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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

When wireless is the right choice....

It was a bit hard to miss the meeting this week of the CEOs of the mobile industry with Lord Mandelson.

However, the discussions about spectrum allocation in order to deliver next gen seem to be misplaced. It is hard to see how the mobile wireless technology currently available or even on the cards can deliver what is required to get this country moving forwards to an equivalence of access already available in other countries with FTTH.

Wireless is the right technology to use to build a wireless cloud over the top of a fixed fibre network to give access when mobile ie on the move, in transit, not fixed etc. It is the right technology to use when technically it makes sense. eg why dig down that hill, through the river and up the other side to lay fibre when you can add in a single wireless link to do the job at a fraction of the price? There will be some (very few) pockets of this country where laying fibre makes no economical sense whatsoever, although over a 50 year lifetime one struggles to see how. But, even so, those places are few and far between when looking at the reality of what FTTH can do for everyone it connects and the social capital as well as the environmental savings. So, FiWi ie using Fibre to get as close to that isolated farmhouse as possible and then Wireless in the first mile where fibre cannot be done.

But those very few places who need that level of FiWi should not be accessing over a mobile dongle as we know now that many of the places who are most distant and remote do NOT get a mobile signal at present. We are not, surely, planning to intensify the mobile network coverage across the UK, with all the new masts, planning permissions, substations etc required to deliver mobile NGA to one or two of the most rural and remote areas? (There's enough hoohaa about wind turbines without putting yet more mobile masts up.)

How would that work financially? The truth is, it wouldn't. It is no more financially viable for a mobile operator to put in a mast to cover one area of remote peat moorland to connect an isolated farm than it is to dig fibre in or even to fibre up to the nearest street cab for FTTC.

Ergo, what is being planned is for a large percentage of that final third to be reliant on technology which cannot deliver what other nations term as next generation access. The bar is being deliberately lowered and we all know why, but are being treated as though we are too stupid to understand the issues.

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