Internet-service competition Archive

What is infrastructure-level competition and why have it?

Fibre optic cable trench in village lane - press picture courtesy of Gigaclear

Gigaclear underscores the value of infrastructure-level competition

An issue that will be worth raising regarding the quality of service for newer high-speed fixed-line broadband services is the existence of infrastructure-level competition.

When we talk of infrastructure for a fixed-line Internet service, we are talking of copper and/or fibre-optic cabling used to take this service around a neighbourhood to each of the customers’ premises.

Then each premises has a modem of some sort, that in a lot of cases is integrated in the router, which converts the data to a form that makes it available across its network. A significant number of these infrastructure providers will supply the modem especially if they cannot provide a “wires-only” or “bring your own modem” service due to the technology they are implementing and, in a lot of these cases, will legally own the modem.

In Europe, Australia and some other countries, this broadband infrastructure is provided by an incumbent telco or an infrastructure provider and multiple retail-level telecommunications and Internet providers lease capacity on this infrastructure to provide their services to the end-user. This is compared to North America where an infrastructure provider exclusively provides their own retail-level telecommunications and Internet services to end users via their infrastructure.

In a lot of cases where multiple retail telecommunications and Internet providers use the same infrastructure, the incumbent telco may be required to divest themselves of their fixed-line infrastructure to a separate privately-owned or government-owned corporation in order to satisfy a competitive-service requirement. This means that they cannot provide a retail Internet or telecommunications service over that infrastructure at a cost advantage over competitors offering the same service over the same infrastructure. Examples of this include Openreach in the UK, NBN in Australia and Chorus in New Zealand.

A problem with having a dominant infrastructure provider is that there is a strong risk of this provider  offering to retail telecommunications providers and their end-users poor value for money when it comes to telecommunications and Internet services. It also can include this provider engaging in “redlining” which is the practice of providing substandard infrastructure or refusing to provide any infrastructure to neighbourhoods that they don’t perceive as being profitable like those that are rural or disadvantaged.

Some markets like the UK and France implement or encourage infrastructure-level competition where one or more other entities can lay their own infrastructure within urban or rural neighbourhoods. Then they can either run their own telecommunications and Internet services or lease the bandwidth to other companies who want to provide their own services.

Infrastructure-level competition

Where infrastructure-level competition exists, there are at least two different providers who provide street-based infrastructure for telecommunications and Internet service. The providers may run their own end-user telecommunications and Internet services using this infrastructure and/or they simply lease the bandwidth provided via this infrastructure to other retail Internet providers to provide these services to their customers.

Some competitors buy and use whatever “dark fibre” that exists from other previous fibre-optic installations to provide this service. Or they provide an enterprise communications infrastructure for government or big business in a neighbourhood but use dark fibre or underutilised fibre capacity from this job for offering infrastructure-level competition in that area.

As well, larger infrastructure operators who pass many premises in a market may be required to open up their infrastructure to telcos and Internet service providers that compete with their retail offering. This is something that ends up as a requirement for a highly-competitive telecommunications environment.

This kind of competition allows a retail-level telco or ISP to choose infrastructure for their service that offers them best value for money. This is more important for those retail-level ISPs and telcos who offer telecommunications and Internet to households and small businesses. As well, whenever a geographic area like a rural neighbourhood or new development is being prepared for high-speed broadband Internet, it means that the competing infrastructure providers are able to offer improved-value contracts for the provision of this service in that area.

Infrastructure-level competition also allows for the retail-level providers to innovate in providing their services without needing to risk much money in their provision. It can allow for niche providers such as high-performance gaming-focused ISPs or telcos that offer triple-play services to particular communities.

There is also an incentive amongst infrastructure providers to improve their customer service and serve neighbourhoods that wouldn’t otherwise be served. It is thanks to the risk of retail ISPs or their customers jumping to competitors if the infrastructure provider doesn’t “cut the mustard” in this field. As well, public spending on broadband access provision benefits due to the competition for infrastructure tenders for these projects.

What needs to happen

Build-over conditions

An issue commonly raised by independent infrastructure providers who are the first to wire-up a neighbourhood is the time they have exclusive access to that market. It is raised primarily in the UK by those independent infrastructure providers like Gigaclear or community infrastructure co-operatives like B4RN who have engaged in wiring up a rural community with next-generation fibre-optic broadband whether out of their pocket or with financial assistance from local government or local chambers of commerce.

This is more so where an established high-profile infrastructure provider that has big-name retail Internet providers on its books hasn’t wired-up that neighbourhood yet or is providing a service of lower capability compared to the independent provider who appeared first. For these independent operators, it is about making sure that they have a strong profile in that neighbourhood during their period of exclusivity.

Then, when the established infrastructure provider offers an Internet service of similar or better standard to the independent provider, the situation is described as a “build-over” condition. It then leads to the independent provider becoming a infrastructure-level competitor against the established provider which may impinge on cost recovery as far as the independent’s infrastructure is concerned. Questions that will come up include whether the independent operator should be compensated for loss of exclusivity in the neighbourhood, or allowing a retail ISP or telco who used the independent’s infrastructure to offer their service on the newcomer’s infrastructure.

Pits, Poles and Pipes

Another issue that will be raised is the matter of the physical infrastructure that houses the cable or fibre-optic wiring i.e. the pits, poles and pipes. These may be installed and owned by the telecommunications infrastructure provider for their own infrastructure or they may be installed and owned by a third-party operator like a utility or local council.

The first issue that can be raised is whether an infrastructure provider has exclusive access to particular physical infrastructure and whether they have to release the access to this infrastructure to competing providers. It doesn’t matter whether the infrastructure provider has their own physical infrastructure or gains access rights to physical infrastructure provided by someone else like a local government or utility company.

The second issue that also can crop up is access to public thoroughfares and private property to install and maintain infrastructure. This relates to legal access powers that government departments in charge of the jurisdiction’s regulated thoroughfares like roads and rails may provide to the infrastructure provider; or the wayleaves and easements negotiated between property owners and the infrastructure provider. In the context of competitive service, this may be about whether or not an easement, for example, is exclusive to a particular infrastructure provider.

Sustainable competition

Then there is the issue of sustainable competition within the area. This is where the competitors and the incumbent operator can make money by providing infrastructure-level Internet service yet the end-users have the benefits of a highly-competitive market. A market with too much competition can easily end up with premature consolidation where various retail or infrastructure providers cease to exist or end up merging.

Typically the number of operators that can sustainably compete may he assessed on the neighbourhood’s adult population count or the number of households and businesses within the neighbourhood. Also it can be assessed on the number of households and businesses that are actually taking up the broadband services or likely to do so in that neighbourhood.

Retail providers having access to multiple infrastructure providers

An issue that will affect retail-level telcos and ISPs is whether they have access to only one infrastructure operator or can benefit from access to multiple operators. This may be an issue where the infrastructure operators differ in attributes like maximum bandwidth or footprint and a major retail-level operator want to benefit from these different attributes.

In one of these situations, a retail-level broadband provider who wants to touch as many markets as possible may use one infrastructure provider for areas served by that provider. Then they use other providers that serve other areas that their preferred infrastructure provider doesn’t touch yet. This may also apply if they want to offer service plans with a particular specification offered by an infrastructure provider answering that specification but competing with the infrastructure provider they normally use.

Multiple-premises developments

Then there is the issue of multiple-premises buildings and developments where there is a desire to provide this level of service competition for the occupants but offer it in a cost-effective manner.

This may be answered by each infrastructure provider running their own wiring through the building but this approach leads to multiple wires and points installed at each premises. On the other hand, an infrastructure cable of a particular kind could be wired through the building and linked using switching / virtual-network technology to different street-side infrastructures. This could be based on cable technology like VDSL, Ethernet or fibre-optic so that infrastructure providers who use a particular technology for in-building provision use the infrastructure relating to that technology.

Estate-type developments with multiple buildings may have questions raised about them. Here, it may be about whether the infrastructure is to be provided and managed on a building-level basis or a development-wide basis. This can be more so where the multiple-building development is to be managed during its lifetime as though it is one entity comprising of many buildings.

Then there is the issue of whether the governing body of a multiple-premises development should be required to prevent infrastructure-provider exclusivity. This can crop up where an infrastructure provider or ISP pays the building manager or governing body of one of these developments to maintain infrastructure exclusivity perhaps by satisfying the governing body’s Internet needs for free for example.

In all of these cases, it would be about making sure that each premises in a multiple-premises development is able to gain access to the benefits of infrastructure-level competition.

Conclusion

The idea of infrastructure-level competition for broadband Internet is to be considered of importance as a way to hold dominant infrastructure providers to account. Similarly, it can be seen as a way to push proper broadband Internet service in to underserved areas whether with or without public money.

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The successor to the Freebox Révolution has arrived in France

Articles Freebox Delta press photo courtesy of Iliad (Free.fr)

Xavier Niel unveils new Freebox with Alexa, Devialet, Sigfox, Netflix | TechCrunch

French Language / Langue française

Free annonce ses nouvelles Freebox : la Freebox Delta et la Freebox One | FreeNews

Freebox One : pour les accros à Netflix (et c’est tout) | ZDNet.fr

Freebox Delta : voici la box qui doit sauver Free | ZDNet.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Free.fr (French Language / Langue française)

Freebox Delta (Press Release / Communiqué de presse – PDF)

Freebox One (Press Release / Communiqué de presse – PDF)

My Comments

While the “gilets jaunes” were protesting about the cost of living in France, Free.fr had just launched a long-awaited successor to the Freebox Révolution modem-router and media player setup.

The Freebox Révolution was a device symbolic of the highly-competitive telecommunications and Internet-service market that exists in France. It is a xDSL modem-router with an Ethernet connection and a NAS that is also a DLNA-compliant media server. It works with a set-top media player that has an integrated PVR and Blu-Ray player. But over the years, these units took on new functionality that was extraordinary for carrier-provided equipment such as VPN endpoint and Apple AirPlay functionality. Infact I saw it as a benchmark for devices supplied by telcos and ISPs for Internet access when it came to functionality.

Here, there are two systems – one called the Freebox Delta which is positioned at the premium end of the market, and the other called the Freebox One which is positioned as an entry-level offering.

The Freebox Delta has a server unit which combines a modem-router and a NAS that is equivalent to a baseline 4-bay standalone NAS. The WAN (Internet) side can work with a 10Gb fibre connection, an xDSL connection or a 4G mobile broadband connection. But it is the first modem-router that can aggregate the bandwidth of an xDSL connection and a 4G mobile broadband connection for increased throughput.

On the LAN side, there is a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) connection working across three bands and implementing MU-MIMO wireless connectivity. It is in conjunction with an integral four-port Gigabit Ethernet switch. There is the ability to link to the Freebox Delta Player in another room using the FreePlugs which are Gigabit HomePlug AV2 adaptors that Free.fr provides but these are actually network adaptors that use the USB-C peripheral connection approach.

The VoIP functionality that any “box” service offered by the French carriers provides has an RJ11 endpoint for a telephone as well as a DECT base station. There is a USB-C connection along with NFC support.

But Free.fr are even having the Freebox Delta as part of a home-automation system by providing hardware and software support for home-automation hub functionality. It is thanks to Free’s partnership with the Sigfox smart-home software platform. This is based around Zigbee technology with Free.fr and others supplying “smart-home” devices complying with this technology.

The Freebox Delta Player is effectively a connected speaker made by Devialet, a French hi-fi name of respect when it comes to speaker.  But it is a soundbar that uses 6 drivers to yield effectively a 5.1 surround-sound experience.

It works with a French-based voice-driven home assistant (OK Freebox) that handles basic commands but can work with Amazon Alexa which gives it access to the Amazon Alexa Skills library. This is achieved through a four-microphone array and is another way for a European company to effectively answer Silicon Valley in the field of voice-driven assistant platforms.

It can yield pictures to the 4K HDR 10 standard using an HDMI 2.1 socket compliant with the HDCP 2.2 standard and supporting eARC audio transfer that allows for best use with 4K UHD TVs. There is also a DVB-T2 tuner for over-the-air digital TV. You can control the Freebox Delta Player using a wirelessly-charged touchscreen remote which charges on a Qi-compliant wireless charging plate integrated in this media player. Let’s not forget that this device is up-to-date by implementing USB-C peripheral connectivity for two peripherals.

The Freebox Delta will cost EUR€480 to buy, with payment options of  EUR€120 per month over 4 months, EUR€10 per month over 48 months or the full upfront price being paid. The service will cost at least EUR€49.99 per month.

Freebox One press picture courtesy of Iliad (Free.fr)

Freebox One – the entry-level solution

The Freebox One is an entry level single-piece multimedia player and modem-router unit. This will have a Gigabit Fibre and xDSL connectivity on the WAN (Internet) side and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the LAN side. There will be the DECT VoIP base for the telephony function along with a DVB-T connection for digital TV. It can work with 4K HDR 10 via an HDMI 2.1 (HDCP 2.2 compliant) port for your 4K UHDTV.

It has a front-panel display that is similar to the previous generation of Freebox systems.  You can get this device for EUR€29.99 per month for first year, EUR€39.99 per month as a Freebox hardware-and-services package of the kind you get in France.

With both Freebox systems, I would expect that Free.fr will regularly release new firmware that will add extra functionality to these devices over the years. When you get these “boxes”, you will find that there is more of an incentive to visit the “mis à jour” part of the user interface and frequently update their software.

By offering the Freebox Delta for sale rather tied with a multiple-play service package, Free.fr wants to be able to sell this unit as a device you can use with other services. This means that they can put themselves on the same footing as AVM by being another Continental-European source of highly-capable always-updated consumer premises equipment for your home network.

But what needs to happen is for the European consumer IT firms to create hardware and software platforms that can effectively answer what Silicon Valley has to offer. Who knows which European companies will end up as the “Airbus” or “Arianespace” of consumer and small-business IT?

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UK to make Openreach a legally-separate entity

Article

New UK Regulatory Regime Begins for Legally Separate Openreach | ISP Review

My Comments

Australia, the UK and New Zealand have approached the idea of encouraging telecommunications competition in the fixed-line space by detaching the fixed-line infrastructure from the incumbent telco. In Australia, this was with NBN as effectively a public entity buying this infrastructure from Telstra and Optus, or New Zealand who had Telecom NZ split in to Spark as a telecommunications reseller and Chorus as an infrastructure entity.

The Australian and New Zealand effort had an emphasis on creating greater distance between the incumbent telecoms service reseller and the infrastructure entity with a stronger clear-cut emphasis on the infrastructure entity not favouring the incumbent telecoms reseller.  This was through effective legal separation of these companies in a manner that they couldn’t control each other.

But the UK implemented a similar plan for splitting British Telecom by having the fixed-line infrastructure managed by Openreach and BT being a telecoms reseller. But there wasn’t a strict legal delineation between these two companies and this closeness allowed Openreach to continue to operate in the same manner as BT did when it was the UK’s incumbent telco monopoly. This led to poor-quality service and poorly-maintained infrastructure, with BT Openreach ending up with an Internet-wide nickname of “Openwretch”.

The underinvestment in the infrastructure by Openreach was to satisfy BT’s ends rather than providing a high-quality service that would benefit competing telcos or ISPs using that infrastructure. This also rubbed off on the competitors’ customer base with the reduced service reliability and often happened when new technology was being delivered by Openreach. Let’s not forget issues like “cherry-picking” areas that get fibre-to-the-premises broadband or whether rural areas get decent broadband.

New Ofcom regulations were implemented in the UK with the requirement for Openreach to be a company that is legally separate from BT. This meant that they had their own legal identity (Openreach Limited) with its own board of directors and with its staff working for that company. This is meant to effectively permit its own corporate governance that is independent from BT.

There will be the issue of logically moving the employee base to this new identity including rearranging the pensions arrangement for the staff. Let’s not forget that there will be a strong marketing and PR effort directed towards the stakeholders to “refresh” the Openreach image, perhaps with a new brand.

What is meant to happen is that competing telcos and ISPs will he required to have access to the same technology on the same footing as BT. This will also be underscored by newer tougher minimum quality standards including more fibre-to-the-premises broadband deployment across the UK.

There are newer market dynamics affecting the availability of infrastructure for residential and small/medium-business telecommunications and Internet service in the UK. Here, an increasing number of infrastructure providers like Cityfibre, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and B4RN are providing infrastructure-level competition in various urban and rural areas. This is along with an increasing number of full-fibre installations taking place.

The issues that will crop up include Openreach outbuilding the infrastructure-level competitors in urban areas, especially if they can effectively “possess” a building, street or neighbourhood by having exclusive infrastructure rights to that area. Here, the risk that is being highlighted is the possible market consolidation due to competitors being driven out of business or taken over. I also see this risk affecting ISPs or telcos, especially small-time or boutique operators, who prefer to deal with particular infrastructure providers not being able to operate or being forced to use one of a few providers.

Then there will become the issue of what level of competition is sustainable for the UK’s telecommunications and Internet-service market. It is also a question that can affect any market heads towards or already has infrastructure-level competition for their Internet and telecommunications.

This question can affect ISPs / telcos, end-users, local government and premises owners. A core factor that will come in to play here is what kind of access is granted by an infrastructure provider to retail-level telecommunications / Internet providers on business terms that facilitate competitive operation.

-The factors that come in to play include whether there is an innovation culture where the operators can differentiate themselves on more than just price; and what service price level the market can go below before companies can’t operate profitably. Then there is the issue of whether the UK market really expects a pure-play Internet-only operation from these providers; or a multiple-play operation with fixed-line or mobile telephony, pay-TV or other online services. That also includes the existence of franchised IP-based telephony, pay-TV and other services that will be pitched towards retail-level telcos and ISPs who don’t offer these services.

What I see of the recent activity in making Openreach a company legally-independent from BT is that it is a sign of enabling proper competition for the UK’s telecommunications and Internet services for households and small businesses.

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Lexington residents undertakes their own effort to push a competitive broadband service

Article

Lexington Kentucky downtown (CBD) view photo By Madgeek1450 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Lexington to benefit from real Internet-service competition thanks to an emergency meeting by the city’s council

Angry With Charter, Lexington Forces Broadband Competition | Broadband News and DSL Reports

Lexington Is Downright Pissed About Charter’s High Prices | Broadband News And DSL Reports

Lexington gears up for citywide gigabit-speed internet service | SmileyPete

My Comments

Over the last few years, it has become much easier for the incumbent “Baby Bells” and cable-TV companies to get away with providing a customer-hostile service to most of the USA’s Internet users. This has manifested through onerous terms and conditions, price gouging and poor customer-service quality from these businesses so much so that the average American doesn’t have any faith in them for their telecommunications services.

AT&T Touch-Tone phone - image courtesy of CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=936797

Lexington to keep the city from heading back to the Ma Bell days

It is while these established telcos and cablecos keep lobbying federal, state and local governments to prohibit the deployment of competitive telephony and Internet service and even have a new FCC chairman as their lapdog. In some ways, I describe this current situation as leading the USA’s telecommunications, cable-TV and Internet-service market back to the “Ma Bell” days before Carterfone and the AT&T breakup decree.

But Lexington, Kentucky have undertaken local-government action to facilitate competitive Internet service.

This was achieved through an emergency meeting of the municipal council to open the doors for MetroNet to set up shop in Lexington and provide their own Gigabit fibre-optic infrastructure in order to offer competing Internet service. It was in response to Charter, an incumbent cable-TV company offering cable-modem broadband, taking over Time-Warner Cable and Bright House Networks thus leading to rubbishy customer service and price-gouging.

Regular readers will be aware of the values of a next-generation broadband network based on Gigabit fibre technology. Here, these include home users benefiting form Internet-delivered 4K UHDTV content being quickly streamed or downloaded or reduced lag for online gameplay. Business users and people working from home can also benefit from being able to upload and download business-critical data quickly, implement streamed-video delivery without issues and see reliable use of cloud-driven “as-a-service” computing, amongst other things.

The fibre-optic service is to start coming on line late Northern Summer. Initially it will be rolled out to the area bracketed by east of Lexington’s downtown area and north of Richmond Road, East New Circle Road and the I-75 Interstate highway. The work had started off in January this year and is progressing smoothly.

The goal is to make Lexington, Kentucky the second Gigabit City in the USA, after Chattanooga in the neigbouring state of Tennessee. Here, the Chattanooga effort was facilitated by the city’s Electrical Power Board in 2009. The goal will also be for Lexington to be the USA’s largest Gigabit City. But could these efforts come on as a way to light up various Southern states of the US as places to conduct tech-focused business?

As has been achieved with real service competition especially on an infrastructure level, it will mean that the incumbent operators will have to lift their game to maintain customer loyalty. Infact Charter have registered interest to offer Gigabit-speed cable modem service in a few of their markets but could this competitive pressure have it happening in Lexington?

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Spirit Internet to provide infrastructure-level competition in Geelong

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Cunningham Pier, Geelong, Australia by Bernard Spragg. NZ from Christchurch, New Zealand (Cunningham Pier. Geelong Vic.) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Spirit Telecom to introduce infrastructure-level competition for next-generation broadband to Geelong

Spirit Telecom

Hey Geelong – Did you hear us on the radio? (Interview broadcast on Radio Bay FM)

My Comments

Recently, Radio Bay FM in Geelong broadcast an interview about Spirit Telecom setting up shop in this regional boom-city. Here, Roxie Bennett interviewed Spirit Telecom’s managing director Geoff Neate about the pending arrival of their independent infrastructure setup as part of her lifestyle segment broadcast.

Spirit Telecom ahs been established since 2005 and has provided infrastructure-level competition for broadband Internet service in some of Melbourne’s inner neighbourhoods. Here, households and businesses who sign up with Spirit have access to simultaneous ultra-high-speed bandwidth thanks to use of Ethernet cabling within the buildings and a fibre-optic network for the last-mile connection to the building.

But Spirit is intending to roll this infrastructure out to Geelong with the first development that will benefit being the Federal Mills regional technology hub, an example of the new economic direction for that city. Let’s not forget that Geelong is starting to take on high-rise development within its CBD, which could open the door for Spirit Telecom to wire up the new developments for Ethernet-based FTTB next-generation broadband. It is in conjunction with Spirit Telecom’s other efforts to reach other Australian cities to provide developers, building owners and businesses a viable high-quality alternative to the NBN.

This broadcast is a sign of the times because it has highlighted the slowpoke effort that NBN has taken with providing a reliable next-generation broadband service in most of built-up Australia. There was even an on-air “dig” cast at NBN because of the delay in rolling out broadband in to that city.

Personally, I see Spirit Telecom’s effort in running their own infrastructure and high-quality next-generation broadband Internet as something that will “put a rocket up” NBN to roll out infrastructure in to that city/

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Another independent ISP provides broadband into rural UK communities

Article

County Broadband Bring 1Gbps FTTP Network to Rural Homes in Broughton | ISP Review

From the horse’s mouth

County Broadband

Home Page

Broughton Fibre FTTP Project

Home Page

Press Release

My Comments

County Broadband are a wireless ISP who are offering improved Internet service across most of rural Cambridgeshire and East Anglia in the UK. But they have decided to run a 1Gbps fibre-to-the-premises service in Broughton, Cambridgeshire as a proving ground for deploying this technology in rural villages.

This is similar to the efforts that Gigaclear, B4RN and other small-time rural ISPs are undertaking to enable real broadband expectations in other parts of rural England. In this case it is to provide a viable alternative to substandard ADSL service that may not have a chance of hitting the headline 2Mbps speed thanks to the typically decrepit telephony infrastructure that these areas end up with.

They are announcing the impending arrival of this service through a village hall meeting for the townsfolk on the 4th of August 2017. The ISPReview article raised issues about poor-quality service with BT Openreach saying on their Website that the local street cabinet was mad ready for fibre but this installation was found to be located 3 miles or 4.828 km away from Broughton, without the likelihood of delivering high-speed broadband to that town.

That article also said that, like what has happened in other British rural areas, larger companies would “wake up and smell the bacon” with the intent to service those areas because of the small-time operators offering next-generation Internet in to those areas thus leading to infrastructure-level competition. Of course, there is also the fact that as the town grows, more retail-level ISPs could be offering to use the infrastructure to service that neighbourhood along with mobile telephony providers using the same infrastructure to provide an improved cellular mobile telephony service for that area.

But I also see this as being of benefit to the householders and businesses who want to benefit from what a high-speed Internet connection offers. This is more so where small businesses see the cloud as a way of allowing them to grow up such as for a shop to move from the old cash register towards a fully-electronic POS system as part of “growing up”, or for the hospitality trade to benefit from offering high-speed Wi-Fi Internet as a marketable amenity.

For County Broadband to provide the FTTP fibre-optic infrastructure to Broughton as a proving ground could lead them to better paths for rural broadband improvement. This could mean something like more villages and small towns in East Anglia being wired for next-generation future-proof Internet and perhaps making that area an extension of the Silicon Fen.

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Full-fibre ISPs are calling for action to qualify next-generation broadband service in the UK

Article

Fibre optic cable trench in village lane - press picture courtesy of Gigaclear

Fibre to the premises courtesy of Gigaclear

“Full Fibre” ISPs Call on ASA to Stop Misleading UK “Fibre Broadband” Adverts | ISP Review

My Comments

While the NBN are taking things slowly to roll out next-generation broadband Internet in to Australian communities and providing most with a fibre-copper service, the UK are facing a similar problem.

Most of urban Britain are being provisioned with similar fibre-copper next-generation broadband service, typically “fibre-to-the-cabinet” with a copper VDSL2 link between the street cabinet and the customer’s door. This is while a handful of ISPs and infrastructure providers like Gigaclear, Cityfibre and Hyperoptic are running fibre-to-the-premises next-generation broadband infrastructure, whether to country properties or large urban developments.

But a lot of telcos and ISPs are using the word “fibre” as part of hawking their next-generation broadband Internet product, while it is seen as a keyword by the marketers to say that the service will provide higher bandwidth to the customer than what was normally expected. This is although they are running a fibre-copper Internet service in most of their territories.

What is being raised is how should a broadband service be qualified in relationship to its infrastructure when the service is advertised to the public. It isn’t just about whether a service implements fibre to the premises or not, but how much of the run between the exchange or head-end and the customer’s premises is being covered by a fibre link.

There has to be distinct keywords to say that a service is being provided “fibre-to-the-premises”, a “majority-fibre” service like fibre-to-the-building or fibre-to-the-distribution-point, or a “minority-fibre” service like fibre-to-the-cabinet. Other issues that need to be raised is whether a service is being delivered with symmetrical (upload / download) bandwidth or is an “exclusive bandwidth” service like active fibre where each customer gets the full contracted bandwidth rather than facing bandwidth contention.

What Gigaclear and co are raising is that customers need to know what they are able to get when they sign up for a next-generation broadband Internet service or other advanced telecommunications service.

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Netgem proposes to integrate the set-top box and soundbar in one unit

Article

Combining the STB, TV soundbar and Alexa means telcos can stand out from the crowd | VideoNet

From the horse’s mouth

Netgem

SoundBox set-top box and soundbar

Product Page

Video (Click / Tap to play in YouTube)

My Comments

Soundbars and TV speaker bases are becoming an increasingly-valid path for improving your TV’s sound because they provide the sound through just one box, perhaps along with a subwoofer enclosure. This is because the typical flat-panel TV is becoming more slim but doesn’t have much thought put in to its sound quality and most of us want to hear our shows through something a bit better than that.

As I mentioned in another article on this topic, they will appeal to people who have their TV set up in the traditional manner with it being in the corner of the lounge so as to avoid it competing with the view offered by a feature window or fireplace. They also will appeal to those of us who like our music via a dedicated stereo system with its own speakers, something that is considered to be important thanks to the “back to basics back to vinyl” trend.

In some countries where there is a competitive market for “triple-play” Internet service or subscription-based TV service, the features that a set-top box or PVR offers are seen as a selling point for each of the service providers. As well, most of these telcos or pay-TV providers want to be in a position to upsell customers to better services.

This has led Netgem, a French set-top-box designer to offer to these providers a device which has a soundbar and set-top box in the one housing. It will have the ability to work with a variety of online video and music services and can be controlled by the traditional remote control or a smartphone app. But this box is also being equipped with Amazon Alexa support which allows it to work in a similar vein to the Amazon Echo wireless speaker. The Amazon Alexa agent will also learn media-navigation skills pertaining to this device so you simply can select what you want to watch by voice.

Philips achieved a similar goal by offering a soundbar with an integrated Blu-Ray player,  2-band (FM / Internet) radio and network media player in order to provide a soundbar equivalent to the “home theatre in a box” systems.

The idea behind this box is to allow a telco or pay-TV provider to provide a device that is better than usual to differentiate itself from the others. This is more so where they are focused on selling a “solution” rather than selling a product or service. In most cases, it could be seen simply as an optional device that customers can request rather than as the standard device for a premium package. It is because there will be some customers who will have their own soundbar or home-theatre setup as the way to improve their TV’s sound and simply want a set-top box as the gateway to an IPTV service.

As well, implementing HDMI-ARC, DLNA MediaRenderer, AirPlay / Google Cast playback and similar functionality cam make sure that this device can earn its keep as part of your networked personal A/V setup.

What is showing up is that, especially in Europe’s competitive markets like France, there is a strong interest amongst whoever is offering triple-play broadband service to provide something that offers that bit extra.

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Hyperoptic branches out to providing FTTP to UK housing estates

Article

Hyperoptic Brings 1Gbps FTTP Broadband to its First UK Housing Estate | ISPReview

From the horse’s mouth

Hyperoptic

Press Release

My Comments

Hyperoptic are one of the Internet service / last-mile infrastructure providers operating in the UK who are providing next-generation Internet service to particular communities there in a manner where they compete with established Internet infrastructure providers like Openreach. Here, they have been focusing on apartment towers in most of the UK’s major cities and have even gone as far to provide this service to one of London’s marinas. They were even known to provide “month-by-month” Internet service to people who weren’t likely to be occupying an apartment for the year due to such realities like business placement.

This time, they have broken from their mould by installing FTTP infrastructure and providing next-generation Internet service to a housing estate in Welwyn Garden City, one of London’s commuter towns based in Hertfordshire. The new-build housing estate, known as Bellway at QEII and built where the QEII hospital used to exist, has been established by Bellway homes and consists of traditional standalone homes along with some apartments and “coach houses” (apartments built on top of one or more garages), with the property count coming to 163 premises. The typical price being put up is around GBP£319,995 for a two-bedroom coach house to GBP£484,995 for a four-bedroom house,

But Hyperoptic have put the hand up for the Internet service that will be available at this development by offering the service as a fibre-to-the-premises kind, where they can offer a double-play Internet and landline telephone service. This is a symmetrical service with the Internet connection being up to 1Gbps bandwidth. Here, Bellway have found that access to very-high-speed reliable broadband Internet is considered by potential homebuyers and renters as important as access to good schools and transport infrastructure.

New homeowners will be offered a free trial service of up to 1Gbps Internet and phone service that provides free evening and weekend calls for the first three months. This is compared to the meagre offering of a 20Mbps package offered as the trial package.

With landline phone Broadband only
Bandwidth First 12 months Onwards First 12 months Onwards
20Mb GBP£18 GBP£25 GBP£16 GBP£22
100Mb GBP£28 GBP£38 GBP£26 GBP£35
1Gb GBP£48 GBP£63 GBP£46 GBP£60

Broadband-only consumers will be paying a GBP£40 connection fee, but all users will have a 12 month minimum-term contract and will be supplied with a wireless router for their home network and benefit from unlimited “all-you-can-eat” Internet usage and 24/7 support. Personally, Bellway could come to the party in a better way by offering people buying the new-built homes the ability to have their home wired for Ethernet as a deal-making option for their home-building package, with at least a data socket in the living room and the home office.

This isn’t the only “conventional house” development on a large block of land that is benefiting from Hyperoptic’s fibre-to-the-premises effort. They are looking towards knocking on developers’ doors around the UK and competing against BT, Virgin Media & co to “wire-up” new-build developments of this kind in the UK with fibre-optic Internet.

Here, it is one of the examples of where other companies “go it alone” to provide better Internet service in to neighbourhoods even if the main service provider like NBN or Openreach works at a snail’s pace to provide the same level of service.

Personally, I wouldn’t put it past someone like TPG to approach developers who are building “conventional house” residential developments and offer more than what NBN are willing to provide.

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Fiber Corp to offer competition to the NBN in Sydney

Articles

Yarra's Edge apartment blocks

A new provider starts to offer competitive Internet service to the apartment-block market

Fiber Corp looks to fill NBN gap | The Australian Business Review

​Fiber Corp rolling out NBN alternative | CIO

NBN rival Fiber Corp to offer alternative CVC model | Optical Solutions

Fibre optics firm plans to offer 10Gbps speeds | ITWire

From the horse’s mouth

Fiber Corp

Home Page

My Comments

Sydney Harbour Bridge

… this time up in Sydney

A highly-politicised National Broadband Network deployment in Australia, which has led to the slow rollout of its services across most of Australia’s urban areas has brought on the arrival of infrastructure-level competition.

This is where independent companies are rolling out fibre-optic or other infrastructure to deliver next-generation broadband Internet service to various neighbourhoods. It has been facilitated by recent liberalisation of the market where multiple retail-level ISPs can buy access to these networks. A similar situation has occurred in the United Kingdom to open up next-generation broadband in to various urban and rural areas thanks to independent operators laying down their infrastructure independent of BT Openreach – the UK’s British-Telecom-controlled equvalent of the National Broadband Network.

One of these that has started taking action is DGTek who had started to run their own fibre-optic infrastructure around Elwood and some of Melbourne’s inner-south-east bayside suburbs, while another of these is TPG who have installed their own infrastructure in a number of apartment complexes across Australia, putting the wind up NBN to cover those locations.

Fiber Corp, a Sydney-based fibre-optic infrastructure company backed by veteran food-industry business and turf identity Nicholas Moraitis who owned the 1997 Melbourne Cup winner “Might And Power”, has started to offer their own competing infrastructure to multiple-occupancy building developments in central Sydney and Mascot. Their infrastructure is based on fibre-to-the-premises implementing Gigabit PON and NG-PON technology capable of offering up to 10Gbps but is being deployed with a similar business attitude to TPG’s infrastructure efforts. Here it is about the “best bang for the buck” where you are thinking about a high-quality service at an affordable price.

It will take advantage of the recent liberalisation of the infrastructure market that allows multiple retail ISPs to compete on the same physical infrastructure, but will be architected to allow small-time and startup operators on to the infrastructure at a cheap price.

Although Fiber Corp is focusing on the larger multi-occupant developments, they have had attracted interest from some of the local councils who are frustrated with the rollout delays associated with the NBN service.

Joel Clarke, Fiber Corp’s CIO, is pushing for a better “NBN levy” scheme for financing rural broadband rollouts. Here, he wants to see that all of the compliant and participating infrastructure providers are seen as part of a larger logical NBN rather than just the infrastructure provided by NBN Co.  It will also require NBN Co to be aggregated to offset all additional costs to wholesalers, retail ISPs and consumers. Otherwise, this levy will simply be seen as a tax upon competing infrastructure providers, making it harder for them to do business.

It also includes the requirement to allow any retail ISP to connect to any infrastructure and offer their service to every customer endpoint. This would allow for customers to benefit from a wider choice of Internet service providers and permit the existence of boutique service providers on the infrastructure.

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