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BT's Backhaul Barter

Ray Le Maistre

BT has struck a smart deal with Cardiff Council that will see the telco gain access to the Welsh city's lamp posts and other "street furniture" in return for building and running a free WiFi service across the city center.

Along with many other places in the UK, Cardiff, which boasts 19 million visitors per year, wants to be a connected city to help boost commerce, leisure activities, and tourism, but doesn't have the resources to do it itself.

BT Group plc, already a major supplier of backhaul connectivity to UK mobile operators, wants to be able to extend its backhaul network closer to mobile broadband users onto structures such as street lights so that it can offer a more physically distributed wholesale service to mobile operators wanting to deploy small cells as part of their 4G rollouts (which most do). (See Vodafone Ups 'Project Spring' Capex to $11B+, Q&A: EE Evolves Its 4G LTE Strategy, and Euronews: BT Lands 10-Year Deal With O2.)

So BT is building out and running, for 10 years, a network that will provide free WiFi services for everyone initially (so clearly Cardiff Council plans to charge for access at some point). BT points out that its retail broadband customers will always have free access to the WiFi network.

In return, BT gets "exclusive access" to Cardiff's lamp posts and other street furniture. That seems like a very good deal for BT, while Cardiff Council gets its WiFi network without any hassle.

This could be a model that could well attract interest from other local authorities: Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), as a key backhaul rival to BT, might want to consider its offers to UK city councils, especially as it is already experienced in building out and running public WiFi access networks in the UK. (See Euronews: Virgin Lands 4G Backhaul Deal, Virgin Lands City Wi-Fi Deals, EE, Vodafone Use Virgin's Subway Wi-Fi, and MBNL Backhauls With Virgin Media.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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[email protected],
User Rank: Blogger
11/18/2013 | 4:33:16 AM
Re: Pardon my English
We're talking this stuff, right?


street furniture
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/18/2013 | 2:36:38 AM
Re: Pardon my English
I know you guys are just joking, right?  But deals with the local county could be a good trend in this economy, especially in area's where easements are hard to come by.  Street furniture ... how else would you lump all the stuff that the city owns on the curbs into two words?
User Rank: Blogger
11/16/2013 | 9:42:29 PM
Re: Pardon my English
I know some carrier-municipality partnerships emerged from the wreckage of the first generation of muni-WiFi projects, I wonder if the rise of small cells does make this kind of model a more viable business opportunity.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
11/14/2013 | 4:48:02 PM
Re: Pardon my English
I had the same question. This trend is taking hold in the US as well -- both the trend of city partnerships for WiFi and the trend towards street furniture. My neighborhood just got a new "People Spot" sitting area that they were surprised became a smokers' hangout. Not sure how the WiFi was.
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2013 | 3:53:54 PM
Pardon my English
So, "street furniture" -- is that like the old sofas and washer/dryers that grace the front yards of homes in certain parts of the U.S.?
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