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November 30, 2011

£100m further funding for super fast broadband in 10 UK cities

10 UK cities are to receive £100m between them to help boost broadband coverage in them.

The initial 4 cities chosen are the capitals of all 4 nations, London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff with the further 6 cities to benefit still to be announced (The Telegraph printed that Milton Keynes and Bristol are 2 likely candidates).

The governments aim is to have some of the UK cities as a hub for super-fast broadband with broadband speeds of between 80-100Mb, along with city wide high speed mobile connectivity.
The areas that are likely to be chosen are those parts of the cities where the likes of BT and Virgin Media were unlikely to roll out fibre broadband to without subsidy to make it financially viable for them.

As with other broadband projects that take money from the BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) pot of funding, the companies who bid for projects (BT & Virgin Media being the main ones)  are expected to at least match any funding that the government puts in. The first £20m is to be allocated in the year to April 2013 with £60m the following year and then the final £20m by April 2015.

Some people think that the money would be better spent helping to fund rural broadband, with cities already having broadband connections available you may find that rural communities and business would benefit more, some will see this as another case of a digital divide between the cities and rural communities.

George Osborne, the UK Chancellor, who announced the funding said:

It means creating new superfast digital networks for companies across our country. These do not exist today. See what countries like China or Brazil are building, and you’ll also see why we risk falling behind the rest of the world.

Our great cities are at the heart of our regional economies. And we will help bring world leading, superfast broadband and Wi-Fi connections to 10 of them – including the capitals of all four nations.

BT are continuing their roll out of fibre broadband across the UK and are still aiming to have two thirds of the country connected by the end of 2014.

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November 29, 2011

Only BT left to bid for Highlands & Islands broadband

The Highlands and Islands region of Scotland sees just BT left for the contract to deliver broadband to the region.

Both Cable & Wireless and Fujitsu have both pulled out of the bidding process to bring super fast broadband to the Highlands and Islands. The area was one of 4 rural areas in the country that is to receive between £5-£10m of funding to help roll out a pilot of fibre broadband to the area, however, Fujitsu have withdrawn from the process as they claim that additional investment would be required for the required infrastructure and Cable & Wireless have also followed suit, this just leaves BT left in for the project.

Rhonda Grant, the Labour MSP for the Highlands & Islands, said:

This pilot is of vital importance to every community throughout the Highlands and Islands and it is essential that more public money is invested in this project – so far only 10 per cent of the estimated costs have been secured.”

Alex Neil, the Scottish cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment has previously estimated that the cost of rolling out next generation broadband across the Highlands & Islands region would be in the region of £300m alone.

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November 25, 2011

Ofcom wants traffic management and broadband speeds making clearer

Ofcom have called for ISPs to make it clearer to consumers about the expected broadband speeds they are likely to receive and to detail any traffic management that they implement on specific services.

Although Ofcom knows that ISPs already provide some information to consumers about any traffic management that they implement it does not, according to Ofcom, go far enough to make it clear enough and easy enough to understand for most consumers.

Traffic management which is also known as traffic shaping or throttling, allows ISPs to give priority to certain types of traffic and restrict and slow down other types of traffic either all the time or just at peak times when traffic is at its greatest.

They also want consumers to be shown what their expected broadband speed is likely to be as in the past many consumers have felt “cheated” by signing up for broadband deals with headline broadband speeds being advertised yet the reality of their connection not being any way close to these advertised speeds when consumers run a broadband speed test.

Ofcom are hoping that ISPs are able to implement it’s requirements as a self regulatory agreement off their own backs, however if they are not done to Ofcoms satisfaction then they may have to step in and use its powers to introduce a minimum level of consumer information.

The levels of information that Ofcom is requesting ISPs provide to customers at the point of sale are;

  • Average speed information that indicates the level of service consumers can expect to receive;
  • Information about the impact of any traffic management that is used on specific types of services, such as reduced download speeds during peak times for peer-to-peer software; and
  • Information on any specific services that are blocked, resulting in consumers being unable to run the services and applications of their choice.

Traffic management does have its benefits, especially for protecting safety critical traffic such as calls to emergency services. However, “net neutrality” supporters are not keen on traffic management as they believe all traffic should be treated as equal. Quite often file sharing traffic via peer-to-peer (P2P) is slowed down while the use of video streaming sites and general web surfing is given the priority.

To read Ofcoms report on it’s approach to net neutrality click here.

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November 23, 2011

Southern Scotland given £5m to start superfast broadband rollout

£5 million of public funding has been allocated to help roll out superfast broadband to Southern Scotland.

The Borders Council and Dunfries and Galloway Council have been allocated the funds to help roll out the superfast broadband with a target of having all homes and businesses connected to superfast broadband by 2020.

Despite BT rolling out their fibre network to around two thirds of the UK by 2015 it would only be around 35% of Southern Scotland that would be covered by this rollout.

Scotland was given nearly £69 million from the BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) fund earlier in the year with the Scottish Government having increased this to around £144 million, it is out of this pot of money that this £5m has been taken.

It is hoped that further private investment and funding will also be found now from other sources now this initial funding has been granted.

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November 16, 2011

Broadband speeds slow in the evening broadband “rush hour”

Broadband speeds across the UK drop by as much as 35% on average during the “broadband rush hour” with some towns noticing a huge 69% difference in the broadband speeds they receive between peak and off-peak hours.

broadband speed tester Broadband speeds slow in the evening broadband rush hourAnyone wanting to get the fastest use out of their broadband are best to do so between the hours of 2am-3am in the morning that are found to be the times when you are likely to receive your fastest broadband connection, obviously as most people are in bed asleep at this time that makes sense with the fastest UK average broadband speed at around 9.6Mb during this time.

The contrast is when the “information super highway” is at it’s rush hour between 7pm and 9pm in the evening when there are the most people using the internet at home and the average UK broadband speed drops to around 6.2Mb.

The study was done by the price comparison website uSwitch.com with the data of more than 2 million broadband speed tests analysed. Only Post Code areas that had more than 100 speed tests with included in the results and included both standard ADSL broadband connections and also fibre broadband connections.

The Technology expert at uSwitch, Ernest Doku, said:

It really is surprising just how much broadband speeds fluctuate at different times of the day, with drop-offs of almost 70% in some areas of the UK. Not many internet users enjoy the maximum headline broadband speeds offered by providers, and certainly not during the working week.

This research may help to shed some light on why many bewildered consumers, who believe they?ve signed up to a certain broadband speed, never actually feel like their connection is fast enough. The problem of slower broadband speeds has been exacerbated by changes in the way people use the internet, with far more people downloading music and watching TV programmes online, inevitably putting more strain on the network.

Evesham in Worcestershire was the area that topped the charts for the widest variation in broadband speeds, with the morning speed between 7-9am averaging 15.5Mb and the evening speed between 7-9pm down to just 4.9Mb.

More people streaming music and live TV online in the evening are huge factors for the slowing down of broadband connections in the evening, as faster more reliable broadband speeds have been made available there has also seen an increasing use and demand for more bandwidth hungry applications such as for the BBC iPlayer to give consumers what they want to watch on demand.

Looking to the future it is clear that the fibre broadband deployment across the UK is vital in making sure that consumers will continue to be able to use the internet at peak hours without interruption.

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November 14, 2011

O2 launch 4G mobile broadband trial in London

O2 are today launching the first 4G (LTE – Long Term Evolution) network trial in London and will offer people in the capital access to the new super fast mobile network.

Around 1,000 people will be invited to partake in the trial, this includes business staff at John Lewis. The 4G network itself is made up of over 25 4G sites across London, stretching from Hyde Park to the O2 in Greenwich, it will also cover key areas which include Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank & Kings Cross. Over 40 square kilometers is the combined coverage area.

The trial is due to last for 9 months between now and Summer 2012 with the trialists being provided with Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles (there are currently no 4G compatible phones) which are capable of broadband speeds up to 150Mb. According to the Guardian newspaper it is expected that broadband speeds of between 25Mb-50Mb are likely to be the average expected, however when the 4G is rolled out nationally the average speed is expected to drop to between 10Mb-15Mb, this is still faster than the current UK average broadband sped of around 7Mb.

4G uses the same signal space as analogue TV signals, because of this the whole network can’t be turned on until all analogue TV signals have been fully turned off and the auction for the spectrum has taken place (currently scheduled for around 2013). O2 have reportedly spent £500 million upgrading its network this year and probably similar next year to make more of its network to run 4G.

Another impressive stat as to how much 4G is likely to benefit mobile broadband is that the 25 masts that O2 have installed in London for this trial are able to carry more data that O2′s entire 3G network nationally can!

4G is also hopefully going to be a saviour for some areas where fibre broadband isn’t going to be rolled out to so they too can benefit from faster broadband speeds.

There are currently no 4G phones available and in future anyone wanting to connect to a 4G network will need to have a 4G enabled phone, that is why those people trialing the 4G network in London have been given mobile broadband dongles that will be able to fit into laptops and tablet computers.

The Chief Executive Officer for O2, Ronan Dunne, said:

Today’s launch of the UK’s first 4G London trial network demonstrates our commitment to delivering 4G to our customers at the earliest opportunity. The work we are doing now will lay the foundations for our commercial 4G network when it launches in the UK.

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November 9, 2011

“Super Spade” speeds up BT fibre broadband deployment

BT are managing to roll out fibre broadband even faster and save themselves money by the use of a new extra sharp super spade!

bt super spade Super Spade speeds up BT fibre broadband deploymentThe new spade has an extra sharp edge which makes it possible for it to cut through tarmac and remove blockages during the fibre installation process. Previously a separate civil engineering team would have been required to come to dig up pathways.
Having the new spade has meant that fibre installations can now be done in just two days rather than a week thus saving time and speeding up the fibre roll out process and also saving money.

There are a few other innovations that BT are also using to help speed up fibre broadband deployment which includes the trialing of a polymer based plinth for the base of the street side cabinets. Previously the cabinets were secured down with concrete in the bottom, this either required wet cement to be poured in which takes time to set or if pre-cast concrete was used it required extra workers and machinery to lift and move the concrete block. The new Polymer plinths are pre-formed and light that are suitable for all weather conditions, this alone could cut the deployment time from 7 days to just a couple of hours!

bt polymer plinth Super Spade speeds up BT fibre broadband deploymentThey have also worked on the power supply infrastructure and have new ways where meters don’t need to be installed, this alone BT claim reduces deployment by 2 weeks!

Trefor Davis, the Chief Technology Officer at Timico, said:

Well actually whilst each of these innovations may seem trivial what they collectively do is send out a signal that BT is trying to do something about the aspect of it’s business that is often criticised as being one of the barriers to cost effective fibre (FTTC & FTTP) rollout and that is the cost of digging trenches.

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November 8, 2011

Derbyshire County Council needs residents to show demand for faster broadband

Derbyshire County Council are calling for both residents and businesses to fill out a survey to show there is demand for superfast broadband in the area.

The reason there is this push from the local authority is to show that there is sufficient demand from residents and businesses which in turn will encourage companies to invest in the county.

Derbyshire was awarded £7.39m of broadband funding from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme but for these funds to be released the council needs to at least match the funding from the government. Showing there is demand for superfast broadband in the area would go along way to proving to companies that investment would not be wasted and help the council raise the important funds required.

However, the Derbyshire County Council member for regeneration, councillor Kevin Parkinson, is actually aiming for more than the £7.39m, he believes that reaching £10m is the target they want to aim for and he then thinks that the government funds could well be increased up to this to match them.

This is what Mr Parkinson had to say:

Although they have given us the pledge, if we can raise more money, say £10 million, then I have confidence that we can encourage the Government to match that.

The onus is now on us.

Bringing fast and reliable broadband to Derbyshire is one of our key priorities and we really need people to share their experience to help us do this.We’ve been running the survey for a year and we’re grateful to the 1,500 residents and businesses who have already responded, but we need more.

We all need to pull together to bring better broadband to Derbyshire and Get Online week is the ideal time for people to do their bit for the county’s future.

The more we know about the current internet services in the Matlock and High Peak area the more we will know it can be addressed.

We are competing with all the other county councils in England but if we can demonstrate that everybody is behind this campaign it can only put us in a strong position.

Residents & businesses are encouraged to fill out the broadband survey online or over the phone at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/broadbandsurvey

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November 2, 2011

UK homes average 17Gb data use per month

Fixed line broadband customers in the UK are using on average 17Gb of data per month according to figures released today by Ofcom.

The demand for data has grown considerably the last few years, and with ever increasing broadband speeds it is likely to continue to grow into the future. According to data from the London Internet Exchange they have found that demand for data has risen seven fold over the last 5 years.

To put the 17Gb of monthly data use into perspective, it equates to around downloading 11 films per months or streaming 12 hours of BBC iPlayer HD video or more than 12 days of streaming audio content.

This increase in data use is largely possible to the now genuinely unlimited broadband packages that are on the market giving users more freedom to download without the worry of exceeding download limits, however users should be aware that they check what their download limits are on their broadband deals to avoid any problems going forward as not all broadband deals come with unlimited broadband.

With BT’s £2.5bn investment into fibre broadband that will cover two thirds of the UK by 2014 and with speeds on their “slowest” fibre broadband due to be increased to up to 80Mb broadband connections we can only expect that both broadband limits on any broadband plans are increased and that the average monthly use across the UK will also continue to grow.

The Guardian newspaper got figures out of Virgin Media and TalkTalk of their customers average usage. Virgin media said that those customers on 10Mb broadband services used on average 19Gb per month, while those on their 100Mb broadband lines were using around 130Gb per month. TalkTalk said that their average user downloads around 13Gb per months while BT would not give any details.

Mobile broadband data is still quite low in comparison, with on average just 240Mb per connection.

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November 1, 2011

6 months free Spotify Premium with Virgin Media

Virgin Media are offering new and reconnecting Virgin Broadband and Virgin Mobile customers free Spotify Premium access worth around £10 per month as part of a new deal.

virgin media spotify 6 months free Spotify Premium with Virgin MediaNew or reconnecting Virgin Broadband customers who take out an XL (30Mb), XXL (50Mb) and 100Mb broadband deal will get themselves 6 months free Spotify Premium access which has allot more enhanced features and usability than the free Spotify option. The 6 months free Spotify Premium is worth around £60.

The same deal applies to new and reconnecting Virgin Mobile customers who take out a pay monthly contract and have a compatible mobile phone, they will receive 3 months free Spotify Premium access.
Also, when in the UK there will be no data charges for using Spotify although data charges are likely to apply when listening abroad.

Spotify is an award winning completely legal music service that allows you access to over 15 million different music tracks and albums that you can listen to when you want, you are even able to have the music available to you when you go offline. Songs you select will stream immediately so you don’t need to worry about downloading a full song before you can listen to it.

The executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, Cindy Rose, said:

The launch of Spotify on Virgin Media marks a significant milestone for digital entertainment and the way it is enjoyed by consumers. Great digital services are no longer just about fast broadband or the latest TV technology, but increasingly about how people use their services to power and excite their daily lives. Bringing together Virgin Media services with brilliant entertainment such as Spotify is a core part of our ongoing strategy and we’re excited to be able to lead the way with such a great partnership.”

Going forward we expect to see more content tie-ups between broadband providers and content providers, especially as the increase of broadband speeds continues to grown and content can far more easily be delivered online.

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