out First Rural Broadband Fibre Network as Digital Britain Takes Too Long

On the hills high above Wennington in Lancashire the local community is taking its internet destiny into its own hands and is laying broadband fibre.

The Wennington/Wray communities were no hopers when it came to the provision of ADSL so in 2005 they were awarded a £25k grant by the North West Development Agency to roll out a 2Mbps symmetrical mesh wifi network. The initial 12 users charged themselves £25 a month which provided a kitty for further expansion of the network to 22 endpoints.

They are now at the point where the remaining 30 homes/businesses are out of reach of wifi and the only way to get connected is by using fibre.  The YouTube video, hot off the press this morning (thanks to Lindsey Annison for that), shows the first cable run being laid.

This is initially an experiment to get to understand the costs involved before deciding when to add more locations to the network.

The network is a huge boost to the quality of life in the community allowing workers to stay put instead of commuting as far afield as Manchester and Edinburgh.

It is clear from the numbers here where the issue surrounding Universal Service Obligations being discussed in the Digital Britain Report reside. That initial £25k served 12 users –  just over £2k each – which realistically can never hold down a business case based on £25 a month. Being generous that probably would result in £1,500 Gross Margin pa which will never repay the initial investment.

There are problems for the community in increasing the size of their 2Mbps backhaul. A 100Mbps link to Lancaster would cost £76k to install with a £64k pa ongoing cost. This is almost an order of magnitude higher than the same connectivity in large metropolitan areas that would also have many more users at the end of the line.

It ain’t going to happen without Government assistance and I believe that it is key to the economy for UKplc to provide this. Now is the time to make it happen.

Find out more on the Wray village website with thanks to cyberdoyle for the info and  Fibrestream, Lucidos and Optech Fibres who have helped with this initial fibre project.

Check out the promo video of the initial project here.

Business internet


Shakespeare used to introduce a few hundred new words in each of his plays, many of which were never heard of again, odsbodkins!

It’s the same these days in the technology business. Staggercast is the means whereby subscribers can preregister their interest in a TV programme. This programme is then downloaded in advance ready for local delivery at the published time.  This allows content delivery over an IP network but avoids the over use of a connection at peak times of day.

This was one of the options being discussed by Simon Orme, BT’s new GM for Content Delivery. In London today Orme presented the Consult21 meeting with an overview of the BT trial plans for multicast using PTA. Notionally this will allow ISPs to deliver TV over DSL at much more economic rates.

Don’t get too excited though. This is very much experimental engineering work with no immediate plans to productise. The idea is that an ISP would be able to add premium rate TV as a bundled product. It would also provide a low cost delivery vehicle for small regional TV channels as the focus of the established media moves to national and global content. 

What is clear is that this is one of the early steps BT is taking in preparing itself for the business case challenge that is Fibre To The Home.

The BT FTTH trials were also discussed. They seem to have gone well with the 50 BT employees given 100Mbps internet access and ordered to stay at home all day and play online games. Gaming is one of the few current uses of internet technology that benefits from really high speed access. The faster you are on the draw the better.

Whether Staggercast enters the Oxford English Dictionary remains to be seen. What is clear is that both in the fiercely competitive field of online gaming and in the international competitive broadband stakes he who has the fastest connection will be the winner.

Business internet

The Caio Report – Next Generation Access

The Caio report is in the press at the moment. Commissioned by The UK Government’s Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR – neither full name nor acronym really roll off the tongue do they?) the report looks into whether government investment or intervention is required to keep UK plc competitive in the internet access stakes.

The question was posed in the light of fibre rollouts in other countries. The conclusions, simplistically, recognising that the report itself is 100 pages of bedtime reading, told us that due to the health UK competitive market no, Government intervention is not required. Although it might be if industry doesn’t get a wiggle on.

I went to a presentation of the report on Friday at the BT Centre, Newgate in London. The room was full of financiers, network operators and vendors all interested in a piece of the action. Exciting though the prospect of fibre to the home may be, with its resultant lightning speed internet connectivity, what was clear was that nobody in the audience could come up with a business case that would justify the £29Bn bill.

BT is testing the water with a £1.5Bn investment that notionally will reach around 10 million homes. This of course, if successful, will only lead to a problem for BERR in the future. Why should BT have to invest in reaching the other umpteen million homes that are not cost effective to reach/Why should those living in the countryside be disadvantaged.

Virgin already has a fibre network that provides partial coverage. There doesn’t seem to be any money in the pot to extend this based on anecdotal evidence that new housing estates are not getting fibre even though the general area is covered by Virgin.  Virgin is though, I have to say, a business that seems to be fast getting its act together where connectivity is concerned. Amazingly having assimilated £12Bn worth of network by acquisition and merger the company allegedly did not know where it’s connections lay. When the fibre was first put in, speed and low cost were the primary focus of attention. Not the keeping of records. This is changing and the Virgin (NTL/Telewest to business users) are now looking as if they might be a highly competitive player in the fast growing fibre connectivity game.

The mobile network operators are also likely to play a role. After all the vast majority of the costs associated with FTTH are in the digging up of the roads rather than in the network electronics. Someone in the audience quoted a figure of £100 per metre for ducting compared with two pence per metre for the fibre.

The case is, interestingly, different depending on the country you are in. For example in the USA the cable provider is typically also the content provider and experience shows that punters are willing to stump up more ARPU to justify the investment. This is not the case in the UK and indeed BT research suggests that only 20% of its broadband users would be willing to pay more for the speed that fibre would bring. Not at least, I suspect, until someone comes up with applications or content that will need the increased bandwidth.

In a sense the “highly competitive UK market” has shot itself in the foot by reducing revenues per user to a level that makes it difficult to fund new investment.

It seems to me that an element of government intervention is almost inevitable, even if it is only to unencumber industry of the red tape associated with large scale capital projects such as this. Leaving it to free market forces ain’t going to work or is going to result in a two tier internet society – the haves and have nots. 

In leaving the meeting I decided that I would have to invest both in the killer application that would drive the speed requirement (teleporting springs to mind) and in a company called Trefor Davies Fibre Layers in order to maximise my takings from NGA. My pick and shovel await.


broadband Business

BT Superfast Broadband

Just heard on the BBC news that BT has announced that it will be investing in a superfast broadband network/fibre rollout. It won’t have universal coverage but up to a million homes should be able to get fibre to the home. The rollout is expected to be complete by 2012 (subject no doubt to the usual BT schedule slippages)

You will recall that in a recent post I forecast that according to the trend in internet traffic growth we would need 96Mbps by 2012. Interestingly this is what the BT announcement gives.

Note unusually I heard it on the Beeb but it hasn’t appeared in any of the usual online rags yet.