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Wales’ tech cities: Swansea and Cardiff lead chorus for tech jobs boom 0

Wales’ tech cities: Swansea and Cardiff lead chorus for tech jobs boom

Never mind Brexit, the two Welsh cities of Swansea and Cardiff are putting their tech credentials on the table. Our Celtic cousins in Wales are experiencing something of a tech jobs boom, with 103 new digital start-ups adding to the 117,470 tech workers in Swansea and Cardiff in the past year. Recent arrivals include AI start-up Amplyfi, which received a £400,000 unsecured loan from the Welsh government. ‘Last year, £4.6bn (68pc) of the UK’s tech investment was spent in regions outside the capital’ – RUTH JACOBS The traditional coal and steel industries of Wales were once the bedrock of the Welsh economy.

But now, according to Ruth Jacobs, managing director of Randstad business solutions, Cardiff and Swansea are two of the UK’s fastest-growing tech cities, due to investment in both graduate opportunities and the digital transformation of the country as a whole. Digital investment in the UK’s tech industry was estimated at £6.8bn in 2016. Putting the valleys in Silicon Valley In a recent review of Swansea and Cardiff by Randstad 1 , it was noted that the investment in the region has a symbiotic relationship with the education sector, with input from four major universities: Cardiff University, the University of South Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Swansea University.

Jacobs said the universities provide a steady flow of IT-literate graduates to support the growing industry requirements. Swansea University was ranked 16th in the UK for graduate employment in the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The digital staff requirements 2 in the tech sector are growing overall across the UK, adding to the existing 1.64m tech jobs.

Swansea and Cardiff are on track to becoming the leading tech employees, rivalling nearby Bristol. “Last year, £4.6bn (68pc) of the UK’s tech investment was spent in regions outside the capital,” Jacobs said. “Cardiff and Swansea have 17,470 tech jobs, and last year recorded 103 new tech and digital start-ups, such as Amplyfi, using artificial intelligence for data mining.” In terms of infrastructure, broadband connectivity across Wales is being bolstered as part of a Welsh government scheme to ensure ‘super-fast’ broadband, which will support investments not only in the cities but also across the south-east region. Development Bank of Wales is planning to support Welsh businesses with £1bn funding and unique investment projects such as the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult 3  in Cardiff, launched in 2016. This investment aims to fund innovative regional projects.

On the strength of the Swansea University IT programme, Swansea Bay City Region has secured a £500m deal to turn the area into a digital super-hub. In terms of start-ups, TechHub Swansea 4  provides office space for tech entrepreneurs with networking and lunch-and-learn events as part of the working landscape. Cardiff has similar innovation support, with  Tramshed Tech  5 supporting its co-working community.

Additionally, the ease of booking desk space at the Indycube 6  tech hub, available across Wales, nurtures the community. The Alacrity Foundation 7 ,  Cardiff Start 8 and the launch of  Innovation Point 9 ’s Welsh technology accelerator programme – named ‘Digital Dozen’ – are three programmes all aimed at supporting tech growth. “Swansea and Cardiff have great road and rail links to both London and Bristol,” Jacobs said. “Swansea is three hours by train from London, and Cardiff just over two hours. As a lifestyle choice, both cities are a 30-minute drive from areas of outstanding national beauty like the Gower Peninsula and the Brecon Beacons. “The house prices are also under the UK average, at £185,639,” she added.

References ^ Randstad (www.randstad.co.uk) ^ digital staff requirements (www.randstad.co.uk) ^ Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (csa.catapult.org.uk) ^ TechHub Swansea (swansea.techhub.com) ^ Tramshed Tech  (tramshedtech.net) ^ Indycube (indycube.cymru) ^ The Alacrity Foundation (www.alacrityfoundation.co.uk) ^ Cardiff Start (cardiffstart.com) ^ Innovation Point (www.innovationpoint.uk)

TIS17: Pole Attachment Delays Mar Broadband Infrastructure Rollouts 0

TIS17: Pole Attachment Delays Mar Broadband Infrastructure Rollouts

INDIANAPOLIS – Rising pole attachment fees and delays in obtaining necessary permits from municipalities are the biggest roadblocks in building out broadband infrastructure in rural America, a panel of experts said at The Independent Show Monday (July 24). Read More: Get complete coverage of #TIS17. 1 ShenTel EVP and chief operating officer Earle MacKenzie said for the small market telecom company, simply obtaining permission to string its lines on a utility pole and obtaining a reasonable rate can delay projects for months. “It’s a different story with each pole owner,” MacKenzie said at the panel session, moderated by Kelly, Drey & Warren LLP partner Tom Cohen. One of the major issues is getting a good estimate upfront and getting detailed billing so we know what we’re paying for.” He added that last year, ShenTel had 60 construction projects that were delayed an average of 60 days because of pole attachment issues.

While obtaining permits and getting local government approvals can be a hassle, Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke, who has overseen the construction of one of the most extensive municipal broadband networks in the country, said they are necessary. “We really care about aesthetics,” Berke said, adding that making sure the city gets a fair price and engages with its contractors to make sure the process goes smoothly. “We don’t want 25 people digging up streets. We want to dig once.” But he added that cities want to be fair to contractors, while keeping their priorities straight. “Part of the challenge for us is to set up a regulatory scheme and a payment scheme that is fair to the city and constituents and to allow the economic development to put people to work,” Berke said McKenzie added that Chattanooga can be the exception. Many municipalities, he added, have no clue what they want or how to get it.

He pointed to a project in the city of Roanoke, Va., where the telco was delayed in getting the proper permits to run fiber to local schools. “If we are serious about getting service to everyone, we need to take down the roadblocks,” MacKenzie said. “The last thing we want to do is irritate our customers. We really are in business to make money and make our customers happy. If we have to scratch a different itch in every town, it gets expensive and in some cases it’s not worth going forward.” Berke suggested that contractors and providers make sure they take into account where local governments stand when they are proposing to build a network to ensure a smoother process. “If you’re going to a city that doesn’t have clear rules, make sure you’re talking the language of the people running city government,” Berke said.

The Federal Communications Commission, which has in the past kept pole attachments disputes at arm’s length, opting instead to let the market find a solution, has been considering getting more involved, said FCC Wireline Competition Bureau deputy bureau chief Madeleine Findley. FCC chairman Ajit Pai created the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee 2 earlier this year to specifically address these issues. Findley said the BDAC docket i 3 s still open and encouraged operators to offer questions and comments about issues including timelines, rates and fees, best practices and ways to encourage more efficient deployment. “The chairman is very concerned about closing the digital divide,” Findley said, adding later that the commission is aware that there is no simple solution for the problem. “The commission is cognizant that this is not an area where one size fits all,” she said. “There are different issues.

We want to be available as a resource.” Findley said the commission is considering whether to impose a 180-day shot clock on itself for such issues to help speed up the process.   “This is not a once and done thing for the commission,” Findley said. “It’s going to be an iterative conversation.

We want to be a participant in that conversation.” References ^ Read More: Get complete coverage of #TIS17. (www.multichannel.com) ^ Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (www.multichannel.com) ^ BDAC docket i (www.multichannel.com)

NBN to review pricing as part of image problem fix 0

NBN to review pricing as part of image problem fix

NBN chief executive Bill Morrow says a “land grab” by retail service providers chasing market share is misleading customers about the speeds they are paying for. The National Broadband Network (NBN) admits it has an image problem and is considering forcing telecommunication companies to guarantee a minimum level of service for customers as part of a review of its controversial pricing model to head off growing criticism about the project’s internet speeds 1 . NBN chief executive Bill Morrow said he was reviewing the pricing model for Australia’s $50 billion broadband network that could include measures to give disgruntled customers a better idea about the quality of the service they were paying for.

He said a “land grab” by retail service providers chasing market share 2 was misleading customers about the speeds they were paying for. “We have to take it seriously, it is causing reputational damage and it does need to get fixed and we are committed to working with the industry to get it fixed,” Mr Morrow, who will go on a charm offensive later this week to try and head off the NBN’s critics, told The Australian Financial Review . Mr Morrow said a review of the NBN’s pricing model 3 could include introducing “minimum assurance” standards for certain products, such as media streaming, to ensure customers were receiving a certain level of service. “What we are considering, and we are in consultation, is looking at a restructuring of the pricing mechanism,” Mr Morrow said. “I am sympathetic with the many smaller retailers, in particular, who say I am stuck in this price war and I can’t step up and raise my price to the end users. “So, we are thinking can we restructure the CVC (Connectivity Virtual Circuit charge) and the AVC (monthly access charge) to have a minimum assurance of a certain quality of product … do we introduce a media streaming product?” No pricing changes were imminent, but he said NBN Co was having initial discussions with broadband providers.

The CVC charge is the price NBN charges service providers for the bandwidth they want for their customers. The NBN lowered its its CVC charge $20 per megabit pers second to $15.25 in December last year. Under a new pricing model announced earlier this year, they will be able to achieve discounts based on how much CVC they purchase per end-user.

Telcos have complained that it was the NBN’s pricing mode that was driving up their prices. Mr Morrow is facing growing pressure to address complaints about the project, 4 which he said were centred around two areas: the slower-than-expected internet speeds experienced by some customers 5 and technical issues connecting premises to the network that were leaving some homes without broadband services for months. About 15 per cent of NBN customers have complained about their connections.

When asked if the NBN had an image problem, he said: “I do agree….it is partly our fault. It is partly taken out of context because 85 per cent of customers are fine with this. It is the 15 per cent that is a large number because of the volumes we are dealing with.

It is not just a lightly dissatisfied but a seriously dissatisfied service.” Mr Morrow argued that the number of complaints was rising as new network connections accelerated, but the overall percentage had fallen. It is activating about 40,000 to 50,000 new customers a week, which will increase sharply between now and the project’s completion date in 2020. The NBN has been swamped with complaints from customers about speeds that they say are lower than what they used to get on ADSL.

The industry has also come under attack for advertising “up to” internet speeds that are never reached. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said last week Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vocus could face legal action if they were found to have misled consumers about their NBN speeds Mr Morrow denied the slow speeds were created by its connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) charges making higher speed tiers unaffordable, but were the result of a price war by retailers which meant customers did not properly understand the type of service they had signed up for and whether the advertised speeds would be available at peak times. “Most of the marketing attention is on price, not what kind of speed you are going to get,” Mr Morrow said, adding that 75 per cent of customers did not know what speed they were on. “There is a land grab phenomena where retailers are chasing market share and classically during a land grab phase you get more discussion on price and less discussion about quality.” “Most of the retailers want to sort this too, but we want to educate consumers that when they talk to retailers, understand you have a choice and actually talk to them about how the speeds are going to work.” Despite the criticism, Mr Morrow said the NBN was “done pointing the finger” and he was working closely with retailers to address the issue. “We know the end user is more confused than ever about who does what and all they want is good broadband service.” He said NBN was working to address installation problems, particularly issues around an existing provider cutting off a customers’ service before they were connected to the NBN. He would not rule out slowing down new connections to “give people a better experience”, but said the 2020 deadline would not shift.

[email protected] reports.afr.com 6 References ^ about the project’s internet speeds (www.afr.com) ^ retail service providers chasing market share (www.afr.com) ^ review of the NBN’s pricing model (www.afr.com) ^ address complaints about the project, (www.afr.com) ^ slower-than-expected internet speeds experienced by some customers (www.afr.com) ^ reports.afr.com (reports.afr.com)