Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House of Lords - Reports a very real risk some people and businesses will be left behind

The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has published its report "Broadband for all - an alternative vision".
There is barely an aspect of our daily lives that is not touched in some way by the internet. The revolution in communications witnessed over recent decades has had a transformative effect on commercial and social transactions creating an information world without frontiers. We have found, however, that there is a very real risk that some people and businesses are being left behind, that inadequate access to the internet and all its benefits is actually afflicting their daily lives, prohibiting them from harvesting the fruits of the information revolution.

The Government are to be congratulated for making enhanced broadband provision a key public policy priority, and progress is clearly being made. It is our contention, however, that the Government have proceeded from a flawed prospectus, that the progress being made may prove illusory. There has been an insufficient focus on properly thinking through questions of first principle, and an absence of an all encompassing vision of pervasive broadband connectivity as a key component of national infrastructure.

Government policy has become preoccupied with the delivery of certain speeds to consumers. This, in our view, has had a detrimental effect on policy-making and the long term national interest. In this report, we propose an alternative vision for UK broadband policy, which, rather than being target driven, makes the case for a national broadband network which should be regarded as a fundamental strategic asset, to which different people can connect in different ways according to their needs and demands. The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long term assurance that as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK. Access to the internet should be seen as a domestic essential and regarded as a key utility. The spectre of a widening digital divide is a profound source of concern which requires the Government to address its origin with greater vigour than we believe is currently the case.

Fundamentally, the Government's strategy has fundamentally focused on the wrong part of the network—broadly speaking the outer edge and the margins, not the centre. We argue that the Government should be focusing on delivering a high spec infrastructure which is future proof and built to last; fibre-optic cable, the most future proof technology, must be driven out as close as possible to the eventual user. Then, as well as mandating open access to this optical fibre from the cabinet to the exchange, we need to ensure that there is open access to links between the exchanges that feed the cabinets, and to the higher level links into national and global networks.

Just as there is national planning for the national, regional and local hubs of our transport network, so there should be national planning for a communications network of local, regional, national, and internet exchanges where different operators can site equipment and exchange traffic, all linked by ample optical fibre that is open to use by competing providers.

We do not pretend that any of this is easy, and we welcome the Government's policy focus on broadband, but we believe that the UK can and must do better.

Monday, July 30, 2012

OECD - published a report following up on broadband developments over the previous 4 years

The OECD has published Laying the Foundation for the Internet Economy: Access to the Internet via a High-Speed Infrastructure this follows up on development since the OECD Ministerial in Seoul in 2008.
Since the Seoul Declaration, access to broadband networks and the Internet have constantly increased. In terms of fixed broadband, penetration levels are close to maturity. In addition, further deployments of fibre networks have taken place; however, overall deployment of fibre is still at an early stage. On the mobile broadband side, 3G coverage is high and data traffic is expected to grow significantly. In terms of policies, national broadband plans have contributed to increasing access to the Internet. Some countries have furthermore invested public funds in the deployment of fibre networks.

IT skills - 100,000 people work IT and telecoms industry, with 3,500 vacancies per quarter

Scotland IS reports a study reporting the growing importance of the software sector to Scotland's economy.
The report identifies that the IT & Telecoms industry contributes in excess of £3 billion of Scotland’s total Gross Value Added, and that 100,000 people work in the industry and in IT & T professional roles in other sectors across the Scottish economy where technology is key, such as financial services.

Employer demand has been growing consistently since 2009, with an average of 3,500 advertised vacancies for IT staff per quarter during 2011. The majority of these vacancies are in development, design and support, skill sets which have accounted for an increasing proportion of advertised vacancies over each of the past three years.

See the full text of Technology Insights 2012: Scotland or the UK report (registration required).

UK - Survey finds consumers send 50 SMS/week, doubled in 4 years

OFCOM reports the UK is now using SMS more than talking.
Text-based communications are surpassing traditional phone calls or meeting face to face as the most frequent ways of keeping in touch for UK adults.

The average UK consumer now sends 50 texts per week – which has more than doubled in four years – with over 150 billion text messages sent in 2011

UK households now own on average three different types of internet-enabled device:
  • laptop
  • smartphone and
  • Internet-enabled games console
15 per cent of homes own six or more devices.
Four in ten (39%) adults now own a smartphone, a 12 percentage point increase on 2010. Forty-two per cent of these now say that their smartphone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with over four in ten (42%) regularly using social networking sites and half (51%) using e-mail.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UK - OFCOM 4G spectrum auction to cover 98% of population by 2017

OFCOM has finally provided more details of the 4G or mobile broadband auction.mobile broadband auction.
The 4G auction will offer at least two spectrum bands – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz. The lower frequency 800 MHz band is part of the ‘digital dividend’, which is ideal for widespread mobile coverage. The higher frequency 2.6 GHz band is ideal for delivering the capacity needed to deliver faster speeds. These two bands add up to 250 MHz of additional mobile spectrum, compared to 333 MHz in use today.

The spectrum bands will be auctioned to bidders as a series of lots. One of the 800 MHz lots of spectrum will carry an obligation to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest.

The 800 MHz spectrum is well suited to providing high levels of coverage, and we anticipate that imposing the obligation on one operator will drive other operators to extend their own coverage in response.

Given that it is easier to provide coverage outdoors than indoors, a network meeting this obligation is likely to cover more than 99% of the UK by population when outdoors.

Further details are here.Wales Online reports it should end the problems of "not spots".

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wales - WAG and BT in agreement to reach 96 per cent of premises

Wales Online reports that the Welsh First Minister, Carwyn Jones, announced a deal with BT to deliver next generation broadband to 96% of homes and businesses in Wales by the end of 2015.
The initiative, which is subject to state aid and major projects approval, will take the total amount invested in Welsh fibre broadband to around £425m.

As a result of winning the contract, BT will create 50 new jobs and 100 new apprenticeships. 320 existing jobs will also be protected. In addition, BT will offer work experience to 900 young people. Up to 2,500 further full time jobs could be created throughout the Welsh economy over time.

Jones said:
As a result of Welsh Government, UK Government, European Structural Funds (ERDF) and private sector investment, a solution has been secured that will leverage the funding available to achieve best value for the Welsh pound. We have leveraged over £6 for every £1 invested by the Welsh Government.
ZDnet reports the funding is:
  • BT £220m
  • WAG £58m
  • BDUK £57m
  • ERDF £90m
The project, which aims to deliver fibre to non-commercially viable areas using government subsidies, is separate to BT's ongoing rollout of fibre services in commercially viable areas, which already included parts of Wales.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

OECD - 314 million fixed broadband subscriptions - Switzerland tops rankings, followed by Denmark

The OECD has collected and published data from all its member states as at the end of 2011 (see press release).
Switzerland tops fixed broadband ranking, while Korea leads in wireless broadband

Switzerland tops for the first time the OECD fixed broadband ranking, with 39.9 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, followed closely by the Netherlands (39.1) and Denmark (37.9). The OECD average is 25.6.

Fixed wired broadband subscriptions reached 314 million in the OECD area at the end of 2011, although growth slowed to 1.8% in the second half. Year-on-year subscriptions rose by 4.1%. Greece, Poland and Chile experienced the highest growth, of 5%, to reach 21.8, 15.0 and 11.7 respectively.

The overall share of DSL subscriptions continues to decrease (55.8%), to the benefit of cable (30%) and, especially, fibre-to-the-home subscriptions that now represent 13.7% of the total number of fixed broadband subscriptions.

Wireless broadband subscriptions showed healthy growth of over 13% in the last six months and Korea (100.6) and Sweden (98.0) continue to top the table. The global number of wireless broadband subscriptions in OECD countries totals 667 million, up from 590 million in June 2011.

Data and charts for the December 2011 broadband statistics are available at: http://www.oecd.org/sti/ict/broadband

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scotland - Broadband is now in 68% of households, trailing UK average of 76%

The BBC reports Scotland has regained some growth in its fixed broadband market.
But last year's figures also showed a markedly lower level of online connections for Scots, 13 percentage points behind the 74% UK figure. With UK connections up to 76%, that gap has closed to 8 percentage points and Scots are now in a similar position to people in Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, it also notes the strange position of Glasgow:
The Greater Glasgow area has been an unusually slow adopter of broadband, with only 50% of households connected last year, but that has now risen to 60%.

Glasgow - Only 50% of adults have broadband against 76% for the UK

OFCOM has confirmed poor adoption of broadband in Glasgow:
As the Communications Market Report highlighted in 2011 and 2010, broadband take-up is relatively low in Glasgow. Figure 1.7 shows that 50% of adults in the city of Glasgow have fixed broadband, compared to the GB average (as reported by the BPS for this period) of 76%. Fixed broadband take-up in Glasgow was, by some distance, the lowest of all of the cities we analysed.
The Glasgow Herald reports:
Glasgow has the lowest take-up of broadband of any major city in the UK, the communications regulator found in its annual report – a persistent trend it believes is cutting residents off from services and opportunities now available online.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Highlands - HIE is asking operators to identify plans for superfast broadband so they plan for other areas

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is asking broadband providers to confirm any plans they may have to upgrade to superfast, and seeking information from local people and businesses about the quality of their current service.

The Consultation closes on 13 August 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

USA - Speed is no longer enough, servers are not fast enough to keep pace with access

Boston.com reports that speed is declining as a factor in choice of broadband packages.
In the highly competitive cable market, broadband speed is a major selling point for Verizon and broadband rivals like Comcast Corp.’s Xfinity service. Carriers frequently boost the broadband speeds they offer in their relentless pursuit of new subscribers. But while the extra speed can pay off for households with multiple users, it can be overkill for many consumers.
Roger Entner, an Internet analyst for Recon Analytics, commented:
The problem is that most of the Internet isn’t transmitting data fast enough to take advantage of such rapid broadband speeds
A combination of more consumer devices and higher definition video is expected to make the faster transmission speeds necessary.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scotland - How would telecoms look after independence, an analysis of the issues

I have posted a conference paper on SSRN, which can be freely downloaded, examining the issues for Scotland for a transition to independence. It examines licences, institutions, the possibly short timescale and problems of unequal information for operators and regulators.