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Scotlands broadband


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My thoughts on rural broadband in Scotland, prepared as a briefing paper for Nigen Don MSP, for a debate in the Scottish Parliament, February 2012.

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Scotlands broadband

  1. 1. Broadband in Scotland Bill Buchan Buchan Consultancy Services Ltd
  2. 2. Agenda• What is the state of broadband in Scotland• Major issues facing broadband• What can be done to improve it
  3. 3. Who am I?• Bill Buchan -• Independent technology consultant • Ex-oil industry • focused on collaboration technology • Lives in rural Scotland• Fighting for rural internet access for 10 years
  4. 4. Why?• Internet is no longer a luxury• Many services - both commercial and government - strongly encourage internet access• Areas with poor internet access will become less attractive for housing• ‘Haves and Have Nots’
  5. 5. Remember• Information workers can work from home or work in flexible patterns • Thus reducing the requirement for major investment in other infrastructure• This has a real impact on major budgets• Information workers earn more, and therefore contribute more to taxes
  6. 6. What is ADSL• ADSL stands for Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line • Speed is dependant on line length: The longer the line, the slower the speed • Rural communities have longer phone lines...
  7. 7. ADSL• ADSL comes in three flavours • ADSL - Maximum 2mb line speed • ADSL MAX - 8mb • ADSL2 - 22mb line speed
  8. 8. ADSL• Most rural exchanges are ADSL MAX Most urban exchanges are ADSL2• Other providers can install equipment in exchanges (LLU) • Only 176 / 1070 exchanges in Scotland.• Rural areas - BT are monopoly• BT not treating rural areas as a priority
  9. 9. Other Broadband Tech?• WiMax - wireless.• Satellite - routing via Satellite• Powerline - routing over power lines• Fibre to the house - BT Infinity• Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC)• Cable TV• 4G
  10. 10. WiMax• Internet access over wireless• All internet connections share the same total bandwidth - more subscribers, less shared bandwidth• Line of sight, range issues & needs dense subscriber base• Bad fit for Rural Scotland
  11. 11. Satellite ADSL• Bounce a signal off a geostationary satellite• The signal takes 1,000ms - a whole second - to make the trip - unsuitable for real-time or near-time applications• Limited bandwidth on the satellite - expense to upgrade• Eye-wateringly expensive
  12. 12. Powerline ADSL• Routes a signal over the existing power delivery infrastructure• Equipment required at substation and consumer premises• Trial ran by Scottish Power in Stonehaven in 2003/4. Little heard of since.• Sank without trace?
  13. 13. Fibre to the Premises• BT Infinity - Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)• Nearly unlimited bandwidth possible (1tb?)• Very expensive to fit• Not available in rural areas• BT currently cherry-picking urban areas
  14. 14. Fibre to the Cabinet• Fibre ran from exchange to cabinet near houses (FTTC)• Perfect for villages where exchanges are remote (such as Marykirk - 4km)• Delivers perfect ADSL to consumer due to short line length from cabinet• BT currently cherry picking urban areas
  15. 15. Cable TV• Cable providers (such as Virgin) can run broadband over their infrastructure • Achieve up to 120mb speeds • Easy, simple installation• Cable companies cherry picking urban areas - no plans to expand coverage
  16. 16. 4G - Mobile Data• If you think Rural ADSL provision is bad, consider Rural 3g coverage • No 3g coverage in Rural areas in Scotland • O2 have confirmed that my rural area (Marykirk) will NEVER get 3g• 4g will probably follow same coverage model, despite OFCOM recommendations
  17. 17. Urban/Rural Example• Dundee Broughty Ferry • Marykirk• Choice of BT, Virgin • Only BT cable, Sky, O2• Speeds of up to 40mb/s • Speed of 2.5mb/s• Prices <£20/month • Around £25/month• 3G mobile coverage • No 3G mobile• link • link
  18. 18. Urban/Rural Summary• Urban Broadband is subject to market forces • Plenty choice, competition• Rural Broadband is a BT monopoly • Not treating rural as a priority• Not convinced?
  19. 19. Source:
  20. 20. Broadband Speed• Is 2mb enough? I argue that it is not. • Not fast enough to sustain HD video over a typical consumer ADSL circuit• Urban areas can easily get speeds in excess of 15mb • Is this what the bar should be set to?
  21. 21. Source:
  22. 22. Broadband Speed• The UK is rated 27th out of 201 countries • Average Speed 3.8mb/s• Source: BBC/Akamai• Simple test. Does your BBC iPlayer work without stuttering? Can you watch High Definition programs or listen to streamed radio? Reliably? • If it does, you are in an urban area
  23. 23. Voters?• The internet-using population can now be categorised as ‘your constituents’• They really care about internet speed• Fix it and they will be on your side• Stand in the way, and they will remember
  24. 24. Source: wins-battle-for-rural-broadband-coverage-1.914826?referrerPath=news
  25. 25. Fix rural broadband by..• All new housing estates to be provided with fibre to the cabinet, Cable TV or fast internet• Mandate that all government buildings should have fast internet: • Either fibre to the cabinet or ASDL2 with at least 6mb/s access speed
  26. 26. How will this help?• This will force BT to upgrade all exchanges to the latest standards • Thus eliminating the major bottleneck • Though I understand this has been proposed before...
  27. 27. Or the stick...• Fast internet access should be enshrined in law as access to phone lines are.• BT should charge less for badly-performing ADSL lines• BT should provide dual-line and equipment to bond those lines together when less than 6mb is available - at no charge• BT should put free fast internet wifi hotspots on all rural telephone boxes
  28. 28. Do we want...• To force information workers (consultants, etc) to give up rural life and move to urban areas merely to get decent internet?• To force rural dwellers to suffer a second- class internet? I would hope the answer is no...
  29. 29. Remember• ADSL has been around since the nineties• Internet access is no longer a luxury• BT are a monopoly in rural Scotland
  30. 30. References• AskSam: Exchange, Region and Countrywide ADSL information:• OFCOM: Broadband map of the UK• ThinkBroadband: ADSL speed map• The Scottish Government: ‘A study into Broadband Reach in Scotland’• BBC: Snapshot of global internet speeds revealed