On the seductive qualities of early break-evens

It really does pay sometimes to look at things from across La Manche. Take Bluwan’s Fibre Through the Air (FTTA) product, a preview of which Computer Weekly saw last week.
The underlying ultra-wideband microwave technology was originally developed to help soldiers sort friend from foe on the battlefield in less than a second. Now widely deployed, it has the street cred to make seductive promises to users and network operators alike, like 100Mbps for local access, and 12Gbps for mobile backhaul.
But what pricked our sceptical gene was Bluwan’s claim that the cost of this was “between two and five percent of that of fibre”, and that a network operator that goes for it could look forward to being cash positive within 18 months and reach break even within 24. This is an order of magnitude less than current accepted norms. If true, it makes widespread access to true “superfast broadband” a lot more affordable.
Why hasn’t anyone done this before? Apparently, equipment makers hadn’t seen the need, until now. Apparently it also means that Ofcom let some 3GHz of spectrum in the frequency band, namely 42GHz, go for a £200k song when it last auctioned it. All this should make the cost of exploiting all the elements very low indeed.
It certainly should get BDUK to insist on a cost comparision of FTTA against proposed alternative technologies for its four pilot studies.
Who knows? Perhaps communications minister Ed Vaizey could deliver his boss’s desired “best broadband network in Europe by 2015” with change to spare from his £830m.

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