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Arqiva warns of serious risk that broadband for all may fail
Wednesday 25 January 2012 15:46:58 by Andrew Ferguson

Arqiva has reacted to the announcement from Fujitsu that it is pulling out of the tendering process for superfast broadband in Wales. Arqiva while not running for any of the tenders who own around 20% of mobile masts in the UK are in a position to comment on the BDUK processes, and how it appears to be going.

"The Government should heed this announcement from Fujitsu and recognise that the planned series of separate, devolved broadband procurements are clearly economically and commercially challenging for the private sector to deliver.

This means there is a serious risk that the key public policy goal of offering broadband to all may not be achieved.

It is now clearer than ever that wireless broadband must be offered to all consumers who aren't going to be offered fibre. What's more, if the Government is serious about achieving broadband for all before the next election, then they need to take a leadership position and directly procure a national, commercially viable, wholesale solution to ensure that the 'last 10%' of consumers - mostly rural - are reached."

Comments from Arqiva

The BDUK process has not been a very fast moving process, and perhaps that is why the deadline for submission of local authority plans to the BDUK was brought forward to the end of February 2012, originally it was set for April 2012.

It should be noted that some BDUK plans already have talked of using 4G mobile broadband to provide infill for areas where fibre solutions are not cost effective, and Suffolk went further wanting blanket 4G coverage of the county as part of its plan. Of the alternatives for people living in this final 10% where the BDUK money is inadequate to provide even the more basic FTTC solution, wireless either fixed or mobile is perhaps the most future proofed, and others reasonable downstream, upstream speeds and decent latency.

There is the £20m rural broadband fund, but if that is divided out and handled piecemeal it will not go far, and may just end being used to subsidies KA-band satellite services, which while they provide a solution are well above what most people are willing to for each GB of usage, and also exclude one big success story in the UK economy, the gaming industry.

Some may take comments like those made today as a death knell for the broadband for all by 2015 target, but with some positive direction and some actions to reduce the risk to private investors may re-introduce tough competition and drive innovation, rather than the approach that we seem to have of patch and make do so that the May 2015 target is met if one uses the right metrics. The worst thing that can happen is if every one gives up and rolls over, thus allowing whatever forms the path of least resistance to roll-out a patchy mediocre solution.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
we won't give up... B4RN is on course to prove that communities Can Do IT. Of course we could have done it a lot quicker if government had helped instead of hindered. 4G will be great on top of a fibre network. But 4G is not the final solution. And... As long as we keep patching up the old phone network we will never be a digital britain, because it can't deliver to so many, and alternatives such as wifi mobile and satellite are not the solution either.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
The way to make it work is to get the planning offices and utilities cooperating, get rid of the voa tax, sack ofcom and all the other quangos and level the playing field. Get the spectrum out there and working, get the private companies building real rural fibre networks, and give the telcos a run for their money, cos when decent rural networks are built with fibre they will stop pratting about trying to keep the old phone lines working and realise they belong in the past, if they don't the new networks will pinch their customers.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Fujitsu could have done great. Vitesse could have done great in cornwall too. you cant blame them for pulling out, they can't compete with an incumbent monopoly. So what happens is that BT get the tenders. BT put a few extra cabinets in, thus classing a whole exchange as 'superfast' even though many can't get 'superfast' and a whole new digital divide opens up, and we are held to ransom for another decade. Then the job is to do again.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Cyberdoyle there is nothing stopping private companies building rural fibre networks now, B4RN are doing it?
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
And Gigaclear have done in Hambleton.

The problem is that most companies are very risk averse at the moment. Debt that would need to be taken on to make working capital is expensive to service. And the ROI for commercial roll-outs are not good unless prices are high, e.g. £50 pcm for Gigaclear's service.

B4RN dispenses with much of the costs involved by volunteer work, hence the more affordable £30 pcm.

Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
The main issue is that rather than risk their own money to set up network and compete properly, they want to piggy back on BT a competitor. I think that they've chosen the wrong network and should have tried piggy backing on National Grid, which isn't competitor.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
You don't mean National Grid, it's the local power companies that have the distribution into properties.

cyberdoyle refuses to understand the high cost of putting fibre into areas with roads and pavements and where people are happy with their current service. The only solution is government funding for a full FTTP rollout, or, let the market decide what it wants.
Posted by uniquename over 5 years ago
Apart from someone with big money, a big brand name,and willing to make huge losses for a few years, like Murdoch could, (or used to be able to), the first private company to install significant fibre anywhere will find BT go there as well and pick up all the punters. The private company folds if it is unlucky, just about escapes if it is lucky.

Existing cable proves the point. It took Branson to buy the lot, (OK it's technically NTL but let's talk real), t keep it alive.

TT could have done it. They haven't. They are using Openreach GEA.

End of.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
you're right Somerset,they would need to deal with local electricity distributors, but to form additional core they could use NG. Much like they have done in Sweden, proper engagement between utilities, ISPs and Gov.
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"wireless broadband must be offered to all consumers who aren't going to be offered fibre"

"let the market decide what it wants."

The market HAS decided what it wants to do (or wants not to do). Pretty much the whole of the UK already has private sector fixed wireless broadband licences. The auctions (2004?) were followed by backroom deals where some of the winners were paid to hand their licences to PCCW, who have sat on them ever since.

Presumably anyone who cared could have bought licences from PCCW and rolled out a service.

So goeth market forces.
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
wireless is as weak as piss. doubt it would give even 1mb, especially if you're in the sticks.
Posted by wirelesspacman over 5 years ago
well, creaky obviously does not know what he is talking about! :-)
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
Wireless is really the best system for rural areas and is financially viable and can deliver speeds similar to FTTC
BDUK should be deciding the technologies to use and should not be leaving it to local councils who do not have the technical knowledge or business and commercial experience required
The two basic technologies that should be used universally across the UK should be FTTC/H & Wireless with satellite being used for very remote premises.
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
@wirelesspacman (or indeed others)

As an 'industry insider', any ideas on what the deal is with outfits like PCCW? If it's already written about elsewhere, pointers welcome.

And if, as arqiva would have us believe, there really is a viable commercial opportunity here, why haven't those interested persuaded Ofcon to tell PCCW "hand back or sell your unused licences, or else" (er else what, actually)
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
@wirelesspacman and you do? ok then tell me, can wireless provide the same speeds as ftth with no interuption? and no drop out with zero latency issues? and juding by your username you either work for a wireless technology company, who's eager to rip off the rural folk with an substandard wireless connection.
and dissapear with the bduk money. and i say again wireless is piss poor. so piss off back under the bridge troll.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago

As usual with new tech it's behind schedule, but the speed is there and the latency is of the same order as ADSL...
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
OMG have you watched the video! The uplink requires an existing 3G, WiMax or DSL network. This is dead in the water already.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
So? It's answers your questions on latency and speed.

In fact with microwave p2p you can get 750+ Mbps connections with ultra low latency and 100km range. That is all fed from a bit fat fibre pipe. Stupidly expensive of course but the tech is there.
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