We do live in very interesting times. Last night the twitter stream told me that the internet in Syria had stopped working, or at least the traffic in and out of the country had died off which is the same thing. This morning it was included by the Guardian in their Boot Up links. I thought to myself last night that once it had hit twitter the news would be everywhere. I saw a couple more references to it on twitter this morning and thought to myself “they’re a bit behind the game – that was last night’s news”. I figured it was too old and publicly available to write a blog about it & I wouldn’t really have been able to add anything anyway.
Then this morning I saw someone retweet a link to a post by @TheRealRevK about how Ofcom was about to screw the voip market in the UK by, amongst other things (in it’s 500 page consultation). If you know Adrian (the reverend himself) you will know how passionate he is about these things. I had thought about writing a post about this subject myself – it came up at dinner last week at Convergence Summit North. I didn’t have the time as I was out of the office for much of the week. I’m not going to do one now as I can’t add to Adrian’s post.
The world is changing so quickly. It’s daft that I don’t feel able to write about something that hit the headlines only a few hours ago and it certainly makes you think about what you do write. Google has been giving this a lot of thought with its Google Authorship Ranking (Google it). When I did the pigeon v rural broadband race a couple of years ago it was covered by the BBC and as far as I could see scraped by approx 32,000 websites around the world. That’s them taking someone else’s news in the hope that it would make their own site interesting.
Google Authorship is designed to give credit to the originator of the news. I’ve added links to my Google+ profile from both trefor.net and philosopherontap.com and linked back from the profile to the sites. In theory over time my Google+ profile will be linked to my many sites as I write guest posts for them (ok maybe it won’t) and this will increase the level of credibility given to me as an author and originator of content.
This doesn’t take away the fact that I will still have to find original stuff to write about which ain’t necessarily easy in this world where the speed of light and information distribution is constantly increasing – you heard it first on trefor.net.
PS the speed of light bit is entirely made up as an attention grabbing bit of sensationalism – had I not made this admission I know many of you would otherwise take it as read from such a creditable source! 🙂
Normally I’m fending off ideas for blog posts. This last couple of weeks I’ve been wading through a soup of Awards Entries which take yonks to write, especially when they limit you to writing your life story in 250 words. Bit of an exaggeration but those of you who have to do that sort of thing will know what I mean.
So I’ve looked up, drawn breath and thought what do I want to write about. There’s the massive DDoS attack against CloudFlare that was in all the news earlier in the week. “Internet grinds to a halt” – that kind of thing. It didn’t affect us.
Then there was the cable cutting by Egyptian insurgents, demonstrators, rebels, whatever they were. Didn’t affect us though I know one or two people with operations in the Middle East and lots of traffic to Pakistan that were affected. Not us though like I said.
I note today the Register talking about how capital expenditure by network operators is very rarely recovered. I guess that doesn’t apply in our case as we are not just a bits shifter. We are into added value services that generate good gross margin. We are in this game to make money.
If you’re not in the trade you might not have noticed the Ofcom consultation on Narrowband Markets which closed on Tuesday. Amongst it’s various nuggets the Ofcom proposals contain suggestions like “if you get your line rental from BT then they would also be able to compel you to get your minutes from them as well”. Not good really and I’m to sure that is what Ofcom wanted to say but that is how it came out on paper. Timico responded through ITSPA, that fine Trade Association that looks after everyone’s interests in the Internet Telephony space – that’s yours and mine if you but knew it. I thought about a specific blog post on the subject but no, too tedious! Yawn…
Yesterday’s news was the 40th anniversary of the mobile phone. In those days it was the size of a phone box but, hey, you could stick it in your boot (trunk) and drive it around. That was yesterday’s news. This blog ain’t a retrospective. It’s progressive and funky. Move on.
Today all the broadsheet tech pages, at least the currently free to access ones such as the Grauniad and Torygraph, are talking about the leaks of info about the forthcoming Facebook phone – poetic license intended – more here. It might interest some people but not me. I don’t trust Facebook though I do use it to keep in touch with the kids and have to admit to having two Facebook Pages of my own (here and here). One assumes btw that with modern spellcheckers they never get the Guardian spelling wrong these days, unless they use an American dictionary maybe. Whilst claiming immunity to nostalgia there are still some things worth gazing back wistfully over your shoulders. The Grauniad spelling is one.
I’m a bit of a mixed up kid when it comes to these social media platforms and online privacy. On the one hand I complain about it and say I don’t trust any of them. On the other hand I still carry on using them all in one form or another. It’s unavoidable unless I just take an allotment and spend all my time growing carrots (or peas, beans and spuds – that kind of stuff anyway. Not sprouts as I’m not very fond of them and as for broccoli!!!). #isnotgonnahappen!
Anyway I can’t think of anything to write about today so I’m going to give it a miss. Feel free to post some ideas as comments. If nobody does I’ll take it as an endorsement of my own inactivity and assume that you are either still in Tenerife catching some rays, or skiing in Bognor Regis, WL.
Twitter informs me that EE has launched its 4G broadband service in Cumbria. Great. Their press release tells us that their coverage extends over nearly 100 square miles and over 2,000 residents, many of whom are homeworkers.
A quick scan shows that this news is all over tinterweb. For some reason no one other than B4RN sends me press releases so I don’t have a blog post already written about this one :). Not that that is a big deal – most of the stuff out there just regurgitates the press release which ain’t particularly imaginative or value add.
What would be interesting to see is the business case put together within EE for the service. Prices apparently start from £15.99 a month and presumably scale up based on bandwidth consumption. Assuming the take up was in line with the national uptake for broadband (74% in Q1 2011 according to Ofcom) and bearing in mind the lack of competition then that would give EE 1,480 * £16 = £23,680 a month or just shy of £300k a year revenues. I would guess they will be able to make money out of that. I’d also expect users signing up for this service to buy other EE services so I should think the overall revenues will be quite a bit higher.
Out of interest I went into EE’s availability checker it told me that the service wasn’t available in Cumbria yet! I don’t live there anyway!! If I did live in Cumbria I would buy the service and find out what this internet thing is all about.
Broadband cloud services make their mark at Olnincolnshire conference
Gave a talk this time last week at the The Onlincolnshire Digital Conference (#godigital2013) chatting about what sort of online or broadband cloud services our customers start to use after they have FTTC installed. I was not the only one. Rob Wilmot of BCS Agency (some of you will remember him as founder of Freeserve) and Stephen Parry of LloydParry told us about the cloud services they used in running their businesses.
Something that Stephen said really stuck in my mind. He uses a SAAS product called FreshBooks for his accounting, invoicing and expense management. What’s more he uses it on the move and recounted a story of a visit to a client in Frankfurt. After having lunch with the client Stephen photographed the receipt and loaded it into his expenses folder using the FreshBooks iPhone app.
After finishing his day’s consultancy and heading back to the airport he invoiced the customer from his iPhone, including the cost of the lunch (no such thing as a free one). One assumes that the customer pays electronically by bank transfer. Wham bang job done.
At last week’s ITSPA Council meeting we discussed nuisance calls. This post on on the subject was written by Pete Farmer, writing in a personal capacity. Pete is the Commercial and Regulatory Manager for Gamma a wholesale supplier of telecoms services. Pete is a colleague on the ITSPA Council and chairs their Regulatory Committee. His contact details can be found via his LinkedIn profile.
No-one doubts for a second that silent or abandoned calls – the current focus of Ofcom’s attentions whereby predictive diallers make more calls than they have agents for- are a pain. It is even worse for a vulnerable person to receive a prank call at 3am let alone one where the content is potentially violent or sexual. These are often criminal acts that require decisive action from law enforcement.
What people don’t talk about so much though, is the effect such calls have on businesses. The economic harm as well as the effect on the staff can be commensurate with that suffered in a residential setting.
A business can of course be pseudo-domestic; by which I mean that a plumber, electrician or window cleaner procures their telephony services much as they would at home
Ofcom has announced the bidders in the 4G spectrum auctions. There are seven in total. Thought about bidding myself but I didn’t really have a firm plan of what to do with it if we managed to secure the spectrum.
The bidders include all the ones you would have expected – EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 in their various official corporate guises. Also PCCW who already offer a limited 4G fixed line replacement service in the UK. Then we have a company called MLL Telecom which has existing mobile spectrum licenses and provides managed networks in the UK.
Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, otherwise known as BT. This business was only registered in June of this year and has already had two name changes: initially BT Facilities Services Limited (until sept 2012) and then BT Ninety-Two Limited (changed only last month).
I don’t have any inside track here – BT is being very tight lipped regarding their plans – but if I were a betting man I’d say this was another step on the road to BT becoming a fully fledged mobile network operator, again.
At some stage after divesting itself of Cellnet BT realised it needed to be in mobile and so is now an MVNO, partnering with Vodafone. Buying 4G spectrum would be a natural step forward here.
Modern 4G kit is very flexible and can carry multiple operators networks – both in the modem and in VLANs applied to the various backhaul circuits. BT, with its own spectrum would be able to easily launch 4G services piggy backing on someone else’s existing infrastructure and the company has good relationships with both Voda (through the MVNO) and EE from its work in the Cornwall superfast broadband project. Indeed the company won an award earlier this year for demonstrating the solution that could be used in a country wide 4G rollout.
It would be a big move for BT, upping its mobile ante, especially as the incumbent mobile operators are fighting a headwind of revenue erosion, but converged networks are the way forward and for a company of BT’s size it has to have a mobile play.
That’s my bet and I’m sticking with it. We will find out soon enough.
Last year I dreamt of holding a tweetup over a weekend in a field. I booked a large scout camp but the project didn’t get anywhere because it needed connectivity to make it a success and I couldn’t for one reason and another make it happen.
A couple of weeks ago you may have noticed something called EMF Camp appearing in your Twitter stream. People I knew were going and blow me down if it doesn’t turn out to be the type of event I had been thinking of. I couldn’t go myself but Nat Morris, who ran the networking for the event, has sent me some notes of the tech setup.
Nat’s notes are a great read and I have left them by and large unadulterated. I have to thank him for sending me a wonderful cornucopia of facts and links – every link is worth clicking on. You especially need to make sure you read the camp_network pdf – it has drawing in it showing how they planned the network even down to the distances between portaloos for the Ethernet cable runs. Some knowledge of data networking would help you understand some of the technical terms here but the first link to Zoe Kleinman’s BBC report gives a great overview.
Here are some details about the internet setup for EMFCamp which took place last weekend at Pineham Park in Milton Keynes. The BBC turned up on Saturday afternoon and recorded a nice piece about the event, you can see my stomach about halfway through when they film in the NOC tent… http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19441861
Some slides from Will and my presentation at the end of the event about the power and internet are here…. (50MB warning)… www.natmorris.co.uk/camp_network.pdf
We were lucky that the site is only 2.8 miles away from the Pulsant DataCentre in Milton Keynes – what was formerly BlueSquare MK. Brian Ross and Nick Ryce got the wheels in motion inside Pulsant and arranged with Matt Lovell the CTO for them to sponsor us. I cheekily asked for a couple of U of rackspace in MK and some in their Telehouse East rack plus a 1Gb/s layer 2 circuit between the two, I was expecting them to say no, but they were fine with the idea!
So back in June we started our network building placing a Cisco 7200 with NPE G2 in Telehouse and another in MK, we borrowed a /19 of v4 + /48 of v6 and AS number from Chaos Computer Club in Germany, meaning we didn’t have to NAT any campers.
We had a BGP transit feed from Pulsant in MK, plus Goscomb in Telehouse, along with a temporary connection to the LONAP peering network for v4+v6 plus multicast. http://stats.emfcamp.org
The costs for providing internet access to campers came in at around 5.8k, apart from 10 boxes of cat5 all of this was for the last mile between the MK DC and the campsite, everything was provided free or in kind from sponsors. RapidWireless from Liverpool (Richard Porter) loaned us a pair of DragonWave Horizon Compact units – we got a temporary OFCOM license for the 18ghz link which ran at 385mbit/s full duplex. As a backup we bought a pair of Ubiquiti Nanobridge M5’s, these were installed but we never pushed any traffic over them, they were just there in case something happened to the primary link.
Onsite we borrow a tent / marquee from scout group, the tent was made in 1953, made a 25quid to borrow it! Some pics…
Our infra team twitter account is @emfnoc, the general camp one is @emfcamp
End of Nat’s stuff
A huge thanks to Nat for sharing this with me. The whole event was clearly a massive joint effot by lots of people and looks to have been a great success I look forward to attending the next one in person.
The Ofcom decision to allow Everything Everywhere to launch an LTE (4G) service on its existing 1,800MHz spectrum has resulted in lots of press coverage this week (here’s me in the the Telegraph) and complaints from the other operators who have to wait for the auctions in the new year.
I can see both sides of the argument and like it or not I agree with the Ofcom decision to let them get on with the launch. We have to get these services out there so we can all start using them. I expect there to be no further delays in the auction process after this.
The big question in my mind is what the LTE packages are going to look like. I could be wrong but I sense that EE is not going to launch very fast services because speed uses up more of the spectrum. My bet is that the services will be perhaps 10 or 15Mbps using smaller chunks of spectrum and not the whizz bang speeds the technoogy can actually achieve.
10 – 15Mbps is still a lot faster than what we have already and allows the operator to offer faster services downstream without having to change its infrastructure. EE could alternatively offer the faster services at launch but at a premium. When it comes to it we don’t actually need 40Mbps (say) on our phones. What we will notice is the faster response rate at 10 – 15Mbps than we currently get.
Offering a speed that is not orders of magnitude faster than the existing services will also help prevent network congestion although the EE infrastructure has had a huge capacity upgrade in readiness for the launch.
The other interesting thing to look out for will be the pricing or more specifically how much data usage you will get for your money. Also which handsets will be supported?
Not long to wait now. Although Timico is an O2 and Vodafone house I will be getting myself an EE 4G SIM to play with.
Not sure whether I mentioned it but I’m off on holiday after this week – going to see the London2012 Olympics.
You would think that the world would drop everything and focus on the biggest sporting event to hit the UK (ok mostly London) since ever. I’m amazed at how much is still going on in the world of internet legislation. So much so that most of it will have to be left to others for comment.
We have consultations over the Draft Communications Data Bill. Then the Interception of Communications Commissioner has published his annual report – interesting reading I’m sure.
Oh and did you know that the Welsh Government (iechyd da) announced that it has selected BT to implement the Next Generation Broadband Project for Wales. BT was also the successful bidder in North Yorkshire which has become first county to deploy BDUK broadband (if I can call it that). Note the Welsh Government is also launching a Business Crime Unit.
Next up is EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes who has outlined the European Commission’s general conclusions following on from last year’s consultation on wholesale access to telecoms networks – good stuff.
You don’t need me to tell you that Ofcom has published its Communications Market Report for 2012 – I’ll definitely be reading that but not whilst I am on holiday.
You may not have noticed that the IP Crime Group, which was formed in 2004 by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to bring together experts from industry, enforcement agencies and Government to work together on piracy and counterfeiting issues, has published its latest annual report.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills launched a consultation on enhancing consumer confidence by clarifying consumer law. In addition to goods, the consultation also looks at services and digital content.
Finally uSwitch has published a report on broadband billing.
All exciting stuff eh? Unfortunately you will have to gen up on all this yourselves as I won’t have time to do it. All good reading for when you’re on the beach.
PS Lists and links have very kindly been provided by ISPA.
The Digital Economy Act, which you may recall was rushed through by the last government with inadequate consultation in the desperate dying days of its tenure continues to create a stir. This time the joint committee on Statutory Instruments has strongly criticised the Draft Online Infringement (Initial Obligations) (Sharing of Costs) Order 2012 which Ofcom is also currently consulting on.
The Order has been brought by the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) no doubt trying to clear the decks before they all shoot off to watch theLondon 2012 perform official duties at the olympics. In its report the joint committee says:
“This instrument is drawn to the special attention of the House on the grounds that it gives rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House and it may imperfectly achieve its policy objective“
Concern that the Order had been laid in the House whilst consultation was still ongoing and is not based on full information
Lack of detail from rights holders or a commitment that they would actually use the notification system to its fullest (what’s that all about? why would they go to so much effort to get a law passed to support their private business interest and then not use its powers?)
Insufficient evidence is provided to judge whether £20 “appeal fee” is the appropriate amount given that significant parts of the structure of the scheme and the appeal mechanism are still undecided.
The whole sad, sorry story continues.
PS thanks to ISPA for being around to constantly monitor this stuff. Someone has to read through and interpret the detailed legal blurb that comes out of Parliament.
It seems a long time ago now, the passing of the Digital Economy Act. It’s easy to remember how long because it was rushed through just before the last general election and I’m sure that global historical events such as the re-emergence of a Liberal government (only joking) are amongst the list of dates you remember exactly what you were doing when “it” happened.
The assassination of JFK and 9/11 are the other two that spring to mind although others may well have other memorable dates – outbreak of WW2 etc. Note I don’t actually remember the JFK assassination, I was too young, but it is always one of the ones quoted.
Ofcom has updated ISPA and have said that the code of practice still has to go through various stages:
First notices are expected to be sent out Q1 2014 (At last year November’s ISPA conference, Ofcom said spring 2013)
4G is like lightning, it’s an eye opener and seriously enhances the mobile data experience. This post talks about the truly exciting O2 4G trials in London and thinks about how the technology is going to change the mobile game.
Mobile data is already an important feature in the business communication landscape. As an ISP we see demand for it in the area of machine to machine, rapid site deployment, backup solutions for Disaster Recovery scenarios and of course straightforward internet browsing and email access from mobile devices.
The strategic importance of mobile data has even led Timico to invest in an Ethernet connection direct into the O2 network. We can now offer mobile MPLS solutions that sit within the same environment as existing fixed line MPLS networks – ideal for businesses that need security in both fixed and mobile networks.
Over the last year or two in the UK the focus in fixed line broadband has been on Fibre To The Cabinet, or in marketing jargon Fibre Broadband. With downlink speeds of “up to”40Mbps (to be upgraded to 80Mbps this coming April) the technology is revolutionising how people use their broadband connection. Add in the growth in high quality streaming video and gaming services and it is easy to see how the additional available bandwidth will be consumed.
Until very recently the mobile world, in the UK at least, has remained firmly in the domain of 3G – a technology that now seems relatively stone aged compared with Fibre Broadband. HSDPA makes the experience more bearable but it is still many Mega-bits apart from its fixed line counterpart.
The mobile companies are poised to change all this with LTE (Long Term Evolution) otherwise known as 4G. Trials are being conducted in a small number of locations in the UK. Timico is the first O2 Service Provider partner to be invited onto their London trials I am pleased to be able to report on my experiences.
This service is like lightning. It’s fast, speedy, call it what you like it’s a life changer. It’s been one of those projects that has been a pleasure to be involved in.
With only 25 masts around central London coverage is nowhere near what you would describe as ubiquitous but this is only a trial. When in a coverage area the speeds are great.
I started off in McDonalds at Kings Cross with a dongle fresh out of the box. After installation of the software, which was easy, the dongle performed an automatic firmware upgrade, also easy, using its own 4G connection.
At McDonalds I was getting over 13Mbps down and 540Kbps up which in my mind was a bit disappointing though I’m not sure it should have been. I have experimented with O2s 4G at their offices in Slough and seen much faster speeds both up and down than this. In fact this speed at McDonalds is faster than I get from my home ADSL2+ connection so I couldn’t grumble.
I knew I could do better than this. Roaming around town on the top deck of a number 25 bus I got 15.5Megs down and amazingly 25Megs up – near Wardour Street. The ping times for all these measurements were impressive.
In torrential rain I moved around on foot dipping into various places to check out the speeds and moving generally towards known good hotspots.
In the end I took shelter in a pub called the Devonshire Arms on Duke Street, just off Oxford Street. Sat in the window and sipping a cup of tea I hit the jackpot with 40Megs down and 23 Megs up. I did various tests including varying the browser – Chrome was much better than IE. I also did video calls with both Timico’s own VoIP service and Skype.
The screenshot on the right is of four iPlayer daytime TV streams. The things you have to do to get a blog post written!
The highest I have seen recorded is 97Megs in the O2 Arena itself. The 2,600 MHz LTE itself will go to 150Megs but the dongle tech doesn’t currently support this. We do have to remember this is very much a test rather than a production rollout so it isn’t going to be perfect but even considering this the experience has been great.
There were a few observations to be made out of this trial. The raw speed I saw with O2s 4G was terrific when in good coverage areas. The amount of data you can download in a very small amount of time is going to change the game. In upgrading the dongle firmware for example I used 50MB in around a minute. If you consider that until recently a typical “fair use” policy for an “unlimited” data package was 500MB then you can see that the model is going to have to change. The backhaul capacity that mobile operators are going to have to build in to their networks is going to have to see growth measured in orders of magnitude.
Spectrum allocation for 4G rollout is going to be very important. At 2,600MHz the bandwidth you can get is much higher than at 800MHz, say. However the in-building penetration at the higher speed is not as good so the overall network design represents an interesting (though not insurmountable I’m sure) challenge for engineers. This makes the forthcoming Ofcom spectrum auction important – there is a mix of spectra that is going to be optimum for commercial success.
As a side note it is going to be interesting to see how much the operators are prepared to pay for spectrum – they all think they overpaid for 3G but the demand has not been there for most of the time that 3G has been around. It is different this time and people are starting to get used to paying for the bandwidth they use.
From an end user perspective the ability to have genuinely fast internet access on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone is going to change their experience. Whilst WiFi is becoming more common, at least in pubs, coffee shops and other public places the need to authenticate is still a nuisance. Also not having to wait whilst a screen loads up on your mobile phone needs to become a human right!
It is certainly going to drive more business into the mobile environment. Timico, for example, gives all its salesforce an iPad so that they can demonstrate Timico applications and our customer portal on the fly at a customer’s premises. An iPad with 40Megs of bandwidth all of a sudden becomes a low cost endpoint for a telepresence HD conferencing system.
The gaming experience is going to be great1. Who knows what mobility combined with high speed internet will do for that industry, freed from the shackles of the lounge or the bedroom. City wide action games? Orienteering for the 21st century?
The use of mobile technology for backup purposes will also extend into many more areas of businesses. Typically 3G is used where only low bandwidth is required or where any bandwidth is better than no bandwidth. 4G becomes a viable solution for offices – even company HQs.
Of course with many more people on a production 4G network the average speeds available may well come down but LTE really is a game changer.
It’s nice to to be in a position of being able to play with these new toys but there is a very serious business side to this. As those of you who have met me recently will probably know I’ve been testing the technology for a few weeks now – Timico is the first O2 service Provider partner to be given access to their 4G network. It forms part of the long term mobile data strategy of our business and follows nicely on from the direct connection into the O2 network I referred to at the start of the post.
I should finish off with a big thank you to O2 for including me in the trials. It’s good to be able to work with such a progressive partner.
1 I’m not a gamer but one of my kids would spend his entire live tethered to the Xbox. I have heard the tinny VoIP it emits.
Many of you will perhaps not have heard of the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association. It is one of hundreds of industry trade associations serving their stakeholders in the UK. ITSPA was formed about 6 years ago at the “dawn of the hosted VoIP industry in this country”.
In its early days ITSPA was involved in the formation of codes of practice – working with Ofcom to define how an internet telephony provider should behave/operate. Things then went quiet for a while though the organisation has top notch networking events where executives get the opportunities to meet other people in the game to catch up on issues (and gossip).
Over the past 12 months industry affecting issues have started to come out of the woodwork.
“Bloggers subject to same rules as traditional journalists.” Seems a bit obvious doesn’t it? In writing a blog one should respect the laws of the land and not defame, lie, slander, slur, libel, slight, disparage or apply any other similar verb to the html page.
I suspect if you are sure of your ground vilification, disparagement and other general character assassination is ok but the risk is yours to take.
At this point I’m sure some of you are wondering where all this is going.
A Ministerial Roundtable on Net Neutrality had been scheduled for 24th January (ie yesterday) with Internet Minister Ed Vaizey and the major fixed and mobile operators due to attend. EV is expecting industry to produce a voluntary code of practice in respect of Net Neutrality. In the run up to the meeting and following individual discussions with some of the intended participants the Minister has apparently been unhappy with progress. The Round Table has been postponed until 28th March to allow time for further industry discussion.
Net Neutrality is a very emotional subject. By and large in my view it is something that has been creating more noise than the issue has perhaps merited but I can understand people’s concerns. The issue of transparency is in particular an important one
It’s always exciting when Ofcom brings out a new report. No, no I really mean that:) There is so much going on in the communications world and fair play to it Ofcom has the resources to produce some really interesting stats.
This time it’s the International Communications Market Report 2011. I’ve only just noticed that its out so haven’t had time to distill its 363 tightly packed pages into five paragraphs as is my usual wont. Don’t worry – that’ll be something to do another day.
In the interest of taking a break from work before going home I do, however, herewith provide you with a few choice morsels to keep you going until those five paragraphs are crafted.
Just when I thought I had my life in order someone from the far side of the planet has dropped a bombshell with the discovery of Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB). What’s more UFB sits between Superfast and Hyperfast.
You will remember it was only last Friday I confidently announced the broadband progression as being Superfast (24Meg+ 1), Hyperfast (1Gig) and then Uberfast (placeholder for an as yet undiscovered number).
Over the weekend a pigeon arrived from Telecom New Zealand telling me that UFB is defined as a fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) broadband service providing downlink speeds of at least 100 Mbps and uplink speeds of at least 50 Mbps.
My name is Scott Wakefield. I am a broadband enthusiast and I live in Brocton, Stafford. I have recently come along your website to understand that you have connections with BT, and potentially other companies. Brocton is somewhat a rural area and as you would expect, BT do not care for our community. After ruthless complaining and many letters, emails and phone calls, neither BT, Virgin Media, Stafford Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council, the ISPA or Ofcom will do anything about it.
My area receives on average between 0.05Mbps – 0.17Kbps (50Kbps – 170Kbps) which is staggeringly slow. When I called up Virgin Media (whom is my current ISP as I switched from BT since a BT engineer thought I was being capped), I was guaranteed that I would receive “the slowest would be of 0.5 and the maximum would be 2.4Mbps”
It’s a bit of a dank dismal day here in the shires and I have the office aircon on “heat”. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind this weather – it reminds me of my childhood and in particular of wet Sunday afternoons spent watching the black and white cowboy film on BBC2, maybe playing a game of Monopoly and then the excitement of Songs of Praise with Harry Secombe after tea. The highlight of the day was the comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30 or 7pm.
I’m not sure why I’ve “gone nostalgic” all of a sudden especially when those Sunday afternoons were really boring and often used to lead to rows amongst us kids.
These days our kids still argue despite having an incredible range of things to do on a Sunday. After the F1 there’s the XBox and, well more Xbox. Then there’s the Xbox!
Reality is that other than the Simpsons the kids only watch TV when one of their parents decides
Everyone Everywhere (pun intended) will have heard of Ofcom’s decision to re-enter consultation over the LTE or 4G mobile spectrum allocation. Issued late on Friday afternoon the statement regarding the delay caused by reopening the consultation has already attracted comments re “hiding bad news over the weekend”.
There were 64 responses that included the A to W of stakeholders in the UK (nothing from X, Y or Z). The Association of Train Operating Companies was mainly concerned to ensure that good coverage at high, sustained download speeds is ensured along the whole of the GB mainline rail network. At the other end of the alphabet both the Welsh government and Wiltshire Council wanted better coverage in rural areas with the latter quoting a target figure of 99% of the population.
More pressure has been piled on Ofcom and the government by the publication of a report by the Open Digital Policy organisation suggesting that delays to the UK 4 G license auctions will cost the country dear. The delay to the auction has been caused by apparent threat of legal action by a number of carriers including O2.
ODP looked at the speed, capacity and coverage improvements next generation mobile broadband (known as 4G or LTE) is likely to bring, and estimated that over 37 million business hours per year could be saved from faster mobile data downloads if 4G mobile technology was to be deployed sooner than is currently planned.
Earlier this year I chaired a debate on mobile spectrum allocation at Portcullis House in Westminster. The issue of 4G spectrum allocation is a hot potato. The three largest mobile carriers O2, Vodafone and Everything Manyplaces, have existing voice bandwidth that they are being allowed to reuse for data. 3 does not so this delay will not only cost UK business but will likely have a deleterious effect on the number 4 operator (this is clearly a numbers game).
Just come out of committee room 19 at the House of Commons where a “summit” was held to discuss the state of IPv6 readiness of UK plc. The summit was chaired by Ed Vaizey, Internet minister and together with Timico had representatives of the other top network operators aka BT and Virgin. The mix was enhanced by Cisco, Nominet, Ofcom and other stakeholders.
Reality is that most ISPs have IPv6 covered, or at least a plan in place. The issue is that the rest of UK industry doesn’t. There has been extreme apathy in the corporate sector to push this technology forward.
This is completely understandable. Currently there is no problem. Considering this given a choice between spending money upgrading the corporate network or investing in a revenue generating service the former is a difficult sell for a CIO.
Businesses do need to guard against complacency though otherwise they might find themselves with a problem that will either cost a lot of money to fix quickly or take years of planning.
Neither is government prepared, as far as we can see. This compares with other parts of the world where governments are either mandating IPv6 (eg Malaysia) or are cracking ahead with full blown implementation projects (US Navy/NATO apparently).
In the UK it would appear that IPv6 is seen as a more expensive short term option for projects, at a time where cost control is clearly important. There was a general consensus amongst the 15 or so attendees that the Government should lead on this and that this would spur industry into action.
I agree with this. The cost argument is not a real one but the complacency is. Also we run the risk of other countries being ahead on the innovation curve as they think of ways of exploiting the huge number of IP addresses that now become available with IPv6.
There isn’t a desperate panic here but UK plc does need to get a wiggle on.
Check out the DCMS press release on the summit here http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/8205.aspx
How do you cram a debate on the future of mobile services, data roaming and spectrum into an hour and a half? At last night’s Digital Economy All Party Political Group at Portcullis House in Westminster we made a pretty good job of it with a panel consisting of Hugh Davies, Director of Corporate Affairs for mobile network 3,Brian Williamson of Plum Consulting, Ruy Pinto of Inmarsat and Raj Sivalingham of Intellect.
This debate was hot on the heels of last week’s successful back bench motion by Rory Stewart, MP (Penrith and Cumbria) which called upon Ofcom to specify 98% mobile broadband coverage in the 4G auction in 2012.
3 stated that this is doable with existing base station infrastructure provided they received suitable low frequency spectrum allocation in the auction. O2 and Vodafone have already been reallocated spectrum out of their existing 900 and 1800MHz 3G licenses.
The Hargreaves Report, entitled Digital Opportunity, A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, has already been extensively covered in a land rush of people wanting to get an early comment out there. The feedback has generally been good though not from all quarters as this response from the Business Software Alliance shows.
It is difficult to provide objective comment on the report without simply been seen to be replicating parts of it as its 130 pages are well written and provide their own concise summary. Also the document took 5 months to compile and a 30 minute read is not going to result in an analysis that would not be bettered by reading the report itself.
It was however interesting to note that the first point brought out by Prof Hargreaves was something I wrote about yesterday following the Nominet Policy Forum which is the need to base policy on evidence:
“Government should ensure that development of the IP System is driven as far as possible by objective evidence.”
“The frequency of major reviews of IP (four in the last six years) indicates the shortcomings of the UK system. In the 1970s, the Banks Review deplored the lack of evidence to support policy judgments, as did the Gowers Review five years ago. Of the 54 recommendations advanced by Gowers, only 25 have been implemented. On copyright issues, lobbying on behalf of rights owners has been more persuasive to Ministers than economic impact assessments”
He specifically highlights the lack of evidence when addressing the problem of online copyright infringement:
“The uncertain and disputed nature of the prevalence data makes it difficult to reach confident conclusions about the impact of copyright piracy on growth. This assessment is complicated further by a number of other relevant points:
not all illegal downloads are lost sales – the user may not have paid a higher price for a legal copy absent cheap or free illegal versions;
money not spent on legal copies is not lost to the economy – it may be spent on other purchases. This is of no comfort to the sector suffering losses, but the effects across the economy will not necessarily be problematic;
even within the industry affected, purchases prompted by experience from an illegal copy (for example, concert tickets or other merchandise) can offset losses; “
“Most experts we spoke with and the literature we reviewed observed that despite significant efforts, it is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole.”
Hargreaves concluded that the government should not “do nothing” re this particular problem but that Ofcom should urgently go about building an evidence mechanism that will be useful in determining the efficacy of the measures proposed in the Digital Economy Act – because it plainly is not there yet.
To a large extent Hargreaves has performed the due diligence that was not done during the passing of the Digital Economy Act. It is a shame it is a year too late.
You can download the report here – as government sponsored studies go it is one of the better reads.
I have cherry picked more of the report as pertains to the Digital Economy Act here if you want to save yourself the trouble:
The Culture Media and Sport Committee held an evidence session on the work of Ofcom today. The Committee briefly touched on the DEA and Louise Bagshawe, the Conservative MP and author, questioned Ofcom’s CEO Ed Richards about the implementation schedule of the Act.
Mr Richards stated that that the Copyright Infringement Notification scheme will not be operational for many months from now and that it may well take another 12 months before the first CIRs are sent out. He further explained that:
As members are aware, Ofcom completed its work on the Obligations Code and submitted it to Government months ago.
The Code is currently being subjected to a scrutiny process across Government departments and will be submitted to the EU Commission once it has cleared this process.
Following the JR, the Government will have to reissue the Sharing of Costs Order to accommodate the High Court’s decision that ISPs cannot be asked to pay set up costs.
Ofcom will submit its report on the web blocking powers under the DEA in the course of this month
Ed Richards also briefly touched on Ofcom’s content regulation role. He explained that this power is not yet redundant but potentially on ‘on borrowed time’, given the ease of accessing content on the internet. He stated that this is something that Parliament needs to work out over the next years and that the new Communications Act will be an opportunity to implement changes.
I assume this is Ed Richards side stepping the complicated issue of web filtering.
Readers may be aware that Ms Bagshawe is a former author and in favour of rightsholder’s interest. In her statements on online copyright issues she frequently refers to her conversations with the BPI.
I am indebted to ISPA for the detail of this report. For those interested the Judicial Review judgement can be found here with cost sharing covered in paragraphs 184 – 200.
Consultants Analysys Mason are conducting a study on behals of Ofcom into determining the location of Voice over IP callers making calls to emergency services. It is is easy to determine the location of a caller is in the old fixed line world because a phone number is recorded based on the location of a piece of copper “plugged” into the local telephone exchange.
This is not the case with VoIP. A VoIP number could be anywhere on the planet. Anywhere there is a connection to the IP network/internet that is. Ofcom recognises this and wants to understand whether there is a practical solution.
UK technical standards organisation NICC has published (Jan 2010) a potential solution to the problem though this is complex and also limited to VoIP users using UK ADSL connectivity.
This solution stems really from network architectures familiar to large telcos and my first reaction is that it is very expensive. One might ask what price a life? This is a reasonable question. We all have grannies and nobody wants ours to
There was a lot of talk this morning about Ofcom ‘s research announcement that
“Average download speeds remain less than half of ‘up to’ speeds advertised by some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), particularly for broadband delivered via a phone line. “
Ofcom is recommending that if speeds are used in broadband advertising they should be based on a Typical Speeds Range (TSR), so consumers have a clearer idea of what speeds to expect.
The stock response from ISPs is that every line is different and by announcing an “up to “ speed they cover all the bases and customers are appraised of the actual expected speed of their line before they sign up.
This is an interesting one. I work for an ISP but I am also a consumer. I see no reason why ISPs should not be able to give greater prominence to typical speeds rather than the “best you can possible expect”. We should being straight and honest with our customers – not hyping things up and raising expectations that can’t be met (you can tell I’m not a marketing person here 🙂 ).
ISPS have made some concession to the fact that if a technology (eg ADSL2+) can theoretically do 24Mbps most people are not going to get that speed. A 24Meg line is therefore often described as an “up to 20Meg” line (not universally as the Ofcom data in the table inset shows). My “up to 20Meg line only does 11Meg. It is disappointing but I understand the game. Not everybody does, though you do wonder whether most people care.
Most people do care about the quality of their experience though and in the absence of any other suitable metric typical speeds are a good enough representation of this.
The survey results do make interesting reading. Firstly the Virgin results which are based on cable modem technology and not ADSL are consistently better – their typical numbers are consistently close to the “up to” numbers. That’s a technology thing.
If you look at the ADSL providers with similar technologies I’m not sure that there is much to differentiate them. The thing that is holding back these ISPs from quoting typical speeds is that these speeds would be significantly slower than those of Virgin. Not good for a marketing director’s pulse.
I sympathize with these ISPs but at the end of the day my consumer head still thinks it would be right to quote the typical speeds and not the “up to”. Or at least both sets of numbers.
I can’t see this happening voluntarily. It would only take one ISP to break ranks for all the others to have to follow.
All I can say is bring on Fibre ToThe Premises where 100Meg will be 100Meg, give or take a wavelength. I really hope that my home town of Lincoln skips Fibre to the Cabinet and goes straight to FTTP.
Ofcom is currently consulting on changes to EU law applicable to Communications Providers that in theory will force providers to port numbers within 24 hours of being asked.
Sounds great but fixed line providers have been chucked a get out clause that adds that a subscriber line has to be ‘ready for service’ before being appropriate to port.
This means business as usual for the likes of BT whose archaic manual porting system requires a complete overhaul anjd which often leaves business custoemrs in the lurch.
Coincidentally the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association, ITSPA has recently commissioned an independent report outlining the options for the UK Communications industry in respect of number porting. It isn’t just a technical issue. There are contractual bottlenecks as well with each CP having to independently negotiate separate porting contracts with every other CP.
I will share the output when I get is sometime in March. In the meantime Ofcom seems content to let sleeping dogs lie and accept that as long as the letter of the EU law is met, (but not the spirit) then that is all fine and handy. This might make Ofcom’s life easier but is a disservice to UK business that has to put up with lengthy delays with porting their telephone numbers.
Details of the Ofcom consultation, scheduled to last 6 weeks, are available here. Interestingly CPs are also required to offered disabled access to Emergency Services via sms text service. I will need to investigate this further but if applicable to ITSPS this is certainly something very new for them to get to grips with.
The new laws have to be in place by 25th May 2011.
ACS Law hit notoriety for bullying broadband users into paying a fine in lieu of being taken to court for alleged “online copyright infringement”. Victims had no idea what their rights were and apparently frequently paid up rather than going through the expensive courts process.
It was reported yesterday that ACS Law had ceased trading – in order to avoid the potenial fines likely to arise out of the court action. Today they were apparently represented in court by a new barrister.
Reports from the court via twitter stream state:
ACS Law has not been allowed to discontinue 27 cases it tried to drop last month.
The judge today said letters to alleged filesharers “materially overstates the untested merits” of proving MediaCAT copyright infringement.
Also Judge: “Media CAT and #ACSLaw have very real interest in avoiding public scrutiny ” because of revenue from from “wholesale letter writing”
Ofcom yesterday proposed significant reductions in the prices that BT Wholesale can charge internet service providers (ISPs) in parts of the country where it is the sole provider of wholesale broadband services – mainly in rural areas.
The proposed price reductions are between 10.75% and 14.75% below inflation.
As an ISP and BT Wholesale customer I say good oh! I’m not quite sure that it will achieve the effect Ofcom think it will achieve though. Yes we might find retail ISPs lowering their prices marginally for customers in these areas. Consumer ISPs already charge rock bottom prices so a cut of 15% off a low number won’t make much difference.
Also ISPs buy bulk backhaul bandwidth from BTW. This is not specific to particular exchanges or locales. For example Timico’s bandwidth comes into two docklands locations from all our customers all over the country. We would not be able to say “this customer gets more bandwidth because he is one of the lucky ones living in an area with reduced costs.
A big chunk of the cost is in the bandwidth used so whilst a reduction in line rental is good a reduction in bandwidth costs would be better. We may find that competition does drive down the cost to the end user a little in these cost reduced areas but there is also a fair chance that ISPs will just pocket the additional margin thanks very much and maintain homogenous pricing policy across the whole country. More packages means more complexity and ultimately more cost.
This many not necessarily be a company line here but it’s what I think will be the overall outcome. I might be completely wrong.