COTS Project

The COTS Project – Progress

A ‘Progress Meeting’, open to all stakeholders, was held. This provided an opportunity for the steering group to discuss their work and progress with industry, and for stakeholders to provide feedback and input. At this meeting, Ofcom and CSMG presented their recently-published report into BtB interfaces in an NGA environment. The minutes and presentations are available below.

Minutes of the progress meeting, 25 January 2010

CSMG for Ofcom – BtB interfaces: Meeting the needs of NGA – full report

Presentation from Antony Walker, BSG and Huw Saunders, Geo/KCOM

Presentation from CSMG & Ofcom – BtB interfaces: Meeting the needs of NGA


The COTs Project – Progress

The forum met on 04 December, where the steering group reported back on its thinking to date. The group discussed the long list, presented at the previous steering group, and considered the two requirements documents reflecting the views of service providers and access infrastructure providers. Documentation is below.

The forum agreed that the next step would be for the steering group to consider the requirements of an aggregator, to meet the needs of both ISPs and access infrastructure providers. In addition, the forum agreed that this would be a sensible point for the project to report back to the wider COTS stakeholder community, to gather feedback and comments on the proposed approach.

Minutes of the forum meeting, 04 December 2009

The ‘Long List’

ISP requirements

Access infrastructure provider requirements

COTS issues coming to the fore

I spent Monday and Tuesday at CBN’s NextGen 09 conference in Leeds. The conference was well worth the trip, with a series of interesting presentations from excellent speakers interspersed with useful and relevant workshops.

What I found particularly interesting, however, was the number of speakers that referenced issues that the COTS Project is seeking to address. In the Digital Region workshop on Monday Graeme Dent discussed the engagement that South Yorkshire had been having with ISPs to date; this was followed on Tuesday by Stephen Timms talking about the importance of local projects, but also the need to ensure that these investments do not lead to stranded assets, and directly referencing the COTS project and the role of INCA. (more…)

The COTS Project – Progress

The smaller steering group met for the first time on 05 November. The group discussed the structure and composition of the steering group and forum, as well as the ‘long list’ of issues facing independent local open access networks and where COTS intends to be active amongst these. A conversation was then held regarding a list of generic ISP requirements from a COTS solution, tabled by Sky and TalkTalk.

The steering group agreed that a working group of infrastructure providers should meet to develop an alternative set of requirements. This took place on 26 November.

Minutes of the steering group meeting, 05 November 2009

The ‘Long List’ of issues facing independent local open access networks, and where COTS intends to be active

ISP requirements

COTS project Steering Group meeing

The COTS Project held its first steering group meeting on 21 September.

The steering group is made up of representatives from the following organisations:

  • BIS
  • BSG
  • BT
  • Cable and Wireless
  • Fibrestream
  • Geo Networks
  • H2O Networks
  • IFNL
  • Industria/Quintain
  • KCOM
  • Scottish and Southern Energy/FCS
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk Group
  • Thales

At this meeting, the group considered the objective and guiding principles of the project, along with the governance arrangements to underpin the work. There was also a discussion of the Active Line Access standardisation work, led by Chris Gallon of NICC. Documentation is below.

Additional COTS kick-off meeting in Hull

Due to the high levels of interest in the COTS Project, we have decided to run an additional kick-off meeting.

This meeting, in Hull on 03 September, will provide those stakeholders that were unable to participate at the first meeting an opportunity to give their views on COTS. It will also be possible to participate remotely: for more information please contact us.

We have had considerable feedback from stakeholders since the kick-off meeting in July, but remain keen to hear further from anyone with an interest in the work. To give us your thoughts, either drop us an email or comment on this blog.

Peter Shearman, Policy Manager, BSG

The COTS Project launch

We recently launched the COTS Project, short-hand for Commercial, Operational and Technical Standards for Independent Local Open Access Networks.

The objective of the project is:

“to work with representatives of independent local and community–led broadband projects, national network operators and major ISPs to develop a low cost standardised approach to enable a wide range of service providers to offer retail services over local or community-led open networks to end users.

As a result of this initiative consumers and small businesses should be able to access a wide choice of service providers, regardless of how the underlying infrastructure is either provisioned or owned. It should be in the interests of all local or community-led projects to be compliant with this approach, as more service providers should mean higher take-up and greater revenue.”

Essentially, we have described this as making open access a reality for consumers, who often face a limited choice of service provider on independent networks. For more on the detail of the work, why we are undertaking it, and how we plan to do it, there is a briefing paper available at the bottom of this post.

The project was launched at a kick-off meeting last Wednesday 29 July (getting the work off the ground in part explains our absence on this blog for the last couple of months). The kick-off meeting demonstrated the high degree of interest in this issue: a full house of over 50 industry representatives participated in a lively exchange, with more unfortunately not able to attend owing to the capacity of the venue.

The meeting highlighted three points for us. First, there is a clear agreement across the full scope of industry players that this issue needs to be addressed. No-one present felt that this wasn’t something we should be looking at; feedback before, during and after has re-iterated that this is a challenge affecting all stakeholders in this field, and that an independent body is required to address it.

Second is that, while there is consensus about the problem, there is more uncertainty about what the potential solution could be. Industry consensus will be difficult to achieve: some are already developing solutions; others have yet to consider what type of solution would work for them. There are many potential requirements, so compromise will be essential.

Despite this, however, the meeting also demonstrated a real willingness to engage and participate in the work, again from stakeholders across the industry. Building on this we intend to establish a steering group to drive the project forward that will be drawn from industry volunteers.

Since the meeting we have had a range of feedback, and we’d like to address two particular issues that have been raised. First, a number have asked about the level of engagement from national ISPs. Although they were generally in listening mode on the day, most of the major communications providers were represented at the meeting and have indicated a strong willingness to engage in the process.

The second issue is that of how we communicate and consult with the wider industry. We are keen to ensure that this is an open and transparent process – we hope that the project will achieve an industry consensus, which can’t happen without the whole industry. We are aware that we did not do as well as we could have with the kick-off event: a lack of live streaming and capacity issues meant that many who wished to take part in the meeting were unable to do so.

We will also improve our efforts to make the project more accessible. We are committed to running a second meeting for those who couldn’t participate in the first meeting (details to be announced shortly), and will make all documentation available online. We will also ensure that we build in to the process regular consultations and a feedback loop with the wider industry, to ensure that the process considers the views of all stakeholders.

Additionally, as part of our next steps we are also continuing to meet with companies and organisations, to gather feedback and thoughts on the work and how to take it forward. We are still gathering views, and are keen to hear from those whom we haven’t yet engaged. If any organisation would like the opportunity to discuss the COTS Project with us, we would encourage you to get in touch.

Over the summer we will also be pulling together a steering group, drawn from across the industry, to take this work forward, as well as appointing an independent chair. Membership of the steering group is open to anyone; again, any organisation that wishes to have representation on the group should get in touch with us.

We will continue to provide regular updates on this project as it develops.

COTS Project Briefing Paper: Principles and Process

Peter Shearman, Policy Manager, BSG

The COTS Project

What is it about?

Around the world there are now numerous examples of successful local and community-led broadband infrastructure projects. Looking forward, it is likely that similar projects could play a key role in delivering next generation broadband to parts of the UK.

However, there is a need to ensure that this does not lead to the emergence of a disjointed patchwork of networks that resulted in consumers and businesses being offered a sub-optimal range of services at the retail level.

In order to mitigate this risk a degree of standardisation and harmonisation is required at both the technical and process levels. This would aim to reduce costs for scale retail service providers, for whom cost minimisation is a central concern. However, any standardisation and harmonisation should not inhibit the scope for grass roots innovation at the local level.

Government, regulator, industry and other stakeholders have all indicated that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and similar activities are currently being undertaken in other markets. The BSG is therefore undertaking the COTS Project (Commercial, Operational and Technical Standards), an industry-led project to examine what needs to be done in order to ensure consumers have access to a full range of service providers, regardless of the underlying network ownership or technology.

In addressing this issue there is an opportunity to create a win-win-win situation where network operators are able to provide a choice of services to consumers and maximise wholesale revenue potential; retail service providers benefit from a larger addressable market; and consumers and small businesses benefit from a wider range of services.

Kick-off meeting

The COTS Project was launched at a kick-off meeting on 29 July. The agenda and presentations for this meeting can be found below, along with the meeting notes.

COTS Project Objectives, Principles and Process paper

COTS kick-off meeting notes

Presentation: Antony Walker, CEO, BSG

Presentation: Chinyelu Onwurah, Head of Telecoms Technology, Ofcom