Private sector drives 100Mbit/s links

Private sector drives 100Mbit/s links

Land Securities to push next-gen broadband fibre links at Ebbsfleet housing project

Hopes that the private sector will fund the rollout of next-generation high-speed broadband were lifted recently with the announcement of two industry-led schemes. The news should please minister for competitiveness Stephen Timms, who last year made clear the government’s desire to see market forces, rather than state intervention, drive deployment of fibre.

Last month, BT’s local access network business, Openreach, announced further details of its fibre rollout at Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent. The housing development covers an area about the size of the City of London and has its own station on the cross-Channel rail link, Ebbsfleet International.

Andy Freeman, head of project management at real estate investment trust Land Securities, said the first of the development’s 10,000 properties should be completed in late August and September. Freeman said all the new homes will benefit from single-mode fibre, which will be pulled through a standard BT duct and then made available to communications providers, including BT Retail.

“This is a 25- to 30-year development, so it did not make sense to put in anything other than optical fibre,” said Freeman. He added that if no one had stepped up to the mark as BT had, Land Securities would have probably brought in the expertise itself. Freeman said it took four years of cajoling to persuade BT to get involved, such is the scale of investment needed to take broadband to the next level. Freeman believes carriers will keep a close eye on Ebbsfleet to gauge demand for domestic high-speed broadband.

“There is probably a snowball at the top of the hill now and communications providers may well say, ‘Well, let’s see how it goes’. But clearly BT has an interest in providing services and there will be others,” Freeman said. Freeman has no doubt that fibre to the home (FTTH) will play a big role in attracting people to Ebbsfleet. “Our residents will be able to access a service that will be a quantum leap ahead of what is obtainable on copper,” he said.

Meanwhile, H2O Networks has announced its Fibrecity concept, a plan to provide fibre connectivity to businesses, public sector bodies and eventually homes via the UK’s 360,000 miles of sewers. “We are consulting with three councils – Bournemouth, Dundee and Northampton – as to which will be the first to be cabled up,” said Elfed Thomas, managing director of H2O. “Eventually, they all will.”

H2O intends to use “loose-lay” cable that lies at the bottom of a sewer. “This does not interfere with the operation of the sewer and the cables are steel-encased, so they cannot be gnawed by rats,” said Thomas. “We are not using the sewers to connect to people’s homes – that will be done by the traditional route, using standard ITU single-mode fibre,” Thomas added.

Rob Bamforth, principal analyst for service provision and mobility at Quocirca, said, “H20’s efforts are a start, but the bigger kids on the block need to be encouraged to invest in the capacity.”

According to Freeman, there will be multiple benefits from FTTH, including IPTV, home automation, remote security and medical monitoring, all driven by symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100Mbit/s.