Friday, July 15, 2011


2M USC and Rural Digital Divide

A draft Requirements Document put out by BDUK contains a couple of interesting snippets, at least in its current form. The invitation to comment has now closed.

The 2 Mbits/s Universal Service Commitment is now being expressed as "a minimum edge-of-network throughput of 2Mb/s and that most solutions will exceed 2Mb/s". Throughput is defined in the document as being measured by transferring a file and measuring the time taken, so it is the actual useful data throughput without overheads rather than the sync speed, IP profile or other higher level measure.

Interestingly, this means that a 2M fixed speed ADSL service will not meet the USC requirement as expressed, because the measurable throughput of IPStream Home 2000 is at best 1900 kbits/s. Current MaxDSL services will need an IP profile of 2500 to meet the spec which is a sync speed of at least 2848 kbits/s at the ATM level.

In the same document (p19) an example of a Local Authority call-off shows the speed vs rurality hierarchy at the core of BDUK's plans :-

5A1 Delivery of 50Mb/s to xx Market Towns (Example) L2
5A2 Required for delivery of 20Mb/s to 50Mb/s to xx Villages L2 (Example)
5A3 Delivery of < 20Mb/s to xx Hamlets (Example) L2
5A4 Required for delivery of xx Community Hubs (Example) L2
5A5 Required for delivery of 2Mb/s to edge of network access speeds L2
to xx Rural Communities (Example)

So if you live in a Hamlet (OS definition " small, isolated group of houses without a church. ") then it's ADSL2+ or less for you. Granted it's an example, and the document is a Draft, but it does suggest what we have to look forward to.

Another recent BDUK publication is the Data Model Explanatory Notes which accompany a model that appears not to have been published. This model looks quite interesting as it calculates funding requirements and costs for deploying various broadband solution. It also reinforces the notion described above that isolated and sparse rural types will be getting BDUK's slowest offering :-

" The superfast broadband model therefore calculates costs and revenues for the final third on a cabinet by cabinet basis. The cheapest cabinets in terms of investment gap per customer served are upgraded first until a floor threshold for fibre coverage (e.g. 90% of premises) has been reached in every Local Authority area and fibre connectivity to every community has been provided.

Premises that are expected to receive less than 2Mbit/s, after targets for fibre coverage have been reached, are input into a wireless and satellite cost model. For 10x10km grid squares with a population density above a chosen threshold it is assumed that a wireless mast is constructed, and all premises in grid squares below this threshold are served with satellite. "

From this I conclude that if you can currently only get 2M ADSL then you'll be offered a wireless solution if the population density is sufficient, or a satellite dish if not.

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