Ofcom Chair: UK with True Broadband by 2010

Fifty days in to Ofcom’s existence, its Chair David Currie delivered a speech to the Communications Management Association conference. He recapped on what Ofcom had been doing, then outlined where he felt it was going, focusing mainly on broadband.

We feel the most exciting part of the speech was, in his words, True Broadband.

Anyone with a real understanding of why broadband is such a vital part of the future will be hugely encouraged by his words. In summary, what is currently being sold as broadband to the UK consumer and many other around the world, a 512k connection, is not broadband. It is the equivalent of a 1200/75-baud modem.

We heartily agree with Currie view that ‘DSL at 512k is a convenience product’. He argues that it is not practical or possible for the UK to lurch from a 512k connection to something much faster – the current copper-wire based system we have simply would not support it.

Instead a target of 10Mbps should be set for 2010 and that it should be provided competitively. We read this as; the long lasting monopoly that BT has, and does enjoy will be removed. His comparison with the multi-supplier mobile market bears this out. In our view BT consistently hoodwinked Oftel. At first glance it looks like they will not have the same joy with Ofcom.

This was further underlined by his praise of the Parliamentary Trade and Industry Select Committee point that

‘[we must] make certain that the regulatory framework ensures that commercial decisions by private companies are aligned with the wider economic and social needs of the country.’

He and his colleagues clearly recognise and understand what is required for a proper broadband service. With connections being symmetric rather than the slow transmit, asymmetric we have now, he identified the need for the network to enable distributed system, not just central services delivering to the ends of the network. We also find it encouraging that he reiterated the pursuit of wireless connections.

Currie states his aim is ‘Liquid bandwidth; all you can eat; always on. No contention.’

Very encouraging.

Full text
David Currie, Ofcom chairman, Communications Management Association Annual Conference, 16 February 2004

BT Extends Radio Broadband Trial

Following satellite coverage, but this has not been taken up due to its very high costs.

Their new approach is to provide high-speed connections to a central point, then distribute to households that have uninterrupted, line-of-site to the antenna (picture right) mounted on top of the subscribers rooftop. Labelled as P2MP (Point to MultiPoint), it provides a two-way connection that will, in their words, supply connections of a similar speed to 512k ADSL.

For the trial, they are working with Israel-based company, Alvarion, using their BreezeAccess product that operates in the 5.8GHz Band C radio spectrum.

Other similar services have been available around the UK for some time. Firstnet (who were bought by Pipex in August this year) have been running a similar service in densely populated areas around cities including Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham, Reading and Coventry for locations up to 10km away from any of its base. They are offering two-way 512Kbps, 1Mbps or even 5Mbps services.

Porthleven trial site

BreezeAccess from Alvarion


HomePlug IC Now Under $10

Intellon Corp. have announced their third generation of chip for use in powerline-enabled devices. Priced at under $10, the lowest current unit price cost, it enable builders of devices to embed Ethernet connectivity using nothing more that the powercord of the device plugged into the wall socket, creating a network around the building.

The HomePlug Alliance is a US-based organisation that promotes the use of power circuits to carry Ethernet signals and their HomePlug 1.0 standard can now carry up to 14Mbps of data theoretically.

The single chip, INT5200, includes a fair bit of functionality; a HomePlug 1.0 physical layer (PHY) and media access control (MAC), three host interfaces including MII, Ethernet 10/100BT MAC, and USB1.1 device, and a complete analogue front-end (AFE) with receive and transmit amplifiers, all in CMOS technology. Backward compatibility has been maintained by using the same pin out as previous versions.

While transferring data using the power cord of devices seems like a panacea, some parties have voiced concerns that such devices cause interference with radio signals, both within and outside the households using them.


The HomePlug Alliance

Microsoft to launch European single music track download service

Microsoft will be partnering with On Demand Distribution (OD2) to launch a European rival to the US-only Apple iTunes service. OD2 currently has 200,000 tracks available from five major record companies, which they hope to expand to 300,000 in the next few weeks.The proposed pricing of single tracks is 75 pence (Euro 1.06, $1.21) with albums being £7.99 (Euro 11.37, $12.86). The Apple service pound equivalent is about 62p and £6.20.The higher pricing of the proposed UK service will re-ignite the debate over the pricing of electronically delivered good compared with their physical CD equivalent. The argument from those that say the download versions are priced to highly is that these aren’t physical good that need to be manufactured, packaged, shipped and justify their place on a retailers shelf – they’re electrons, that once encoded take up a tiny amount of low cost disk space and then have a low cost of distribution. The companies justify the prices saying they have large investments in server hardware. As more providers enter the market, competition lowers prices – in the US, rival pay-and-download services have started dropping their prices, with some offering tracks at 79 cents.It’s widely acknowledged that the Apple iTunes service has been a great success. The problem for the world at-large is that currently it only runs on Apple hardware, which only accounts for around 5% of all computers, and it is currently only available in the USA. Among the reasons that the Apple service has been embraced so heartily, is that is it fantastically easy to use, it recommends related music to you and the licensing terms gives the purchaser a lot of freedom to move their purchased music to different computers and portable music players. Details have yet to emerge as to what the Microsoft/OD2 offering will be like.

UK film council announces world’s first ever ‘e-premiere’

The UK film council is claiming a global first. The new feature film, This is not a Love Song, will be released simultaneously in a number of different formats on Friday 5 September. It will be streamed and digitally projected in selected cinemas across the UK and be made available for streaming and download on the Internet on the same day.

The whole process of film-making has been extremely rapid. Written by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) in under two weeks, then shot on PD-150 DV cameras in just 12 days, under the direction of Bille Eltringham (The Darkest Light) and digitally edited on Avid.

Richard Morris of Juggernaut Pictures, the online producer of the event, told us that they wanted to use a mixture of different distribution formats to cinemas around the country. The ‘e-premiere’, as it’s being labelled, will be at the following four cinemas in the

Watershed, Bristol – Live projected streamed video
Cornerhouse, Manchester – 35mm print
Showroom, Sheffield – Digital projection
The Other Cinema, London – Digital projection

The streamed video will be delivered in Microsoft Media 9 format at 700k, giving VHS quality that will then be projected. Both of the digital projections will be driven by Digi Beta tape.

Online viewing will be available, on the same day, from www.thisisnotalovesong.com at a cost “less than renting a video”. As the non-UK film rights have been sold in other territories, the films distributor have insisted that its viewing be restricted to the UK only. To try and ensure this the Internet-delivered versions will be protected by Digital Envoy’s Geo-Targeting technology, which attempts to understand where the viewer is using information such as their source IP address.

The UK film council tells us they are in the process of gathering lottery funds to put low-cost digital projection into 150 cinemas around the UK. Digital distribution makes it far more economic to show non-blockbuster films in smaller venues.