Adrian Wooster’s Blog

Adrian Wooster is a widely respected consultant working with INCA on the development of technical and business process standards to support the emerging patchwork quilt. We have syndicated the content of his influential and widely read blog for the convenience of INCA members and site visitors. You can view Adrian's site at http://wooster.org.uk

All quiet here but very busy over at Gigaclear

Gigaclear plcIn February this year I joined Gigaclear where they were generous enough to offer me what feels like my dream job, heading up their Market Intelligence function. It may be very quiet here but its very busy over at at Gigaclear – the UK’s most exciting pure fibre operator.

I’m leaving my blog up for the time being while I think about what to do with it so it won’t disappear just yet but I suspect little new stuff will appear anytime soon.

The post All quiet here but very busy over at Gigaclear appeared first on Wooster Consulting.

BBC iPlayer is just the beginning

It was reported this week that teenagers consume more on-line media than “linear” broadcast TV. What surprised me about this was the surprise.

My family watches almost no live broadcast TV; the only exceptions being news and sport, the rest is from non-linear services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer. This news also seems to justify the decision to make BBC3 an on-line only channel – its how its target audience prefers to watch!

Benoit on Structural Separation

I recently posted an article about whether structural separation is a good thing or not in the UK, and the likely impact it will have on regulatory reform. The post was prompted by a lunch with Benoit Felton on his way to present his ideas at the Reform Club in London.

His 16-minute presentation is well worth listening too in full.

The first 14 minutes are so lay out the facts as Benoit sees them, which I think few would successfully argue against; he then spends the last minute or so concluding that either BT should be broken up, or Ofcom would need to follow the paths of Portugal and Lithuania in mandating a viable passive infrastructure market to enable infrastructure competition.

A better way to cluster data

A year or so ago I wrote a blog on how to cluster points of geographical data from within an SQL database. It was a working solution but inelegant and a bit clunky so I’ve finally got around to tidying it up and turning it into a proper  function.

PostgreSQL and PostGIS don’t have built-in clustering functions so I looked to the R statistical language and to using the PL/R extension in Postgres. Sorry, this post assumes R and PL/R have been installed – if you haven’t Boston GIS have a very good guide.

The function is a lot simpler than the previous one, and doesn’t require any special data types – its works just like any other function.

I want forgettable broadband

INCA’s Malcolm Corbett posted a LinkedIn blog on his experiences of upgrading his broadband to a Hyperoptic Fibre to the Basement service (FttB), and a good read it is.

This got me to thinking about my own experience of using VDSL over recent years.

In terms of the mechanics of installation, I’d have to say mine was at least as easy but I had the added bonus of not having to campaign; BT selected my home area as part of their commercial footprint so all I had to do was order. An Openreach engineer came to the house, installed the modem, tested it and left – all over in a few minutes with no real fuss. Not the near-gigabit service that Malcolm has but a respectable 72 Mbps (I can see the cabinet out of my study window).

All I had to do was connect my router, configure it, and start using the service; the ISP I’d chosen didn’t offer their own routers, although many do. This seems to be almost perverse supply – the more you pay for your broadband the less stuff you get but more of that in a moment.

Incorporating community led broadband

In a recent post I looked at the different models for community led broadband schemes and how the distribution of risks and responsibilities can be shared. In this post I wanted to consider how different business types can affect the scale and ambition of a community-led project.

The two biggest risks to a community-led broadband scheme is assuming that it’s a technology project, but that’s closely followed by an assumption that because it’s a community scheme a community interest company (CIC) must be the right vehicle. The first is always wrong, and the second is not always true – this is a business sustainability problem not a technology problem, and the choice of business vehicle is a business decision just like any other and will depend on the needs to the venture.

There are lots of myths which surround community enterprises:

Just asking about Structural Separation means regulatory reform

I had an lunch this week with Benoît Felten which, as always, was interesting and thought provoking. Part of the discussion naturally strayed onto Ofcom’s question about structural separation in their recent Strategic Review.

What I took away from the chat was that whatever Ofcom concludes, just asking the question should result in a fundamental change in the way the UK’s telecoms market is regulated.

While much flows from the answer, the question in its purest form has a simple binary answer – either structural separation is a good thing or its a bad thing; there aren’t many nuanced middle options since BT is already functionally separated.

If its a good thing then, in Benoît’s mind, its highly likely to result in a single monopolistic infrastructure provider which is better able to focus on long-term investments at scale, and therefore would be more attractive to patient investors; something I find impossible to argue against.

Ofcom, please listen to Irish wisdom on regulation

It’s a story I’ve told before but when the Irish Government Minister announced the liberalisation of their telecoms market in the 90’s he remarked that it was ironic that his first action in deregulating was to create a regulator. He went on to say that the mark of a successful regulator was one that understood it was a project with a clear goal, and that goal was to reach a point where the market no longer needed a specific regulator. He closed by saying that in his experience regulators don’t live up to that ambition, instead they become embedded in the market and therefore become part of the problem.

While it may not be appropriate for the UK Government to preempt Ofcom’s Strategic Market Review, it would, in my mind, be appropriate for them to remind Ofcom of that Irish wisdom, and ask them to ensure that whatever conclusion they come to, Ofcom plans for a market that no longer needs them.

Doing this would refocus the debate from a distracting and premature argument about whether BT should be broken up to one about what kind of telecoms market the UK wants and needs.

Several years ago, Brian Condon described three market scenarios:

Breaking-up BT is putting the cart before the horses

When Ofcom announced is Strategic Review it included an innocent question asking everyone to consider if BT should be broken-up, so call Structural Separation. Recently a number of major ISPs published an open letter saying that this should be given careful consideration and that they favoured a referral to the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA). Their position is more nuanced than many of the headlines the letter generated – this doesn’t mean they are firming in favour of breaking-up BT, only that they have serious concerns about the shape of the market which BT dominates.

My own view is that Structural Separation is simply a regulatory instrument that if wielded in isolation would achieve very little – it would replace one monopoly with two, and the siblings have very deep cultural ties that were forged at the dawn of telecoms time. It would take several years to resolve the legal challenges to separation, and the many more before the cultural challenges are overcome.

Calling all WISPs – Environment Agency LIDAR is about to change your life!

Somewhat quietly the UK’s Environment Agency recently released their LIDAR data for much of England. Most people are probably thinking “so what!” but the myriad of wireless broadband operators are likely to be jumping with joy once they get to grips with what’s been released.

The LIDAR data is provided as digital elevation data suitable for GIS systems, including wireless propagation modelling tools, but that sets this data apart from the many other free elevation data is twofold:

  • It’s extraordinarily accurate!
  • It includes both terrain and surface models

Accurate? To put this in perspective, each pixel in the Ordnance Survey opendata terrain data is 50m by 50m while the Environment Agency pixels are just 1m across and some areas are just 25cm square. Most datasets provide a general feel for the landscape at a point but this data is incredibly granular showing every crease in the landscape.