A Quality Cloud System for Independent Networks

Government and industry estimate that commercial roll-out of next generation access (NGA) will cover about two thirds of the population (Digital Britain Report, Britain's Superfast Broadband Future).

Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has been set up to help local authorities fund the capital costs of schemes to cover the remaining third with an expectation that a variety of non-incumbent projects will cover between 10% and a third of the population, mainly in rural areas.  BDUK will invest £530 Million.

Physically putting fibre in the ground is only one aspect, few communities will have the capacity to develop their own network management, provisioning and billing systems.  The cost of providing dedicated local support person for each of these networks would be prohibitive.

At the moment, independent networks are springing up and developing their own solutions, however, given the complexity and scale of these networks, it would make it easier if they could work in partnerships. So, how can we manage to get the patchwork quilt of independent networks working more closely together and aggregate demand for services?

An underlying part of this will come from the development of common platforms in order to support customers and support the provision of business systems within these networks. So, having a common set of standards that everyone can aspire to and tie into is a good way of making the process transparent.

By providing better quality of service across these networks, public sector organisations will have the confidence to deploy IP based telehealth and telecare solutions to these customers, who are often located in the remotest parts of the country and have the greatest need for these services.

A “Quality Marque” project is currently underway, assessing the feasibility of developing a cloud based system to suport independent networks and assess the complex issues of integrating a wide range of service level agreements and network architectures.  If successful, the results of the Quality Marque will provide confidence to organisations aiming to use next generation access networks for services such as telehealth and telecare for example. The project was initially proposed by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) as part of a programme looking at cloud computing. A large part of the project and a real challenge is to develop a standard set of products and services, which can be sold to the industry, particularly to Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

ISPs will want to understand what sorts of service level agreements are in place when it comes to for example fixing faults on customers lines, questions around how services are going to be provisioned and which services will be available to what types of customers. Altogether, this represents a whole platter of management challenges as opposed to technical complexities.

The Quality Marque is designed to break these management challenges down and provide a checklist and scoring system for independent networks. As an example, Cybermoor may receive a good score for putting in its fibre network while other communities which may wish to use a licensed wireless system, may get a lower score. Lower scores would grant them access to fewer ISPs.

By benchmarking these processes and adding accreditation to them, independent networks can see that investing in the improvement of the quality of their services, will allow them to attract more ISPs and potentially more customers.