Broadband Beats Dial-Up In The UK

Broadband Overtakes Dial Up In The UKResearch from BT shows that the number of users connecting to the Internet via broadband has overtaken dial-up subscriptions for the first time, with 7.4 million broadband customers (including cable) now online.

The figures, released by the BT Group, reveal that it has taken just over three years for broadband connections to overtake dial-up, with millions bidding farewell to “KKKKK-ER-ZRRRR-WEEIR!” modem dial up sounds for the silent, swift appeal of always-on broadband.

The speed of uptake has been accelerated by the intense competition from a host of high-speed Internet service providers, all offering customer-tempting speedier connections and services at ever-falling prices.

Initially, broadband availability was geographically limited, but according to Ben Verwaayen, the chief executive of BT, connections are now available to 99.6 per cent of the UK population, “equivalent to the proportion with running water.”

Businesses have been quick to take advantage of broadband’s ability to handle significantly more data than dial-up, with always-on connectivity delivering commercial advantages in the global markets.

Broadband Overtakes Dial Up In The UKHigh speed connections are also good news to those selling goods and services online, with an explosive growth in the consumer market for buying media online, such as films, music and television.

Mr Verwaayen said: “I know people’s memories are short but I don’t think that anybody three years ago had even the faintest hope this would happen. I remember when I came into BT [April 2002] it was not in anyone’s imagination.”

Cash is still rolling into broadband investment, with Cable & Wireless announcing last week that it would be shelling out another £70m (~US$127m ~€m)to expand its Bulldog broadband brand.

Bulldog is currently handling 14,000 customer orders a month after launching last year at a cost of £41m (~US$74m, ~€103m).

BT remains the Big Cheese of the broadband world in the UK, boasting 1.7 million broadband subscribers of its own, with its network supplying a further 3.7 million broadband connections for other Internet service providers.

Broadband Overtakes Dial Up In The UKTwo million cable customers now enjoy broadband connectivity through NTL and Telewest.

Mr Verwaayen wrapped things up: “We have to take the internet out of the domain of the geek and into the normal world. That’s the journey we are on. After that you can increase the multiplier effect of broadband in the economy. “It’s great to have overtaken dial-up, that’s another step, but it’s still in its early days.”

BT Group
Bulldog Broadband

Log On Through The Lord

Log On To The LordCardiff vicar Reverend Kimber is hoping that by introducing wireless broadband access from the pews of his city centre church, more people will be encouraged to join his flock at St John’s Church.

The decision was made after the tech-savvy Reverend discovered that the thick walls of the 1473 church blocked his own wireless signal as he used his laptop to write sermons and create orders of service.

The Welsh capital is awash with Wi-Fi after a joint project between Cardiff council and BT Openzone resulted in more than 100 wireless broadband points being created around Cardiff city centre and parts of Cardiff Bay.

With the streets full of wired Welsh business folks looking for a fix, Kimber realised that they might appreciate a quieter place to do business.

“The church is a sanctuary for everyone, including business people with laptops and mobiles who may want to find a quiet area without lots of noise and loud music to sit in peace and do some work or just send an e-mail,” Kimber told the BBC.

The laptop-toting vicar added, “I couldn’t do my job without one and it has made me more aware of other people’s needs.”

Log On To The LordAfter Kimber approached BT, the company agreed to fill in the gap in Cardiff’s wireless broadband network and fitted the church with its own Openzone node, providing access to surfers sitting in the corner of the north aisle at St John’s.

Hopeful to convert Skype surfers into Bible-troublers, the Rev Kimber said: “This church has a strong commitment to be open for people in the city, and of course, if this will encourage more new people into the church, the project will have been a success.

Fearful of mass sessions of multiplayer shoot-em-ups and virtual battles breaking out in the aisles, Kimber added, “All we ask is that they respect the church environment and do not to use loud mobile ring tones or play music on their computers, especially when a service is in progress.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the church has seen battle – the original medieval church was severely damaged during the revolt of Owain Glyndwr in the early 15th century.

According to Ann Beynon, BT’s director Wales, when it comes to wireless connectivity, Cardiff is now one of the most connected in the UK.

St John’s church, Cardiff
Wireless broadband goes to church

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning Initiative

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning InitiativeThe Training Foundation has launched its Ready for Work online training programme, an employment-awareness course free to all young people in (or recently in) full-time education and those in modern apprenticeships.

Warmly welcomed by leading education and industy-based bodies such as HTI, Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce, the scheme is aimed at ensuring that fresh-faced young ‘uns arriving at the workplace know how to become responsible employees.

The Ready for Work program will give young workers an idea of what employers might expect of them as they start out on their working lives and, is it hoped, make the transition to employment a more pleasurable experience (I’m still waiting for that bit to happen).

The training programme consists of 12 online courses designed to raise awareness on employment issues of major concern to today’s employers.

The “interactive and engaging” programme covers subjects such as “showing respect at work, embracing diversity, being enterprising, managing workplace stress, health & safety, following drugs & alcohol policies, sensible email and Internet use, data protection and being a responsible employee.”

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning InitiativeEach self study course ends with a short test to check the learner’s understanding, with an 80% or better grade qualifying the student for an optional Ready for Work Certificate and Ready for Work Handbook.

Certificates are awarded by ABC (Awarding Body Consortium), a leading UK awarding body with full Qualifications Curriculum Authority (QCA) recognition.

In April 2005, The Training Foundation became the first ever training organisation to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Innovation, and its new scheme has had industry bigwogs falling over themselves to lavish praise on the initiative.

Sir Richard Branson was first in the queue; “We need our young people, on which the Country’s future prosperity depends, to be equipped with an appreciation of business, so that they can set out with a spirit of enterprise. I welcome the Ready for Work programme. Co-operation between employers and educators on initiatives like this can do nothing but good.”

Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI wanted to hug the Ready for Work program and take it home: “We need more employable young people understanding the world of work, trained in the most relevant areas and able to add value to their employer. The Ready for Work programme will help to bridge this gap.”

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning InitiativeDavid Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce roared his approval: “We need initiatives such as Ready for Work, which can help to ensure that young people leaving full-time education and training are equipped with skills that are both relevant for the workplace and will help advance their careers.”

Roger Opie, HTI Trust Director, also sprinkled the scheme with love: “The partnership between business and education is critical in raising the employability stakes for young people. An understanding of the skills and behaviours required in the workplace is a shared responsibility. This free programme provides both the content and motivation to complement existing initiatives.”

The course is accessible over the Internet at The Training Foundation’s online learning portal

Does Anyone Understand The Ringtone Business?

Crazy Frog Ringtone PhenomenonIt’s OK to say you don’t understand the ringtones business.

I know there are people who initially claim they do, but not one of the many people that I’ve spoken to about the ringtones business can explain its workings to me. I’m not talking about how the downloads work, but why it’s so big.

Anyone in the UK will be able to tell you at some length about the Crazy Frog ringtone – it’s been a cultural phenomenon.

When they make I Love May 2005 (inevitable), some sardonic fellow (they normally are fellow, those sardonic ones) will make a witticism about it, that’s just long enough to fit perfectly into the edit between the clips. Then those watching will be able to delight in hearing the hallowed tones again.

Reasons for this started with an incessant TV advertising[*1] campaign.

Crazy Frog Ringtone PhenomenonThis lead to three possible reactions – the haters, the lovers and the not-bovered.

I’d imagine that lots of the UK viewing public hate it to the point of distraction, despising the ‘music’ and being irritated at their generally bafflement at ringtones. In fact 60 people chose to voice their disapproval to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), other chose to complain about other parts of the frog, which quite honestly I can’t say I’ve been looking for. As quoted from the ASA Website.

“It wasn’t long before complaints were flooding into the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Some viewers complained that the commercial was annoying and broadcast far too frequently. However, the main crux of the complaints related to a far more unusual and surprising subject matter. Frog genitalia.

Viewers had noticed that Crazy Frog was very definitely male due to a protrusion that stuck out from his cartoon body. The complainants found this inappropriate. Some were worried about children seeing this kind of advertising material whilst a few parents had felt embarrassed by some of the questions their children had asked them.”

The Crazy Frog was investigated and exonerated on all counts.

As to the regularity of the adverts, they said

“Lastly, though the ASA accepted that advertisements which are broadcast frequently can rankle with some viewers, it didn’t uphold the complaints, as it’s the advertiser and broadcaster who decide how often they show a commercial.”

So the ASA say it’s OK for them to continue spreading their joy among the nation – even if they don’t want it.

This has started a revolt from other advertisers who don’t want to be on the same slot as the Crazy Frog. On some channels this has lead to many Jamster ads[*2] being shown in the same break. In fact, this afternoon on E4, nearly all adverts were Jamster’s.

In the process of this it has become the first ringtone to reach number one in the charts since downloads have become included.

Crazy Frog Ringtone Phenomenon Popjournalism tells us

“Representatives from the UK Singles Chart said the novelty track sold 150,000 copies and was at one point outselling Coldplay’s new single “Speed of Sound” on a four-to-one basis.”

This stuff has been on the news and news quizzes. We’re told it’s sold over 11 million copies throughout Europe for goodness sake.

Ironically its popularity is the tragedy of its success.

How often do people who have chosen that as a ringtone incorrectly reach for their phone, when its played in a TV ad; on the news; a chart show on the radio; or as someone else’s ringtone? Conversely, how many have missed calls because when their phone was ringing, when they assumed it was from another source.

Its popularity defeats its main purpose – you can fail to be alerted when someone is try to contact you.

This comes to the core of my misunderstanding of ringtones.

Crazy Frog Ringtone PhenomenonThe draw of ringtones is to individualise the phone handset. But with ringtones, there is no scarcity of supply. Everyone can have one, if they pay for it.

If a ringtone becomes well known enough, like Crazy Frog, the purchaser ends up paying for the privilege of advertising their product for them.

I can foresee the next wave of ringtone distribution will be quite different – generating the same kind of revenues (remember, 11m ringtones at £3) without the huge amount they’re spending on TV adverts.

I would mobilize their most powerful sales force – the ringtone user. By enabling each of the ringtone enthusiasts to act as sales people, they let them sell tunes directly to their friends, with a percentage of the sale to them for their trouble.

Unfortunately instant gratification for the keen purchaser is not currently possible due to the inadequacies of phone DRM, so direct transfer of music peer-to-peer is not allowed, due to the “fear of piracy”, or not trusting your customer as it’s otherwise known.

Perhaps a SMS/WAP passed token would work …

As to how do you judge what’s going to be a massive smash – I really have no idea

[*1 A sweet spot has been created. The downward pressure on the cost of advertising on the UK’s terrestrial channels, has crossed the rise in income generated by the ringtone business. This sweet spot, unfortuntley, creates very frequent TV adverts for ringtones.]
[*2 Jamster sell the Crazy Frog ringtone, other ringtones, wallpapers, etc]

An extensive history of the Crazy Frog birth is available from bloggerheads.

MobiTV Powers Orange 3G TV

MobiTV Powers Orange 3G TVWe covered the announcement of Orange’s 3G TV content to mobile handsets last week, but today we discovered who’s providing the content-to-mobiles technology powering the services.

Idetic, the company behind MobiTV, who are in turn Orange’s partners for the service, are the technical brawn behind the operation. Headquartered in Berkeley, CA they have been around since 1999, originally working on bandwidth optimisation systems for cellular networks.

We spoken extensively with Ray DeRenzo, former Chief Marketing Officer of Vodafone America’s Global Platform and Internet Services Group, who joined Idetic as VP of EMEA (so he’ll have a somewhat less-wide business card these days), running through many areas of their business.

A fortuitous early deal with Siemens saw the creation of a smart proxy server product being bundled with Siemens hardware and begin actively sold, with Siemens effectively becoming a sales agent for Idetic system. This licensing deal gave them the breathing space, and cash flow, to further develop the system.

The roots of the system that is being used on the Orange project lay in a demonstration system for delivering content over IP connections to TV, originally created as a sales tool to sell their optimisation products.

During a demo with a major US broadcaster, the eyes across the table lit up, generating great excitement about using the system to syndicate broadcaster content to many platforms.

This pivotal moment for the company, altered the companies direction, expanding them in a new direction.

MobiTV Powers Orange 3G TVAfter much careful thinking and planning they’ve ended up with an end-to-end solution, spanning ingestion; digitisation; encoding; and distribution going initially to IP TV, now cellular and wireless.

In what must have been a pretty big transition for the technical-focused company, they launched MobiTV, hiring the BSD’s from Hollywood, TV and the cellular world. By gathering content distribution deals initially in the US, now Europe and soon Asian markets, they have placed themselves in an enviable position, supplying the delivery system and the content to be delivered – both sides of the transaction.

With expansion into Europe and Asia on their main, back in February, MobiTV swelled their ranks with some of the great and the good from the mobile world, one of which being our interviewee Ray DeRenzo. A smart move bringing in people who’ve been very close to the Giant.

Digital-Lifestyles spoke to Ray this afternoon who confirmed their first trip to MipTV this year had been highly rewarding with many of the content companies beating a path to their door. He commented that seeking content deals has been significantly easier in the US, as the content owners are consolidated into a small number of very powerful providers, differing from the significantly more fractured map of Europe.

Their heritage in the US has done them big favours. The deals that they have made there have enabled them to supply a similar service to the Orange TV service, in the US to Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and a number of other regional carriers in the region carrying 23 channels.

These US roots could go someway to clarify why the Orange UK TV service is so weighted towards US content. Signing deals like CNN are a sure thing in many countries of the world.

The simplicity of the whole system is quite beautiful. Ingesting at satellite downlink sites in the US and Europe, this is transferred to their operations centre in the US where the content is prepared and distributed to cellular phone users handsets via their downloaded application. When content is delivered of the handset, the application takes care of the deliver of the content, DRM and rescaling of the video to the specific characteristics of the destination handset.

They’ve opted not to use the RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) standard as many other video streaming services have, but have decided to use their own packeted-delivery approach, which they claim is more bandwidth efficient than leaving the connection constantly open, as RTSP does. It would seem to make sense.

Orange have initially decided to only offer a bundle deal, £10 (~US$18 ~€14.5)per month including 20 hours of access to any of the TV content. MobiTV system is also able to offer many more payment options including one-off payment using micro-payments.

Depending on the handset that is used, MobiTV claim mobile views should be getting a frame rate of around 15 fps, which while it’s around half the frame rate of ‘normal’ TV, sound eminently very watch able – certainly a considerable improvements on the much maligned 1-2 fps of a couple of years ago.

The delivery of TV and video content to the mobile handset is currently white hot both in the content and mobile worlds – and it’s been getting that way for the last 18 months. What has yet to be consistently proven is the consumer’s appetite for paying for it – Will it have the run away success of SMS or only generate the mild interest of MMS.

We don’t know Idetic/MobiTV’s offering intimately, but from the overview we’ve had it certainly looks like an interesting offering.


Ofcom R18 Ban: Comment

Ofcom R18 Ban: OpinionFollowing Ofcom publishing its new broadcasting code earlier this week, Russ Taylor of ofcomwatch outlines his reasons for disliking the R18 ban. He makes good points about the difference between IP delivered content and that which is broadcast. Simon

I’m going to stop banging-on about the Ofcom R18 ban (eventually), but I thought I would share a few thoughts about the decision:

1. The reaction to the R18 ban (or lack of reaction) says alot about the British system of content regulation. The decision–from an economic standpoint–is a significant and highly intrusive market intervention by Ofcom that creates winners (licensed sex shops, internet porn sites, future IPTV players) and losers (cable and Sky). Adult content flows through the UK. Ofcom’s decision has not stopped that flow–it has redirected the flow. So, while I use the term ‘ban’, that doesn’t quite capture the economic reality of what happened as a result of Ofcom’s decision.

2. The decision also has a social impact: There was straight, uncritical reporting of the ban in the trade press. Privately, some people have told me that they thought the Ofcom research was shoddy. In fact, one former content regulator told me he was ‘angry’ with the decision. But, there seems to be a general intellectual consensus that there is a difference between ‘freedom of expression’, championed by British academia and the likes of the Guardian, and ‘porn-campaigning’ which is some lower form of freedom.

3. Ofcom’s reputation was going to be damaged no matter what it did on this issue. If the regulator permitted R18 content, there would have been a firestorm. If the regulator banned it, the flimsy reasoning used for the ban would be attacked. One decision (a lift of the ban) would have been evidence-based, the contrary decision (maintaining the ban) would have been political. Ofcom is a utility-maximiser and went with the route with the least amount of pain. That’s how I see it. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise – by Ofcom or others… so feel free to write us and share an alternative opinion.

4. Speaking of flimsy reasoning, the ‘PIN protection’ argument advanced by Ofcom has been universally castigated–by those willing to speak out–as weak and illogical. Of course it is. Many adult activities, such as driving, voting and the viewing of adult content, are restricted to minors, and those restrictions are sometimes porous. Underage minors have always done things that they are not supposed to. That possibility, however, has never been used to restrict the freedom of adults. Until now.

5. In any case, minors will still access R18 over the internet or by raiding their parents DVD collection. God forbid, they will probably also create their own R18 content! So, the regulation is mostly ineffective. The regulation is also not platform or technology neutral. I suspect Ofcom will be successfully challenged on this extremely weak (and non-converged) justification for its decision. But going back to my point no. 3, above, it is a better political route for Ofcom to have a judge tell them the ban cannot stand. It is also a better political route for Ofcom to maintain a ban that is ineffective.

6. I’m concerned that the LSE research on R18 harms and the YORG research on PIN protection were held and not released until the day that the code was released. Matt Peacock of Ofcom previously posted on OfcomWatch and stridently indicated that Ofcom does not tactically time the release of documents. But I was told by LSE that there research was completed in early March. Why was it not made available to the public until May 25th — too late to attack the flimsy reasoning behind the R18 ban? Perhaps Ofcom can shed light on this.

Russ Taylor is a co-founder of ofcomwatch.

Vodafone 7100v: Upgrading Its Software And Syncing With PocketMac Blackberry

Vodafone 7100v: Upgrading Its Software And Syncing With PocketMac BlackberryFollowing on from my recent detailed review of the Vodafone 7100v Blackberry, I thought it would be worth passing on a few tips I’d learnt over the process. One attempting to reassure readers through the scary process of upgrading the operating system on the 7100 Blackberry; the other, a solution for syncing your information with an Apple Mac – not something that is natively supported by RIM or Vodafone.

Upgrading the software on a Vodafone 7100v Blackberry
Before properly using the Blackberry, I paid a visit to the Blackberry Web site and downloaded the latest software update for my handheld. This is one of the things with advanced devices such as this: they get to be so much like computers that they have new software upgrades available on a regular basis.

Upgrading the software on the handset was quite a daunting experience, because my 7100v refused to connect correctly. I would get repeated error messages, saying it wasn’t connected properly, and the only way to get it connected was to unplug and then reconnect the cable from the handset.

Updating the software on the Blackberry essentially wipes everything off the device before putting new software on, there were a few occasions when I thought, “oh dash, I’ve broken it” because nothing seemed to be responding. These worries proved to be unfounded, as after a few minutes I was greeted by the Vodafone logo appearing on-screen signaling success of the upgrade process.

Syncing (with a Mac)
After updating the software, which by the way you need a Windows computer for, I set about syncing the Blackberry with my Mac. My existing phone, the Sony Ericsson P910i, works correctly out of the box with Mac OS X’s iSync application, syncing wirelessly over Bluetooth within a few seconds.

The 7100v, although it has Bluetooth, doesn’t have a Bluetooth synchronization profile, which in my mind is something the Blackberry developers should have thought about, as it would have been a relatively easy software fix. As a result of this, the Blackberry wouldn’t sync with iSync and the cable wouldn’t work either, as iSync had no drivers for it.

A little research on the Internet revealed a company by the name of PocketMac who make Mac/Blackberry sync software. Upon request, they kindly sent me a free license key for their software, which then allowed me to seamlessly sync my address book and calendar from my Mac to my Blackberry.

PocketMac Blackberry in operation
I did have one or two issues with it initially, but these were to do with using Apple’s new released operating system update, Tiger, which has a new version of iCal, a calendar application, which initially refused to work with PocketMac.

Some lateral thinking was needed – by getting iCal to sync to Entourage, the Mac equivalent of Outlook on Windows, and then telling PocketMac to sync calendars from Entourage, I got it working.

Despite the Tiger problem, that they tell me will be fixed soon, I was impressed with PocketMac Blackberry. It fills a large gap left by RIM’s lack of Mac support.

PocketMac Blackberry
Vodafone 7100v Blackberry

Vodafone 7100v Blackberry Review – email; Calendar; Phone

This is the third and final part of this in-depth review focuses on the mainstay of the Blackberry – email, calendar, or even using it to speak to people. The first part of this review, looking at
Usability: 3/5
Syncing: 4/5
Screen: 5/5
Web Browser: 4/5
Email/Messaging: 5/5
Calendar/PIM: 3/5
Software/Features: 2/5
Central Telephone Functions: 4/5

Overall Score: 3.5/5

IBM, Oracle Battle For Database Market: Gartner

IBM, Oracle Battle For Database MarketThe insatiable appetite of hungry surfers desperate for more information, analysis and intelligence has fuelled a database market growth of 10.3 percent in 2004, according to research released by the Gartner Group.

On an oily mat somewhere in Business Land, IBM and Oracle are manfully wrestling with each other to control the lucrative relational database market.

Although IBM still holds the crown – hanging on to their slim market lead of 34.1 percent of the overall market – Oracle are laying in some mean moves, maintaining 33.7 percent and enjoying a sizeable boost from Linux.

“Oracle saw strong growth of nearly 15 per cent, much of it coming from its performance on the Linux platform,” Gartner said.

“The difference between the giants in terms of revenue was only US$30m (~£16.5), making it too tight to declare a clear winner.”

Lagging a fair way behind is Microsoft, with 20 percent of the market, followed by NCR Teradata at 2.9 percent, Sybase at 2.3 percent and all the others collectively totaling 6.6 percent.

It’s a lucrative market, growing from just under US$7.1 billion in 2003 to nearly US$7.8 billion in terms of new licence sales, although the continuing wobbliness of the US dollar may have artificially inflated market growth by some 3 to 4 percent of overall growth.

“[Overall market growth] was probably somewhere between 6 and 7 percent,” observed Gartner Inc.’s Colleen Graham, who authored the report, noting that sales outside of the United States, when converted to US dollars, added more to vendor revenue because of currency conversion, and weren’t necessarily reflecting increased demand.

In terms of overall growth, Microsoft and Teradata both led the field with 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

IBM, Oracle Battle For Database MarketDespite being a still a relatively small part of the overall RDBMS market, the Linux segment is as hot as an extra spicy vindaloo, registering 118 percent growth in 2004, more than doubling from US$300 million in 2003 to over US$650 million in 2004.

Gartner found that Oracle is putting some distance between its rival IBM in this subsection of the market, with a growth of 155 percent.

Oracle now controls 80.5 percent of the Linux RDBMS market, up from 69 percent a year ago, while IBM slumped to 16.5 percent of the market share, compared 28.4 percent the previous year.

Linux RDBMS new license revenue grew 118.4 per cent to US$654.8m, with Oracle taking up for 80.5 per cent of that business.

In terms of growth of sales, Linux performed better in RDBMS than Windows. The platform grew 10 per cent to US$3.1bn in 2004, although Microsoft hogs a hefty 50.9 per cent of business, up from 47.4 percent in 2003.

Microsoft’s Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server, made funny faces while deriding the growth of the Linux database, chortling: “Look at it: It’s a small market. You’d expect some growth there, from such a small base.”

With chest set to ‘maximum puff’, Rizzo reminded anyone within earshot of healthy growth in the Windows database market, citing the figures as evidence that Windows is “eating away at the Linux camp” rather than the other way around.

The RDBMS market on the Windows server platform grew 10 percent in 2004. Microsoft’s market share grew 18 percent in this segment.

IBM, Oracle Race for Database Market Dominance

Wireless Utopias 05: An Open Future For Spectrum-

Cybersalon and Open Spectrum UK host a unique debate on the future of wireless communications and the strategic prospects for utilising the radio spectrum. International experts and Ofcom representatives are on hand to discuss technology, regulation and society. The Dana Centre
165 Queen’s Gate
South Kensington