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List of potential super-connected cities published
Tuesday 20 December 2011 13:19:16 by Andrew Ferguson

The Broadband Lottery for UK cities is underway, with a deadline of 13th February 2012 for the potential candidates to submit their entries. Ten cities will share £100m of funding recently announced, the four nations capitals are pre-selected, London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and a further six cities will be chosen in a competition based on the quality of their proposal.

The cities eligible for entry in this competition are Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield. There has been no announcement on how the £100m will be distributed, but each city will be expected to provide their own additional funding on top of the money this super-connected city fund can deliver.

The DCMS press release talks of Virgin Media and BT strengthening their networks in the winning cities to provide 80 to 100 Mbps services. This does not appear to be any extra investment by the two large providers, since Openreach was already planning upgrades to its FTTC product to uplift the maximum speed to 80 Mbps in 2012, and Virgin Media is expected to complete its network upgrades to offer a 100 Mbps product on DOCSIS 3.0.

The schemes are intended to provide services in the parts of the cities where BT and Virgin Media does not already have its superfast services available, and thus the most straight forward implementation may simply be infill work to enable FTTC services from all BT cabinets in a city. The important point that is often overlooked in press coverage is that while FTTC can provide very good speeds to those within 100m to 200m of their green cabinet, for those at distances of 1000 metres the speed drop off is significant, and while it will out perform the current ADSL2+ services, it will not always hit the headline grabbing speeds. The clever schemes will find a way to push fibre closer to premises e.g. FTTB for blocks of flats and FTTP for homes and businesses.

While we will find out the six winners in the March 2012 Budget, the money allocated from the urban broadband fund will not be announced until July 2012, and then of course there will be the usual procurement processes to undertake.

The investment in broadband is welcome, but when compared to the billions allocated to infrastructure projects such as the HS2 high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands which are aiming to shave perhaps 15 to 20 minutes off the journey time to Birmingham, this £100m spending on broadband looks insignificant. Good, fast reliable broadband has the ability to help business travelers avoid the need to travel to so many meetings, and improving broadband coverage on the rail networks would allow people traveling to remain in touch, unlike the current fade in/out of coverage.

The amount of construction work involved in a full fibre to the home network means deployment is expensive, but the billions spent on rail projects such as HS2 could deliver full fibre to every home in the UK, and provide a solid ten to fifteen years of construction work and benefit all corners of the UK.


Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
Are we now suppossed to belive that FTTC cannot be fully rolled out across these cities on a commercial basis and that BT needs a subsidy to do so?
Posted by MCM999 over 5 years ago
FTTC is not available on EO lines which aren't necessarily "short". For example I live in a London infill development just south of the Thames where there are 75+ EO lines which are over 2km in length. We are surrounded by FTTC equipped cabs but FTTC isn't available on EO lines. I doubt enabling 75 lines using perhaps FTTP could be commercially justified.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Also to date only one city has had all its cabinets enabled for FTTC and that was in Milton Keynes.

So reality indicates BT rules mean some cabinets are not being enabled.
Posted by WWWombat over 5 years ago
If BT are going to raise their FTTC speed from 80Mbps to 100Mbps, then they're probably going to be relying on vectoring technology in the cabinets.

If they manage this, and get results that are even vaguely close to those seen experimentally, then they will also be increasing the distance for those 100Mbps speed out to 700 metres, and still get 80Mbps out to 1km.

If it can be done in software alone, this would be a very significant enhancement.
Posted by WWWombat over 5 years ago
And it is a very good point about the relative cost of HS2 too, although the financial case there has HS2 staying viable for many decades to come - each net technology seems to become obsolete within a decade, and that difference has to be factored in too.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
FTTC has a obsolete life span of about 10 to 15 years.

Full fibre has been in commercial use for backbones for a lot longer already, and look at DWDM for multiple wavelengths to boost speed down a single fibre.

Thus full fibre has a 30 year + life span.

Might be wishful thinking, but if people work from home more, then existing trains are less crowded.
Posted by WWWombat over 5 years ago
I roughly agree on that timescale for FTTC, but at the moment I'm struggling to see what we will need more than 100Mbps for. I'm sure it'll come, over that time period, but there is a reasonable change that the technology could last another decade longer.

In fact, the one thing that might bring true fibre to the fore is not raw speed, but the reliability issue: the "up to" nature of VDSL in a degrading copper environment. Perhaps, in a decade or two, the policy will be to swap copper to fibre when a subscriber starts encountering interference & disconnections.
Posted by WWWombat over 5 years ago
A problem with defining a lifespan for "full fibre" is that we've gone through a few generations of technology, not all backwards compatible. While fibre has already existed for 30 yrs, it hasn't existed in one deployable form.

BT probably don't want to start to roll out fibre (for mass use in residential) until they have a technology that they can be pretty sure will be capable of backward-compatible upgrades for at least that 30-50 year timescale.

HS2 opponents use the argument that people will travel less because technology lets them work from home. HS2 themselves believe the opposite.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Some enterprising company may come up with a hardware solution. Simply swap out the cabinet/exchange hardware and fibre from there to the enduser, rather than fibre all the way back to the exchange.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
With HS Broadband working from home becomes more of a reality. I forsee a hybrid system with say offices open six days a week with people office based 2 or 3 days a week and home based 2 or 3 days a week.

Clearly this could not work for every type of job but where it can work there are very significant savings. You only need half the office space and a car park half it's current size. You would also see a significant reduction in road & rail traffic avoiding the need for expensive improvements
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
themanstan, I'm sure that is what will happen, the street cab (in future years) will become a head end for the local fibre.
Posted by Oldskoolraver over 5 years ago
@andrew - Milton Keynes has not had all it's cabinets enabled for FTTC. The main exchange in MK (Bradwell Abbey) has FTTP deployed to a limited area, approximately one third of homes. The remaining two thirds (20k homes) are on still on basic ADSL. BT have just announced that this area will be infilled with a mix of FTTP and FTTC throughout 2012 - - Other smaller exchanges in the MK area (Wolverton, Fenny Straford etc) have FTTC in some areas, but it’s certainly not in all areas even on these smaller exchanges.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Ericsson has a very interesting technical document on the future of VDSL. It's actually quite old, but proves the point on FTTC future proofing... assuming they can get the theoretical off the paper and working in the real world. The issues thye came up with were crosstalk, so vectoring plus these high frequency protocols...
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
the tories just dont get it, time and time again they plough investment into areas that dont need investment and leave rundown areas as they are.
Belfast already has a decent FTTx rollout so why is it auto selected? cardiff also is better than most other cities.
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