Br0kenTeleph0n3

Following the broadband money

Posts Tagged ‘Copper

Bell Labs turns copper to gold – not

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Bell Labs, which more or less invented the communications network business, has just given a new lease of life to copper network. In theory.

Its researchers have achieved speeds of 10Gbps over a pair of twisted copper lines in the lab. They have also got them to deliver 1Gbps symmetrical broadband, again in the lab.

That sounds like BT (in fact pretty much all incumbent telcos) is justified in pursuing its fully-depreciated investment in copper wires instead of switching to cheaper to operate fibre.

But the good engineers at Bell Labs also published a number of caveats.This is short distance technology. “The XG-FAST technology can deliver 1Gbps symmetrical services over 70m (for the cable being tested). This was achieved using a frequency range of 350MHz. Signals at higher frequencies were completely attenuated after 70m.”

So that’s it; 70m is the distance limit for gigabit copper.

But there’s more. “In practical situations, other significant factors that can influence actual speeds (not taken into account during these tests but which have been studied extensively elsewhere) include the quality and thickness of the copper cable and cross-talk between adjacent cables (which can be removed by vectoring),” they say.

They also published this handy guide for operators who are trying to match the exponentiating demand for bandwidth against their budgets for switching to fibre. It makes a trenchant leave-behind when you discuss the provision of high speed broadband with your local councillors and MPs as we approach the upcoming elections.

During testing, Bell Labs showed that

Technology comparison

Technology

Frequency

Maximum aggregate speed

Maximum Distance

VDSL2*

17MHz

150Mbps

400m

G.fast phase 1*

106MHz

700Mbps

100m

G.fast phase 2*

212MHz

1.25Gbps

70m

Bell Labs XG-FAST**

350MHz

2Gbps (1Gbps symmetrical)

70m

Bell Labs XG-FAST with bonding***

500MHz

10Gbps (two pairs)

30m

* Industry standard specifications. G.fast allows for upload and download speeds to be configured by the operator.

** In a laboratory, reproducing real-world conditions of distance and copper quality.

*** Laboratory conditions.

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Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2014/07/10 at 10:43

BT Openreach’s Ethernet delivery and repair worsens

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Ethernet repair Ethernet provision

BT Openreach’s delivery and repair of Ethernet connections continues to deteriorate, the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA2) reports.

Br0kenTeleph0ne reported earlier that Openreach had suspended a new Ethernet ordering system, Ethernet Access Direct (EAD), on 15 September after communications providers (CPs) had found it didn’t work. EAD is meant to process orders for sub-1Gbps Ethernet connections.

The OTA2 described this as “a disappointing set-back for the Ethernet community”, adding “Given the strategic importance attached to this key development, and the need to ‘get it right’, the decision by Openreach to ‘suspend’ whilst a fundamental re-assessment is undertaken is a decision which is welcomed by the CP community.”

BT said CPs could still place orders through the legacy system that EAD is meant to replace.

In its April report just out, the OTA2 said, “We are still awaiting sight of the plan for restarting the (EAD) programme and CPs are expressing concern that the time taken to get to a clear set of strategic goals for the system and for Openreach to share their thoughts on how any new model will work.”

OTA2 went on to say, “The Ethernet products are experiencing a deteriorating performance – there are problems with the delays in planning and the CPs are reporting increasing frustration with the responsiveness of Openreach in any direct communication (job controller answer times have increased significantly) and the jeopardy and escalation processes don’t seem to be as efficient as needed.”

Problems with Ethernet ordering may also affect perceptions that Openreach ignores the needs of business customers. OTA2 said that during summer (2012) a number of CPs complained to Ofcom that “Openreach was not addressing the needs of business-focused CPs and their customers, leading to unacceptable levels of service for this group of CPs.”

CPs and Openreach started to review possible improvements for copper-based products (WLR, ISDN, MPF and SMPF). “Good progress has been made against the Q1 objectives and those for Q2 agreed,” OTA2 said. “A suite of Business KPIs has been developed, which have identified some key variances with industry as a whole, which are now being collaboratively analysed for root cause and to develop appropriate service improvements.”

In other news OTA2 reported that there were 9.02 million unbundled lines, 6.15 million WLR lines and 2.15 million numbers using CPS.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/05/10 at 06:14

Felix Baumgarten and the ghost in the machine

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When Felix peaked...

When Felix peaked…

Every so often it’s nice to have a break from BT network failures, from cyberthreats and handwringing over state aid, and think instead of Gee Whiz! moments like Felix Baumgarten’s 39km, 10 minute plummet to break the sound barrier, now immortalised in Lego, on 14 October.

As Wikipedia will tell you (please support it with a £5 donation), it was also the 65th anniversary of Chuck (The Right Stuff) Yeager’s rocket-powered breaking of the sound barrier.

The fact that Felix flew/fell from Roswell, New Mexico, will of course delight space travel conspiracy theorists.

According to some sources, Felix’s jump was the most watched online event in history. Ripe NCC, the guys who help manage the internet in Europe, and who may be out of a job of the ITU and telco trade association ETNO have their way at the WCIT talks in Dubai this week, measured internet traffic at a number of popular internet peering points (IXPs) during Felix’s rise and fall from the Red Bull Stratos balloon.

Felix’s ascent started at around 15.30 UTC; he leaped into history at 18.07, and landed safely 10 minutes later, having averaged 234kmh, peaking at 1,343kmh.

As you would expect, net traffic at most IXPs showed a noticeable surge during the flight, but the Ripe NCC chaps explain that what they measured was likely a fraction of the actual traffic generated by the event.

This is because of content delivery networks (CDNs). These are essentially big server farms that live at the edge of telcos’ core networks and cache copies of popular content. YouTube and Akamai are examples of CDNs. Because CDNs live at the edge of core networks, anyone connected to the same local network as the CDN gets very fast delivery of their content, be it a Netflix movie, a Microsoft update, or Felix’s Fall. They don’t have to wait for the content to go through an IXP.

Instead of having a single server in Roswell feeding all seven million folk watching Felix at once, it fed a few CDNs around the world, which Ripe NCC picked up. The local CDNs then fed local users, thus minimising traffic across the internet and giving users a better watching experience, especially if you are on rotten ol’ copper.

Even though most users are unaware of them, CDNs sit between the telco and the end users, which is why CDNs don’t really shout about it. There’s a lot of talk now (not unrelated to ETNO’s proposals) about whether telcos should simply carry CDN traffic or pair up with CDN operators, or get into the business themselves.

Given that BT has spent around £1bn to buy the rights to show some sports matches online, what it needs to do should be obvious. But let’s see what actually happens.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/12/05 at 00:42

Why BT’s argument for BDUK cash is a red herring

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A recent exchange of emails got me thinking about BT basing its cost arguments for BDUK cash on a 20% take-up of FTTC, aka Infinity. There appears to be a logical flaw in its argument.

BDUK money is there to support the roll-out of FTTC in areas that are not “commercially viable” for BT. By definition, this means areas where BT is the monopoly/dominant supplier (aka Market 1 and 2 areas).

BT argues that it’s cost estimates are based on a 20% take-up. Since BT is the monopoly/dominant supplier, and even “competitive” LLU suppliers rent BT’s copper, take-up is guaranteed to be much higher than 20%, in fact (absenting fixed wireless operators) it will be 100% in Market 1 an 2 areas – at the Openreach and BT Wholesale levels.

Bottom line? BT’s 20% take-up argument is a red herring. It may hold true in Market 3 areas, but by definition that is not where BDUK may spend the money. Central and local governments should therefore reject BT’s 20% argument.

 

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/11/20 at 07:02

Local access – the final frontier?

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Some readers may have noted that Ericsson sold its fibre access product division to Calix, a loss-making North American manufacturer that provides “last mile” active components that connect communications services providers (CSPs) and their customers.

The move will cost Ericsson SEK400m ($61m) and 60 staff. It didn’t say how much it got for the division, but as Calix has not made a profit in five years, it couldn’t have afforded much. That might tell us just how badly Ericsson (and its competitors) want to get out of the fixed line access market. ITU figures show that it’s a market in decline, and besides, there are six times more mobile subscribers than fixed line subs.

Calix, in its most recent SEC annual filing, spells out the problems and risks fixed line CSPs face in graphic detail. I reproduce it below in its entirety, subject only to anglicising the spellings. It should be required reading for anyone about to spend taxpayers’ money upgrading their local broadband network.

Calix says:

CSPs compete in a rapidly changing market to deliver a range of voice, data and video services to their residential and business subscribers. CSPs include wireline and wireless service providers, cable multiple system operators, or MSOs, electrical cooperatives, and municipalities. The rise in internet-enabled communications has created an environment in which CSPs are competing to deliver voice, data and video offerings to their subscribers across fixed and mobile networks. Residential and business subscribers now have the opportunity to purchase an array of services such as basic voice and data as well as advanced broadband services such as high-speed internet, IPTV, mobile broadband, high-definition video and online gaming from a variety of CSPs.

The rapid growth in new services is generating increased network traffic. For example, Cisco Systems estimates that global IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 32% per year from 2010 to reach approximately 80.5 exabytes per month in 2015. We believe that increased network traffic will be largely driven by video, which is expected to account for over 90% of global consumer traffic by 2015.

CSPs are also broadening their offerings of bandwidth-intensive advanced broadband services, while maintaining support for their widely utilised basic voice and data services. CSPs are being driven to evolve their access networks to enable cost-effective delivery of a broad range of services demanded by their subscribers. With strong subscriber demand for low latency and bandwidth-intensive applications, CSPs are seeking to offer new services, realise new revenue streams, build out new infrastructure and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

CSPs typically compete on their cost to acquire and retain subscribers, the quality of their service offerings and the cost to deploy and operate their networks. In the past, CSPs offered different solutions delivered over distinct networks designed for specific services and were generally not in direct competition. For example, traditional wireline service providers provided voice services whereas cable MSOs delivered cable television services. Currently, CSPs are increasingly offering services that leverage internet protocol, or IP, thereby enabling CSPs of all types to offer a comprehensive bundle of IP-based voice, data and video services to their subscribers. This has increased the level of competition among CSPs as wireline and wireless service providers, cable MSOs and other CSPs can all compete for the same residential and business subscribers using similar types of IP-based services.

Access networks are critical and strategic to CSPs and policymakers

Access networks, also known as the local loop or last mile, directly and physically connect the residential or business subscriber to the CSP’s central office or similar facilities. The access network is critical for service delivery as it governs the bandwidth capacity, service quality available to subscribers and ultimately the services CSPs can provide to subscribers. Providing differentiated, high-speed, high quality connectivity has become increasingly critical for CSPs to retain and expand their subscriber base and to launch new services.

Typically, subscribers consider service breadth, price, ease of use and technical support as key factors in the decision to purchase services from a CSP. As CSPs face increasing pressure to retain their basic voice and data customers in response to cable MSOs offering voice, data and video services, it is critical for CSPs to continue to invest in and upgrade their access networks in order to maintain a compelling service offering, drive new revenue opportunities and maintain and grow their subscriber base.

Access networks can meaningfully affect the ongoing success of CSPs. Governments around the world recognise the importance of expanding broadband networks and delivering advanced broadband services to more people and businesses. For example, in February 2009, the US government passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, which set aside approximately $7.2bn as Broadband Stimulus funds for widening the reach of broadband access across the United States, a portion of which includes broadband access equipment. These funds, distributed in the form of grants, loans and loan guarantees, primarily target wireline and wireless service providers operating in rural, unserved and underserved areas in the United States.

Many CSPs have actively pursued stimulus funds and have submitted various proposals to receive assistance for their broadband access infrastructure projects. Awards for these projects have been issued between December 2009 and September 2010.

The timetable for completion of funded projects varies between the two agencies administering the awards. Projects funded under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), must be completed by September 30, 2013. Projects funded under the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), which is administered by the Rural Utilities Service, must be completed by June 30, 2015.

Limitations of traditional access networks

CSPs rely on the capabilities and quality of their access networks to sustain their business and relationships with their subscribers. In the past, subscribers had little influence over the types of services provided by CSPs. Today, subscribers can be more selective among CSPs and they are increasingly demanding advanced broadband services in addition to basic voice and data services.

In general, access networks are highly capital intensive and CSPs have historically upgraded capacity as technology and subscriber demands on their networks changed. CSPs will increasingly integrate fibre-and Ethernet-based access networks to enable the delivery of more advanced broadband services at a lower cost while at the same time enabling the continued delivery of basic voice and data services.

Thus far CSPs have taken an incremental approach to capacity upgrades in their access networks. As a result CSPs face multiple challenges concerning their access networks, business models and service delivery capabilities, including:

A complex patchwork of networks and technologies—In order to upgrade their access networks CSPs have typically added networks for new residential or business services that they deliver, such as digital subscriber line, or DSL, data over cable service interface specification, or DOCSIS, GPON or Gigabit Ethernet on top of existing networks. This led to an overbuild of access technologies and an unnecessarily complex patchwork of physical connections between the central office and the subscriber.

In addition, CSPs have generally begun to expand the penetration of fibre into their access networks, thereby shortening the length of the subscriber connection through other lower bandwidth media types (such as copper-based or coaxial cable-based networks). CSPs have also attempted to evolve their access networks to enable more efficient packet-based services by adding Ethernet protocols on top of existing asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM, and DSL protocols.

In addition, CSPs have often deployed separate equipment to facilitate the delivery of Synchronous Optical Networking, or SONET, Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet transport which connects CSP central offices with their access networks, further increasing the complexity and the cost of their networks. This approach has left most CSPs with disparate architectures, features, functions and capabilities in different parts of their networks.

This increasingly complex, patchwork approach to deploying access networks and delivering new services to their subscribers has created potential complications for CSPs within their access networks. These potential complications limit data transmission capability, increase the cost of operation and maintenance and can negatively impact the subscriber experience.

Limited capacity from legacy access architectures—Legacy access network architectures were designed to address earlier generation communication demands of wireline telephone, cable television and cellular services. Such access networks have physical limitations in their ability to scale bandwidth, avoid latency issues and deliver advanced broadband services, which subscribers demand today and are expected to increasingly demand in the future.

In addition, CSPs understand the need to add fibre to their networks to provide the bandwidth required to scale advanced broadband services. However, it is costly and complex to integrate fibre-based technologies into legacy access networks.

Inflexible technologies increase network switching costs—Legacy access networks were built around a narrow set of technologies. For example, traditional voice calls use circuit switching technology to allocate a fixed amount of network capacity to each call, regardless of whether such capacity is fully utilised.

The emergence of packet-based technologies, primarily IP and Ethernet, has significantly improved the ability to transmit data efficiently across networks as bandwidth is only consumed when signals are actually being transmitted. Most legacy access networks do not allow circuit- and packet-based technologies to co-exist or to evolve from one technology to another.

Inefficient service roll-out constrains subscriber offerings—Legacy access networks were designed to support a narrow range of services and as a result, they limit the ability of CSPs to provision the advanced broadband services increasingly demanded by their subscribers.

Packet-based networks are more flexible and efficient than traditional circuit-switched networks. For example, to provision additional business services in a legacy access network, a CSP would typically deploy additional physical connections and equipment, whereas packet-based infrastructure allows a CSP to change or add services virtually, without the presence of a service technician or the installation of new equipment.

In order to deploy these services quickly and efficiently, CSPs must be able to utilise their existing infrastructure while upgrading the legacy access network to packet-based technologies.

Highly reliable access products are difficult to engineer and manage—Given the critical nature of access networks and their typical deployment in remote and distant locations, access infrastructure products must be highly reliable. Unlike most other communications equipment which is deployed in environmentally controlled central offices or similar facilities, most access equipment is deployed in outdoor environments and must be specifically engineered to operate in variable and often extremely harsh conditions, as well as fit into smaller spaces, such as on a street corner, near office buildings or on the side of a house or cellular tower.

Since the access portion of the network is broadly distributed, it is expensive as well as difficult to manage and maintain. CSPs require access network equipment that can perform reliably in these uncontrolled environments and be deployed in a variety of form factors, thereby adding significant engineering and product development challenges as compared to most other forms of communications infrastructure equipment. In addition, some portion of the access market is supported by government initiatives and products sold into this segment require additional government certifications and approvals in order to qualify for deployment.

Expensive to deploy and operate—As a result of deploying multiple networks with discrete functions, legacy access networks require a wide variety of equipment to be installed, maintained and ultimately replaced, thereby placing a significant and recurring capital and operating expense burden on the CSP. Once installed, this equipment occupies valuable space inside a central office, requires frequent labour-intensive maintenance and consumes meaningful amounts of power.

Moreover, the lack of integration across protocols and fibre- and copper-based network architectures negatively impacts network performance. Inferior network performance diminishes the subscriber experience and increases network operating costs by increasing service calls, the number of required support staff and the frequency of equipment upgrades and replacements.

As broadband network availability and quality are becoming more critical to subscribers, lack of network reliability can be materially disruptive, expensive and ultimately increase subscriber churn, thereby negatively impacting the CSP’s business.

Given these limitations of legacy access networks, CSPs will increasingly emphasise fibre- and Ethernet-based technologies in their access networks, thereby enabling the rapid, cost-effective deployment of advanced broadband services. Such technologies reduce overhead expenses, simplify network architectures and seamlessly integrate legacy and next-generation networks. We therefore believe that successful CSPs will be those that evolve from providing basic subscriber connectivity to providing the most relevant services and subscriber experience.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/08/24 at 20:08

UK faces Comms Bill disaster because DCMS doesn’t get it

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The government has released a schedule of seminars designed to gather information that will inform the Green Paper that will lead to a new Communications Bill in 2015. The supporting rationale suggests it is bent on solving last century’s issues, not those of a fully digital, hypernetworked, globally competitive economy. In short the department of culture, media and sport (DCMS) just doesn’t get it.

Starting in July delegates will address

Fundamental to the debate is the broadband market in the UK, which underpins everything DCMS would like to happen. The government appears to think this job is done. It is wrong.

It says it “is already investing a total of £830 million by 2015 into improving broadband connectivity in poorly served, mainly rural areas, upgrading mobile infrastructure and establishing some of Europe’s best connected cities. Government must now also consider the other crucial building block of digital infrastructure: spectrum.”

In fact, there is not yet a single live line in the country that has come through the BDUK procurement framework process, which governs the £830m. The nine firms invited to pitch for the business resulted in two  suppliers – BT and Fujitsu – hardly a rampantly competitive scenario.

Furthermore, the European Commission has stalled the release of BDUK’s funds because none of the UK proposals put forward so far meet its target of a universal 30Mbps broadband service by 2020. There has been some movement on this; existing contracts such as Cornwall, which offer “up to” 24Mbps, will be allowed to go ahead, but new ones must meet the 30Mbps target.

Why now?

The timing of the seminars is curious. Not only is DCMS distracted by the Olympics, but the House of Lords communications committee is looking at the broadband issue. It has heard evidence that the fibre to the cabinet solution proposed by both BT and Virgin Media is a technological dead-end, unlikely to meet Europe’s secondary target of 50% of users receiving a 100Mbps service. The committee’s findings and recommendations are unlikely to inform the seminars, but may be out in time for the Green Paper DCMS hopes to publish early in 2013.

Similarly with Ofcom’s business connectivity review. This three-yearly review of the network services available to businesses, such as leased lines and backhaul, will not start before July, an Ofcom spokesman says. Its conclusions, which will assess issues such as competition levels and barriers to entry in this £2bn/y market, are unlikely to be available much before year-end. This leaves little time to absorb and debate them before they are incorporated, or not, in the Green Paper.

Fit for purpose?

It is true that DCMS has some important issues to put to bed. These include online copyright, content creation and protection, and access to content. However, these issues derive from rather than drive the physical networks.

The government appears to believe that the UK has a network infrastructure fit for purpose for the networked age. There is plenty of evidence that this not the case.

At the consumer level there are just two physical networks, BT’s and Virgin Media’s. They presently overlap, duplicating coverage for about 50% of the UK’s houses. It is unlikely that VM will go much further than this for fear of being forced to provide third parties like BT with physical access to its ducts or wholesale access to its fibres and cables.

This is likely to leave BT with an effective fixed network monopoly in the two-thirds of the country where the “Final Third” of the people live. Of course, there are other fixed networks, such as those of Geo, of Cable&Wireless Worldwide, of Vtesse Networks, that criss-cross the country. But they do not offer connections to residential customers. Some, such as Gigaclear, do. But they are very small and their business models fragile.

BT has a product, PIA or physical infrastructure access, that allows third parties access to its poles and ducts. So far only Andy Conibere’s CallFlow Solutions has taken it up. Matthew Hare, CEO of Gigaclear, says CallFlow can do it because it gets its money upfront from customers. Hare has looked at PIA and rejected it. He’s put off not so much by the price (which Fujitsu and Virgin Media say is way higher than cost) but by the terms and conditions.

“You can use PIA only for residential customers,” he says. “BT knows that any viable business plan to service rural areas relies on being able to go to all customers, including businesses,” he says.

That’s not all. Hare says, among other things, you have to disclose your entire roll-out plan, and pay BT to survey the ducts you want to use. “They should know what’s available and what condition it’s in,” he says.

Other firms, such as TalkTalk and Sky, simply rent BT’s local access networks to deliver TV, broadband and voice services to customers. The rent they pay BT, or rather Openreach, ensures that BT still profits from the transaction. This is common practice throughout Europe

Wireless worlds

Then there are the wireless network operators, led by the mobile phone companies (MNOs and MVNOs like Virgin Mobile who rent their entire network infrastructure from Vodafone, Orange, O2 or Three). They are increasingly interested in serving data products to consumers, but preferably only in towns. Besides, they have to rent space on fixed networks to hook up with the UK’s core networks and internet peering points.

This is why Vodafone’s mooted takeover of CWW is a possible game-changer; it gives the mobile operator instant access to a fixed network whose backbone is probably as extensive as BT’s and which could backhaul wireless local access links in competition to BT. It also responds to the £100m, eight year backhaul deal between Virgin Media Business and MBNL, the network company for Everything Everywhere (O2 and Orange) and Three, signed in September 2011.

The only wireless network operator with coverage comparable to BT is Arqiva, whose main job is distributing TV and radio broadcasts. BT and Arqiva are in a joint venture with Detica to compete for the network for the smart meter project that will connect the UK’s 28 million homes and offices.

Content competition

The UK has the world’s second largest independent television production sector, is the second biggest exporter of music, the largest video games industry in Europe, and the fourth largest film market. That suggests the UK’s content businesses are doing all right.

DCMS says the “creative industries” including publishing, contribute 2.5% of GVA (gross value added), about £36bn, and employ 1.5 million people. Ofcom’s Communications Market report for 2011 largely corroborates it. It says TV revenue was up 5.7% to £11.8bn, radio was up 2.8% to £1.1bn, recorded music was down 8.6% to £1.2bn (but legal downloads were up 5% to 24% of sales), advertising was £16bn, 24% of it online, about the same as TV.

But that hides some problems. Publishers and other rights holders worldwide have been stunned by the proliferation and fragmentation of media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Huffington Post, Google, Amazon etc have made mincemeat of business models that depend on high-priced access to exclusive content.

Even so, it is staggering to find DCMS wants to debate “whether convergence in the content market should require a degree of convergence in the telecoms/broadcast competition regimes”. It is hard to know what this actually means. It makes no sense unless it is a veiled threat to the ability of the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Sky to do deals that aggregate content and deliver it to customers for a price they are willing to pay.

These firms provide platforms for ordinary people to create and distribute their own content, without bothering cartel-like middlemen like record companies and book publishers.

There are things to be said about excessive market power and abuse of personal information, whose disclosure is often the price paid. But that is a different issue to one that should inform a Communications Bill.

By ignoring the issue of competition at the network infrastructure level, the government is in danger of condemning the UK to a sclerotic digital infrastructure that is not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

By missing or ignoring the fact that the future networks are as much about uploading and sharing as downloading and consuming, the government risks duplicating the content distribution cartels of the previous century.

Let the debate begin.

How BT can give 99% of UK homes >30Mbps broadband, real cheap

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Market consultancy Analysys Masons (AM) has done some theoretical thumbsucking and concluded that by doubling the network frequency (planned for 2012) and applying novel VDSL acceleration technologies such as vectoring, bonding and phantom lines, BT will be able, theoretically mind, to provide a 30Mbps broadband service over existing copper lines to 99% of homes in the UK.

Bloody marvellous, what!

AM was at pains to say that these technologies are in use or planned in the United States (AT&T’s U-verse), in Netherlands (KPN) and even Pakistan (PTCL), because they allow incumbent telcos to compete on sheer speed using their existing copper access networks against fibre and cable companies, and in some cases beat them for coverage.

Of course, there are caveats (see here for attenuation issues). Fibre to the cabinet, the most expensive part, has to be pretty well ubiquitous. The line length from the cabinet to the premises must be under two kilometres. The copper in the lines should be good quality. The homes should have at least two pairs of wires that could be bonded. The telephone pole to the cluster of homes it serves should be not be multiplexing services ie 12 homes each with two pair cables should have a 48-wire cable on the pole.

AM says it’s a secret how many homes have just a single copper pair. Br0kenTeleph0n3 understands that many, if not most, premises actually have four pairs, something AM doesn’t dispute hotly. And 99% of homes are within two kilometres of a street cabinet, it says.

Slam dunk, game over, right?

Well, no. There’s a problem with quantifying demand, which goes to the commercial or business case.

OK, so what’s the cost of just building it and hoping they will come? Remember this is only for the one-third of the country that BT says it requires taxpayers’ money to make it worthwhile. AM reckons the extra costs represents about 15% of monthly revenues from those subscribers.

So would BDUK’s £830m cover it?

AM’s answer to that is not clear and explicit. That’s because I asked if that money was applied mostly to put in fibre to the cabinets rather than upgrade the “last mile”, might it not contravene European Union rules on state aid?

Apparently this was getting into an area where conflicts of interest might apply, and the interview ended. Abrup…

 

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/02/02 at 21:50