Bristol and Bath is providing £2m to boost silicon and high tech startups.
Twelve startups and small companies in the region have been awarded close to £2m ($3m) from the West of England Growth Fund, with Blu Wireless Technology awarded £1m for its 60GHz programmable IP development. The Growth Fund administers UK and European matched funds for the region and has already awarded £11.85m to SME companies.
All the companies are in the Bristol or Bath centres of the SETsquared incubator.
Bath businesses receiving funding include app developer neighbourly (£94k), Clean Energy (£27k), Citeab (£26k), Tivarri , Envolve Technologies (£132k) and CloudFind (£90k).
”I’m delighted that our companies have benefited from this investment by the West of England Growth Fund – the grants will now leverage additional multi-million pound private investments into these companies,” said Simon Bond, Centre Director of Bath SETsquared and the University of Bath Innovation Centre.
Members of the Bristol SETsquared Centre in receipt of awards are Digital TV Labs (£233k), Blue Speck Financial (£220k), AptCore (£80k), Nanoscope Services (£40k) and SecondSync (£100k).
“Bristol and Bath has some fantastic tech businesses – in software, internet technology, electronics, semiconductor, biotech and across all sorts of sectors. These awards will make a massive impact into jobs growth here – and SETsquared has a track record of businesses growing steadily without failing, so these are high-value, sustainable jobs,” said Nick Sturge, Bristol SETsquared Director.
Paul Wilson, chief executive of the West of England LEP, says: “Through this fund we have already invested around £14m, which has attracted more than £41 million of private sector investment into the local economy, creating or safeguarding over 1,500 jobs. High tech is a significant area of growth for us – we already compete internationally and our region is nurturing a future generation of high tech businesses.”
The SouthWest is extending its position as the key areas for testing the latest LTE (long-term evolution) 4G technology, writes Sian Harris. Cornish trials to deliver broadband in rural areas are being extended until June, while commercial trials of 4G technology are happening in Bristol, Swindon and the Thames Valley.
In Cornwall 180 customers living in and around St. Newlyn East are testing a unique combination of mobile and fixed technology. It was due to end at the end of January but Ofcom has granted an extension to the temporary radio licence until the end of June so that the partners – Everything Everywhere and BT Wholesale – can continue the study.
The trial users previously had no broadband or struggled to get speeds of 2 Mbps. According to the partners, the trial is now giving these participants an average download speed of 7 Mbps, which is enabling them to access a range of content including on-demand television, HD video and VoIP services.
Providing broadband to rural users is a hot topic in the UK today, with the government pushing for every home in Britain to have at least a 2Mbps connection by 2015.
“The industry needs to work together to tackle the issue of rural broadband for the last 10% very hard-to-reach areas. Two or three thousand premises in the UK really don’t receive broadband at all, said Dave Axam, director of managed services business development for BT Wholesale, at the LTE/EPC & Converged Mobile Backhaul conference in London.
With this target in mind the two partners – a mobile operator and a fixed operator – launched a trial in October 2011 to see whether LTE wireless technology could provide the infrastructure to meet this need. The partnership enables Everything Everywhere’s wireless technology to be used in combination with BT’s fibre network.
The partners chose Cornwall for the trial because of its largely-rural nature and because the digital television switchover was complete in the county, freeing up the 800MHz radio spectrum for the trial. This spectrum is good for rural areas because it has a relatively long wavelength and low attentuation by obstacles so can serve a longer range than higher-frequency spectrum. In addition, Cornwall recently received a European Union grant for superfast fibre rollout.
In addition to trying out LTE as a way of providing rural broadband, the trial experimented with another concept: the idea of a fixed operator and a mobile operator sharing the same network. The partners set up two eNodeB trial sites, for which BT provided dedicated fibre backhaul.
“The uniqueness of the trial is that both ourselves and BT have deployed our own packet core networks. This enables the customer experience to be controlled independently across the two mobile and fixed service sets, allowing for an optimised use of the radio resources available,” said Tim Rawling, principal solutions designer at Everything Everywhere and one of the team involved in the trial.
He explained that each eNodeB trial site is connected via a BT Openreach circuit (Etherway), supporting a 300Mbps capacity into the site. Separate VLANs provide connectivity via the BT 21 CN network back to separate packet core networks at Bristol for the mobile dongle customers and Adastral Park near Ipswich for the BT fixed customers. He added that the technical design and build of the network took around six months from concept to going live.
At the customer end, the BT triallists gain access to their network using one of three different types of router, the smallest of which looks much like any broadband router – except that its fixed position is near a window rather than a telephone socket – and the largest is similar to a small television aerial (a similarity that is not surprising given what the radio spectrum was used for until recently). Everything Everywhere’s trial customers access mobile broadband via an LTE dongle.
Of course the trial has met challenges. According to Rawling, “a key challenge was in selecting sites that provided a suitable trial area (filling significant ‘not spots’) without compromising the current network coverage or stability, and getting sufficient backhaul to these sites.”
Another challenge, he added, was “finding a way to combine fixed and wireless technologies whilst providing a stable and consistent experience to our trialists. A main initial finding is that the complementary technical assets of Everything Everywhere and BT can work together to enable a consistent broadband experience for our customers,” said Rawling.
The customers are unlikely to be too concerned about the network details but so far triallists seem happy with their experiences. One triallist Mark Jose, commented that the trial has enabled his family to enjoy streaming movies and participating in fast online gaming, which was previously not possible for them.
Another triallist, Tamasin Battell, noted: “Before the 4G trial downloading anything was impossible; it was so slow. Now, we can watch on-demand television and stream music. Better still, my fiancé’s sister in Australia has met her four-month-old nephew for the first time over Skype. The extension of the trial is a godsend for me, as I really don’t want to go back to the digital dark age.”
- Rural Britain gets a boost, as the 4G LTE broadband trial is extended until June 2012 (thenextweb.com)
- BT, EE’s mobe broadband trial jump-starts Cornish village (go.theregister.com)
- Everything Everywhere Planning 4G Network in 2012 (rightmobilephone.co.uk)
- UK Broadband flicks switch on Blighty’s first 4G network (go.theregister.com)