Tag Archives: broadband

NBN boss calls for study into broadband future

Updated February 23, 2013 12:53:09

The head of the National Broadband Network (NBN) wants an industry study to determine the best way to build the high-speed internet project.

Construction has been underway on the NBN for more than two years but there is still debate over which technology should be used.

The NBN Co is using a technology called ‘fibre to the premises’, which goes all the way to a home, to build most of the network.

But the Coalition wants to use ‘fibre to the node’. It says this method is faster and cheaper, but it will come with slower speeds.

NBN boss Mike Quigley is trying to bring an end to the debate in the lead up to the federal election.

He says he supports a proposed study by the Communications Alliance into the pros and cons of a range of technologies to see which is best.

“It gives them an opportunity to have a voice and give their opinion on what is the right way forward for the NBN,” he told PM.

“There is a lot of debate at the moment about what the right way forward is. Who’s better placed than the industry itself to have a view?”

But he says his support for the study does not mean he does not fully support the NBN.

“Having an open debate can only be a good thing for the country,” he said.

Opposition communication spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says the study should have been completed before the Government embarked on the NBN project.

“Mike Quigley’s statement today is a colossal admission of failure,” he told PM.

“It is admitting that the Government has made a hash of this … that there needs to be an examination of the different options and … that should have been done four years ago.”

“The question should have been asked: ‘we want everyone in Australia to have very fast broadband, what are the options to do so, let’s rank them in terms of time of deployment, cost of deployment, service delivery outcomes’.

“That’s what we’ve been begging the Government to do for four years, but they’ve embarked on this, they’ve arrogantly dismissed every request for this and now Mike Quigley himself is saying he’d like to see it done.”

Mr Turnbull says if the Coalition wins government, it will examine all aspects of the NBN and decide whether the rollout should continue.

“We will ensure there is produced a comprehensive analysis, totally transparent analysis, of what it will take in terms of dollars and time to complete the network on the plan of the current Government,” he said.

“We will then produce a similar analysis which shows the savings in dollars and time by burying it, by making changes, along the lines of the kind that we’ve proposed, using much more fibre to the node, which is consistent with the experience and practice in most other developed markets.

“We’ll also ensure there is done a cost benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission, and we will also conduct a very rigorous inquiry into the whole process relating to the NBN.

“I think Australians need to be told the truth about this project, they need to be told how it could possible have been embarked upon with so little analysis.”

The board of the Communications Alliance, which represents the telecommunications industry, has not yet decided whether it will go ahead with the study.

But its chief executive, John Stanton, says it is the right time to look at the technologies on offer.

“I guess the point is we’re not at a late stage of the rollout of the NBN, we’re in the very early stages of a nine year or more rollout,” he said.

“The nexus of the idea here is that technologies develop, things are learnt as you start to roll out a network like this, and it is logical and inevitable that over a multi-year rollout, there will be evolution and improvement of the way that the network is deployed.

“So it could make sense to have industry, which after all designed the original reference architecture for the NBN, continue to look at what could make sense.”

Mr Stanton says the debate over high-speed internet needs to be taken out of political hands.

“We need a rational, inclusive debate that sits above politics and simply looks at what might be sensible options in the national interest,” he said.

Major telco Optus does not agree that the study by the alliance would be effective.

It has issued a statement saying it would be better for individual companies to contribute to the debate on various broadband technologies rather than a Communications Alliance review.

The ABC asked Telstra for a response to Mr Quigley’s plan for a study, but it did not reply.

Topics: telecommunications, internet-technology, computers-and-technology, government-and-politics, federal-government, australia

First posted February 22, 2013 19:49:04

Sky Broadband struggles with demand

Sky logo Sky promotes the fact that its “unlimited broadband” deal has no usage cap Sky has acknowledged that some of its customers are experiencing slow internet speeds as a consequence of it signing up new subscribers.

The firm said that it was working to boost capacity at telephone exchanges in the worst hit areas.

The news coincided with the launch of Sky Go Extra – a service allowing users to download movies and TV shows so they can be watched offline.

One expert said the product might add to the strain.

Sky Go Extra still works at slow internet speeds – however, Sky’s other streaming services rely on the user having a 2 megabit per second connection. Some subscribers have complained their download speeds have fallen below this level at peak times.

A Sky spokeswoman apologised for the problems.

“Following a combination of an underlining increase in network traffic as well as a high rate of new customer additions, we are aware of capacity issues in a small number of exchanges,” she said.

“We are working on adding new capacity to those exchanges as quickly as we can. We apologise to all customers who have been impacted by this issue.”

She confirmed a report by The Register that users in Doncaster, North Wales and Bristol were among those affected, but declined to be more specific or name other locations.

However, the firm has provided an online postcode checking facility for its subscribers to check if their local exchange has been flagged as having an issue.

Sky also indicated that less than 5% of its broadband customer base used the affected exchanges.

‘Unlimited downloads’

Andrew Ferguson, editor of the Thinkbroadband news site noted that Sky had recently run a major promotion highlighting the fact it did not place “fair use” caps on the amount of data its customers use.

As a result, he said, the firm had probably attracted subscribers who downloaded significantly more than the average 23 gigabytes per month consumed by the average UK broadband user.

“Sky had this problem last year in some of its exchanges, and it’s definitely not the only service provider to have experienced this problem,” he told the BBC.

“It’s very much related to the firms’ promotional activities. Sky has also been pushing its fibre products recently – they offer higher speeds and people who sign up generally use more data afterwards.”

US cable company looks to sell broadband unit

New York: Cablevision Systems Corp. is exploring a sale of its Bresnan Broadband Holdings LLC unit after acquiring the northwestern US cable system in 2010, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The sale discussions are preliminary and no investment banks have been hired to advise on a deal yet, the person said, who asked not to be named because negotiations are private.

Cablevision, the fifth-largest US cable company by subscribers, bought Bresnan from Providence Equity Partners Inc. in December 2010 for $1.37 billion (Dh5.03 billion), giving it access to states, including Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. The company may be looking to sell as it spends more money on New York-area systems to increase customers’ broadband speeds and after several cable companies, including Knology Inc. and WaveDivision Holdings LLC, have found private buyers this year.

Potential suitors for Bresnan include Time Warner Cable Inc., Suddenlink Communications and Charter Communications Inc., the person said. Charter’s chief executive officer Tom Rutledge was Cablevision’s former chief operating officer.

Article continues below

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the company was weighing a sale of Bresnan.

Charlie Schueler, a spokesman for the Bethpage, New York-based company, said on Friday it was Cablevision’s policy “not to comment on rumours or speculation.”

Cablevision’s shares closed up 1.1 per cent to $16.91 in New York trading on Friday, taking its gain for the year to 19 per cent.

Telecommunications: Is broadband internet going to lead the PTCL recovery?

Stock has rallie­d 91% since Januar­y as invest­ors see revenu­e stream­s divers­ifying. This is the first time revenues have increased at all since 2007, and analysts are beginning to become optimistic about the company’s prospects for growth.


Even as its core fixed-line business appears to be withering, the Pakistan Telecommunications Company (PTCL) appears to have a plan for a comeback. Far from being consigned to technological irrelevance, PTCL is innovating its way back to growth, and has already caught the attention of investors.

Although PTCL’s net income for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 declined by about 2.9% to Rs7.2 billion, what caught investors attention was the fact that revenues increased by 8.7% to Rs60 billion. This is the first time revenues have increased at all since 2007, and analysts are beginning to become optimistic about the company’s prospects for growth.

The company’s long-term earnings potential had been seen as declining, with only its cellular services subsidiary Ufone seen as having any growth potential. Ufone currently accounts for about 47% of the company’s consolidated revenues, a figure that is expected to go higher, according to Zoya Ahmed, a research analyst at BMA Capital, an investment bank.

Yet PTCL appears to be ready to stage a comeback, and is doing so in large part through diversification of its revenue streams as well as an increasingly effective adaptation of newer technologies, a phenomenon not often associated with a company that is still majority state-owned.

Ahmed, the BMA analyst, identified two major sources of PTCL’s turnaround: the growth in its broadband internet and cable television services, and its growth in data services and branchless banking services to its mobile customers.

“After several years of decline, PTCL’s fixed-line subscriber base grew by 2% in 2012, largely due to the fact that fixed-line is a prerequisite for its broadband internet services,” said Ahmed in a note issued to clients on Tuesday. “We project the share of the broadband segment in total revenues to climb to 25% by fiscal 2013, with an assumed subscriber base of 1.65 million.”

BMA Capital also projects that PTCL’s broadband internet subscriber base will continue to grow at an average rate of about 8.5% per year for the next three years.

Data and internet services also appear to be driving revenue growth at Ufone, PTCL’s wholly-owned mobile subsidiary. Mobile companies in Pakistan have typically seen small declines in their average revenue per user (ARPU) as they grow their predominantly prepaid subscriber base, but Ufone’s ARPU appears to have stabilised as more and more of its customers sign up for data services.

Having said that, there do appear to be at least a few challenges that the company will still need to navigate, though analysts appear to be optimistic about the management’s ability to weather them.

For instance, the company still has to pay about Rs6 billion to some of its redundant employees as severance pay. This payment is part of PTCL’s legacy from its days as a wholly state-owned company, when the government forced it to hire far more employees than it needed. Nonetheless, analysts at BMA Capital estimate that this one-time charge in 2013 will go on to save the company close to Rs1.1 billion per year from 2014 onwards, making it a worthwhile investment in the long-term profitability of the company.

Another key problem for the company is its international calling rates, which have increased significantly. Analysts estimate that the increase in international calling rates – which primarily affect people calling from abroad to Pakistani numbers – will accelerate the move by many customers to voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service providers like Skype.

Nonetheless, the market appears to like PTCL and has seen the stock rally by about 91% since January, with most of that rise coming in August and September. The stock closed at Rs19.80 in trading at the Karachi Stock Exchange on Wednesday, up 0.15% for the day.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2012.

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Rural broadband gets green light

9 October 2012 Last updated at 13:09 GMT Fibre optics The government hopes to have best fibre network in Europe by 2015 The UK’s rural rollout of fast broadband has been given a boost as the EU competition commissioner approved the state-funded scheme.

There have been concerns that the effort could break EU competition rules because all bids so far had been won by BT.

Councils cannot begin projects until full EU approval is given.

That is now expected to happen soon.

In bed

“It is our understanding that the commission is on track to issue its final decision in late October or early November, which will allow projects to get under way,” said a Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesman.

The government has set aside £530m to ensure that rural areas do not miss out on the faster networks that are being installed in towns and cities.

BDUK, the body set up to oversee the process, has been criticised for slow progress. To date, just five contracts with councils have been signed – in North Yorkshire, Wales, Rutland, Lancashire and Surrey.

When BDUK made money available to councils, it was hoped that lots of companies would bid for a share of the money.

But only a handful of players, including Fujitsu and BT, entered the process. Later Fujitsu and others withdrew, leaving BT as the sole bidder in most areas.

“Fujitsu don’t get out of bed for less than one million households and we only have half a million,” a Cumbria County Council spokeswoman told the BBC.

‘Ludicrous’ Continue reading the main story

There are questions being asked over the type of technology being deployed by BT in both urban and rural rollouts.

Although some of its projects use the faster FTTH (Fibre to the Home), the emphasis is on FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) which sees fibre used to the street cabinets and old-fashioned copper used to connect from street level to homes.

It means that the UK does not even appear on the latest league table, issued by the FTTH Council for Europe.

According to the report, the UK’s FTTH rollouts remain at less than 1%, largely down to community-based schemes around the country.

Lithuania tops the table with more than 30% penetration, followed by Norway with 18% and Sweden with 14.5%.

Karin Ahl, president of the Fibre to the Home council for Europe, told the BBC that “based on current progress”, the UK would fail hit its target of being the fastest country in Europe by 2015.

Relying on FTTC would also mean the UK was not “future-proofed” she added.

Cumbria became the first UK council to reject bids from both BT and Fujitsu. A spokeswoman told the BBC that BT’s resubmitted bid had now been accepted.

She was unable to say whether BT offered to complete the project for less money, saying only that its bid was now “satisfactory”.

Last week BT was accused of inflating its prices when a document compiled by a consultant working for the DCMS was leaked to local authorities and subsequently detailed on a blog.

According to the Br0ken Teleph0n3 site, the document showed that BT was increasingly charging more for rural broadband cabinets.

BT strenuously denied the accusation, saying it was “ludicrous that some people are suggesting that we are trying to pass on the full cost of deployment to our public sector partners”.

“BT is winning BDUK tenders precisely because it is committing extra funds to improve broadband access in those counties. These funds are in addition to our commercial investment of £2.5bn,” a BT spokesman told the BBC.

The row has led critics of the process to call for more transparency in how bids are put together.

“The ability to negotiate individually with the various local authorities does mean that BT can adjust costs, the question no-one can answer without months of analysis and access to material not in the public domain is whether the cost variations are justified,” said Andrew Ferguson, editor of broadband news site ThinkBroadband.

Landline, Broadband: PTCL concludes loyalty campaign

Promot­ion, which ran for one year, conclu­ded with remark­able result­s in Ramaza­n this year, says PTCL.  Promotion, which ran for one year, concluded with remarkable results in Ramazan this year, says PTCL. PHOTO: FILE


Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PTCL) has said that it has concluded its landline and broadband loyalty campaign, which offered every new PTCL Double-up unlimited subscriber free cordless sets after first bill payment.

“Thousands of customers got free cordless sets through this offer. The promotion, which ran for one year, concluded with remarkable results in Ramazan this year,” said PTCL in a press release.

The Double-up unlimited packages facilitate customers with benefits like free wifi, unlimited downloads, unlimited local and nationwide on-net minutes, free Smart TV and Rs1.25 per minute mobile call charges.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2012.

‘Dismal economy restricting broadband penetration’

Servic­e provid­er also blames afford­abilit­y issues, lack of infras­tructu­re. “Amid dismal economic expansion, the broadband sector is not growing at its potential pace,” Qubee Pakistan CEO Jamal Nasir.


Qubee Pakistan CEO Jamal Nasir has said that the dismal economy and sluggish growth in the corporate sector has spelt difficulties for Pakistan’s broadband sector, which is no longer growing at the pace which earlier brought it laurels from the global telecom community.

“The number of broadband users in the country has not grown in proportion to population growth over the last few years, mainly because of slow growth in the economy,” Nasir said, while speaking to a select group of reporters at a local hotel here on Thursday.

Linking broadband penetration with high gross domestic product (GDP), he said economic experts often inter-relate high broadband penetration with high economic growth. Pakistan in recent years has experienced slowed economic growth, due to which broadband penetration in the country has dipped, he claimed.

Nasir informed the gathering that the affordability of broadband services has also been a major hurdle in the country. “The affordability of broadband services is also directly related to slow economic growth and high inflation in Pakistan, which has affected the profitability of service providers,” he said.

Talking about the role of big cities, especially Karachi, he pointed out that many peripheral areas of big cities do not enjoy sufficient broadband facilities – a problem that must be tackled by the public administration in order to increase broadband penetration.

“Broadband brings rapid changes in different sectors of the economy. We saw such swift changes in Pakistan too,” he said, while reminiscing about the ‘broadband boom’ Pakistan experienced a few years ago.

Sharing an example of the benefits of broadband penetration to the average Pakistani, Nasir related that a religious scholar near Peshawar teaches the recitation of the Quran to students in different western countries through Skype. “The person starts teaching at six in the morning and ends his sessions by 11am. He not only earns a respectable income, but also receives the payments for his services online.”

According to the latest available statistics from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), there are around 2.0 million broadband users in the country as of February 2012; up from 1.5 million in fiscal 2010-11.

Despite the purported increase in broadband users and hopes of further growth in coming years, industry officials are still not satisfied with broadband penetration in the country. Only one percent of Pakistanis have access to broadband services, even though tough competition among service providers should mean greater expansion.

Recently, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) – the country’s anti-trust watchdog – initiated an inquiry against the Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL) for abusing its monopoly position in the broadband market for driving out competition. The CCP alleges that ever since PTCL’s entry in the DSL retail market, the number of total service providers has reduced from 11 to six, while no new player has entered the market.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.