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A different approach to data

With the public sector actively evaluating the idea of shared network resources, it makes sense for them to choose dedicated fibre as the enabling technology. Across the public sector, from local authorities to central government departments, various public sector policies and a number of other business drivers have led to an explosion in the amount of data these organisations need to network. In addition to this increased level of data traffic, the cost of managing this new infrastructure has had to be delivered using existing rather than new budgets. It is a familiar story for public sector bodies, well used to facing demands for better front line services while back office budgets are under constant scrutiny and constraint.

A solution to this data networking impasse currently being considered at local and national level is the adoption of a shared service infrastructure, allowing traffic from separate departments and authorities to be aggregated in order to achieve best value. It is now understood that a logical way to operate this shared service model is over one dedicated fibre network, allowing an important degree of control not delivered using a mishmash of existing bandwidth suppliers. It is also clear that it is not only the largest public sector networks that can benefit from such a model, but also smaller communities within the public sector that share the same drivers and can gain from an integrated infrastructure that reduces overall operational complexity and cost. Across the range of public sector organizations, fibre is now the fundamental transport platform for large scale data transfer.

It has practically unlimited capacity capability, and by controlling exploitation of the dedicated network, the ability to deliver significant capacities at exponential growth rates is created. Some of the benefits of a shared infrastructure model that uses a dedicated fibre network for transport include: - Future-proofing: Dedicated fibre is a platform built for the future, designed to take advantage of technological transformations easily and at no additional network cost. An investment in fibre is a long term investment. - Easy budgeting: Cost attribution across a network between member organisations with different usage patterns and budget constraints is easy.

Owning and controlling a dedicated fibre network, allows users the flexibility to allocate costs across multiple drivers. The most obvious method is usage based attribution. A dedicated fibre network allows different levels of segregation of service, with clear initial and growth cost parameters, making accounting for cost much more straightforward than traditional network management. - Wide partner involvement: As well as central and local government, partnership organisations are easily admitted to the community of interest. The increasing number of PPP initiatives means that the circle is widening and greater demand for synergies of operation among like-minded organisations is a reality.

Being able to segregate into discrete and secure 'networks within a network' allows this to happen. - High security: A shared infrastructure involved no compromise in security. A dedicated fibre network is the most effective solution combining the inherent security advantages of optical fibre (difficult to intercept, potential to detect all major methods of intrusion), with completely segregated and secured electronics. Sharing for success A shared service infrastructure model may be adopted locally, with adjacent local authorities sharing a network in order to bring data communications costs down. This could then be extended across a whole county or metropolitan area and include education, healthcare and emergency services within the region. This will enable a shared infrastructure model to make the best use of money invested.

The basic principle of shared infrastructure underpinned by a single dedicated fibre network is equally relevant to central government. The Government Communication Network (GCN) is an existing example of how different departments can agree on the procurement of a network on a national basis. A track record Shared service networks can not only deliver cost reductions but also aid regeneration of areas by enabling local access. Geo has a track record in delivering both these benefits, and builds networks that benefit diverse users across a wide area. FibreSpeed, for example, is a high performance, open access network that Geo is currently constructing in North Wales with investment funds from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and central government.

FibreSpeed is a good example of a public sector-funded project designed to be open to many different users, stimulating social and economic development in a part of the UK not well served by next generation communications networks.

Gerry Grewal is the PR contact of Geo, providers of market leading dedicate fibre networks.

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