Category: Internet Access And Service

Starlink to offer portability for their satellite platform

Article

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Starlink to allow semi-portable use of their satellite terminal

Starlink Internet Will Now Let You Take Your Dishy on the Go (gizmodo.com.au)

My Comments

Starlink is offering the ability to use your Starlink dish terminal and Internet service in a transportable manner around the same continent.

Here, this will be offered as an extra-cost feature to your subscription with costing USD$25 per month. You can enable and disable this feature as required which can come in to its own with those of us who use Starlink when camping or caravanning during the holiday seasons, or when running a temporary remote worksite.

The requirements for Starlink’s portability feature include:

  • The device to be used within the same continent as the registered address of service and to be within Starlink’s coverage footprint
  • To change the registered address of service if you are away from your current service address for more than two months
  • To use the Starlink terminal in a stationary location rather than in a vehicle or craft that is in motion
Pleasure-boats at a marina in Melbourne

.. to come in to its own with caravans and boats and similar scenarios

You will expect best-case performance at the location you are temporarily using Starlink at because this low-earth-orbit satellite system is currently engineered to prioritise uses who have registered their Starlink service at that location.

The fact that the Starlink setup is not fully mobile and requires you to have equipment stationary while in use would come in to its own with certain use cases. For example, a recreational-vehicle or boat user who moves around would set up their Starlink setup when they have set up camp or moored their boat and only while they are at that location. Similarly a temporary mobile office would set up their Starlink terminal when they have arrived at where they want to work at.

There doesn’t seem to be any information about permanently installing a Starlink dish terminal in a vehicle, transportable building or boat. This approach may satisfy those of us who regularly take that vehicle, building or vessel to a particular location but want to reduce the number of tasks required to set oneself up at that location.

Another question that will come up regarding the “same continent” rule is whether islands that are located close to the continent but are politically separate from that continent are considered thus, even though they have Starlink service. This may be of concern where the island or islands are separated from the content by a day or overnight trip in a car ferry or, in the case of UK and France, a short train trip through a tunnel.

There is still the intent to offer a fully-portable service where the Starlink satellite Internet service can be used in a moving vehicle or vessel. This may have to be initially offered as an inland / coastal service relative to a continent which may satisfy most use cases like trains and coaches moving across a country or boats that are “under way” in inland or coastal waters.

I suspect that this will come about when Starlink is offered in more areas as an Internet backbone for general public-transport situations like air travel, cruise ships and long-distance trains.

Deutsche Glasfaser brings full fibre Internet to German rural areas

Article

Flag of Germany

Deutsche Glasfaser brings its own fibre-optic infrastructure to Germany’s regional and rural areas

Deutsche Glasfaser: Das Netz der Zukunft zieht schon bald in eurer Nachbarschaft ein | NETZWELT (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

Deutsche Glasfaser

Web site (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

My Comments

Deutsche Glasfaser, a German ISP based in Borken (near Dusseldorf), North Rhine Westphalia, is demonstrating an effort towards bringing high-speed Internet to Germany’s regional, rural and suburban areas.

Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone own most of Germany’s infrastructure-level Internet service. This is primarily copper-based technology, either VDSL using traditional telephone cabling or DOCSIS cable-modem technology using coaxial cabling. They offer their own retail services as well as leasing access to this infrastructure to third-party retail operators like 1&1 and Versatel.

A few operators are establishing fibre-to-the-building or fibre-to-the-premises networks and selling retail high-speed Internet service using these networks. This happens in some major cities. But rural and regional areas were just limited to the Deutsche Telekom or Vodafone offerings which weren’t likely to fare well when it comes to bandwidth or service stability. This is very similar to what happens in most countries when it comes to how areas outside major urban areas are treated when it comes to Internet service.

What Deutsche Glasfaser is doing is creating their own FTTP / FTTB infrastructure in these rural, regional and suburban areas, thus cutting out the copper-based technology that can limit bandwidth due to vectoring or error-mitigation measures. There is also a goal to create a nationwide fibre-optic network across Germany in order to establish some form of independence as far as infrastructure is concerned.

The activity that Deutsche Glasfaser and other city-based operators are doing within Germany is similar to what is going on in the UK. That is where many ISPs are setting up their own infrastructure and offering retail Internet service on that infrastructure that is better value for money than what BT Openreach has been offering.

There will be questions arising about whether these services will be required to wholesale their infrastructure-level broadband capacity to competing retail ISPs and at what point. This may be so where the EU or other groups push Germany to facilitate a lively competitive market for high-bandwidth Internet service.

At the moment, Deutsche Glasfaser is active in 1.3 million households in 13 of Germany’s states and slowly building out in more areas.

Service Packages at time of writing

There is complementary connection and installation for your Deutsche Glasfaser service when you take up one of their packages. This includes “shifting” your Internet and telephone service from your extant provider as well as porting your fixed-line number to their service.

€24.99 monthly introductory offer for the first 12 months of service

Price per month Bandwidth Fixed-line telephony
€44.99 300Mb/s download / 150Mb/s upload 2.9c / minute
€49.99 400Mb/s download / 200Mb/s upload Unlimited calls to fixed lines in Germany
€79.99 600Mb/s download / 300Mb/s upload Unlimited calls to fixed lines and mobile telephones in Germany
€89.99 1000Mb/s download / 500Mb/s upload Unlimited calls to fixed lines and mobile telephones in Germany

As far as I know, there doesn’t seem to be any tariff packages or extensions that allow low-cost or unlimited international calling to popular destinations.

They also offer an IPTV service known as DGTV as an extra-cost option. This has 70 high-definition channels, a PVR set-top box and access to video-on-demand services, It costs €15 per month on top of your Deutsche Glasfaser Internet and telephony package.

What I like of the Deutsche Glasfaser effort is that they are bringing up-to-date Internet technology towards rural, regional and suburban Germany through the use of fibre-to-the-premises or fibre-to-the-building technology. It could stir up others to work on similar projects through that country and through Europe.

Boeing to launch LEO satellite network

Boeing logo image courtesy of the Boeing CompanyArticle

FCC licenses new LEO constellation from Boeing | (advanced-television.com)

FCC Authorizes Boeing V-Band LEO Broadband Constellation – Via Satellite – (satellitetoday.com)

My Comments

The Puget Sound area of Washington State in the USA now has two actors in the low-earth-orbit satellite broadband game.

This was initially Jeff Bezon’s Project Kuiper effort that is starting to pick up steam, but Boeing, associated with the likes of some well-known airliners which you most likely have flown on many times, is now getting the go-ahead to build a constellation of these satellites.

The initial FCC permit will allow Boeing to launch 147 LEO satellites which will be for civil-use cases like residential, commercial and institutional use initially within the USA then globally. The wavebands they will be licensed to work in are part of the V-band radio spectrum for both space-to-ground and inter-satellite communications. They have six years to develop the constellation and launch half of the satellites as part of the licence.

Here, it will be about Boeing joining a relatively-crowded market for LEO satellite broadband which will be a boon for use cases like real broadband in rural and remote areas; alongside broadband Internet within transport services.

But how will Boeing join this market? Could this be through offering a retail service like SpaceX’s Starlink or to offer it as a wholesale service in a similar manner to OneWeb. That is where retail ISPs could resell Boeing’s service to local customers.

There will be the issues of having a retail service licensed for operation in multiple countries especially where some countries are particular about preferring companies chartered in their jurisdiction offer telecommunications and allied services. A wholesale approach can allow a country’s own telcos and ISPs to resell satellite broadband to all user classes.

There is also the question about Boeing being tempted to vertically integrate this service with their lineup of civil aircraft. This could mean that they could get more airlines who fly the likes of the 737 or the 787 Dreamliner to offer a high-bandwidth Internet service provided by their LEO satellite constellation as a passenger amenity.

If Boeing can get these low-earth-orbit broadband satellites off the ground and yielding a viable service, this could be a viably competitive market when it comes to satellite broadband.

German government subsidises Starlink satellite Internet

Article

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

German government to subsidise satellite Internet installations for Starlink and similar setups at the consumer end

Germany to subsidise Starlink subs | (advanced-television.com)

Germany readies subsidies for satellite internet providers such as Starlink | Reuters

My Comments

The rise of low-earth-orbit satellite technology to enable decent Internet service for regional, rural and remote parts of the world has gained a bit more traction.

This time, it is the German Federal Government (Bundesregierung) with its Transport ministry who are subsidising Starlink installations across rural Germany. The US’s FCC has engaged in some form of subsidisation for Starlink but this is at a corporate level as part of their US-government-based program for enabling decent rural Internet service there.

The German approach is to provide EUR€500 towards Starlink hardware purchase for installation in Germany’s rural areas. This doesn’t just apply to Starlink but to any satellite or other radio-link-based Internet service provided on a retail level. It is intended to be consumer-focused and provider-agnostic in the same manner as what is expected for the provision of broadcasting and telecommunications in modern Germany.

It doesn’t apply to ongoing service costs that customers pay to keep the service alive. In the case of Starlink, the monthly service costs are EUR€99 / month at the time of writing.

German countryside - By Manfred&Barbara Aulbach (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

.. to improve access to real broadband in German rural areas

This was just announced as Tesla were about to commence work on building its European Gigafactory near Berlin and was riding on the fact that Tesla and SpaceX Starlink are owned by Elon Musk. The Bundesregierung need to seek approval from all of Germany’s 16 Federal States for this retail-level subsidy to go ahead.

The question that will come up is  whether public subsidies for satellite or other radio-based Internet service is the way to go to bring decent broadband Internet to rural areas. This is compared to current efforts by local or regional governments in cohort with local chambers of commerce to bring fibre-optic Internet to rural and regional areas.

There will also be the issue of whether to extend this kind of subsidy to people living in boats along Germany’s inland waterways. Think of retirees who have riverboats on the Rhine, Elbe or Wupper rivers or cabin cruisers on the likes of Lake Constance (Bodensee).

Personally, I would see Starlink and similar technology come in to play for sparse rural areas while fibre or similar deployments are considered for more dense settlements. The long fibre-optic trunk link between towns or to serve a remote employment / industry area should never be forgotten as a way to encourage economic growth along its path.

At least Germany is taking another approach to dealing with the rural Internet deficiency issue by subsidising the installation of Starlink and similar technology in its rural households.

Project Kuiper about to compete with Starlink

Articles

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Amazon’s Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite service could compete with Starlink very soon

Bezos vs Musk: Let battle commence | (advanced-television.com)

Musk Vs. Bezos: The Battle Continues – SatNews

Previous Coverage about low-earth-orbit satellite Internet

Low Earth Orbit satellites to improve rural broadband opportunities

My Comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has on the 21 April 2021 made his Project Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite effort ready to launch. This, like OneWeb, will be in competition to the SpaceX Starlink low-earth-orbit satellite effort driven by Elon Musk of Tesla fame.

This will be about providing affordable reliable credible satellite broadband Internet service primarily to rural and regional areas.

Initially the satellites will be launched using Atlas V rockets owned by the United Launch Alliance that is established by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But Amazon are wanting to work with other space-tech consortia like Arianespace, Bezos’s own Blue Origin company or Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

The Kuiper constellation consists of 3236 satellites that work at an orbit of 590-630 km. The customer’s installation for the Kuiper setup will be based around a 12” flat-dish antenna, something equivalent to the size of an LP vinyl record. It will be about making such equipment affordable and portable for most users.

But Musk’s Starlink service has a head start with coverage of the Earth, Earth-station installations and service licensing in a significant number of countries. As well Starlink even has got going with seeking regulatory approval for mobile equipment intended to be installed in road and rail vehicles, maritime vessels and aircraft.

But to achieve the desireable amount of competition for the satellite Internet service, there will be a significant number of hurdles. There will be the launch frequency issue i.e. how frequently Jeff Bezos can get satellites in to space to cover the Earth. There is also the issue of establishing ground stations and licensing end-user device designs and legitimately providing service in many jurisdictions. It also includes the design and licensing of mobile stations for installation on vehicles, vessels and aircraft to allow use of Kuiper on the move.

Both the tech visionaries are in a bitter fight to the end with the FCC regarding licensing of satellites and similar technology. But when in full flight, expect competitive service and low prices for broadband at your bush block.

I do still see a significant number of questions come about regarding low-earth-orbit satellite broadband in its current form. Firstly, there needs to be a wide variety of customer equipment that suits different use cases, such as satellite modems that work with broadband routers that have Ethernet WAN connections,

There will have to be the issue of assuring the legitimacy of satellite-broadband service within peri-urban rural areas. These are the rural areas that form the hinterland of a city or large town and some of these areas do not have access to broadband service of a decent standard due to the settlements being relatively sparse. Here, if there is a requirement to assure “rural-only” service for a satellite-broadband service, the peri-urban areas could be deemed legitimate based on the absence of wired or terrestrial wireless broadband service providing a minimum bandwidth.

Similarly there will be the issue of facilitating mobile and portable satellite broadband services whether to serve campers or to serve airlines offering inflight Wi-Fi. For countries with international land borders or airlines and ships that offer international transport, it will encompass providing mobile satellite broadband on an international form.

But what I see of the Starlink and Kuiper efforts is that they are about providing decent and affordable broadband service to rural and remote areas of the world. This year could effectively be the year of a race for this goal.

Low Earth Orbit satellites to improve rural broadband opportunities

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Starlink and similar satellites could give satellite broadband more credibility (Credit SpaceX)

 

Article

Report: Satellite broadband market to triple | (advanced-television.com)

How Is Low Earth Orbit Changing Satellite Internet? – X2nSat

Elon Musk’s Starlink poised to shake up Australia’s broadband (smh.com.au)

Low-Earth-Orbit satellite operators

OneWeb

Starlink

My Comments

A consistent problem associated with bringing broadband Internet to rural and remote places is the cost and time involved in bringing these services there. But there have been various efforts by public and private sector entities to implement satellite broadband to serve this need.

Most of these have distinct disadvantages such as the equipment and service being very costly and a lot of these services not offering great bandwidth and latency. Let’s not forget that the deployment of this technology isn’t all that scaleable.

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague has underscored how dependent we are on Internet connectivity for our business and social lives. The role of rural areas has even been underscored with these areas gaining increased appeal to live or do business within because of the pandemic. A recent Euroconsult report has stated that satellite broadband will gain its value over the next decade as a way to enable access to the Internet from remote areas.

The new low-earth-orbit satellites

Yorkshire Dales By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

… allowing more rural and remote areas to gain real broadband

But a new form of satellite broadband is being pushed out at the moment. This is based on low-earth-orbit satellite technology which uses a very large constellation of satellites that are closer to Earth than traditional satellite technology. This improves on latency and on bandwidth available to the end users.

Silicon Valley visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have been behind this technology in order to have Internet all over the world, even in the remotest areas thereof.

But Elon Musk has got this idea off the ground with Starlink which is a subsidiary of his SpaceX venture. Most of his constellation of Starlink satellites are in orbit now while he has more being manufactured and set up for launch. The service is in beta testing for the USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Germany  at the time of writing but more areas are expected to be covered soon. They have also started establishing their presence in Australia.

Elon Musk’s service isn’t just for rural and remote areas at the moment. He is seeking FCC type approval for equipment that is to be installed on vehicles, ships and aircraft and to be operated while the vehicle, vessel or aircraft is moving. This is to court the provision of Internet service aboard the likes of commercial jets, the merchant navy and long-distance land transport. Who knows when Musk will then have consumer equipment designed to facilitate ad-hoc use of Starlink from caravans, motorhomes or remote camping locations.

Another service being pushed out at the moment is the OneWeb service that is pushed out by a UK and Indian consortium. Let’s not forget that Amazon is working on their Project Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite service but they want to make sure everything is perfect before a single satellite is launched.

The idea of having many satellites is being made feasible with reuseable rockets like the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, which effectively reduces the cost of launching many spacecraft.

What I see of the low-earth-orbit satellite constellations is that they are intended to be viable competition in the satellite-broadband Internet service space. This could allow the idea of cost-effective high-throughput low-latency broadband to be made available to rural and remote areas or long-distance transport applications.

UK passes law to allow gigabit broadband in large buildings

Article

The UK is mandating that apartment-block landlords facilitate infrastructure wiring for next-gen broadband networks

New UK Law Passed to Spread Gigabit Broadband into Big Buildings – ISPreview UK

My Comments

A very common issue affecting multiple-premises buildings like apartment blocks, office blocks and shopping centres is the provision of wireline telecommunications infrastructure through these buildings to serve tenants or lot owners who want to benefit from services offered through the infrastructure. Here, there can be problems regarding the landlord or other powers-that-be who have oversight of the building accepting the installation of such infrastructure.

The United Kingdom are facing this problem with their large multi-premises buildings but in a particular way. There, most of these buildings are owned by a single landlord who leases out each premises i.e. an apartment or retail / office space to a tenant in exchange for monthly rent. But the landlords tend to gain a lot of “clout” when it comes to permitting infrastructure to be deployed through a building.

What has been happening with deployment of next-generation broadband infrastructure in these buildings is that some landlords are not responding to requests regarding this infrastructure existing in their buildings. This is compared to most landlords taking up the offer on next-generation broadband through their building due to this giving the building or the lettable space more marketable value.

It is seen as an aggravating issue as multiple regional broadband infrastructure providers are setting up shop in different villages, towns and cities across the country in order to provide cost-effective Gigabit internet service to its citizens.

A new law, the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Act 2021, has been enacted through the whole of the UK to answer this matter. This allows a telecommunications infrastructure network provider to deploy broadband infrastructure through a multiple-premises building or similar leasehold building.

It facilitates an improved tribunal-based dispute-resolution mechanism as well as an obligation on landlords to facilitate the deployment of digital infrastructure through their buildings. These actions come in to play when the landlord has repeatedly failed to respond to requests from an ISP to install a broadband connection that the tenant has requested.

A lot of the talk of this law was focusing on pure-play residential developments i.e. apartment blocks and towers. But there is effectively the idea to extend the scope of this law to cover commercial-focused developments like office blocks and shopping centres. I also see this encompassing mixed-use developments that have commercial and residential premises, as is increasingly the trend especially with apartment blocks having the ground floor or the first few floors having commercial or retail premises.

Of course, the questions that come up include who assumes responsibility for the installation and maintenance of any infrastructure between the communications room and the individual premises. It also includes whether that infrastructure belongs to the landlord or the network provider.

It will undergo periodic review and refinement processes as what a well-oiled legislative instrument should be doing. But I also see this benefiting network infrastructure operators who serve dense urban areas where many large apartment blocks and high-rise developments exist.

An issue that has to be looked at during this review cycle is situations where multiple network infrastructure providers approach a building’s landlord and seek to arrange connection. Here, it will be about whether unnecessary duplication of “communications-closet to premises” infrastructure should take place especially if such infrastructure is of the same medium like optical fibre, RF coaxial cable or Cat5 Ethernet. It is a situation that will come about as the Internet service becomes more competitive in the UK’s urban areas and multiple service providers will knock on a landlord’s door or tout tenants for their services.

Then there will be the question of whether a landlord must rent out roof space on their multiple-premises building for RF-based communications services like 5G small-cell base stations, digital-broadcasting infill repeaters or business-radio transmitters. This question will be distinct due to the building’s premises tenants not directly benefiting from the infrastructure and will encompass the installation of associated power and wireline backhaul infrastructure.

At least there are processes in place to make sure that large multiple-premises buildings in the UK will benefit from ultrafast broadband Internet services.

One of AVM’s FritzBoxes is a sign of what a modem router would be about

Article

AVM FritzBox 5530 Fiber FTTP fibre-optic router product image courtesy of AVM

AVM shows an example of what the home network router will be about with the FritzBox 5530 Fiber

Neue FritzBox: AVM bringt neuen Router in den Handel (New FritzBox: AVM brings new router to market) | Inside Digital (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

FritzBox 5530 Fiber (Product Page – English / Deutsch)

My Comments

AVM is offering to the German market a Wi-Fi router that is a sign of things to come for home-network routers.

This unit, known as the Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber has a built-in optical-network modem that works with current-specification fibre-to-the-premises networks. It doesn’t matter whether the network implements active or passive topology, which would cater for situations where the infrastructure provider or ISP upgrades the service to active technology for increased capacity.

The fibre-optic cable for the network would have to be equipped with SFP fibre-optic plugs which allow the user to plug it in to the FTTP service. Depending on the FTTP installation, this may be a captive fibre-optic flylead that you plug in to the modem or fibre-optic cable you plug in to the equipment and a wall socket.

Here, this kind of router would come in handy where fibre-to-the-premises services are able to be delivered on a “bring-your-own-equipment” basis. Here, this may be a self-install setup for those premises which have extant FTTP infrastructure for the network that provides the desired service. Or it could be for professionally-installed “new-infrastructure” services where the customer supplies their own equipment or the equipment is supplied under separate delivery.

It would also appeal to ISPs who want to provide a router with integrated optical-network-terminal functionality as their customer-premises equipment.

Connections on AVM FritzBox FF30 Fiber router image courtesy of AVM

On the left is the SFP fibre-optic connection for your FTTP fibre-optic Internet service while the Ethernet socket in the middle outlined in white is the 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet socket.

On the LAN side, there are three Ethernet connections with one being a 2.5 Gigabit connection for “multiple-Gigabit” Ethernet networks along with two Gigabit Ethernet connections. The Wi-Fi segment is a two-stream Wi-Fi 6 setup which allows for high-throughput wireless networking. Of course, these connections work at the stated speed if equipment matching these specifications is connected to them.

The Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber has VoIP adaptor functionality including a DECT base station for six handsets along with an analogue-telephony-adaptor for one regular telephony device, including a fax machine. This setup is SIP compliant for setup with most Fixed-Line IP services that are the way to provide landline telephony in the era of fibre-to-the-premises broadband.

It runs the AVM FritzOS operating system and like other Fritzbox devices, implements automatic software updating. There is support for the AVM FritzMesh arrangement that allows the use of AVM’s network-infrastructure hardware to become part of a wired and/or wireless mesh setup to assure proper network coverage across your home.

At the moment, the Fritz!Box 5530 Fiber sells to the German market for a recommended-retail price of EUR€169. But the fact that it provides a fibre-optic WAN and at least one multi-gigabit Ethernet LAN connection to answer the trend of high-throughput Internet and home-network connectivity.

This could become in the near future the path to go for home-network routers as fibre-to-the-premises Gigabit broadband Internet takes hold. It also underscores what is going on with the design of consumer IT hardware within Europe.

Is fixed-line broadband still relevant in the era of 5G wireless?

Articles

Gigaclear fibre-optic cable - picture courtesy of Gigaclear

A fixed-line connection like this Gigaclear fibre-to-the-premises setup ….

Will 5G kill off home broadband as we know it? | TechRadar

5G vs Fiber: Will 5G make fiber obsolete? | NetMotion Software

My Comments

This year will see a question about whether Gigabit or faster fixed-line broadband Internet services will be relevant in the face of 5G cellular wireless broadband services.

5G wireless broadband will have a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 10-50Gbps and an average bandwidth of between 100Mbps to 200Mbps. This average speed will start to increase as it becomes less dependent on 4G wireless broadband technology. But these figures are affected by the kind of reception your 5G endpoint device is getting from the service.

Cellular antenna in street

… or 5G wireless cellular broadband (whether fixed-wireless or mobile broadband) – what is relevant?

This typically is delivered in the form of mobile broadband services that are used with smartphones, tablets and other portable devices. But it is also being delivered as a “fixed-wireless” broadband service where the customer connects a more-powerful 5G modem to their home network. Optus is providing this kind of service offering to declare independence from Australia’s NBN service but it is offered in areas where it isn’t technically feasible or too costly to deploy fixed broadband service.

Current-generation fixed-line broadband services are capable of at least 1Gbps upload/download n the case of fibre-to-the-premises services. The ideal setup or “gold standard” for this kind of service is fibre-to-the-premises but various fibre-copper setups are being used that can deliver close to this speed. These are based on DOCSIS 3.x cable-modem technology, RJ45 Ethernet cable technology or G.Fast DSL-based telephone-cable technology with the copper run covering a small neighbourhood or a multi-tenant development.

The 5G technology would be cheap to establish but costly to maintain and upgrade. This is compared to fixed-line broadband technology that would be expensive to establish but cheap to maintain and upgrade. In most cases, an upgrade would be about new equipment in the racks at the headends at least. Or a fibre-copper service may be upgraded through a change of topology towards a full-fibre (fibre-to-the-premises) setup.

Typically, fixed-line broadband would be the preferred solution for those of us living in larger built-up communities. It is although there are efforts like B4RN who are pushing fibre-to-the-premises fixed-line broadband in to rural areas within the UK. Sparser areas may prefer to implement 5G wireless-broadband technology with a few large low-frequency 5G cells covering those areas.

Both technologies can complement and serve each other in various ways.

Since 5G technology is based on a cellular-wireless approach, each base station needs to link to a backhaul to pass the data to each other and to other communications devices connected to wired infrastructure around the world. As well, the 5G wireless technology operates at radio frequencies up to 6GHz thus requiring many smaller “cells” (base stations for a cellular-wireless network) to cover a populous area. Even the use of many of the very small cells like picocells or femtocells to cover buildings or shopping strips would require the use of a backhaul.

In this case, fixed-line broadband networks especially fibre-optic networks can be used to provide this backhaul.

Increasingly, Wi-Fi network segments connected to fixed-line broadband setups are being considered as a complementary wireless-network solution. This may be about providing load-balancing for the 5G-based cellular service, even as a failover mechanism should the user not experience ideal reception conditions or the network underperforms. The classic example here would be indoor settings where building materials and the like obstruct 5G cellular coverage using the typical smartphone’s own antenna.

On the other hand, the 5G technology will maintain its keep for mobile / portable use cases while fixed-line broadband networks will serve in-building network use cases. 5G will also satisfy those use cases where it is technically unfeasible or cost-prohibitive to deploy a fixed-line broadband network.

For that matter, the mobile / portable use cases are what the technologists are banking on for 5G wireless-network technology. Here, they are envisaging the likes of self-driving vehicles, drones and the like depending on this technology for communication with each other. This is along with it being as a data backbone for the “smart city” that is driven by the “Internet of Everything”, facilitating improvements for things like service delivery, public safety / security, transport, energy efficiency and the like.

But 5G and fixed-line broadband, especially fibre-to-the-premises broadband, will exist on a “horses for courses” approach. Here, one technology may be about data reliability and infrastructure upgradeability or the other may be about mobile / portable or transient use.

How regional next-generation infrastructure providers enable competitive Internet service

Previous Coverage

Gigaclear fibre-optic cable - picture courtesy of Gigaclear

Gigaclear – laying their own fibre-to-the-premises within a rural area in the UK

What is happening with rural broadband in the UK

Further Comments

In some countries like the UK, Australia and Germany, regional broadband infrastructure providers set up shop to provide next-generation broadband to a particular geographic area within a country.

This is used to bring next-generation broadband technology like fibre-to-the-premises to homes and businesses within that geographic area. But let me remind you that fibre-to-the-premises isn’t the only medium they use — some of them use fixed wireless or a fibre-copper setup like HFC cable-modem technology or fibre + Ethernet-cable technology. But they aren’t using the established telephone network at all thus they stay independent of the incumbent infrastructure provider and, in some areas like rural areas, that provider’s decrepit “good enough to talk, not good enough for data” telephone wiring.

In the UK especially, most of these operators will target a particular kind of population centre like a rural village cluster (Gigaclear, B4RN, etc), a large town or suburb (Zzoom), city centres (Cityfibre, Hyperoptic, etc) or even just greenfield developments. Some operators set themselves up in multiple population centres in order to get them wired up for the newer technology but all of the operators will work on covering the whole of that population centre, including its outskirts.

This infrastructure may be laid ahead of the incumbent traditional telco or infrastructure operator like Openreach, NBN or Deutsche Telekom or it may be set up to provide a better Internet service than what is being offered by the incumbent operator. But it is established and maintained independently of the incumbent operator.

Internet service offerings

Typically the independent regional broadband infrastructure providers run a retail Internet-service component available to households and small businesses in that area and using that infrastructure. The packages are often pitched to offer more value for money than what is typically offered in that area thanks to the infrastructure that the provider controls.

But some nations place a competitive-market requirement on these operators to offer wholesale Internet service to competing retail ISPs, with this requirement coming in to force when they have significant market penetration.That is usually assessed by the number of actual subscribers who are connected to the provider’s Internet service or the number of premises that are passed by the operator’s street-level infrastructure. In addition, some independent regional infrastructure providers offer wholesale service earlier as a way to draw in more money to increase their footprint.

This kind of wholesale internet service tends to be facilitated by special wholesale Internet-service markets that these operators are part of. Initially this will attract boutique home and small-business Internet providers who focus on particular customer niches. But some larger Internet providers may prefer to take an infrastructure-agnostic approach, offering mainstream retail Internet service across multiple regional service providers.

Support by local and regional government

Local and regional governments are more likely to provide material and other support to these regional next-generation infrastructure operators. This is to raise their municipality’s or region’s profile as an up-to-date community to live or do business within. It is also part of the “bottom-up” approach that these operators take in putting themselves on the map.

In a lot of cases, the regional next-generation infrastructure providers respond to tenders put forward by local and regional governments. This is either to provide network and Internet service for the government’s needs or to “wire up” the government’s are of jurisdiction or a part thereof for next-generation broadband.

Legislative requirements

There will have to be legislative enablers put forward by national and regional governments to permit the creation and operation of regional next-generation broadband network infrastructure. This could include the creation and management of wholesale-broadband markets to permit retail-Internet competition.

There is also the need to determine how much protection a small regional infrastructure operator needs against the incumbent or other infrastructure operators building over their infrastructure with like offerings. This may be about assuring the small operator sufficient market penetration in their area before others come along and compete, along with providing an incentive to expand in to newer areas.

It will also include issues like land use and urban planning along with creation and maintenance of rights-of-way through private, regulated or otherwise encumbered land for such use including competitors’ access to these rights-of-way.

That also extends to access to physical infrastructure like pits, pipes and poles by multiple broadband service providers, especially where an incumbent operator has control over that infrastructure. It can also extend to use of conduits or dark fibre installed along rail or similar infrastructure expressly for the purpose of creating data-communications paths.

That issue can also extend to how multiple-premises buildings and developments like shopping centres, apartment blocks and the like are “wired up” for this infrastructure. Here, it can be about allowing or guaranteeing right of access to these developments by competing service providers and how in-building infrastructure is provided and managed.

The need for independent regional next-generation broadband infrastructure

But if an Internet-service market is operating in a healthy manner offering value-for-money Internet service like with New Zealand there may not be a perceived need to allow competing regional next-generation infrastructure to exist.

Such infrastructure can be used to accelerate the provision of broadband within rural areas, provide different services like simultanaeous-bandwidth broadband service for residential users or increase the value for money when it comes to Internet service. Here, the existence of this independent infrastructure with retail Internet services offered through it can also be a way to keep the incumbent service operator in check.