Ofcom ponders future of Britain’s fast net – broadband via sewers

Super-fast broadband could be delivered via the underground pipes of the UK’s water and electricity companies, regulator Ofcom has said.It is conducting a survey of the UK’s ducting network to see its suitability for carrying fibre networks.Some companies in the UK and France already offer fast broadband via the sewers.Ofcom also wants to see the three million homes earmarked to be built in the UK by 2020, fibre-enabled.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7350431.stmOfcom sets out agenda for next-generation broadband
Ofcom yesterday tried to take control of the debate over how to create the next generation of super-fast broadband in the UK when it suggested the nation’s sewers, electric pipes and underground telecom ducts could be used to carry new cables.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/apr/17/telecoms.internet1Put broadband in sewers, says Ofcom
Broadband cables should be put in sewers to help cope with the soaring demand for online video content, media regulator Ofcom is saying.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/16/digitalmedia.ofcomDelivering super-fast broadband to new build homes and businesses [news release]
Ofcom announces survey to examine future broadband infrastructureOfcom today published proposals to promote next generation broadband networks for new housing and office developments. It also announced a survey of UK infrastructure to examine the scope for extending these networks elsewhere.The proposals seek to encourage investment in super-fast broadband with speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s*, while promoting competition in the provision of these services.The proposed regulations are designed to provide investors with certainty over how these new networks will be regulated. They will ensure that all communications providers interested in delivering high-speed broadband have equal opportunities to invest in telecoms infrastructure for new build properties.In 2007, the Government announced a target of three million new build homes by 2020; it is estimated that around 246,000 new residential and business premises are being built each year. A number of new build developments are already being fitted with fibre-based networks, including Ebbsfleet in Kent, where the new owners will move in this summer.Next generation, new buildThe UK’s move to next generation fibre-based telecoms networks is one of the most fundamental changes in telecoms infrastructure since the development of broadband.Many businesses are interested in providing fibre networks to new build developments, including property developers, utility companies and telecoms companies.Ofcom’s proposals are designed to safeguard levels of competition and consumer protection for next generation fibre-based products that currently apply to copper-based networks today. The proposals are designed to:

  • provide regulatory clarity and equal treatment of communications providers whilst ensuring flexibility during roll-out of new fibre-based products;
  • encourage investment by standardising wholesale telecoms products to make the deployment of fibre-based products attractive to property developers; and
  • ensure that appropriate consumer protection measures are in place for properties with these new networks – such as uninterrupted battery back-up to guarantee access to emergency calls in the event of a power failure.

Ofcom is also encouraging communications providers, property developers and the utilities industries to work together to develop standards to guide the commercial success of next generation broadband to new build homes and businesses.Today’s announcement is part of a wider Ofcom programme of work to promote next generation broadband. In September 2007 Ofcom published a consultation with proposals for the future regulation of this new communications infrastructure. This principally covers telecoms networks to existing property developments; today’s consultation focuses exclusively on new build.Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: “Super-fast broadband is ripe for deployment in new build areas. We need to take advantage of this and encourage investment in networks, while promoting competition. This will allow consumers to benefit from all the advantages of super-fast access speeds, competitive provision and choice.”The consultation which closes on 25 June 2008 can be found at:
ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/newbuildUK infrastructure surveyLater today Ed Richards will also announce a sample survey of the UK’s existing underground telecoms infrastructure and the potential of its use for fibre roll-out when speaking to the Institution of Engineering and Technology.The survey is critical to enable greater understanding of the economic and physical characteristics that need to be considered for the future development of broadband in the UK.Mr Richards will say:“Super-fast broadband – next generation access and networks – are crucial to the UK’s future. These 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.I believe that 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 upon our society and economy as we have seen with first generation broadband. So we must prepare now.Given the remarkable results from recent French surveys, we need to establish what the position is here and whether or not duct access has a role to play in the development of competitive next-generation access. So, in cooperation with operators we intend to undertake a sample survey of the existing duct network.We are well aware that there are significant issues related to this in the broader telecoms market and that careful consideration will need to be given to these, alongside the results of the survey.And, working with the Caio Review, we will also be asking whether there is scope to secure commercially viable access for fibre deployment through the primary infrastructure networks of other utilities such as water and energy. We must be sure we are not missing a big trick here. We know that a lot of the costs are in the civil engineering and this is civil engineering of a very similar kind.”The text of the speech will be available later at:
ofcom.org.uk/media/speechesThis Ofcom announcement is also available at ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2008/04/nr_20080416.

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