Fools rush in….

Newcastle City Council today announced that they have struck a deal with GOWEX to install free Wi-Fi across key public areas.

Real Wireless were contracted to act as expert advisors in the process, assessing what the requirements for the tender process should be, comparing bids and, assisting in the assessment of bids against the requirements.

Part of Go Digital Newcastle, the scheme received Government funding via Broadband Delivery UK, and aims to deliver superfast broadband to 97% of the city by summer 2015. 

A key objective of our work with the council was to ensure that the chosen solution provided the best return for this money. After all, local councils are not experts in wireless technology and solutions and nor should they be expected to be. 

However many will still go ahead with implementing their own solution, despite the obvious technical and financial risks involved.

With the Go Digital Newcastle scheme operating on such a tight timeframe, Newcastle Council needed to take a more considered approach to ensure the best return for their money – hence seeking out Real Wireless for independent, expert advice. 

After considering all the bids, Newcastle City Council decided on the solution proposed by GOWEX.

Based around the use of small cells mounted on existing public assets, it meant Newcastle council could minimise installation costs, whilst ensuring the maximum coverage possible.

As mobile data continues to boom, it is no surprise that more congested urban regions are starting to look to Wi-Fi offload as a solution to their worries. The reality is that, whilst it offers some respite, it is not the quick-fix panacea that they are looking for. Rushing to install a new solution without consulting any kind of industry expert could prove to be an increasingly expensive white elephant.

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Calculating the true size of LTE in the UK

A recent comment from a colleague regarding LTE takeup in the UK, or rather lack of, temporarily shook my firmly held belief that we’ve seen good growth. After a series of discussions, it quickly became apparent that we were considering two different timescales – I was using figures that had been published up until that very week, he had used data from September 2013.

The reasons for the difference in our conclusions could be a topic in their own right: Had opening up the market to new competitors in late 2013 stimulated purchases? Were users more likely to buy their LTE devices over the Christmas period? Regardless of the reasons, when changing date range by as little as six months can alter the conclusions so significantly, there is clearly a need for any analysis to make use of the most up to date statistics.

For that reason, I wanted to share with you the analysis I conducted as part of this discussion.

Recent news reports have stated that O2 has “one million customers”, EE achieved 2,000,000 within fourteen months and Vodafone now serves 500,000 users. In a high profile move, Three recently upgraded all users to a LTE tariff free of charge, which would give them 7,900,000 additional LTE customers. However, its own figures put the number of users on its network with a LTE device at 1,700,000, which I would regard as the correct figure to use for this calculation.

In the UK, we now have 82.7 million mobile subscriptions in total, whilst roughly 44.1 million adults own/use a phone (94% of population). Depending on which of these figures you prefer to reference in the term ‘LTE penetration’, the statistics yield either 6.3% or 11% as total penetration.

As a result, the state of LTE in the UK in April 2014 can be reasonably stated as:

  • Having over 5.2million subscribers
  • Penetrating around 10% of the population (either 6.3% or 11%)
  • Covering a third of the population indoors
  • Covering 41% of the population outdoors

 All of this has been calculated without even taking in to account MVNOs, due to lack of data. But with Tesco following Three in offering free 4G to all its customers, we can confidently say that the true figures are likely to be even higher than these.

I’d call that healthy take-up for 12-18 months, personally.  


Further reading:

Slovenia’s 4G auction sets example for rural broadband

As the Slovenian regulator announce the results of its 4G spectrum auction, there are lessons for the rest of Europe in how we deliver broadband  - both mobile and fixed – to remote communities.

Real Wireless worked with the Slovenian regulator AKOS  to help judge the impact that coverage obligations would have on the auction. From our experience working with Ofcom on the UK auctions, we were able to advise on how the potential costs would vary depending upon a number of factors, including the specifics of the Slovenian population distribution and geography, the current situation of existing operators and the capabilities of the network technologies involved. 

Part of the EU’s Digital Agenda sees countries aiming to provide broadband at up to 30Mbps to citizens by 2020 – an ambitious target and one made particularly challenging by the cost of fixed-line service provision to remote communities.

An integral condition of the auction was that one operator would be obliged to provide rural mobile broadband coverage to a high proportion of the population. Building on this, we found there was an opportunity to further reach specific remote communities who are currently missing out on fixed broadband services via in-home wireless gateways, at little incremental cost. As a country where a number of communities are based in radio-unfriendly, mountainous environments, using small cells to provide 4G coverage was an ideal alternative to expensive fibre. 

While other countries such as Germany have seen the potential for enhancing rural services via a mobile broadband coverage obligation, the explicit linkage between specific underserved communities in this project for Slovenia bodes well for joined-up fixed and mobile policies in other nations.

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