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

Estimating FttC/VDSL with free GIS tools

One of the more common mapping questions I get asked is about predicting VDSL speeds – who might benefit from an upgrade to Fibre to the Cabinet (FttC) and who might be caught in what might be called the “NGA but not superfast” trap where premises are connected to an upgraded cabinet but don’t really benefit from it.

VDSL, just like its sibling technology ADSL before it, delivers diminishing speed with distance; in this case the further from a cabinet a customer resides the slower the speed they might expect. This decay is fairly well documented by manufacturers so can be predicted where the cabinet location and the copper network routes are known – but often only the location of the cabinet is known, or at least only the location of the cabinet is relatively easily found out, so some method of estimating the speed is needed based on some assumptions about the network.

Will the EU’s changes to broadband State Aid matter to you?

The EU has made a rapid start after the recent European elections by cutting the first bit of red tape – in fairness this has been coming for some time so perhaps its not possible to read too much into the timing.

New “block exemptions” make it easier to provide support to smaller projects without bureaucracy and delay. In particular, broadband projects will not have to be “notified” to or approved by the Commission if they are under €70 million – whether it’s for fast, next-generation networks or just “basic” broadband. That significantly cuts red tape for this essential investment – making it easier to roll out more networks for more people.

These enter into force on 1 July.

All options on the table

In my new role at Broadway Partners I was recently asked to show how different technologies provide different outcomes for the same area – the diagram is what transpired.

All Options

I picked the Oxfordshire village Swinbrook because its local and it has a very nice pub.

The three windows suggest which homes might benefit from each of  fibre to the cabinet (FttC), fibre to the premise (FttP) and wireless.

Reviewing the market – what market?

The first wave of Open Market Reviews (OMRs) have been published by Local Authorities looking to refresh their maps of which areas remain with no plans for superfast broadband services, looking for operators to come forward with their existing coverage and their future plans for the coming three years.

On the face of it this is very good news – it hopefully means that alternative operators will have an opportunity to protect their footprint from overbuilding by another subsidised operator, and its essentially every operator with plans engages with the process if they are to have any voice later on.

However, the big problem with issuing Open Market Reviews now, before worthwhile data is published detailing which areas have already been subsidised, is that most Local Authorities have appeared closed to investment for the last few years so most OMR processes are likely  to simply confirm that.

Inflation touches the cloud – get used to it

From time to time the basket of stuff used to calculate the official measures of inflation is updated to best reflect a typical spending pattern.

The latest update saw something of a watershed moment. For the first time the Consumer Price Index basket contains items which depend on good, reliable broadband.

Out went DVD players – in came Netflix.

Why is this important?

The CPI is not a predictor of the future, it’s a descriptor of the now. The change says that high quality commercial streaming services are a common item in UK consumers’ shipping basket. That Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky’s Now.TV, etc are mainstream and not a fringe activity of the gadget generation.

It speaks to those that were critical of the decision to make BBC3 an online-only channel. The reality is that streaming is normal and that the key audience for BBC3 is the demographic most at home online. The BBC didn’t get a little more white, make and middle class, as was claimed by critics; it simply reflected the shift in society that the CPI is now confirming.

Why is the UK so different? It just is but that’s an opportunity for operators

The annual FttH Council Conference in Stockholm published it annual FttH/B league table for Europe which seems to perennially out of scope for having too little fibre connectivity to be counted. The UK is not alone, other major nations like Germany and France also struggle to make the grade. Heavy Reading also continue to predict that the UK won’t achieve what they call “fibre maturity” until after 2020.

This precipitated a number of conversations, as it does every year – why is the UK so different?

So here are some of the conclusions.

UK customers like a bargain

Price is king and other factors are perhaps less important than in some other countries. This has driven our service provider market towards a “pile it high, sell it cheap” model” which relies on scale more than in almost any other market. Internet services are not alone in this – price comparison sites are prospering in finance, insurance, energy and the key and sometimes the only differentiator is price.

Local broadband maps – are you open for business?

Local Broadband MapsIn my first post in far too long, I wanted to look at maps and broadband, more specifically the coverage maps many local authorities and assemblies are publishing in the UK relating to their broadband programmes.

Its a welcome move that some are now publishing maps and deeply frustrating that some are holding out when its clear that no local authority has found itself in court for releasing information about their publicly funded programme.

The inset map is my trawl of local websites for maps of local plans as of 7 February 2014. Some of the red areas have not published a map at all while others have published maps that are of little value to investors. (And its possible I’ve missed some so please let me know)

There is a simple message to those that aren’t publishing maps: The telecoms market considers that you are closed to investment!

Local Enterprise Partnership GIS files

Local Enterprise PartnershipsAfter failing to find a set of current, official GIS-ready boundary files for the English Local Enterprise Partnerships, I’ve created one based on the current Ordnance Survey Opendata BoundaryLine files, and the breakdown of their Local Authority members published on Wikipedia.

The names of the LEP’s have been matched to those generally used by the ONS so should integrate fairly easily with their published statistics.

The files can be downloaded by clicking here

Its a little over 5Mb and contains a set of shape files, and if you need it, they use the same OSGB projection that all OS products use.

CBN: Public Service Transformation and Demand Stimulation

Leveraging public investment in

A workshop and seminar from CBN and The Open University, in association with the Centre for Creative Collaboration, University of London

Tuesday 25 June 2013

12.30 Registration and lunch, finish 17.30 followed by drinks and networking

The Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street London WC1X 9NG

Local authorities and other public sector bodies are looking to invest in broadband infrastructure – sometimes with funding from the government through BDUK or the EU, and sometimes using their own resources or in partnership with the private sector.

Principles of intervening in broadband & digital isolation

Following on from the previous post, “Public or Private“, which looked at the different models of public intervention in markets generally, this post begins to explore the different models for intervention in markets. This is not a practical critique of any particular approach – more a quick look at the theory.

The basis of this is the same scale of intervention used in the previous post, ranging from light touch loan guarantees through to a state utility model. It begins with the assumption that the market will  invest up to a natural limit; this limit may vary from company to company but will be based on some measure of digital isolation.