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Broadband Builder VXFIBRE Publish FTTP Master Plan for UK Councils

Thursday, August 30th, 2018 (3:00 pm) - Score 3,869

Swedish fibre optic builder VXFIBER, which is currently working to deploy a new 1Gbps open access FTTP broadband ISP network across Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire (here), has today published a new ‘Digital Masterplan‘ to assist other UK Local Authorities in their plans for rolling out similar infrastructure.

The plan essentially highlights 9 sequential stages for a local body to consider in its installation and roll-out plans for a prospective network. Furthermore it encourages local authorities to “properly invest in full fibre to the home (FTTH) Gigabit connectivity” instead of “continuing to invest millions in hybrid copper / fibre technologies, which will only be suitable for a few more years.”

VXFIBER’s Head of Business Development, Richard Watts, said: “Local Authorities are the custodians of the UK’s regional economic and social development. They have responsibility for a broad range of issues … [and] a local authority’s development plans must have a properly thought-out digital strategy to support [that].”

The announcement states that VXFIBER’s Digital Masterplan is available to download here (PDF), although at the time of writing this only appears to consist of a single page with the headings for each stage and no further details. Luckily we have been able to extract a few more details from elsewhere but there isn’t a lot of detail, although some may still find it useful.

VXFIBER’s Digital Masterplan

STAGE 1 – Digital vision

This is about the authority’s social, economic and environmental ambitions for its region. What initiatives does it want to launch? What new opportunities does it want to create? This can include a range of subjects:

– Building affordable housing for residents
– Regional job creation
– Attracting inward investment for a new enterprise zone
– Encouraging local start-ups

The local authority’s digital vision should also include what new public services it wants to put in place – such as publicly available WiFi zones, IoT-based Smart city features for traffic management or better energy efficiency. With this vision in place for the short, medium and long-term future, the local authority can consider how to bring it to life – and what connectivity it needs to do so.

STAGE 2 – Existing duct assets

The next step is to identify the existing ducts and pipes that the local authority already has in place and which it can potentially use for rolling out a full-fibre network. These could be pipes for a local CCTV network, sewers or utility pipes. Physically installing fibre infrastructure is the most expensive part of a fibre rollout. Digging up the road to install fibre is time consuming and eats up to 80 percent of the installation’s total cost. Using existing assets wherever possible – including unused “dark fibre” – is critical for minimising cost.

STAGE 3 – Backhaul connectivity

Next, the local council or authority must align the ducts and pipes it has at its disposal with the nearest middle mile and core backhaul networks. Middle mile networks need to be connected to the UK’s nationwide fibre infrastructure. Any full fibre infrastructure planned by the authority must be able to connect to this nationwide network in order to connect to the internet.

By bringing these assets together, the local authority can assess if it or its partners needs to dig new routes and install extra fibre to enable network: and if so, where it needs to do so.

STAGE 4 – Local plan

This identifies the physical position of any major new development projects for the future – whether new residential housing: science parks: or regenerating an existing district.

Previously, the local authority’s strategic focus has always been “above ground”. But rolling out a full fibre broadband network means it now needs to extend its strategy “below ground” as well, in a way that aligns with its plans on the surface. Any planned Gigabit fibre network has to correspond with and connect the proposed new development sites. By aligning these locations with its digital masterplan, the local authority has a clear view of precisely which areas its new full fibre network needs to reach.

STAGE 5 – Road works, new roads, rail: & Stage 6 – Energy projects

These two levels factor in existing and future physical infrastructure plans, be it the construction of new roads or repairs to existing roads: or alternatively, the construction of a distributed heating network or the presence of electricity pylons.

A local authority can use the construction of or maintenance on a physical road, energy or utility network as the perfect opportunity to install Gigabit fibre at the same time. Doing so saves time and money on the fibre installation process.

STAGE 7 – Map premises data

Mapping the premises of the area to be served by the planned new network means the local authority can identify key locations that need connectivity. These include residential areas (both private and social housing), business parks and enterprise zones, plus public locations like schools and hospitals (as well as the authority’s own offices). Plotting them is an important step in planning the scale and reach of the planned network.

STAGE 8 – Major land ownership

Major land owners – whether inner city landlords or rural farmers – have a critical part to play in network rollout. Their private land might be the key to unlocking connected access to remote rural communities, new urban developments or under-served inner city sites.

What’s essential is a collaborative approach to fibre ownership with a “dig once” startegy that benefits all infrastructure owners – whether public sector or private owner.

STAGE 9 – Map broadband availability

Mapping current broadband coverage and availability identifies, firstly, those areas that are under-served and in desperate need of connectivity: and also those areas with an especially high level of demand, such as hospitals, university campuses, science parks and enterprise hubs.

By identifying these areas in advance, the local authority can anticipate demand and traffic levels and incorporate them into its planned network.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Kevin McN

    Umm – this doesn’t feel very real to me, seems to miss out a huge bit of delivering FTTP. That is how to build a commercial success. The networks are not going to sell themselves in conurbations where VX seem to be targeting. It’s pretty dangerous stuff for a local authority in a time of austerity to head down this road which is littered with public sector failure to understand the commercial reality I.e Digital Region in Yorkshire or Aylesbury. VX themselves seem to want others to do the hard graft and for them to be given gatekeeper status for not very much. It’s like the Openreach Charter launch of a couple of years ago – once read – forgotten

    • Avatar A_Builder

      I’m not sure that I would be that negative about it.

      The general broadcast is that the cost to OR is in the ducts and civils. And hard work has been done spinning out the blocked duct argument everywhere. But the reality is the OR own a network of poles and ducts.

      Alternatively LA’s, and others, also own ducts – often far more than you realise and a lot of them now totally unused since CCTV went over to broadband. So there is little risk in the LA saying here are some ducts we can rent capacity to you for not much. And in these time of austerity any LA officer who sees a steady income stream from something is going to be like a rat up a drain pipe.

      Some LA’s have good asset maps and so the time spent identifying things like this is small. LA’s combined with land registry can give broad brush land ownership info to the prospective(s).

      The thing lost in the negativity is that pure fibre is an economic enabler and more sensible LA’s want it now and are not going to sit around waiting for OR’s opaque processes and want to engage with people who will answer questions directly.

      So yes the document is naively simple but the art of writing a good how to manual is often to make it that simple and not create a highly complex rule book that then becomes a straight jacked.

      Could it be that common sense is the missing ingredient?

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @A_Builder
      “So there is little risk in the LA saying here are some ducts we can rent capacity to you for not much”

      Actually any public bodies proposing to compete with the private sector using state assets have to take the market rates. They certainly cannot enter a market and undercut market rates significantly using state assets if that is what you were intending to suggest.

      So in this case they’d almost certainly have to follow Openreach or similar duct rental pricing, otherwise they and their customers would be risking allegations of illegal state aid.

    • Avatar Mike

      Government is the problem not the solution, the fiber tax needs to be repealed.

  2. Avatar A_Builder

    @New_Londoner

    Errrr no the anti state aid provision doesn’t mean that.

    That is the I_want_to_stop_something_commerical_being_done interpretation of state aid. Which is often wheeled out to protect the status quo.

    There is nothing in the anti state aid provisions that prevents a functional competitive market for goods and services.

    What it does mean is that the LA would have to show that it had amortised the asset and provided realistically for maintenance costs. And them allowed a commercial rate of return and profit on the asset. As the LA will have that from its accounts anyway this won’t be hard to demonstrate.

    Otherwise the argument is ridiculous in that it would allow OR to effectively set the benchmark for all duct access costs and so kill a competitive market.

    And a competitive market is actually the whole point of the anti state aid legislation………

  3. Avatar TheMatt

    Please no…

    We know Sweden likes to go around the world telling everyone how great Sweden is … but their consumer broadband is pants. Yes OMG wow you can have 1Gbit in bredbandsbolaget .. or telia … but …. you try downloading outside of Sweden … need that file from USA ? Need that file from Frankfurt … then your super amazing Swedish fibre becomes …. 50mbit… or 100… but no where near 1000mbit.

    How do I know… I’ve lived in Sodermalm for 6 years and I’ve had both.

    Swedes come to deny it in 3… 2…. 1….. ….

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