Category: Internet Access And Service

Why is New Zealand pushing forward with fibre-optic broadband?

Article New Zealand map

New Zealand reaps fibre benefits as copper-choked UK risks digital exclusion | Computer Weekly

My Comments

What is the broadband Internet scenario in New Zealand

Like Australia, UK and a lot of European countries, New Zealand started off with Telecom NZ which a telecommunications monopoly that was initially run as part of a government-run post / telephone / telegraph service. In order to assure competition, Telecom NZ was split in to an infrastructure entity called Chorus and a retail services entity called Spark in 2011, something that is very similar to how Openreach in the UK and NBN in Australia are operating.

Chorus provide a DSL-based wholesale broadband Internet service with the infrastructure being provided on an unbundled local-loop basis. There is the ability for these services to be sold with a classic dial-tone telephony service or as a “naked” or “dry-loop” service that doesn’t have this service.

They provide a fibre-copper next-generation broadband service for 91% of New Zealand’s households with a throughput of at least 10Mbps – could most of these services implement VDSL2 technology? But they are also providing fibre-to-the-premises in some cities with some services benefit from Gigabit throughput in a few neighbourhoods.

Vodafone New Zealand are providing competitive Internet service in some of New Zealand’s urban areas namely Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch but this is based around cable-modem technology thanks to them taking over TelstraClear’s HFC cable service. But they want to make sure of a fibre backbone infrastructure throughout both of the islands. Citylink also provides their own infrastructure to Auckland and Wellighton central-business districts.

New Zealand’s main ISPs are Vodafone, Spark, CallPlus with Slingshot and Orcon, 2degrees, Trustpower and REANNZ.

Rural Broadband

New Zealand are approaching the rural broadband situation through use of fixed-wireless technology with Vodafone and Spark offering retail broadband to those markets. But Vodafone and Chorus are setting a goal of at least 5Mbps bandwidth to 86% of rural customers. This includes Chorus implementing fibre backbones to Vodafone’s mobile towers, and most of the schools, libraries and health providers in New Zealand’s rural districts. It also includes establishing more of the cabinets associated with FTTN fibre-copper service in to rural districts to “push out” the bandwidth coverage.

Chorus even started off a Gigatown competition where a town could be set up for Gigabit broadband as the norm in a similar manner to some of the “Gigacities” that are happening in the UK. The town that won the competition ended up being Dunedin.

Next-generation broadband effort

The New Zealand Government are behind the provisioning of fibre-to-the-premises in all of New Zealand’s main urban centres that have a population of at least 10000. This is being backed by Chorus and the local electricity utilities, with an initial goal of 75% but now 80% since 2015.

This has been achieved through having more of the FTTN (fibre-copper) areas converted towards FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) along with placing the FTTN cabinets nearer more of the rural population areas – it could be feasible to benefit from decent cost-effective broadband down at that bach you use as a “bolt-hole”.

Why push ahead with fibre broadband?

An article that I read called out why New Zealand is pushing ahead with fibre-to-the-premises rather than “sweating out” copper infrastructure for their broadband infrastructure. This in in comparison with what Openreach is doing in the UK and, to some extent, NBN in Australia where they are preferring to deploy fibre-copper technology seeing it as being cheaper to deploy than fibre-to-the-premises.

Here, it called out the situation in the UK compared to what is happening in New Zealand where the UK central government along with Openreach haven’t been supporting innovation when it comes to providing Internet service.  They highlighted the fact that the Kiwi government were willing to risk more money with a view to see a prosperous country with the benefit of an increased tax base thanks to increased Internet bandwidth and the fact that it could draw more business there. They also were seeing a network that was also cheaper when it came to operational costs such as being more energy-efficient. They also underscored that cellular-technology mobile networks can benefit thanks to many smaller base stations (microcells and picocells) connected by fibre-optic backbones rather than few large towers for the same coverage.

Conclusion

Governments on a national, regional and local level need to support deployment of next-generation technology that can do the job properly. It also includes supporting and protecting a competitive Internet-service marketplace at the infrastructure and retail levels in a manner that empowers value-for-money and service differentiation.

The benefits that these governments can achieve include a stronger financial benefit including a GDP uptick courtesy of the newer technology and businesses wanting to set up shop in that country; along with a future-proof technology approach that answers many realities.

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Australia looks towards integrating Internet as a universal service

Article

Broadband router lights

Could broadband be considered part of the Universal Service Obligation in Australia?

Making Internet Access A Right, Not A Privilege | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

Productivity Commission

Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Inquiry Page)

My Comments

An issue that I have previously covered is the universal service obligation being extended to broadband Internet service. The universal service obligation is a minimum standard for providing telecommunications services across a country or other jurisdiction with it being funded through different paths like government funding and/or a levy on telecommunications services that are being provided with this funding subsidising financially-difficult service-provisioning scenarios such as rural areas. In some cases, it also includes having the jurisdiction’s welfare system cover the provision of these services to eligible disadvantaged people through a special benefit or subsidised services.

Some jurisdictions have started taking action towards this goal such as through establishing a minimum bandwidth for Internet services. Now Australia’s Productivity Commission are investigating the possibility of extending the Australian Universal Service Obligation beyond landline voice telephony to broadband Internet service of a minimum standard. This is due to a reality that most of the business that people engage in, especially the essential tasks like applying for jobs or government services, is being performed via Internet-based technologies rather than by voice phone calls.

The Productivity Commission’s goal is to make sure that a reasonable-standard broadband Internet service is accessible to all Australians. This includes assurance of access by people living in rural, regional or remote areas where it would normally be costly to provide proper broadband service; along with assuring access to these services by disabled people or those who have financial hardship.

They want to have a technology-neutral approach but with a minimum upload and download bandwidth. This also includes a minimum benchmark for assured reliability and data throughput. Like the original Universal Service Obligation, this extension to encompass broadband Internet service will be publicly funded in various ways.

A good question that can be raised is whether the Universal Service Obligation will cover fixed telephony and Internet services only or will be extended to mobile setups which can be considered by some as a “discretionary service”.

Personally, I would recommend that there is investigation regarding how other countries have approached Internet service as part of the Universal Service Obligation, including the kind of benefits that have been provided to disabled or disadvantaged users for this service by the nation’s welfare platform. As well, investigating the role of competition including at the infrastructure level in providing decent broadband Internet that is affordable and accessible for all.

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NBN now offers British-style infrastructure-upgrade programs

Article – From the horse’s mouth

NBN

Area Switch product page

My Comments

You may have seen some articles on HomeNetworking01.info about how various local entities in the UK have gone about bringing an underserved community like a rural area up to current Internet-service expectations.

Here, an entity that is either a community collective in the case of B4RN who are pushing out FTTP fibre broadband to Northern-England villages or a private company in the case of Gigaclear pushing FTTP fibre broadband to small towns and villages in the Home Counties has worked alongside local government and the local citizenry to achieve these goals.

Australia’s NBN have headed towards a mixed-technology approach similar to BT Openreach in the UK. But they have offered an “area-switch” technology upgrade that can affect areas ranging from an apartment block to a town or suburb. This can be co-ordinated by a representative group like a building’s owner-corporation, a neighbourhood association, a local council or even a state government.

This will allow a area covered by satellite or fixed-wireless NBN technology to be upgraded to a wired technology or allow a fibre-copper setup (FTTN, FTTB or HFC) setup to be upgraded to FTTP full-fibre technology.

Like the other rollouts, the areas concerned must be contiguous such as having all premises in a street or all units in a multi-premises development covered. Similarly, there will be a requirement to have the work performed when the area of concerned is being prepared for the NBN deployment or, in the case of a satellite or fixed-wireless upgrade, a neighbouring town is being equipped with a wired setup.

The main problem with the NBN approach is that it’s like BT Openreach offering a similar service in the UK – they could wrap communities around their thumbs by, for example, charging too much or delaying rollouts. The Australian Government need to look at what has been going on in the UK with the likes of B4RN, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic where these organisations have established their own infrastructure to answer broadband-service problems by compete with the established provider.

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Sky reduces prices on fibre broadband in York

Article

York UK aerial view courtesy of DACP [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sky offering cut-price next-generation broadband in York

Sky Broadband Cuts Ultra Fibre Optic FTTH Pilot Service Price in York UK | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

Sky are increasing their fibre-to-the-premises foothold in York, North Yorkshire but also are reducing the price of these services for households along with marketing the services as “Ultra Fibre Optic” services. This is based on infrastructure being rolled out by them, TalkTalk and CityFibre across that city/

They were asked about whether they have a plan to build out their own FTTP infrastructure across the UK but had denied having that kind of ambition. But they are running separate FTTP pilot deployments across Basingstoke and Derbyshire with the same kind of technology, products and tariff charts.

Sky’s cut-price plans offer in common unlimited data use along with a router being supplied although customers have to fork out GBP£6.95 for delivery.

The plans are listed below:

  • 50Mbps for GBP£5 per month for 12 months, GBP£10 per month therafter
  • 100Mbps for GBP£10 per month for 6 months, GBP£20 per month thereafter
  • 940Mbps for GBP£20 per month for 6 months, GBP£30 per month thereafter

The customers are still charged the GBP£17.40 line rental, which has raised questions for an FTTH/P service run by Sky, TalkTalk and CityFibre. Here the question that may be raised is that if BT Openreach had anything to do with this, they may have had Sky put this in their tariff charts.

If Sky is a TV-content supplier, they could be in a position to run a single-pipe multiple-play service with their pay-TV content delivered via the fibre-optic infrastructure which could allow for the satellite dishes to go from the balconies. As well, it can become a foothold for Sky to roll out 4K UHDTV services to their customers as television is heading down that path.

The issue of the line-rental charge is still a thorny issue for a lot of UK providers because there isn’t a way to allow ISPs to provide a “naked” or “dry-loop” service where you don’t have to pay BT line-rental charges. On the other hand, Sky could start offering telephony over the fibre services for those of us who value the landline telephone service.

But what is happening is that some providers are reducing the price of fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband so as to allow users to justify taking advantage of the high speeds that it offers.

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Raising the bar for triple-play Internet in France

Articles – French language / Langue Française Flag of France

SFR lancera une nouvelle box en septembre… pour contrer Free ? | O1net.com

SFR : une nouvelle box fibre pour septembre ? | ZDNet.fr

SFR annonce une nouvelle box ! | Ere Numérique

From the horse’s mouth

SFR

Product Page (French language / Langue Française)

My Comments

It looks like there will be a tight showdown between two of the French telcos when it comes to the multiple-play “n-box” services.

Freebox Révolution - courtesy Iliad.fr

The Freebox Révolution to be replaced with better-performing equipment soon

Free.fr did a bit of initial murmuring this month (July) about the Freebox v7 that will be surfacing on the French market in September. This is a powerful unit that can handle 4K UHDTV and is intended to replace the Freebox Révolution which was known to set the standard for carrier-supplied routers and set-top boxes.

Now SFR have made mention about a triple-play “n-box” service with hardware that is said to be on a par with, if not better than, Free’s setup. Here, this will be about improved Wi-Fi technology of the 802.11ac order, a new design and, like the Freebox, support for 4K UHDTV. This is in conjunction with more sports content and VoD content being made available to their subscriber base on 4K UHDTV.

It will be released in September, concurrently to when Free will put their new Freebox on the market. SFR want to also allow their existing subscriber base to upgrade to this new service for EUR€49 with a 12 month contract.

In the UK, British Telecom had raised the bar for Wi-Fi performance offered by a carrier-supplied wireless modem router. Could this also mean that the French telcos could join in and offer highly-powerful carrier-supplied wireless modem routers for their services as a way to compete against each other.

What is now happening is that the calibre offered for carrier-supplied home-network equipment could be another way where telcos and ISPs in a highly-competitive market could compete against each other. This is in addition to what you could get for your landline or mobile telephony service, your pay-TV service’s channel lineup or your Internet bandwidth and included services for the monthly charge that you stump up.

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Detroit now benefits from 10Gb competitive Internet service

Article

US Flag By Dbenbenn, Zscout370, Jacobolus, Indolences, Technion. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

More it’s about access to real competitive broadband in the USA

Detroit Rock(et Fiber) City: Startup brings 10Gb service to Motown | The Register

My Comments

Another US city is now to benefit from high-speed competitive Internet service. This time, it is Detroit, Michigan which excelled through the automotive boom, carrying along the Motown funk, soul and disco music with it, but went seriously downhill thanks to the recent financial turmoil.

But two former Quicken Loans employees built the Rocket Fiber startup to provide 10Gb FTTP fibre-optic broadband in to Detroit’s central business (downtown) district. This had been pitched at both householders and businesses and became a way for Detroit to regenerate itself by attracting newer startup businesses in to that city. But there are plans to take this further to Detroit’s Midtown district and then further out to the rest of Detroit which I would say places the cable-TV company and the Baby Bell telco operating in that area “on notice”.

At the moment, the called price for these services is US$69 per month for a 1Gb service and US$299 per month for a 10Gb service. Rocket Fiber are also investigating an IPTV service that will work on these lines. Rocket Fiber also want to raise the bar for support by providing exact appointment times for service calls along with phone support with “walk-through” troubleshooting.

Personally, could this be about raising the bar for Internet service in Detroit especially as a way to reinvigorate that city and bring it out of the doldrums? If so, this could be an example for towns and cities which suffered financially but want to get back to prosperity.

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ISPs another vector for tech-support scams

Article

Tech support scams target victims via their ISP | BBC News

Fraudsters impersonate victims’ ISPs in new tech support scam | Graham Cluley Blog

My Comments

Previously, as I have known from close friends’ experiences, there have been the fake tech-support phone calls claiming to be from Microsoft or another major software vendor. This was with me congratulating a person who wasn’t computer-literate immediately hanging up on one of these calls along with someone else asking another of these scammers for their Australian Business Number (equivalent to a VAT number in Europe).

These scams have evolved to a pop-up message pretending to be from one of the major software firms but asking them to call a number listed on that message. Typically this comes in the form of a virus or pirated-software alert as the message and some of these messages even appear on the lock screen that you normally enter your password.

Now the messages are appearing to come from ISPs, typically the ones who have most of the Internet business in the US, UK and Canada. But this is about the ISP detecting malware on the customer’s system with a requirement to call a fake customer-support number.

In this case, they identify a customer’s ISP based on a “spy pixel” ad on a site infected with malware or a “malvertisement”. The ads are typically served through large ad networks offering low-risk advertising products. This is used to identify the customer’s “outside” or WAN IP address which effectively is the same for all computers accessing the Internet from the same router.

Here, most residential and small-business Internet services have this IP address automatically determined upon login or at regular intervals and is obtained from a pool of known IP addresses that were assigned to that ISP to give to their customers. There is logic in the malware used to identify which ISP a customer is with based which IP address pool the IP address is a member of.

In these cases, call the ISP using the number they have provided you for technical support: typically written on their own Website which you should type in the URL for; written on any documents that you receive from them like accounts or brochures, as part of doing business with them; or by looking them up in the phone book. As well, don’t give any account numbers or personally-identifiable information to unsolicited approaches for technical support that you are not sure about.

But in all cases, you are most likely to initiate the call for personal or business tech support yourself when you need this support because you know your computer and network and how these systems perform. Typically you will approach one of the computer experts in your community, your workplace’s IT department if they have one, or your computer supplier for knowledge or assistance.

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Cable One pushes towards a Gigabit Arizona city

Article

Cable One Launches Gigabit Speeds in Arizona | Broadband News & DSL Reports

From the horse’s mouth

Cable One

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

In some areas, a small firm focuses on providing next-generation broadband to those areas, whether be FTTC fibre-copper (VDSL2), FTTP fibre-optic or HFC fibre-coaxial. This allows them to concentrate on enriching those areas’ Internet service and has been taking place mainly in rural UK.

Now this practice is taking place in some parts of the USA, especially Arizona, thanks to Cable One. Here they have rolled out in to Cottonwood and Clarkdale a DOCSIS 3.0 HFC service which can yield 1Gigabit/second downstream and 50 Megabit/second upstream. The cost of this service, known as Gigabit One, will be US$175/month with a 500Gb data plan, but will make sure it is able to be delivered across all of both towns. There are other plans being put up for this service including one that has a 2000Gb allowance.

It is the first of the cable-based firms to offer a Gigabit service and has been seen as a way to call those small towns “Gigabit cities”. But the idea of smaller companies focusing on smaller neighbourhoods allows them to concentrate on making sure that these neighbourhoods can benefit from current technology and may even allow larger businesses to set up shop there especially when they want to encourage telecommuting.

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Increased value for money affecting residential broadband in Germany

Article Flag of Germany

50 MBit/s und mehr: Verbraucher wollen immer schnelleres Internet | Computer Bild.de (German language | Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments`

Recently, German households are gaining better value for money when it comes to purchasing broadband Internet service. This is affecting the higher-speed 50Mbps service packages that are being preferred by the younger people.

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

German Internet customers preferring better value for money for their “50Mbps Talk and Surf” service

These plans are being underscored by their availability as part of multiple-play communications-service deals which include fixed or mobile voice telephony, broadband Internet along with other services. In Germany, the service package that is commonly preferred is the “double-play” service, marketed as a “Talk & Surf” service that encompasses a fixed-line telephone service and a broadband Internet service.

The article highlighted an increase in the preferred connection speed for the broadband services over 5 years with households showing strong interest in the 50Mbps services rather than the “economy” 16Mbps services. As well, the average cost of a fixed-line telephone + broadband service in that country had been dropping slightly from EUR€35.73 per month now to EUR€28.82 per month.

It is being underscored with the increased availability of better-value 50Mbps services in Germany’s larger cities but the 16Mbps “economy” packages are being found to have reduced value for money and this price drop is being described as being a slow one. As is often noted, this kind of value for money when it comes to Internet service doesn’t extend to rural areas which tend to find themselves at a disadvantage in this field.

Personally, I would attribute the increased ubiquity of VDSL-based Internet service in Germany’s urban areas being a factor leading to the improved value for money when it comes to the higher-speed packages.

But the questions to raise regarding the German broadband market is whether there is significant infrastructure-level competition in that country? Similarly, the availability of retail-level competition for residential and small-business telecommunications services has to exist at a sustainable level to assure customers best value for money.

At least something is happening for German households where they are gaining better value for money with their Internet services.

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Certainty will arise regarding the cost of Internet service in Britain

Articles

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

You will be certain about the price quoted for that UK Internet offer that it does not contain hidden fees

ASA solves line rental crisis in broadband world | ThinkBroadband

We will end misleading broadband adverts, thunders ASA… | The Register

UK ad watchdog forces ISPs to simplify broadband pricing | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Advertising Standards Authority (UK)

Press Release

My Comments

A situation that has affected British Internet-service customers, especially those who purchase DSL-based Internet service has been the ability for telcos and ISPs to conceal the line rental associated with a voice telephone service. The line-rental issue won’t be an issue with customers who run a cable-modem service with Virgin Media or run an FTTP service with the likes of Hyperoptic, Gigaclear or B4RN. It also included issues like the minimum duration of a telecommunications-service contract and the upfront costs that a customer had to pay to get a service going.

Now the Advertising Standards Authority has laid down new guidelines that come in to effect regarding the advertising of Internet services in relationship to the prices, contract duration and other issues. These guidelines will take effect from 31 October 2016, also when BT Openreach are to offer a naked DSL service for the UK market.

The ASA along with Ofcom conducted customer research regarding the pricing of broadband and telecommunications services in the UK. From this research, they highlighted the confusion customers were facing with things like hidden line rentals, introductory offers and upfront costs, along with the contract duration.

Now the ads and tariff listings that ISPs and telcos publish have to provide better information for their current or potential customers. This includes:

  • the upfront and monthly costs for the service factoring, with the upfront costs to have greater prominence
  • the length of the contract for services based on minimum-length contracts
  • the prices that come in to effect after an introductory-offer period has lapsed

 

As far as minimum-length contract services are concerned, the industry and consumer-protection authorities need to work on a language that describes “month-by-month” services where a customer doesn’t face a long minimum contract period. This is more so with post-paid services where a customer can cease service at the end of the billing cycle which may benefit people who are in their location on a short-term basis like a long-term tourist or a person involved in project-based work. This is because of legal confusion about these services being marketed as “no-contract” services.

What is really meant to happen with the sale of fixed-line telephony in the UK is that customers can choose between different providers for this service and pay the line rental (typically between GBP£11-16) to the provider of their choice. This is thanks to the availability of the unbundled local loop setup available for their telephony services. It can be risky with smaller and boutique DSL operators who can’t bundle with particular line-rental provider but can be easier for larger ISPs who can bundle with a line-rental provider, typically their fixed-line telephony service.

The trends likely to come forth are quoted package prices increasing along with telcos and ISPs offering “first-few-months-free” offers or providing “gifts” or “rewards” like a tablet computer or a large number of points to a loyalty program rather than the “18 months free broadband” offers.

The Brits will also benefit from the arrival of a naked DSL service where you don’t have to pay line-rental for a voice telephony service. Such a service was offered by some ISPs in Australia and New Zealand; and over the Channel in France, Germany, Denmark and Portugal. These services will be described as an SOGEA naked VDSL service that is offered in FTTC service areas and will require a mobile telephone or VoIP telephony service to satisfy voice telephony service needs.

The questions that will always be raised is whether there is real infrastructure competition in the UK or whether BT Openreach needs to be fully separated from BT in order to provide increased value for money for competing retail ISPs and their customers.

At least this will mean that anyone who is considering Internet and telecommunications services or changing their Internet service in the UK can see how much the offer that is being advertised will hit them in the hip pocket.

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