Br0kenTeleph0n3

Following the broadband money

Posts Tagged ‘LTE

More broadband farce, this time it’s BDUK

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The Financial Times has come to the belated view that the BDUK procurement of next generation access to broadband is a farce.

The trigger appears to have been Fujitsu’s decision not to compete for any of the contracts available under the BDUK procurement framework, a process that has cost taxpayers £10m to create and left BT as the sole supplier.

The formal announcement has been a long time coming, but has been anticipated ever since the Cabinet Office effectively blacklisted the company by describing it as a “high risk” supplier of government IT systems.

That description did not preclude Fujitsu, with BT the only qualified suppliers under the BDUK framework, from bidding for business.The final straw for Fujitsu appears to be BDUK’s absurd requirements for wireless suppliers of NGA broadband to rural areas.

These were published on 18 February in response to the European Commission’s sensible relaxation of the ban on wireless as a means delivering next generation broadband.

Much of Fujitsu’s business plan, at least in Cumbria, relied on wireless to get around the need to access BT’s poles and ducts. When this was ruled inadmissible, Fujitsu withdrew, leaving BT as the sole bidder in Cumbria.

The commission then rethought the ban and raised it. However, it still appears to believe that fibre to the home is the end game, but it is willing to acknowledge that high speed broadband delivered by cellular technologies such as LTE are the way to go.

This is making life hard or impossible for fixed wireless broadband providers. In its guidance to local councils regarding the use of fixed wireless in their coverage plans BDUK asks for service levels that not even fixed line suppliers have to meet.

For example, wireless providers must show that their system is capable of providing access speeds in excess of 30Mbps download,  with at least ~15Mbps download speed to end-users for 95% of the time during peak times in the target intervention area.

Then it says the wireless operator must put in a fibre to the home network . “The subsidised solution must be an interim solution chosen where a fibre-based solution is not yet economically viable, and there shall be a commitment to replace non-wired connections with fibre at a later stage.”

Kijoma Broadband, which supplies high speed wireless connectivity in the south of England, says, “There is no such guarantee (on download speed) for FTTC for example. FTTC starts at 15 Mbps sync speed  and as previously reported, 5 Mbps orders will be accepted via wholesale providers,” he says.

BT has doubled its original offer of 15Mbps download speeds to “up to” 30Mbps. Ofcom this week reported that the average national download speed is 12Mbps, due largely to Virgin Media’s largely urban roll-out of high speed broadband over cable TV channels.

FTTC connection (speeds) will be lower in practice due to line length, crosstalk, ISP contention, traffic management policies, and other issues, Lewis adds.

Regarding the commitment to install fibre, Lewis says, “If fibre in a low density area is viable in around five years, then it is viable now. The only time it would improve is if the rural area in question gained a large new housing estate.”

Fibre is going into rural homes and businesses, but it is due to community-based efforts such as B4RN and Gigaclear. Both face hostile responses from BT, which has consistently failed to publish precise coverage plans for both its £2.5bn “commercial roll-out” of FTTC to two-thirds of UK homes, and its BDUK-funded roll-outs in “not spots”.

As Ewhurst resident Walter Willcox notes elsewhere on the blog, even having a fibred-up street cabinet in your street doesn’t guarantee access to a high speed service because the cabinet’s capacity may already be taken up.

This should raise questions regarding the percentage of “homes passed” that can actually be served by the cabinets BT has installed so far. BT has said in the past that it would add more street cabinets if the newly installed ones reach capacity. Ewhurst’s experience is to the contrary.

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Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/03/16 at 15:24

What broadband gap is the government funding?

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Miller – knowledge gap?

Last week’s statement by new culture secretary Maria Miller, about cuts of red tape to speed up new broadband roll-outs, actually announced a return to the status quo even before the BDUK process began.

Most UK citizens are not going to get even a pedestrian “superfast” broadband despite the government spending more than £1bn* in taxpayers’ money to get the fastest broadband service in Europe by 2015.

Acknowledging that “Superfast broadband is vital to secure our country’s future – to kick start economic growth and create jobs”, the statement went on to say, “superfast broadband means potential headline download access speeds (are) greater than 24Mbps”.

In Europe the target is 30Mpbs for all, with half the population subscribed to a 100Mbps service by 2020.

This statement also ignores BT’s much ballyhooed announcement that it had doubled the network frequency, bumping download speeds “up to” 80Mbps and higher.

Leave aside the weasel words “potential” and “headline” and consider this: “Our investment will help provide 90% of homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband and for everyone in the UK to have access to at least 2Mbps.” What percentage of the population will receive a speed between 2 and 24Mbps?

In addition Br0kenTeleph0n3 has received reports that even 24Mbps is the top end of what BT’s Infinity fibre to the cabinet service will deliver. It appears that some councils are being told to plan for the average speed delivered from an Infinity cabinet to be just 15Mbps.

Users who live close to the cabinet and have good quality copper will enjoy the top speed, but most will not.

The imminent arrival of LTE, the 4G high speed mobile broadband technology, is unlikely to help either. Theoretically capable of 300Mbps download speeds, experience in commercial LTE markets suggests that 15Mbps is the norm once a number of users are online at the same time. In fact for its LTE service Verizon in the US advertises 5-12Mbps downloads, and half that for uploads .

The government’s desire to have the best i.e. fastest broadband network in Europe by 2015 looks increasingly out of reach, and consumer research by Thinkbroadband shows that nine of 10 people don’t believe BDUK can deliver it.

BDUK’s host, the department of culture, media and sport, has not yet responded to questions about the looming broadband gap.

* Note. This excludes billion in funding from suppliers, local councils, and European Commission sources.

Rural broadband

£530m

Superconnected Cities

£150m

Mobile broadband

£150m

BBC digital dividend

£300m

Rural Community Broadband Fund

£20m

Total

£1150m

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/09/10 at 08:01

BDUK to waste millions because of inaccurate broadband maps

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UK taxpayers are likely to see hundreds of millions of pounds wasted duplicating high speed broadband services because local councils do not have official information about wireless broadband access in their area.

BDUK, the government agency charged with delivering the “best broadband in Europe” by 2015, has indicated in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that its maps do not reflect accurately the availability of high speed broadband in the UK.

Its maps, compiled from data collected from BT, Virgin Media, KCom and Ordnance Survey appear to reflect only fixed line access. Yet there are scores of small wireless network operators who already provide broadband access to thousands of customers. The availability of wireless broadband services may have been deliberately excluded from official records, as recent events in West Sussex showed.

In addition, procurement rules set up BDUK on the advice of consultants like Pinsent Mason and KMPG excluded operators with less than £20m/y turnover. This made all the UK’s wireless broadband operators and many mid-sized fixed network operators officially invisible.

The effect has been to distort the market in favour of large fixed wire network operators, even though ministers, officials and even suppliers have said constantly that a “mixed economy” ie combination of wired and wireless technologies, is needed to fulfil the government’s ambition.

BT has already said it will work with mobile operators to use LTE, the latest mobile telephony technology, and it is also working with satellite operator Avanti, to meet rural broadband needs in Cornwall. Arqiva has piloted LTE successfully in the Preseli Hills in Wales.

Kijoma Networks, which provides wireless broadband in Sussex, says its entry-level speed is 16Mbps, twice the national average broadband speed reported by Ofcom.

Kijoma CEO Bill Lewis said, “I have been challenging WSCC (West Sussex County Council) over their blatant pro-BT stance for years. In this county we have the added stitch up with the three non-ADSL exchanges. I am informed that they have gained permission from BDUK to spend some of the money to enable these exchanges for a ‘2Mbps service’.

“As the commercial incumbent in these areas for (about seven) years I am a bit miffed, obviously, as when we asked (WSCC) about funding our networks back in 2003-2004 they snubbed it.”

The department of culture, media and sport (DCMS), which is responsible for BDUK, did not answer a FOIA request that asked specifically if its maps included data on wireless access.

Instead it said it used a number of sources including Ordnance Survey geographic information such as Code Point; published BT FTTx exchange upgrade announcements; commercially confidential information from BT Openreach such as postcodes served by different cabinets; similar information from KCOM in and near Hull; and information from Virgin Media on cable coverage by postcode.

Asked how closely BDUK maps mirrored the Ofcom broadband maps, DCMS said the two exercises had not been co-ordinated, “but when they draw from similar sources they have similarities”.

“There is a significant difference in timing,” DCMS said. “The BDUK analysis is designed to look ahead while the Ofcom analysis looks at the current position. As an example, in Northern Ireland the superfast availability results were similar, but in Cornwall they were very different because at the time of the Ofcom map BT had announced major upgrades for Cornwall but had not carried them out.

“On current broadband speeds, the BDUK map seeks to model speeds capable of being received in an area while the Ofcom map uses average actual speeds; the latter will be lower for a number of reasons including customers choosing lower speeds than the maximum available.”

DCMS said the data is refreshed when there is “significant new information” and when BDUK has the resources to carry this out. It said the data was refreshed following the BT FTTx announcement in September 2011 and again following the BT FTTx announcement in December 2011, and took in “other data” which became available during those periods.

DCMS said BDUK has supplied extracts from these maps to local broadband partnerships and projects, and to the Scottish government. Local authorities who bid to be part of the £100m super-connected cities programme (see note) also received extracts. Requests from Br0kenTeleph0n3 to see the BDUK maps have been ignored.

DCMS said BDUK expected local partnerships to use the extracts to help planning and procurement of their next generation broadband projects. They would also act as “a baseline for consultation in determining the eligible project intervention areas in accordance with the EU State Aid approval process”.

Some wireless broadband operators have threatened to take legal action if local authorities ignore their presence in the market. This could hold up or deny hundreds of millions of pounds to operators like BT.

BDUK can veto a local authority’s NGA plan. Asked what other sources of information would be acceptable to BDUK, DCMS said BDUK expected local authorities to use other sources of local information. This was to validate and improve the accuracy of the data supplied by BDUK, and to supplement it.

This might happen if they “become aware of other local broadband suppliers’ footprints and future plans, when formally consulting on the intervention area in accordance with the EU State Aid approval process”.

“BDUK has not restricted the sources local authorities might use, but expects them to assess the quality of different sources before using them or providing data to bidders during procurement,” DCMS said.

The government has parcelled out £530m for NGA, with another £300m possibly available after 2015. The original intention was to ensure that the “Final Third” of the population, typically those living in rural areas, got access to high speed broadband, then taken to mean more than 2Mbps. Recent reports suggest that once this money is spent, 10% of the population, six million, will still be without such access.

Note: DCMS last week published the broadband access speeds available to towns with more than 100,000 dwellings.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/03/12 at 08:01

UK faces £1bn bill for delayed 4G spectrum auction

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Delays to the 4G spectrum auction have cost British businesses £732m a year, and the latest three to six month delay will add between £183m and £366m, a policy think-tank says.

Open Digital, an independent policy think-tank, said the UK was losing competitive ground to a host of European and other countries that have already allocated 4G spectrum.

The extra speed offered by 4G could save 37 million business hours worth £732m a year, Open Digital calculated.

The UK was four years behind the Nordic countries and three years behind the US in 4G roll-outs, the think-tank said. This has allowed their businesses to save time and money by using high speed mobile broadband to do business and develop new businesses.

“Visitors to Britain will first notice London’s lack of 4G mobile data when they arrive for the Olympics next year,” said James Firth, report co-author and CEO of Open Digital.

Several industry observers, including Three CEO David Dyson, have warned that UK’s mobile networks will run out of capacity by the Olympics. Last week O2 said it was spending £50m to boost capacity for the Olympics.

Firth welcomed the £150m extra for rural mobile roll-out promised today by the chancellor, George Osborne. Osborne said this would help the country to expand mobile coverage from 95% to 99%.

But Firth noted that the auction for 4G spectrum (800MHz and 2.6GHz) was not expected until mid-2012, and for network build to start only in 2013,and not finish until 2017.

“4G has significant advantages – better spectral efficiency so you can cram more bandwidth in the same amount of spectrum and far less noticeable performance penalty when you’re a few miles from the transmitter, so rural ‘fringe’ communities should see far faster mobile broadband.

“But the auctions for 4G spectrum are yet to be held, so it’s probably a good second-best to widen the 3.5G coverage now, while we’re waiting for 4G,” Firth said.

The on-going lack of 4G has meant UK businesses has not been able to take full advantage of new technologies such as cloud computing, he said.

Firth called on Ofcom to adopt more ambitious 4G roll-out targets and for the government to acknowledge the massive benefit to the economy from 4G mobile data.

 

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/10/04 at 00:01

Virgin Media gets first 4G mobile customers

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Virgin Media Business has landed its first customer for next generation mobile backhaul, MBNL, the 50:50 joint venture between Everything Everywhere and Hutchinson 3G UK.

The firms today announced a £100m eight year deal to build 14 “aggregation sites” over the next 18 months to provide 1Gbps synchronous backhaul to the MNO. Virgin Media declined to say where the sites will be, but provided a links to a map of its core network.

The deal will speed up data rates to smartphones around the country, reducing network congestion as each cell site will be connected to the aggregation centre with optical fibre, Virgin Media Business said in a statement.

The auction for 4G frequencies, the 800MHz and 2.6GHz, is expected to start in 2Q2012 following a short delay in the auction design by Ofcom, the communications regulator, which is conducting the auction.

4G will allow smartphone users with the right handset to receive up to 100Mbps data rates.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/09/05 at 12:18

Posted in Broadband, Deals, Internet, News

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Fed up with broadband wait, investors JFDI themselves

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Delays in government-sponsored broadband delivery are driving frustrated individuals and companies to start doing things for themselves.

Later on today veteran community broadband activist Adrian Wooster will reveal an initiative, BroadwayPartners, to offer attractive tax breaks to rich individuals for their investment in community broadband networks. Wooster can already deliver a number of technically and commercially viable broadband project proposals.

He wants to fund network builds using money invested under HM Revenue & Customs’ Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). The EIS is designed to attract venture capital and offers a 20% rebate on investments up to £500,000 a year.

Wooster will be joined shortly by a finance expert currently working in the City. Wooster says the keys to sustainable business plans are risk reduction, cost minimisation and demand aggregation. “There will be minimal dependence on government funding,” he says.

That’s because the government has already decided to work through county-level agencies and funding bodies. Most of them are either in thrall to BT, or not equipped or prepared to deal with village-size networks, judging from their recent calls for expressions of interest in broadband projects.

Why are we waiting?

The UK has been waiting for a new deal on investment in high speed broadband since before the last election. Since the coalition got in, targets have slipped and costs risen without a working system actually being delivered through the agency set up to do just that, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

Br0kenTeleph0n3 is aware of at least one other scheme that is also looking to serve the so-called Final Third of the UK that “market forces” won’t reach without state help. “It is hardly surprising that there will be competition in this space – the opportunities look increasingly attractive,” says a former BT executive, who is now helping the partnership.

The final straw appears to have been the publication of leaked details of the qualification thresholds of BDUK’s proposed procurement framework. These required primary contractors to have turnover of £20m for the past two years and to have installed at least one network of 30,000 subscribers. This is likely to lead to a duopoly of BT and Fujitsu Telecom/Virgin Media.

The leaked document also signalled a slower definition of “superfast”, from 24Mbps download speeds to 15Mbps. According to two readers of this blog, BT has indicated 15Mbps is the lower limit it uses to determine whether its £2.5bn “up to 40Mbps” FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) roll-out is “practical”.

Cable spurs

An exhaustive economic model developed by Wik Consult, a German consultancy, for the European Competitive Telecommunications Association, showed that incumbents such as BT will never (rationally) invest in fibre unless they are forced to do so.

The only firms capable of exerting this pressure are cable TV firms with their mix of fibre core networks and co-axial cables to the home. These are invariably faster and more reliable that the incumbents’ FTTC, copper to the home networks.

This largely restricts fibre availability to urban areas, and to where new entrants, with no legacy investment to protect, are prepared to risk the incumbents using their fat margins to undercut entrants’ prices and instil fear, uncertainty and doubt in the newcomer’s ability to deliver, Wik said.

Wik suggested that mobile network operators may be able to compete with incumbents in rural areas by using LTE or Long Term Evolution technology. In Germany Deutsche Telekom is already installing a 100Mbps LTE system in Cologne, with plans for another 100 cities this year, and Vodafone says it is starting LTE trials there too.

To achieve these speeds LTE operators need fast ie fibre backhaul, and this could give firms like Broadway Partners the base load to justify serving rural communities.

Financial innovation (not)

About six weeks ago we asked BDUK’s boss, the department of culture media and sport what consideration it had given to alternative ways to boost the £530m the government has earmarked for Final Third broadband networks. Some ideas we floated to the department were ring-fenced municipal bonds and the creation or at least tolerance of private infrastructure funds. We know they got the email because they acknowledged it. So far they have not replied to the question.

They longer they delay, the less relevant their answer will be.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/07/06 at 08:00

Networks fight Ofcom over calls between them

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The Competition Appeal Tribunal has asked the Competition Commission to judge an appeal by BT and UK mobile operators against an Ofcom plan to lower the costs of calls between networks.

Ofcom said in March it wanted the so-called mobile termination rate to drop from 4.18p (4.48 for Three) to 0.69 between 1 April 2011 and 1 April 2014.

Mobile termination rate caps (pence per minute)*

Source: Ofcom

Current rates until 01/04/11 20011/12 2012/13 20013/14 2014/15
02, Everything Everywhere
and Vodafone
4.18 2.66 1.7 1.08 0.69
3UK 4.48 2.66 1.7 1.08 0.69

The network operators claim that the regulator used the wrong formula to work out the cost. If the Competition Commission upholds the appeal, the cost of phone calls from one network to another will stay relatively high, pumping billions in operators’ coffers.

The extra cash could give the operators more latitude in bids for spectrum in the upcoming auction for frequencies in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, the so-called 4G mobile bands. It could also help speed up investment in LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology for 4G networks.

Europe’s Digital Agenda chief Neelie Kroes has called on national regulators to drive down the cost of mobile “roaming” nationally and internationally to the cost of terminating landline calls.

Regulators use a variety of accounting formulas to calculate operators costs. Ofcom used a formula call pure LRIC (long run incremental cost). The operators say it should have used LRIC+, which includes “common costs”.

This would raise the operators’ claimed cost base and therefore the ultimate retail price Ofcom allows them to collect.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/07/04 at 12:28