4g broadband Business mobile connectivity net neutrality

4G adoption in UK businesses

4g for business offers backup facility for superfast broadband

Why should business use 4G?

Yesterday I sat on a panel discussing 4G at the Convergence Summit South trade show in Sandown Park. The audience was largely resellers of communications services. What you would traditionally call a PBX reseller.

In terms of expectations of what 4G would do for this channel it would appear that it was very much a case of wait and see. There are some sceptics who go as far as to that “4G is just a faster version of 3G and won’t really have any specific applications and uses”.

Well I think they are wrong. 4G may well be “just a faster bearer” but it is going to open up opportunities in the communications market that weren’t there before.

For example Timico does a lot of good business selling 3G cellular back up solutions for broadband lines used to carry credit card transactional data. This type of application doesn’t need the bandwidth capabilities that 4G can offer (although 4G’s faster ping times could have a role to play here).

This type of back up application is not used nearly as much to back up ADSL lines to offices. 3G just isn’t good enough for this other than as a very basic means of accessing the internet. If you rely on your broadband for VoIP then it ain’t going to be any use over 3G, as much as anything because half the networks block VoIP (note to self to do net neutrality update post).

Now something is happening in the communications market in the UK and that is FTTC, Fibre to the Cabinet, fibre broadband, call it what you will. The superior speeds of FTTC make a huge difference to how businesses and indeed consumers use the internet. They are starting to make use of online resources like they have never before.

Witness the aggressive promotion of the Samsung Chromebook. Not only did I get 100GB of free Drive storage (ok only for two years by which time Google hopes I’m hooked enough to buy more) but I also get a free Galaxy phone. When I got my Samsung Galaxy S4 they gave me two years of free 50GB Dropbox which I am very much starting to use.

All this is driving the market towards using more and more of the cloud.

Now businesses when they start to rely more on cloud services are not going to be happy if their internet connection goes down. These things do happen, regularly.

With an increasing availability of 4G it is going to be a no-brainer for  business to have a 4G backup for its FTTC connection. The speeds, assuming you can get coverage, are pretty much identical. In fact 4G is likely to give a better uplink speed than FTTC.

4G networks do not (currently) block VoIP applications such as Skype and have latencies that are going to be able to support other real time applications. I can’t see 4G replacing FTTC in a business connection because of the cost of bandwith.

This may not apply for certain demographics in the consumer market. The only reason we have a phone line in our house is because it supports our data connection. The only people that phone it are scammers from Indian call centres and anti social pariahs trying to sell me PPI miss-selling compensation.

For a single person leaving home, saving on the cost of a phone line and broadband might well be enough to offset the additional bandwidth costs of a 4G subscription. I digress.

The upshot is that I think that the combination of FTTC and 4G is going to be a real driver for sales of mobile subscriptions and that the resellers sat in that room listening to the panel discussion should all be thinking of how they can add mobile into their portfolio. If you like think of it in terms of increasing ARPU for broadband sales.

On a similar but different note I met with EE last week for a chinwag on life, the universe and 4G. I had been pretty critical about the EE efforts to sell 4G (see post here). However soon after I wrote that post their subscriber uptake rocketed and I think they may well have now reached a million subs.

It would seem that this increase in interest is due to a combination of market reach (ie more people can now get 4G), growing awareness due to the continued marketing effort and more people coming up to contract renewal. The entry of the O2 and Vodafone into the market will also help by creating even more market awareness.

This same dynamic is going to happen in the business comms market. There will come a time where 4G is generally available, more or less, to all businesses and they will start to use it.

Obvious really. Ciao.

PS if you want to talk more about this drop me a line.

PPS I was driving past Coventry earlier this week and noticed an O2 4G signal on my phone. Hey Coventry, it’s on it’s way to you next 🙂

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Connectivity conversation in the Isle of Man

Manx Telecom broadband

Was chatting about broadband to a neighbour of my Mam and Dad in the pub near their house this weekend. He has to ration the use of the internet between his kids who all want it for different applications at the same time – Xbox Live, iPlayer etc. Unfortunately Manx Telecom still operates ADSL2+ and his connection isn’t fast enough to run the whole family’s internet needs simultaneously.

This unfortunately is what a monopoly does for you. We are lucky in the UK that we have Virgin. Virgin is what will have driven BT to invest in FTTX. Nothing else. What other motivator would it have had. In a monopolistic situation if I were the incumbent I’d be squeezing my assets for all their worth. Manx Telecom is a private company and I guess is doing just that.

Footnote 7//7/2014 Last time I was home in Peel in the Isle of Man I had a very mixed experience with mam and dad’s wifi. I have to say that the tech support lady was top notch. She patiently waited whilst I went through the motions of testing the router, upgrading to the most recent firmware (ours was yonks out of date) etc.

In the end we concluded that mam and dad needed a new router. Next time I’m over I’ll pop into the Manx Telecom shop and pick one up. Timico did offer to send one but mam and dad are knocking on a bit. the last thing they need is to find themselves trying to call Manx Telecom for support only to find that they have an unsupported router.

Look out for some holiday posts from the Isle of Man this August. It’s my favourite place to go on holiday. Innit:)

Finally on a totally different note Manx Telecom were used as a test bed for 3G by O2 way back in the day.

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Home Broadband Data Usage Growth

Every now and again I dip into our network  management portal for a skeet and today came across my home broadband usage data. It makes for quite interesting reading. Christmas showed a whopping 250GB of data usage which was a bit of a local maximum (to coin an old ALevel mathematics phrase). We had a house full of offspring home from University with time on their hands.

The trend is clear. As I recall I had the FTTC line installed in the July August time frame which may account for the data starting to shoot up a bit more round that time.

That’s all. Graph below:

FTTC home data usage Davies house

broadband Engineer

And then there was light

News today is they are electing a new Pope and I have a working broadband line. It was fixed this lunchtime by BT’s Lincoln area ops manager who turned up at our house with two new VDSL modems – just in case one of them didn’t work, fair play. It took ten seconds to unplug the old one and plug in the new and hey presto, it lit up.  Where there was darkness now there is light. It is better to light one small candle than to sit alone in the darkness etc etc etc1.

The Davies household has now breathed a collective sigh of relief. It’s a bit like the feeling you have when your petrol tank goes from nearly empty to full. You feel you can go places.

I’m not going to dwell too much in this incident but I do feel it is worth a little post mortem on how it was fixed.

Yesterday our NOC asked for the ticket to be escalated – basically raised up the priority list to ensure that someone did turn up at the next appointment. Today the escalation was rejected – it would appear that three engineering no-shows was not sufficient reason for escalation.

Also yesterday I dropped BT’s regional director an informational note linking to the blog post and highlighting the fact that it had been covered by The Register, ISPReview and quite possibly elsewhere. I also said that the next appointment was set for Friday – the first day I would be able to work from home and thus be around to let an engineer in. It was a belt and braces approach to making sure that someone turned up on Friday. It wasn’t in anyone’s interests for there to be another no show.

The issue was processed at director level and this morning the BT ops manager rang my wife to ask if he could pop around this afternoon which as you know he did to smiles all round.

Apparently over the last twelve days or so the volume of tickets requiring engineering visits has shot up. My solution is not scalable. I can’t drop BT senior management a note for every customer fault and not everyone venting their frustrations in a blog post is going to have that blog post covered in the mainstream media.

Lets hope there will be a lesson or two learn’t from the incident, though I fear not. BT has a huge organisation to run and change is not easy. I did ask whether the 1,000 engineers being taken on by Openreach would help but I’m told that they are specifically targeted at supporting BTVision which is unlikely to influence resource levels on FTTC.

Fibre broadband modem light at the end of the FTTC tunnel. Tune in tomorrow for the next exciting blog post from

That’s all…

1 I realise that one is not totally relevant but I thought I’d stick it in anyway 🙂

broadband Business Net

The BT engineering visit lottery – get yer tickets ere

Broadband engineering visit lottery results in 3 cancelled appointments.

BT has some great engineers on the ground. I witnessed one in action recently when he did some troubleshooting on my line and found a corroded pair of wires creating noise. The knock on effect was a modulated line with slower speeds. It was fixed. Great.

On Thursday Mrs Davies called me whilst I was in London to say “the internet isn’t working”. Now I love her a lot but whenever she says the internet isn’t working it is working and usually it is down to user error with whichever gadget she happens to be playing with. Either that or Microsoft software.

On this occasion I got home and found that indeed “the internet wasn’t working”! A quick skeet showed me that the VDSL modem was kaput. A technical term for “knackered” – from the same school as vorchsprung dorch technik (or however they spell it). It’s kind of ok because we all have mobile connectivity in our house. Frustrating for my wife who has grown used to “lightning” speed connectivity. Lots of “” in this post btw.

The upshot of it is largely that the kids couldn’t play Xbox live games and she who must be obeyed could not catch up with the Hairy Bikers on the iPad in the kitchen. Not the end of the world I’d say but certainly noticeable from a family feedback perspective.

My parting shot on the way in on Friday was “Not to worry” and “I’ll get someone out with a new modem”.

broadband Engineer

Openreach – it’s all noise

openreach engineer up a poleOpenreach broadband engineer finds corroded pair up pole

It’s a complicated old game, broadband. Ethernet is far simpler. You connect a length of fibre to  router at one end and one way or another it gets back to a bigger router at the ISP’s core network somewhere and hooks you up to the internet/intranet/wherever you want to hook up to. I realise that’s a simplistic way of putting it but basically that is it. it doesn’t matter if it rains or blows a gale. Fibre doesn’t normally mind.

Broadband is different. Broadband is made up of copper cables, aluminium1  if you are unlucky. Even fibre broadband, as the BT marketing hypers like to call it, is not usually fibre. Fibre broadband is, unless you happen to be one of the few with Fibre To The Premises, carried over copper in the last critical few hundred yards to your house.

So fibre broadband, or Fibre To The Cabinet, has some copper. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Well actually I have been complaining. My home broadband performance had dropped right off from the 53Megs down and 11Megs up to at times a pathetic 6Megs in either direction.

Fortunately I have “a man who does” named Adam Rutter who leads one of our tech support teams. The BT System had rate adapted a line that could theoretically hit 80Mbps (I never expected it to do that – I am a few hundred yards from the cabinet). It normally does this if it finds errors on the line – the speed is adjusted to a point where the errors disappear. In my case the line was synching at 15Megs. Nogoode.

Adam knew there was something wrong and called out the cavalry in the guise of BT Openreach. The engineer arrived at the appointed time (good) and I hung around whilst he ran through some tests.

Now one thing you should know about a copper broadband line is that it was originally designed to carry your voice via analogue electrical signals. The specification for the copper telephone cable is therefore based largely on the parameters needed for your Aunty Mabel to hear your dulcet tones without having to put a bigger speaker in her hearing aid. Broadband hadn’t been invented in Aunty Mabel’s day (may she rest in peace).

When the boffs at the Post Office BT came along and said “Eureka we have read this article about something called ADSL and we think it is a good idea” they were stuck with a copper line that had a pre-Mabel date on it. That line spec, SIN349 for the purists amongst you, was designed to keep Mabel the inveterate talker happy on her Plain Old Telephone line and not Mabel the Skyper who loves to video conference with her nephews and nieces who in turn indulge their auntie because she shells out at Christmas and birthdays.

Now I’ve had Openreach out before to check my line and it has always passed their tests. This time I explained in no uncertain terms that there was something wrong – the evidence being in the speeds I was getting. I know it wasn’t congestion on our network and I also know how BT manages the capacity at the exchange so it wasn’t going to be down to congestion there.

Tim Drake, the Openreach engineer realised that there was no point in performing the normal line test – it would have passed. He got on the blower to their operations team and asked for the limits on my line to be lifted (the limits imposed to prevent line CRC errors).

My internet access speeds shot up, as expected.  However it didn’t take long for the errors to return. Tim spent the next hour or so testing the line looking for the source of the errors. He eventually found it at the top of the telegraph pole down the road from my house.

“Eureka” says I. Tim finished his stuff up the pole and brought down a piece of cable that showed corrosion on both strands of one pair. These wires, rubbing together in the wind and rain would have resulted in noise that was the cause of my errors and the speed downgrade. Mabel and her yakking on the Plain Old Telephone would not have been troubled by the problem. Mabel on Skype would.

My FTTC line is now back a lot nearer to where it needs to be and I am a happy bloke. I am next week having dinner with a senior team from BT and I intend to specifically commend Tim Drake for his efforts. Openreach broadband engineers have a budget of one hour to fix each problem.  Mine took two hours and Tim could have walked away early on in the process with the throwaway observation that the line was in spec and there was nothing he could do.

This he did not do and he now has a happy customer. He is a good man. He cares.

The only real answer to all this would be for a total network rollout of Fibre To The Premises. Whilst I am not saying that fibre is totally immune from the environmental problems that affect copper it is far less so. Ubiquitous FTTP ain’t going to happen any time soon, we all know that, but perhaps this blog will be used one day as an illustration of the issues that dogged that historical piece of communications antiquity, the copper telephone line.

Thanks Tim. The photo is of Tim up the pole.


1 That’s alue-min-eeum and not aloominum, y’awl

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#FTTC video outtakes #broadband #fibre

Broadband video case study – the outtakes

Just browsing through some bits of video left on the cutting room floor after we finished the FTTC case study. Thought a couple or three might be of interest.

The first one was taken with a GoPro camera positioned inside the cabinet filming the door opening and the Openreach engineer coming in to do some work. In this one you can see one of the cameramen filming the cab from the outside.

Bit like the David Attenborough nature stuff where at the end of the programme they show you how they did the filming. Nothing particularly dramatic such as a close encounter with a shark or a yeti. We were however filming outside a school and a very concerned headmaster did come out so see what was going on. He went away though I sensed that he would have been happier if he had shooed us away.

The second film is a short one taken from the outside with the open cabinet so that you can see the workings. No GoPro camera inside this time – obv we had to do multiple takes to get all the different angles in.

The third is one I took of the BT crowd in my conservatory. Of course you only see me in the case study but in actual fact there was a huge support team including the outside catering van, make up artists, continuity, clapperboy, director, producer, personal masseuse etc – you get the drift. I couldn’t fit them all in the conservatory so you get four.

Some of them will be at my Xmas bash so if you are coming to that you will be able to chat with them in person. Not often you get the chance to meet the people behind the movie eh?

Some of you have asked for a video showing the process of the installation. I didn’t get any of that off the production team but I will ask. Bear with…

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Superfast broadband video case study by Timico and Openreach

Superfast broadband video case study

Never before seen footage of the inside of the Davies household now viewable on tinterweb.”

This is it, the video you’ve all been waiting for. Well I have anyway. A few weeks ago we shot some footage around and about Lincoln and chez Davies for a video case study of a Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) aka superfast fibre broadband installation.

Get your popcorn and fizzy drinks ready and settle in to your favourite armchair to watch this much anticipated movie. I don’t have an agent yet but if any major studios are interested in talking then you know how to get hold of me.

That’s all folks 🙂

Link to what BT has on their website

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FTTC Update – Light at the End of the Fibre (Almost)

GPO cabinet 10 in LincolnBT FTTC cabinet 10 in LincolnFibre broadband install

Looks like my FTTC cab is in situ at last – progress. I think I have found out why there is a delay to the fibre broadband install though. The old cabinet (number 10 in Lincoln) is full. There is no space to feed in any fibre tails so it is going to need a new and bigger pressed Aluminium cab fitting.

I got this from the Openreach engineer who has just been to sort something out for me. He checked the cab and indeed it was chocker.

The work involved in fitting the new one is just a couple ofGPO cabinet 10 in Lincoln - right next to a pedestrian crossing days but I guess that Openreach will have had to reapply for planning permission. To complicate matters the old cab is on the pavement right next to a school pedestrian crossing. There will be some umming and aahing in the planning department over this one.

In the first photo on the right you can see where they dug in the new duct work leading to the existing chamber on the corner – there is no way this cab would have fitted next to the existing one by the pedestrian crossing. Note of course the cab wasthe old GPO cabinet 10 in Lincoln probably there before the crossing – they used horses in them days.

The last photo is a close up of the “full” old cab. One does wonder why they didn’t apply for planning permission for the new shell at the same time as the new FTTC cab.

The planning permission bit is guess work but I’m probably not far off the money.

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Planning issues holding up really important FTTC connection.

Fibre broadband planning issues hold up my install

I realise that most of you aren’t the least bit interested in my own ambitions to get fibre broadband. From the number of comments I get on the subject most people are more concerned with when they will get it themselves. Fair enough. Thought I’d share my own fibre broadband planning story.

I was due to be connected by the end of March 2012. Then it slipped to end of June.  The end of June is this coming Saturday. My cabinet, which is only a hundred metres or so from my house, looks decidedly lonely. It wants a friend.

I am often asked if I can find out what is happening with someone’s particular cab. It’s doable but not worth the effort in most cases. Openreach would get so many enquiries they would never get any work done.

In my case I have made an exception (only because someone offered to do the work for me) and asked what is happening. Will I wake up later this week to the sound of pneumatic drills and the sigh of white Openreach vans hugging the kerb near my house? Only in my dreams, and therefore by definition before I wake up:).

It looks like my cab is being held up in the planning permission process. Sigh. If I get any more info I’ll let you know because whether you are interested or not I will want to get it off my chest.

Note added at some point in the future. Check out the progress with this update. It’s now been in for a couple of years and has been a rocky ride though I wouldn’t be without. It has revolutionised internet usage in our house.

So long and thanks for all the fibre broadband.

Ciao amigos…

broadband End User

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells FTTC Broadband Availability Data Reliability

Actually that post title was a bit misleading. It should have read “frustrated of Lincoln”. The FTTC broadband availability checker has been saying 31st March for FTTC at my house for a good six months now.

For a long time I considered this to be a reasonable target date – 2 out of 4 Lincoln exchanges have already been upgraded. Moreover I’ve seen teams out laying fibre up Lindum Hill (down the road from me in Lincoln)  and when asked they confirmed this was for FTTC broadband.

As we got nearer the deadline I noted that they still hadn’t upgraded my cabinet – it is easy to find out which is your cab – you just follow the  telephone wire back from your house. Last weekend I noticed that the availability date for my line had totally disappeared from the checker.

I get so many enquiries re cabinet availability that it isn’t feasible to ask Openreach for information on every one but on this occasion I pulled rank on myself and decided to use my contacts to find out what is going on. All I can find out is that my exchange is not due to be upgraded until the end of June. This potentially means that my own FTTC broadband connection could be months after that date. The checker data base is knackered because this info is not in it.

BT of course say that the dates they give are “only indicative”. TBH I wouldn’t plan anything around availability of FTTC. It will come when it comes. Openreach does have a difficult job to do but the company doesn’t do itself any favours with what can only be described as terrible expectation management. Also it can’t be so difficult to provide their engineers and planners with some mechanism for properly reporting progress with network roll outs.


broadband Engineer

FTTC Broadband Trials (80 Meg) Pretty Much Over – The Apps Will Come

screenshot of speedtest from 80Megs FTTC trial - Fibre broadbandThe FTTC broadband 80Meg trials are now more or less over with production launch of the faster service currently due on 12th april. FTTC80 was the version of the 40Meg FTTC but using a different baseband frequency that results in a doubling of its overall speed performance.

You can see from the small pic inset that this user saw an impressive 75Megs down though he didn’t see much change in the uplink. The ping time at 14milliseconds is also pretty good. it’s just the way ahead. Waiting for an onscreen response when using the internet is just not acceptable. It needs to be instantaneous.

It doesn’t matter that no application has an use for this kind of speed. Now that we have built it the applications will come.

Apps broadband Cloud End User

A Home Packed with Technology

I have decided, and I haven’t told my wife this, that my house needs to be a case study for the connected home. The technological home of the future.  The question is what does this connected home look like?

I have Cat 5 cabling downstairs a switch, wifi and shortly I will have FTTC. This is all very well but other than working from home occasionally and accessing the internet what am I going to do with it all.

I would welcome suggestions for services or technology that will be of use in the home that I should be testing.

Thanks in advance

That’s all folks.

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Latest FTTC Broadband Exchange Announcements – Poetry to Some People’s Ears #BT #infinity

Appreciating the poetic beauty of the latest FTTC broadband exchange list…

latest list of BT FTTC exchanges announcedFTTC broadband was in the news again yesterday. Sometimes when these big announcements are made there is so much media coverage that it is better to sit back and reflect before putting hand to keyboard. Let everything sink in. Come up with some juicy facts and pearls of wisdom that the mass online media and blogosphere will have missed in their rush to cover the news and get Google rankings.

The first thing to note is the poetry of the list of exchanges; Aintree, Alloa, Arbroath1, Ardwick, Arkwright, Arnold. Bilston Bishopworth and Blyth (Northumberland). This is a beautiful list. It makes me all emotional thinking of the history there is in some of these names.

Some of the exchanges are a bit on the bland side – Eastville for example. I’m sorry if you are an Eastville dweller but it does sound like some made up place on Facebook. Maybe BT slipped it in to see if anyone noticed?

For some reason Boldon has been slotted in at the end after Woodhouse, Wrexham and Yeovil – almost as an

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FTTC Broadband: 2 Out of 4 Exchanges in Lincoln Now Have It

FTTC creeps ever closer to the Davies household in LincolnIt’s getting exciting. Last time I looked at this map only one of the exchanges in Lincoln had FTTC broadband enabled. Now there are two. Mine is the one in the centre of town saying “coming soon”.

It probably won’t be in by Christmas which is a shame. Also sorry if I’m going on a bit here but us kids get excited about these things. Plus I’m going to put myself on the 80Meg trial. Double bubble.

I’m not trying to rub things in – especially knowing how many times an exchange has been enabled only to find your cab is not.

Click on the header photo for a bigger picture.

That’s all folks

PS AO means Accepting Orders, CS means Coming Soon

broadband datacentre Engineer

Domain Names for Sale – Protecting the Openreach Superfast Fibre Broadband Roadmap #fttc

Following yesterday’s post I can confirm that hyperfast-openreach, ultrafast-openreach and uberfast-openreach domains are available for sale for all suffixes. There is a domain name checker here if someone from Openreach wants to take a look. I can arrange purchase if they drop me a line. All part of the service. No problem.

They need to get in quick. We all know how difficult it is to bag a good domain name. It’e even worse these days because you also need to get the twitter name. It’s easy for people to hoover up twitter names because they are free. All you need is a load of email aliases.

Not that I’m encouraging you to go signing up new twitter accounts. That would be irresponsible. That’s all for now. I’m off to the Christmas Tweetup.

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Superfast Broadband: Openreach Launches FTTC Exchange Availability Checker Map

BT Openreach has launched its own FTTC Exchange Availability Checker map (or in BT parlance Superfast fibre broadband map). This comes over a year after a similar tool was provided on this blog. Openreach asked me to pull that map.

This new one does go some way towards replacing the one on the blog though it doesn’t go into the detail by cabinet. I may look at reproducing it using just the exchange data – it is easy enough to do.

For now I will content myself with letting you know about Openreach’s version. No grudges.

Just a couple of observations re the Domain name Openreach is using – Following the recent discussion on prefixes I wonder whether BT has bagged the hyperfast-openreach, ultrafast-openreach and uberfast-openreach domains. They should don’t you think?

Finally I’m somewhat miffed to see that there is no date for my exchange in Lincoln although another exchange in the city has already been done.  If you live in North Hykeham you are quids in. Must be some benefits to living there I suppose.  Now Tref stop that. I can see why people get emotional over not having superfast fibre broadband.

If you want high quality superfast broadband for your business email me at [email protected].

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Netflix UK Launch Planned for 9th January, 2012 – Another Injection of Broadband Internet Growth

2012 is expected to be a big year for growth in broadband Internet use in the UK. We have the Olympics, para Olympics, the Queens Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon and the West Indies, Aussies and South Africa over on cricket tour (if I was them I’d be avoiding this country next summer but hey…). Oh and let’s not forget the European football championships from 8th June til 1st July. England qualified I believe?! 🙂

There is more sport but by far the biggest Internet traffic news item for 2012 is that Netflix is coming to the UK. For the uninitiated, Netflix is a movie screening service in the USA that accounts for something like a quarter of all Internet traffic in that country.

At LINX75 today the launch was a particular subject of discussion

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When is a Spade Not a Spade? When it’s a Superspade! #BT

BT's new spade for digging through Tarmac and reducing the cost of civil engineeringNo surface is too tough for superspade. Grass and soil it doesn’t even notice. This baby likes to flex its muscles by digging up tarmac. In fact it is so soft on your hands that labourers using it are often mistaken for office workers (until they ask for four sugars in their tea and give the game away).

Most people have a whinge about BT somewhere in their portfolio of anecdotes. Last week I found myself in the slightlyBT's new spade for digging through Tarmac and reducing the cost of civil engineering unusual position of heaping praise on the company! Now I’m adding more positive comments!

BT Group has announced a series of innovations that on the face of it are largely aimed at reducing the cost of digging in fibre. These include:

  • a new spade that can cut through tarmac eliminating the need for a separate “civils “team
  • micro-trenching for faster deployment in environmentally sensitive areas
  • a mini DSLAM to provide cost effective coverage for low density areas and multi-tenant dwelling units (ie blocks of flats)
  • conductive concrete – a cost effective option for meeting electrical safety needs and which lowers civils costs
  • a polymer based plinth that allows faster, lower cost all-weather deployment and which is environmentally friendly and
  • a power supply infrastructure that removes the need for a meter installation visit and reduces deployment time by two weeks.

I can almost hear the deep intakes of breath and the look of amazement on your faces as you read this. I’m not sure whether your incredulity is down to not believing that BT could innovate in this space or whether you think that these developments are not particularly significant.

Well actually whilst each of these innovations may seem trivial what they collectively do is send out a signal that BT is trying to do something about the aspect of it’s business that is often criticised as being one of the barriers to cost effective fibre broadband rollout (FTTC & FTTP) and that is the cost of digging trenches.

When the Caio Report came out in 2009 it quoted a figure of £29Bn as the cost of rolling out fibre to every home in the UK. Of this something like £24Bn was supposedly the civil engineering cost.

Looking at it simplistically you can see that halving the cost of the civil engineering effort has a massive effect on the total cost of the network roll out with, presumably, a knock-on positive effect on the business case.

I have no idea how the announcements herein will affect the overall costs for BT. Only time will tell. For now at least the messaging is right.

Business gaming internet Net ofcom social networking UC voip

The Demographics of Communications

TV watching in decline amongst younger demographicIt’s a bit of a dank dismal day here in the shires and I have the office aircon on “heat”. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind this weather – it reminds me of my childhood and in particular of wet Sunday afternoons spent watching the black and white cowboy film on BBC2, maybe playing a game of Monopoly and then the excitement of Songs of Praise with Harry Secombe after tea. The highlight of the day was the comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30 or 7pm.

I’m not sure why I’ve “gone nostalgic” all of a sudden especially when those Sunday afternoons were really boring and often used to lead to rows amongst us kids.

These days our kids still argue despite having an incredible range of things to do on a Sunday. After the F1 there’s the XBox and, well more Xbox. Then there’s the Xbox!

Reality is that other than the Simpsons the kids only watch TV when one of their parents decides

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The Timico Chilli Eating Champion Lays Down His Asbestos Gauntlet or What has a Chilli Got to Do with FTTC?

Naga Bhut Jolokia & FTTCWe breed ’em hard at Timico.  Inset is a photo of Timico engineer Gareth Bryan1 who during long weeks out on the road doing customer installs developed a penchant for hot food. Rather than sit in his room at the Marriot/Holiday Inn/Thistle  Travelodge he would seek out the nearest curry house and experiment with his passion for Indian food. AfterTimico, Naga Bhut Jolokia & FTTC months of this he has built up an immunity to your everyday vindaloo.

Now promoted to third line tech support and in the office a lot more he no longer has the same opportunities to indulge during the evenings and been driven to experiment with home cooking.

Gareth, who today passed his CCNA exam with flying colours (well done mate),  is holding a small packet of Dried Naga Bhut Jolokia chillies grown in India and supposedly 4,000 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.  In other words absolutely lethal. So lethal in fact that Diane our Health And Safety person has made him sign them into the Timico dangerous deliveries and noxious substances book2.

They smell disgusting – using asbestos protected nostrils I

broadband Business

Who Wants to Trial the 80Meg FTTC Broadband? #digitalbritain

BT is looking for a few good people to trial their 80/20 FTTC broadband product. Interested?

The title says it all. BT has announced the schedule for the 80Meg down 20Meg up Fibre To The Cabinet product and we will be looking for trialists.

The first stage of the process involves a change to the DSLAM profile.  This activity is already underway and should be completed by January. The new frequencies that allow FTTC broadband to run faster will also be programmed in to the Openreach OSS system by January to allow the line checker to work at the higher speed.

In early January there will be a limited technical trial with up to 150 existing customers followed by a wider trial with no restriction on numbers between Jan 28th and the end of March 2012. The only caveat here, apart from the usual guarantees that there are no guarantees, is that users participating in the trials must be able to get a minimum downstream speed of 15Mbit/s and a minimum upstream speed of 5Mbit/s on their existing FTTC.

Note the availability checker will only be able to show product variants of up to 40Mbps until the formal launch later in 2012.  It’s certainly an exciting week for FTTC news.

Note also it is quite possible that we are entering the domain of inadequate wifi performance on individual routers. Whether yours can handle 80Megs is something to consider.

Anyway if you are interested in testing the 80/20 FTTC broadband product drop me a line on [email protected] (obviously your cabinet has to be FTTC enabled!) and I will get back to you as soon as we have more info.

If you want to find out more about FTTC check out the resources here  . Commercials here.

broadband Business

BT FTTC Schedule Updates

Seeing as we had all the news about BT pulling forward the FTTC exchange rollout dates this morning I thought I’d provide updated copies of the schedule. Not as much as some would like for the future ones but the info will come

Anyway here we have:

Exchanges Accepting orders now

Exchanges Coming soon and

Future Exchanges

The files download separately as XL spreadsheets. Mine goes live in March next year.

Thought you would also be interested to see a note I got from BT Wholesale last week:

We are pleased to announce that we will soon be inviting all Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) customers to a trial of the upcoming WBC FTTC 80Mbit/s downstream 20Mbit/s upstream product option.

Faster FTTC is on its way.

broadband Engineer

Superfast Broadband: Pat on the Back for BT #FTTC

It’s fast moving this new web based world of ours. Some of it is faster moving than others.  This morning I woke up to the news (in the twitter stream – thanks to @ruskin147) that BT was looking to pull forward the rollout plans for “superfast” broadband. To do this the company is taking on an additional 520 engineers and bringing forward £300m of spend.

Competition is great. Clearly Virgin, with its 100Mbps service, is forcing the pace here. BT is saying that by 2014 it will be serving two thirds of the population with download speeds of 70 – 100Mbps.

I realise that I have occasionally been known to be a critic of those responsible for our national broadband infrastructure. On this occasion I’m going to hold back and say to BT:  Well done. This is a good decision. Keep it coming.

broadband Engineer

Busman’s Holiday Touring FTTC Broadband Cabinets and FTTP Update

A little rugby, a FTTC broadband cabinet or two, all in a Sunday’s walk.

leaning against an FTTC cabinet in Leamington SpaOn Sunday morning I was walking with a couple of my kids from our hotel in Leamington Spa to my oldest son’s flat, where we went to watch the Rugby World Cup final. To my utter delight, I came across a  FTTC broadband cabinet and insisted we stop for a photo opportunity.

My kids are used to this kind of thing, and weren’t overly embarrassed when people passed by wondering what the attraction was with a metal green cabinet when there was a beautiful park and greenhouse in Jephson Gardens a mere stones throw away across the river Leam. My daughter, though, did once move to the back of the crowd when I stopped in front of everyone to take a photo of a Grandstream SIP phone during a guided tour of Southampton University student accommodation.fttc cab dslam label

There was no doubt that it was a FTTC broadband cabinet – there was a small yellow label on it containing the words DSLAM. Anyway we continued on our way to the flat to watch the rugby which finished with, from a Welshman’s perspective, a highly satisfactory narrow victory for the All Blacks. This was despite the fact that France probably had the best of much of the game, and the ref ignoring what seemed to be a number of high tackles, where in my view France should have been awarded penalties.

The other satisfactory result would have been a storming 70 point victory for New Zealand. No sour grapes at all here 🙂

Just to finish off with some BT FTTP tidbits, I note that as of last week there are now 35,020 premises that can gain access to FTTP. There has been a steep increase in the numbers being provisioned over the last few weeks, helped by the use of overhead cables rather than underground ducts to access the cabs.

This won’t mean much to the the general public as BT’s marketing seeks not to distinguish between FTTP and FTTP, with a harmonised product set due to be announced at some point. More on this schedule as I get the info.

Business online safety piracy Regs security

SilkRoad FTTC and Bitcoin!

Interesting to note that 8 out of the top ten keywords for visitors to this blog over the last month have been related to either FTTC or silkroad with 4 each.

I can understand the FTTC interest and I was an early writer on this subject so get decent Google rankings. As far as SilkRoad goes either there is not much written out there about the subject or there are huge numbers of people trying to find out more about it – human nature I guess!

As far as Bitcoin goes the underground currency seems to have recovered following the Mt. Gox crash. My original source for info seems to have stopped publishing at the time of the crash – 19th June. However it is now visible elsewhere and is trading at not far off the levels seen at Mt.Gox before the crash (for what it’s worth!).

PS whilst the two subjects seem totally separate FTTC and SilkRoad do obviously inhabit the same online universe. People will be using FTTC to access Bitcoin trading sources. I’m not sure that we will ever see the day when BT accepts payment for FTTC using Bitcoin though.

broadband Business

FTTx Update – BT Superfast Broadband Will Soon Surpass 5 Million Homes

At some point in the coming month BT’s superfast broadband service will surpass the 5 million home mark.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the fibre updates recently. I just sat in on a BT conference call on the subject. BT is contemplating changing the frequency specification on its “superfast” broadband product which will bring speeds potentially up to 80Mbps instead of the current 40Mbps.

I questioned whether this would reduce the reach of the service but apparently it increases it. The issues are potentially higher levels of cross talk and interference on lines but the higher frequency position is the standard that has been adopted elsewhere in the EU – must be ok then.

For punters it shouldn’t make any difference as BT is likely to specify both services at the same level. In other words they will say 80Megs and the underlying delivery technology will be irrelevant. This won’t quite be true because those benefitting from FTTP should get the stated maximum throughput whilst the FTTC lines will average out at a lower speed over their copper lines.

The current FTTP trials have slipped by 6 months. This is down to the odd technical hitch but also whilst BT gets a better handle on the delivery costs. By the end of the trials they should be in a position to decide what is the most cost effective technology. I can’t imagine it will be FTTP but am prepared to be pleasantly surprised. As it stands BT is currently sticking to its position that it will use FTTP for exchange fed lines and FTTC for cabinet fed with 25% of lines in areas where BT has targeted for FTTP being FTTP.

In the near term it won’t really make much difference to end users which flavour they get. Their usage behaviour doesn’t seem to change much whether they have 40Megs FTTC or 100Megs FTTP. This does suggest that the world has not yet produced services that need the faster speed. However build it and they will come, as the saying goes.
BT expects to pass its 5 millionth home with superfast broadband by the end of June 2011.

broadband Business

FTTC Broadband Cabinets in Cornwall – First to Go Live

BT has not yet started marketing FTTC broadband to consumers in the Cornwall area, though that doesn’t mean that “mere” consumers can’t have the service.

BT has advised me that the first FTTC broadband cabinets in Cornwall went live on Monday 17th January. From that date, BT Wholesale are accepting orders for provision of lines on those cabinets in the Threewaters exchange area.

BT has also started marketing to businesses in the area, but not yet to consumers (though that doesn’t mean that if you are a “mere” consumer you can’t have the service).

I would expect it to be a straightforward sale to a business. If one day you can’t have broadband and the next you are offered 40Megs, you would have to be daft to say no (this might be a slight dramatisation of the situation on the ground).

Cornwall is an interesting situation, having been the subject of large grants to “broadband enable” the county, and is regarded by some (not everyone) as a prototype for other areas with broadly rural populations.

I have some specific FTTC broadband cabinet/postcode details if you want to drop me a line.

broadband Business

@edvaizey @jeremy_hunt please read this #deappg #digitalbritain #fttc #fttp

Last week I wrote an analysis on the superfast broadband strategy published by Jeremy Hunt. It attracted more comments than any other post I have written in the last three years. I concluded that whilst the published strategy might enable the government to meet its near term objectives it was not necessarily the best thing for UK plc.

Now Barry Forde, the brains behind CLEO, has written a post on that goes into fantastic analytical detail as to why promoting a FTTC based plan is not the right thing to do. Indeed Barry shows that in the medium term it would be the more expensive approach and would lead to continued requests for government handouts.

I can’t better this piece of analysis and suggest you read it here.

broadband Business

Read All About It – Wheel Invented – Or a Call Upon the People of Lincoln to Vote for Superfast Broadband

With a population of only 110,000, Lincoln is not on the list of Exchanges to be enabled for superfast broadband in the forseeable future.

Of course, the wheel was almost certainly invented before anyone could read all about it. However I do get the feeling that we are somehow still in the stone age. This afternoon I registered with the BT “Race to Infinity”.  I want superfast broadband (whatever that is).  Here are the stats from Lincoln, my hometown.

Percentage of votes 0.77%
252 votes have been cast out of a total of 32,844

With only 16 days to go this spells disaster. Lincoln is not on the list of Exchanges to be enabled in the forseeable future. With a population of only 110,000 or so (at least within the general area) you would think that constituted a reasonable sized conurbation. Clearly not reasonably sized enough!

This does pose an interesting question. Lincoln is not in what is described as “the final third” – the 33% of the country that is broadband impoverished so I would find it difficult to see a situation where the government would fund connectivity under its recently published superfast broadband strategy.

How therefore does the government decide which communities it should fund?

I can envisage a four tier society

  1. Areas where the business case easily merits initial investment – ie those where “FTTC/FTTP are currently planned
  2. Areas outside the above that can only get conventional broadband and are not in the plan for FTTC/FTTP
  3. Deprived areas that are currently not spots or have very slow connectivity and are obvious candidates for funding
  4. the final 10% that BT said it could not service even with the currently envisage level of funding

Now either BT isn’t doing a very good job promoting the Race to Infinity or nobody wants the product.

My message to the people of Lincoln?

We are talking wheels here.  When the wheel was first proposed to Og (3rd cave along) 10,000 years ago he didn’t at first appreciate the benefits. It was only after ha started using it that he saw the light (lightening of his load anyway).

Get voting!

PS Og and 10,000 years are made up names and dates. I could have Googled it I suppose…