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BT Join the Telecom Infra Project and Facebook to Build Future Telecoms Tech

Monday, February 27th, 2017 (11:09 am) - Score 1,365
BT Labs in Ipswich

BT has today announced a new partnership with Facebook and in relation to that they’ve also joined the global Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which is aimed at helping the operator to develop a future generation of telecoms, broadband infrastructure and digital services.

Some of TIP’s existing members (over 450 of them) are already working to develop things like advanced base station hardware and software for future 4G / 5G networks (e.g. OpenCellular), white-box transponder and routing solutions (Open Optical Packet Transport) and an Open Source API Management layer to help expose operator network capabilities to application developers etc.

Meanwhile BT intends to work together with Facebook and TIP at both their UK research HQ (BT Labs at Adastral Park) and in London’s Tech City. Apparently “selected telecoms infrastructure startups” will be invited to engage directly with experts from all three organisations at these “acceleration centres“, where we’re told they’ll also receive support to help build and market their new services.

BT, Facebook and TIP also said they’ll work to “tackle shared challenges such as how to connect remote communities, how to enhance people’s lives through innovation in communications technology, and how to better manage the unprecedented growth of network traffic.” However the initial focus will be in the areas of Quantum Computing (applied to networks) and there’s also a vague reference to “mission-critical communications.”

Howard Watson, BT’s CEO of Technology and Operations, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to combine BT’s brightest minds with up-and-coming entrepreneurs and Facebook’s global presence. The TIP initiative is open innovation at its finest: pushing the boundaries; transforming the traditional use of technologies; and galvanising a global network of like-minded innovators to look beyond the current mix of technologies to the longer-term future. This initiative supports our ambition to keep the UK at the very forefront of technology and telecoms innovation on a global scale and to encourage creative talent to engage with engineering and science.”

Ashish Kelkar, Board Member of TIP and Facebook Director, said:

“Facebook is looking forward to working with BT and TIP to support these new Acceleration Centers with technical and market expertise. Working together, we hope to help identify and support start-ups who bring fresh ideas to the industry.”

Separately BT and Nokia have today announced that they’re working to explore how future low latency 5G Mobile technology can be combined to enhance consumer and business Virtual Reality (VR) applications, such as via the delivery of “fully-immersive live [TV] sport or entertainment.”

Perhaps BT are envisaging that one day their customers might be able to watch BTSport with a VR headset over a 5G connection, which would make it feel like you’re actually in the stadium. Hopefully by then VR headsets will be of a better quality and won’t be quite so expensive, look silly on your head or give you eye strain.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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48 Responses
  1. Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

    Meanwhile, back in the real world of 2017. BT still claim they don’t have the money to build a full FTTP network for the UK. If BT stop ploughing so much money into these sorts of projects like “Quantum Computing” and get back to the hear and now it might have the money and resources to make a true fibre UK.

    • Avatar AndyH

      BT have never made that claim. They have said it was uneconomical for a nationwide fibre rollout, which it is.

      What names have you being using on here before?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      I think it’s more uneconomical to be getting in the realms of Quantum Computing at the moment than getting the UK into the world of fibre.

      btw I’ve not used any other name on this site.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      I’m pretty certain that BT aren’t developing any quantum computers. However, it would be criminally irresponsible not to be researching the implications for security. That’s for two reasons. That’s not just because quantum cryptography offers the possibility of uncrackable ciphers but, far more important, practical quantum computers could be used to break many of the algorithms which underlay security of systems and the Internet. Or, perhaps, you would prefer a more relaxed attitude to the security of your data. Perhaps you’d prefer the TalkTalk approach.

      In any event, the money spent on this sort of research is miniscule compared to that for infrastructure uplift. Saving money on not researching the implications of quantum computing or the effect of social media on your core business is like saving weight by cutting your toenails.

      Much of this is directed towards supporting other business opportunities. Security, especially, is a large concern of many business and government departments.

  2. Avatar Kits

    Stop paying bonuses to high end staff for failure would generate a large slice of this also.

  3. Avatar Steve Jones

    @JustAnotherFileServer

    Just to back up what I said, then you might want to read this BT document on which reference the importance quantum computing and communications and just why it is so important in the operation of secure networks. Wikipedia also has a list of companies who are also investigating quantum computing, a subject which you dismiss so airily.

    https://www.quantumcommshub.net/wp-content/src/Tim-WHITLEY_Quantum-Hub-Launch.pdf

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      I’m not dismissing the subject of quantum computing. Just that BT needs to learn to walk first before trying to run.

      It won’t be too long before BT is forced into leaning to walk. It’s just sad that so much money will be wasted until then

    • Avatar TheFacts

      What do you mean by ‘walk’, in detail please.

    • Avatar MikeW

      “Just that BT needs to learn to walk first before trying to run.”

      Today’s walk is yesterday’s run. Research is what makes one progress into the other.

      Remember that the stuff you now want BT to concentrate on installing came out of research being done by BT and the GPO in decades past.

      If you’d been around in the seventies, demanding that the GPO spends its money getting rid of the waiting lists for plain old telephones rather than research into this silly glass stringy stuff, then we’d have nothing to install.

      Mind you, if you applied the same thinking in the Thirties, then we might not have the computers that dangle on the end of that fibre stuff, and speaking with a German accent.

  4. Avatar GNewton

    I think the sentiment of many, after reading this article, will be that BT first needs to get the basics right, e.g. acting as a proper telecoms company, not as the beggar for taxpayer’s money. Steve Jones is right, it may be just peanuts compared to a fibre rollout, but there is no reason for BT to do these big publicity stunts when it can’t get the basics done first!

    • Avatar TheFacts

      What basics would these be? Full details please.

      VM has been around in various forms for 30 years, how does it compare?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      What you dismiss as publicity stunts are announcements made on what (especially in the area of quantum communication/computing), very much part of the modern basics of communications. Do you really think any major company or government is going to buy communication links for major systems where companies can’t keep up to date on this? There is also a special connection in that, for historical reasons, the major communications operators in the UK are joined at the hip with specialist government departments and agencies on issues such as cyber security. Did you miss the recent government announcements on the critical importance of cyber security, such as the Queen’s opening of the National Cyber Security Centre?

      http://www.itv.com/news/2017-02-14/national-cyber-security-centre-opened-by-the-queen-as-business-warned-it-is-unprepared-for-attacks/

      If you care to look at their website, you’ll see BT is listed as both an assured provider and a supplier of professional services. This means that attention to security is simply a cost of running a network, it’s an essential and, through professional services, a source of revenue.

      https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/index/organisation

      This stuff isn’t an optional extra, a nice to have and we’ll get round to it once we’ve finished digging muddy holes. It’s part of the very essence of keeping a communications network up and running along with all its systems. I don’t think you have any concept of what might happen if the fundamental security of our core networks is compromised.

      So what do you expect to happen? The few hundred employees and associated researchers in the university departments will be sent out with picks and shovels until there’s fibre in every corner of this land?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      Steve, you’ve gone very much off topic. This article is not about cyber security. If you give telecominfraproject.com a good read then you might understand what BT want to get into, which has nothing to do at this stage with cyber security.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Steve Jones: Nobody denies the right for BT to get involved in research projects. It’s just that companies don’t make such a big deal of what is just part of a normal operation anyway. BT needs to sort out its basic issues first (just take a look at the various review sites, or Ofcom’s documents on this) before BT publicly brags about how great things are being involved in other projects like the ones mentioned in this article.

    • Avatar MikeW

      “BT needs to sort out its basic issues first ”

      Just like the answer to @JustAnotherFileServer…

      What is a basic issue today wasn’t basic yesterday. Yesterday’s research into yesterday’s complex issues is what creates the environment where there is something “basic” to be dealt with today.

      The thing you both miss is that the problem is really one of scale.

      What is a complex area, being researched by one individual, will eventually become a basic area that needs to be deployed & maintained by 100’s of staff. The cost – and all the ensuing issues like affordability and customer service – stems from the hundreds needed down the line, not the one researcher.

      If you lose today’s researcher, you won’t speed up today’s deployment one iota. But you will stop the future improvements from happening.

      Get a grip, guys.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @MikeW BT was stopped in the 80’s and 90’s from developing a true fibre network, but guess what, it’s not the 80’s or 90’s anymore.

      This fibre issue and debate has been going on for nearly 40 years, so not exactly yesterdays research or issue.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @JAFS – What is the ‘issue’?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts see comments for issue (extra hint, see my very first comment)

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @JAFS – why do you believe BT should build a full FTTP network? Plenty of other companies around to build FTTP. Where the sums work…

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts I take it that you disagree that BT still has a monopoly when it comes to pots? As it stands BT (Openreach) has near total control over the copper network. So why not have BT replace it with fibre?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @JustAnotherFileServer

      It was not me that first raise the appropriateness (or otherwise) of quantum computing in the operation of BT’s network and system. I merely pointed to a briefing document and what its relevancy might be in the field of communication security.

      Reading up a bit more on TIP, then it’s a cross-industry international initiative, much of it to do with mobile communications, systems convergence and a host of related things. It’s from these sort of bodies that new standards and initiatives emerge. If you are a major player in such markets, then you can’t afford to ignore them.

      I would suggest looking at the list of members, which includes many other telcos, such as Telefonica, Orange, Vodafone and so on. The rest of the complaints are the ones that are way off topic. These initiatives have nothing, absolutely nothing, to any commercial case for FTTP save, perhaps, in the long term it might do something for market stimulation.

      https://telecominfraproject.com/members/

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @Steve Jones Not very good examples of other telcos you have provided. Telefonica has a lot of financial troubles (mainly because of bad investments in projects that have gone wrong). Orange, who no longer operates in the UK (again because of bad investments they made).

    • Avatar MikeW

      @JAFW
      Yawn. You really think that justifies your lame thinking? That fibre wasn’t yesterday’s research, but belongs to the day before?

      It seems you really can’t see the value in research, even if that value only appears in decades.

      The “fibre issue” is not an issue with fibre. It is an issue with money. Would you suddenly be happy with research if it happened to make fibre half as costly to install?

    • Avatar MikeW

      @JAFW
      Ah, a typical strawman answer to Steve there. Ignore the points made entirely.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @MikeW Yes, research is important and especially so when you are trying to make comments when you’ve clearly not done your research. If you had done your research then you would know how many trillions of pounds has been wasted trying to avoid the UK going full fibre since the mid 80’s. So it’s not a case of there is an issue with lack on money or costing too much to go full fibre.

    • Avatar AndyH

      Trillions of pounds?

      Now I’ve heard it all…. **shaking head**

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @AndyH This country has been so wasteful with it’s money, that’s it’s not funny.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @JustAnotherFileServer

      OK, enlighten us. Just how many trillions of pounds has BT wasted trying to avoid a full fibre roll-out? Be careful with your decimal points though. One clue is that Openreach’s entire revenue stream is £5bn a year and, due to regulatory pricing, is unlikely to change significantly.

      Marks will be awarded for showing your working.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @Steve Jones You’ve just proven another point that you fail to read. I didn’t say anything about BT in my comment.

      I will give you a classic example of what could have been and how it has wasted money. Back in the 90’s I lived in a town that BT had a hybrid network, but it wanted to upgrade it to full fibre. Unfortunately the government wasn’t interested in fibre and so ordered that BT had to sell the network. Since then the network has changed hands a couple of times and greatly expanded to cover a population of over 300k. VM now own the network and have recently had the go ahead from the regulators (Ofcom) to upgrade the network to full fibre. I’m sure you know how much that would have saved if it was allowed to go full fibre back in the 90’s?

      That’s just one example. There are so many

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @JustAnotherFileServer

      OK – so if it wasn’t BT that had wasted trillions of pounds avoiding putting in full fibre, then who was it and where have those wasted trillions gone?

      As for the fibre issue, then there was, indeed, an offer back in the 80s by BT to invest in a fibre network provided that they were allowed to deliver TV services over the network. The Thatcher government at the time decided not to allow that and, instead, to grant local franchises to cable operators as their belief was that this would provide for infrastructure competition. To an extent that has happened (in half the country by premises count). Of course, the original investors essentially lot all their investment and the banks had to write-off a lot of the lending and/or convert it to equity.

      As to VM being given permission by Ofcom to upgrade your local network to fibre, then no such permission is required. VM can do pretty well what they like with their network as they are lightly regulated. BT did own a cable network for a while (I can’t quite recall where it was), but did sell it off as it made no economic sense to invest in two local competing networks. I suspect it would also have encountered competition issues later in the process if the same operator ran two networks in the same area.

      In any event, your criticism was of BT investing in this TIP scheme and quantum computing, or have you forgotten that?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      Steve, it has come very clear now that you haven’t got a clue what has happened in the past and no idea what is going on in the present. This means it would be better to not make comments about the future. All I have said is that BT need to stop investing money into things that are beyond it’s capabilities right now until the basics have been completed. This has been my point all the way the way through.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @JAFS – what, exactly, do you believe is beyond the capability of BT?

      Why should BT have to put in fibre to every property, why not VM?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts Are you under the impression that VM own Openreach?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @JAFS – there are now plenty of companies capable of installing FTTP networks.

      And the capability question?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts I’m not sure that you are aware that VM has no control over the copper lines that Openreach oversea, therefore VM hasn’t got the capability to convert the UK to full fibre. It maybe possible for VM in the future to buyout Openreach from BT, but I’m sure that won’t be allowed as it would be seen that it’s going from one Monopoly to another.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @JAFS – VM could fibre 50% of the UK. Would it make sense for Openreach to fibre where others have already been?

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts Could you explain where you got 50% from? You could fly to the moon, but probably not something that is likely or realistic is it?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @JustAnotherFileServer: Your are going in circles here with TheFacts. He doesn’t understand the economics of fibre rollout. In the past he was out of touch with the real world coming up with the option for discussion that the government pays for a nationwide fibre rollout. And now he appears to have the notion that VM could do a fibre rollout to half the country.

      The fact is that the overall framework isn’t geared towards fibre rollout in this country. I needs to be completely reformed. Having duplicate access networks in cherry picked urban areas was the wrong approach. So was the fact that too much taxpayer’s money was thrown at BT who had no need for it. Serious errors done all the way back to the Thatcher years.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      The current VM network covers 50% of UK properties so relatively easy to upgrade to fibre. The economics may be doubtful as there would be limited benefit to many users. And VM could do wholesale…

      @GN – what would a reform consist of?

      The BDUK funding was to achieve a fast rollout of a significant speed increase, what would those sums of money have achieved if only FTTP could be provided?

      Finally re. the government funding 100% FTTP, I have never said it would be likely or feasible, just another option to write on the post-it for the discussion.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts Even if VM converts the whole of it’s 50% to fibre, that’s still not converting the UK to full fibre. You do seem to contradict yourself a lot. I now see the sarcasm in your name that you use on this site as you don’t seem to have any facts.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @JustAnotherFileServer: TheFacts seems to be very generous when it comes to spending taxpayer’s money. BT had no need for any taxpayer’s money which could have been much better spent elsewhere, such as the NHS.

      A government funded nationwide fibre rollout has never been an option for discussion, not in this country anyway, under the current framework, something which TheFacts doesn’t seem to comprehend judging by his questions.

      BT needs to sort out the basics first before engaging in other adventures.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @JustAnotherFileServer

      So your response is a personal attack without once dealing with any of your wildly inaccurate statements such as trillions of pounds have been wasted? Or that VM somehow had to get permission from Ofcom to upgrade a network to fibre. Or that your contention that BT should refrain from any research on future telecoms and IT platforms until its done the basics?

      Perhaps you should deal with you own claims first. You have yet to point out a single factual error that I’ve made.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – so why was BDUK set up?

      @GN and @JAFS need to come up with some specific proposals.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @SteveJones: While of course it is true that it is not literal Trillions wasted here, you are missing the main points here, that is why other posters can’t take you serious.

      Over the past few decades, a lot of money has indeed been wasted, by duplicating telecom access infrastructures, by going through transitional technologies like ADLS2+ or VDSL when the end goal is fibre. Things started to go wrong back in the Thatcher years with wrong government policies.

      You are only seeing things from a company shareholder perspective. But even here, it is obvious to most people that BT has not been doing well. Though quite limited in the current regulatory framework, BT always has to be put under pressure by Ofcom or the government to make some significant steps forwards. BT still has the old GPO mentality. BT should not make a big deal or PR exercise over minor projects while it can’t even sort out important basic issues. Just look at the recent mess from its Italy adventure. Or take a serious look at any major review site, or BTs own business forum. It needs to get its own house in order first before blowing the trumpet.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – Your proposals are?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @GNewton

      Can’t take me seriously just because other people refuse to acknowledge the implications of what they are saying? In the first instance, are you seriously suggesting that no money should have been spent on ADSL and that we should waited until, somehow, FTTP was rolled out? That’s an insane idea. Those investments in ADSL (by BT and others) allowed an incredibly fast roll-out of basic broadband service in just a few years at low cost. FTTP would have taken decades, even if £25bn or so had been available. As it is, ADSL created a viable, sell-financing business and did it in a fraction of the time FTTP roll-out would take.

      The same can be said about FTTC. In a few years that will have uplifted speeds to 30+mbps so that (with VM) 95% of the population will be covered at a fraction of the cost of a full FTTP roll-out. In the meantime, it has created revenue, and in the case of the publicly subsidised part, allowed for a large amount of reinvestment. The same amount of money would have covered less than 20% of the population and taken years longer.

      It’s also ridiculous to claim that this money is wasted. Quite apart from the revenue it started generating relatively quickly (and quicker than BT appreciated – which is a failure on their part), the rollout of FTTC has pushed fibre much further into the network. There is now a great deal of fibre which runs out to fibre distribution points much deeper in the network. A good 50%+ of the FTTC rollout costs are in the logistics involved in getting those backhaul and fibre aggregation points into place, and they are assets which can be exploited in the future.

      You can suggest that the country should have gone down a full fibre single infrastructure supplier route (as some Asian countries have done with a lot of government money), but the various governments have done no such thing. They have gone for multi-supplier and competition at the lowest level of network they can manage. Hence the encouraging of the cable companies in the first place, LLU and, not to mention, the PIA+ type initiatives. Whatever BT are responsible for, it’s not government policy and they have to work within those bounds.

    • Avatar MikeW

      @Steve
      I can only applaud your staying power here. Its sometimes obvious when people like @JAFW just want to take the opportunity to spew bile rather than talk substantively. But sometimes it is too easy to get sucked in.

      Step away from the keyboard!

  5. Avatar AndyH

    @ GNewton – “I think the sentiment of many, after reading this article, will be that BT first needs to get the basics right”

    “(The TIP) is aimed at helping the operator to develop a future generation of telecoms, broadband infrastructure and digital services.” Which part of this do you disagree with?

    Quite bizarre some of the criticism here to put it lightly…

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