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Friday, 1 August 2008

Fibre in Hull (and elsewhere)

It is fairly well known that countrywide there is lots of unused fibre in the ground. Every City, major and minor, every town, large and small, every village. They are all, just about, connected by fibre. So, who owns this fibre? Only a few companies. What are the chances of ne strands of fibre being laid, underground or overground? Small, very small. So, whoever builds a business based around fibre connections must either do it themselves (unlikely) or forge partnerships with those who own the currently laid fibre (possible). However, I cannot see this happening in the current economic climate.

While using to search for anything at all to do with Internet services, it was with great interest that I read this URL. My own feelings about that particular URL is to instinctively distrust it. Well, not the URL but the person involved.

If it is the same person I had the misfortune to work with some years ago on a not to different project then my instincts will be correct. If it is not then all can say is I wouldn't trust a company that claims what they are claiming. What they are claiming is outlandish at best. It is not unknown for a small minor, very minor, company to grow a body into something much larger but to do that requires a guile that I never saw in this person.

If they are sucessful then good on them for making it so. However, i have my doubts. As is usual for these types of companies they are aiming squarely for the business market which is a folly only they can explain. If they did home customer connections for their fibre offerings then there is no reason why a block of houses cannot pay for a fibre connection, subject to agreements between those house dwellers of course, which will offset the costs of installation. But this company immediately limits themselves by chopping off a large number of potential customers. As I said, folly.

If they were to change tack and offer these, at this time, mythical fibre connections to the home market then I, for one, would seek out partners and go for it. Indeed, i may well go for it myself alone. But, due to various misgiving I will not be contacting this company. I run a business from home but I am not a Limited company and this gives ISP's the willies when I ask for a home telephone line and a business class ADSL service. In fact, i recently asked for this very thing from our incumbant telephone and ISP here in Kingston upon Hull but they couldn't catagorise me into their little slots so could only offer me a business class service for both landline and Internet. I am taking this further up the legal chain to the E.U. who interestingly have requested I provide a lot more information on my request to my ISP and their response. It will probably takes years before something is decided but the very fact the E.U. telephony commissioner has asked I provide them with more and specific information tells me something will happen in this area.

In the case of that particular URL I find it interesting but nothing more.


Cybersavvy UK said...

I have to disagree somewhat, as a long term campaigner for FTTH for communities, businesses, and individuals. Particularly on an OPLAN model.

The first couple of sentences are actually not strictly true. Where fibre connects villages for instance, it is generally to an exchange and it is often lit, not dark, because of the problems of aged copper and aluminium. Although there is fibre (dark and lit) in the middle mile, there is very little in the first. And certainly not to homes.

Therefore, there will have to be new fibre. In order to achieve true FTTH, which many other countries already have or are en route to, new fibre lay in the UK is inevitable. Already, new fibre is being laid by the likes of H20 - a new entrant in the game. Others, particularly new entrants, are following.

The ownership of that first mile when laid is and has been under debate ever more rigorously as the years have gone on. The debates about sub-loop unbundling are an indication of the problems surrounding ownership and sensible usage of the existing copper first mile.

However, who would have thought, even a mere 2 years ago, that community owned and co-operative FTTH and OPLANs would make it into the Caio report, onto the platform at the BSG and other conferences, or into the minds of many, previously stoic, Telco 1.0 believers?

Dig where you live in Sweden and other countries has proven that communities can do it for themselves. Co-operative ownership of the networks has already shown its worth and success. Pushing the incumbent and telcos aside, and replacing them with a wide variety of models is existent elsewhere. With open models this is already working, today.

Telco 1.0 thinking is that all the low hanging cherries are in the business market and urban areas. Telco 2.0 thinking deems this 'outlandish' mode of thought to be dead, and now, as in other countries, is the time for the UK to prove that correct.

There are numerous projects around the country looking at community-owned fibre networks - all new lay, FTTH connectivity. They are not, on the whole, aimed at businesses, just as Ebbsfleet isn't. There is a growing understanding within the incumbent and telcos that consumers can consume the Net just as well, if not better, than your average SME. And more importantly, Britain is a land of SMEs, many run from HOMES. Part of the economic case for FTTH is the likely encouragement of new businesses, job creation and so on which FTTH has been proven to foster elsewhere. And much of this may well come from back bedrooms, hence the interest in connecting home users.

There is also a growing level of dread within the incumbent and telcos that communities will forge forward with a 'patchwork of solutions' and JFDI. And there is little reason for them not to now fibre costs are so low, most rural communities in particular have the equipment and personnel to lay the fibre, and the actual cost of CPE and connectivity in the first inch is affordable. There may, however, be problems with this, as we saw in first gen wireless networks - interconnectivity between the 'pockets of connectivity' ie the villages, market towns etc, when different technologies are used eg PON, GPON etc. And so there needs to be a serious attempt for the future of the British infrastructure that those communities (urban and rural) who do it themselves do it in such a way that every one is interconnectable, and that everyone can choose what services and which service provider run into their homes. And not be tied into another 100 year old monopoly.

Having watched and been involved in many of what should be termed First Generation community broadband projects come to fruition, and be sustainable through the efforts and ownership of those communities, it is with great interest that I and many others are looking to the Next Generation of community projects, which will of course be FTTH, or possibly involve a mix of fibre and wireless - FiWi - to deliver affordable, accessible true broadband ie greater than 100Mbps symmetrical.

What seems to be being considered in Hull is by no means a first in the UK, and won't be the last project looking to connect EVERYONE (not just businesses) with new fibre lay.

Best of luck with your EU regulator complaint. If I were you though, considering the recent news about your incumbent, I would just spend the time building your own business. Theirs appears to be up for sale!!!

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