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September 4, 2015updated 30 Aug 2016 12:20pm

Colt: How to make a city super-connected

There's a whole ocean of fibre under our feet.

By Alexander Sword

With so much noise about the lack of superfast or ultrafast broadband available to London businesses, it might be surprising to learn that fibre is feet away from most London buildings.

James Kershaw, Director of SME at Colt Technology Services, explained to CBR that bringing fibre to a business has two main steps.

"First is the physical network. That’s connecting the ducts, either by digging yourself, which has an inherent problem; the city is very busy and the traffic is very busy."

Not to worry, though, as Kershaw explains that the fibre networks have already spread through most of the city.

"Articles at the moment say there isn’t enough fibre. If you look at the fibre map of any carrier, there is, it’s there. It’s just getting it from the road to the building itself; that’s the cost."

Colt has been rolling out a network across London since 1992.

"We built out according to demand. We focused on the City and went out west. Then we went Europe, then America, then Asia. Our fibre will run down the street; it will run past a lot of buildings.

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As Kershaw explains, where progress breaks down is between the underground network and the building.

"Once you’ve got the physical fibre running along the road, you have to decide what buildings to dig into. That’s the key bit.

"All we need to do is tee off into the building. You can’t do it from any point in the fibre but
If for example in London we have 4000 connected buildings, [our fibre] probably goes past 100,000 buildings. We just need someone to say we want it in this building."

"A proper strategic view of it would be for a government or local council to invest speculatively in connecting big buildings and encouraging that at carrier level, even if the customer doesn’t want it yet.

"We could put the fibre into a building and then almost leave it there coiled up, which wouldn’t be a huge expense, because the second expense after the dig is the electronics.

"There’s no point in us connecting the building today, having no customer for five years, then by then the technology has moved on.

"We could put the fibre in there and leave it, but that costs money."

Another approach is installing fibre in buildings from the development stage.

"In the King’s Cross area, when they started breaking round, that was a no-brainer for us. We had fibre in the area and it’s a high-density area for office spaces, not that we knew who was going to be in there at the time.

"So we will speculatively dig into there, working with the builders and contractors who give us access to the ducts. Then the fibre sits there until someone comes along and says they want it."

It is easy to see the fibre roll-out to buildings gathering further momentum in coming years. Kershaw says:

"There’s a conversation going at the moment; you have an energy rating for a building, well maybe you should have a connectivity rating for a building. Just because you’ve got four or five people in an office doesn’t mean they’re going to need any less bandwidth now than a building with 100 people. It would be really useful if they knew what connectivity was available to a building."

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