UK broadband program in state aid bottleneck

2012-08-13 18:08:51

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aQuestora selects LG-Ericsson and Genexis as broadband suppliers
Dutch network connectivity provider aQuestora is planning to deliver optical fiber-based broadband infrastructure utilizing LG-Ericsson’s Ethernet Access 1100 universal fiber platform and Genexis’ Hybrid series customer premises equipment (CPE).aQuestora provides connectivity services to service providers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and end users in communities across The Netherlands. As an open neutral access provider, the company is building open access broadband networks that grow business and accelerate public access to next-generation high-speed services.aQuestora says LG-Ericsson’s EA 1100 platform is an ideal fit for its needs. The EA 1100 supports gigabit-bandwidth point-to-point symmetrical services per user over a flexible arrangement of fiber distribution technologies. The system guarantees secure separation of user traffic and provides robust quality of service capabilities that support stringent SLA requirements. This will enable aQuestora to provide secure services to both business and residential customers, and the flexibility to support multiple service providers.Genexis’s open-access CPE portfolio is becoming a popular choice for many FTTH deployments worldwide, the company says. aQuestora selected the Hybrid product line because it is a fully modular home gateway offering a cost-effective and flexible service platform. From investment and installation through to operation, Genexis’s products deliver the lowest total lifecycle cost of ownership. Genexis’ long-lasting partnership with LG-Ericsson is a solid proof point for end-to-end interoperability.“aQuestora has succeeded in finding reliable partners to achieve the set goals positioning itself as a neutral open active operator,” said Jan Herps, co-founder and director aQuestora. “Our customers are service providers in the widest range, including the rapidly upcoming services in healthcare. They accept only the highest reliability, and we have the same criteria in the selection of our business partners, as we did with LG- Ericsson and Genexis.”aQuestora’s projects are moving from planning and customer sign-up phase to implementation, with intention to roll out municipal, school and healthcare networks starting in the second half of 2012.
fSONA adds power over Ethernet option to optical wireless system
Free-space optical (FSO) systems vendor fSONA Networks Corp. has added a new power option for its SONAbeam free space optical wireless links. The SONAbeam Z and E series can now be ordered with or upgraded to Power over Ethernet (PoE). This new option will save operators time and money during installation by eliminating need for separate cabling, the vendor says.A SONAbeam Z or E system adapted with the PoE kit can be connected to any standard network port using the PoE kit, via the included injector. The company says SONAbeam with PoE saves time and money during installation by eliminating the need for separate cabling and, in some instances, separate contractors to run both power and Ethernet. There will be three versions of the SONAbeam PoE kit – one each for North American, European and Universal power cord types.“Power over Ethernet simplifies installation by running both power and connectivity over the same type of cable,” said fSONA President and CEO, Andrew Grieve. “This reduces time to deployment and increases ROI for our customers who want to avoid delays and get connected quickly.”The SONAbeam E series connects locations up to 1000 m apart at speeds up to 2.5 Gbps (OC-48/STM-16). The SONAbeam Z series is optimized for links up to 500 m and also operates at speeds up to 2.5 Gbps.fSONA says the main benefit of its SONAbeam is to eliminate the substantial costs of digging up streets and sidewalks required to install fiber. Unlike other wireless solutions, the SONAbeam is immune to electro-magnetic (EM) and radio-frequency (RF) interference which means no licensing is required. The SONAbeam’s high-powered laser transmitters are able to penetrate heavy rain, snow and fog far more effectively and consistently than any other available FSO technology.
UK broadband program in state aid bottleneck
It’s more than two years since the UK government launched its scheme to eliminate broadband “notspots” and expand superfast broadband coverage to 90% of the country. Many local authorities are reaching the end of a lengthy procurement process and some have already named their suppliers. But in spite of all the activity, the European Commission has yet to give state aid approval for the vast majority of the projects.The UK government promised to spend up to £830 million to meet its target to have “the best superfast broadband network in Europe” by 2015. It created a body called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), which was charged with spending those funds wisely. The cash was divvied up among local authorities, each of which had to set out its own scheme for how it planned to meet the UK targets, and select a supplier.According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, the Commission has serious doubts that the BDUK process is sufficiently competitive. The framework procurement contract by the UK government has resulted in just two suppliers being selected, and so far only the incumbent, BT, has managed to secure any contracts. Moreover, Brussels is reportedly unhappy that BT is not willing to give its wholesale customers access to unbundled dark fiber connections.Lack of state aid approval appears to be adding further delays to a process that was already behind schedule. In October 2010, four regions were chosen as pilot projects from which other parts of the UK would be able to learn. But it wasn’t until last week that one of them, North Yorkshire, became “the first project to start deployment using BDUK funds.”However, one reason that North Yorkshire reached this point ahead of others was because the project was already well underway before the BDUK scheme was created. North Yorkshire had secured state aid approval for its plans in 2007, and merely required an amendment, not a new application.There are more than 40 broadband projects underway in the UK, but state aid approval has been granted for just four of them - the three others being the counties of Devon and Somerset (working together), Northumberland, and the City of Birmingham.BDUK has submitted an umbrella state aid application that would provide clearance for any project using its supplier framework, but in view of the delay, some projects decided to submit their own application. The notification to the European Commission was submitted in January 2012. BDUK has been in “intense negotiations” since then, and hopes to receive a positive decision shortly, according to reports.Interestingly, aside from North Yorkshire, the regions that have already named BT as their supplier –Rutland, Lancashire, and Wales – have not yet gained state aid approval for their plans. The Welsh project, announced on July 20, is worth around £425 million, including a £220 million commercial investment from BT, making it one of the largest projects in the UK. None of these projects can start deployment until such time as Brussels gives them the go ahead.It looks like the UK will be keeping the Directorate-General for Competition at the European Commission busy for some time to come.
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