Sky strikes an ultrafast deal with Openreach

Sky UK has reportedly become the first customer of a new discount deal from Openreach to encourage use of Gfast technology.

According to the Telegraph, fixed line wholesaler Openreach has been offering discounts of up to 40% to entice ISPs to use its Gfast products. Gfast extracts more bandwidth from legacy copper infrastructure, of which Openreach has loads, and is therefore a lot cheaper to provide that fresh fibre.

In typical ISP over-marketing style, this Gfast service is being packaged as ‘ultrafast’, which is one order of magnitude faster than superfast. It’s not obvious where we go from there. Megafast? F*ckingfast? Sky is apparently also signing up for fibre, where it’s available, which will be marketed as OMFGfast.

The Telegraph piece indicates UK ISPs are conflicted about even offering faster broadband to their customers as slower service apparently provide more margin, which is depressing. Ofcom has been hassling Openreach to cut its process but if current prices still disincentives ISPs from trying to improve their offering then it looks like the UK broadband market is still somewhat dysfunctional.

Here’s a recent Openreach video about how great Gfast is.

 

Openreach announces a bunch of new Gfast locations

In spite of heavy pressure to raise its fibre game, BT’s supposedly autonomous wholesale unit Openreach has proudly unveiled a major extension of its Gfast programme.

Referring to its as ‘cutting edge technology’, Openreach announced it’s adding 59 new locations to the 46 already served by Gfast, which extracts improved performance from legacy copper cables. Apparently this will help to ‘reinforce the UK’s position as the leading digital economy in the G20.’

“Britons are using their home broadband connections more than ever – consuming more than double the amount of data than they did just three years ago,” advised Kim Mears, MD for Strategic Infrastructure Development at Openreach. “A mass of new apps and services which demand higher quality broadband connections are becoming parts of our daily lives in our homes and at work – like virtual and augmented reality and more sophisticated online gaming, education and healthcare. That’s why we’re making this huge investment in upgrading the network, to make sure we stay a step ahead of that demand.”

The Openreach spin on Gfast is that it enables more of the country to get faster broadband speeds more quickly than if we just sat and waited for the fibre-to-the-premise rollout to run its course. Having said that Openreach was also quick to stress how totally into fibre it still is and to restate its vague ‘10 million premises by the mid-2020s’ pledge.

Here’s the full list of places that will live the Gfast dream by some unspecified date: Aberdeen Denburn, Acocks Green, Altrincham, Aylesbury, Bedford, Birmingham Central, Bishops Stortford, Boscombe, Bowes Park, Bury St. Edmunds, Bury, Byfleet, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Cosham, Didsbury, Erdington, Gipsy Hill, Guildford, Hampton, Harlow, Harrogate, Headingley, Heywood, Kingston, Lancaster, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Llantrisant, Maidstone, Market Harborough, Mile End, Morley, Narborough, North Finchley, Paignton, Plymouth, Rugby, Shipley, Slough, South Kensington, Southampton, Southend Town, St Albans, Stockton Heath, Swadlincote, Tamworth, Taunton, Telford Wellington, Tunbridge Wells, Walthamstow, Weston Super Mare, Windsor, Wolverhampton, Woodhouse (Berkshire), Woodley, York.

Openreach makes big FTTP statement, but with strings attached

Openreach, the UK’s dominant fixed-line wholesaler, has vowed to ramp up its fibre-to-the-premises roll-out to hit three million premises by the end of 2020.

As everyone knows, you can’t make a grand public statement without giving it a name, so BT-owned Openreach came up with the ‘Fibre First’ programme, presumably to distinguish it from the previous strategy of combining FTTC with copper augmentation via Gfast. The underlying point seems to be to virtue-signal about its new-found commitment to fibre.

“Through the Fibre First programme, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an ultrafast Britain,” said Openreach CEO Clive Selley. “We are accelerating our plans to build FTTP to three million premises by 2020 which sets the course to reach ten million by the mid-2020s with the right conditions. Where possible going forward, we will ‘fibre first’.

“Working closely with central and local government and our communication provider customers, we will identify the cities, towns and rural areas where we can build a future-proofed, FTTP network that’s capable of delivering gigabit speeds to all homes and businesses at an affordable cost.

“We’ll continue to invest in our people and we’re already in the process of re-training and upskilling to make Fibre First a reality. We plan to hire around 3,000 engineers in 2018/19 to kick-start Fibre First and further improve the reliability and performance of our existing networks.”

In case it wasn’t obvious, Selley is saying he’ll commit to the first three million (presumably where he feels healthy ROI is most guaranteed) but needs to see some public and CSP cash before he’ll do any more. Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester are flagged for the first wave, which Openreach nebulously said could also connect ‘up to’ (they just can’t get out of that habit can they?) 40 UK towns.

To further demonstrate its tear-jerking altruism Openreach reckons the cost of all this fresh fibre will be £300-£400 per premise, making the total cost £1-4 billion. The clear message is that if you want the spend to get anywhere near to the top end of that range we all need to chip in. Having said that the capex estimations seem to be coming down.

In a somewhat contradictory position the Openreach announcement also stressed how into Gfast it still is. “Openreach remains committed to rolling out Gfast at speed,” it said. “Openreach will employ a Fibre First ethos and will not build Gfast and FTTP to the same locations. So, in summary, Openreach is committed to fibre unless it’s a bit too pricey and/or it fancies going with Gfast instead. Great.

Nokia picks Singapore to show what a great idea IoT is

A collaboration between Nokia and Singapore operator StarHub will try to develop all kinds of IoT services and maybe even launch a few of them.

As we move from the testing phase of tech megatrends such as IoT and 5G into the ‘this is why everyone should care’ phase, we’re seeing an increasing number of initiatives designed to highlight their utility in the ‘real world’. Huawei recently combined with LG U+ for a spot of 5G virtue-signalling, and now this.

So serious are Nokia and StarHub about their collaboration that they even signed a memorandum of understanding to seal the deal. They now plan to develop new IoT use cases in the areas of connected living, connected vehicles and connected buildings, and might even offer commercial services as soon as Q1 2018.

“A large component of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative involves the deployment of IoT devices in the environment, including in the home, along streets and in parks, and in offices,” said Dr Chong Yoke Sin, Chief of the Enterprise Business Group at StarHub. “The granular data derived from these sensors will allow enterprise customers to understand and gain insights from their customers, improving operational efficiencies and aid in long-term planning.

“We will leverage Nokia’s IoT technology to help address urban challenges faced by our government and commercial customers. We also look forward to building viable business models on this nascent technology.”

“We are honoured to be working with StarHub to help maximize the gains from the vast potential of IoT,” said Nicolas Bouverot, head of the Asia South Market Unit at Nokia. “We are committed to supporting service providers in IoT to gain new customers and add new revenue streams. Nokia is at the forefront of the evolution of IoT, and our insights will enable StarHub to build and deploy high-value services and business models.”

Nokia seems to be on a bit of a tour of East Asia at the moment, having issued a separate announcement to talk up its Gfast partnership with Japanese company EneCom. This is part of the drive to update Japan’s VDSL network and supposedly paves the way for XG-FAST if EneCom fancies it.

StarHub has also had some other big news recently, with its CEO deciding to call it a day after four years at the helm. This seems to be an orderly departure and Tan Tong Hai will hang around long enough to help find his replacement and give them some top tips.