Monday, January 09, 2006

Paris Gets It (two ways)

Dirk van der Woude, Amsterdam's broadband maven, working with CityNet, writes with the news that Paris has decided to go for the gold. Not to be outdone by either San Francisco's wireless or Amsterdam's fiber (a story I have shamefully neglected) Paris has decided that noththing less than both will properly prepare the queen city of Europe for the future.

This is a story with a nice, neat, story line behind it.

An earlier missive from Dirk pointed to a French law that "organizes loopholes" in French and European Union law to encourage municipalities to build fiber optic networlks. That's similar in effect to the FeinbergLautenberg-McCain bill proposed here in the United States which would clear away obstacles to municipal participation in telecommunications. And serves notice that it's not only the Asian countries (mentioned in Saturday's post) that have developed rational, pro-active, broadband policies.

Apparently Paris is going to take advantage of those loopholes. In a story Dirk sends (in Bablefish translation) we can see the basic outline:
Paris City Hall launches into the very high speeds
NOUVELOBS.COM 05.01.06

The mayor of Paris would like to favor the development of the services of free access to internet by launching the construction of a city wide telecommunications
network.

The City hall of Paris announced the launch during the year 2006 of a tender for the
construction of a telecommunications network with very high debit(output) in the
whole of the capital.

In a communiqué, the City hall clarified that it would be about a network in optical fibres, faster than networks at present available ADSL. Besides, the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, " wishes to favor the development by the operators of the services of free access to internet (normal debit(output)) and in the local telephony, notably in favour of the most modest Parisians ", we can read in the communiqué.

(above is a machine translation of article in Nouvel Observateur of 5-1-2006)

More articles (in French):

Machine translation French => English at http://babelfish.altavista.com/
You can also take a look at the pdf formatted communicque/Press Release provided by and with a translation from Dirk.

My interpretation is that the city of Paris, the largest city in Europe, anticipates building a very high speed fiber-optic system and hanging a "normal speed" (?) wireless network off that. Perfect! The hidden limit of most wireless systems is anemic backhaul. A fiber network would fix that. The wireless network at "normal" speeds would be free. (That's where the specification of normal gets interesting.) But even more: it's including local telephony for free. Now there is a concept.

I've suggested in the past the quintuple play: Cable, voice, wireline internet, usable wireless data, & wireless voice. The last two are made possible by a wireless network hung off a fiber one. The ultimate technology play is the synergy between ultra highspeed wireline and high speed wireless that would make entirely new levels of applications concievable. Paris looks to be trying to make that play. Making wireless data free and voice communications between citizens free as well is certain to make nearly every Parisian a user. Some will see that as a huge "profit" opportunity forgone. But they are thinking like our incumbent monopolies. Paris is thinking like a utility: it exists chiefly to benefit its citizens, not distant owners. Since wireless is relatively cheap to add to a fiber build and, locally at least, the fiber network will give you more badwidth than you can use just give away the wireless. That insures deep, almost universal penetration, makes it certain that new wireless technologies get developed with a French (not Californian, cough, cough) flair and sets in train as wide and unpredictable an array of benefits as did the doctrine of universal service in American telephony. (A tradition the world envies and which we, ironically, are about to give up.) The network effects of having a whole city use wireless freely (in all senses) is impossible to calculate. But its benefits will surely be larger than the minor cost to the city of Paris if it is built as part of the fiber rollout. (I and others have estimated that cost at aproximately 5%.)

Mark my words; if this comes to fruition it will mark the new "must meet" standard for world cities and drive the rate at which technological change is translated into culutral commonplace harder and faster than we've ever seen. In ten years we may look back on it as a landmark day.

I'd love to see Lafayette follow suit. Or get out front.

Update 1-10-06 AM:
Light Reading has story on this: Paris Plans FTTH Network It focuses solely on the FTTH aspect but does include some interesting tidbits about equipment makers (Lafayette buyers looking for equipment made cheaper by mass deployment take note) and the following quote:
Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Graham Finnie, who follows European broadband developments, says the news is of major significance. "This would be a much larger project than Amsterdam, potentially involving millions of homes," he says. "This news, on top of the Dutch project, should make every large city in Europe look at the potential of a municipal network, and consider whether they should be doing something similar..

"The companies that need to take the most notice are Europe's incumbent national operators. This should spur them on to look again at whether they need to revisit the whole fiber-to-the-home area," that many have deemed too costly to develop.

Translation from guarded business-speak to everyday language: These two FTTH projects demonstrate that in Europe, as in the US, patience with the incumbent providers has run out. If they want a role in the future they will have start rolling out FTTH or watch Europes largest cities--and most lucrative markets--go muni.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw in the paper that LCG is using wireless to monitor lights and cameras for downtown. It didn't say it was a backup to their fiber. Do you know?
Also do you know why LUS doesn't use its present fiber to deploy wireless. For the average consumer of internet it seems the way to go. And as you point out its cheap. I know people in that business and they tell me that Lafayette has sufficient fiber now and could be wireless for about $11 million. I understand its low bandwidth, but everyone could use it immediately while waiting for fiber. Personally I would rather have wireless at a lower bandwidth then high speed at home. It's too restricting to have to connect to a wire. What do you think?

John said...

Anon,

Re the new cameras downtown. Short version: I don't know. Medium version: I wouldn't automatically assume that the wireless system that connects these cameras has much immediate connection to the fiber-optic project. Longer version: these are additional cameras (we have an older system) built using the model developed in New Orleans for its surveillance system. This is the same system that New Orleans, in the wake of the storm, has repurposed to support its free muni wi-fi. There is apparently a pretty close relationship between the CIOs of the two cities. Assuming that its architected the same way that New Orleans was said to be then it aggregates the 4 downtown cameras/wifi node combos into a single shot using wifi or other, fixed, wireless, back to a backbone. I'd guess but not presume the use of LUS fiber at some point. (The city does have contracts with other providers and has some resources not encompassed by LUS's fiber...)

See: http://www.tropos.com/pdf/new_orleans_casestudy.pdf for a PR version of the New Orleans network by its equipment supplier.

---

LUS doesn't deploy wireless using its fiber because of the limitations of wireless--significantly both technical and financial.

There does not exist a working model of how the finances of wireless network, operating by itself, can be made to pay for itself. Fact. Philly and San Fran will have to invent something. There are very successful models for supplying video and voice. Ask Cox or BellSouth. Hard facts, but smart business decisions if we want the network to pay for itself. Wireless without a fiber density that could supply homes won't have the bandwidth to do video and voice. Hence: Fiber.

More, from my point of view and I think the point of view of the network planners, is that wireless alone is a dead-end technology. Lafayette's plan is NOT about today's limited internet resources--if that was all the plan provided for it wouldn't be worth the bother. It is about tomorrow's converged video, voice and data. It is about HDTV and VOIP and converged services where those interact easily.It is about bandwidth large enough to run applications off the web and store docs on it for local use. It's about enough bandwidth potential to see us beyond the foreseeable needs. And it is, crucially, about taking the future into our own hands and not letting the 3-5 year horizon of the private providers prevent a community from doing what it knows is wise. It is a real mistake to think this is about downloading 256 k web pages, postage stamp video, and email. The vision is much larger.

Wireless can be a powerful part of that vision. But ONLY after a dense fiber network is in place. Until that time backhaul and the necessity to share the connection to the backbone with many users to keep costs down will make it "merely" a mobility toy. I don't mean to disparage that...but I'd much, much rather have a true 54 meg connection wirelessly made possible my muni fiber than a 256k "email in the park" convenience using wireless backhaul to share with my entire neighborhood.

So I take the opposite position from yours. I would much prefer high speed fiber optic throughout the community to an anemic wireless connect. I use wireless in my home and split the bandwidth I get from Cox with my wife. I'd love to have more. The same goes for about half of the places I hang out in in the community--if they have LUS fiber to supply their wireless I'd get really cool wireless from them too.

So, at the end, I think going for real broadband first is smarter. Real, fiber-based broadband trails wireless in its wake cheaply. Either municipally (my pref), or the way we are getting it now. Going instead for wifi or the like doesn't get us very far in terms of the future and might lead the shortsighted to think it enough. It certainly won't help Lafayette stand out from the crowd or define its own future free of the current monopoly providers.

Anonymous said...

New Olreans has free wireless? Why don't we?

John said...

Anonymous,

You see, here's what a guy gets when he tries to play it entirely straight and just answer questions. Posthots from the dark from someone I strongly suspect opposed fiber during the election. (What was your position?)

Anonymous posting is discouraged. I tolerate it briefly when the person seems to honestly be asking questions and actually answers questions that are asked in turn. Anon, you're not playing the game. I'd like to hear any real response to the numerous very real responses I've made to queries. If you are in a conversation, treat it with respect and reply to queries. If you are not actually asking questions find some other place to play games.

New Orleans is motivated to have free wireless--of the most limited kind--because that's damn near all that's she can do to serve her people that are being left in the lurch by the private providers. BellSouth is telling the social workers on Canal St. (Canal St!) that have had power since shortly after the storm that it will be March before they get phone service. Pitiful--and it gives the lie to all the hooey we hear about the noble, efficient private telecom providers.

New Orleans is able to have free wireless because the generosity of her suppliers and the people of the US who have simply given them the necessary replacements and upgrades to make the security system work so that the city is bearing next to no capital costs at this time.

New Orleans has been allowed to have free wireless because martial law allows it to ignore the self-serving state law that the telecoms got put in that would otherwise prevent them from using publicly owned resources for public good. The minute, the minute that martial law is over they have to drop wireless speeds to below 200k. That will be for two or more users more or ursers more than 30 feet from a pole simply unusable. BellSouth has made it very clear that they are not willing to stand down on this law regardless of New Orlean's distress.

New Orleans has shown the courage it takes to have free wifi because its leaders have developed some of the spine Lafayette's leaders have always shown during this fight. When BellSouth threatened New Orleans with the loss of a building that it had promised as police department New Orleans stood firm.

Anon, Does that make sense? What part of New Orleans' situation would you wish on Lafayette so we could have free wifi? I want to know.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why your getting so mad, I just asked a question. I just wanted to know if we were going to get free wireless. I got it, new orleans has more courage then lafayette. Can we make bell or cox give it to us They charge enough now they must be making a bizillion dollars. I cannt afford either. I get my internet at CC's or from my neighbor. By the way I'm all for fiber, but I cannt vote.