Next-generation broadband service Archive

Another two villages provided with full broadband service – this time in Hertfordshire

News articles

thinkbroadband :: Vtesse Broadband bring next-generation broadband to Hertfordshire

From the horse’s mouth

Vtesse Broadbandpress releases

My comments

The initiative has been taken again to establish full broadband service in the UK countryside. This time, two villages in Hertfordshire, north of London, are equipped with fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband with sub-loop unbundling. The villages, Birch Green and Hertingfordbury, are located too far from the local telephone exchange for guaranteed high-speed ADSL broadband Internet service, so Vtesse have established a fibre-optic backbone for both of the villages and set up the cabinets there.

Another step that has been taken is to have customer feedback to determine where the demand is and where there is poor coverage. The network has been made future-proof so that they can provide fibre-to-the-premises service when the time comes to provide that level of service.

I had a look at the Vtesse website and was impressed with the network-Internet “edge” router that customers would be supplied with as standard. It is a Comtrend ADSL2/VDSL2 wireless modem router that doesn’t just work with 802.11g like most provider-supplied equipment does. Instead, this unit can work with 802.11n Wi-Fi network segments

Again, what I am so pleased about is that this is an example of small companies in the UK have taken the initiative to provide full-ADSL-quality to “next-generation” broadband to the “backwaters” of that country. This then puts farmers and small businesses in those towns on a competitive level with those that have proper broadband Internet service and with the big business operators.

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Not just fibre-to-the-cabinet but fibre-to-the-premises in two rural Lincolnshire villages


thinkbroadband :: Two rural Lincolnshire villages to get fibre-to-the-home

My Comments

Another step has occurred in the right direction for providing homes and small businesses in two rural England villages with city-grade next-generation Internet service. Again, this initiative has been undertaken by a small operator and has allowed the village to be competitive with the city.

Here, Fibrestream are two-thirds of the way there with gaining interest from the potential users which will open doors to establishing the basic infrastructure and “lighting up” the villages. One of the bonuses that have been offered is that there is the option of helping with the installation to your premises as a way to defray provisioning costs.

They have also provided for a cheaper fixed-wireless-last-mile delivery option if they can’t raise enough money for the full fibre-to-the-premises option. Any monies saved from this option would be reinvested so they can establish the infrastructure for the full fibre-to-the-premises deal. This could still be factored in to villages with farms and similar large properties surrounding them so as to service these properties with high-speed Internet.

Like what has happened with other British villages like Lyddington in Leicestershire, this has become another way of bringing these rural villages in to the online age. Come on everyone who is in the country or underserved outer-urban and regional areas and work together to establish local-broadband initiatives.

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More rural broadband activity in the UK – Lyddington, Leicestershire

News article

thinkbroadband :: Fibre optic broadband in rural areas: Lyddington

From the horse’s mouth

Rutland Telecom – Web site

My comments on this topic

The main thing that impressed me about this news was that a small local operator took up the gauntlet to establish a backhaul and next-generation Internet service for a rural village in England. It’s so easy to expect the big-time companies like the incumbent or competing telecommunications firms or established ISPs to provide this kind of service, but a small firm has decided to lay the groundwork with its fibre-to-the-cabinet operation for Lyddington and the surrounding villages.

There is an expectation for a service with 48Mbps maximum / 25Mbps average headline speed for this network, which was similar to what would be expected for most suburban next-generation broadband rollouts. It will be based on FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) technology with the copper run to the customer’s door being based on VDSL2 technology. This technology has a greater throughput than  the commonly-deployed ADSL2+ but is designed for short copper runs. Here, it will be installed as a sub-loop unbundled setup where the street cabinet exists between the main telephone exchange and the customer’s telephone.

This deployment was considered feasible for environments where the service would facilitate a full takeup of 40-50 customers in a not-so-dense area.

The prices averaged around GBP30 / month including line rental and 600 minutes of calls to any landline in the UK. The hardware would be part of the installation cost and included a VDSL modem and a broadband router that isn’t wireless. It would be the time to look towards choosing a wireless broadband router of the kind that works with cable Internet for this setup if you want the wireless home network. A wireless router would cost GBP45 extra if you bought it from them.

Location issues

There are still a few questions that need to be asked concerning the Lyddington FTTC rollout and would affect next-generation broadband efforts in rural Britain. One is whether and how the larger properties like the farms would be covered by the next-generation broadband efforts? Could this mean that a street cabinet has to be deployed near a cluster of farm gates with longer VDSL2 runs?

Similarly, there could be a classic estate with a large manor house or similar building and smaller houses scattered further afield on the same property. Some of these estates may have the manor house occupied by the appropriate aristocrat or the manor house may be a National Trust museum or upscale boutique hotel. Here, there may be issues with making sure each lodging on the estate has access to the next-generation broadband, and there could be issues with whether to locate the FTTC street cabinet in these estates and where they should be located, especially to make sure that “His Lordship” in the manor has very good bandwidth.

Equipment issues

Another issue worth raising is whether the VDSL2 modems will be made available without a router so that customers can purchase their own wireless broadband router from a preferred retailer. One reason is that an increasing number of manufacturers may supply “future-proof” dual-WAN home-network routers that have a built-in ADSL2 modem as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port on the broadband side. The other reason is that people who know the ins and outs of Internet and home networking may know the best broadband router for their needs and may find the supplied unit not suiting their needs and just another box in their junk box.


At least a small company who has the country at its heart is making real efforts to provide next-generation Internet to the British countryside and could open the floodgates towards competitive rollout of such technology to this class of people.

I am not a paid spokesman for Rutland Telecom but, as I have said before in this blog, I do stand for the idea that people who live or work in the country don’t deserve second-class Internet service.  Therefore I applaud those efforts that are taking place to improve the Internet-access lot for these users.


If anyone is living in Denby Dale – the “Pie Village”, in West Yorkshire, Rutland Telecom are inviting people to register for next-generation broadband in this village and neighbouring villages. They need a target of at least 450 households and small businesses in this area to make their next FTTC project for this town come to fruition.

The registration form for this campaign is at the Rutland Telecom Website.

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Competitive FTTH fibre-optic deployment in multi-unit developments

ARCEP white paper for people in multi-unit developments (French language)

ARCEP had established a regulation where if a telecommunications operator provides fibre-optic infrastructure in a multi-unit building, this infrastructure must be available to competing operators. This means that each unit owner / tenant must be able to choose whoever provides their super-fast broadband service and avoids the building owner or body corporate determining who provides that service to that building through exclusive “cosy” deals.

Two different methods


Each operator runs their fibre-optic infrastructure to a wiring closet where there is a fibre-optic switch that is programmed to run the operator’s service to the customers in that building. Each unit has one fibre-optic connection to that fibre-optic switch.

The service routing would be based on a VLAN or similar setup affecting the main fibre-optic infrastructure in the building. Operators would then have to make sure that the fibre-optic switch is programmed to pass service from their customers’ units to their street-based backbone.

The main advantage of this setup is that there is only one fibre-optic cable needed to be laid to each unit, thus allowing for reduced costs and infrastructure complexity. On the other hand, each operator will have to have access to the fibre-optic switch to make sure they can manage their services.


Each operator has their own fibre-optic infrastructure to each of the units, where there is a multi-entry socket for the customer-premises equipment. If a customer wants a particular service, the provider then visits the customer’s unit and connects the fibre for their service to the socket.

If a site can allow two or more optical-network sockets, two or more operators could be terminated in a socket for each of the operators. This may appeal to “geeks” or business customers who want to establish multi-WAN setups for reasons like bandwidth aggregation, load-balancing or fault-tolerance.

The main advantage for operators is that they have control and responsibility of their infrastructure to the customer’s unit, but each service change may require a field visit from the operator’s service staff. Similarly, there would be the issue of complicated infrastructure runs existing in the building, which may affect further infrastructure deployment.

Opportunities and Questions

A major opportunity that may exist for operators who are running optical fibre through a multi-unit building would be to use the cable as a wireline backbone for a cellular base station installed on the roof. This may be relevant to buildings with nine or more storeys and / or operators that run their own mobile telephone or wireless broadband service.

A primary question that may need to be answered is that if a group of broadband service providers share the same infrastructure run, usually as a cost-saving measure or easier entry point for new operators, would they have to create new fibre-optic runs to each unit in a multi-fibre setup or could they continue to share the same infrastructure to the unit’s door.

Another main question concerning the provision of IP-based infrastructure like the fibre-optic infrastructure in multi-unit buildings is how to cater for “all-unit” Internet services. This could range from a Web site with information for all of the units through unit-occupier access to vision from IP-based video-surveillance systems to multi-SSID Wi-Fi access points in common areas with each SSID linking to the home network in each unit. Issues that may have to be answered include VLAN establishment and / or use of anciliary DNS servers that cover only the services that are provisioned in the building and these setups may end up appearing to be complex to anybody that doesn’t have much computing experience.


What is happening with the fibre-optic next-gen broadband services in France, where there is likely to be lively competition, is worth observing, especially for all classes of multi-unit developments, whether all units exist in one building or in many buildings on one piece of land.

The white papers and other material on this topic at the ARCEP web site may then be worth reading by other communications regulators, building authorities, ISPs, building / development owners and management committees.

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Rural Broadband Activity in the Haute-Pyrénées and Brittany regions in France

News articles (French-language only)

 Les Hautes-Pyrénées et le Finistère en haut et très haut débit –

From the horse’s mouth

Hautes-Pyrénées Conseil-Général

Press release

Brochure (PDF)

Finistère Conseil-Général

Press release

My Notes and Comments


In this mountainous département of France, there are plans to establish a fibre-optic backbone that will lead to an improvement in Internet service across this area.

The improvements will be in the form of improved ADSL service for more of the telephone exchanges, including “dégroupage” (local-loop unbundling) for competitive-service access as well as a fibre-optic uplink. It also includes “sub-loop access” where DSLAMs will be installed closer to customers’ premises for those customers that are far away from the exchanges, like farms or mountain properties. These improvements will allow the customers to have the same level of IPTV access as would be expected around France.

There will also be a WiMAX wireless broadband network with 58 stations that will be set up to cover areas that are not likely to have proper broadband service, with satellite coverage for the most difficult cases. This situation may be necessary for some of those properties that exist on the slopes of the Pyrenees.

The fibre-optic network will not just be for a backbone but will provide “next-generation broadband” for key areas such as public service, health, research and education as well as “communities of interest” for the département.

Finistère (Brittany)

This département. which covers the western-most tip of France, has a goal of achieving the minimum of 2Mbps throughout its area.

This will be achieved with a fibre optic backbone through that département. It will also mean that exchanges that service ADSL “dead-spots” can be lit up for ADSL. There is also the possibility of a 97-station WiMAX wireless-broadband network set up in this area.

Both areas

The “sub-loop access” effort that is being undertaken with the Hautes-Pyrénées project is impressive because it represents an effort to get the full-speed broadband to the customer’s front door. But I would also suggest that these efforts include checking for decaying wiring and other limitations that can impede ADSL performance.

Also, the fibre deployments should cover not just the key economic areas in the départements, but assure FTTH deployments in the cities where the key economic areas are, especially the residential parts of these cities. This can avoid the tendency to “redline” the towns when it comes to further investment in them. In the case of the Hautes-Pyrénées project, if a town is identified as being a ski resort, it should be looked at in the context of full fibre deployment so that the small businesses in that area which service the snowfield traffic can gain as much benefit as the big businesses in the cities.

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thinkbroadband :: Northern Ireland to provide 2-10Mbps Universal Service by mid-2011

thinkbroadband :: Northern Ireland to provide 2-10Mbps Universal Service by mid-2011

My comments on this topic

The steps that the Northern Ireland government are taking to meet the UK’s goals of achieving a baseline broadband standard of 2Mbps for rural areas and 10Mbps for urban areas by 2011 are at least a positive step in the right direction for affordable fast Internet for all. Yet there are certain questions that need to be answered regarding any of these ambitious service-improvement projects/

One issue that always perplexes me is whether rural end-users get at least 2Mbps at the door or is the throughput measured arbitrarily up the wire. This also includes the issue of phone-line quality in these rural areas because, as I have seen many times in these areas, the quality of broadband service, let alone dial-up modem service or even voice telephony isn’t consistent because of the older infrastructure that commonly exists in these areas. Some larger rural properties may have the main house set back from the point of entry for the telephone cable and it may be too easy to measure the ADSL throughput at that point, rather than at a phone point in the main house.

Another question is what qualifies as an urban area for applying the 10Mbps standard for minimum bandwidth. This can encompass situations such as the peripheral neighbourhoods of a large town or whenever more people move in to a smaller town that would have been deemed “rural” and this town grows significantly.

In the urban context, this standard needs to be “set in stone” in order to prevent “redlining-out” of neighbourhoods that are considered to be “poor” from the broadband service area.

At least this is in the right direction to helping Northern Ireland achieve the standard of broadband called for in the UK mainland.

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My comments on the new National Broadband Network in Australia

There has been recent news coverage regarding the upcoming National Broadband Network that the Australian Government has recently launched. Initially it was meant to be a fibre-to-the-node setup for most of the populated areas built by a private company who has won the government tender to build it. The last year was dogged with so much bickering about whether Telstra, Optus or other companies and consortia are fit to build the network. Now the Australian Government wrote off the tenders and decided to make the network a publicly-funded “nation-building” exercise on the same scale as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Scheme.

Their idea would be to cover 90% of Australian premises with “fibre-to-the-premises” service with the remainder served by high-bandwidth wireless or satellite connections. This will be with Tasmania being a test-bed for this service and greenfield developments being prepared for fibre-to-the-premises.

But there are a few questions that need to be asked concerning the deployment of this service.

Deployments in multiple-tenant-unit developments

In most of the densely-populated areas of Australia, there are many multi-tenant-unit developments like blocks of flats, office blocks and shopping centres with many households and/or businesses in the same physical building. Similarly, there are high-density developments where multiple households or businesses in many buildings exist on one privately-owned block of land. There have been two different ways of connecting these buildings to a fibre-to-the-premises network.

The cheaper method, known as “Fibre To The Building”, is to run the fibre-optic network to the building’s wiring closet, then use copper wiring to bring the service to the customer’s door. This may be achieved through dedicated Ethernet cabling to the office, shop or apartment or use of existing wiring that is used for providing telephone or TV service to these locations but using VDSL2 or DOCSIS technology to move the data on these cables.  It would be similar to the “Fibre To The Node” setup which was originally being considered for the National Broadband Network, except that the coverage of a “Node” would be the building.

The other method, known as “Fibre To The Premises” or “Full Fibre To The Premises” would be to run the fibre-optic network to the customer’s door.  This would be similar to how the fibre-to-the-premises network would be provided to a sole-occupancy building like a house and would have a fibre-optic socket or optical-network terminal in the premises.

This issue could be answered by prescribing an installation standard for setups in all current and future multi-tenant developments or by allowing the building owner / landlord to determine which methodology to use for their property. Similarly, there would be the question of whether an existing building should be cabled the moment the infrastructure is rolled out past it or

Carriage of TV and telephone service over the NBN

There has been talk about the high bandwidth availability being the key attraction to the National Broadband Network. This has brought up the concept of video being transferred through the NBN and this may be considered a threat to commercial television and its stakeholders.

Most, if not all, of the high-bandwidth broadband networks in operation or currently being deployed are answering this issue by providing free-to-air and subscription television service through the networks. This has also allowed supplementary services like catch-up TV or video-on-demand to be provided over the same network. As well, the companies who provide retail Internet service based on these networks typically will resell subscription TV service with the service being delivered over the same pipe. There is also benefit for community and vertical-interest television providers because they can use the same bandwidth to broadcast their shows.

The standard for TV service that is available with this broadband technology would be a “best-case” standard which permits full high-definition picture with at least a 5.1 channel surround-sound audio mix and full two-way interactivity.

The landline telephone service hasn’t been mentioned in any of the discussion about the National Broadband Network. Yet it can benefit from the same technology through the use of VoIP technologies. This can lead to cheap or free calls around the country and can lead to households and “Mom and Pop” business users having the same kind of telephone service that is taken for granted in most of big business and government.

The same technology can bring through telephone conversations which have a clarity similar to FM radio. This would benefit ethnic groups who have a distinct accent; women; children; people with a speech impediment as well as voice-driven interactive telephone services. As well, the concept of the videophone, largely associated with science fiction, can be made more commonly available.

Could this be the arrival of the “single-pipe triple-play” service on the Australian market?

This is best exemplified by the typical “n-Box” (Livebox, FreeBox, Bbox) service that is being promoted by nearly every major Internet service provider in France. It is where a customer buys or rents an “n-Box” which is a WiFi router that connects computers to the Internet and works as a VoIP analogue telephone adaptor for two phones; as well as an IPTV set-top box that connects between the “n-Box” and the TV set. The customer pays for a single-pipe triple-play service with cut-price telephony, broadband “hot-and-cold running” Internet and many channels of TV.

Universal-access service and the cost of the service

There is the promise of 90% coverage for Australia but will this promise be of reality? As well, there will need to be a minimum standard of service for all to benefit from the Internet using this technology.

I have talked elsewhere in this blog about achieving a standard of universal access for the Internet in a similar manner to the landline telephone service and other utilities. Issues that may need to be raised include reserving funds for the big infrastructure projects that need to reach certain communities and whether to create subsidised access plans which provide a basic level of service at a very low price or for free.

This would then cover access to decent Internet service for disadvantaged communities including indigenous people, income-limited people and migrant / expatriate communities who would benefit from this technology.


Once the questions regarding about how the National Broadband Network will be implemented are answered, we will be able to gain a clearer picture of the service that it will provide for all customers.

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Understanding Fibre-Optic Broadband

There has been recent talk about the idea of providing the National Broadband Network, a super-fast broadband Internet service, either with Telstra or Terria (an Optus-led consortium) providing the infrastructure. One idea, proposed by Terria (who was OPEL) was to provide a fibre-optic service to urban locations and use a WiMAX radio link for rural and regional locations and the other idea, proposed by Telstra was to use fibre-optic in all towns and a DSL service optimised for long distance for rural areas. This issue even ended up being one of the platform issues for the Australian Labor Party during their campaign for Election 2007.

There are some “greenfield” (newly-released land) housing developments in Australia where this kind of fibre-optic broadband service is being deployed. This has been made easier due to the development not having telecommunications or other infrastructure and is used as a promotion tool by the developers in showing how “switched on” the location is.

Some other population-dense countries such as France and the USA are deploying a commercial fibre-optic broadband service into various neighbourhoods.


Infrastructure Types

FTTN (Fibre To The Node) – fibre optic link to a cabinet deployed in the neighbourhood with intentions to cover a number of streets

FTTC (Fibre To The Curb / Kerb) – fibre optic link to a cabinet deployed in a street with intentions to cover that street and perhaps “courts” and other cul-de-sacs running off that street.

FTTB (Fibre To The Building) – fibre-optic link deployed to the wiring closets of multiple-tenancy buildings (blocks of flats, office blocks, etc). Single-occupancy buildings may be served in a manner similar to fibre to the curb or may be served using fibre to the premises.

FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) / FTTH (Fibre To The Home) – fibre optic link deployed to the customer’s premises. A strict interpretation would require that multiple-tenancy buildings have optical fibre running to each unit (flat, office, shop) in the building.

Setup at the customer’s location

Systems other than FTTP / FTTH will have a copper-wire link running from the system cabinet or wiring closet to the customer’s door. This will be deployment-dependent and may be a high-speed variant of DSL piggybacked on the telephone lines; a coaxial link similar to cable TV and cable Internet; or simply a twisted-pair Ethernet cable run similar to what is implemented for wired networks in the home or workplace.

In the case of an FTTP / FTTH service, there will be an “optical network terminal” device that is deployed at the customer’s premises. It is simply a fibre-optic – Ethernet bridge that links the fibre-optic cable to the home network. The device would either be fixed outside the house with an Ethernet cable run to a room nominated by the customer; or be a box the same size as a typical cable modem and is installed in a similar manner to cable-based broadband Internet.

Typical standard of service

The typical fibre-optic service that is being provided would be a “single-pipe triple-play” service with broadband “hot and cold running” Internet, multi-channel pay-TV and landline telephony provided over the same “pipe”. Due to the “fat pipe” provided by the fibre-optic infrastructure, the level of service would be beyond the average telephony, pay-TV and broadband Internet service.

This would usually be represented by the TV service carrying a large number of high-definition channels, the IP-based landline telephony service being capable of handling “high-band” telephony services like FM-grade or better audio and / or videophone services with smooth pictures The Internet service would be able to offer a level of service that is beyond what the typical broadband Internet service can provide, which would be a high throughput service with a very low latency.

This kind of service would typically be provisioned using an Internet gateway device equipped with an “analogue telephony adaptor” interface so the customer can continue to use existing telephony devices. If the customer subscribes to pay-TV service, they would be supplied with an IP-TV set-top box that is connected to the Internet gateway device via a high-speed network connection like HomePlug AV, Ethernet or 802.11n WPA wireless.

Some installations have used a “single-box” solution for the network-Internet “edge” with the Internet gateway, analogue telephony interface and IP-TV set-top box function built in to the one box but such installations are unpopular because of the desire by most households to keep TV viewing and computer use in appropriately-comfortable areas.

Competitive Delivery

Issues that are currently being raised mainly in France are the provisioning of fibre-optic broadband on a competitive footing where competing service providers have access to the same customer base.

One of them is a competitive delivery scenario where one or mor competing service providers use their own infrastructure to provide their own service. The issues that are raised are primarily focused on multi-occupancy buildings like blocks of flats, office blocks or shopping centres which France has many of. It concerns whether multple operators should or shouldn’t share the same wiring closet and infrastructure for the cabling to the occupant’s premises and what happens when an occupant changes service providers.

Ultimately, the issue of competitive delivery in all kinds of locations will need to be worked out, especially for the good of the customers.

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