Category Archives: Broadband

Media and comms growth fueled by telcos

Money Tree, Currency, Growth.Telcos have accounted for roughly 50% of growth in the media and communications industry, which stood at a £0.4 billion increase to £56 billion, a rise of 0.9%, reports

According to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016, the telco industry grew by £200 million over the course of 2015, which has been attributed to the growth of 4G and bundled packages, amongst other factors. 4G coverage is now available to 97.8% of the UK and 80% of households now have access to superfast broadband. Uptake now stands at 48% of adults and 37% of fixed broadband connections are providing actual speeds of 30Mbit/s. 4G coverage is now almost on par with 2G and 3G services.

Telcos were also bolstered by an increase in bundled services, which saw an increase when comparing Q1 2016 to 2015. The bundled services are generally viewed as the industry’s fight against the trend of being relegated to the likes of a utility. 68% of households reported buying at least two of their communications services together in a bundle in 2016, which demonstrated an increase from 63% in 2015. Dual-play packages of landline and broadband, and triple-play packages of landline, broadband and TV, were the most popular.

The report also highlighted the continual shift in the way the UK consumes popular media, as on-demand services become more popular and more adults shift towards OTT services such as WhatsApp. Live TV could be seen as one of the casualties of the report as viewing fell by 5.5 minutes year on year, while recorded and catch-up viewing within a week of broadcast increased by 1.3 minutes. The number of adults who used Video-on-Demand (VoD) services increased over the course of 2015, and while this growth is slowing in some demographics, paid-for services are increasing becoming more popular.

A more worrying sign for the live broadcasting segment could be seen in the breakdown of the age demographics. Although those in the 65+ bracket are continuing to watch live TV, 83% watch live TV over VoD, in the ‘Adult’ age bracket, this number decreases to 63%. The 16-24 age bracket, which could be seen as the future target market for numerous live TV broadcasters claim they spend 37% of their time watching live TV against VoD. Overall, the number of people who view live TV over the course of the week has declined by three percentage points.

These statistics imply there is a shift in the way the younger generations in the UK consume popular media, posing the challenge to traditional broadcasters, who to date may not have considered VoD services such as Netflix as a direct competitor. This is also backed up by the increase in average data usage from households (fixed-line), which grew by 41% over the 12 month period. While a concern to the live broadcasters, this could be seen as a lifeline for the telco industry which is becoming increasingly reliant on bundled services to counter the challenge of the OTT’s.

When looking at the OTT’s, there once again has been an increase in popularity. The number of people who are using the instant messaging services such as WhatsApp is up from 28% to 43%, and photo/ video messaging (MMS) has risen to more than a fifth of adults in a given week. These services have been at the expense of SMS and email, which has seen a decline year-on-year of eight and seven percentage points respectively.

The shift implies a shift in the means in which consumers interact with the media and communications industry. While the utility concern has been on at the forefront of the industry for some time, the increasing popularity of bundled services and VoD services, could offer compensation. That said, the OTT’s are becoming more prominent not only in the younger generations but also the older, demographics which could be seen as somewhat of a cash-cow for the telcos. The 16-24 year old demographic are more likely to embrace the new offerings, though the trend can be seen to be penetrating the ‘Adult’ demographics also.

With this in mind, Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Group Director of Spectrum, believes the trends will impact the allocation of spectrum.

“One of Ofcom’s key jobs is to manage the UK’s spectrum to enable existing services to grow and new services to develop and come to the market,” said Marnick in the report. “We often hear about the demands for more spectrum to support the increasing demand for mobile data, which is expected to increase by as much as 31 times by 2020 in Western Europe.

“As most spectrum is occupied, we have to consider moving one service to make way for another; for example, squeezing up TV to make more spectrum (700MHz) available for mobile. As part of this, and given the high levels of use of wireless microphones, we are now enabling these to share with aeronautical services.

“We are already looking at the spectrum needs of 5G, which will provide higher capacity networks that are more responsive and can offer faster speeds. This will open up a new range of frequencies in the millimetric bands – an area of spectrum in which satellites provide TV, radio navigation services, support for emergency services, and broadband for very remote locations, on land, in the air and at sea.”

The role of Ofcom is to ensure all services work effectively without interference, though the picture is becoming increasingly complicated with the faster introduction of new services. Alongside the greater reliance on mobile technologies and data, autonomous cars and the connected home may require exclusive spectrum, adding to the “three dimensional jigsaw”.

BT outage impacts 10% of customers in capital

BT Sevenoaks workstyle buildingBT has confirmed around 10% of its customers experienced an outage this morning, which has reportedly been linked to a power incident at the former Telecity LD8 site in London, which is now owned by Equinix, reports

BT first acknowledged the outage this morning on Twitter, which took down broadband services for a number of customers in the London area.

The LD8 data centre in London’s Docklands currently houses the London Internet Exchange (LINX), one of the world’s largest Internet Exchanges with more than 700 members which include ISPs such as BT and Virgin Media, as well as content providers.

“We’re sorry that some BT and Plusnet customers experienced problems accessing some internet services this morning,” said a BT spokesperson. “Around 10% of customers’ internet usage was affected following power issues at one of our internet connection partners’ sites in London. The issue has now been fixed and services have been restored.”

While the comment has stated the problem was limited to London, BT’s service status page does indicate dozens of cities and towns across the UK experienced issues. These service challenges have not been directly linked to the same incident to date.

The LD8 data centre has been under control of Equinix over recent months since the US company acquired Telecity for $3.8 billion. Equinix claims it is now the largest retail colocation provider in Europe and globally, after the deal added 34 data centres to the portfolio, though eight assets had to be off-loaded to keep competition powers in the European Commission happy.

“Equinix can confirm that we experienced a brief outage at the former Telecity LD8 site in London earlier this morning,” said a Equinix spokesperson. “This impacted a limited number of customers, however service was restored within minutes. Equinix engineers are on site and actively working with customers to minimise the impact.”

During email exchanges with, neither BT or Equinix named either party, though this is understandable as it is a sensitive issue. Despite BT stating all services have been recovered at the time of writing the service status page lists dozens of towns and cities who are still experiencing problems. Although not directly linked, as long as service problems continue BT is likely to be facing a mounting customer service challenge.

Google Fiber adds Miami and Boston to roster

GoogleGoogle has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Webpass to boost its Google Fiber business unit and add to its wireless broadband ambitions, reports

The acquisition builds on an area of innovation which the Google Fiber team have been investigating. Webpass has paired its fiber network with wireless technology, an idea which the Google team have been testing in Kansas City earlier this year. Back in April, Google was given approval to test its 3.5 GHz wireless broadband capabilities using antennas on light poles and various other structures, in and around the Kansas City area. The FCC commented the innovation could create a new flavour of wifi or even an LTE Unlicensed band.

Webpass was founded in 2003, and claims to have customers in the “tens of thousands”, though these are primarily apartment blocks and business users, two demographics which are likely to be of interest to Google. Webpass has focused its sights on business users in recent months, providing services in the range of 100 megabits per second to one gigabit per second, and also operates in two markets Google Fiber which has no exposure; Miami and Boston.

“Google Fiber’s resources will enable Webpass to grow faster and reach many more customers than we could as a standalone company,” said Charles Barr, President at Webpass. “I’m very much looking forward to this next chapter for Webpass, and let me take this opportunity to once again say thank you to all of our loyal customers. We are thrilled to be on this journey together.”

While the deal is still subject to the customary approval process from regulators, it is the first acquisition for the Google Fiber business, indicating the company’s intensions in the arena. The Google Fiber business has been growing at a healthy rate in the last 18 months, though the addition of Webpass will give the company traction in five significant markets in the US, including major cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Chicago, and Boston.

25% of New Yorkers have no broadband access

Digital Device Tablet Laptop Connection Networking Technology ConceptResearch from the Wireless Broadband Alliance highlighted broadband connectivity is no longer a challenge reserved for rural areas, as 57% of the world’s urban population is currently unconnected, reports

Initiatives to increase the number of people who have a consistent connection to the internet has predominantly focused around rural communities, though the report demonstrated there are still a number of advanced western cities who have higher numbers than maybe expected. The research showed New York and Los Angeles currently have 27% and 25% of their populations who would be classed in the “Urban Broadband Unconnected” category. Shanghai was another city where the percentage of unconnected urban citizens seems high at 42%.

While New York, Los Angeles and Shanghai could be seen as technologically advanced cities, the seemingly high number of unconnected citizens could be attributed to the diversity in wealth and affluence. The report claims the numbers could be driven simply by broadband not being available in certain neighbourhoods, but also the price of broadband being unaffordable. While this would almost certainly be considered a ‘first-world problem’, there could be a potential impact on other areas of society, for example politics, as more communications move online, in particular to social media.

The CIA World Fact Book lists the USA as one of the world’s most affluent countries, accounting for $55,800 GDP per capita, which makes the statistics taken from two of its leading cities perhaps more surprising, though it does provide clarity to the high percentages in other nations. Lagos and Karachi were two of the cities which demonstrated the highest number of unconnected urban citizens at 88% and 86% respectively, though their GDP per capita is listed at $6,100 and $5,000, and are two countries which have been typically associated with political unrest.

“There is a clear divide between the digital haves and the digital have-nots,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance. “And while this divide generally mirrors socioeconomic trends around the world, there are surprisingly high levels of urban unconnected citizens in major cities.

“World Wi-Fi (June 20) Day is an opportunity to recognize the contributions being made to help connect the unconnected around the globe, whether they be in major cities or rural communities.”

The report evaluated 18 of the worlds’ leading cities including Tokyo, Dusseldorf, New Delhi, Johannesburg and London, which was listed as the worlds’ most connected city as only 8% of the population are unconnected currently. Europe was the most connected continent demonstrating the lowest levels of unconnected citizens at 17%, while in Asia Pacific 68% of its urban citizens were unconnected.

Court of Appeals hits back at US telco industry with net neutrality ruling

Lady Justice On The Old Bailey, LondonThe District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has hit back at the US telcos industry, ruling in favour of government net neutrality regulations, reports

Although the decision will be appealed to the US Supreme Court, the decision marks a victory for FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s camp in the FCC, which has been split over the dispute. Republican commissioner Michael O’Rielly championed efforts opposing Wheeler’s Democratic team, though the decision does appear to move US carriers closer to the realms of utilities.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth,” said Wheeler in a statement. “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future.”

The decision itself will now ensure US carriers cannot block, degrade or promote internet traffic, which has been strongly opposed by the telecoms industry and members of the Republican Party. The argument against has been based around the idea of an ‘open internet’ where free-trade rules the roost. Texas Senator Ted Cruz once described the move towards net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet”, believing it is burdensome and would create an environment of over-regulation for the internet.

The ruling also hits back at claims made by industry attorneys that ISPs are like newspaper editors, and thus have the right to edit content which flows over its network. This has been struck down by the DC Court of Appeals stating ISPs should view themselves as ‘conduits for the messages of others’ as opposed to dictating the opinions which are viewed on the internet.

While this would be considered a victory for the Wheeler camp inside the FCC, the dispute is likely to continue for some time. AT&T has already announced it will be appealing the decision and Verizon has stated its investments in Verizon Digital Media Services would be at risk without an open Internet.

The dispute on the whole has seen conflicting opinions at every level. The ruling from the DC Court of Appeals also demonstrated similar conflicts, with Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Williams stating “the ultimate irony of the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shunts broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies.”

In terms of opposition within the FCC itself, O’Rielly said in a statement “If allowed to stand, however, today’s decision will be extremely detrimental to the future of the Internet and all consumers and businesses that use it. More troubling is that the majority opinion fails to apprehend the workings of the Internet, and declines to hold the FCC accountable for an order that ran roughshod over the statute, precedent, and any comments or analyses that did not support the FCC’s quest to deliver a political victory.”

The other Republican Commissioner at the FCC Ajit Pai stated “I am deeply disappointed by the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s Internet regulations. The FCC’s regulations are unnecessary and counterproductive.”

The end of this dispute will unlikely to be seen for some time, and there are strong arguments for both camps. On the commercial side represented by the Republican Party and the telco industry, there has to be a means to commercialize the billions of dollars invested infrastructure. AT&T, Verizon, etc are not charities. However, the net neutrality camp containing the Democrat Party and the FCC Chairman insists there has to be an element of control. There is a requirement for telcos to be held accountable, and invoking the First Amendment right to free speech in this context could potentially have dangerous consequences from a commercial and political perspective.