Tuesday, June 25, 2013

England - Survey finds only £3 million broadband funding for local councils has yet been handed over

The BBC reports that the funding from the BDUK has hardly begun to reach county councils in England:
A survey of English councils that are commissioning high-speed broadband access in rural areas has found many have yet to receive their share of a half billion pound government fund.

Only two of the respondents said they had been given any money by this March.

The government has allocated £530m to help meet its aim of delivering broadband to virtually all of the country by the next election in 2015.

It repeats newspaper stories in the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph suggesting BDUK could be spun off as a private company.

UK - Super-Connected Cities plan scaled back following legal challenges by operators

The Guardian reports that BT and Virgin Media have forced HMG to revise its Super-Connect Cities plan:
A government scheme to spend £150m on broadband infrastructure to create 22 "super-connected cities", championed by George Osborne, has been dramatically scaled back following legal challenges. The plan to help cities build superfast internet connections to homes and businesses not served by BT and Virgin Media's existing networks has been reduced to a voucher scheme, the government confirmed on Tuesday, to be spent in areas where connections already exist.

The original scheme, repeatedly highlighted by Osborne in budget statements, was intended to deliver speeds of between 80 and 100 megabits per second to 22 cities, helping 1.7m households and 200,000 premises by 2015, as well as high-speed wireless broadband for 3 million residents.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mobile - Operators assert EU lags USA in advanced services because of fragmented market, want more consolidation and better spectrum harmonisation

The GSM Association has published a report comparing mobile wireless performance in the EU and the USA:
There is broad agreement that the EU mobile wireless market is underperforming relative to other advanced economies, including the U.S. We find that the EU is lagging well behind the U.S. in deployment of next generation wireless infrastructures and the advanced services they make possible, and that EU consumers are worse off as a result. EU regulatory policies have resulted in a fragmented market structure which prevents carriers from capturing beneficial economies of scale and scope and retards the growth of the mobile wireless ecosystem. We recommend reforming and harmonizing spectrum policies, permitting efficient levels of consolidation, and promoting innovation by fostering dynamic competition.

Satellite - Members of Scottish Parliament reacted positively to demo of broadband for rural and remote areas

The Stornoway Gazette reports on a satellite broadband briefing at the Scottish Parliament, by Avonline Managing Director Mark Wynn and Steve Petrie director for Eutelsat broadband.

Dave Thompson (MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) was quoted as saying:

I was very impressed with the speed on offer. This new standard of satellite broadband addresses many of the problems experienced with the medium in the past, and will broaden access to broadband particularly in remote and rural areas.

Many remote communities in my constituency have poor or even no access to broadband. The challenges of a suitable infrastructure for broadband and the effect that the geography can have on reception have complicated traditional services in many remote areas, and so I welcome the new generation of satellite technology which can offer a broadband service comparable to those available via ASDL elsewhere in Scotland.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

UK - Think tank calls for £5.5 Bn for ultrafast broadband to the door instead of high speed rail lines

The New Economic Foundation (NEF) has published a report arguing against HS2, the high speed rail link running north from London.

Rather than spend £33 billion on HS2, the NEF calls for:

  • £10 billion on upgrading our exiting North-South mainlines
  • £10 billion to overhaul regional rail around the country
  • £6 billion on improving buss and light rail (e.g. tram) networks around the UK – and introducing smart ticketing systems (like London’s Oyster card)
  • £2 billion on better biking and walking infrastructure
  • £5.5 billion on rolling out ultra fast ‘to-the-door’ broadband coverage across the UK – boosting business and reducing the demand for unnecessary business travel
The full text is available here.
The cost of providing fibre-optic connectivity to every house in the UK has been estimated to be at least £15 billion, however. So while our alternative investment package would clearly not contain the full amount necessary to reach every UK home, it could connect most homes in the core cities shown below.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

USA - White House reports that for 10 Mbps 91% of population have access to fixed & 81% to mobile broadband

The White House has published a report on progress with broadband:
Today, about 91 percent of Americans have access to wired broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream, and 81 percent of Americans have access to similarly fast mobile wireless broadband.
  • In the year 2000, 4.4% of American households had a home connection to broadband; by 2010 that number had jumped to 68%.
  • Broadband networks at a baseline speed of >10 megabits per second now reach more than 94% of U.S. homes.
  • Overall, average delivered broadband speeds have doubled since 2009. In 2012, North America’s average mobile data connection speed was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average.
  • Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40% between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies; investment in European wireless networks remained flat during this time period, while wireless investment in Asia (including China)rose only 4%.
  • There are over 500 million Internet-connected devices now in American homes and businesses
Further detail is available from the NTIA report Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience.

Study - Reports claims significant adverse effects of local loop unbundling on EU broadband and productivity performance

At an ITIF seminar in Washington DC, Copenhagen Economics presented its report "Europe can catch up with the US: A contrast of two contrary [sic] broadband models" by Martin Thelle and Bruno Basalisco:
... the US and EU took two different broadband policy paths since the late Nineties: the former focused on infrastructure-based competition; the latter focused on service-based competition via broadband unbundling.

Several European fixed telecom incumbents have refrained from investing aggressive-ly in next generation access networks due to regulation affecting the business case for fiber investments.

Furthermore, unbundling has contributed to keep prices so low in the EU that a creeping investment malaise has resulted. A decade later, per capita investment in telecommunications networks in the US is more than 50% higher than in the EU (US$ 197 to US$ 129 in 2009).

In turn, total ICT investments in the US were more than double than in the EU, which contributes to explain the productivity gap between the EU and the higher productivi-ty US. Had the US followed the EU's slower pace in ICT investments since the late 1990s, US labour productivity growth would have been 25-30 % lower than it is today.

The US industrial structure of widespread inter-platform competition, the result of past regulatory choices, implies that the US is justified today in staying the course and maintain a lighter regulatory policy for fixed telecoms

Monday, June 17, 2013

Europe - Commission public meeting on a single market for telecoms hears a range of views from established players

The European Commission held a public meeting on "A single telecom market for growth & jobs" this morning in Brussels.

As is often the case with such meetings it was the "usual suspects" giving the usual views, everyone seems to be typecast.

The Commissioner was pressing for input for her legislative proposal to be made in September. The incumbent operators want relief from regulation and competition, the new entrants want the opposite and the regulators wanted to be allowed to continue regulating.

While everyone spoke for a single market, these were different single market, some were for infrastructure, some for telecommunications, and some for ICT services.

Commissioner Kroes made clear she wants to move quickly, an old lady in a hurry, and consequently would not be proposing abolition of the regulators. What she would propose was very much less clear, though she had spoken on her intentions at the European Parliament on 30th May.

There is no archive of the webcast video yet available.

Scotland - A way forward on broadband would be the creation of neutral stakeholders forum to analyse and share understandings of problems and solutions

The Scottish Government, as part of its Digital Dialogue, held an event on "Regulatory options for delivering world class digital infrastructure by 2002" on 13 June 2013. This relates to:
Scotland’s Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan outlines a commitment to a future-proofed infrastructure that will deliver world-class digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020.
One conclusion of the meeting was that, following the examples of the Swedish Bredsbands Forum and the UK Broadband Stakeholders Group, there was a case to create a neutral "forum" or "platform" for all broadband "stakeholders". This would be a useful way to continue the debate, to share opinions and to present information to the public, to regulators and to government.

I have posted by own small contribution on what world class might mean.

It is worth noting that none of the multiplicity of UK regulators (e.g., OFCOM, Advertising Standards Authority, OTA2 and PayPhonePlus) was in the room, let alone asked to speak. Of course, telecommunications and competition policy are not devolved matters, but are exclusively matters for the UK government.

Bengt Mölleryd of the Swedish regulator PTS set out the situation in Sweden. In particular he noted the substantial developments of "village fibre" networks and the deployment of 4G/LTE networks. The latter was enabled by the network sharing for 3G, following the beauty contest which had awarded licences to operators proposing to build the most masts. Individuals were adopting 4G and were paying up to £1,500 per household to install a fibre connection.

Matt Yardley (Analysys Mason) considered copper not to be dead, but to continue to be an important network element. He argued access to ducts and poles was largely irrelevant. In rural areas a single infrastructure was an option.

Domhnal Dods (Towerhouse Consulting) called for competition rather than regulation. He noted the limited scope of the present arrangements with the EU regulatory framework and the UK legislation. While the EC had suggested further reforms this was being opposed by HMG. He drew attention to the devolved powers over the business rates charged on networks, which were applied inconsistently to BT, alternative operators and community initiatives. The Electronic communications code had been strongly criticised in a recent judgement by the UK Supreme Court.

The discussion period had a fairly heated exchange over the position of BT in the UK government's rural broadband schemes. Given that it was the sole bidder and already the SMP operator in local access there was concern that taxpayer's money was shoring up the its dominant position in the market. The suggestion was made that the access condition to the BT network might not have been aligned either with the Openreach platform or the requirements of likely access seekers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

UK - Consultation by HMG on modifications to OFCOM's statutory duties and functions closes on 25 June

The UK government has proposed changes to the statutory duties and functions of the Office of Communications (OFCOM).

It launched a consultation in April which closes on 25th June 2013.

Scotland - BT fined £50,000 for roadworks in the Highlands that endangered the public

The Scotsman reports a fine against BT of £150,000:
BT has received the maximum fine of £50,000 from Scotland’s roadworks commissioner for endangering the public with work carried out in the Highlands – the first penalty of its kind ever imposed.

Engineers left unmanned, gaping holes in pavements without barriers or signs on 
numerous occasions. Works 
also proceeded with an excavator operating on a busy footpath, again with no signs or barriers, and with no safe route for pedestrians.

Some of the streetworks also caused buses and cars to mount pavements in an effort to pass.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

UK - Cisco points to a range of developments that could keep the UK ahead in mobile technology developments

Cisco has published an analysis of 4G in the United Kingdom:
The UK is a hotbed of mobile creativity and talent, being one of the most advanced markets for smartphone adoption.

The UK is a leader in app development ...

British innovation is also heating up in the emerging field of machine-to-machine communications (also known as the ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Europe - Point Topic estimates cost of of superfast broadband would be €80 billion not the EC's €270 billion

Telecoms.com reports that for speeds of at least 30 Mbps:
Providing super-fast broadband to the whole of the European Union could be much less expensive than previously thought, according to UK research firm Point Topic, which estimates that the whole economic area could be served for €80bn – less than a third of the €270bn estimated by the European Commission in its Digital Agenda.

UK - Major Project Agency warns of significant risks on broadband projects

The Government's Major Projects Agency has reported on the work at DCMS.
  • Broadband Delivery Programme - Red/Amber
  • Mobile Infrastructure Project - Amber
  • Spectrum clearance and awards programmes - Amber
  • Urban broadband fund - Super-connected city initiative - Amber/Red

UK - Commons Cttee calls for much greater engagement of public in policy formulation through the use of technology

the House of Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC) has published a report on Public engagement in public policy:
A process of engagement, which can reach beyond the “Westminster village” and the “usual suspects”, will itself be an act of leadership, but there can be no abdication of that leadership.

Digital technology and new media have a huge role to play. In time, the Government should be able to demonstrate that the citizen is able to contribute opinion, ideas and suggestions on an ongoing basis, if it is to be seen as moving away from old processes and embracing a new relationship with the citizen.

  • All policy making carries risks: a lack of appetite for participation, disappointment arising from unrealistic expectations and the dominance of vested interests. Government must frankly assess and address these risks in relation to open policy making.
  • Digital technology has a significant role to play in opening up policy-making. Government could and should go further and embrace radical and innovative approaches, but making use of existing platforms and technologies, such as Twitter. However, Government must demonstrate that the methods used in engagement exercises are suited to the needs of those they are trying to engage.
  • The success and impact of public engagement in policy-making must be effectively measured. Government must able to demonstrate value for money and improved outcomes with this new approach, particularly in a time of austerity.

UK - "Millennials" in the UK believe they are more tech literate than millennials from around the world

Telefonica Global Millennial Survey

UK - HMG publishes framework for planning and highway authorities on siting and maintaining street cabinets and poles.

DCMS has published a Framework for planning and highway authorities on siting and maintaining street cabinets and poles:
To increase the pace of superfast broadband rollout, we have today published new guidance for Code Operators, communications providers and local authorities deploying electronic communications apparatus that aids broadband rollout.
Full details can be found in the code of practice.

This was the result of a public consultation.

UK - HMG withdraws Super-Connected Cities Initiative faced with state aid rules problems, going back to drawing board

The Scotsman reports that the UK government has withdrawn its application for clearance under state aid rules of the Super-Connected Cities Initiative. One of the cities was to have been Edinburgh.
But a blunder at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has left the Capital scrambling to reboot its bid amid threats of an EU investigation into State Aid infringements – used to preserve competition from government intervention.

To avoid an 18-month probe, the funding scheme was scrapped in its original form, with all bids sent back to the drawing board. The city then had just three weeks to redraft a completely different business case before deadline.

Today, finance chiefs spearheading the £10.7m tender said they were “frustrated” and felt “let down” by the botched project, which would have offered speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second).

It quotes a DCMS spokesperson as saying:
Following the revision in State Aid guidelines and developments in the broadband market, the Super Connected Cities programme will now focus on investments in connectivity that drive economic growth and demand for high- speed broadband, including a connection voucher scheme to address the relatively high cost of getting connected for some SMEs.
The original project had been announced by George Osborne in the Budget (see press release).

BT and Virgin Media had launched a legal challenge to Birmingham’s Smart City plan under this scheme.

See also the slides by Iain Bennett (Project Director for Urban Broadband Fund at Broadband Delivery UK), showing a significant reshaping of the project.

The Major Projects Authority annual report classed the Urban Broadband Fund as Amber/Red (see blog from Broadband UK). It gave the same warning for Broadband Delivery Programme.

Scotland - Technology Industry Survey shows job vacancies up but skills crisis threatens growth

ScotlandIS has published the Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2013

Most sought after skills - Those with software and web development skills are the most sought after at 58% (67% last year), just ahead of commercial and business skills at 53% (72% last year) and project management skills at 49%.

Most in demand category of staff - Operatives topped the category of staff most in demand this year at 60% up from 47% last year. Graduates are just slightly behind this at 58% this year (having been top at 52% last year).

Demand to increase headcount - The number of respondents planning to increase headcount this year is 70% (63.5% last year).

Fibre - ADL warns the UK risk falling behind neighbours due to the lack of investment in fibre

Information Week UK reports Arthur D Little warning that the UK risks falling seriously behind its European neighbours in terms of serious uptake of fibre broadband technology.

The story comes from a report on National fibre strategies:

This paper identifies five National Fibre strategic models that have been implemented by countries around the globe, and assesses which of these models are most likely to fulfill National Fibre goals to the benefit of all stakeholders, including governments, regulators and policy makers. These models lever a number of key success factors, which can be adopted by industry, government and regulators, and which require more sophisticated public and private coordination and graded policy frameworks.
Figure - Broadband networks in a web of socio-economic value creation

Figure - : Selected national fibre penetration correlated to underpinning model

Fibre - FTTH Council has published guidance to community to help prospective broadband providers

The FTTH Council for the Americas has published a report Becoming a fiber-friendly community:
In this paper, we outline a series of steps that communities should consider to clear a path for and work with a prospective broadband provider. It is not exhaustive, and some of the steps require cooperation from other private and public actors to achieve. Further, the trade-offs among competing objectives and degree of difficulty in finding solutions will vary among communities. But achieving these benchmarks has the potential to meaningfully reduce deployment costs and tip the balance in favor of FTTH network investment in your community.

UK - GCHQ working with the "Prism" program at NSA to gather intelligence on Internet users

The Guardian reports that:
The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
It quotes a senior US administration official as saying: "
The programme is subject to oversight by the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the executive branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimise the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

UK - Huawei has been a major supplier to BT for its 21CN, no consideration was given to security issuesonly partially remedied since

The Intelligence and Security Committee has published a report on Foreign Involvement in the Critical National Infrastructure (Cm 8629).

On Huawei:

Most of the concerns surrounding Huawei relate to its perceived links to the Chinese State.

... Huawei strenuously denies that it has direct links with the Chinese Government or military, claiming that it receives no financial support from the Chinese Government and that it is 98.6% owned by its employees. Nevertheless, there is a lack of clarity about its financial structures. Moreover, Huawei’s denial of links to the Chinese State is surprising, given that such links to the State are considered normal in China.

... media analysis continues to suggest that despite its claims of employee ownership, appointments to the board remain tightly controlled.

The Committee noted the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI)Investigative Report on the US National Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE published on 8 October 2012.

The Intelligence and Security Committee recommended:

The BT/Huawei relationship began nearly ten years ago; the process for considering national security issues at that time was insufficiently robust. The Committee was shocked that officials chose not to inform, let alone consult, Ministers on such an issue. We are not convinced that there has been any improvement since then in terms of an effective procedure for considering foreign investment in the CNI. The difficulty of balancing economic competitiveness and national security seems to have resulted in stalemate. Given what is at stake, that is unacceptable.
  • The National Security Council should ensure that there are effective procedures and powers in place, and clear lines of responsibility when it comes to investment in the CNI. Crucially, the Government must be clear about the sequence of events that led to Ministers being unsighted on an issue of national importance, and take immediate action to ensure that this cannot happen again.

More fundamentally, while we recognise that the Government does not expect the Cell to find every vulnerability, and that there are other mitigations in place, we remain concerned that a Huawei-run Cell is responsible for providing assurance about the security of Huawei products.