The opportunities available to new entrant operators on a greenfield site are vast, but it is the brownfield where it starts to get interesting, writes Julian Clover.
Sometimes you have a conversation that is able to perfectly crystalise a topic that you are supposed to know. In Stockholm as part of my Nordic tour, I met with Peter Linder, Ericsson’s director of network solutions. Linder was a part of the bid team for the Colchester VOD trial carried out by BT in the mid-1990s. Hailing from the Essex town myself it always meant more than anything that took place in Florida around the same time.
We had been talking about the problems that some networks had simply because of when they had been constructed. Arguably the sort of problem that BT is now facing – and has been told by the regulator that once it has improved its infrastructure it can then open up the network to competition for its trouble – though arguably it could apply to any established build.
Dividing up a whiteboard into four sections, comprising greenfield, brownfield, greyzone and a whitespot, Linder explained it was naturally enough the greenfield that was the most attractive to an operator, because it could take a healthy 100% of the market from Day One. Sweden is a market where services are often sold to the landlords of a property that then bundle in communications services into the rent as if it were the water supply.
The brownfield is where it starts to get interesting, the objective to achieve a 40% market share in the main areas, knowing that if you fall below 20% you will not be the service that carries Formula 1, the Premier League or the NFL.
Linder’s second diagram was of the kind of services that an operator might expect to deploy, depending on how much bandwidth they have available to them, starting with the ‘postage stamp’ sized quality that could easily be delivered to a mobile phone through to the bandwidth hungry video formats of HD and 3D. Generally speaking though, Linder believes the cost of building a network was not outrageous, providing you had an aggressive strategy and a large enough coverage.
The difference between greenfield and a whitespot can be vast, and it is a fact of technological life that while a city will be blessed with a plethora of competing services, some rural areas will sometimes be lucky to receive one. Linder suggests that while a 240-volt power supply is available to all areas of the country, we must accept that broadband is different.