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Fluidata Launches Project to Help Broadband ISPs Reach Rural UK Communities

Posted: 18th Aug, 2011 By: MarkJ
bt uk fibre optic broadband workfluidata uk business ispThe business internet provider Fluidata has launched a new UK Network Initiative that aims to solve some of the problems in isolated rural communities by making it easier for a range of competitive broadband ISPs (i.e. not just BT based services) to reach them through a new kind of aggregated wholesale network. The initiative will also look to extend its own physical coverage through a number of projects, such as a trial of superfast broadband via FTTC technology.

Until recently any ISP wanting to reach a rural town or village would have had to invest significant amounts of money into enabling a local telephone exchange (e.g. LLU - Local Loop Unbundling) or to physically build into the area with new infrastructure. The latter solution has led to a niche patchwork of often isolated services.

Ofcom estimates that about 11.7% of UK premises (approximately 3 million homes and businesses) can only get BT based services (aka - Market 1), which leads to higher prices due to a lack of competition and technology choice. Even some of the best unbundled (LLU) ISPs have trouble making an economic case for extending their network coverage beyond 80%, although TalkTalk aims to reach 90% within a couple of years.

Fluidata's solution is to aggregate multiple last mile rural networks via their existing carrier independent wholesale platform. ISPs will be able to interconnect into the platform once which then provides access to any of the potentially hundreds of disparate networks across the UK over which they can offer services to their customers, either business or consumer.

Piers Daniell, Managing Director of Fluidata, said:

"The cost to an ISP of building a last-mile network or connecting to one across the country can be significant, dramatically reducing take up and hence limiting choice of provider to the end user. By offering ISPs an opportunity to use our network, that cost is removed and instead shared between the thirty or so providers already using the platform for more standard DSL services.

ISPs will pay a one-off payment of £1000 to join the network which will provide access to many of the areas benefiting from the investment into rural broadband. The Government has pushed back its timetable to 2015, missing the EU target of 2013 to provide 100% of the UK with 2Mb/s per second and so the need to find an alternative solution is extremely pressing.

This will benefit local councils who will benefit from sales and marketing investment from the ISPs to gain subscriptions and will open rural areas to ISPs to offer consumers real choice. Our system provides the business model for a heavily subsidised government backed initiative which could falter if take up by customers is not significant."

The project is essentially a partnership headed up by Fluidata and their independent Systems Integrator & Managed Services partner, Magdalene. It's understood that that a wider consortium with several additional companies (e.g. ISPs) is now well established.

Loic Flageul, Magdalene, comments:

"By combining the real world experience of Magdalene in building last mile networks with an integrated virtual OSS/BSS stack and Fluidata’s wholesaling access we have a compelling case to work with any provider or network to deliver access to multiple ISPs. By delivering choice to consumers we are ensuring the Government’s commitment to get 100% of homes to 2Mb/s become a reality."

The solution could be critically important to schemes like the £100 Million Digital Region (DR) open access wholesale ISP project, which aims to deliver FTTC based broadband speeds of 25Mbps to 97% of businesses and homes in the South Yorkshire UK region. One of DR's most critical problems is that it has been unable to attract the interest of big name ISPs (further details) and that's where a unified platform from Fluidata could help.

According to a conversation that ISPreview.co.uk had with Piers Daniell earlier this week, the new wholesale exchange will plug into "O2, BT and other national networks" as well as "all the rural networks". It will be a layer-2 delivery only and thus be providing to true ISPs and large corporates rather than vISPs.

Apparently over 40 ISPs are already on the platform, which gives it some significant muscle (i.e. buying power). Most are already providing access initially to O2 / Be Broadband UK's ADSL2+ (up to 24Mbps) network but now BT and shortly other networks.

Fluidata claims that its solution is able to deliver multiple carriers, technologies and billing structures all through the same interconnect, which dramatically reduces the time to market and other associated costs. Crucially consumers will finally be given more choice, which over the longer term could put a huge dent in the existing Digital Divide.

Daniell was keen to stress that Fluidata isn't just about access, they're also building infrastructure too. The ISP informed us that they have "a number of projects" on the go, including a Fibre to the Cabinet ( FTTC ) superfast broadband trial going live in the next few months.

At this stage Daniell didn't want to give away too much detail in public, although ISPreview.co.uk understands that the FTTC deployment would probably similar to the non-BT method that Rutland Telecom has pioneered in a number of UK villages. Trials of true fibre optic ( FTTH ) and even wireless services could also play a part in the near future. Expect more news about this soon.
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