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Thursday 26 February 2009

Read more! So, as the new kid on the blog I have been toying with what to write in my first post. Do I bemoan the state of fibre to the home in the UK? Do I denounce the government for not giving it enough support? Or do I be a little more proactive and tell you how I hope to become part of the change?

Well, I think the first two subjects are well covered (and I am sure to come back to those at a later stage!), so I'll aim to provide some updates as I wade through the process of starting up and running a Fibre to the Home project for my community.

It's difficult to know where to start. I have spoken with others who are far more versed in this area than I am and taken their valuable advice. They have coached me on the need to involve the community, perhaps even to the point of establishing a Community Interest Company or may be a Mutual. But of course I must first engage the community and how does one go about doing that? Well I'm not one for standing on street corners handing out leaflets so I thought I would try the local councils and MPs. After all, I would want their involvement in more than just access to the community - if they cannot see the benefits FTTH brings to their district and get behind it then what hope do I have? I am waiting for the replies...

So now I am in the process of putting together information that I will present to the various parties to demonstrate to them why they must be concerned about the current situation and why they should support my project. And this is a tricky issue... you see we can get a reasonable broadband service (up to 6MB on BT) so I can use iPlayer, YouTube, Facebook et al what could be the reason to ask for more than 15 times my current bandwidth?

I'll not bore you with the details now but will feed my thoughts in, as well as my progress, over the coming months. I'd be delighted to receive feedback, advice, encouragement and support. I'd also be delighted to hear of others who are looking to run similar projects in their communities.

I will leave you with this one fact I picked up at the FTTH Council Conference in Copenhagen. This is taken from a forecast of the European FTTH Market by Heavy Reading. They estimate that by 2013 the UK will rank 19th in Europe in terms of FTTH penetration. Behind Ireland and barely ahead of Turkey.
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BBC Blog and Connectivity Scorecard

Read more! Darren has included a link to this blog on his blog at BBC tech, so having looked into the Connectivity Scorecard he mentions, here is a response!

As far as business infrastructure, the UK does well when compared to 50 other countries, and we would expect that as far as leased lines etc go. However, we do poorly on consumer infrastructure and as far as 3G and fibre goes. In fact, if you go on to read the PDF, it seems to get worse and worse as far as the UK goes, particularly paras 3.7 and 3.8 which are downright depressing!

Tie this in with the FTTH global rankings, and it all looks less rosy for the UK than is often made out.

EDIT: These stats, which I just found from Point Topic, put us at 19th in the global penetration ranking at the end of Q2 last year.
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Twittersphere goes mad about Oz FTTH

Read more! Blimey, there's an awful lot of noise all of a sudden on Twitter about Internode's plans to put in 100Mbps FTTh to green field housing developments in Australia. .

Internode are planning to offer 100Mbps symmetrical for around £45/month. Yep, you read that right. Compared to Virgin's 50Mbps/1.5ps service at £51/month. If you are Australian, it seems to be today's thing to inundate Twitter with requests they come to your State!!
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Wednesday 25 February 2009

Old boys' network and UK broadband

Read more! Very interesting side of the debate succinctly delivered on PC Pro by Barry Collins. Read it for yourself and comment.

Several of us have discussed it here and think that some of the comments recently from various sources indicate one and the same thing - it is time for some honesty in the debate, and for consumers to be properly represented at all levels of the debate. (Which is what we have been trying to do for years, with varying degrees of success).

If it means putting some of the cards on the table about agendas - hidden and otherise - then so be it.

The consumers, the people in the HOMES that need to be connected, are already voicing their opinions in many different forums, on blogs, Twitter, and offline in the media, pubs, in offices, homes, and on street corners. It is time for those voices not just to be heard, but to actually be listened to, and their opinions and ideas to be acted upon for the greater good of UK Plc, not to further careers or satisfy shareholders.

Note: Soz, had a bimbo moment and put the wrong link to the article first time round and accredited it wrongly. Apologies, Barry!
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Google launches Measurement Lab

Read more! ISPs beware! Although currently US-centric, the launch of Google's Measurement Lab and tools means that now endusers can discover just what is happening with their broadband and bandwidth.

Several years ago, we debated coding up a SETI@home type app which ran on end user's computers and delivered hard data about their broadband connections which could be used to measure, isolate and provide evidence of problems on the network, with a particular ISP, etc. Google seem to have started the process to provide precisely this type of service.

The Measurement Lab is very new, but already you can see how having such a global name involved in checking for throttling issues, collating information about when specific user groups are being targeted for limited use of both bandwidth and services, and much more that it seems designed to measure, could begin to pinpoint access network problems as well as core.

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What are the FTTH keywords?

Read more! As an SEO expert and internet marketer in my spare time(!), I am very interested in keywords, phrases and search terms. Here's my 3 min Wordle brainstorm for FTTH Council, which I can already see has missed quite a few important terms, but it was just a quickie to get the ball rolling.

What would you add following Copenhagen to the FTTH (SEO) mix? Either post your Wordle or add suggestions of more words for another one. Let's gather together some words that encompass FTTH for all of us....

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Tuesday 24 February 2009

Digital Britain Report Forum goes live

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The discussion on Digital Britain is now online (sort of). The website has been launched this afternoon to allow all of us to clamber into the debate about the future of Digital Britain and contribute to the report.

It is just a Wordpress blog but there is a video from Stephen Carter, encouraging us to get engaged, and the press release states that there are links to the relevant blogs etc. As with all Govt IT and website projects, this one has some teething problems and has blatantly not been in a test period or sandbox first!! No blogroll, no way to register, and hence, as yet, no discussion. But hopefully, these will all be solved over the coming days and it will be interesting to hear from the many who have views on this matter. Please promote the site widely. The government needs to hear from all of us.
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How to use 50Mbps

Read more! BBC Tech's Darren Waters has been testing Virgin's 50Mbps connections for a week or so. Read the tests he ran, what he tried to do on the connection, and how it all worked. However, his very first sentence is wrong. He is only one of the broadband elite in the UK!! Far too many other countries' consumers would think 50Mbps/1.5Mbps is not a particularly great connection in 2009....

Day 1 Note: the asymmetry of the connection
Day 2Note: Benoit asking about degradation, but we do not know how many other users in Darren's area- it would really help if Virgin got involved a little more.
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5Finally we get to see some real world tests, although obviously those commenting have certain issues with them. I don't notice any government sites being visited so maybe Carter needs to read these blog posts and see what suggestions are being made by your average Joe internet users ;o)

Two 8MB jpgs taking 5 mins to send by email is hopeless if you are working as a graphic designer or software designer for instance sending textures to the software house, let alone those of us who want to send family photos to the other side of the world (or even the Yorkshire Dales). The asymmetry problem is still one of the biggest for many of us, I'm sure.

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Copenhagen Photos

Read more! Just a few of the pics to give you a flavour of the event.....apologies for the quality. The hospitality was excellent and it seems my hand was a little unsteady!

Who says fibre is boring?!

Foyer and 2,500 coats

Looking down on the exhibition area and food/drinks from the Press room

If I was not graphically challenged, I could join this together with the last so you got a bigger picture!

In the main conference room for the start of the conference

Exhibitors and dining area

More (and better) photos on Kevin's blog

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How bad is it in broadband Britain?

Read more! I thought I would video my attempts tonight to watch a Youtube video or something on iplayer and share the pain. I have now spent over an hour trying to upload a 16.7MB, 1min 13secs video to illustrate the problem of buffering, downloading, poor connectivity etc by showing exactly what it is like here in the UK.

I have to admit defeat. Or perhaps success in proving my point?

This is on a connection which speedtests have running at almost 2Mbps, in the middle of the night, when the rest of the village is asleep so contention should be at a minimum. Imagine if I was trying to share a video of a wedding ceremony, or similar, with family overseas. It would be a far bigger file than this, and my chances of sharing it during this lifetime from a UK connection would appear to be slim to zero. To be brutal, I couldn't even share it with my next door neighbour, which also highlights the idiocy of everything going out to central peering points unnecessarily.

Meanwhile, if the UK really thinks it can get away with a 2Mbps USO without any reference to quality, latency, symmetry etc either in 2012 we are, to be downright honest, knackered.

So, just a reminder to all, comments etc are due in within 3 weeks (March 12th) to Carter's Digital Britain team. Email expressing interest in commenting and they will get back to you. Honest. Just who knows when - we emailed them within an hour or so of the report being released (Jan 29th, 1.29pm to be precise) and have heard nothing, yet.
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Monday 23 February 2009

First Mile Fibre

Read more! Getting the first mile of fibre into the ground here in the UK seems to be a major issue that keeps getting derailed by talks of FTTC, astronomical sums that are unproven guestimates, and irrelevant side issues, such as creating competition.

The more I think about the FTTH conference, the more that "H" strikes me as being the most important part of the equation. Whilst telcos and government agencies get all tied up in knots over the hows and whys and how muches, the real issue is about getting homes (and hence real people) connected.

We keep hearing about connections to public sector, business parks and so on, but all of that is sort of missing the point. If public sector have fab connectivity, then great, but public sector is made up of civil servants who are there, serve the public. Businesses cannot operate without customers. No point having a whizz bang website that you host yourself from within your high speed business park for reduced cost if none of your potential customers can actually access it.

So, although these types of orgs may be able to communicate at speeds some of us can only dream about, the fact is that the poor old public tend to get forgotten. It is to be hoped that public sector will stop thinking of itself as some sort of top level in the hierarchy and remember its prime purpose - to serve the public. And considering that is usually done using our money (the taxpayers), I think it is time for many to re-consider the current approach. Ditto the perceived importance of businesses. We would have an awful lot more businesses in the UK if half of our kids could run the online businesses they seem to want to from their bedrooms. (I speak from experience as a mum!)

There may be issues about sharing the infrastructure that is already existent, whether to schools or unis, public sector agencies and organisations and so on, let alone getting on with the job required and getting the first and middle mile fibre in. But we hear ridiculous arguments about security (a red herring as any network admin will tell you), or costs (is it not time some of this public money and historical investment actually generated ROI?), or contracts (tear them up and start again and think community/consumer when writing them), complexity of the job, and untold other crap designed to kerfuffle us and make us believe it just can't be done. Other countries have solved the problems, as we heard in Denmark.

So, it can be done, and it is time to JFDI. On that note, many thanks to Draka for my first "mile" of fibre!

Now to start digging. Only another mile and a bit (2.4km for the non-UK readers!) to go to get to that mostly unused fibre in the railway line .....
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Saturday 14 February 2009

Highs and Lows in Copenhagen

Read more! Overall a brilliant conference. Good speakers, plenty of networking opportunities, wide variety selection of exhibitors to talk to, amazing venue (with ample seating, decent wi-fi on a 20Mbps pipe, and yummy food). But, inevitably there were good bits and bad bits!

2500 delegates is a lotta people. It's all very well knowing that someone is definitely there who you want to see, but tracking them down can prove nigh on impossible. RFID tags on every name badge would solve that (I have a separate post on this idea which Erol and I came up with at the FTTH conference in Amsterdam in 2005). Also, an online searchable database of delegates as many people have stayed within the industry but moved companies.

UK representation - appalling and embarrassing. Where were all the people in the UK who need to know what other nations are doing, who need to speak to the experts, discover lessons learnt and best practice, find suppliers, make the necessary contacts to deploy FTTH in our country efficiently and effectively?? There were less than 50 UK people there and the vast majority were from British companies seeking overseas projects and work because there is so little going on in the UK FTTH market, or a few niche telecoms publications' journos. No BSG Exec, no BT apart from four OpenReach folk, no community representatives - no Lord Carter, no MPs, mayors, councillors, DBERR, RDAs or the like, no property developers, no consumer representation (apart from the usual suspects!), and I only found one of the projects who is in the Ofcom consumer panel report represented - nice to see you Nigel!

Further on this note, of the many people from other countries we talked to during the event, many are looking for opportunities to share knowledge and experience with UK companies, councils, communities and consumers but cannot find the openings. We are now working on rectifying this with the Council.

Some of the speakers were truly inspiring, especially those talking about rural solutions. Much of what was being spoken about disproves the common myths about rural fibre deployment costs and take up. There were new proposals for tying up the fibre deployment with utilities (Bill St Arnaud had a very interesting model for this), much talk of Open Access networks now in deployment and how these can work, very interesting statistics, and details of the lessons learnt by many.

However, this 'up' was closely tied into a majorly depressing fact. The UK is SOOOOOOO FAR behind, and much of what was being spoken about seems to be relatively unknown in the UK and therefore not included in current thinking. Ignorance may be bliss, but in this instance it is definitely doing us no favours.

The students were fab, and every conference should be run by youngsters. Many of the suits who engaged with them learnt far more from the students than probably any other aspect of the conference. After all, at a next generation conference, who better to involve than the next generation themselves?! Wish I had taken my kids really, armed with video cameras and the mini Mac, they could have contributed in that vein too.

The meeting with Joeri and Johann (FTTH Council Board) included bubbles and laughter and was hugely productive. Probably the best bit for me in a way as now 'the bloggers' have a project or three to explore, and, through delivery, hopefully achieve many goals for all in this next stage of FTTH.

All in all, thank you for the invite, Joeri. I for one can't wait for Lisbon and hope that there will finally be a chance for someone from the UK to stand on the platform and boast about something, anything, FTTH-related.

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Lack of FTTH in UK

Read more! Twas a fairly long journey back from Copenhagen, and plenty of time to think. Of the many press releases issued during the conference, the global FTTH rankings is the one which has caused most thought about the UK situation.

Just to summarise the implications of that report once again. There are now 20 countries who have connected more than 1% of their populations with FTTH. Those connections are symmetrical, and generally greater than 100Mbps, with some being 1Gbps. 13 of the 27 EU member states are included in this set of 2008 rankings, and more are expected to be in the next rankings this summer. The UK is nowhere to be seen on the rankings and even with planned developments in the UK, most of the planned connections will not be FTTH, therefore the UK is not likely to achieve even 1% FTTH before 2011-2012 without a new entrant taking everyone by surprise. (Virgin Media connections are only fibre in the core and middle mile, not the first, so VM connections will not count in the rankings until the coax is replaced with fibre).

There have been plenty of media and independent reports recently about fibre developments in the UK. For instance, the Ofcom Consumer Panel (as was) produced their report on community-led next generation access initiatives. This lists some 40 projects, but there are no in build FTTH projects listed, and many are business park and public sector connections not FTTH - the clue is in the last word of that acronym!!

On a more positive note, should all of these projects come to fruition, there will be a good basis for FTTH connections in the future if the business and public sector connections are then shared with homes.

BT's involvement at Ebbsfleet is often cited as being an important step forward for FTTH. In fact,I read with interest in a broadband magazine at the conference that BT have apparently installed 10,000 FTTH connections there. Some journalists need to read their background material more carefully - this is not the first time that this claim has been made in the press! 57 actual connections so far was the number being cited at the conference by some claiming to be in the know, and the Ebbsfleet Valley development was expected to take 20 years to construct even before the economic problems hit.

The point is that many of the projects being described as next generation access in Britain are FTTC or FTTN, not FTTH, which is what NGA is, and what other countries have already deployed and are continuing to deploy. Whilst we pursue what are, as defined by FTTH councils worldwide, "copper-based access technologies", we stand to fall behind. Not just a little behind in 2012 or 2015, but a long way behind already in 2009.

We allow the telcos to take a term, such as 'broadband' and constantly redefine it downwards until it fits what suits them and their shareholders. We are allowing the same process to occur with 'fibre' and 'NGA', and not just by the telcos. This does no favours to anyone.

*It results in mis-leading of the general public (who include MPs, RDAs etc who also see the adverts on TV and forget that expensive ad agencies are behind them, not facts). Reports calling Wimax or FTTC NGA also contribute to the deception.
*It results in people assuming that the job is done or is 'in hand'.
* It prevents people realising that elsewhere the definitions of these technologies are on a scale (of connectivity speeds) of 2-20 times greater already than what we are being offered, now and in the next few years.
*It fails to bring the necessary technologies to Britain to encourage recovery, regeneration and innovation when we most need them.
*It panders to shareholders of telcos who are reaping dividends at the expense of the development of the whole nation and UK plc.
*It allows a continuance of unnecessary negative environmental impact through the use of outmoded and environmentally expensive technologies such as ADSL, VDSL etc.
* And worse still, it prevents us competing with our closest neighbours on a level playing field, let alone taking on the Asian markets etc.

Anyone else got any thoughts on what the rankings mean to policy, this country, and how we should be proceeding?

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Thursday 12 February 2009

The students at the FTTH conference

Read more! Three students from the University of Ghent in Belgium have set up a think tank area at the conference and have been surrounded for much of the conference.

They were invited by Joeri to demonstrate what the younger generation do with a decent broadband connection, and have been provided with equipment - cameras, PS3, Linux box, Windows box etc, and have been experimenting with all sorts of applications and even started a blog specially for the conference.

The students seem quite surprised that these people who know all the highly technical info about putting in the high speed connections seem unaware about how to upload a video to youtube! Whilst the 'suits' seem hellish surprised about what the younger generation are doing with their connections. All great stuff and every techie conference should invite some youngsters to show off what can be done with the toys and tools.

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1billion euros for rural and notspots in EU

Read more! As part of the EU economic recovery plan, it appears that 1billion euros is about to made available to help the 7% of EU people who still cannot get broadband (rising to 30% in rural areas) to get connected through European RDF, says Bernd Langerheim from the EU commissioner's office today.

This money is to be made available as soon as possible. And it is to be hoped that the money is spent on fibreing up rural areas, including in the UK, which should accelerate the need to look long and hard at that USO.

Much of the figures we have seen at the conference show that 2Mbps will simply not be enough by 2012, and that current usage as well as emerging applications such as superHDTV, 3DTV, panoramic video etc indicate that we should be looking at 10Mbps symmetrical as the first bar of connectivity by that time.
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No sign of Britain, nor likely to be

Read more! The FTTH Council has just released its rankings for FTTH Penetration. These rankings are issued twice a year, and track the level of market penetration in economies where more than one percent of households are connected directly into high speed fibre networks.

Whereas in Britain, the likes of Virgin can get away with calling their connectivity "fibre", the Council make no bones about calling FTTC and FTTN (Fibre to the node) connections 'copper-based broadband access technologies'. Ergo there is absolutely no sign of Britain in these rankings, which now include 20 economies (up from 14 in July 2008 and 11 in July 2007). There is no indication either when Britain is likely to enter these rankings and deliver connectivity that now 20 other economies consider normal.

The entry of several EU economies into the rankings this year should cause pause for thought in the UK, as some of these countries have historically been perceived as 'developing economies', but the rest of the EU is now stealing the march on us - Estonia, Slovenia, Denmark, Andorra, Netherlands, Finland, Lithuania, Italy and Latvia all have more FTTH than the UK can at present dream of.

Off to listen to Viviane......

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Wednesday 11 February 2009

FTTH & Sustainability - in bed with the telcos

Read more! Dr Marcus Wheldon, Alcatel Lucent

Begs to differ at some of the things Bill has said eg triple play models are working and of course he is not keen to suddenly bring the utility companies as well into the telco game so doesn't like that aspect of Bill's presentation.

his talk will be on
*anticipate and plan to deploy Fibre to the most economical point
*deploy efficiently in an eco-sustainable fasion
*manage the technology cycle

bandwidth growth is inevitable and has been fairly constant since the early days. Clearly shows that for both early and late adopteres 100Mbps imperative middle of next decade - well that puts the new USO in its place!! Similar graph to one I keep meaning to post. in 5-6 years, we will see a 6-8x increase. As I have now seen this graph or very similar ones many times, this really must be brought to the attention of Carter et al. (And MrT who won't admit that anyone will ever need this much!) Yes, we need quality but it must also be sufficient for reasonable use.

Video has been one of the big drivers. Thinks triple play and internet tv and IPTV will become part of that paradigm and he believes triple play will work.

Video has been the driver for the need for speed and bandwidth.

TV - standard TV sees decline over time in need for bandwidth because encoding and codecs get better. HDTV and 3DTV (available in the Alcatel Lucent booth) are driving new techs (panaromic tv ultra hd or super hdtv - whooosh, these look fun!!!) and that takes us into the needing of more and more and more bandwidth. Codecs will not save us from the need for bandwidth as these new techs appear.

Interesting graphcs shwoing how TV of differing types uses bandwidth etc.

Peak and average graphics. Increase in both due to personalisatiopn and interaction, as well as broadcast paradigms.

Looks at different deployments of broadband techs. Points out FTTN in highly competitive markets. easy and cheap to install and win market share.

13.6% of global population on fttx networks. Congratulate ourselves? I think not, pal!!

Looks at civils costs etc - too fast moving and too many graphs to blog easily, but interwsting to note that there is only 15% difference between mdus and individual dwellings deploy costs so the arguments about Korea etc are naff. That is not why they have been able to afford it and we haven't got off our butts at all.

LA thinks: Network operators are making all deploy decisions on economic basis eg to which point can I lay fibre most economically? Rather than there being proper decisions made on national and regional levels about where the most economic point for the users and country/region should be. We are letting the telcos run the game.

ICT was 2% of green house emissions, equivalent to aviation fuel consumption not aviation industry

in 2020, potentially 4% of ICT ghg will be fixed broadband whilst mobile is 13% which is very worrying if the USO insists on us using the most hefty green house gas contributor eg mobile broadband to cover the digital divide.

smart buildings etc. smart metering can bring 27% savings on smart grid and 21% on smart buildings which is about half of 7,8gtonnes of CO2, as well as all the video conferening etc. Go back to Bill's talk about rewarding consumers. You can save 5times the carbon footprint from building the network. (Now that an interesting figure - what if ROI is all about carbon not ££s or $$$?????).

Looks at energy usage of cpe....

active equipment. VDSL eg that used in fttN is way more energy intensive than it should be, ADSL even worse. cpe production and cpe power are the two big places for energy consumption in FTTH but EU have introduced many guideliens et on how to reduce these and this is having positive effect. IEEE also working on standards that have modems etc powering down during inactivity.

gpon far lower than adsl and vdsl less than 1w per user cpe.

From my pov, these speakers have both made the case for FTTH but in very different ways. If we must reduce CO2 to the levels Bill stated to save the planet then continuing to use ADSL is utterly inexcusable.

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FTTH & Sustainability - foreplay!

Read more! Following a very good lunch of fish, homemade chips and interesting salads, with plonk (how civilised!) am now in the breakout session 2. Sustainability and FTTH

Bill St Arnaud of Canarie does it right by turning up- on a video conf link and therefore saving on emissions. Fast-paced presentation, very interesting concepts.

Mentions g-commerce or green commerce. Obama's chief advisor has said, "Not climate change but more like global climatic disruption".

Scientists saying we need to reduce CO2 by 90% by 2040 to slow down the climatic disruption. 26tonnes CO2 in US per person pa, need to get down to 2 tonnes per person pa

Stresses urgency of this if we are to even to begin to slow down the disruption. prob too late to stop it.

Tho IT contributes to emissions 2-3%, the smart report says about using IT to reduce emissions through smart meters, smart tech etc.

FTTH can reduce by global emissions equiv to those of US and china

Global carbon market expected to grow to 58% to $82 bn during 2009. $57 trillion

Major bb developments and FTTH can use the monies from the carbon market to fund.

Carbon economy has potential to fund several bank bailouts or 2-3 Iraq like wars.

Policy approaches carbon taxes, offsets, cap and trade, carbon neutrality by law.

Important changes but Bill reckons there is a different approach - carbon rewards rather than carbon taxes. Rewards consumers through new services if they reduce carbon footprint eg ebooks, emovies, distance learning and health services. Use NGN and FTTH to deliver services for free if they reduce their carbon footprint.

Consumers are responsible for 60% of all co2 emissions, directly 35% eg heating etc, 25% indirectly through products purchased

Claims current broadband biz plans have flaws. Biz case predicated on triple play. Voice, video etc revenues declining. Govt subsidy or biz models such as municipal or community deployments with public sustainability is a different matter from purely commercial case.

Ottawa model - rewards with free ftth by combining it with the resale of electricity and gas. Denmark well positioned to replicate this.

Customer pays 2c/ KWhr premium for utilities but gets ftth for free. Encourages customers to reduce electricty/gas bill but they get to keep the ftth. Total bill is reduced on a fourplay model inc utility

benefit for network operator, there is a revenue stream that is based on energy consumption rather than on triple play. certainty of income for operators.

ottawa condo backbone fibre & green broadband pilot. in Canada lack of independent service providers but they are working on that

More info

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oh goody, fibrespeed tool

Read more! As I have been saying for years, you can't tell people what broadband does in words, you have to show them. utopia have had a very similar tool on their site for years, but now the FTTH Council make it easy for everyone too.

Check out the new Fibrespeed tool on the Council website. Use it to explain to people how fibre differs from the crappy copper connection they currently suffer from.
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At Copenhagen FTTH conference

Read more! In a slightly snowy Copenhagen at the Bella Centre. Thanks to Joeri for inviting me, and to Emtelle for juicing up my EEE PC so I can blog! And tis quite fun on the 20Mbps connection too compared to normal. On to the meat.....

2500 delegates here, plus 70+ exhibitors. Looking through the delegate list, it is of little surprise that the nation who most needs to be here is seriously under-represented. Very few Brits, and that is a major shame. However, most of the normal suspects are here so nice to see a few familiar faces. :O) Just a pity we are still unable to get the message across to those in the UK who really need to get the big picture - councils, MPs, much of the property developing industry, community and consumer representatives, and so on and on. Stop being so bloody insular!!!

Meanwhile, you would think it would be hard to meet people but actually, surprisingly, have already bumped into a few people who I wanted to meet!

Joeri's intro was everything you would expect, explaining the End Game of FTTH and why FTTH is so important, environmentally, socially and economically. He cited several reports, all of which offer irrefutable proof that true broadband / FTTH brings untold benefits to citizens and businesses. The FTTH Council's own report on social-economic impact shows how FTTH can support economic growth and recovery in EU.

He's preaching to the converted here........! All same old realities of FTTH - health, wealth and learning eg telemedicine, telelearning, teleworking etc. However, he also points out the benefits of affordable decent connectivity in helping an ageing society such as home care for the elderly. Enables new ways of communicating eg video conferencing, which of course some of us can only dream about.

(Tho the guy sitting opposite me thinks this connection here is slow as he is accustomed to 100Mbps - PAH!!!)

Joeri moves on to the environmental benefits and the savings that will be made when people can realistically telework and are therefore not stuck in traffic jams. (See my post about the cost of snow last week for more on that!). FTTH is sustainable investment for the environment.

Joeri announces the exciting new online tool FTTH council has developed - The Configurator - for measuring the environmental sustainability of FTTH for communities, large and small. UPDATE: Watch this space, we get exclusive preview at 1.30pm today!

Talks about Viviane Reding's Nov 2008 doc giving clear guidelines on competitive broadband for all. And the Dutch regulatory approach (OPTA) promoting innovation and compeition on the fibre optic networks as part of their strategy for 2009; ditto the French regulator which has agreed on an obligation for operators to equip apartment buildings with fibre infrastructure.

Moves on to talk about the need to create more jobs within the EU. FTTH will certainly do that!

Basically, what joeri is saying is that FTTh will be a gigantic economic driver for the future of the EU (companies and citizens) and the industry has many of the solutions to many of the socio-economic problems being faced in the EU today.

Finishes with "yes we can" so nice to hear the CANdo thinking in the opening session!!

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Tuesday 3 February 2009

How hard can it be? Broadband is....

Read more! There were so many arguments in the BSG all those years ago about the definition of broadband. Is it 1Mbps, 2Mbps+, can asymmetrical count? etc etc. I sat through many of the discussions.....

It's really bloody truly simple. It is not about numbers. I speak as a consumer who is utterly fed up with no-one getting it right for me, my kids, my family, my neighbours, my community, or my country.

If you want a USO that works, try going back to what every telco and Ofcom should be held up against a wall and shot for failing to deliver to pretty much the whole of the UK civilian and small business population to date:

Broadband should be able to simultaneously transmit and receive voice, video and data.

If it can't do those basics, it ain't. Simple as.
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How much does 4G cost?

Read more! Bearing in mind that the Carter Report is hinting at mobile operators being responsible for remote, rural and USO coverage, the likelihood is that will be over a mixture of 2 and 3G. How far behind us will that leave us? And what about 4G?

After all, NTT Docomo are switching off their 2G network at about the time our new USO is supposed to be in full swing. And the reason for the switch off? It will be more than just obsolete for them, it has already been more than surpassed, both wired and wirelessly.

For many of us, that little "3" on our smartphones is still an elusive little devil, and I've seen mine more times abroad than here in the UK. (And yes, I do get out the house!) Even if the mobile operators look to invest in making the most of those all expensive 3G licences from 2000, or are given tax breaks and incentives to do so, where is 3G coverage actually going to be by 2012? Should we really be 'giving' the auction monies from 2000 to subsidise an already out of date technology?

And so what about 4G and investment in that? The vice president of AT&T's network architecture, Hank Kafka, gave a to-the-point analysis of the issue only last week. Primarily, that 4G is about the 'mobile broadband world', whereas 3G can't deliver what many users need their mobile experience to give them TODAY. Can I just repeat that? 3G doesn't give a broadband experience TODAY and isn't much more likely to tomorrow, or next year, or in 2012. TelephonyOnline have a great article here.

So, to the point. If 4G is required to offer mobile broadband, what exactly are we going to do about a USO, a regulatory body, government advisors, telcos etc who seem satisfied to let UK consumers and businesses in 2012 struggle with something that in 2009 is known to be insufficient for present, let alone future, needs?

The reasoning behind the USO is sound. Yes, we need to all have access to affordable, ubiquitous, FUNCTIONAL broadband. It is the mechanism(s) to support it that seem deeply flawed. Yeah, 3G would be nice (compared to what is available today) but not whilst our mobile operators are permitted to screw us with 'unlimited' tariffs that aren't, disproportionate data costs, and at speeds which are NOT broadband any more than ADSL is. Encourage them to invest for 2012 and beyond certainly, but not in something that won't deliver. And the wireless cloud should be an overlay on a superfast FTTH network, not a substitute for it.

4G may prove expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as wasting precious public money on a solution that people from the top levels of industry down to grassroots know is 'unfit for purpose' already.

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£1billion for 4 inches of snow?!

Read more! Apparently, the recent marginal snowfall which managed to bring this country to a near standstill yesterday and today, has cost British businesses in the region of £1billion+, and 1 in 5 people didn't get to work.

Anyone who lives in a country that normally can operate under several feet of snow with no disruption, or who is staggered when the UK grinds to a halt under a couple of inches of powder, may find these figures somewhat astounding. I know I do.

Particularly, because it strikes me on hearing it that a) £1bn is a fair way to giving everyone in rural Britain FTTH so they could contribute to their job wherever they were (the townies can walk to work presumably, most people in rural areas live miles from their jobs) and b) sets me to wondering how many of that 20% who didn't make it to work could have worked from home if the necessary infrastructures were in place and thereby reduced that incredible loss to British business.

Anyone care to hazard a guess on that second?

If we take it that even if the UK only had 10 days of 'disruptive weather' a year, (this is Britain, remember?! It rains constantly and when that happens we get life and property threatening floods on a boringly regular basis; when it snows, the country is brought to its knees; and when it is sunny, half the workforce pulls a sicky to sunbathe), the cost to business is enough to put FTTH in.

Has anyone got any figures on how much the weather costs this country's businesses? Surely there is enough financial justification for teleworking and remote system etc management just from the weather to put FTTH in?

Sadly, I am doubly dischuffed because the snow didn't make the slightest bit of difference to me. It snowed. The road was shut, but I work from home and all my clients know that. I still got out to the local shop though - a mere 10 mile jaunt to our nearest bread and milk seller. The Internet connectivity was as crap as every other day - still can't Skype the next village let alone my Canadian and American clients, and realistically it was actually probably worse than normal cos all those skiving gits were online flogging stuff on Ebay. Ho hum.

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