Circular Economy – a natural evolution

30 Sep

Groupe Intellex logoMy blog for the RSA, ‘Circular Economy – let the market decide‘, was prompted by calls for some enabling legislation and stronger market regulation.  Great minds are devoting themselves to puzzling out just what that legislation might look like.

I suggest that the Circular Economy concept is part of a natural evolution and what is needed (if anything) is less disabling regulation – a clearing away of outmoded rules that can (and probably will) be used obstructively.

There may be a case for cautious consumer protection as we enter uncharted waters – but apart from nuanced nudges, long live the evolution!



‘Liquid Bandwidth’: Bandwidth on Demand dawns despite lack of dynamic policy

21 Sep

lgliquidBack in 2004 Lord Currie (at that time Chairman of the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom) used the term Liquid Bandwidth to describe ‘Bandwidth on Demand’ in 2004.

More than a decade later it might actually become reality – though right now only for businesses and in the few households lucky enough to enjoy fully fibred connectivity – FTTP.

Whilst examples from other countries are becoming prolific, not many broadband providers in the UK have the technological capacity or the willingness to be so flexible. So CityFibre’s joint-venture with Sky and TalkTalk has got to be good news.

One of the many great features enjoyed by fully-fibred communities that we have visited over the years, is their flexibility when it comes to their customer’s changing requirements.

It was obvious in Chattanooga as they responded to competition from ADSL and FTTC providers. The FTTH provider can simply flick a switch and increase download & upload speeds immediately – and leave the prices alone.  The marginal cost is, well, marginal.  The original tariffs allowed customers to choose a level of affordability – and they often chose the FTTH service because they knew that they could get more capacity if/when they ever needed it. Now they also know they will get a better deal every time the network provider needs to be more competitive.

And similarly in Sweden – although the example seen there in 2011 was a shift towards ephemeral demand. A ‘standard’ symmetric 100 Mb/s service may simply not be adequate for some event, so why not have a 3-hour boost (at a small premium) to 1 Gb/s? It may be for a sporting occasion, a business convention or just for a gang of teenagers gathering at home for a multi-user games party.

But is this dynamic flexibility really needed?  Designers of multi-site business networks certainly think so.  Not all cities experience extreme seasonal requirements but in Edinburgh many customers of network manager Commsworld are Festival venues that in August require a dramatic increase in bandwidth.  By partnering with CityFibre, Commsworld is able to ‘flex’ bandwidth very quickly and, if a customer needs to shift from their normal 10Mb/s service to 10Gb/s for an event, it is not only possible but affordable.

The traditional approach to Wide Area Network design demands careful attention to traffic loadings, the geographical dispersion of systems assets and diverse routing for backup in case links are lost.  In an uncertain business environment the tendency is to over-provide – to buy more capacity to ensure that future loads can still be met.  But what if the enterprise merges with another and the entire network needs to be reconfigured?  Sometimes the costs and complexities of systems and network integration will negate the economic logic of mergers and acquisitions.   Sometime the delays of new circuit provision will destroy expected competitive advantages.  Moreover, this is not just a challenge for enterprises – the same challenges apply in public sector administration, health, education, policing and defence networks – the costs are huge and, many would say, unnecessary in a more fully digitised UK.

Some basic ideas are slow to take ahold. We should give credit to Ofcom’s forward-looking view in 2004 – and ask why it is only a decade and a half later that we realise just how much the inflexibility of old designs has cost our economy both in terms of growth and innovative enablement.

So here, for those who perhaps may have missed the 2004 moment (or forgotten it), I append the reported remarks of the then Chairman of Ofcom – made just two years after that organisation’s inception.

[For the avoidance of any confusion I should point out that the CMA referenced below is the ‘Communications Management Association’ (now subsumed into the BCS) and not the Competition and Markets Authority of which Lord Currie is now Chair.  As with any quotes dredged up from over a decade ago, readers should bear in mind the context – the remarks predated decisions by Virgin Media and BT to adopt FTTC strategies to leverage their legacy copper assets and, of course, long before the current carrier pursuit of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).]


Liquid Bandwidth – Ofcom chief, Lord Currie, urges ‘Bandwidth on demand’

Wednesday, 18 February 2004

ADSL is not true broadband – only a mid-band convenience product” – he says at CMA’s annual conference.

Speaking at the 2004 CMA Conference in London, Lord Currie, Chairman of the UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, urged suppliers to introduce flexible broadband service options – “Liquid bandwidth“.

The Ofcom chief also dismissed 512k ADSL as a mid-band “convenience product” that was not “true broadband”.

Citing ‘Bandwidth on Demand’ (BoD) services, where users can change their service performance ‘on the fly’ in mid-session to better meet their immediate needs, Lord Currie was also sending a clear signal to suppliers that the era of flat-rate pricing could not be sustained.

Giving an example of bandwidth packaging in Norway he predicted, ” You [will] get and pay for the bandwidth you need when you need it on a dynamic basis.”


NextGen 15 the UK’s Trade Show and Workshop event for all engaged in digital infrastructure provision will be held on November 5th in central London – and followed by the NextGen Digital Challenge Awards dinner in the House of Lords.  For more details of the event, Keynote speakers, Exhibition opportunities and Delegate registration please visit the NextGen 15 website.

2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Sharing Economy

27 Aug


This is the last in our series of blogs for each of the awards categories in the 2015 Digital challenge.   Earlier in the year the Open Call for nominations signaled that the Sharing Economy deserved to be recognized as a significant new category.

NGShortlisthi-resSo, in this final Awards Blog we are delighted to introduce contenders with a wide range of approaches to collaborative endeavours.

The Sharing Economy is all about better use of resources – enabling folks to utilize spare capacity, share talent and expertise, and help individuals and communities to work in greater harmony.

The digital connection is that these projects are often made possible by greater online engagement with systems and platforms to connect resources to needs – and those resources may range from intangibles like expertise and data to tangible assets like a redundant Hard disk Drive or the driveway to your house.

The six 2015 Shortlisted Finalists for our Sharing Economy Trophy are:

Fairsay with eCampaigning Forum – sharing the talent for debating skills and social action.

Just Park – Pre-Book Parking – utilizing the value of your home driveway.

MyNeighbourhood – the Smart City and Sharing Communities initiative in Birmingham

Circular Data Solutions – Large-scale 100% recycling of redundant Hard Disc Drives whilst ensuring that no stored data can be inadvertently recovered or misused and full compliance with Data Privacy legislation.

Roomlala – a flat and room-share platform new to the UK and very popular in student communities where the property rental market needs greater flexibility.

Made Open Monmouthshire from Monmouthshire County Council & Made Open Communications – creating the conditions for communities and businesses to raise challenges, start projects and play a part in tackling the challenges that impact their place.

Research suggests that the emergence of Sharing Economy is a significant step in the long transition towards a more sustainable ‘circular economy’ where resources are not wasted but are re-used or re-purposed – designed to be ‘made to be made again’.

The independent judging panel will review all the shortlisted contenders during September. The winner will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks

( ) or call David Brunnen on +44 (0) 7714 325 657




2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Digital Innovation

24 Aug


[This is part 7 of an 8-part series profiling the short-listed Finalists – Ed]

Over the past five years of the Digital Challenge, Innovation has always been a strong theme.   In 2015 the contenders for this award once again demonstrate a diversity of imaginative responses to emergent needs.

NGShortlisthi-resWhen the judging panel buckles down to review the shortlist they will be faced with a three-part submission from each Finalist – detailing each project’s Challenge, Solution and Achievement.

The scale of each Challenge and Achievement is relatively easy to quantify but the judges must also assess each Solution by considering its degree of innovation, and ask how each project is differentiated from the general tide of progress.

The six 2015 Shortlisted Finalists are:

  • British Gas Connected Homes with the My Energy Live – a smartphone application.
  • Dorchester Collection with eShop – adding bitcoin payments to the online shopping experience.
  • DVLA with an Integrated Enquiries Platform (IEP) – the alternative to a Driving Licence paper counterpart – easing, for example, admin for car rentals.
  • Glasgow City Council with their Future Cities Demonstrator project – paving the way to smarter cities.
  • Kemuri with Wellbeing Monitor – a smart power socket with multiple sensors to allow remote activity monitoring for carers.
  • Northamptonshire County Council with Development Infrastructure and Funding for INV-ENT’ (innovation & Enterprise) project.

Which of these projects will be judged to have the potential to make a real difference?

The independent judging panel will review all the shortlisted contenders during September. The winner will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks ( ) or call 07714 325 657






2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Intelligent Communities

20 Aug


[This is part 6 of an 8-part series profiling the shortlisted finalists for the 2015 Digital Challenge Awards – Ed.]

This new category for the 2015 Digital Challenge Awards celebrates how some folks are already thinking beyond the much-hyped ‘smart technology’ projects.

NGShortlisthi-resIn part it reflects the convergence of thought leaders both in the UK and North America but it must be said that, in our first introductory year for this award category, the contenders are recognized as contributory projects.

Emulating the vastly experienced global ICF awards would be a very tall order but there is huge scope in future years for UK recognition of more comprehensive ‘whole community’ projects. Meanwhile our contenders all have great relevance in their local impacts – reminding us that good things happen when centralised policy initiatives are made more sense in the context of action on the ground.

The six 2015 Shortlisted Finalists are:

DONATE – a digital platform enabling immediate charitable donations via multiple channels

Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) with My Knowle West App – a channel to a huge range of community activities

Link Group Ltd – so much more than a conventional Digital Inclusion Project

Nottinghamshire County Council with their Digital First project – a Digital Infrastructure and Support Platform to overcome the administrative hurdles faced by club leaders.

Tinder Foundation and NHS tackling health inequalities with Widening Digital Participation

All the shortlisted contenders will be reviewed by the independent judging panel during September. The winners will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks

( ) or call David Brunnen via 07714 325 657






2015 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards: Urban Networks

17 Aug

[This is part 5 of an 8-part series reviewing the 2015 shortlist – Ed]

Since 2011 the history of the Urban Networks Award illustrates two things: how new connectivity providers have entered the market and how far customer expectations have grown.

NGShortlisthi-resThe 2014 winner was Virtual 1 for their wholesale London network and sharing joint second place were City Fibre and ITS Solutions

This year’ shortlist again highlights connectivity for businesses – where (relative to households) the demands for future proofing are more intense and where shifts in costs (downwards) and revenues (upwards) are transforming investment models.

The five 2015 Shortlisted Finalists are:

CityFibre back again with Peterborough: Gigabit City – a project that has a ‘business first’ plan.

Metronet (UK) Limited – with a wide range of advanced hybrid wired and wireless Internet services for businesses.

MS3 Networks Limited with Fibre to the Business in Hull

Venus with Superconnected Busworks, London

Genesis Technical Systems with faster ‘superfast’ broadband for WarwickNet and its business customers

All the shortlisted contenders will be reviewed by the independent judging panel during September. The winners will be announced at a dinner in the House of Lords following the NextGen 15 event on November 5th.

For details of event sponsorship opportunities contact Marit Hendriks ( )






Finding your niche: reaching the most remote locations

14 Aug

It is said that the (now leaning slightly less) bell tower in Pisa was used to gain valuable data; news of ships approaching the port – vital news for traders and ship owners who would be affected by the riches on board and, possibly, good news for the families of returning sailors.

The truth of that tale is suspect. Pisa is a fair way up the river Arno and even in the 11th century it was 2.5 km from the coast. But the plausibility of the tour guide’s story rests on our current wonder at how those earlier generations of seafarers managed without reliable communications.

Keeping in touch with very large mobile assets with valuable cargoes en route around the globe has got to be the ultimate broadband challenge. Far more than keeping in touch with crew and passengers, every aspect of shipping operations produces a wealth of data – the engine room’s performance metrics, navigation tracking, cargo conditions and maintenance schedules. Life on board is never dull. Fleet owners and operators (and their insurers) expect to be fully informed.


The international fleet operator Vroon, based in The Netherlands, operates and manages a diverse fleet of around 170 vessels, with more than 400 shore-based staff and around 4,000 marine personnel worldwide.

Their vessels are active in offshore support, offshore wind turbine installation and maintenance, dry cargo, container and other segments, including product/chemical tankers, asphalt/bitumen tankers and car carriers.

That diverse fleet adds up to a megaload of megabytes and the job of keeping Vroon connected to its offshore assets has fallen to Hong Kong based SpeedCast, a leading global satellite telecoms service provider. Their always-on 24×7 broadband platform will support a wide range of services, including Internet, voice and video streaming, with real-time connectivity at sea.

Anyone who has experienced Satcomms on land will be well aware of the challenges. Internet connections via satellite are relatively slow compared to a fully fibred connection – slower even than the hybrid fibre/copper connections that claim to be superfast – and the latency (over half a minute) on a round trip of 70,000km would never be the first choice of games enthusiasts.

But to meet Vroon’s specific requirements SpeedCast have designed solutions for every aspect of the operation with a range of Upload and Download capacities and optimized routing from earth stations to minimize delays. The prize for this design expertise? A multi-year contract for three parts of the Vroon fleet including subsea support ships and Wind Turbine installation & maintenance vessels with up to 110 people on board.

This is a classic example of a technology finding its market niche and ensuring that it has a reliable future – unlike that bell tower in Pisa that took 200 years to install and another 500 years to stop it falling over.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 318 other followers