September 22, 2017
By Jan Miszalowski & Neil Watt
FarrPoint were recently invited to meet and present to the delegates from the Tianjin Municipal Engineering Design and Research Institution on Scotland’s Digital Future. The delegates have experience developing key infrastructure for the telecoms network in the urban context of Tianjin, which is one of China’s largest cities with a population of over 15 million. The delegates are involved in developing infrastructure for broadband and WiFi, from a planning and design perspective and expressed an interest in mapping technologies and strategies for integrating new underground cable systems with existing underground infrastructure – all key aspects where FarrPoint provide leading edge advisory services at a regional and national level in the UK and overseas.
We were delighted to share our experience of working on ‘Scotland’s Digital Future’. Through our involvement in key digital programmes in the UK context and further afield, the FarrPoint team has gained detailed practical knowledge of the opportunity, obstacles faced, key aspects to be considered and possible solutions and approaches that can be adopted for delivering next generation telecoms infrastructure and services.
We provided a context to the delegates of the Scottish Government digital objectives and intervention programmes for digital connectivity and the progress made to date in terms of full fibre penetration, superfast broadband and mobile coverage, Public WiFi and comparators with the rest of UK/Europe. The challenge ahead was made clear, with a particular set of challenges evident for delivering the necessary infrastructure and services to the rural areas of Scotland experiencing poor connectivity. Although the delegates focus was in an urban context, the key drivers were reciprocal to Scotland in addressing the immediate need and the associated economics and practical factors for enabling world class connectivity.
We demonstrated how we use mapping and data analysis to identify the gap areas and level of demand. These are areas that have no services available currently or planned by the commercial sector which is critical in terms of defining areas eligible for intervention by the public sector under EU state aid regulation. Capturing demand is vital in the context of a business case to enable the build of next generation infrastructure to areas where the delivery of services will generate sufficient subscriber revenue. An understanding of market drivers and inhibitors is essential to understanding how barriers for investment can be minimised. The public sector has played a key role in the UK for encouraging the market through capital grant funding, asset re-use, and demand stimulation activity.
A key topic that attracted particular attention by the delegates was deployment approaches adopted in the UK for next generation infrastructure, with the aim of reducing build and operation costs, including civils/engineering techniques, re-use of existing infrastructure such as utilities, use of renewables and next generation technological solutions.
We finished the discussion with a case study looking at our work with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Western Isles Council in Scotland, an area which faces some of the most extreme geographical challenges in the whole of the UK when it comes to infrastructure deployment and ongoing operations.
The presentation was well received, with value taken from having a common interest in collaboration and knowledge transfer for enabling world class connectivity in our respective regions.