An investment firm has unveiled an ambitious plan to build a high-speed wireless broadband network that would cover more than 90 percent of the United States by 2015. New York-based Harbinger Capital Partners said it has signed a seven billion dollar agreement with Finnish-German giant Nokia Siemens Networks to “deploy, install, operate, and maintain” a broadband network called “LightSquared.” LightSquared said its satellite and mobile broadband network would offer broadband capacity to wireless providers, retailers, cable operators, device maker, content providers and other businesses. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, who has made expanding access to high-speed Internet one of his top priorities, welcomed the new venture. LightSquared said it expects to launch commercially in the second half of next year and to cover at least 100 million Americans by December 2012. The partnership with Nokia Siemens Networks was announced one day after the Finnish-German giant announced plans to buy most of Motorola’s wireless network infrastructure assets for 1.2 billion dollars
As of June 1, British broadcaster Sky is to upgrade all of its existing broadband customers to (up to) 20Mbps, and streamline its packages to two simple offerings. The company is also going to give all Sky TV and telephone line subscribers the highest speeds possible for free.
Sky has created two broadband options to suit all of its customers’ needs, with Sky Everyday Lite aimed at those who casually browse the internet, and Sky Unlimited for the more hardcore ‘net user.
Everyday Lite will be free to all Sky TV customers with Sky Talk, but will be capped with a 2GB monthly download limit, whereas, for an extra £7.50 per month, the Unlimited plan is completely open ended for massive use. It comes with no usage caps, fair use policies or traffic management, and it is essentially created for those who want to use Sky Player video-on-demand services.
Of course, the Digital Economy Bill will still be in effect, but Sky pledges not to slow down traffic, even at busy times of the day.
Google is reported to be almost ready to start using a new high-speed internet cable under the Pacific Ocean to increase lit cable capacity by around 20 per cent. The new cable, dubbed Unity, will give Google a direct connection to the Asian market from the US to potentially handle 7.68 Terabits/s and offer Asian internet users faster browsing speeds. The project was funded to the tune of USD 300m by Google and a consortium of six Asian telecommunication firms known as The Unity Consortium. The new underwater cable will offer connections between Google’s Japanese and US datacentres, enabling it to offer improved services to Asian customers and guarantee it access to a large amount of new bandwidth to help it meet growing user demands. The pipe’s completion comes at a time when Google looks set to pull out of Asia’s biggest market, China, something it probably didn’t envisage doing when it first announced the Unity project two years ago.
U.S. regulators will announce a major Internet policy this week to revolutionize how Americans communicate and play, proposing a dramatic increase in broadband speeds that could let people download a high-definition film in minutes instead of hours. Dramatically increasing Internet speeds to 25 times the current average is one of the myriad goals to be unveiled in the National Broadband Plan by the the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday. The highly anticipated plan will make a series of recommendations to Congress and is aimed at spurring the ever-changing communications industry to bring more and faster online services to Americans as they increasingly turn to the Internet to communicate, pay monthly bills, make travel plans and be entertained by movies and music. The Obama administration has touted the plan as a way to create jobs and make energy use more efficient. Officials have said the plan will ask Congress to fund up to USD 16bn to build an emergency public safety system. It would also tell lawmakers that a one-time injection of USD 9bn could accelerate broadband reach to the 4 percent of Americans who do have access. Otherwise they could let the FCC carry out a 10-year plan to realign an USD 8bn U.S. subsidy program for universal broadband access instead of universal phone access.
The European Union’s Committee of the Regions has called on the European Commission (EC) to close the digital divide by ensuring that all citizens in the region have affordable broadband access. The EC has outlined its desire to get everyone online with high-speed connections by 2013 as part of the Europe 2020 plan, and the Committee has backed the initiative in a report written by Belgian MEP Jean-François Istasse. However, the report goes on to say that the EC must not rely on markets alone to deliver high-speed internet in hard-to-reach rural communities, mountainous regions and islands. The Committee has called on the EC to create policies that acknowledge market failure, and to set up public initiatives to help develop open networks in these areas. The Committee also warned of the potential impact on town planning and the environment from widespread deployments of antennas and masts
Subscribers to TalkTalk’s broadband packages could soon be able to also take up mobile phone services as part of the deal, it has emerged.
The broadband provider is reportedly keen to become a mobile virtual network operator once its demerger from parent company Carphone Warehouse is completed at the end of March. Mobile Today reports that if the firm is successful, it could offer mobile services alongside its existing broadband and home phone bundles, as well as the digital TV platform it gained control of through its acquisition of Tiscali.
Discussing the move with the website, Strategy Analytics analyst Phil Kendall said the move was essentially “a natural extension” for TalkTalk. “Look at the others. O2 now has a fixed-line consumer offering, as does Orange. Vodafone is also likely to launch a product. T-Mobile and 3 are the only single play providers left in the UK,” he added. TalkTalk recently launched its new We’ll Call You service, which allows lonely over-65s to enjoy regular chats with a member of staff.
A £70 million project to bring high-speed broadband internet connections to thousands of people across Scotland has been completed. The Pathfinder North programme links 801 schools, libraries and council buildings in the Highlands, Moray, Argyll and Northern Isles with super-fast broadband. With five regional authorities involved in the scheme, it is one of the UK’s largest ever broadband investments.
Highland Council’s resources committee chairwoman Carolyn Wilson said: “The Pathfinder North scheme represents a major investment in rural locations, which depend so heavily on good communications. We are looking forward to using the network to the best of its capability, ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of all the communities we serve” Ms Wilson added that the provision of high-speed broadband is great news for the establishments involved – all of whom will now benefit from quicker download rates and smoother web browsing.
An evaluation period will take place between March and April, designed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Pathfinder North project in preparation for similar schemes in the future. Concerns have been raised previously about the broadband access offered to people in rural locations across Britain – especially in the Scottish Highlands.
Prime minister Gordon Brown last month announced the government would invest £1 billion in providing Britain with ultrafast broadband access. The cash would ensure more than 90 per cent of Britons – including many of those in rural areas – could enjoy state-of-the-art speeds.
BT has said it will allow rival broadband companies to use its tunnels to lay their own superfast fibre network
All broadband suppliers will be allowed to lay their own fibre cables in BT’s tunnels, the company has said. Opening up its “ducts” could potentially encourage the development of a superfast broadband network and save rivals billions of pounds that would have been needed to dig up the nation’s pavements.
It is also in line with calls from the Conservative Party, rivals such as TalkTalk and BSkyB and also with European movements to encourage free access.
Jeremy Hunt, shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, had said that a Conservative government would break BT’s monopoly on the network to promote a nationwide broadband target speed of 100mbps, and agreed with TalkTalk and Sky that access to ducts would allow a more effective market to operate.
BT, however, has denied that it has simply caved in to political pressure: “We told [industry regulator] Ofcom last year we’re willing to provide open access to our ducts and poles and we are working with them on how to achieve it. Other companies already have access to our exchanges so we’re relaxed about providing them with another form of access as well,” said the company’s chief executive Ian Livingstone.
Questions, however, remain over the extent to which BT’s rivals will really want to lay their own cables , even in BT ducts; while urban areas may appear commercially attractive, BT is itself laying down some fibre which other companies are allowed to use themselves. In rural areas, there is unlikely to be an appetite from new companies because there will be an insufficient return on the substantial investment required. TalkTalk issued a statement saying that “We’re at the forefront of the debate about how best to provide super fast broadband to our customers. We’re talking to BT and Ofcom and we’re considering a range of options including our own fibre trial.”
The Conservative Party has said that it would use any underspend from the part of the BBC’s licence fee that is currently earmarked to help fund digital switchover. When that is completed after 2012, the Party would consider matched funding or loans to try to encourage a more widespread high-speed broadband network
The UK’s web speeds have been put under the online microscope and the results make for cringe-worthy reading.
Despite the government promising to get web speeds up to a 2Mbps canter by 2012, we are currently lagging behind the likes of the USA, the Netherlands and Ireland. Number one in Europe for web speeds is Switzerland, with the city of Lausanne clocking up a massive 24Mbps for an average speed. The rest of Switzerland rates significantly below this, however, at 5Mbps.
At least we are far from the least in Europe. The likes of Spain, France and Italy are lagging behind us, with all three failing to match the UK’s average speed of 3.4Mbps. It’s interesting that the government has set the minimum bar for web speeds in the UK at 2Mbps, as currently 73 per cent of the UK is reaching this speed according to the statistics from traffic management firm Akamai.
So, who’s number one with a bullet when it comes to internet speeds? It’s South Korea, of course, whose lightning-fast infrastructure means it regularly pipes out speeds of 14.5Mbps. We can but dream.
A project by the North West Development Agency will provide Manchester with a synchronous 100Mbps fibre optic network – and could serve to show how important a decent infrastructure could be to the UK.
The publicly funded £1m project will serve 1,000 homes and 500 businesses, and will offer an insight into how future networks will operate.
“It will allow home working, telemedicine, video calling and net-based services on TV,” explained Chris Smedley, Chief Executive of Geo, the company appointed to build the network.
The real headline grabber is the speed of uploads – with even Virgin Media’s excellent 50Mbps service not offering anything like a synchronous upload speed that will offer uploads as fast as downloads.
Virgin Media is testing a 200Mbps service at the current time, although Shaun Fenson, an advisor to the Manchester Digital Agency, rather curiously told the BBC that neither this nor BT’s super-fast fibre optic offering constituted “true next generation services”.
“The hope is that networks such as this will successfully spread. BT will lay fibre in some places and communities in others,” said Fenson.
“The job then is to make sure that all the networks are interoperable.”
It’s not hard to see how a fibre-optic infrastructure is critical to the UK’s industry, so this kind of project can only help bring about the next generation of connectivity – especially with the news that Britain is only 26th in global average broadband speeds.