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Government To Build 4G Into UK Rural Broadband Plans

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the we-can-make-it-better dept.

United Kingdom 40

judgecorp writes "The British Government is discussing a role for 4G in the project to extend rural broadband coverage beyond the reach of fiber. There is £250 million of public money to fill in the gaps left by the £530 Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) program — BDUK's efforts to extend fiber have been criticized because despite promises of a competitive process, all the BDUK money has gone to BT. At a meeting with mobile operators today, the Department of Culture Media and Sport hopes to set up a more competitive 4G fill-in effort."

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40 comments

Data Caps (5, Informative)

Zone-MR (631588) | about 6 months ago | (#45057631)

For 4G to be seen as a viable alternative to fixed broadband, we'd need to see not just availability but also usage caps that are conducive to more than just single-user mobile usage.

Re:Data Caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057657)

They need to use that money to install fiber optic cables deep in to the countryside, with the eventual goal of having it directly to every dwelling.

Re:Data Caps (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 6 months ago | (#45057745)

The user will soon learn that limited hertz spread over many users hurts every aspect of the modern online experience.
Beams, targeting, timing gets you great bits per hertz... @ how many users per cell? 4, 20? whats that usable Mbps down to? 35? 5?
Unless the location is remote with a limited users, its better to go with nation building optical.
Roll out optical and let any isp, telco get equal access to users. Where you cant to optical, do really good fixed wireless then sat.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 6 months ago | (#45057791)

The user will soon learn that limited hertz spread over many users hurts every aspect of the modern online experience. Beams, targeting, timing gets you great bits per hertz... @ how many users per cell? 4, 20? whats that usable Mbps down to? 35? 5? Unless the location is remote with a limited users, its better to go with nation building optical. Roll out optical and let any isp, telco get equal access to users. Where you cant to optical, do really good fixed wireless then sat.

Your idea appears to be as close as they are getting to a Laissez-Faire solution in the UK.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Albanach (527650) | about 6 months ago | (#45058199)

Unless the location is remote with a limited users, its better to go with nation building optical.

Maybe you missed the bit that this is all about filling in the coverage gaps in an attempt to ensure the UK has as close to 100% broadband coverage as is possible.

Of course optical is better. If you live half way up a mountainside, 20 miles from the nearest village and perhaps 80 miles from the nearest town with a population over 10,000 you're going to be waiting a while. 4G is comparatively quick to deploy and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Re:Data Caps (3, Informative)

Xest (935314) | about 6 months ago | (#45058767)

"Of course optical is better. If you live half way up a mountainside, 20 miles from the nearest village and perhaps 80 miles from the nearest town with a population over 10,000 you're going to be waiting a while. 4G is comparatively quick to deploy and a heck of a lot cheaper."

That's what they'd have you believe the final 10% of the population consists of, but in fact it consists largely of people like me. People who live in a village that's within a 20minute drive of the 3rd and 4th largest cities in the UK. A village that has had a fibre enabled exchange for over a year, for whom the majority of the village has fibre, yet I can't have it. I'm perfectly close to the exchange, so why?

Because of address lottery. Turns out that they've done two cabinets in the village including one that does up to house number 30 on our street out of 80 houses + a few more on side streets. But unfortunately those of us in house numbers 31+ and in the side streets are on our own cabinet, one that BT deems "not economically viable". Our cabinet is only 100 yards from the one that's enabled.

I'd wager the percentage of the population that live up far away hills and require an extraordinary rollout is actually less than 0.5%, most of that last 10% will be people like me for whom doing a rollout would be trivial and effortless with the only barrier being that BT want to turn a profit on the work in 10 - 15 years, rather than say, 15 years, or 20 years as would be the case on our lower populated exchange.

It really has fuck all to do with being in the arse end of nowhere a lot of the time and everything to do with whether you were a winner or loser in BT's lottery of whatever random cabinet you might be tied to. Something you unfortunately have zero control over.

For the millions of us in this situation (yes, millions) 4G wouldn't be a cheaper option and 4G is more shit and less futureproof anyway.

Don't fall into the trap of believing the last 10% live in the middle of nowhere, up a hill or on an island, they don't, most of us just need the government to tell BT to suck it up and accept a pay back on their investment over a longer period instead, especially if they want to keep receiving tax payers money and not be broken up to deal with their monopoly.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Albanach (527650) | about 6 months ago | (#45058965)

Are you complaining about not having fiber? While you certainly have my sympathies, we're talking about helping others who are still using dialup.

If you want some comparison to your village, I live in a US city with a population of around 100,000 and am fortunate to have two choices for broadband. It's more expensive than I'd pay in the UK, and there's little chance of this city seeing fiber in the next decade.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Xest (935314) | about 6 months ago | (#45059769)

I'm not sure that the distinction matters, the fact is that the government has suggested we're all going to get current fibre level speed (i.e. 20mbps+) by 2017 so whether you're on dialup or ADSL below that is really irrelevant, the end goal is the same.

My point is simply that the amount of places that are so isolated that it'd be extraordinarily expensive to run fibre is really a negligible amount, an absolutely tiny fraction of the last 10% which the final £250million is earmarked for.

It's commonly implied that it's expensive to do that last 10% because they live up a hill in the arse end of nowhere, 10 of miles from the closest village even. My point is simply that this isn't true - the bulk of the last 10% don't need any magical solutions, we don't even necessarily need to give BT public funding, we just need them to enable us and accept a longer return on their investment which is a completely different problem than the one that talk of 4G is designed to resolve. It'd be fucking stupid to stick a 4G mast in places where all you need to do is run a hundred metres of fibre and stick a new cabinet in for a much better long term solution.

Re:Data Caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45061365)

BT got told the government would "help out" with uneconomic homes. That means free cash, so BT systematically de-scheduled huge numbers of cabinets and claimed they're "too rural" and uneconomic because that way they get handfuls of free cash. They even did this right in the middle of major cities. My cabinet is literally in one of the biggest cities in the UK, not an outer suburb but right in the city and it's "too rural" because that way BT gets more cash.

Last-mile telecoms is a natural monopoly, pretending (as the UK government loves to) that it's a free market is bullshit and it costs the taxpayer huge quantities of money. When a Tory comes to tell you about how we need to cut benefits tell them their beloved government is funnelling money out of their pockets into the pockets of the very richest companies, most of whose owners don't even live here. Corporate welfare is what's hurting you, not paying someone to put a roof over their head.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Froggie (1154) | about 6 months ago | (#45058821)

The promise that they will struggle to cover is 2Mbps to 100% of the population (since the 95% of the population promise is largely a 'sort out urban areas' thing and can be done by wiring and/or better modems). Bandwidth may not be their issue.

Re:Data Caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057933)

Wireless 4G probably won't be able to scale to the future.

A wifi network in designed and built with state-of-the-art technology by Google in 2006 is so slow it is "basically not working" today in San Francisco. That's because in 2006 people browsed text based web pages. Today people watch videos, and 1 video is equivalent to 10,000 text web pages. The network just can't cope.

The same will happen with 4G broadband. In 7 years time when one person starts watching a Super-XL-HD-holographic video, the whole network will grind to a halt. Even today its a problem, and that's why network providers have such strict data caps. The data caps are required to prevent the whole network being overloaded.

Re:Data Caps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45058299)

That's because in 2006 people browsed text based web pages.

Are we talking about the 2006 in which Google themselves bought YouTube, or a different 2006 where the web looked like the 1990's web?

I for one was visiting all sorts of sites that had video ads, large images, etc. in 2006 and I was certainly torrenting, streaming from last.fm etc. back then too.

I understand the jist of your post, but in 2006 the 'web' was not that dissimilar to now. These days the infrastructure just has to cope with services like Netflix et. al as well.

Re:Data Caps (1)

fatgraham (307614) | about 6 months ago | (#45058367)

But does the cap STOP the bandwidth being used? Or does it just continue, at £10/gb?

Additional tax on cigerettes and booze hasn't caused a decline, I'm pretty sure it's the same scenario here.

If the operators NEED to stop using bandwidth over a certain amount, I'd imagine they would cut off. But stopping service is bad for repuation and bad for revenue

Re:Data Caps (1)

Xest (935314) | about 6 months ago | (#45058571)

Not just that but I've always found latency to be an absolute ballache on all wireless technology.

Maybe 4G fixes that, I don't know, I've never used it, but up until now my experience with wireless tech has been annoying for things like gaming and video conferencing.

The government needs to get past this idea that they can just fob off the difficult ones with wireless. Proper fibre is required, it seems more future proof anyway.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Froggie (1154) | about 6 months ago | (#45058877)

Skype/Facetime over wifi? Having a mobile phone conversation?

Agreed latency can suck. Does it *have* to suck? Seems like that's an implementation issue.

Re:Data Caps (1)

Froggie (1154) | about 6 months ago | (#45058801)

You don't have to go far into the countryside for availability to be a major problem, particularly if there are trees or hills in the landscape (true of just about anywhere apart from the fens.

And this smacks of a solution to the broadband promise along the lines of 'well, we promised fast internet to 95% of the population, and see, you have it! We didn't say it wouldn't cost 200 quid a month?'

Re:Data Caps (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 6 months ago | (#45059179)

Here in the UK and Ireland, where we have a somewhat competitive market for mobile data, it is still possible to get unlimited data. My provider (three) does this.

Then get rid of them completely. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about 6 months ago | (#45063641)

The only usage cap should be the maximum that the line could consume in a month - an effectively flat rate.

Something smells fishy (2)

Psychotria (953670) | about 6 months ago | (#45057671)

They spent 530 pounds for the broadband delivery program. Didn't somebody tell them that that's only enough money to have (maybe) a 10 minute meeting?

How many £250,000,000's are there (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057747)

in £530?

Why has this not already been done? (1)

lbmouse (473316) | about 6 months ago | (#45057777)

When your country is smaller than the state of Wyoming, most people would wonder what's the hold-up?

Re:Why has this not already been done? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057999)

There is no hold-up.
It was a great success: BT has received all the money.

Re:Why has this not already been done? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45058337)

The proletariate of English,Scotch, and Welshmen do not desire for "4G"; it`s so old-hat!

The UK is capable of building a revolutionary telecoms/IT infrastructure at Pence-on-the-Pounds compared to our obese cousins across-the-pond.

The proletariate has already paid for this new infrastructure; the only obstacle is the corrupt, decadent, and indecent buggers at the BBC. cBBC has gotten its stranglehold on the kiddies, the BBC maintains this grip via the "celebrity-culture", which locks many government officials (and their kids) in this deathgrip.

In terms of finance, the revolutionary IT infrastructure has already been paid, via the tele-licencing.

"Theres a pubescent in my office with his shnozz in my cock."- Chief juSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS

Re:Why has this not already been done? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45058157)

Wyoming has ~1% of the population of the UK.

Re:Why has this not already been done? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 6 months ago | (#45059033)

Because the numbers dont add up for wide scale use? You just cant keep packing people into wireless 24/7 as an everyday networking solution with useful pings, speeds.
Its fine for a few users with caps and limits on the way to work, on the way home or in a park, car, train.
You average cell tower can give every user a tiny slice of timed networking that loads a page, video clip 'fast'.
The hold up is the reality of basic physics. If it worked every wealthy nation would line their cities/suburbia with line of sight antennas and never have to spend on optical to the node or home. No trying to get optical close to copper, roll out optical or try and resell old HFC.
The wireless tech is charming for people on the move, not so predictable for huge networks with the way people will use vast amounts of data and need low pings.
Its the very edge of a new optical network solution, just before need to use a sat connection.

Re:Why has this not already been done? (1)

rufty_tufty (888596) | about 6 months ago | (#45059551)

most people would wonder what's the hold-up?

As one of those who is suffering at the end of a 4Mbit piece of wet string that passes for a BT broadband connection I have to agree with you.
I wouldn't mind if I really was in a rural area, but this is Cambridge! Well I am rural if you could 30 minutes cycle/12 minutes drive to the city centre to be rural! This is supposed to be one of the high tech hubs of Britain and yet the exchanges haven't been upgraded in a decade and there are no plans to upgrade our local ones either. (The irony is that the latest ADSL chipsets are designed just over the road from me by the company i work for but that's another story).

The reason for the holdup is as far as I can tell why would they bother? The money to be made is in the big cities and because we're classed as none rural we don't get the benefits of the programs mentioned in TFA, however we also have BT saying that it's not worth doing FTTC because there aren't enough subscribers in our village either.
As far as I understand the costs would be because the problem would snowball - well it's only a couple of miles of fibre needed from our cabinet to the local exchange. Except then that exchange would need its links upgrading which would mean about 5 miles more fibre, but then the Cambridge to London link would then need upgrading...

How are they going to re-coup all that investment from me? Well I pay about £30 a month for my broadband. Assume this upgrade would last for a decade before it too was out of date then they've got a mere £3000-ish per user to pay for this upgrade. Assuming say £200 in equipment costs per user port and about £1million per mile of fibre then they're barely making 50% profit!
You can't be expected to run a modern company on those numbers... (as opposed to doing nothing like they currently are and still making the money)

Re:Why has this not already been done? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45060035)

You should use less exclamation marks. The pointy tips get stuck in the tubes and are probably clogging up your connection. It's the same reason you should always send some o's with the x's.

xoxoxoxoxoxox

NSA paid $150 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057865)

"There is £250 million of public money to fill in the gaps"

Didn't NSA pay GCHQ $150 million, so I assume if they spy on more Brits for their American boss, they'll get more money to cover this?

To put this number in context, the last labour government upgraded SOCA (a police dept with 4000 people in it) computers for $500 million. 4000 seats * 5000 quid/seat = 20 million maximum it really cost. The other 480 million was IMHO, the budget for GCHQ's snoopers charter hardware, it was a big chunk of unexplained cash, just as the last Labour Home Secretary was trying to push through mass surveillance of Internet (which was rejected an later became the snoopers charter under the Conservatives, which was again rejected). Yet the equipment was bought, the surveillance paid for and it happened anyway.

So this is half that money.

Failing those it's meant to benefit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057901)

One of the big problems with the current broadband "strategy", in that all of these programs target a percentage of coverage, say 95% rather than 100%.

So you end up with tens of thousands of small villages which only have 0.5mb or in some cases no broadband at all. Because the number of houses in each village is tiny they don't add to that much so they can simply all be ignored without any fear of missing the target. However, these are actually the people most in need of an upgrade, not those who already have 8mb or more.

Now I understand the argument that it's not (apparently) finanically viable for BT to improve these small villages, but that's the *whole fucking point of Government* i.e. to do the things that business won't/can't do. This was a prime opportunity to do that.

They should have forced BT to deliver 100% coverage as a pre-req for all the nice big fat juicy money they are getting.

Instead we've just got more taxpayers money going into the coffers of big business to deliver not much of anything to those who actually need it.

I doubt 4G will be the answer either, we live 5 miles away from the nearest town in the SE so not exactly remote, but we're lucky to get a mobile signal at all, let alone the current 3G.

to be fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45057989)

To be fair and balanced, much as I despise defending BT as I have very unfond views of them, the previous process was open to all bidders. Only Fujitsu and BT bothered to enter, then fujitsu withdrew their bid leaving BT as the last man standing for the contract. It WAS an open to all contest, just none of the players wanted to play apart from those two. I guess because of the amount of profit vs investment required in laying out links for rural broadband and improving last mile technologies vs sticking a few bits of kit in a metro exchange and declaring yourself a "network provider" while still transiting on BT's existing core network.
The issue is the morsel wasnt fat or tasty enough for anyone else to bother, not the process.

Re:to be fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45058645)

No. Rubbish. The issue is that BT is the monopoly that owes all of the exchanges, the holes in the ground, trunking, cabling etc out in the sticks and to compete you either need to pay them a big fat suitcase full of money to use their infrastructure, or roll your own.

There should be a catch that recognises all of this infrastructure was handed to them on a plate when they were privatised, forcing them to open it up for essentially free, but that's far too socialist isn't it.

So 4g is mooted as a way to reach over the monopoly and reach the end user. Crap. Open the holes up and let a truely free market take hold.

I cannot get fiber despite it being 0.5miles away, because BT wont bring it to my home yet and the local exchange is apparently full, until BT upgrade the rackspace, conveniently inline with their plans to roll out fiber to my area.
Competition would suggest that Sky, A&A, etc build another exchange in the whole area and serve from there. Seriously ??
It stinks.

Meanwhile, BT wholly owned ISP; Plus.net are cleaning up the typical home user market due to preferential pricing structure and being in bed with BT for support and servicing. But there is enough competiton in the marketplace apparently....
Same as there is for Water, Gas, Electricity.
A bunch of colluding monopoly industries raping the consumer who has little or no choice elsewhere.

Oh, also; why is it that no UK ISP is offering wires only service? All of them tie you into having a live phone line to make calls with even if you never use it. Telewest used to offer that till they became NTL and then Virgin. A&A do offer a simple line for not making calls on, but it's still got a dial tone.
Why on earth do I want a phone line when I have unlimited minutes to any UK number from my mobile ?? but ALL companies insist on needing this. Surely it's less infrastructure to do without ? But then that's and extra £13/month to BT etc that you never need to use and they get to pass (force) their rotting obsolete technology on to you. Funny that it's also a requirement if you use any third party as the phone line supplier, cos BT charge the provider for the phone line, not the wires.
Bastards.

Re:to be fair (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | about 6 months ago | (#45061339)

Oh, also; why is it that no UK ISP is offering wires only service? All of them tie you into having a live phone line to make calls with even if you never use it. Telewest

used to offer that till they became NTL and then Virgin.

Virgin do a phone line free broadband service. But in the case of ADSL, you still need the physical line, the exchange buildings, the equipment at the end - it's going to cost them almost as much to supply a broadband only service as a broadband + phone service.

Re:to be fair (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | about 6 months ago | (#45058781)

Fujitsu were claiming that the way the bidding for the rollout program was setup left them at a disadvantage when they pulled out.

Various conditions surrounding the BDUK process, which we have discussed with the [Department for Culture, Media and Sport], effectively rule Fujitsu out of the competition for new areas. So while we remain supportive of the process and its objectives, we are not actively pursuing opportunities within it.

The Reg [theregister.co.uk]

And BT and Fujitsu were the only 2 perferred bidders so although it was an open competition in theory, any one other than BT or Fujitsu would have had to have made far more attractive (less profitable) bids to even be in the running.

Re:to be fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45062771)

It might have disadvantaged them but not for any competitve reasons in this particular race, Fujitsu majorly pissed in the UK gov's contracts pool and is on the gov's shitlist after the trainwreck that was the NHS which failed to arrive on time then tried to sue the NHS for a settlement payment after they were shitcanned as a result, coupled with some major whoopsies on the DWP project which saw them loose the contract before it had even begun properly and some critisism during the DVLA one.
http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280097324/DWP-cancelled-300m-Fujitsu-deal-over-transition-deadline-failures

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/fujitsu-blacklisted-government-92249

Fujitsu are claiming theyre not blacklisted, but they haven't won a single public contract since the above happened.
http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2012/11/15/fujitsu_public_private_plan/

I think that BT is at an advantage when it comes to connecting up out of way places, but that only stems from the fact that they have already had to make that major investment for the existing infrastructure so can reuse some of their experience...

Make it flat-rate and you'll have your customers. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about 6 months ago | (#45063623)

Throwing usage caps is a non-starter for people wanting to use the service, never mind the lack of incentive to have any accurate measurement.

Already doing 4G for rural areas in Australia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45064391)

Nothing unusual about this article. They are expecting to cover around 500,000 premises using fixed wireless 4G here in Australia by 2015 with the national broadband network. For rural customers who can't get fibre or 4G, they can use satellite.

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