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The data Ofcom has used to arrive at the figure stating that 95.3% of the UK has access to broadband of faster than 2 Mbps was published as part of their 2012 Infrastructure Report, and we have taken the liberty of plotting the data, based on how the USC was measured in 2012 and how Ofcom is now measuring it. The red spots plotted are those postcodes that fail the USC test.
Statistically speaking there is some sense in adopting the new method, where only postcodes that have a median or average speed of 2 Mbps or slower are counted as slow spots. The previous definition of the postcode was plotted if any property in a postcode had a slow speed could have meant that people with poor extension wiring were contributing to the picture, or those with old legacy products.
The big problem though is that the new metric makes the situation look actually pretty good and if taken as gospel could lead to many people being overlooked in the rush to publish statistics in 2015 that should that 99.9% of postcodes have an average above 2 Mbps. The advantage to the new method is that it identifies the worst postcodes, and if you have limited funds to solve the problem it tells you where to start spending the money.
Yes we know Northern Ireland is missing from our map, alas we do not have the geo data to plot those postcodes at this time.
The original Digital Britain report recommended that in addition to spending money on infrastructure improvements, that some money be spent to try and improve speeds on existing technology that is in the ground, and while the volume of people with poor telephone wiring in the home has decreased we still see constant stream of people where their broadband speeds are improved with some help, sometimes allowing people to watch catch-up TV online for the first time.
Another BDUK project is starting to deliver with what looks like the first street cabinet deployed by the project, the joint project between Surrey County Council and BT has started with extra coverage for Pixham Village in Dorking, serving an extra 100 homes and businesses.
Dorking exchange was already offering FTTC services from some cabinets, so enabling the cabinets on the fringes that previously failed the accountants spreadsheet calculations for the commercial roll-out is an obvious choise to start roll-out.
For those in Surrey who have not heard of Pixham Village, it is the area around Dorking station in the north east corner of the town with a clear view to Box Hill.
If you are in a truly rural area, in other words in one of those parts of the UK where the existing BDUK projects are not likely to reach, then the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) might help.
The RCBF has a fund of £20m and has been allocating money to various small projects, with a mixture of community and gap funded solutions resulting. The deadline for the final batch of project submissions was originally 24th May 2013, but it appears DEFRA have extended the deadline to 17th June 2013.
We have delayed running with the news of the extension in the hope that DEFRA would update their website to reflect the change, but all we have for now is John Popham's blog, which given he has been working with Grey Sky Consulting on various bids will hopefully be up to date.
The extension is probably not long enough for anyone to start a serious project from scratch now, but the extra couple of weeks may ensure help projects that were struggling to get all the attendant paperwork sorted out.
While online viewing of sport is the fashionable way to watch an event, there are still plenty of people who enjoy actually going to watch their favourite sport being played and with The Cloud rolling out free WiFi to Lord's Cricket Ground people will find it easier to stay online.
The ground before now only offered free WiFi in the hospitality areas, but extending it to all of the 28,500 seater ground will make keeping up to speed with the statistics and other sports events happening around the UK easier for spectators.
We look forward to seeing what speeds people are getting over the free WiFi, so if you want to show others the sort of speeds available remember that the postcode for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is NW8 8QN.
The faster broadband project for Cumbria can now get underway properly rather than just hiding in an office creating spreadsheets and planning. The go order has been given as the EU has now given the funding approval for the project which classifies it as a major project as the total cost exceeded €50m.
The total contract stands at around £51m, with £15m of this being money from BT, and £13.7 million from the European Regional Development Fund. The project aims to increase coverage of super fast broadband from current commercial deployments to a figure of 93% of premises, with the remainder getting at least 2 Mbps.
Hopefully the Connecting Cumbria website will quickly now update to start giving residents and businesses more information on roll-out plans.
Yes it is almost July again, which means it is the time of the year when the Internet industry gets dressed up and is locked into a room until they find out whether their hard work for the year has won them an award. The 15th ISPA Awards will be held at the Park Lane Sheraton Hotel in London on the 11th July and ISPA has now released the shortlists for the various categories.
To be shortlisted means that in the technical categories the entrant has made it through the technical testing phases, which thinkbroadband run for the broadband and hosting categories with Malden Electronics testing for the Internet Telephony category. The Customer Choice award is determined by public vote with voting in that category now closed.
|The 15th ISPAs shortlist|
|Best Superfast Broadband||Best Consumer Fixed Broadband|
|Zen Internet||Spectrum Internet|
|Best Business Fixed Broadband||Best Fixed Wireless|
|Cerberus Networks||LN Communications|
|Entanet Business||Kijoma Broadband|
|Best Large Business Hosting||Best SME Business Hosting|
|4D Data Centres||4D Data Centres|
|Best Internet Telephony||Best Consumer Customer Service|
|Best Business Customer Service||Managed Service Innovation|
|Datanet||Media Service Provider|
|Internet Safety & Security||Digital Inclusion Award|
|Internet Watch Foundation||KC|
|South West Grid for Learning (Online Compass Tool)||Southern Housing Group|
|Customer Choice Award|
There are two more categories, where the final shortlist has not been finalised yet, and that is the Internet Hero and Internet Villain categories. To nominate in either of these two categories tweet @ISPAUK with the #ISPAs hashtag, or email your suggestion to email@example.com making it clear which of the categories you are nominating for. The deadline for nominations is Friday 31st May 2013. The decision on who deserves to win in their categories is down to the ISPA Council.
The UK scorecard for broadband coverage has just got a lot better if the latest data from Ofcom is correct. In 2011, the coverage of 2 Mbps standard broadband was listed by Ofcom as 86%, this rose in November 2012 to a figure of 89.9%, but now in just six months has seen a significant jump to 95.3% according to the latest figures from the regulator.
The truth is buried deeper into the report, page 87 to be precise, which tells us we need to stop comparing the figures to the previous data as the methodology has totally changed.
"Data on the availability of standard and superfast broadband differ from what was reported in the “Infrastructure Report, 2012 update.” The estimates in this report were calculated by considering a postcode not to have standard broadband if the median or mean average speed of connected premises in that postcode was less than 2 Mbit/s. If a postcode had an average/median speed of less than 2 Mbp/s, all premises in it were assumed to be at risk of experiencing low speed. This calculation differs from the “Infrastructure Report, 2012 update,” where a postcode was considered not to have standard broadband if any connected line in it experienced a speed below 2 Mbit/s. The underlying data file on broadband speeds provided information on the number of residential and small-business lines with a broadband connection in each postcode. This information was not provided for those postcodes with only large businesses or where there were fewer than three residential or small-business lines for reasons of confidentiality. The restriction to postcodes with a minimum of three connected lines also explains the slight discrepancies in the number of premises with superfast-broadband availability."Ofcom note on changes to how 2 Mbps coverage is measured (our emphasis)
The previous system of labelling a postcode as slow if data suggested one property was slow could be seen as giving a pessimistic figure, or from the view of people living in those areas it could be seen as a more realistic figure. Certainly the new system is politically more pleasing when you want to report a figure of 99.99% can get 2 Mbps broadband. In fact Ofcom has started to say 'Headline download speeds of at least 2 Mbit/s are available in almost all premises in the UK.'.
Even with the new system almost halving the number of properties not meeting the Universal Service Commitment figure, the situation is still not just a rural problem, there are 24,131 urban properties in Greater London listed as not meeting the 2 Mbps target. Interestingly while the talk around the BDUK and USC debate is often about rural areas, of the 1.2 million properties across the UK that cannot get 2 Mbps, some 423,751 are in semi-urban locations, 661,361 in rural locations and 156,725 in urban areas. To give an insight into the split that Ofcom is using for rural/urban, 35% of the UK population live in urban areas, 51% in semi-urban and 14% in rural areas.
With the dominance of Sky TV and half the UK able to access cable TV the traditional thinking was that IPTV delivery platforms were not needed in the UK, but the rise of OTT subscription services like Netflix and Lovefilm appear to have awoken a latent desire for more choice and the launch of YouView in 2012 is starting to pay dividends for providers like TalkTalk.
TalkTalk in its latest financial results has revealed that in the last quarter it has added 150,000 subscriptions to its YouView based TV service, taking the total to 230,000. Almost three quarters of those buying the TV service are previous Freeview or Freesat customers, so the upgrades will be a mixture of wanting to add the extra channel options, and the free YouView box with its recording capabilities. The majority of TV viewing is via the free to air channels at 19.5 hours per week, but 2.5 hours of paid content are watched on average per week.
The broadband subscribers picture is a mixed bag, and while the overall number of subscribers has increased to 4,0630,000 (increase of 13,000) this hides the fact that there strong growth in the full LLU (MPF) customer base. The loses from legacy SMPF (we presume old Tiscali customers) and off-net areas make the figures reducing the overall level of growth.
One area that is starting to mount up is that TalkTalk now has 73,000 fibre customers, which while still small suggests that sales are starting to ramp up. The need for stable speeds above 3 Mbps for the on-demand YouView content may be helping to drive take-up, plus the increasing number of Internet devices people have in the average home.
The TalkTalk LLU network is the largest ADSL2+ network in the UK, with the 2,724 exchange covering approximately 95% of the UK population, and expansion has not finished the provider is looking to add another 300 exchanges in the next year (previous year saw 216 exchanges added). Interestingly the holy grail of dark fibre appears to be a fairly small problem for TalkTalk:
"In conjunction with our unbundling programme, we continue to expand the capacity of our network, which we expect to grow by 50-100x over the next 3-5 years. The favourable economics of our network, which allows us to lease dark fibre at very competitive rates, means that we will be able to achieve this capacity expansion within our long run capex guideline of 6% of revenues."TalkTalk on dark fibre
The extent of the TalkTalk LLU network also means that businesses can benefit, and the firm has some 10,000 Ethernet or EFM circuits installed (1,500 in the last quarter).
The headline is always meant to draw you in to read more of an article, but in a world where many people just skim read articles, people who are not fully up to speed on the progress of the BDUK projects across the UK could very easily be left with the impression that the Government project had already rolled out millions of connections.
Progress on Broadband Transformation: Roll-out passes halfway mark
These changes will reinforce the UK’s position as a leading digital economy and will be a major driver of local jobs and national growth. The Government’s own programmes will support delivery in the parts of the country that will not otherwise be reached by the private sector and will support our cities to become digital hubs for businesses and consumers.
Results already achieved:
- Average speeds have more than doubled since May 2010, from 5.2Mbps to 12.0Mbps in November 2012
- Superfast broadband connections are getting faster, with speeds increasing from 35.8Mbps in May 2012 to 44.6Mbps in November 2012
- 100,000 more homes and businesses are getting superfast broadband availability each week
- In June 2012 superfast coverage had reached 65% of UK premises, up from 45% in 2010.
- The proportion of broadband connections with superfast speeds of 30Mbps or higher more than doubled last year, up from 5% in November 2011 to 13% in November 2012.
- 50,000 superfast connections are currently being taken up per weekExtract from DCMS press release
The real milestone is that 22 out of 44 projects have now signed their contracts, and all with BT. The more important milestone as far as consumers and businesses are concerned is when will boots be on the ground and actually installing services via the project, and we believe at this time this is mainly in North Yorkshire and Wales. We would expect lots more photo opportunities if other areas were moving at a break neck speed.
So lets rewrite the results already achieved into something approaching reality:
We believe the press release reflects a view in Whitehall that the BDUK programme is about managing a procurement process rather than the eventual outcome, or to put it another way, so long as the contracts get signed and the responsibility moves to someone else they will be happy.
Very careful wording appears in parts of the release as the 90% superfast broadband availability is talked about, but never in the same paragraph as the year 2015. While I don't think anyone is going to complain too much if the superfast target is a little late (e.g. in early 2016), if by the time of the General Election in 2015 a 2 Mbps service is not universally available the Labour Party will be able to talk about the current Government moving the goalposts by three years and still being late to deliver.
Digital Region in South Yorkshire has a number of broadband providers operating on its platform, and as of 1st April it appears those people who had a contract with littlebigone.com were acquired by Chess Telecom.
A message on facebook and letters arriving in the post appears to be how customers have learnt about the change. It is not clear what if any changes existing littlebigone customers will see, and we suspect the pricing shown on the Chess Telecom website is referring to ADSL2+ and FTTC via Openreach rather than pricing for the Digital Region platform.
We checked via twitter (@ChessLtd) and Chess Telecom confirm customers will see now price changes and the prices on littlebigone.com remain valid for new signups.