Testbeds & trials

Connecting Norfolk

  • Started on 27 Aug 2019

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This project follows the Digital Connectivity in Norfolk breakfast meeting organised by Norfolk Chamber of Commerce which was kindly hosted by AF (once Anglia Farmers).

At the seminar, several excellent speakers eloquently described the problem hampering Norfolk businesses (and residents): Good communication is key to carrying out prosperous business, but Norfolk lacks the infrastructure to facilitate this.

Similarly, a strong and sensible vision was persuasively articulated: Norfolk wants better than Normal - we want to be a leader in 5G coverage and full fibre to the premises connectivity.

It is clear, therefore, that the business community understands the need for both 5G and full fibre in order to drive Norfolk's business prospects forward, and this was also discussed:

Suppliers are constrained by what's currently available in terms of backhaul from commercial operators and the large infrastructure installers have little economic incentive to invest in Norfolk's infrastructure.

The challenge, therefore, is "how can the above vision be delivered?"

Challenge accepted!

The delegates that attended the Digital Connectivity meeting collectively have most of the skills and resources needed to solve the problem, but a framework and a structured approach are required to deliver the changes necessary. We must put in place the foundations.

The layercake (see below) is the way the industry thinks of different models of infrastructure and ownership. The cake consists of three layers:

• The passive infrastructure (ductwork, fibre optic cables, masts, etc)

• Active equipment (kit that requires a power supply to operate the fibre network and provide Ethernet connectivity)

• Service Providers: Additional services and equipment required to provide Internet (Web, telephony, TV, email, etc), mobile networks (Voice, 4G, 5G, etc) and/or value-added and specialist services (virtual private networks, cloud computing, qualityof-service guarantees, data centre services, Defence & Emergency, etc.)

We propose to set up a Wholesale Cooperative to operate the network and to aggregate and present passive network infrastructure to ISPs as an integrated 'whole'.

The Cooperative would act as an aggregator and broker for individual private and community Digital Infrastructure owners. The existence of such a mutual will allow an integrated infrastructure to be assembled piece-by piece. This is analogous to the way that peering agreements between multiple networks sew them into a larger 'inter-net'. Just as this flexible structure has been key to the rapid expansion and development of the Internet, we believe it will serve to greatly accelerate the roll-out of full fibre broadband and 5G networks.

The Wholesale Cooperative would be a thin layer - mostly a contracting body, constituted as a mutual to guarantee neutrality. It would charge operators access fees and pay asset owners rent for the use of ducts, fibre, masts, outside plant and colocation rackspace and floorspace. It would also make arrangements for maintenance so that passive infrastructure owners will be able to leave maintenance and complex network operations to providers with the required competencies.

Connecting Norfolk

If you're interested in discussing our vision, please contact us by email to ConnectingNorfolk@Delocate.co.uk to register interest and we can then arrange a meeting to convene a working group.

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  • Michael Davey
    Technical Consultant
    Connecting Norfolk

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