Following the broadband money

Archive for August 2011

High prices kill BT sub-loop unbundling order test

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BT has pulled the plug on its sub-loop unbundling batch order trial due to lack of demand, which was due to high prices.

In a letter to interested parties BT Openreach’s head of infrastructure products Katherine Roche said she was putting the proof of concept trial “in abeyance” until demand picked up.

Roche said Openreach had not received a “successful order” in the past six months and expected none. She said she would brief the industry soon on the issue.

“The product will not be launched as part of R1800 in Nov(ember) 2011,” she said. R1800 is the next version of Openreach’s 18-month rolling product roadmap.

A BT spokesman said this trial was different to the physical infrastructure access (PIA) trial, the pricing of which has been condemned by communications services providers (CPs). She said Sky, Fujitsu and Callflow were trialling the PIA.

“Our PIA trials have not been suspended. In fact, they are going well,” the spokesman said. “What has been suspended – for now – is a trial of a SLU service where orders could be batched together. This is because no triallists came forward despite being invited to in February.”

They were to test Openreach’s ability to complete five orders on the same day at the same street cabinet as well as CPs’ ability to batch five orders for the same cabinet.

She gave no reason why BT had been unable to attract a “successful order” for the  batch ordering system.  An industry source invited to try the batch order system told Br0kenTeleph0ne, “If it’s too expensive in the first place, it is hardly surprising no-one wants it.”

BT published its price list for PIA earlier this year to howls of protest from the rest of the industry, and warnings that no-one could afford to take it up and still be able to compete with BT.

A consortium led by Fujitsu Telecom, TalkTalk and Virgin Media warned earlier that BT’s prices were four to five times higher than Openreach’s costs, and called for Ofcom, the regulator, to get BT to lower them.

The PIA trial itself was seen by some observers as BT’s ploy to create uncertainty in competitors’ pricing for projects funded by BDUK. BDUK recently announced how it would distribute some £430m to help fund access to high speed broadband in rural areas.

BT has a virtual monopoly in rural areas, and Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett warned at the weekend that the government risked entrenching BT’s monopoly.

BT struck back in The Times, which reported BT warning “there is a high risk that local councils could waste (half a billion pounds) by backing unsustainable community projects that will not benefit rural communities.”

Sub-loop unbundling costs were also the focus of disputes between Openreach and Thales and Digital Region Ltd, who alleged that BT was overcharging and that Ofcom had erred in setting Ofcom’s prices too high.

Ofcom issued a draft determination in June which found in favour of the plaintiffs, and invited comment on its decision.

Here is the Roche letter:

Subject:SLU Batched Orders Trial – proposal to place in abeyance

To the SLU IWG :

 I am writing to advise that due to insufficient orders, the proof of concept trial for the SLU Batched Order development will be placed in abeyance until such time that sufficient industry demand exists to reconsider. To confirm the product will not be launched as part of R1800 in Nov 2011.

Following indicative prices notified to industry in Jan 2011, interested participants were invited to join the trial in February 2011 with the joint objective to trial Openreach’s ability to complete 5 orders on the same day at the same PCP as well as CPs ability to batch 5 orders for the same PCP. As we have not received a successful order during the past 6 months (and with none forecast), we have been unable to test the concept and our procedures with the Openreach Service and Operation teams. This means we are now unable to satisfy our internal Operational governance procedures in order to launch with R1800 in November.

A briefing to industry will be issued shortly and should you have any enquiries regarding this matter, please contact either myself or your normal SRM

Kind regards

Katherine Roche

Head of Infrastructure Products


(Number removed on request)

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/31 at 16:02

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More than half UK net users pick mobile device for access

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The UK is turning into a nation of road warriors, with more that half of us using a mobile phone, laptop or tablet to access the internet.

Internet users who connect via a mobile phone, GB, 2011

Lower limit Survey estimate Upper limit
Age (per cent)

16-24 64.3 70.8 77.4
25-34 59.4 64.7 70.1
35-44 43.9 49.2 54.5
45-54 28.1 33.2 38.3
55-64 16.7 21.3 25.8
65+ 4.2 7.6 11.1
Source: ONS

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) said today 45% of UK internet users accessed the internet via a mobile phone in 2011.

The ONS opinions survey showed that 71% of 16-24 year old internet users accessed the internet via a mobile, the highest of any age group, up from 44% in 2010. Almost four in 10 (38%) of all adults accessed the internet via another sort of mobile device, such as a laptop or tablet.

In 2011, 4.9 million, or 13% of internet users, connected via public wireless hotspots, almost double from 7% last year.

Least likely to access the internet by a mobile device (8%) were aged 65+.

Social networking is becoming more popular. Overall, 57% of adult internet users (up from 43%) and 91% of 16-24 year-olds used online social networks in 2011.
ONS said 77% households now have access to the internet, up from 73% last year. About 93% have either an ADSL or cable broadband connection.

Half of those without a household internet connection said they ‘don’t need the internet’, ONS said.
The ONS’s labour force survey showed separately that in 2Q2011, 8.73 million UK adults had never used the internet. This was 12,000 fewer than in 1Q2011. The least likely to go online were over 75s (76.3%). Over one-third of disabled people (36.8%) also say they have never been online, the ONS said.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/31 at 10:16

EC to pay €60k to track Digital Agenda targets

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The European Commission’s Information Society directorate will invite five companies to bid for a €60,000 contract to to measure progress on the broadband coverage objectives of the Digital Agenda, and to report it as part of the the Digital Agenda Scoreboard in May 2012.

The targets are basic broadband access for all by 2013, and high speed broadband access with at least 30Mbps download speed for all by 2020, with 50% using 100Mbps connections.

The winner will measure household coverage of different fixed and wireless broadband technologies with a special focus on next generation access technologies, the commission said.

We are waiting for DG InfoSoc to tell us who the lucky five are and will update as soon as we know.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/30 at 20:38

Can DSL deliver 400Mbps over copper to the countryside?

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Br0kenTeleph0n3 has been looking for cheap alternatives for rural broadband, given that B4RN is looking at more than £1400 per home for fibre to the home (FTTH).

True, B4RN’s customers are going to receive 1Gbps symmetrical for £30/month, which may well tempt a move up north,. But then more by luck than good judgement we ran across a link to DSL Ring technology, which appears to offer some 400Mbps over copper, i.e. for free, or at least no extra cost, and for a claimed 1% of the cost of FTTH.

The xDSL attenuation problem

Source: Infineon: “Future Proof Telecommunications Networks with VDSL2” by Stephan Wimoesterer, Product Marketing Manager, VDSL2; July 2005.

It is well worth watching the video, especially for the graph (above) that shows that BT’s 80Mbps VDSL fibre to the cabinet service, to be introduced next year, suffers from severe attenuation problems. This means anyone living more than 1500 metres from the cabinet will get speeds equivalent to a brokeback donkey on Valium.

Also, DSL Rings doesn’t work on the BT network. Not for any technical reason, just that it is not yet approved for local access,

It is a mystery why BT CEO Ian Livingston hasn’t either licensed the technology or bought the company, if only to keep it off the market until it thinks we are capable of handling 400Mbps over the phonelines.

At any rate our curiosity was sufficiently piqued to ask the Canadian inventors, Genesis Technical Systems,  a couple of questions, the answers to which are below.

What is the present status of talks to get DSL Rings on to the UK ANFP (access network frequency plan)?

Genesis is a member of the NICC’s DSL Working Group and is submitting a proposal to the Carrier Steering Group to have work on DSL Rings-specific functionality included in the next work item.  Work items lead to a new issue of the ANFP.  Genesis has participated in drafting version 4i of the ANFP which is currently out for review.

 Where in the world is DSL Rings being used in pilots or even commercial applications?

Genesis has done entry lab demonstrations with both an Eastern and a Western European Telco.  Genesis is now planning further lab demonstrations and a field trial with a European Telco in the first half of 2012. Genesis anticipates commercialisation in the second half of 2012.

What is the average cost per household of providing up to 400Mbps access?

This is commercially sensitive information which is also highly volume-dependent. However, we estimate that the costs are less than 5% than that of FTTH deployments in urban areas, and less than 1% the cost of FTTH deployment in rural areas.

How well will this work in rural areas, where the distance between houses in often more than 150m?

Genesis’ DSL Rings is an excellent rural solution that provides telcos with a much needed opportunity to provide very low cost ultra-high bandwidth to their rural customers over distances even beyond 7 km from the exchange. The Genesis DSL Rings rural solution is specifically configured for networks with large distances between houses and a distance of more than 150 m does not generally affect its operation. The Genesis DSL Rings solution can provide rural telco customers with greater than 200m, and up-to 400 megabits/sec, over the telco’s existing copper phone lines at less than 1% of the cost of fibre (NB: Actual speeds depend on the availability of telco lines and equipment.)

What was BT’s response?

Genesis is not able to reveal information as to which telecoms in the UK and elsewhere in Western and Eastern Europe it is working with.

Which UK firms have signed up to sell or install DSL Ring technology?

Genesis is not able to reveal this information.

What patents protect the technology?

To-date Genesis has filed five patents covering various aspects of  its DSL Rings technology.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/22 at 21:06

Welsh broadband scheme change leads to stopped payments

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Welsh home owners who are relying on the local government’s Broadband Support Scheme (BBSS) are refusing to pay for work done because they confused about who is to settle the bill.

The £1m scheme originally provided up to £1000 per household to upgrade to or install a 2Mbps broadband service. The scheme refunded home owners on production of two competitive quotations, and a receipt for the work done.

A Welsh government spokesman told Br0kenTeleph0n3 that the business minister (Edwina Hart) decided last month that the scheme could also pay internet service providers (ISPs) directly on behalf of the home owner.

She said the decision was taken because “applicants… should not be financially disadvantaged as a result of having to wait for the reimbursement of their costs”.

However, it appears to have told very few ISPs or home owners. But rumours of the change have led to some home owners holding up payments or refusing to pay for work done because they don’t know who is responsible for applying for and receiving the reimbursement.

Annette Burgess, MD of North Wales wireless broadband provider Exwavia, has called on the government to clarify the position urgently.

“We are being told by our clients that (the BBSS) are now paying for their installations. We now have installations (where payments) were due and the clients are not sure who will be paying, and quite frankly I am not sure either,” she told the government.

The spokesman declined to say how many claims were still not processed, nor what steps it was taking to prevent payment of fraudulent claims arising from collusion between ISPs and home owners.

Burgess wanted to know from the Welsh government if it was now contracting with her, and whether she should be asking for credit references for BBSS before starting work for a home owner.

“Whilst I understand the reasons and in fact support you on this change, I am absolutely shocked that you would not engage the suppliers who are installing (broadband) in Wales,” she said.

Burgess said more than 400 people ordered broadband from her and another 3,500 expressed interest after she sponsored a show on the Isle of Anglesey this week.

“This effort may be a complete waste of time for Exwavia and the residence of Anglesey if we can’t bring the stakeholders together to run this scheme successfully and within the rules outlined,” she said.

She said she had been led to believe that the government would set up a stakeholders group by April 2011. This had not happened.

There is now widespread speculation that the Welsh government’s broadband plans are in disarray ahead of its £100m+ Next Generation procurement, which closes next month. The confusion is said to favour BT, despite the fact that it will offer inferior products and services, unless it departs from its published plans.

Last month BT announced it would upgrade its network on Anglesey to provide up to 20Mbps download to homes. According to its website, Exwavia offers homes 4Mbps to 14Mbps for both uploads and downloads, starting from £20/m, and higher speeds for business, after set-up costs of £1000, which would be covered by the BBSS.

Br0kenTeleph0n3 reported earlier that the Welsh government was sitting on money to extend a radio tower that would improve broadband access to a business park in Anglesey, even though planning permission had been granted in April.

It had also refused permission to light some parts of a £30m fibre to the home network supplied to it and managed by Geo Networks’ subsidiary FibreSpeed. FibreSpeed had also to spend an extra £20,000 to install a microwave link to connect the island to the mainland when permission to light a fibre to a radio mast was not forthcoming. Welsh government spokesmen refused to comment on the reasons for the delays.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/12 at 17:05

Hype-rthermia warning

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It’s always a pleasure to read Gartner’s Hype Cycle review, which reports on where we are in the adoption of the latest and greatest technology.

As you can see from the graph, there are a lot of new apps that depend on networks, and in particular, in higher capacity networks than we have today. Which is why Gartner reckons it’s going to be two to 10 years before they become mainstream, if we don’t die of Hype-rthermia before then.

What's hot and what's not - Gartner's Hype Cycle for July 2011

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/11 at 08:56

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B4RN storms rural broadband market with 1Gbps symmetic FTTH

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B4RN phase one roll-out

A rural community in Lancashire hopes to raise an initial £2m to install and operate a 1Gbps symmetric fibre to the home (FTTH) broadband network that will connect more than 1,300 homes and 320 business in the area and create the UK’s best residential broadband network.The people behind the Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN), a community owned limited company, are CEO Barry Forde, who designed Cleo, the Cumbria and Lancashire education network, FTTH advocate and fibre self-installer Chris Conder, internet marketer, copywriter and author Lindsey Annison, and Christopher May, a business academic at Lancaster University.

The four embarked on the venture after the Lancashire County Council absorbed a £750,000 grant for the project from the England Rural Development Programme into its own broadband procurement programme, and Conder received notice on access to Cleo, which supplied backhaul for her community network, when BT took over managing Cleo.

They believe that the county’s £60m broadband programme will provide 2Mbps at best to their area. That is unacceptable to them and their neighbours, and nowhere close to the European Digital Agenda targets of 30Mbps for all and 50% using 100Mbps by 2020, they say.

In a business plan published on the B4RN website, they say “Public sector interventions do not have the funding to … deliver these sorts of speeds to deeply rural areas like ours. If we are to get true high speed, future proofed broadband able to deliver at least 100Mbps by 2017 and with an upgrade path to 1Gbps and beyond, then we will have to take matters into our own hands.”

They say existing copper cables cannot deliver these speeds, nor can satellite or mobile broadband. BT’s £2.5bn fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) scheme will provide up to 40Mbps now, and up to 80Mbps next year, but only for premises that are less than 500m from a cabinet.

Last broadband decision ever

B4RN estimates it will cost £1.86m to lay fibre cables to all 1322 properties in the eight parishes proposed for its first phase. Each household that subscribes will get a 1Gbps symmetrical broadband for £30 (£25+VAT) a month.

“This is the last broadband decision people will have to make, ever,” said Conder.

Children in Wray, Lancashire get a taste of Skype. Copyright C.Conder

The equipment in the customer’s property will have a one hour battery fitted. This will allow those who want to use VoIP telephony services exclusively, to cancel their BT landlines, saving £13.90 a month. Existing telephone numbers can be transferred to the B4RN service, they say.

“Our target is a 70% take-up by the end of year one,” Forde said. This will cover capital and operating costs, pay interest on outstanding shares in the company, and fund some buy back of shares, he said.

“The rate at which we can pay interest and buy back shares will depend on the take-up, but our ambition is to pay 5% interest from year four onwards,” Forde said. Shares will be locked in for three years.

Quick return

Shareholders will see a quicker return than that. Under HM Revenue & Customs Enterprise Investment Scheme, B4RN shareholders will be able to offset 30% of their investment (of between £500 and £500,000) against their income tax in the year in which the investment is made.

Investors willing to invest £1500 or more will be able to nominate a property for free connection and free service for a year.

“We need cash and in kind contributions of around £1m to permit us to kick off the project,” Forde said. “The gap between that and the £1.8m will need filling, but given a clear demand combined with substantial offers of funding it will be worth our while to go ahead.”

B4RN also plans to explore other sources of funding such as the Defra broadband funding scheme, the Community Development Fund, county and district council, and any other initiatives aimed at rural development.

If it gets the money it needs, all the initial properties will be online by the end of 2012. Phases two and three will require more fund raising but will extend the network to 16 more parishes and about 5,000 properties.


However, there are challenges. B4RN will have to persuade local landowners to waive potential rentals from wayleaves, and to help, or at least not hinder, the installation of ducts for the fibre across their lands.

The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) is working on a voluntary broadband wayleave agreement, but it has been held up by red tape and is unlikely to be ready before the end of October.

Secondly, more than £500,000 of the £1.86m cost of building the network is for labour. B4RN aims to let residents acquire shares from labour rather than cash.

“There are many who could dig the trenches, install duct and make good afterwards, and their contribution would be invaluable,” Forde said.

People could also contribute administrative, clerical and technical support to pay for shares. B4RN aims to train installers and network technicians, adding to the skills base in the region.

Conder said access to reliable high speed broadband would attract jobs and tourists, which was why officials from the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty were backing the scheme.

“Lancaster city council are also very supportive and county council have also offered to help us with planning issues,” Conder said.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/08/11 at 07:20