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Ofcom CEO Sharon White suggests final 5% will not be fibre based
Wednesday 22 July 2015 12:38:27 by Andrew Ferguson

For anyone following the broadband and digital economy market there is a copy of a Select Committee meeting with Sharon White the Chief Executive of Ofcom that talks a lot about the broadband situation in the UK and lays out some of the future paths for Ofcom.

A most interesting snippet was that Ms White revealed that Ofcom believes that for the final 5% and delivering superfast broadband to them, wireless and satellite connectivity rather than a fibre, stating 'we are not going to get there through fibre' (if short on time a scroll to 11:15:30 on the video). This apparent lean towards satellite also appears to be lead by some of the MPs in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, our understanding of current available capacity on transponders pointing at the UK is that a lot more capacity would be needed if a large part of the 5% was satellite based.

The new Ofcom boss also highlighted to the MPs that the final 5% while mostly rural is not exclusively rural which is often the picture presented and that the Governments 95% superfast target should deliver 95% coverage for households but a lower 82% figure for the SME sector.

There is a hint too that mobile switching may change and adopt a similar GPL system to that which fixed broadband now has, avoiding the need to chase your old mobile phone provider for a PAC to migrate your existing mobile number.

Comments

Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
I would like to send a very clear message to Sharon White.
It is very obvious the areas that are are outside the reach of superfast fixed broadband. Work should be started now on phase 3 of BDUK to find a superfast solution for these areas, but satellite is not acceptable we want Fixed Wireless
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
And they are starting work with the pilots to find out if they deliver what they say on the tin and what sort of costs will be involved.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Fixed Wireless has been around for 15 years or more, has it not proved itself in that time?
As for costs, is it not obvious that a system that just uses a wireless mast and a few antenna is going to be far cheaper than fixed wired broadband?
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
If only it were so simple! The critical trade-off is between the capital/rental cost of a mast vs the number of connections per mast. Trees obstructing line of sight often limit the number of connections per mast, requiring more masts to serve a community. Tall (expensive) masts avoid this but they cost a lot more to build and are unpopular. Hence, wireless may not be as cheap as simple calculations suggest.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
But wireless very often will be a lot cheaper than fixed wired options. One mast can transmit for up to 25 miles, small antenna can be added to the system where needed as demand increases. Its not rocket science in fact its little different to terrestrial TV and you can use the same mast.
Posted by ian72 about 1 year ago
Wireless also requires backhaul. Either physical connection at the mast or via radio backhaul. Wireless technologies that provide the bandwidths and distances required tend to be licensed and still reasonably expensive. Topography makes a difference as well - hilly areas area problem and masts are often not allowed on the top of hills. It is a potential solution but not a silver bullet.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
The backhaul can be in a town or city as long as it has line of site with the main mast. Existing masts and some buildings can be used as a relay.
Deployment is very much a case of where there is a will there is a way.
Fixed wired broadband would require a massive amount of Government money for the final 5% but fixed wireless is deliverable in most areas commercially.
Posted by Gadget about 1 year ago
@Chilting - if fixed wireless is deliverable commercially then why hasn't anyone done it yet?
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
Depends upon what you mean by rural and commercial. Serving compact villages with populations of > 500 may be ok but certainly not dispersed communities with smaller populations. The larger villages will almost certainly have access to ADSL2+ and will get FTTC sooner or later, so any wireless operator has only a limited window to cover its costs.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@Gadget
There are quite a few commercial ISP's around the UK that provide fixed wireless but I think that this is just the beginning and that as it becomes obvious what areas still have poor broadband speeds fixed wireless cover will fill the gaps.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@gah789
Dispersed communities can easily be covered by fixed wireless, the mast has a range of up to 25 miles - rather more than a FTTC cabinet!
Remote communities like Dartmoor and Exmoor will need public funding but most of the rest of us should be able to support a commercial service. But you are probably talking about prices from £30 per month for a basic service.
Posted by SlimJ about 1 year ago
I've been on Fixed Wireless (Vfast) and now on FTTC, my experience is that FW needs a company with deep pockets to ensure capacity and low latency demands are met, especially with HD streaming and demand for bandwidth at peak times. So far with my FTTC connection, I'm experiencing low latency and maximum speeds (for my line) 24 hours a day, something my fixed wireless provider could not provide me with unfortunately.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
A mast might have a range of 25 miles, and be capable of serving hundreds of clients. Sounds grand.

But it likely only has capacity to serve a tiny fraction of those properties - if it is to meet the congestion guidelines and remain superfast-compliant.

The solution is to limit the number of premises (by getting most onto fixed-line) or expand the number of masts hugely. But expanding the masts is somewhat limit by the amount of spectrum available, and they each require decent backhaul too - where spectrum is also limited, unless you use fixed-line for that.

Balance isn't easy.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
For comparison, one of Airwave's phase 3 trials is made up of
- 4 masts
- 10 antenna feeding end-users
- 6 dishes for interconnection of masts
- 1 dish for combined backhaul to exchange

That serves 150 premises in the village.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
On the matter of what the final 5% looks like:

The ONS has a definition of "Built Up Areas" for England and Wales ... which conveniently results in 95% of the population living in such areas.

4% of the final 5% will live outside BUA's, while 1% will be urban.

According to ONS, their very smallest BUA's (at around the 95th percentile) are hamlets of 100-300 people, 50-125 homes.

So wireless is going to have to serve places smaller than this - or perhaps a ring surrounding a larger served village.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
I run a WISP that is larger than Airwave's trial site and work with several others - all with highly dispersed populations. To be a genuinely commercial operation in such areas you need a combination of high prices and scale. That doesn't work because the majority of households expect to get low prices and high speeds (probably with no service). So, inevitably, you become a niche operator. We can grow quite fast but remain tiny in the larger context.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
gah789

because the majority of households expect to get low prices and high speeds (probably with no service) -- often where they have no gas. drainage or any other services but expect fast broadband

so true
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
@WWWombat:
A mast may provide point-to-point links over 25 miles but ~5 miles is the practical limit for point-to-multipoint distribution. Spectrum is a huge constraint at any heavily used mast. Airwave's specification reflects the reality - < 40 premises per mast. However, most of us would not want to rely upon a single backhaul link. Allowing for consumer equipment you can easily finish up with an average cost of £300-400 per property covered and some schemes are much more expensive than that.
Posted by armshead about 1 year ago
I will have had fixed wireless for three years in October. There is no comparison with the misery of a fixed line from a take it or leave it monopoly. I am actually better off as I don't have the expense of an unwanted fixed line. An utterly reliable service instead of one which consitently failed in high winds and heavy rain.Wherever fixed wireless can be provided at reasonable cost, that is the way to go.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Our West Chiltington exchange only offers about 80% superfast coverage at 25Mbps and above. Of the remaining 250 properties about 100 in a cluster could benefit from the second phase of BDUK. The remaining 150 properties on long lines served by 4 different cabinets all snaking together will hopefully soon benefit from a commercial fixed wireless service.
Posted by Llety about 1 year ago
£300-400 and 30 quid a month .....who do I write the cheque to ?

For many of us it having no option (sat. is not reliable) and if wireless was provided, I am sure many like me would be happy to pay for any reliable solution that delivers > 2mb.

Our BT fixed line fails (voice as well) when the sun comes out, but as we are in Wales, it does not happen often.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@Llety
Keep looking for fixed wireless operators. They are often small companies that don't advertise.
If you see one that looks like they may cover your area try and get interest going amongst you neighbours and the wider community.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi.
When I was in Spain in May I asked the monthley price for wireless broadband in the hills outside of Alicante and the price was 18e / £13 per month the mast was 6 miles from the house I did not asked what the service was like there was no copper to the small area.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@Blackmamba
That sounds a bit to good to be true. The cheapest fixed wireless packages in the UK seem to be around the £30 mark.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi
I will check with Theo (Dutch ) when I see him in August his transfer and instillation fee was nil because he installed it himself after buying his Equiptment at a his other site.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
In Spain many Swedish and Norwegian receive there news and their local information over broadband not over Sat at a price of 15 e per month. Remember Spain is using the 5 Meg rule.
Posted by kijoma about 1 year ago
heh "Posted by Gadget 1 day ago
@Chilting - if fixed wireless is deliverable commercially then why hasn't anyone done it yet?"

Erm i think you will find they have. Kijoma have been doing it for over 10 years commercially in a sustainable way. ironically the largest concern is the extensive over build of long existent Fixed wireless networks with state funded BT Fibre. In West Sussex they have targetted this specifically and excluded investment in areas without the fixed wireless option.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
It will be up to fixed wireless operators to adapt their networks to cover the small pockets that are beyond the reach of wired broadband. This may be a difficult challenge but it is what the market demands.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi.
In Surrey on a very long line 9K metres there is a customer waiting for connection ( fibre access) who has Kijoma access but is being held back because Openreach will not show their hand across Surrey and off load a Cab.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@Blackmamba
Clearly the customer will do better sticking with Kijoma.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi.
Not when they have cable very close fibre/copper and it is the customers wish to be connected with other houses (Bus/Res) there are many DP that are cabled waiting to be enabled for FTTC/P reason ?.
Posted by Gadget about 1 year ago
@Kijoma - Bill I know you've been active in the Wireless are for some time - my point (and I think you make the same) is that if it hasn't got wireless already it is probably currently not economic to do it (otherwise I'm sure you'd be there) and if it is there then people should be using that option if it gives them a speed increase over DSL.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Chi. And others.
Just rechecked on a line that showed fibre coil on DP pole now is open for service number 0125270212x this has be waiting for six months I expected many other DP,s are open for service on this Cab.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
Just checked Customers on Wormley Cab 7 open to FTTC/P this has many long lines on it feed by overhead fibre to DP,s the 5 % window is closing the opertunity for Kijoma and other wireless systems is looking not good.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@gah789
I concur; the 25 mile thing was a response to @chilting's comment. The main restriction is keeping few subscribers per antenna, to keep sustainable throughput, and 40 seems fair. That alone is going to keep range smaller. Spectrum clashes likely mean power restrictions and reduced range anyway.

I expect the subsidies to hit up to £800, but for that level, I'd expect a hefty chunk to go towards backhaul.
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