Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bell Labs

Image caption | Bell Labs' Holmdel, New Jersey-based facility was home to basic physics research. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen and built in 1962, the landmark building once housed 6,000 employees. It now stands empty and neglected. Alcatel-Lucent has sold the building to a developer who plans to transform the complex into a mixed-use residential, office and retail space. | Once Mighty Bell Labs Leaves Behind Transistor, Laser, 6 Nobels
By Priya Ganapati

See related story: Bell Labs Kills Fundamental Physics Research


Bell Labs' decision to abandon basic physics research marks the end of a brilliant chapter for the iconic institution. Many of the Labs' most famous discoveries, such as the transistor and the laser, originated in fundamental physics and have gone on to transform computing and technology.

They also brought Bell Labs international glory, including six Nobel Prizes in Physics, starting in 1937 when researcher Clinton Davisson shared the Nobel for demonstrating the wave nature of matter.

The lab will now focus on areas such as networking, high-speed electronics, wireless, nanotechnology and software -- fields that are likely to offer a more immediate payback for parent company Alcatel-Lucent. (...)


Related: blog | Pauline RigbyThe rise and fall of Bell Labs

This August marks the anniversary of a key milestone in optics and telecommunications. It has been 50 years since the publication in Physical Review of the scientific paper that described the concept and design of one of the greatest modern inventions — the laser.

The ideas in "Infrared and optical masers" by Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes of Bell Telephone Labs, as it was then known, underpin the core technology in all of today's fibre-optic networks, although it wasn't until glass fibres with very low loss appeared that laser-based communication became a valid alternative to copper wires.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the laser, Lucent Technologies, the parent company of Bell Labs, issued a press release and threw a party in honour of scientists who had made significant contributions to the development of the laser. This time around, not only did the event pass without comment, but it turns out that Alcatel-Lucent is pulling out of basic physics and semiconductor research altogether.

Nature reported the news initially, which was picked up by Wired in this stunning but rather sad photo story. Read it and weep, as Bell Labs becomes just another corporate R&D division, with a view confined to research that is aligned with product development.

Flickr search results

NGN - Brussels conference

The Next Generation Telecommunications Conference 2008
From Wednesday, 15 October 2008 - 08:30
To Thursday, 16 October 2008 - 17:30
Every day

BSG Chairman Kip Meek Will be providing a keynote speech at the Next Generation Telecommunications Conference 2008, taking place at La Chatelain All Suite Hotel, Brussels. Underlying developments in Next Generation Network infrastructure and terminal technology and reductions in transport service pricing have stimulated demand for broadband connectivity for both fixed and wireless services, and have rapidly increased media consumption by consumers. This conference will discuss these fundamental changes that are shaping both the telecoms and media landscape. Day 1 focuses on the regulatory aspects and developing a framework that allows players to maximise the huge potential that NGNs offer. By examining the various regulatory tools that are available, it will look at best practices in developing an investment friendly environment whilst maintaining a level playing field, and will assess the changing face of regulation by looking at convergence and asking how long separate regulation of infrastructure and content can persist. Day 2 moves on to look at the changing telecoms landscape that is being brought about by NGNs. It will review new service concepts that are being enabled, assess the changing economics that govern this world, consider the benefits those changes will bring to society, and assess the likely futures of both existing players and new entrants.

BSG - Next Generation Broadband

Broadband Stakeholder Group |
The BSG is the industry-government forum tackling strategic issues across the converging broadband value chain.

Next generation broadband

The debate around next generation broadband is currently the key focus for the BSG.

In April 2007 the BSG released its 'Pipe Dreams?' report on prospects for next generation broadband in the UK. The report crystallised the key issues facing UK government and industry as we move towards next generation broadband in the UK, and made a series of recommendations.

The BSG has since been focused on implementing these recommendations, working with stakeholders to develop further insight into the issues the report raised in order to create an evidence base for public and regulatory policy-making.

The next generation broadband work programme has four workstreams:

BSG | 9 June 2008 | Will next generation broadband deliver next generation benefits?

New report examines economic and social value of next generation broadband and concludes there’s more value in doing it right than doing it now.

The UK could reap significant social and economic value from the wide-spread deployment of next generation broadband, according to a new report that studies how to weigh up the costs and benefits, from the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), the government’s leading advisory group on broadband and digital convergence.

By looking at the potential private value (value accruing to commercial investors and consumers) and the wider economic and social value, the BSG has found that the long-term benefits to the UK associated with the wide-scale deployment could outweigh the cost of deployment, which could be as much as £16bn (to reach 80 per cent of UK homes).

However, the report does not conclude that operators should invest now. There is still real uncertainty about the extent to which investors will be able to realise enough of this value to justify investment. The BSG believes that in the short-term, there are unlikely to be significant costs associated with delaying deployment and there may actually be considerable value in waiting for a limited period in order for more information to emerge, before investing.

But the value in waiting will diminish over time and the report recommends that commercial providers, government and regulators continue to work to create an environment that is conducive to timely and efficient investment.

Antony Walker, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group explains: “Next generation broadband has the potential to transform the way we do things as individuals, businesses and as a nation as a whole. It is tempting to jump in feet-first but it matters more to do this right than to do it now. There is a lot of uncertainty about issues on both the demand and supply side and much that we can learn from experience elsewhere without adverse affects in the short-term. On the other hand, the UK can’t wait too long. If widespread network deployment didn’t happen in the medium term (perhaps three to five years), then this report suggests that the UK could be losing out.

The report also warns that it will take longer to deploy next generation broadband than it took to deploy the current generation and that some areas might be beyond the reach of market forces. Communities and individuals that remain beyond the reach of commercial deployment in the long-term will be disadvantaged. Close attention must therefore be paid to the emergence of a new digital divide.

The report follows the BSG’s Pipe Dreams report published in April last year which said the UK needs to start preparing for next generation broadband by 2009. The current report, along with another on models for public sector intervention in the deployment of next generation broadband, will be launched at the BSG’s conference: Beyond Pipe Dreams in London on Monday 9 June.

Press release |

The BSG report ‘A Framework for Evaluating the Value of Next Generation Broadband’ develops a framework for undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of next generation broadband,
and provides estimates for the costs and benefits highlighted by the framework. The report
carries forward Recommendation 1 from the BSG’s April 2007 report ‘Pipe Dreams?
Prospects for Next Generation Broadband in the UK’. The report was developed with
contributions from economists and others from government, industry, academia and the
regulator. The research was undertaken by Plum Consulting on behalf of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, with support from BERR and the Ofcom Consumer Panel.


BSG launches new research

June 17, 2008

(...) our 2008 Conference ‘Beyond Pipe Dreams?’. (...)

First of all, the conference itself produced a lively and informed debate, with representatives from a wide variety of sectors and a range of speakers including Francesco Caio, head of the governemnt’s review of broadband. To view the presentations from the event see

The first of the two reports that we launched at the conference was ‘A Framework for Evaluating the Value of Next Generation Broadband‘. This report examines the incremental economic and social value of next generation broadband over current broadband provision in the UK.

The second report was ‘Models for efficient and effective public sector intervention in next generation broadband access networks‘. This report studies next generation broadband interventions across the world, and first generation interventions in the UK, to determine good practice for interventions in the UK.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ofcom - Regulation & NGN

Ed Richards, Ofcom | 03|07|08 | Serving Consumers: Competition, Innovation And Investment Through The Next Phase - Intellect Conference 2008 - 3 July 2008


Nearly twenty years ago, if a predecessor of mine had been standing on this stage, a key issue for debate would have been whether substantial investment in a wholly new fixed network could be justified and whether investors could make an adequate return on what was seen as a risky investment.

He would have been saying that in an environment remarkably similar to today:-

  • Rapid take-up of new and exciting technologies - at that time it was personal computers.
  • Political uncertainty - with a government that had been in power for over a decade, under new leadership but lagging in the polls.
  • And against a backdrop of economic slowdown and uncertainty in UK and the wider global financial markets.

Then, it was the roll out of cable- bringing TV and telephony over one network for the first time, an event which was in many ways the pre-cursor to convergence.

Today we are at an equally critical juncture in the development of our markets, and those developments are taking place against a remarkably similar set of external factors to the early 1990s: rapid technological development, political uncertainty and at a time of economic slowdown.

And while 20 years ago those choices and challenges posed a real examination at the time for everyone involved, in contrast to today, they seem tame:

  • At the network level- where we see more and more networks competing in an IP based, converged world - fixed broadband, cable, 3G mobile and wi-fi today with the prospect of Wimax, fourth generation mobile and next generation fibre on the horizon.
  • At the service level- where innovative new services are being brought to market on an unprecedented level: Mobile TV, VOIP, video downloads/streaming, HDTV and many more.
  • In content - where more and more content is being produced, edited and refashioned, but where real questions are emerging about the economic sustainability in the medium term about who will fund the production of high quality content.
  • And at the device level - where we know of the competition and innovation around mobiles, around set top boxes and PCs, but we now see the next generation of competition and innovation around personal mobile devices and home hubs with changes to standards, functionality and operating systems now dissolving borders that we once thought insoluble.

In that context, what I want to do today is consider how we carry the success of the last two decades in our communications markets forward into the post switchover digital era.

I want to ask what we need to do to continue taking risks, to keep innovating – so that the UK can stay at the forefront of an increasingly competitive global economy.

The questions at the heart of this are, of course, about:

  • Competition;
  • Investment; and
  • Innovation.

Most of this will be determined by businesses and consumers – but as the regulator we also have a role to play, particularly at a time when economic uncertainty and new investment across a wide range of areas are happening simultaneously.

At Ofcom, everything we do flows from our duties set for us by parliament- to further the interests of citizens and consumers.

In building on these core purposes, let me today set out five areas where the regulator has a critical role to play:-

  • Ensuring effective access to economic bottlenecks.
  • Providing the raw materials for innovation.
  • Allowing companies to make a fair return to stimulate efficient and timely investment.
  • Achieving a judicious mix of public and private players to stimulate the best innovation from both sectors.
  • And the importance of sticking to the principles of good regulation.


Allowing Companies To Make A Fair Return To Stimulate Efficient And Timely Investment

So in fixed, the big issue is addressing the roll-out of super-fast next generation fixed fibre networks in the UK.

Super-fast broadband is crucial to the UK’s future. These next generation networks form part of the critical infrastructure of the country’s economy and will be central to the way we live our lives in the future.

Super-fast next generation broadband will come to change our perception of communications radically. Alongside mobile broadband, it will, in time, have a similar impact on our society and economy as first generation of broadband.

Not just in information and entertainment, but in how businesses and consumers organise themselves and interact and, increasingly, in aspects of our lifestyles such as healthcare.

It will affect distribution, services, content, devices and competition.

Here as much as anywhere we need to ensure that there is a healthy environment for investment – which can support, in turn, competition and innovation.

Our position is clear. Ofcom favours a regulatory environment for the next generation of networks and access that both allows and encourages operators to make risky investments, to innovate for the benefit of consumers and, if the risks pay off, for the benefit of their shareholders too.

We are very clear that if operators are going to make investments in new infrastructure, investment that is inherently more risky than developing the existing infrastructure, then they need to know that the regulatory framework will allow them to make and keep a rate of return that is commensurate with the risks they are taking.

And they need a time horizon that gives them a degree of assurance for a realistic period in the future; that they know for example that the regulator will not suddenly change the rules of the game to reduce the returns just as the rewards for the risk start to flow in.

We want investment in a competitive environment. It is encouraging that cable is now talking about seriously rolling out their next generation high bandwidth product at the end of the summer. The emerging success and rapid take-up of mobile broadband will provide a further spur to the fixed line operators to upgrade to next generation high bandwidth products to differentiate themselves competitively to consumers.

In the fixed line environment there is a range of possible approaches to enable a competitive environment. At the deepest infrastructure layer, we are exploring the possibility of duct access, which is already being implemented in a number of other European countries.

At the next level, sub-loop unbundling, or fibre to the street cabinet, has advanced to the point of meaningful trials.

But these deep infrastructure forms of competition will focus on dense metropolitan areas; and the physics means that there is likely to be room - literally - for a very limited number of competitors.

So while a lot of the emphasis elsewhere in Europe has been on ducts and SLU, we also want to focus on a successful wholesale route to competition; what we call active line access- a good wholesale product family that allows other providers to innovate and differentiate well above that which is associated with a simple resale model.

Perhaps because of the strength of current generation broadband competition in the UK, the debate on next generation access has taken some time to ignite in this country.

Ofcom first surfaced the issue in our Telecommunications Strategic Review. It received little engagement at the time as operators were, understandably, focused on the near term opportunity offered by current generation LLU. Since then we have published two further documents discussing the regulatory challenges posed by next generation access networks, with, it has to be said, very limited reaction or interest until very recently.

Over the last few weeks there has been a step change in the level of interest and engagement on NGA issues from a range of companies and organisations.

This is excellent news and a development that I very much welcome. Now we have meaningful engagement, the time is right to change gear in our determination to address regulatory and other issues of practical implementation.

We need to bring industry together to debate and resolve some critical issues. Ofcom will provide an important forum for debating and resolving these key issues with industry.

That is why I have today written to leading CEOs across the communications sector to initiate a concerted dialogue on the key issues. Ofcom will host the first of a series of working sessions focused on practical action and resolution of areas of uncertainty as soon as possible.


BT fibre plans - coverage | BT unveils £1.5bn super-fast broadband plan | By Andrew Parker and Ben Fenton in London | Published: July 15 2008 08:33 | Last updated: July 15 2008 22:45

BT unveiled plans on Tuesday to roll out a new UK fixed-line network offering broadband speeds five times quicker than those currently available.

The former fixed-line telephone monopoly, is to spend £1.5bn on a fibre-based network covering 10m homes that will mostly enable download speeds of 40 megabits per second, compared with the existing 8 Mbps industry benchmark.

BT has been spurred into action by Virgin Media, the cable television company, which plans to offer speeds of up to 50 Mbps to 12m homes by next summer.

Virgin Media will have a head start on BT, because the phone company will not start deployment of its super-fast broadband network until 2009-10. It is hoping to run the network past 10m homes by 2012.

BT has also been under pressure to commit funds to a super-fast network by the government, which is concerned that otherwise UK competitiveness could be damaged. Countries ranging from Japan to the US have already begun to install fibre networks.


[ ] | Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:55am EDT | BT Announcement Represents First Major Step Towards Next Generation Access in the UK, says Analysys Mason

Matt Yardley, Partner at Analysys Mason, Comments on BT's
Large-Scale Fibre Investment

LONDON--(Business Wire)--

At last, BT has decided to invest in fibre on a large scale. This
is great news for the UK, and will remove some of the awkward
questions about why are we languishing behind many other nations in
the provision of high-speed broadband. BT's announcement is primarily
about VDSL/FTTC, with some limited FTTH. Financially, this is a
sensible step for BT, and should not preclude a move to more
widespread FTTH in the longer term.

In our view, the total investment of GBP 1.5 billion for 10
million homes looks reasonable, although the press release states roll
out " as many as 10 million homes by 2012", so actual coverage
may be lower. The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) is currently
investigating the costs of FTTC and FTTH on a national basis, and
importantly, how costs vary with geography.

There are two other aspects of the announcement that are worth

First, it is not yet clear what BT's statement on the role of
regulation and fair return on investment will mean in practice. BT
appears to be asking for more symmetric regulation, whereby other
fibre operators will also be required to wholesale their services.
Ofcom is expected to provide details of its proposals for regulating
NGA in September this year. It will be fascinating to see to what
extent, if any, Viviane Reding's recent comments on a 'risk premium'
for NGA investments factor into Ofcom's thinking.

Second, we expect there will be greater emphasis than envisaged on
the issues associated with sub-loop unbundling (SLU). This will now be
a very important consideration for alternative operators' future
strategies. To date, SLU charges have not been the subject of as much
regulatory scrutiny as LLU charges. This is now likely to change.
However, it is not clear to what extent BT will be promoting a generic
Ethernet access product (as being developed for the Ebbsfleet FTTH
deployment) over VDSL/FTTC.

The reference to iPlayer is also interesting, especially as many
of the issues around delivery of video services relate to backhaul,
not access networks. Lower charges from exchanges to core network will
be good news for local loop unbundlers, but it is far from clear how
bitstream-based ISPs, which still support a large part of the
broadband user base in the UK, will be affected. It is possible that
the gap between the LLU and bitstream cost base will get wider.

Finally, BT's announcement suggests both urban and rural areas
will benefit. This may be true in the long term, although it seems
unlikely that there will be significant rural deployment for the GBP
1.5 billion figure indicated. This raises a wider public policy
question: What about the remaining 60% of homes?

BT states it wants to work with local and regional bodies to focus
investment, which makes sense. It is also consistent with
recommendations in our report for the BSG on public sector
intervention in next generation broadband. However, there may be an
even greater role for the public sector in stimulating investment
beyond the initial 40% coverage, and almost certainly a larger role
for the public sector, compared with what happened with the initial
roll-out of first generation broadband.

Comment by Matt Yardley, Partner at Analysys Mason.

[ ]

How Realistic Is BT’s Fiber Broadband Plan? Om Malik, Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 2:00 PM PT


Update: My good pal, Dave Burstein, who writes the influential newsletter DSL Prime, wrote in to point out why the news is spin. “There is nothing in the announcement that wasn’t discussed by Christopher Bland with Andrew Parker a year ago,” he wrote. Dave tracks the industry closely, so I’m not surprised he found the “spin” in the news. He also pointed out that by 2012, less than 1 million will be on fiber, and mostly new fiber.

And Andrew Odlyzko, the authority on broadband and networks, in an email to me noted that the incremental 100 million pounds in capital expenditure increase for this promised network upgrade is a mere 3 percent, and even that is contingent on regulatory relief from Ofcom.

Q: Is this investment dependent on Ofcom creating a new regulatory framework?

A: Yes. The right regulatory environment is vital for anyone seeking to invest. The funds required are extremely large and companies need confidence that risk-taking can be appropriately rewarded.

[ ]

[ ] | Analysis: BT's fibre plans go national | By Stephen Pritchard, 16 Jul 2008 at 10:32

How will BT's plans to spend £1.5 billion on a national fibre network affect businesses - and are they too little, too late?

The news that BT is willing to ignore the credit crunch and invest some £1.5 billion - including £1 billion of new money - in a national fibre-optic broadband service should be a boost to businesses and consumers alike.


“The question now is what happens to investments from alternative providers in DSL services in the local loop,” said Pete Nuthall, analyst for European telecoms at research firm Forrester. “There is little incentive [for them] to continue their expansion plans. They might want to look at saving money by using wholesale services from BT.”

Delivering on demand

A further question is whether Ofcom and BT will be able to agree an acceptable regulatory framework that will, in the words of BT chief executive Ian Livingston, “make sure that anyone who chooses to invest in fibre can earn a fair rate of return for their shareholders”.

Ofcom has already welcomed BT’s announcement, but the regulator will have to strike a balance between allowing BT a sufficient profit margin to roll out its new network and ensuring that other ISPs are not driven out of the market by fibre.

“Local loop unbundling is a big issue for Ofcom,” said Anthony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group. “There is a debate that has to happen across the industry.” Options, he suggested, might include sub-loop unbundling, where rival service providers run broadband connections from BT’s fibre cabinets, rather than from exchanges, to businesses or homes.

But in the short to mid term BT’s moves could also have another, paradoxical effect: that of increasing the broadband divide. “In the shorter term there could be more variation (in internet access). The challenge is narrowing that down,” said Walker.

[ ]

Broadband Stakeholder Group responds to BT’s upgrade news

The Broadband Stakeholder Group – The UK government’s leading advisory group on broadband has responded to BT’s announcement that it is to invest £1.5 billion in making next generation, fibre-optic broadband available to up 10 million homes by 2012.

The group are welcoming the announcement as it had already aired its views that a scheme like this was vital for the development of the UK’s industry. In April 2007 the BSG independent advisory group published a ‘Pipe Dreams Report’ in which it was stated that there was a two-year window to “create the right environment for next generation deployment in the UK”.

Commenting on BT’s announcement, Antony Walker, CEO of the BSG said “There has been a question mark hanging over the UK telecoms sector for the last 18 months about how we move to next generation broadband. Today’s announcement is by no means the whole answer, there are still questions about the regulatory framework and how we extend services to more rural areas, but it is a very significant step forward.” Walker also said that he hoped that Ofcom could “move quickly to create a regulatory framework that both enables large-scale investment and ensures effective competition”.

The BSG sees the new proposed development from BT as being so important it is claiming it to be the start of Web 3.0.

[ ]

BSG| BSG welcomes BT announcement on next generation broadband

The BSG welcomes today’s announcement from BT that it plans to invest £1.5 billion in making next generation broadband available to up to 10 million homes by 2012.

In April 2007, the BSG, - the UK’s leading independent advisory group on broadband - published its Pipe Dreams Report that stated that there was a two-year window to create the right environment for next generation broadband deployment in the UK.

Commenting on the announcement, Antony Walker, CEO of the BSG said “There has been a question mark hanging over the UK telecoms sector for the last 18 months about how we move to next generation broadband. Today’s announcement is by no means the whole answer, there are still questions about the regulatory framework and how we extend services to more rural areas, but it is a very significant step forward”.

BT’s announcement comes in response to increasing competition from cable and new mobile broadband services and growing demand for bandwidth from consumers. Walker described it as “a positive sign that the transition to next generation broadband can be market-led. The key question now will be whether Ofcom can move quickly to create a regulatory framework that both enables large-scale investment and ensures effective competition”.

The BSG believes that the move to next generation broadband will be at least as important as the move from narrowband to broadband. “It will bring about a revolution in the capability and quality of services and will enable the next big development of the internet. You could think of it as the catalyst for web 3.0”.

[ ]

| BT's Superfast Broadband: Call or Bluff?

My first paper as a Yankee Group NGA analyst was published during my holiday. It's entitled BT's Superfast Broadband: Call or Bluff? It was written in collaboration with my colleague Camille Mendler and it analyses BT's July NGA announcement. If your company is a Yankee Group customer, you can access this piece on our webiste or through your internal market intelligence contacts.

If you're not, time to lobby the right people!


BT's Superfast Broadband Plan: Call or Bluff?PublishedAugust 14, 2008 | A Long-Awaited Announcement On July 16, 2008, BT finally lay down its cards regarding next-generation access (NGA). The UK incumbent proposed a $2.99 billion (1.5 billion) investment to connect 10 million homes to higher-capacity broadband services by 2012. Although a fiber-rich deployment, the bulk of the build will not be fiber to the home (FTTH) or building. Rather, fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) delivering very high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL) service will serve 90% of the initially targeted sites. BT has stated, however, that execution on the investment depends on a review of BT's regulated rate of financial return for its infrastructure. BT Faces Mounting Pressure Working in partnership with the UK regulator Ofcom, BT has had much to congratulate itself on with regards to the health of the UK broadband market. In less than 5 years, the United Kingdom has bypassed Germany, France, Italy and Spain in broadband uptake, with 26% of the UK population using broadband (see the June 2008 Yankee Group Link Data: EMEA ConnectedView). In part, this has been due to the creation of Openreach, the independent BT Group company responsible for all regulated access services. The genesis of Openreach is now a template for functional separation that countries as distant as Australia are considering to foster unfettered competition. However, although these moves successfully dealt with legacy copper infrastructure, the matter of NGA and how it should be funded remains unresolved. Both BT Group and Openreach remained poker-faced on the matter until now. They said that NGA would happen, but refused to commit to a date. At the June conference organized by the influential Broadband Stakeholder Group, which represents UK industry and government, Openreach CEO Steve Robertson stated that an 18-month time frame was likely

[ ]

telco2.0 blog | 4 Aug 2008 | BT fibre roll-out: Do the numbers add up?

BT is at last moving on fibre. This is of interest because BT don’t own a cellular network, and their current residential copper access network is functionally separated — a very ‘Telco 2.0’ horizontal model. Is it possible to make money on new network builds without complete vertical integration and a monopoly on services?

We dig into the numbers, and work out whether BT’s shareholders should be concerned, or delighted. (...)

BT - FTTH announcement 15 July 2008

[ Keywords: Next generation networks - competition - wholesale - equivalence of access - open networks - regulation - Ofcom - consumer - business - urban - rural - government, regional, local authorities ]

BT Press Release | NR08-262 | July 15, 2008 |BT plans UK’s largest ever investment in Super-Fast Broadband

• £1.5 billion programme to give up to 10 million homes access to fibre by 2012
• Plans dependent on regulatory regime and certainty
• Dividend guidance reaffirmed, share buyback suspended from July 31 2008

BT today announced plans to roll out fibre-based, super-fast broadband to as many as 10 million homes by 2012. The £1.5 billion programme will deliver a range of services with top speeds of up to 100 Mb/s with the potential for speeds of more than 1,000 Mb/s in the future.

The investment forms part of BT’s wider strategy of delivering next generation broadband services nationwide. The UK already has world leading broadband availability and this investment programme offers the prospect of joining the world super league for broadband speeds as well.

BT chief executive Ian Livingston said: “Broadband has boosted the UK economy and is now an essential part of our customers’ lives. We now want to make a step-change in broadband provision which will offer faster speeds than ever before. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in Britain’s broadband story.

“This is a bold step by BT and we need others to be just as bold. We are keen to partner with people who share our vision for the next phase of the broadband revolution. We want to work with local and regional bodies to decide where and when we should focus the deployment. Our aim is that urban and rural areas alike will benefit from our investment”.

A supportive and enduring regulatory environment is essential if this investment is to take place. Given this, BT will be discussing with Ofcom the conditions that would be necessary to enable this programme to progress. These include removing current barriers to investment and making sure that anyone who chooses to invest in fibre can earn a fair rate of return for their shareholders.

Fibre-based super-fast broadband will give customers enough speed to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications. So, for example, some members of a family could be watching different high definition movies while others were gaming or working on complex graphics or video projects. The new services will also offer substantially improved “upstream” speeds allowing customers to post videos, use hi-def video conferencing and enjoy interactive hi-def gaming to the full.

BT already provides fibre to the premises of more than 120,000 businesses, and has deployed more than 10 million kilometres of fibre in the network.

BT is committed to wholesaling its new services – unlike many other companies and countries – thereby ensuring Britain remains the most competitive broadband market in the world. BT will also be pressing for any other next generation access network in the UK to be open to other companies.


Q & A

(...) Which areas will benefit first from this investment?
BT will work with Government and regional and local authorities on the roll out plans. They can help ensure there is demand for fibre and so we look forward to working with them to ensure our roll-out is demand-driven. Our aim is that both urban and rural areas will be able to benefit.
Will fibre only be available in large cities as has happened in other countries?
No. Our aim is that fibre will be widely available and not just in the major cities – unlike in some countries. Its precise deployment will depend on the engagement of government and regional and local authorities but there is no reason why it should not be available in a variety of environments.


Is this investment dependent on Ofcom creating a new regulatory framework?
Yes. The right regulatory environment is vital for anyone seeking to invest. The funds required are extremely large and companies need confidence that risk-taking can be appropriately rewarded.

Will BT exclude other companies in the way companies have in other countries?
No. BT is totally committed to a wholesale market and so will make its services available on an equivalent basis to all communications providers.

Does BT believe that other next generation networks should also be open?
Yes. BT’s firm belief is that all next generation networks in the UK should be open as this approach will boost competition and consumers and businesses will benefit.


Are you taking action to reduce the congestion caused by services such as the BBC’s iPlayer?
Yes. BT has made it much cheaper for companies to buy extra capacity on the “backhaul” pipes that link exchanges to the core network. This move should ensure Internet congestion is minimised. BT will also invest significant funds in improving core network capacity. Both measures should ensure customers on BT’s network will enjoy a higher quality of service than those on cable networks where contention and internet congestion has been more of an issue.

(...) / x

"The era of the American Internet is ending." | Internet Traffic Begins to Bypass the U.S. | By JOHN MARKOFF| Published: August 29, 2008

The era of the American Internet is ending.

Invented by American computer scientists during the 1970s, the Internet has been embraced around the globe. During the network’s first three decades, most Internet traffic flowed through the United States. In many cases, data sent between two locations within a given country also passed through the United States.

Engineers who help run the Internet said that it would have been impossible for the United States to maintain its hegemony over the long run because of the very nature of the Internet; it has no central point of control.

And now, the balance of power is shifting. Data is increasingly flowing around the United States, which may have intelligence — and conceivably military — consequences.

(...) Internet technologists say that the global data network that was once a competitive advantage for the United States is now increasingly outside the control of American companies. They decided not to invest in lower-cost optical fiber lines, which have rapidly become a commodity business.

That lack of investment mirrors a pattern that has taken place elsewhere in the high-technology industry, from semiconductors to personal computers.

(...) The risk, Internet technologists say, is that upstarts like China and India are making larger investments in next-generation Internet technology that is likely to be crucial in determining the future of the network, with investment, innovation and profits going first to overseas companies.

“Whether it’s a good or a bad thing depends on where you stand,” said Vint Cerf, a computer scientist who is Google’s Internet evangelist and who, with Robert Kahn, devised the original Internet routing protocols in the early 1970s. “Suppose the Internet was entirely confined to the U.S., which it once was? That wasn’t helpful.”


Others say the eclipse of the United States as the central point in cyberspace is one of many indicators that the world is becoming a more level playing field both economically and politically.

“This is one of many dimensions on which we’ll have to adjust to a reduction in American ability to dictate terms of core interests of ours,” said Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. “We are, by comparison, militarily weaker, economically poorer and technologically less unique than we were then. We are still a very big player, but not in control.”

China, for instance, surpassed the United States in the number of Internet users in June. Over all, Asia now has 578.5 million, or 39.5 percent, of the world’s Internet users, although only 15.3 percent of the Asian population is connected to the Internet, according to Internet World Stats, a market research organization.

By contrast, there were about 237 million Internet users in North America and the growth has nearly peaked; penetration of the Internet in the region has reached about 71 percent.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dark fibre

Communications - Towards a new age of enlightenment, through the dark side of networks?

From the archive: In 1992, George Gilder foresaw a future beyond the telcos, a new communications landscape ecology based upon dark fibre; a future that the telcos have worked hard to foreclose:


  • "Dark fiber" is simply a glass fiber optic thread with nothing attached to it, (ie. no light being sent through it). In this "unlit" condition, it is available for use without the intermediation of phone company electronics or intelligent services.
  • The future of the information age depends on the rise of dumb and dark networks to accommodate the onrush of ever smarter electronics. Ultimately at stake is nothing less than the future of the computer and communications infrastructure of the U.S. economy, its competitiveness in world markets, and the consummation of the age of information. Although the phone companies do not want to believe it, their future will be dark.