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Monday 15 December 2008

Fibre to the revenue stream

Read more! Today Virgin Media revealed some detail about its new 50 Mbps service. For me the headline number is not the speed of the service, which is welcome in that it will begin to change the mindset on the ground, but the price. £51 per month (plus installation fees, plus activation fees. OK. i know they will be using the time honoured pricing model of going in at a premium price and going for the price insensitive early adopters, but all the same, this is very very expensive given that what they have done effectively is a software upgrade on their systems.

This announcement is great news for the growing community fibre sector. It sends a clear message, supported by recent utterings from BT, that because next-gen speeds are so much higher than the pathetic performance most of us currently pay through the nose for, it is perfectly reasonable to pay much much more for it. NOT TRUE. Community owned fibre can and will be delivered to end users in the UK, complete with a triple play package, for 20 - 30 quid a month. No need for a phone line rental either, so a pretty darn competitive offer.

The commercial offerings will no doubt drop in price over time as the market matures, but why should consumers have to suffer such swingeing charges at all? Simply because Virgin, and undoubtedly BT - when they finally get round to deploying their second rate solution - need to protect their current pricing structures and feed the insatiable greed of their City investors for profits. Note that Virgin Media at the same time have announced over 2000 jobs to go, while continuing to promote their "we're on your side" brand positioning. Sickening.
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Friday 28 November 2008

FTTH to the newly unemployed

Read more! Mid 2009 - Unemployment benefits to be paid in FTTH credits to stimulate new business starts ups from the latest round of redundancies and publicly fund the FTTH network. 3 million unemployed expected to be reduced by half due to new technology, says Minister.

Imaginary? I think not.

Due to unforeseen circumstances (and yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek about WHY we are about to see this happen not the actuality of it), the UK is about to have AT LEAST 3 million unemployed. The majority of whom are qualified, experienced, and champing at the bit to be back in work. Imagine if:


The govt has decided to award everyone who is currently out of work FTTH credits for immediate true broadband connectivity in order to encourage new businesses and SMEs. The evidence has been growing about the need for this level of investment, and replacement of standard UB40 payments with true broadband credits has been on the cards for a few years.

Once again, the publication of Mr J's new ebook: "Surviving the Global Financial Crisis" saw the whole of Norfolk, Essex and the Docklands taken offline, and major problems on the UK network.

Having established a global following of some 8.3 million email subscribers, this latest ebook put UK broadband capacity over its limit, due to the inclusion of so-called Web 2.0 content - podcasts, video, and live Tweets - standard fare in other countries.

HSBC and other bank users reported the non-availability of the Network at around 6am; however, gamers were reporting it within moments of the global announcement, hitting at about 2.04am. No UK businesses were able to get online by 8am, and residential users have been overwhelming the telephony and VoIP support networks since just before 9am, when the first HD TV bingo games normally begin.

Due to the over-employment of ex-railway employees and others in the public sector during the past decade or so, the unemployment figures could easily rise to around 10million as the pension crisis escalates in the next 12 months. This has triggered major think tank reports from all sectors to put in place measures to deal with the developing crisis.

All unemployment payments will now be issued as FTTH and bandwidth credits, and not in cash. Several major retailers and supermarkets have agreed to accept the credits from any customer purchasing online. However, consumer protection agencies are threatening to boycott all outlets seeking this solution on the grounds that many people do not actually have an FTTH connection to their home, nor is there sufficient bandwidth available to keep the nation fed.

"The lack of food, let alone fuel for cars, and the failure of this Government to implement an integrated transport policy is exacerbating the problem, leaving many stranded in remote villages such as Fallowfield in Manchester. Unable to connect to the Net, or afford transport, were such available, we are now leaving valuable civil servants and others in their homes to rot, without work or food," said Amy Mcpherson of the Citizens Rights Agency (Politics).

We expect an update from our local reporters around the country in the next few minutes.

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Thursday 27 November 2008

Yes, it really is as crap as we have been saying

Read more! Isn't it strange how we Brits work? The customers can complain all they want about the state of broadband in the UK, but it takes a report by the ONS for people to sit up and listen. All except the regulators, of course.

At what point will the true reality of the broadband situation in the UK finally be realised, and the telcos' lies, damned lies and moronic advertising campaigns be revealed to all and sundry? As well as ofcom, BSG, industry quangos, government think tanks, and all the rest's preposterous kerb crawling on this issue be stopped?

How hard can it be for actual speeds to be assessed on a national, customer level basis? After all, if we can run small apps on people's home computers to look for aliens (SETI@Home etc) then surely we can run a similar app to test people's actual speeds?

This country has lost itself in many ways, as we all know. I only really care about broadband, my business and my kids' education and future, but they are all intimately tied together for me as an Internet Marketer, reliant on my connection to work, progress and develop my company, and therefore run my home. (Which is of course why I started all this campaigning a very long 13 years ago).

The economic case for FTTH has long ago been proven, and the fact that so many people are dissatisfied with their connectivity has been apparent for a long time. Not just the speeds and quality of service, but ISPs customer service too. It is though now so hard to make a complaint about your broadband to _anyone_ that, judging by the number of calls I personally get to try and resolve problems in my village alone, everyone has given up trying the ISPs and Ofcom. When the BBC ran a quick survey on broadband, it turned out to be the most intensive, responded to article they have EVER run on their website.

Whoever gets FTTH in first, with decent customer service, preferably owned and managed by its users, will win this endgame. End of. We are all heartily sick of the telcos, of Ofcom failing to grasp or even clutch at the straws of reality, of Government pratting around bailing out banks and financial institutions with shedloads more of our money than would be required to FTTH even the most remote farmhouse, and all the rest of the wastage and idiocy going on.

In my letter going up the chimney, it clearly says, "Please, Santa, I have been very, very good this year (again). Please, please, please can I have broadband now? 100Mbps symmetrical. I will share it with others if I really have to, and I'm happy to dig for it. I really have waited more than long enough now and been incredibly patient. Please?"

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Friday 21 November 2008

The Dutch are at it again

Read more! Seems Reggefiber and KPN are chucking 6-7 billion euros at FTTH in the Netherlands over the next 5-7 years with an ambitious aim of 100% FTTH coverage.

Nice to know other countries have companies/telcos who have seen the light, literally. Seems the Dutch regulator OPTA will make an announcement next Monday about the issue, and a green light has already been given by the competition authority (our Monopolies Commission, at a guess). A neat JV will be put in place, Glashart, of which KPN will have 41% of the holding with the option to increase that to a majority stake.

100% coverage. Hmmm, let's hazard a guess what percentage FTTH there will be in the UK by the time this type of project comes to fruition elsewhere in the EU, shall we? Especially after BT's 'threats' this week about not doing anything much without a far looser regulatory environment. (Which actually implies consumers and competition will be shoved into the background if the threat is taken seriously and BT (and its shareholders) is given the chance to have it all their own way).

I wish it was a co-operative JV, but even so, lucky bloody Dutch!!!
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Sunday 16 November 2008

Broadband Map of NZ

Read more! Can't beat this. New Zealand now has an ubercool map of broadband coverage and suppliers.

And we in UK and EU have........? I can't even find out whose is the fibre going up the A road within 500yds from me, let alone anything useful like where the notspots are likely to be for next gen....
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FTTH Community Guide

Read more! I should be promoting my own book but this new FTTH Community Guide may be of more interest to readers of this blog!

Although it is deeply Americanised, much of what is covered in this guide bears relevance to those looking to develop community FTTH in Europe. Obviously, the lack of a co-operative or mutual model within the case studies is a shame; however, each municipality seems to be seeing a ROI which undoubtedly has a positive effect on the communities' coffers.

ECFibernet is also worth keeping an eye on to see how the sustainability and profitability to rural areas pans out. Although the legal issues may be different in the US, the economics for rural areas in pretty much any area of the EU are similar.

Definitely a report worth perusing....
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Thursday 23 October 2008

Voice 2.0?

Read more! I've just found a great new site which launched yesterday, and best of all, it's British! Internet Shout is one of what will likely be more than just the next gen of forums. It allows people to literally voice their opinions.

Now this may well work over most broadband connections, and the simplicity with which a new user can add a recording reminds me of when Youtube launched and the changes that made to sharing video. However, for many, Youtube is still a staggeringly frustrating experience. Imagine how awful it would be if you added video to Internet Shout for all those of us without a decent connection? And why wouldn't you add video? It's the next logical step in allowing people to communicate, have a voice, develop communities, and overcome literacy problems or handicaps which Internet Shout has begun to overcome. It will be interesting to see how soon a video forum follows, and how difficult it is to use in the UK.

In the meantime, I'm off to voice my opinion of Marmite!!
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Wednesday 15 October 2008

This finance thang

Read more! I can only speak for myself, here in the UK, but it would be interesting to know how others feel elsewhere. I make no claims to be an economics expert - I am just an ordinary person trying to survive in a country which seems to be going, rather rapidly, to the wall. My problem at the moment is this financial bail out of private companies, viz the banks, which is being called 'nationalisation'.

This is MY money being spent as a taxpayer, and although figures differ substantially, if you take the lowest one of £37billion, it is still way more than the figures to give every single home and premises in the UK all singing, all dancing FTTH, just to bail out 3 companies - RBS, the HBOS Group, and Lloyds TSB.

Between them, these 3 companies appear to have been responsible for driving thousands and thousands of normal British citizens into debt with bank charges. None of the other banks are immune from responsibility for this either, and there are staggering amounts of money which have been claimed back through the courts and out of court settlements, and many millions more yet to be claimed.

So, to me, as one of those claimants, who was driven to near penury by these companies, and still am, I feel more than just a tad dischuffed (read: bloody fuming!) that our money is being spent on sorting out a mess which a combination of corporate greed, mismanagement, and probably short-sighted stupidity has brought upon themselves.

Especially when that money could be spent on FTTH instead, and used to give approx 20+million premises (ie homes) the chance of becoming business premises. The opportunities FTTH could bring are enormous. As the numbers of jobless rise, it seems to me that each and every citizen in this country could potentially create their own business in the knowledge economy if they just had half a chance to engage in it. So, for the sake of 3, we sacrifice the chance of millions of new businesses. Many maybe would fail, but we could at least give them the chance.....

Not only has this Government failed (and continues to fail, judging by my children's current IT lessons at school) to educate the British populace so they are cybersavvy and able to operate online to the same level as many other countries' nationals are, but there are also an alarming number of 'disconnecteds' still. And it is likely to remain that way whilst there is a policy of allowing the 'competitive marketplace' to drive how and when we are connected to anything approaching a next gen network. (And I stand by my belief that FTTC is definitely not 'next gen').

The short-term gain of bailing out the banks is likely to be completely overwhelmed by the approaching pension crisis (which seems totally unavoidable in my lifetime - unless I die very young). Yet, the housing and mortgage problems appear to have been solved in a single action of ceasing to allow people to borrow any more than 90% of the value of a property during this latest economic 'downturn', and the misery that some are now suffering as they struggle to pay their mortgages could have been avoided entirely had that been adopted far earlier. Or the banks, in their greed, had not been allowed to lend people MORE than the value of their homes.

Similarly, the inevitable cock up that bailing the banks out is likely to turn into without firing all those responsible for it, making them pay up out of their over-inflated pensions and bonuses for the mess, and insisting that there is a major paradigm shift in how the banking and finance world operates, is likely, in the end, to lead to yet more suffering for the ordinary person. We, as the electorate and tax payers are hardly likely to see some fantastic payback from allowing the government to spend our money in this way.

And certainly not the payback we could have seen if this money had been spent on boosting the economy with future-proof communications, rather than bolstering an ailing economy (ie the financial services which appears, to an outsider, to be built on sand, 1s and 0s and greed). Were half the people who I know on benefits able to escape the ridiculous and disheartening downward spiral that our benefits system creates, and set up home-based businesses using the wide variety of knowledge and experience each of them possesses, the UK economy could actually see a turnaround.

In the meantime, most of us will, it seems, just have to sit back and watch the Post Offices close (they were losing small change compared to the banks), drown our sorrows at home as the pubs shut (3 this week in our remote rural area alone), that is if we can find a village shop still open to buy the booze from, and pray like hell we can get ourselves and our kids out of this country before the shit really hits the fan.

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Congrats to SWBB

Read more! Hooray! South Witham Broadband have won a medal in the e-inclusion awards for geographic inclusion for their fab community network in Lincolnshire.

Having represented them in Brussels, and followed their progress since the very early days (and written a book about them!), I would like to be the first to congratulate them on achieving such recognition at EU level.

This network has done more than just learn the lessons that should be taken on board by ANYONE planning a next gen network. It has also applied them so that it actually connects with its customers and the community it serves. SWBB is a first class example of best practice, of engaging your community, of sustainability, how to connect the 'ethnic minority' of the disconnecteds, and of how those who live and work within a community can create a co-operative solution to next generation communications.

It is unfortunate that the organisation who should be advising on these issues is now just a group of consultants, out of touch with real community networks, but for those who need to understand the solution, why not get in touch with SWBB and employ them to answer your questions and show you how it can be done?

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Friday 10 October 2008

Monticello wins its case

Read more! Nice to see that municipal fibre is actually legal after all. Seems that the story we started following last month about a telco attempting to sue a town for puttingfibre into Monticello has reached a conclusion. Which is nice....... Read more!

Now that's what I call broadband

Read more! Earlier this week, I was called to a house in the village having problems with their PC and internet. (Everyone is having problems here at the moment, due to a very shaky rural electricity supply playing havoc with IT kit - for which we pay exactly the same as anyone in an urban area, but I digress). I ran some speedtests.......

You can't argue at that, can you?! I nearly went and dug up their drive looking for the fibre in our village that has so far eluded me...

So, even though I know it is a 1/2Mbps service because of the poverty of the copper, distance from the exchange etc, I now have to explain to an average householder that this isn't the service she is actually receiving, nor ever likely to out here in the sticks.

But it would make my life complete if it were! Even I could be happy with that....

Have a good weekend.
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Friday 3 October 2008

BSG Report on fibre costs in the UK

Read more! The BSG report on the costs of fibre deployment has been published.

More light reading for the weekend!
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Successful 100 Gbps trial

Read more! Nokia Siemens Networks and Verizon have successfully managed to transmit 100Gbps on a single wavelength over 1000 km. This takes us all ever closer to commercial 100Gbps traffic, no more excuses! Read more!

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Japan again

Read more! It really is more than time to read it and weep. It is time for many of the informed consultants, ex-telco workers, whistle blowers, and informed grassroots folk to really bust some of the telco myths about costs of FTTH. If the Japanese telcos can provide 100Mbps symmetrical FTTH for £30/month, then why can't we?

We know opex costs for FTTH are way lower than for ADSL, for starters. We know that the ROI on FTTH infrastructure investment is down to less than a decade (where telco returns used to be 15-20 years), we know that the cost of data is now approaching zero, we know that once FTTH is enabled, customers flock to it out of choice over ADSL, we know that energy bills etc are substantially reduced.

So, what is going on?? Why are the telcos being allowed to hold a nation such as the UK over a barrel with their dithering and, one could almost consider saying, "Lies, damned lies and statistics".

And it isn't just the telcos. There was a consensual holding of breath when DBERR spoke at the BSG conference about there being no evidence of need yet for British business and consumers. Did we really hear right? Are the DTI really saying that to such an informed audience? The breath-holding continued with Antony Walker's sop to the telcos about not doing it yet, but doing it right.

It is time for many flowers to bloom. There won't be one correct solution. There won't be one national network. There may well be new technologies in a few years which surpass what the early adopters put in. But as with all techie developments, when they first come out, there will inevitably be some issues, standards to develop, and higher costs to deploy. So, the early adopters have a chance to start educating the market, creating that 'desire' for something better, encouraging competition in the market place, innovating.

And those early adopters will undoubtedly show many of the large companies how it is to be done. With the current global financial dilemma, it will be those fleet of foot, able to blag and JV, think out of the box, and operate on a tight budget who will begin to install networks where the telcos are unable to tread because they are slow moving behemoths.

And because, one suspects, the telcos have spent so long spinning everyone a line about FTTH, in order to sweat the copper asset and protect their shareholders' interests, that they are starting to believe their own myths.

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Friday 26 September 2008

Jealous? We should be

Read more! Oh heck, this could ruin your weekend! NTT offers a daily cap of 30GB upload. Yes, you read that right, upload.

OK, so the news is several months old - which actually makes it worse for us UK users, but hell, that's a terabyte a month of data upload.

But then I guess if you have dished 100Mbps fibre pipes to your users, and bandwidth costs are approaching zero globally, it isn't very much at all.

It really is so tempting to relocate. I mean, let's be real: I could fly to Japan, upload 100 gig of files from a cybercafe, and be back before they uploaded here. How far behind are we falling??

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FiWi advances in EU

Read more! The EU have got behind a proposal to use the digital dividend for wireless and mobile broadband.

I spoke in support of this particular use of the spectrum in January last year at the Oxford Media Convention. The panel was made up of those proposing the use by HDTV (BBC and DigiTv), mobile TV (O2) and wireless broadband, in particular for rural areas (me).

It is heartening to see, after how the panel went - it was a tough debate for my cause! that the EU have now supported this proposal. I am not claiming full credit for it, by any means, but it is rather an obvious choice for best use, rather than using the spectrum for TV services which are already amply provided for in other frequencies.

I must dig out the technical information I had acquired beforehand from those who know about TV broadcast spectrum and its limitations, and perhaps repeat the arguments here now they are so timely. That information meant I could argue the case about the feasibility of it on the panel, although there were some in question time who queried some of my assumptions and took me beyond my technical know how. That debate would be interesting to start again now...and verify the whys and wherefores of feasibility.

Not sure about the Wimax bit though.....there are proven techs that may prove more capable.
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Hermes, CUT, and a history lesson

Read more! Just read the latest post from the Hermes Project about Caio, rural FTTH, and prices. Reminded me of something.........

The Access to Broadband Campaign (ABC), of which I was one of the 4 co-founders back in the very early Noughties, came into being after a series of BSG meetings. In those days, there were 3 of us who regularly attended at our own expense on behalf of consumers and communities.

- Erol Ziya (formerly of CUT)
- John Wilson (Arwain and involved with many in the wireless world)
- Myself. (Rural broadband campaigner and broadband event organiser)

This was way back when the BSG started in autumn 2000/ spring 2001 (as I recall), before all and sundry jumped on the broadband bandwagon to make themselves a living.

By then, all 3 of us had been campaigning individually for different consumer/community sectors for several years. Debriefings in cafes around Russell Square after these BSG meetings, where the consumer/community voices had been fighting to be heard or understood, led to setting up ABC so that everyone could hear from ALL the stakeholders and engage in the debates.

I sort of digress. ABC was fairly active and well documented. Anyone who came to any of our events remembers, I'm sure, us and the events clearly!! (They were the best around at the time, and still would be now if we held one - ask anyone! Ooh, now there's an idea....)

Hermes' mention of unmetered dial up reminded me that many, many of the people talking about NGA, FTTH etc have absolutely no recollection of how FRIACO came about, nor its relevance today.

The current telco publicly voiced turmoil about 'oooh, the expense, how will we get our money back, there is no demand' etc etc is the same which triggered the campaigning, arguments and grassroots activity that was necessary prior to CUT hitting the 10 o'clock news, getting AOL and other major ISPs on side and on board, and, amazingly, getting FRIACO adopted across the whole of EU.

FRIACO led, firstly, to huge, widespread, mass adoption of the internet, innovation, and a closing of the digital divide. But, most importantly, from a telco point of view, is that it increased the number of people subscribing to their services by factors that had been previously unimaginable. Yes, they made MONEY, BIG MONEY....

Who could ever have imagined back then in '99 that in less than a decade 16million people in the UK alone would be able to access the Internet over a connection at least 10 times as fast as dial up (on the whole, if you are lucky) at the same price as a dial up connection then?

For the consumer, however, it meant no more limits to how often you could log on, especially if you were poor. It started the access for all, internet savvy world we know now in Europe.

If you don't know what FRIACO is, or why it is at least as relevant now to the debate, I strongly urge you to read the CUT archive site

For those who hate following links, try this as a reminder.

Do you remember the days when you paid for dial up by minute? (And the only person who gave you grief for being on too much was the bank manager for getting HUGE phone bills). Well, FRIACO brought flat rate internet access ie you paid one price per month and you could do what you wanted online. To everyone who wanted it.

Ring a bell with all these discussions ongoing about pricing models etc in the Ofcom review, usage limits, telcos' press releases etc?

Please do not let us have to re-invent the wheel....the CUT arguments still stand today. The investment, exactly as it was made prior to WW1 in the telephone system, is required, and all the telcos are well aware that if they can maintain their monopoly hold on it, they will not just get ROI in the next few years, but OVER and OVER again.

It wouldn't take much to get the type of people who successfully brought FRIACO to the whole of EU motivated again to take this on for NGA, surely? And now there really is a whole next generation of them fed up with being unable to do what they choose, when they choose, how they choose, and as fast as they choose....check out many of the broadband forums.........

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Just a reminder - the endgame is FTTH. Tell everyone!

Read more! Promote the cause - true NGA = FTTH. Get a tshirt, mug, conference bag, mousemat etc.

Or just help me earn a few pennies to feed my twins. I am unwaged, a single mum, and committed to FTTH as much now as a decade ago, as much for my SME as my family. In case you didn't realise!

I am a true grassroots activist and consumer. I live in a deeply rural area - there are only around 400 other people in my parish, less in my village. Feel free to offer me a job/work too. I work all hours, am best value and well-networked! Unlike my broadband.
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Wednesday 24 September 2008

Ed Richards answers questions

Read more! The Telegraph offers readers the chance to ask questions of Ofcom's Chief the answers.

The questions posted about fibre optics, use of sewers, and FiWi are the ones that interest me, although I can understand the radio hams' frustration at the interference being caused by BT's homeplugs.

The answer to Kim Purkiss' question though exasperates me. Unless we reach some sort of comprehension of uso, the natural monopoly that is FTTH/NGA and mutuality, this country is going to lag behind yet further. 'Clear consumer demand' cannot be established unless a truly independent body with no hidden agendas seeks to do so. Allowiing telcos to dictate who gets what where is in no way in the consumers' interests, nor long-term in the interests of UK Plc. Allowing the telcos to cherry pick is only going to cause further digital divides in the future, stymie innovation and fill the fat cats pockets . Nuff said.

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Future Broadband Consultations underway

Read more! Two to get involved with right now. First up is Ofcom's Super-fast broadband consultation (open until 02.12.08), and secondly is the EU Review on fibre NGA networks(open until 14/11/08)

Ofcom's attempts to engage consumers by allowing commentary on each paragraph of the summary is interestingly different, although spot the issue the public is concerned with right now in the paragraphs about the use of technologies such as Phorm. Hopefully, other paragraphs will also receive public attention for issues of equal import such as dealing with the new digital divide, regulation to prevent monopolies, open access and so on.

The EU review also covers some of the issues surrounding the creation of new monopolies, as well as the issues around sharing access to ducts, poles, and fibres, including in the fibre local loop. The guidance from the EU is already late for some countries, such as Sweden, and one hopes that the framework will not conflict with the work that Ofcom is also doing on the subject.

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making FiWi happen: Google espouse white spaces

Read more! When arguing for the use of the digital dividend for affordable wireless broadband on the panel last year at the Oxford new media event (as against for HDTV or mobile use) some of the attendees questioned whether such a thing would be possible. Nice to see Google advocating it too but in a more ubiquitous way - of course!This is precisely the level of tech and thinking that could help make FiWi happen deep into rural areas in the UK. And use some of the unused spectrum.

I seem to remember that not too many years ago, James Stephens of came back from an event in Copenhagen talking about how use of the white noise spectrum could extend wifi networks' capacity substantially. This seems to me to be similar thinking and a potential solution to consider for FiWi.
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Sunday 21 September 2008

Funding rural FTTH in the UK

Read more! So Caio says the case for major public sector intervention is weak. If we are talking about straightforward subsidy or significant change to the regulatory regime (as he sets out), then I agree. From what I can see of the evolving market there is a sound business case for smaller community owned fibre networks. With the right conditions, the right technology choices, and the appropriate financial backing, I believe that these local fibre networks can be successful sustainable businesses. Neunen is an interesting case in this respect. As I understand it the goal was never to be profitable, merely sustainable, and yet several years into the project and OnsNet appears to be making a healthy operating profit, and servicing its debts. From my perspective as someone seeking to promote such a network I have to say I'm a little confused about the debate over this issue.

It looks like the same old tired public vs. private arguments are being rehashed. We still don't seem to have advanced our thinking beyond this stale black/white dead-end. And yet plenty of campaigners and promoters are actively talking about cooperative and mutual solutions, which can deliver both the public sector ethos and the private sector entrepreneurial spirit in one and the same package. And as for funding, no-one is really expecting major subsidy from the public purse, are they? If we are clever, and perhaps a little lucky, we may be able to leverage some public sector funding, just as the private sector does, but it seems pretty unlikely that government - at any level - is going to pour the millions in that are needed to build networks of even fairly modest scale.

No, what is really needed in order to generate real progress in this emerging community fibre sector is, in my humble opinion, access to large chunks of patient risk capital. Capital that is a little socially minded, but which still requires a fair return. BT and others question the business case in rural and other areas of lower population density. But that's because BT needs to give its investors a return in a few short years, so it is driven by its shareholders to focus on the low hanging fruit of the large urban population centres.

And yet the recent Taylor report on rural housing tells us that economic growth based on remote working ICTs in rural areas is roughly double that which is seen in urban centres, and this despite the poorer performance of ADSL in those rural areas. Ofcom's Consumer Panel says that rural communities should be at the head of the queue for FTTH, and there is increasing evidence to show that the benefits of NGA would be most strongly felt in those rural communities. The arguments in favour are compelling, but how to make it happen when BT and its ilk are driven by the short termism that is inherent in the City.

It's an interesting conundrum, and opens up some equally interesting possibilities. There has been plenty of talk about social enterprise in the last five years or so, and government seems very keen (as do Cameron's Tories). Is this not the single biggest opportunity for social enterprise to transform the UK telecoms market? We are nearing a tipping point in telecoms - not just in the UK but across the whole of Europe and beyond. A very real opportunity exists to end the de facto monopoly and at the same time create a substantial community owned telecoms utility player. It is surely a challenge and will demand some real vision on the part of those individuals and organisations that could prove pivotal.

But the prize is enormous: an end to the drip-feed asset sweating approach that over the years has drained billions and billions of pounds out of local communities and economies and into the hands of BT's City investors. The potential of delivering true Fibre to the Home to rural communities whose sustainable long term future - in the face of increasing transport costs - increasingly depends on the availability of high bandwidth low cost connectivity. The impact would be huge, and hugely positive. But who is out there that might be willing to invest the sums required over the length of time needed?

In part, the capital could come from the communities themselves. Community share issues have been effective in raising large sums for community owned wind farms. The Industrial and Provident Society legislation - currently being upgraded - provides an ideal vehicle for this approach. In some fibre rollouts, end users are buying their connection, using savings, or perhaps securing funding against the value of their home (which will of course be enhanced by having a fibre connection). Public sector involvement might be in part about aggregating their planned investment and/or usage costs over several years in order to provide a larger chunk of finance at the outset. And the CDFIs (Community Development Finance Institutions) of which there are many, need to be looking actively at the lending opportunities in this space.

On a perhaps more outlandish angle, and given the game-changing nature of this tipping point, such an investment might prove attractive to a player who is known for their leftfield approach, for their slightly philanthropic bent, and for their substantial minority share of the UK broadband market. Virgin territory?
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Thursday 18 September 2008

BT send big guns to Wales

Read more! ThinkBroadband reports on the trip to Wales by BT Chairman, Sir Michael Rake, to work on/with the Welsh Assembly on the matter of fibre.

Sadly, and fairly rarely for TB, the article includes two myths - a) that 1/2Mbps is sufficent for today's use and 2) that next generation broadband starts at 50Mbps - try 100 or even 1000Mbps please.
Read more!

Tuesday 16 September 2008

How much evidence do we need? UK 24th

Read more! Yet another survey showing the UK well down the broadband league tables, this time commissioned by Cisco and carried out by Oxford and Oviedo universities, and putting US in 16th and UK at 24th.

As a consumer who knows the current tech is not good enough even for my usage, I am really beginning to wonder in light of Caio's Review saying the case for investment is weak, just how much evidence this country requires to get our act together on FTTH.

Caio has managed to tow the party line (the telcos' party that is), re-defining NGA to now include every technology which can or cannot deliver anything approaching true broadband. I know he is having a bad week but even so, this country needs true, quality broadband NOW and that review should not in any way be taken as the policy driver for UK broadband. It is limited in its vision, misunderstands the needs of the consumers and businesses who drive our economy, and fails utterly to escape from the restrictive telco thinking which has impaired our broadband and communications ability for far too long.
Read more!

Saturday 13 September 2008

Event: Broadband World Forum Europe

Read more! The Broadband World Forum conference and expo in Brussels, 29th Sept to 2nd Oct

If you are going, please blog from the event! Some potentially fantastic sessions looking at the schedule.....
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Caio Review

Read more! Unless you have been under a rock for the last week (or in the wilds of Scotland, as I was), you can hardly have failed to have caught the publication of Francesco Caio's review of Barriers to Investment in NGA, and the news and blogosphere commentary on it. There is too much to comment upon in a single post, but suffice to say, it bears reading. However, there are a couple of points that spring to mind as part of the 'rural lobby' that Caio mentions in the report.

Firstly, apparently no-one lives further than 5.1km from an exchange in the UK. Rot! Our whole village is situated more than that from the exchange, as are many, many others, who therefore have no chance of benefitting from ADSL2+, and who should have been more deeply considered in the report when dismiising the need for FTTH investment at this point in time. We are, it seems, now a minority group (the digitally excluded) and our problems must be addressed by government et al, with the same enthusiasm that other minority groups are.

Secondly, the lack of demand shown in some of the graphs for video etc fails entirely to take into account that many of us "just don't bother" with video/films because our connections are incapable of downloading films in under a couple of days. Upload the videos from the recent trip to Scotland once home? Not a chance, and as for trying to put the photos and videos onto Flickr over a wireless network in Oban...pah.

Third point: wireless has to be an integral part of the first phase (at least) of NGA, hence the adoption of the term FiWi showing the need for wireless. (See previous posts on the matter) However, the poverty of existing wireless infrastructure (mobile coverage in rural Scotland this last week was patchy to say the least) and even technologies such as HSDPA, 3G and so on, are not going to bring the bandwidth that consumers need now.

And, finally, that old bug bear again: consumers were not properly included, as ever, in the Caio review, judging by the list of organisations/individuals contacted. Ask us what we need true broadband for and we will tell you. (No sign of the Federation of Small Businesses, CLA, Teleworkers Association, CMA for instance in the list on pp 73-75 - only "Industry" - very telling).

As a small business owner, looking at present, for instance, to use developers in India for several purposes, I am unable to upload the training videos which will bring them up to speed fast enough to start offering additional products and services this year to clients. I cannot video conference with my next door neighbour, let alone India or London. This means unnecessary trips to meetings because I have no choice but to do that, and that has an environmental and economic impact - personally, for my business and for the country. I cannot pay tax on money that I have not earned because it has been spent on train tickets, flights, and so on, but that would have gone to the Treasury if I had been able to work more efficiently on a decent connection. This is so blindingly obvious that I wonder it is not mentioned more often.

As a family, my teenagers are unable to do many of the things their peers and friends can, be they in London or rural Jutland in Denmark. This is not just frustrating, but also affects their progress in school, which will inevitably affect their career choices and the contribution they are able to make in future to the economy. It is also highly likely that we will see a drain of talent to other nations where the standard of living, choices etc are higher, particularly from this generation of kids brought up in an ever smaller world, who see and hear about services and choices available to their friends in other countries.

And as an aside: BSG have also decided to almost double their figure for 100% UK FTTH, despite having been fairly adamant for years that the cost would be around the £15Bn mark. One feels somewhat aggrieved that this sudden doubling of the costs means that the telcos will now play the FTTC card over and over again, and sweat the copper asset for yet more years to come, thereby doing the population out of the chance to get a decent infrastructure. One can only ask if there is a hidden agenda about this sudden rise, and the answer is a tad worrying....more later when I have calmed down a little!
Read more!

Telco sues town for putting in FTTH

Read more! Only in America? The town of Monticello in Minnesota, having held a referendum on fibre to the home, then proceeded to spend tax payers' money on achieving exactly that purpose. As soon as they start digging, along come TDS to Arstecnica's view of events here...TDS' reasons for the lawuit? We are trying to save the taxpayers from wasting money...hmmm. Read more!

Thursday 4 September 2008

FTTH advice for property developers

Read more! What do you ask your FTTH provider if you are looking to turn a new housing estate into an Intelligent Community? This article offers good advice to anyone considering the FTTH route in new-build, and reminds me of why we planned The End Game Conference back in 2005, came up with the break out sessions we did, and invited so many property developers!!

Although the climate for property development is a tad grim here in the UK at the mo, it may be that those property developers who seek to innovate in the homes that they do build can corner the market, increase the value of those homes they build, even in a declining property market, and establish a reputation when the market does recover for experience in the field of next gen homes.

For planning authorities, it is precisely the adoption of such policies that will put their regions in the lead for business investment, and becoming desirable areas in which to live when the economy recovers.

However, we are still seeing a failure by the planning authorities to force developers to build 21st century houses, whether this is environmental (eg insisting that every new home MUST have solar panels, wind generators, methane digesters and so on), or in telecommunications (FTTH, gigabit ethernet wired homes/business premises etc).

This situation needs to change, rapidly, if the UK is to have the basic first mile and first inch infrastructure to deliver FTTH and compete in the global knowledge economy. Much of the failure stems from general 'ignorance' in the UK still about the importance of FTTH, and hence the vital need to start including it in the planning, design, and build of new homes and business premises. This is not so difficult to change with an education and evangelism policy, although that education needs to be aimed as much at those governing the country as those intended to consume the FTTH!

There is however already a comprehensive ICT toolkit available to all property developers and planning authorities in the UK, which does offer assistance in uncovering the answers to the questions UK property developers and planners will need to resolve in order to build next gen homes.

Technology may have moved on, but one of the joys behind the Toolkit was that it didn't propose actual technologies, and therefore it hasn't aged unduly and become dated. Well done to those at EMDA who funded this ICT Toolkit (I think Alan Srbljanin was a key thinker), and if you build houses and business units (or even self-build), or are a planner, it is well worth a look.

Read more!

"Worst is first" FTTH call from Ofcom

Read more! Anna Bradley (Ofcom Consumer Panel) reiterates what she said, with Ashley Highfield (BBC) and others, at the BSG conference.

The broadband have-nots should leapfrog everyone else in getting FTTH / NGA.

Hearty applause from me, and undoubtedly many, many others who have struggled to be heard for so long. We have been saying this for over a decade now, since long before broadband became a household word, ADSL trigger levels and so on. Our Notspot report in 2005 also generated more than enough evidence to show this was required, economically for rural business and public sector service provision, and socially.

As a consumer of this pathetic service our dear regulator and incumbent(s) are apparently legitimately allowed to call "broadband" (to many consumers' disgust), I hope we will now see advances towards resolving a problem of national import, and which is having dire social and economic impact.

If anyone has any doubts about this 'worst is first' theory (with compliments to Sagentia for coining the term), I strongly urge you to pick up the JFDI Community Broadband books. I didn't write them alone. They are the words and experiences of communities who put their own first gen broadband in place, where the telcos refused to tread for precisely the same reasons they are citing now for not doing FTTH / NGA, and clearly illustrate why FTTH / NGA is required in rural areas FIRST.

NOT FTTC, let's make that clear. FTTC is NOT, and never will be, NGA.

The copper in rural areas is, in many cases, aged, appalling or aluminium. For FTTH / NGA purposes, it is entirely obsolete, useless, and better value sold on the open market, as Peter Cochrane first suggested way back when. The first hint of rain and our supposed broadband connections can and do dither at less than dial up speeds. There are many who don't even have this privilege though - I can introduce you to hundreds, if not thousands of them, who haunt my inbox.

There should be no concessions made to keep the copper in the first mile, whatsoever.

Whatever the cost to whomsoever does the copper replacement for rural FTTH, it is as nothing to the benefits to be reaped bringing "health, wealth and learning" opportunities across the digital divide. And hence the economic benefit to UK PLC.

Those of us behind Community FTTH, 5TTH and FiWi Pie are within an ace of making announcements about sustainable "Worst is First" broadband development and opportunities. Thank you, Anna. Your timing is impeccable!

Read more!

Wednesday 3 September 2008

INEC Declaration on Open Networks

Read more! Greece will be the first country where the INEC declaration on Open Networks will be signed by ALL local communities during the Broadband Cities event Oct 20th - 22nd, 2008 in Trikkala, Greece.

The document provides a framework of reference for providing best networks to the maximum number of users in signatory communities. A large number of communities around the world have signed the Declaration, but this will be the first time that all communtiies within a nation sign together.
Read more!

FTTH Council Public Call for Papers

Read more! FTTH Council Europe has issued, for the first time, a public call for papers for the next conference in Copenhagen, February 2009. The deadline for abstracts is 26th September.

The conference will focus on "building a sustainable future" and there are several areas of this undoubtedly of great interest in the current climate (both economically and physically.)

The key topics at the conference are:
* FTTH & Sustainable Development
* Revenues from Current - and Future Services
* FTTH and the Investor Community
* Regulation & Policy
* Case Studies: Successful FTTH-networks in the spotlight
* Technology & Innovation
* How to implement FTTH-Networks
* FTTH Market

Price Waterhouse Coopers have produced a report on behalf of the FTTH Council about the environmental impact of FTTH which makes interesting reading. You can read a brochure about FTTH environmental impact and the report here.
Read more!

Tuesday 2 September 2008

(Mouse) Killer apps

Read more! It has been a long time since I have seen an application that makes me think, "This could be the type of killer app that breaks the (copper) network and demonstrates that the so-called 'non-existent demand' for bandwidth is a fallacy", but I think I may just have found one.

I came across Youtube in its very early days and its use of video (high bandwidth reqs) and the symmetry of the app - I'll upload, you watch and vice versa, was the last such app. Nowadays, Youtube is a name everyone knows, but Mousehunt may not be.

I don't think MH in its current state threatens bandwidth caps or the core network. Any more than Youtube or Iplayer does yet really - I still can't watch a Youtube video or a BBC programme without jerks, buffering, and total frustration because of the poverty of the UK rural broadband network and the greed of its operators - but MH has all the ingredients to do so in the next 12 months or so if its developers keep to the successful recipe they have discovered.

MouseHunt is a Facebook application. Now before everyone switches off - you ignore social networks at your peril in business and government in 2008 - it is what it embodies that matters.

To explain though, MH is a simple online game. Basically, you build a mousetrap, buy some cheese and set off to the help the King of Gnawnia rid his kingdom of mice. As you catch more mice, you win points and gold, can upgrade your trap, buy different types of cheese, and move to different regions of the Kingdom, winning points to progress up through the levels of novice, apprentice, journeyman, master etc, which opens additional doors to new mice and hunting areas, and some horrendous puns, such as the Mousoleum - full of zombie mice, mummy mice, etc.

It is a waiting game though. You can only hunt mice every 15 minutes, and no more. It also takes time to achieve a new level of expertise - one week, two, depends on your skill and luck at catching mouses! So, to kill time, hunters loiter in the forums, run competitions to share gold, talk, help each other out, make friends to help them hunt more often, set up FB groups, and much more. The community that this has built is really quite staggering.

MH was launched in March/April this year, and after a mere 4 months, there are 10000+ hunters online at any one time. 39% of the people who run this application log on EVERY day. The forums are very busy, and with the developers encouraging suggestions of improvements and new ideas, you can watch a creative, engaged community at work for the greater good (politicans, civil servants and industry execs - take note. Grassroots activity is not to be sniffed at or ignored).

Additionally, it shows how a real-life community ought to work, (something we see far too little of these days) looking after each other, co-operating, and helping out others in a less fortunate position. I watched a scammer almost torn to pieces in the forums yesterday for ripping someone off for SuperBrie + the ultimate cheese. He returned it with a huge apology! There's people power /justice for you.

The inclusion of games within social networks is nothing new, but building a devastatingly simple yet addictive game which attracts a wide variety of different people, from around the world, who play as much for the social engagement as for the game itself, signals to me the rise of a new breed of app, and in this case, it could well be a killer. And not just of mice!

MH 2.0 is about to be launched, and it will be interesting to see whether anyone has seen the value of MH and decided to JV with Hitgrab. For instance adding video conferencing tools within it to allow hunters to communicate between their Hunt group - total strangers who help you hunt, who then become friends. (This time last week, I knew no-one in Louisiana but now I am concerned about several strangers and their families because of Gustav). Not just that, but there are Facebook groups dedicated to MH - for instance, the Non Violent Removal of Mice Charity (NVMRC), who want less deathly mousetraps, and others.

Tie in a Youtube application to MH and people will upload animations of mice (the graphics are superb, yet simple), vlogs and much more. Add video based clues to the game, and you start to see how 10k users at any time could start to munch through bandwidth. Especially if groups of them are also playing virtual musical chairs around their webcams to win 5000 gold pieces on the forums.

I think MH has the potential to be one of the first of a breed of online social networking games with mass appeal; that don't rely on gaming ability or obsession to get anywhere; and that need bandwidth thrown at the community of users. However, if the developers get ahead of the ability of their users to connect and engage, it will lose some of its appeal, as it will fragment the existing community between haves and have nots (just like the real world then!)

But it is precisely this type of app that highlights the need for decent bandwidth in the first mile. And underscores the failure by many to understand that users need bandwidth for fun, interactive stuff more than anything, whether that is retail therapy, uploading wedding videos, or playing games. How many e-gov websites can boast 10,000 simultaneous users? We (the consumers) really are not that interested in government stuff, however important politics may be in our daily lives, it is nowhere near as important as being part of an enthusiastic community of fellow mousehunters or sharing our funny clips from our mobile phones!

We vote for people to run the country so we don't need to worry about it; we expect the services our taxes pay for to work for us (ditto the civil service); and we want our government to protect us from self-serving commercial interests who otherwise dictate what we can and cannot do. And not just online. And then, we can do the interesting stuff that makes us the people we are.

If MH becomes the success it has the potential to achieve, we will see add-ons appearing with third parties benefiting from its success; a cross-app economy where players trade prizes from other apps for cheese etc (this is already happening); cheese traded for hard cash (as has been seen with gold farming in Second Life and many of the MMPOGs); and an increase in bandwidth usage by its players. Take note, you read it here first!

(Whilst writing this, courtesy of the help of my hunt group, which inclues an Open University lecturer, a marine biologist, and who knows what other occupations, I have caught a 1lb 3oz Bionic Mouse and several smaller brown and white mice - long live the King!)

Read more!

Friday 29 August 2008

FTTC and first mile theory

Read more! Ofcom have published some research by Sagentia of an assessment of the theoretical limits of copper in the first mile.

Ofcom state in the report, "We found that if the DSL transmission system is hosted in the exchange, households within 2km of the exchange (approximately 18% of the total number of households) could, in theory, receive data rates above 50Mbit/s. If the DSL transmission system is moved closer to the customer premises and into the street cabinet, then almost 100% of households are within 2km of the street cabinet and could, theoretically, expect a data rate of 50Mbit/s."

Now, much of this is substantially theoretical, and not necessarily technically or economically feasible, or practical. And it raises the questions about who is planning to FTTC? And what regulatory environment would then be required for competition in the first mile, sub-loop unbundling etc?

As an aside, the idea of "worst is first" to work on eliminating the digital divide (particularly in rural areas) should not just be the preference of the regulator, but should also start to be enforced through regulation asap, as per Ashley Highfield and others' comments at the BSG event.
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Stop claiming you are all about fibre

Read more! Geoff at App-Rising (see blogroll on the right) has posted about his feelings over the potentially false advertising claims being made by ISPs over the Pond about fibre in their networks.

We have blogged about this issue before too, and it really is time it is stamped on throughout the EU. (Vivien, are you listening?)

As consumers, we ought to be protected from such advertising (mal)practices by the ASA and the likes of Trading Standards, let alone Ofcom. However, this does not appear to be happening - see the comment on the previous post about BT attempting to deal with VM's ads and how they were allowed to stand ... But worse, it is lulling those in government and so on into a false sense of belief about what is actually on offer, and therefore continuing this mistaken opinion that UK is competitive in the broadband arena.

Education of those both in government and consumers should be reinforced by ISPs and telcos' advertising, not entirely undone by it. And let's not forget, this level of protection of the consumer (and the government is also a consumer) is Ofcom's statutory duty.
Read more!

Thursday 28 August 2008

Telco 2.0 Event

Read more! The one event not to miss this autumn!! The Telco 2.0 event "Reducing Friction in the Digital Economy - exploiting latent telco assets" is on 4th and 5th November in London and if you grab your ticket NOW you get a 20% discount. JFDI!

Telco 2.0 thinking has been contributing to the paradigm shift within telecoms, and this event is one to seriously make an effort to get to. If you have ever read the Telco 2.0 research or blog, including the write up on the BSG event in July, then you know that there is a whole new world of thinking within Telco 2.0 that you can't afford to miss.

As Martin Geddes (well-known globally through his Telepocalypse blog) just told me, "We've a quite different perspective to the rest of the telecoms/analysts out there as to where the money comes from in future." Now, doesn't that just heighten your desire to know more?! Book NOW and we'll see you there!
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Local for Local

Read more! Interesting article here showing how, in the US, legal and regulatory issues about municipalities retailing services from their self-funded FTTH networks are being overcome. And why those open networks which retail directly to their consumers more often succeed than those who are strapped trying to attract service providers.

We have seen this as a major issue in the EU where State Aid and anti-competitive regulations often cause the failure of projects rather than guaranteeing their success, or even achievement (and not just in telecoms).

An interesting point to note is the benefits of a public and local utility type company where the benefits can spread across from one sector to another viz from fibre comms through to electricity supply. All of these save the public purse, ie our money, from being spent unwisely, and it is this level of joined-up thinking which often seems to be missing in the public sector at present in the UK. Civil servants can be far too precious about their department, or budgets, or careers, to think out of the box and look at the big picture which inevitably FTTH must be. It is not just about health care, or education, or home users - it is about connecting all of these sectors together and operating co-operatively.

The main point for me though of the article is the fact that many communities, large and small, urban and rural, are seeking to solve the problem themselves locally (JFDI), where incumbents and telcos do not wish to tread, for multiple reasons, but usually involving profit margins. This really is what we need to do in the UK but perhaps with a level of standardisation that is not implied in this US article - where each municipality is making its own call on tech, business model etc adopted. There is no reason not to adopt different models to suit the demographics, topology or other differences in our municipalities, but each community needs to interconnect seamlessly with others, or it will become an island within an island.

I have some thoughts about how to ensure that the right advice gets to the right decision makers and purse string holders to ensure a cohesive FTTH deployment in the UK, but I'll save that for another day!

Read more!

Saturday 23 August 2008

Mobile broadband to beat FTTH to 100Mbps?

Read more! Are they serious? Surely not. At the BSG conference back in June the view seemed to be that 4G mobile technology (lamely labelled LTE, or Long Term Evolution - yeuch! See the Wikipedia reference to learn about what it really means, and to revel in further acronymic jargon-hell) would reach maybe 50Mbps, but not much more. But this report at suggests that the powers that be in the mobile world are touting 100Mbps. Not just this, but they are saying they will deliver this sort of performance before FTTH networks can do so on a "commercial basis" (whatever that might mean).

Of course all this needs to be taken with the usual shovelful of salt. As most users of mobile broadband in the UK will probably tell you currently, real performance falls far short of the quoted bandwidth. Having said this, they report that they have achieved 186Mbps in the lab already. So maybe a real world figure of 50 megabits might actually be more realistic.

Could prove interesting as the posturing over headline performance figures begins to heat up. More interestingly, the ability to get this sort of performance out of wireless technologies bodes well for rural/remote next-gen networks, which can become increasingly cost effective when a mix of FTTH and wireless is used in order to reach the most outlying properties.
Read more!

Thursday 21 August 2008

Guest bloggers welcome!

Read more! Just a reminder that if you wish to guest blog here, please just ask. UKFibrevolution at

We know that there are readers from all over the EU, who may wish to post links and opinion from outside the UK, as well as those who reside and work within the UK. Have your say! Read more!

BT FTTx interview .... one month on

Read more! One month after the initial announcement by BT about its FTTx plans, (which did not stun the majority of industry observers, except in the recurrent failure to achieve what BT ought to be able to in the first decade of the 21st century!), an unnamed BT spokesman offers answers to some questions from ISPreview about the plans.

It is almost too tempting to take the entire article to pieces and not congratulate BT on at least taking some hesitant steps forward into FTTx.... but one feels that the items of note should be:

1) The assumption that FTTC should cost more to the consumer - the savings on opex over the coming years should prevent this entirely. FTTC should not be a premium product, nor priced as such. It is, again, an interim technology, as was ADSL, until the end game is reached - FTTH/P and hence true next generation access. (Interestingly, BT seem to have noted the outcry about their use of the acronym 'NGA' for ADSL2+ and FTTC, and avoid it altogether in this interview)

2) The admission that this (FTTC) is merely copper overlay, and thereby further sweating of the copper asset, as many industry observers were quick to point out. However, it should be mentioned that VDSL is touted as the tech to be used. This would seem to imply that focus on sub-loop unbundling regulation is now urgent.

3) The trial location will be announced during the autumn. This does not quite hold true with previous announcements that government and regional development agencies etc would have a say. It does however seem to imply that BT are in a rush to begin the deployment and are willing to do so without needing to seek public funds at this point. This does NOT bode well for digitally excluded areas, including rural and remote, who should be in the first wave of FTTx deployment, as well as (possibly) the likes of Milton Keynes etc (unless the demand there suddenly makes it seem more attractive than it has in the past).

4) Will we now see BT start to apply rigorous pressure to Ofcom about opening up Virgin's network?

5) More bluff about ADSL2+. It will not address the digital divide for far too many people and ADSL2+ is a first mile technology (a poor relative of VDSL) and is nothing to do with 21CN which is a middle mile solution to opex costs and network paucity in the core network.

6) And that old bugbear - The failure by ISPreview to use the correct terminology.... it is 'first mile' not last.

This is obviously just my opinion so your thoughts? Please post.
Read more!

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Apply this to bandwidth?

Read more! The announcement yesterday that Scotland intend to aggregate the government and public sector demands for electricity to get better value for public money should start to raise questions about why governments and public sector across England and the UK are not doing exactly the same for bandwidth. And not just for public sector use.

It has long been an issue, particularly since the kerfuffle about Learning Stream contracts etc, that public sector uses public money to purchase access services eg to the internet, and provide connectivity to councils, schools (in the case of the Learning Stream contracts) and so on, but is unable to use/share the spare capacity on those networks to connect the local communities. It is a well-known fact that many public sector buildings have plentiful connections, provided through expensive leased lines and fibre, which lie dormant evenings and weekends (and in August judging by the number of out of office messages coming back from public sector at present!), whilst the local communities often suffer impoverished IP connectivity.

This is often down to a failure by those negotiating the contracts for public sector to get the best deal, red herrings about security, or failing to understand that these organisations and agencies are there to serve the community in all ways. In fact, there is a statutory duty to do so. In other words the resources they buy with our money should be there to serve all of us.

Communities (businesses and consumers) struggled in the first phase of broadband to get connected, and are going to struggle now, whilst existing infrastructure is in place, which, if demand were aggregated across all sectors, could prove the catalyst to encourage the necessary investment in best value networks.

Bandwidth costs are now approaching zero, (although you would never believe it from the costs apparently associated with overstepping your 'unlimited' cap), and demand aggregation for such, if the Scottish electricity model were applied, would lead to the UK having best value networks. Yes, the ISPs, incumbents etc would see a drop in profit per MB but overall we would see far more MB accessible, affordable, and hence used.
Read more!

FTTH article holds good

Read more! Despite being 2 years old, and written from a US perspective, this article To Overbuild or Underbuild? by Dr Merrion Edwards of Corning, covers some interesting points for anyone interested in FTTH deployment.
The article includes open access vs closed networks, opex and capex costs, business models, and penetration rates for profitability, particularly in municipalities.

Opex and capex are complex to model as each network will invariably be different, but until we start seeing real FTTH in the UK (not some watered down FTTX ADSL2 type service), it will be difficult to know how costs will pan out. Just dealing with UK agencies (Highways, planning departments etc) is going to hinder progress until the message about the importance of FTTH reaches all areas of the public sector. Many of these agencies have not yet got the climate change models adopted into their policies, so FTTH may take some doing; although the fact that it clearly impacts health, education, e-gov, environment and energy usage, and many other areas of daily life may help!

Perhaps the most interesting comment in the article is that 2 years ago it was felt that 35Mbps of bandwidth would be required per consumer. This was before Youtube, iPlayer etc so it would be not unfair to assume that this may have doubled in the intervening time. This leaves services of 50Mbps-100Mbps planned for 2010 - 2012 already appearing impoverished and potentially insufficient.

Municipalities and others looking at FTTH network build need to consider the effect on not just the economy, but also on consumers if the all new Mother of all broadband services are potentially going to be insufficient, even at launch, particularly in the run up to general and local elections, the Olympics etc.

Read more!

Thursday 14 August 2008

Dutch fibre co-op gives its members free HD upgrade

Read more! The seminal cooperative Dutch fibre network Ons Net is providing free HD TV to all of its members that subscribe to its basic digital TV package, which offers some 50 or so channels. The story, posted here at Broadband TV News states that subscribers pay €7.50 per month for the TV package, on top of their basic connection fee. In addition a one-off charge is made for the set-top box. Read more!

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Come in, Hull.....

Read more! When a town as historically important as Hull falls off the internet for a weekend, you realise how badly wrong we have it in the UK.

Let's do a little bit of history.

Once upon a time, communities across the UK set up their own utilities. In fact, galvanised individuals and innovators set up utilities. Not large corporates. They came much later.

My village, which is tiny, is the subject of a book by Ted Short I Knew My Place (wireless experimenter, Marconi, Postmaster General, then Secretary of State for Education and Science, Leader of the House of Commons and now Lord Glenamara) and he tells of the village digging a route for water to provide electricity to the village in 1918-20, before Manchester had such a service as I understand it, amongst many other fascinating tales.

Each house had one light bulb (hell, that was a major luxury), and this is a tale from a man who did wireless comms experiments in the house 2 doors down from me in 1920ish. We had a full mill race dug and mill wheel built and set up by the village craftsmen. Then these amazing folk sourced and dug in the piping for a sweet water supply after a smallpox epidemic killed too many local people, especially children. This amazing local service was sadly absorbed into the national water board in the 60s (I think), and the water in our village has been nowhere near as good since because it isn't local.

Every village I have lived in has similar tales. Once upon a time, rural (and urban) Britain was fairly self-sufficient in basic utilities. And one feels that given half a chance, these villages would be now too, in 21st century utilities.

Hull was a ground breaking city. If you only know a couple of facts about Hull, it is probably that they had unlimited local calls for a long time (which put them way ahead of FRIACO on cheapy internet access) and on a par with the US who had free local calls. Or that they have grey/white phone boxes. Either way, Hull was the envy of many for a very long time for its telecoms services.

No longer. I was there a fortnight ago. Ask for a costing on a 10Mbps leased line type service (£8-10k a year in London) and you are looking at something like £84k. No wonder businesses don't locate there. In fact, businesses are leaving, in droves, as the comms costs drive them away.

Worse though are the consumer problems of getting on the Net. If Karoo goes down, as it did this weekend, there is no alternative ISP. Anyone who runs a small business elsewhere in the country will (should!) have 2 broadband ISPs. None of us understand why one ISP can keep going through a BT exchange when another can't, but occasionally one network can fall over when another doesn't. Or you can use 3G, or mobile data access (ouch!!), but even having an ancient dial up modem can keep you online these days.

But, let's face it, that is pretty extreme and crap. In Hull though, you can't even take those precautions. Kcom. Or nowt.

This weekend even the hospitals comms in Hull fell over. And to me, this signals the problems loud and clear that we have in Britain. If BT's network fell over (and it really shouldn't, but has in the past - burning wheelie bins down manholes in Manchester etc), then we have all our eggs in one (copper) basket, we have no resilience.

We have allowed monopolies to dictate how we communicate. Where is freedom of speech when you have no phone line or internet, as happened this weekend in Hull? This time, so they say, it was down to some major issues whilst they upgrade the network to adsl 2 (sweating the copper asset rather than upgrading). This will probably not be a one off, but I can't see the Hull Daily Mail reporting it every time a borough gets knocked off over the coming months, so assume this is going to be an(other) hidden issue of disconnected folk.

We need to see more alt nets springing up. SYMsip, 3G and other services need to be widely promoted so that consumers understand they have CHOICE.

Ofcom need to take their statutory duties more clearly. Stop the telcos from lying for starters.

Co-ax is not fibre.

ADSL is not broadband.

FTTC is not NGA or FTTH.

And let's see some real competition out there. I know we have fibre less than 1km on one side of our village, and about 4km on the other down the Settle-Carlisle railway. Get me off the monopoly network, allow this village (and many others) to return to the edge of the network independence that saw the start of ALL these utilities, and then let's see some real competition. Not in the ownership of the network infrastructure, but in providing services. Let the community run the network.

Because in this village, we ran exceptional water and electrics services without central involvement, way before Manchester or other cities had electricity and sweet running water. We can do the same now. But you, who want to play on our networks, and take money from our residents, you can offer services: IPTV, HDTV, e-gov, access to telemedicine etc etc. But let us supply our connectivity, because I hate to say it, but we really do know best and have proven it, nationwide for years.

There are two fine examples of community -provisioned networks, beyond those already given from my village, that no longer deliver even close to their original intentions, to the detriment of their consumers I BELIEVE. And this is a very personal opinion. One is local to Hull, and the other is national. It is time to give the power back to the communities, and -provide what is required by those communities, and let it be owned by those communities.


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Monday 11 August 2008

Bandwidth for Businesses

Read more! After the disappointing (read: irritating as hell!) DBERR comments at the BSG conference that there was no indication that UK businesses require more bandwidth, this CMA report about business bandwidth requirements makes interesting reading!
Although many of the members are large corporates, which shows in the figures using fibre for comms currently, the number who are only able to get under 2Mbps is telling, as are the figures about latent demand within those surveyed. As the Telco 2.0 report from the BSG conference points out, there is currently no SOHO FTTH access yet in the UK, and yet there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses.
What may be used (and has been) against providing this decent first mile onwards connectivity, is the unwillingness for those surveyed to pay extra for FTTP connectivity. And that should come as no surprise. Many of those who responded are undoubtedly already being screwed for their comms requirements (especially if they live in Hull) by somewhat greedy telcos. But the real point that should be used against this is that there is as yet no proof that FTTH/P SHOULD cost more than current telco products. In fact, much of the evidence is beginning to point to the fact that such massive opex savings will be made once fibre is deployed throughout the whole of the UK comms infrastructure, that we may well see a drop in tariffs, but only if there is a truly competitive marketplace.
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Thursday 7 August 2008

netherlands Overview of FTTx

Read more! Research and markets has published a report giving an overview of Netherlands FTTx developments.

The most interesting point to me is that of the independent competition /open (community) networks needing to aggregate in order to become interesting to service providers etc. This is the same issue we are likely to face in the UK, and one which needs resolving - creation of a commodity exchange or similar?
Read more!

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Vint Cerf calls for Internet speed limits

Read more! Judging by the comments, Vint's suggestion is not going to be wholly welcomed! I doubt it would be here in the UK either, and certainly not by consumers who are fed up with being ripped off, lied to, and served up an unappetising, barely fit for purpose, product. After all, let's face it the network is congested because it is not fit for 21st century purpose.... This sort of thinking can only prevent innovation, which is a BAD THING! Precisely because it "could end up creating the wrong incentives for consumers to scale back their use of Internet applications over broadband networks."

Although it would be nice to have some honesty in broadband marketing - it really is a 4Mbps connection Madam, it is what you pay for - one can see that the idea of having to give a QOS on broadband would fill the telcos with dread. We all know that they actually need to get their acts together and invest in what is required.

The reality is that data costs are approaching zero now, and the telcos have got accustomed to far too high profits, and resisted investing in the infrastructure for far too long. As Bill Thompson said recently, there are many who will be watching the Olympics with interest, not for the sport, but how the networks cope.

In the meantime, how does anyone stop the telcos from applying whatever pricing structure, data caps, unlimited downloads (subject to AUP of course!) suits their shareholders' whims? Well, it won't be Ofcom for sure controlling tariffs as Vivien has done more to sort out both the telcos and the mobile operators than they have, so it'll have to be the competitive marketplace with customers voting with their wallets to go to companies who do invest in the right infrastructure - future-proofed for starters, and who can deliver what it says on the tin. For that we need new entrants it would seem though....

And maybe a starting point would be the "honesty in advertising" approach? If anyone made a claim that their car could get you from Point A to Point B in x minutes, regardless of road conditions, they would be strung up by ASA, OFT, Trading Standards etc. But we let the telcos do it all the time. If we could stop that rot, the consumer might make better use of the network by actually understanding what is available.
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Sunday 3 August 2008

How good is UK broadband today?

Read more! Samknows will beat Ofcom to conducting the most comprehensive review of broadband in the UK, and has already put out the first report. Available hereInteresting results, need to consider some of what is revealed here before posting more, would welcome comments. Initial reaction though is about the fact that Samknows (not an over-funded Government agency) has found a way to overcome the problems caused by many speedtests which are whitelisted by the ISPs to 'falsify' the results, using hardware run by consumers, and hence this report makes for far more interesting reading than the majority of reports about UK broadband speed. Well done, Sam!! Read more!

Saturday 2 August 2008

Home owned fibre drops

Read more! There is a pilot underway in Ottawa installing FTTH to 400 homes. The twist in this one is that the intention is to sell the fibre drops to the end user so they own their own fibre. More details here. What is not mentioned is whether the residents are going to set up a buying co-op or similar to attract the interest of service providers. Read more!

100gbps network demonstrated

Read more! BBC get in on the act, showing how a new bit of tech can deliver 100 Gbps VT!The video link is here. Only two in the world, but I want one of those!! I guess we all do ;o) Read more!

GPON FTTH greener than DSL

Read more! This interesting post from the Techslpoder blog indicates that FTTH using GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) technology is substantially better in terms of carbon emissions than current ADSL or VDSL.

Although the article is not as clear or comprehensive as it might be, it also appears that the Active Ethernet option for FTTH, which offers significantly better performance for the end user, but which requires powered switching in the street cabinet, uses more energy and therefore creates more carbon emissions that DSL. This of course assumes that the required power is generated from conventional fossil fuel sources. If solar, wind, or hydro generated power were used as a source then presumably the carbon emissions would drop right back.

The article does not cover the option of running direct fibres straight from the central office right to the home avoiding any sort of splitting or switching at the cabinet, as used in the often-cited Nuenen cooperatively owned network in Holland. So another argument, if it were needed, in favour of FTTH over DSL. However the use of renewable energy for any major ICT project must surely be an obvious feature for any community planning its own fibre roll-out, thereby further reducing carbon emissions.
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Friday 1 August 2008

Despair not...

Read more! Ofcom is undertaking.... ".... the UK's most authoritative and comprehensive broadband speed survey to identify actual broadband performance across the country and its relationship to advertised headline speeds". 2000 homes.

Oh goody. That is truly comprehensive and will give a really clear picture of what is required now and in the future. Not. Despair!
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Taylor Review calls for urgent solution to rural broadband speed problem

Read more! The Taylor Review of the Rural Economy and Affordable Housing, commissioned by the Prime Minister and published late July 2008, states that while "Growth in the proportion of knowledge intensive business services between 1998 and 2005 – largely reliant on ICT infrastructure – has increased by 46 per cent in rural areas compared to 21 per cent in urban areas" the performance of broadband in rural areas is markedly poorer than that in urban locations: "recent research also suggests connection speeds are slower in rural areas because existing broadband technology is less efficient in sparsely populated areas." This BBC report from June 2008 covers the issue of the rural/urban split well.

Matthew Taylor MP goes on to state that solutions to the problem are "urgently needed".

The reason for the poor performance is simple. ADSL technologies don't like distance: the further one is from the exchange, the slower the connection. Whilst poor ADSL performance is by no means exclusive to rural users, it does seem to be more prevalent, and there are still numerous rural communities that lack any sort of broadband connection.

So it appears that while the Government-commissioned Taylor Review is calling for urgent action to resolve the rural broadband performance issues, and while the clear solution to this problem is for a rural deployment of fibre-to-the-home/premises, BT seems clear in its announcement that the only way this will happen is through public sector financial intervention. At the same time the folks at BERR (DTI as was) seemed to make it pretty clear at the June 2008 BSG conference that they could not see the case for public sector intervention, at least from a central government perspective.

The innovation does seem to be going on at community and local authority level, with some RDA support. For the near term at least it seems clear to those of us looking to avoid the next digital divide (rather than attempt to close the stable door after the horse has bolted) that working and campaigning at a local level id probably our best option. Read more!

Thursday 31 July 2008

Mother of all definitions

Read more! Sussed it! If it is 'fibre outside, copper inside' you can call it next generation. Otherwise.... call it by its name. FTTC, ADSL2+, co-ax etc.

The next generation is fibre outside, copper inside, and no more BS is permitted. All telco marketers hereby take note. Us consumers are not up for being 'conned', treat us as halfway intelligent please ;o) and Ofcon, reinforce it. Tis so simple a code of practice....
Read more!

Monday 28 July 2008

Virgin Media ups the ante

Read more! Virgin Media's CTO has spoken (see the Reuter's story here) about delivering 200Mbps to its cable customers by 2012, coincidentally the same date by which BT has proposed to have its odd mix of ADSL2+, FTTC and FTTH implemented.

While the VM announcement has been met with plenty of scepticism by cable customers and others growing weary of the hype over headline speeds, it still ramps things up somewhat, and may encourage BT and others to think a bit harder about putting together a solid FTTH offer together for the rest of us (or at least those of us that live in parts of the UK that are considered economically viable).

Of course VM does not cover large parts of the country either, so for those of us in less densely populated spots these two announcements have one clear benefit as we push forward projects for community/municipal fibre: 2012 is now established as a key milestone date. You could argue that the next digital divide starts then, and any community (rural, semi-rural, urban, it doesn't really matter) that does not have something in place to deliver high speed high quality service will begin to suffer from that point on in terms of people, jobs, businesses and prosperity moving away to locations with better connectivity. Read more!

Friday 25 July 2008


Read more! DOCSIS is the protocol used by Virgin, proposed by BT etc, and is vulnerable to being engineered to create a closed network. DWDM on the other hand is likely to be the flavour of choice for open networks. The Fibrevolution facebook group now has a discussion relating to the pros and cons of each option, and what the choices made in the coming months as FTTH UK rolls out will mean for consumers and industry, both long and short term. Your comments and input will be welcome. Read more!

H20 gets code powers

Read more! Well, unless anyone objects strongly in the next few weeks! Read more!

Thursday 24 July 2008

BBC coverage of "DIY" Fibre

Read more! Yesterday the BBC posted a story here about the rising interest in community based fibre projects. The story includes coverage of CBN and also highlights the great work being done by Daniel Heery and colleagues in Cumbria.

Also an odd comment from Ian Fogg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, who suggests a community fibre deployment could be at risk if a commercial player chose to (presumably) deploy a parallel network. What I don't understand is what would encourage a commercial provider to do such a thing, when the take up rate in the face of a pre-existing network would surely be very poor.

Certainly worth a read. Read more!

Thursday 17 July 2008

Economic evidence from US

Read more! Recent studies estimate that accelerating broadband deployment in the US would have a total annual economic impact of $134 billion. Additional economic impacts show the potential for a further $130 billion across healthcare, education, job creation and retention, environmental impact etc.

This has led to a lobby of a broad-based alliance (healthcare, farming, education, telcos etc) to urge Congress to adopt a national policy for broadband mapping, public=private -partnerships for deployment and more. The full article is available here.

The UK needs to move forwards along these lines too. Mapping existing infrastructure that can be used more effectively (ducts, poles and masts for instance), deployment, notspots, and determinning where there are going to be gaps and underserved areas, where public-private-co-operative partnerships could be the best solution.

In order to do this correctly though, there needs to be clear definitions of the services available, as per the post yesterday about defining NGA/broadband to ensure that further digital divides are not created through misunderstandings and lack of clarity.
Read more!

Tuesday 15 July 2008

NGA - definition thereof

Read more! Before this gets any worse, we (consumers, industry and regulators) need a true definition of next generation broadband to avoid confusion. We have been here before, and still are, with ADSL etc.

We started talking about Next Generation Broadband, meaning FTTH. There is no other end game, and there is no intermediate stage that can be called 'Next Generation'. In the 1980s broadband meant 2Mbps symmetrical, or higher. We have allowed that definition to be watered down whilst the assets are sweated. We should not permit this again.

With ADSL, Broadband 1.0, we have had growing consumer confusion with 'up to' speeds meaning very little in actuality, "unlimited downloads" actually meaning "limited" (Fair Usage Policy applies), co-ax = fibre, and so on.

BT split next gen into NGN (21CN/middle mile) and NGA (first mile), mainly, it seems, because of the split of BT into Wholesale and Open Reach.

Today's announcement is continuing the trend of lies, lies, damned lies, and it is time to ensure that broadband 2.0 next generation broadband is clearly (and honestly) defined.

Next Generation Broadband needs to be called by its real name - FTTH. It is not FTTC, and it does not include in any way copper, nor the last generation network. Ergo, ADSL2+ is not Next Gen. Nor is co-ax.

Next Generation is symmetrical.

Next Generation is 100Mbps, MINIMUM, not some increment of that. It is 100Mbps or more constantly, not in bursts 'up to' 100 Mbps.

Next Generation is not ISDN (the 120,000 business properties BT today has claimed to have fibred - correct me if wrong).

Adopting this definition would mean clarity for regulators, the Advertising Standards Agency, consumers, businesses, industry, media, OECD, investors etc. It would allow true comparisons of global broadband penetration, usage, competitiveness and deployment.

If it isn't next generation broadband then it must not be called it. Next Generation Access is not ADSL2+ and to even begin by calling FTTC and therefore the use of copper in the first mile as next generation is totally irresponsible, should be illegal, and denounced at every turn.

Read more!