Top 10 networking stories of 2013

Computer Weekly looks back at the biggest headlines in the networking industry over the past 12 months

The past year has been full of ups and downs in the networking industry. From high investments in software-defined networking (SDN) to low expectations for broadband roll-outs, it has been a hot topic and one the eyes of the IT industry are increasingly turning to.

Computer Weekly takes a look back at networking throughout 2013 to give you a round-up of the biggest stories to hit the headlines.

1. The BDUK broadband roll-out

Undoubtedly the biggest story to come out of 2013 was the ongoing saga of Broadband Delivery UK and the government’s project to bring superfast internet to 95% of the population by the end of 2017.

From the beginning of the year when Fujitsu pulled out of the bidding process, leaving BT as the sole provider, through the middle of the year when everyone involved promised the government transparency when it came to locations, and to the end of the year where the big gun changed its position and information began to be released slower than desired, it has been a roller coaster of a ride to an almost mythical goal of superfast broadband for all.

Computer Weekly continues to push for postcode data giving exact locations of the roll-out – read our most recent progress.

2. Liberty Global buys Virgin Media for £15bn

In February, Cable company Liberty Global announced it was to buy Virgin Media for $23.3bn (£15bn) to move aggressively into the European telecoms market.  

The deal was to lead to the creation of a powerful global communications company, covering 47 million homes and serving 25 million customers across 14 countries.

As part of its acquisition, Liberty Global relocated from Delaware to the UK and became a UK Plc.

3. Huawei in the UK: a comedy of process errors

In 2013, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) released its report into Huawei’s involvement in government networks after it was discovered its equipment had been present in highly sensitive projects since 2003.

The report highlighted a huge number of errors in the process of choosing a provider for government networks and ensuring its security.

“This is far too haphazard an approach, given what is at stake,” the report said. “It means that the government may not be made aware of contracts involving foreign companies from potentially hostile states until they have already been awarded,” as indeed was the case with BT and Huawei.

There has still yet to be proof of any wrongdoing or state involvement when it comes to Huawei, but this debate is sure to rage on well into 2014.

4. BT CEO Ian Livingston quits to become government minister

In June, BT chief executive Ian Livingston announced he was leaving the telecoms giant in September to become a government minister.

Livingston was in the job for five years, during which he oversaw the expansion of BT’s fibre broadband network, as well as dealing with the huge losses made by the firm’s Global Services outsourcing arm in 2009 that forced BT to write off £340m.

On leaving BT, he will join the House of Lords before becoming minister for trade and investment. He will be replaced by Gavin Patterson, currently the CEO of BT Retail.

5. Alcatel-Lucent to axe 10,000 staff

In October, Alcatel-Lucent confirmed it was ditching 10,000 staff as part of its “shift plan” for cost savings.

The firm’s recently appointed CEO, Michel Combes, first announced the strategy back in June, two months after taking the reins of the networking manufacturer. By refocusing its efforts on burgeoning areas of the market, such as cloud, 4G and broadband, he claimed the company could return to profitability and secure a financially stable future.

Specific moves included redirecting R&D budget so 85% would focus on the aforementioned technologies, reducing R&D spend in legacy technologies by 60%, and cutting administrative, sales and support functions, which Combes believed would save €1bn or more by 2015.

6. Janet6 ‘offers the future’ for research networking needs

This year saw the relaunch of the Janet network, which connects research institutions and educational facilities for collaboration, renamed Janet6, with the hope the new solution will “address future demands for high-capacity connectivity”.

In its previous incarnation, the network was run by Verizon as its managed service provider, but the company in charge, Jisc, will now operate the network itself, offering more flexibility to increasingly demanding users.

7. Councils threatened with disconnection from PSN in escalating security row

In early December, one London council was just hours away from being disconnected from the public sector communications network in an escalating row between central and local government over security compliance.

The unnamed council is just one of many across the country that has been threatened with disconnection from the Public Services Network (PSN) for failing to comply with “highly prescriptive” new security rules issued by the Cabinet Office.

Being disconnected from the PSN could mean a local authority is unable to fully carry out its public duties. Connection to the PSN is required for public services that are centrally and locally managed or delivered, such as housing benefits. If a council lost connection to the PSN, it would be unable to exchange benefits data with the Department for Work and Pensions, for example.

8. Birmingham rolls out free public Wi-Fi

At the beginning of August, Birmingham City Council announced that it planned to roll out a Wi-Fi network throughout the centre of the Midlands hub, providing access to free and speedy internet connections in its most popular public spaces.

The council teamed up with Virgin Media Business for the project and planned to use its small cell technology to run the network, as well as increase mobile signals across the city.

The way small cells work is by connecting into a fibre network, then being attached to street furniture, such as lamp posts, to broaden the reach of their frequencies. They can then mesh with other installed small cells, boosting signals for any mobile networks that choose to link to them.

9. Nokia buys out Siemens from NSN joint venture

In July, it was announced the joint venture between Nokia and Siemens was coming to a close with the former buying out the latter for €1.7bn.

Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) was founded in 2007 and saw the two European firms partner on providing networking infrastructure to telecoms companies across the globe.

Although it was understood that Nokia ran most of the day-to-day operations of the partnership, Siemens was heavily invested in the venture, but today announced it was selling its entire 50% stake in the company to its cohort.

10. Government announces £10m competitive fund for innovative broadband solutions

The government plans to open a £10m competitive fund in early 2014 to "test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to the most difficult to reach areas of the UK", or rural Britain.

This will all fall under the umbrella of the National Infrastructure Plan from the government, which it claims will consist of £375bn of funding to get these projects done, along with £25bn of private investment from insurance firms.

Details were somewhat thin on the ground following the announcement, but the DCMS promised it would kick off in the new year.

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