Category: Next-generation broadband service

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 – DegroupNews.com

From the horse’s mouth

Hautes-Pyrénées Conseil-Général

Press release

Brochure (PDF)

Finistère Conseil-Général

Press release

My Notes and Comments

Hautes-Pyrénées

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.

Conclusion

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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