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Sky are to trial BT Openreach's Physical Infrastructure Access
Wednesday 27 April 2011 14:31:58 by John Hunt

Sky are investigating the feasibility of installing their own fibre broadband network after it has been announced they are to trial BT Openreach's Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product which will allow the company to deploy cables on BT's telegraph poles and in BT ducts. The news comes after Sky along with other ISPs and network operators, including TalkTalk and Virgin Media, complained about the trial PIA product pricing indicating that the costs associated were unreasonable. The letter was sent to BT's CEO with a second letter (not signed by Sky) sent to Ed Vaizey, the UK Communications Minister, in the hope that he might step in and force BT to lower their pricing to allow other operators to bid for BDUK funds.

"This trial will allow us to field-test the processes involved in allowing others to use our duct and pole infrastructure and build upon the accuracy of our assumptions before we launch the product commercially. It will also provide our CP customers with far greater clarity around the detail of deployment, and the likely costs involved, as well as giving them the chance to engage with us constructively around pricing and process development."

Fergus Crockett, (Product Director) Openreach

This isn't the first news that Sky are looking at their own fibre deployments as the company ran fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) tests back in 2008. The company also announced a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) 'research' pilot with TalkTalk earlier this year which is expected to reach 3,600 homes, and this could be the work which is being undertaken using BT's PIA products.

A second company, Call Flow, will also be under taking trials of PIA. Call Flow are the UK's largest sub-loop unbundling (SLU) provider. SLU is where a broadband provider install their own road-side equipment in cabinets which is then linked in to BT's own cabinets and allows providers the ability to offer their own fibre-to-the-cabinet products. Using PIA to install your own fibre through BT's ducts is the next logical step from SLU in deploying your own network.


Posted by mabibby over 6 years ago
To be fair, Sky don't really care about the costs too much, as long as PIA costs less than leasing and maintaining Satellite Equipment they are onto a winner.
Posted by weesteev over 6 years ago
what has PIA to do with satellite broadcasting? This is about Physical Infrastructure Access over BT's access network for broadband and Telco services, not TV. If Sky were serious about this then why didnt they sign the complaint along with VM, Talk Talk etc? This is nothing more than PR for Sky. They talked about FTTC in 2008 and that has gone nowhere so far.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
Sky do at least have fleets of vans with installers etc to do physical stuff.
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
About time that isp's where able to have their own networks to a customers premises , as for many of us you have to use the bt line plant have our connections degraded from interference ect and the distance from exchange factors , i hope that they choose areas that haven't already got fibre (fttc)
Posted by chanmaster over 6 years ago
What has PIA to do with satellite broadcasting? Nothing as far as I can tell. But last time I checked I think Sky has branched out from their original business of producing TV programmes and delivering them through satellite to providing communication services (broadband, telephone etc) and i think they could even use this broadband to deliver TV programmes through some black magic called "IPTV" - that might be why PIA looks interesting to Sky. I could be wrong though.
Posted by weesteev over 6 years ago
Right, so Sky will develop an IPTV service to distribute over their own network using PIA to how many homes... 100k, 200k? How would that be cost effective when they have a developed satellite network in place already. The only option for Sky to go IPTV is if the product can reach a high percentage of the country, which PIA wont allow within the next 20 years. So as for "black magic", you might be right, as it will take Black Magic to make IPTV work for Sky if they only plan on deploying over PIA.
Posted by mabibby over 6 years ago

You've obviously missed my point that Sky are only interested in PIA and new Broadband technologies to move into the IPTV market.

Think of the money and operational cost reductions running an IPTV based service

- No Lease Costs for ASTRA
- No need to develop and provide boxes/dishes
- No need for high installation and engineer costs of that equipment
- No costs from expensive Satellite Broadcast equipment.

If you ask me, Sky have a silly amount of money aside to make this work you watch!

Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
I'd say its more than just PR, if Sky are able to (eventually) start supplying TV over fibre it makes much more sense surely? Broadband would also be nice and whilst we are to believe the trial is about broadband that might just be one element with the end goal being TV+Broadband+Phone
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
The costs of satellite broadcasting are minimal. Just needs a link from Sky's roll-out suite to the uplink station, a few computers to do the encryption and generate the EPG then renting transponder space on the satellites. Transponder space isn't very expensive.

Basically:It's cheap as chips to broadcast from satellite. The biggest expense is paying for a listing on Sky's EPG and that's just whatever the market will bear - it's zero to Sky themselves.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago

The biggest cost is going to be buying the material and that will be the same. Might actually be higher if the broadcaster can't guarantee to restrict access to the UK.
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
The cost of the satellite transponders is pretty minimal next to the cost of fibre transport. The big thing for Sky will be the ability to match and surpass Virgin Media's broadband offerings along with the really big one - HD pull VoD.

IPTV isn't attractive to Sky until they have huge PIA coverage as even FTTC won't reliably be able to deliver more than a couple of busy HD streams.
Posted by fender1105 over 6 years ago
well i cant really see sky using iptv for all there programs but they may well offer it as a add on to your package and have the same sort of T&C as sky anytime+ but we all know that sky and virgin media do not get on and the one thing virgin have over sky is that they have fibre broadband however when you take how many people have sky HD and pay £10 a month sky could easy install there own network but it will all come down to will sky make money out of it
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
"Sky do at least have fleets of vans with installers etc to do physical stuff"

Do they? I thought the van folks were largely independent, and paid Sky for the use of the logo?

"Sky ... business of producing TV programmes"

They've hardly produced or commissioned an original TV programme during the lifetime of the company. They've bought (and usually monopolised) the rights (for UK, US, and more recently parts of Europe) to "content" that already existed, sometimes content that was already "free to air" (eg sport).
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
Another thing about Sky is that most of the channels are not owned or operated by Sky. Generally only the ones with 'Sky' in their name are theirs. The rest are independents who have paid to be listed on the Sky EPG and might also be paying to have their content encrypted either for PayTV or to allow them to broadcast from Eurosat without having to buy pan-European broadcast rights.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
I believe that Sky own the penultimate step in the uplink stage. As I understand it that's just a collection of computers that 'collate' incoming streams, merge EPG data and now/next information before sending it on to the uplink company for actual transmission.

When it comes down to it Sky's broadcast platform is pretty simple and largely dependant on other companies. That's probably why they are so successful - low overheads and a keen eye for business rather than innovation or investment.

Building an FTTP network is not a cheap alternative to their current TV offering.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
"I thought the van folks were largely independent, and paid Sky for the use of the logo" - maybe so, but even a franchised UK technician workforce is an advantage over an Indian call centre.
Posted by FlappySocks over 6 years ago
The government made a promise a while back saying we would have the best (fastest?) broadband in the world. Maybe Murdock said to the government, open the door for us to acquire 100% of sky, and open BTs ducts and we will wire everyone up with fibre.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@Flappy:That would be ironic considering what BT supposedly once offered Mrs. Thatcher :)
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
there is motivation for sky to do it, as been said to reduce costs of existing but also their VOD anytime+ service. They wont need to do big swraths of the country as I suspect this wont be done anywhere conflicting with openreach FTTC rollout. So would be simply used to exapnd existing FTTx footprint.
Posted by TheGuv over 6 years ago
Some great points here about Sky wanting to try and do proper IPTV. With BT announcing their own Linear TV Over IP plans last year then it comes as no surprise that Sky want to do the same and challenge.

If BT can provide a wholesale Linear IPTV service (based on the Content Connect platform) they make transmission costs come down. If Sky are forced to properly wholesale TV channels then BT will be able to make it appealing to broadcasters to abandon Sat services.

For that reason I believe Sky will be looking at Broadband expansion with 1 eye on IPTV.
Posted by pghuke over 6 years ago
So more bloody green cabinets, and roads dug up. Its about time these companies got real and shared resources. Nobody mentions the disruption these cause, and having a mini telephone exchange outside your door is no joke.
Posted by sammid over 6 years ago
What happened to the cable network that was installed to most homes especially in London, it is still there in our road, and we still have box on the wall outside and the cable is still there. Also the pipes to run the cable through are under the pavements.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
@pghuke, depends what they are planning to do, if its FTTP they don't need green cabinets
Posted by scotiaman over 6 years ago
As a shareholder in BT, I sincerely hope OfCom keep their noses out out of this. These other companies want access to BT's infrastructure for next to nothing. I'm sure they are all aware of the cost in providing this infrastructure. If they want access - LET THEM PAY FOR IT ! Or better still - build your own networks !!!
Posted by creakycopperline over 6 years ago
@scotiaman so that's why everyone on this site is up bt's backside. i suspect gman99 has shares in them too
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