Saturday, July 30, 2005

The OPLAN Foundation

opening minds to open networks

+ website here

What is an OPLAN?

An open public local access networks - OPLAN - is precisely what it says it is. That simple proposition scarcely does justice to what this digital infrastructure can achieve, or the scope of the potential economic, social and creative benefit that OPLANs can unleash. Quite simply, they can make all old-style notions of "telecoms" redundant. OPLANs are springing up in hundreds if not thousands of local settings around the world. OPLANs come in all shapes and sizes - ranging from a cluster of yak farmers in Nepal communicating with each other and the rest of the world using WiFi wireless technology, through to city-wide fibre networks connecting all the homes and other buildings in a major city such as Amsterdam the Netherlenads or Philadelphia in the USA. There is no hard and fast definition of an OPLAN, and a more extensive briefing note can be found here.

However, there are some distinctive defining characteristics of OPLANs that link them all together, and differentiate them from today's telecommunications networks. OPLANs, to a greater or lesser degree, have the following characteristics:

* they only serve a local geographic community or location, ranging from a street or business park through a rural community to an entire city
* they provide "open access" and are for use by any party located within the community - they serve both the public and private sectors, corporate and residential citizens, service and content creators as well as consumers
* they are owned and controlled totally independently of any service or content that runs over them
* they are structured, financed and owned so as to serve the common good; the value and benefit of the technology remains with the users
* they are not owned by a PTO/ licensed telecommunications operator
* they deploy modern digital technology and offer true broadband (symmetrical) connectivity

The communications world that grew up around the telephone was shaped by a business model based upon managing and allocating 'scarcity' - scarcity of network capacity, scarcity of customer equipment and scarcity of central-office switching facilities. But the three seminal technological developments of the latter half of the 20th century have completely turned this world upside down. These developments:

(i) the digital computer
(ii) optical fibre transmission media
(iii) software controlled spread spectrum radio.

It is now a world of abundance. OPLANS are the natural final link in the chain to make this abundance freely available to everyone. OPLANs can transform the socio-economic life of all communities in the 21st century and turn the dreams of the information revolutions into reality.

Source: here

Broadband Bill of Rights / : website here

Big Broadband Bill of Rights

During the last 20 years, the main tenets of Internet development included building and sustaining an open, interoperable, scalable network of networks that robustly supports a variety of applications and devices. As we look forward to a ubiquitous big broadband environment, these basic philosophies still hold true.

To understand how big broadband should evolve, it is essential to understand the three distinct portions of a big broadband connection.

The first is the pipe -- essentially the path, street or highway connecting you to the rest of the broadband network. These can be wireless or wired or a combination of the two.

The second portion is the applications – this is what you can do over the broadband pipe. These are sometimes software-based, but may be built-in to certain devices.

And, finally, there are devices and computers that you need to attach to your pipe that provide specific functions to help you more readily access applications.

These articles will best ensure the benefits of big broadband for all members of the American public.

Article 1. The Pipe
1.1 You have the right to a big broadband pipe -- no matter where you live, work or play. The pipe must be fast enough to support what you want to accomplish and must provide symmetric service.

1.2 You have the right to expect that any group with a reasonable business case will be able to provide a pipe to you including municipalities, telephone companies, cable companies, electric companies, community groups and others that may want to invest in you and your community.

1.3 You have the right to an affordable level of service.

1.4 You have the right to attach consumer devices and computers to the pipe as you see fit.

1.5 You have the right to use any application which you need or want to use, without restriction from the pipe provider, within the scope of the law.

1.6 You have the right to trust that public libraries and/or other publicly supported venues in your local community are available to serve your needs, if you do not have access to a pipe. You have the right to expect them to be funded for this activity, open during reasonable hours including nights and weekends and have up-to-date devices and applications for accessing the broadband connection.

Article 2. The Applications
2.1 You have the right to use any and all applications without restriction that meet your needs and wants, within the scope of the law.

2.2 You have the right to encourage educators, medical professionals, businesses, the government and entertainment companies to provide reasonable access to their services through your big broadband connection.

2.3 You have the right to trust that others will respect your copyright ownership. In turn, you shall respect the copyright protections afforded to us and compensate copyright owners per their request.

2.4 You have the right to widespread availability of entertainment, business, healthcare and education applications, especially if you live, work or play in an area where traditional options are limited.

2.5 You have the right to increased bandwidth that applications will require as they become more advanced, interactive and powerful.

Article 3. The Devices
3.1 You have the right to connect consumer devices, computers and appliances to your big broadband connection without restriction.

3.2 You have the right to widespread availability of entertainment, business, healthcare and education devices especially if you live in areas where traditional options are limited.

3.3. You have the right to expect that industry and government will provide an ever-broadening array of devices that will utilize your big broadband connection to support your needs in healthcare, business, education and entertainment.

Article 4. Public Officials
4.1 You have the right to expect your elected officials at the local, state and federal levels to be aware of the importance of big broadband and create laws that catalyze the development of big broadband pipes, applications and devices for your use. They shall not restrict any aspect of big broadband development or availability unless public safety is in question. They shall look at all aspects of your health and welfare to ensure that laws are created and modified to ensure that big broadband can drive economic development and better jobs, better healthcare and a stronger educational system for your community.

4.2 You have the right to expect your regulatory officials at the local, state and federal levels to be aware of the importance of big broadband and provide the absolute minimum regulatory rulemaking to ensure competition, to ensure ubiquity, to ensure the speed of connection that each individual requires and to ensure that solutions are developed for hard-to-reach and disadvantaged members of the public.

+ see Big Broadband Bill of Rights for Discussion: here


+ website here
+ press coverage here

7/7 shows we need more networks / Peter Cochrane's Blog

Diversity really works!

Published: Friday 8 July 2005

Editor's note: This blog was written on 7/7/05 at 18:00(BST) but is only being posted now due to extenuating circumstances at's London offices yesterday.

A hotel close to Lambeth Bridge, London

On 9/10 I flew out of Boston on a flight that was hijacked the next day. By 9/11 I was stranded in Seattle watching the horrific NY episode roll out in the full knowledge that the likelihood was that I had just lost a friend or two. This turned out to be true but was not confirmed for another two weeks. Many of my American friends lost much more, and I watched as the nation tried to come to terms with the unprecedented attack. Everything essentially stopped, people just didn't know what to do or what to expect.

For me the morning of 9/11 saw a flurry of SMS and email messages that simply read: 'You're not flying are you, dad?'. Voice calls on fixed and mobile phones were impossible but the internet and text services came to the rescue. I was able to get through, give all my family the reassurance they craved, and camp out for a week in a Seattle hotel until flights back to the UK resumed.

Today is 7/7 and I am in London. Yesterday I passed through Liverpool Street Station and close by two other locations that a few hours ago saw at least 33 people killed and more than 300 maimed and injured. And again I received another flurry of 'Are you OK dad?' SMS messages. This time however the entire mobile network went into overload and I was unable to reply by text - but curiously, the fixed line network was 100 per cent perfect, as was email. So I detect a change in the balance of capacity and use of our networks.

The good news is that during both tragedies people could communicate by one mechanism or another over different networks using different devices. I have always felt that safety and security is always enhanced by diversity. Could a single integrated network cope with every situation? I don't know but I suspect not!

The fact that we have just one very dominant OS and Office Applications Suite has clearly increased risk and unreliability for computing systems across the planet. Before we plunge headlong into the creation of a single, all-dancing, all-singing superhighway we need to think and model carefully!

I was in a meeting when the first bombs exploded today, and as the news reports came in, I watched a silence spread as people thought of those poor souls who left home with a happy life this morning. And I watched, and participated, as the mood lifted, the meeting continued, and so did life in the street outside. But then, in the middle of the afternoon, we had to evacuate due to a suspected bomb in the (all glass) building.

I joined the throng of people walking out of the city, heading to the peripheral stations and buses, phones in hand, calling and texting. The mobile network was back to normal, and so was the mood. The conversations I overheard were on one topic, and with one overtone - stuff the terrorists!

Our species is remarkable, and to misquote a line from a movie I saw sometime in my past: the thing I like about the human race is that they are at their very best when things are at their very worst. So too I think is our technology!

What I haven't heard is a single conversation about mobile phones cooking your brain, repetitive strain injury or screen induced eye-strain. All I have heard and seen is the milk of human kindness and concern projected over vast distances by every mode available using whatever network was available at the time.

In this bar, in this hotel, dozens are grouped around a TV watching the news reports, phoning and texting home. And everyone is sparing a thought for those who cannoot

SOURCE: Peter Cochrane's Blog | here

Motorola promotes mesh in wake of London bombings


[ Feature from here ]

From "Wireless: Letting technologies grow together," by Victoria Shannon, International Herald Tribune, 17 July:

"After the July 7 explosions in London, some communications networks held up while others creaked under the sudden surge in demand. In the confusion that ensued, the ubiquitous cellphone could not be relied on to calm the fears of many people desperate for information...

"Motorola's solution for keeping channels open, resilient and useful in an emergency would be 'mesh networks,' a way of combining the wireless 'hot spots' that personal computers now tap into with the Internet voice services that companies like Skype are known for.

"The idea of a mesh network is that it links disparate hot spots into a single, expandable broadband wireless network. In fact, Motorola's chief technology officer said on a visit to the company's research center in Paris last week, telecommunications companies would be better served by the idea of combining technologies to fit a situation - like mesh - rather than warring over which single approach to wirelessness will win in the end...

"In London, such a network could have been particularly useful, [said Padmasree Warrior, Motorola's executive vice president and CTO], because of the thousands of so-called Wi-Fi hot spots that have sprung up there over the past several years to serve portable computer users. With a mesh network, 'You can start with nothing and create the coverage as long as you need it,' Warrior said. 'It's self-forming and self-healing.' Many municipal governments are also looking at this technology to offer low-cost Internet access to government services...


+ Further excerpts:

A handful of small police departments in the United States — in Toledo, Ohio; Wilmington, North Carolina; and Ripon, California — have hired Motorola to enable mesh networks. But trials by emergency services units in New York will probably be the system's biggest so far


While the first mesh networks are coming out in the United States, Warrior said, Motorola is looking at commercial applications outside North America after the company's purchase last year of a small start-up called MeshNetworks.

Geography, Warrior said, determines the research flow less and less over time. Motorola focuses on the 80 percent of a cellphone's features that will be in demand by most customers and lets the remaining 20 percent get customized by region.

''Full mobility, going between networks — that will be something everyone wants,'' she said. ''More and more, people's needs are the same rather than different. That's one thing that globalization has done.''

+ Read full article: Victoria Shannon | Wireless: Letting technologies grow together | International Herald Tribune | 17 July 2005 | here

World Bank memo on spectrum reform

[ Feature from here ]

Björn Wellenius and Isabel Neto have written a 17-page memo for the World Bank on spectrum management reform, emphasizing the potential advantages of "unlicensed commons."

The following excerpt tells the purpose of "The Radio Spectrum: Opportunities and Challenges for the Developing World," which was published on 29 June 2005:

"Spectrum management...has not kept up with major changes in technology, business practice, and economic policy during the last two decades. It lags far behind the development of competitive, private-sector led telecommunications reforms worldwide. A vigorous debate is underway on spectrum reforms to overcome persistent shortcomings of the traditional regime. This debate is accelerating and commanding broad public attention. While it is largely taking place in high-income countries such as the US and Europe, its significance is global. Spectrum reform offers low- and middle-income countries important new opportunities as well as challenges. This paper addresses three questions: What is the case for radio spectrum reform? What is the spectrum debate all about? Why does this matter to developing countries?"

+ Read the full report The Radio Spectrum: Opportunities and Challenges for the Developing World here

Looking to Spectrum for a Networking Utopia / Dewayne Hendricks

Dewayne Hendricks | MuniWireless | Monday, July 25, 2005

What We Want

In network utopia, everyone will be connected across the digital divides of economics and geography. In network utopia, everyone will be connected with enough “bandwidth”—enough bits—that there will no longer be any impediment to innovation. Reaching network utopia may be possible by looking at where the most bits are: radio spectrum. Although spectrum has been treated like a scarce resource for almost one hundred years, today’s emerging technologies are altering this perception. There is actually an abundance of spectrum—more than enough for everyone.


This future is not from the realm of science fiction. The FCC is attempting to grapple with these issues in order to determine the regulations and policies that will affect the governance and use of spectrum for the balance of this century. In 2002 the FCC created a special task force on spectrum policy; the task force produced a report with recommendations on new approaches for spectrum policy and management, and the report has been released for comments from the general public. The comments that were submitted to the FCC on this report will play a significant role in guiding the hand of the FCC as it crafts a set of rules to implement the findings of the task force.

+ Read more here
+ Article subsequently posted on Greater Democracy (28 July 2005):here
+ see also Dewayne Hendricks, Tuesday, May 24, 2005, Some musings on the future of wireless technology, The MediaCenter blog here


+ Related:

Open Spectrum UK event: Wireless Utopias 05, Science Museum, London, 26 May 2005

+ event website here

+ includes: Michael J. Marcus, Sc.D., FIEEE, Thoughts on Basic Issues of Spectrum Policy, May 24, 2005

The basic framework for spectrum policy was developed in the early 20th century under conditions that were very different than today. Indeed, the sinking of the Titanic had a major impact on early policy development. In those days frequency were very limited and the 3-30 MHz band was called “high frequency” because it appeared to be an almost insurmountable limit. Demand for radio communications was expected to be long range and hence exclusive licenses were needed over large areas. There were few options for modulation and other technical parameters so government selection of choices seemed reasonable. It was not expected that enough spectrum would be available for anyone who wanted it so government selection of “haves” and “have nots” seemed reasonable.

Traditional spectrum management is the closest analogy to Soviet-style central planning that exists today outside of Belarus. Traditional spectrum management involves government intervention to balance supply and demand, forecasting when new technologies will become available, and predicting demand for new services. A veteran of the Soviet Union’s GOSPLAN (State General Planning Agency) would feel right at home!


The growing success of Wi-Fi systems in the US and other countries has resulted in a reexamination of the role of unlicensed systems. The previous assumption that unlicensed systems would not attract investment was clearly over simplified. Unlicensed is not longer the step child of the spectrum management community although a controversy continues as too how large a role it should play in the future.

Read more

+ event wiki here
+ includes Dewayne Hendricks presentation:

Unlike the previous speakers, I actually build wireless networks.
Before telegraph, the fastest communication was foot speed or sailing speed
Telegraph moved us from foot speed to light speed.
Marconi began offering commercial service by 1903, within 2 years of his first demonstration of practical wireless communication.

* Very fast uptake

At that time spectrum was a commons.

* Anyone could transmit or receive The sinking of the Titanic changed that and interference became an issue.

A regulatory path started in the US which has now become the FCC.
Spectrum went from a Commons to Property.
Now we face the transition from Light Speed to Warp speed.
Wireless makes points in space stand on top of each other.

2 years ago - Municipal Wireless Infrastructures weren't on the agenda.

* Now most cities in the US are announcing Wifi clouds.
* These are emergent systems - new things coming unpredictably all the time.
* Lots of stuff happening "under the radar"

Municipal wireless uses equipment designed for 300-foot ranges - and makes it go miles.

* Doesn't work perfectly, but works 'Good Enough'

Cheap, disposable equipment - user owned.
This first happened at the beginning of 20th Century

* Now we are doing that again, but at the same time we're in new territory.
* You are the experiment.
* You are the Marconis.

Read more

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

LINUX 2005 Swansea- Wales

Linux 2005
Conference and Tutorials
Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th August
University of Wales, Swansea

+ see conference website here

A wide cross-section of the Linux community will gather in Swansea, Wales for the annual UKUUG Linux Technical Conference. from Thursday 4th August - Sunday 7th August 2005. It's a great way to broaden your knowledge and keep up-to-date with what's happening in the world of linux. This low-cost event is for anyone with a serious interest in linux including systems administrators, linux professionals, developers and enthusiasts from companies and linux user groups throughout the UK and beyond.

Building upon previous years' events, this promises to be a very successful conference. There should be plenty of time for informal discussions. There will be table-top displays on Friday and Saturday.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ofcom research- More broadband, more digital, more mobile

[ Digital Age, More or Less:

* The following explores 2 recent Ofcom reports:

MORE:(1) Ofcom's "More broadband, more digital, more mobile" research finding (-Ofcom Communications Market report), which highlights broadband and digital convergence, the "accelerat(ion) into the digital age" for UK households, and the transformation of traditional industries- telecoms, radio, broadcasting.

Contrast this with the LESS findings in (2) b), Ofcom Focus Report on Wales (Ofcom Consumer Panel research report, Consumers and the Communications Market).

* followed by 3) recent
wider exploration of trends towards digital being, in leading US pundits' commentary on the digital horizon and the embedding of the communications revolution in our everyday lives, with a macro business perspective on The Fifth Wave (Business2.0) and a micro personal connectedness perspective on Continuous Computing (Technology Review)].


(1) Ofcom's second annual Communications Market Report

13|07|05 More broadband, more digital, more mobile - a common picture of accelerating take-up of new products and services

Ofcom today publishes research revealing changes in the communications sector as consumers and businesses adopt digital networks and formats with increasing enthusiasm.

In its second annual Communications Market report, Ofcom has identified a range of new trends in broadband, digital broadcasting and other communications services. These include:
More broadband

* For the first time, there are now more households with broadband than dial-up internet connections. 2005 was the year in which broadband became a genuinely mainstream consumer product, now present in almost 30% of all UK households and businesses and actively considered by many more.
* The number of new broadband connections per week has increased almost fifteen-fold in three years - from 5,500 per week in 2001 to 73,800 per week in 2004. This rapid acceleration in take-up has led to a (provisional) total of 8.1 million connections as of June 2005, more than double the number of connections at the end of 2003. B y the end of 2005, 99.6% of UK homes will be connected to a broadband-enabled exchange.
* A verage broadband connection speeds are also increasing. At the end of 2002, a 512kps connection typically cost £27 a month; as a result of greater competition between providers, a 1 Mbps connection now costs £20 a month.
* The combination of mass-market appeal, rapid growth, falling prices, increasing connection speeds and innovation in video technology means that by 2010, the number of households able to view television over broadband is likely to exceed the number of households dependent on analogue terrestrial broadcasts for all their television viewing.

More digital

* More than 60% of UK households now receive digital television; and every month more than 250,000 households - more than the number of households of a city the size of Sheffield - switch on to digital for the first time or add set-top boxes for additional televisions in the home. 70% of that growth in 2004 was driven by Freeview; by the end of 2004, almost 20% of households (4.6 million) received digital television via Freeview alone.
* In radio, 36% of adults with access to digital television have at some point listened to radio via their sets (up from 29% in 2003) and 19% of adults with internet connections have listened to radio online (up from 15% in 2003). DAB digital radio continues to expand. By the autumn of 2003, 250,000 DAB sets had been sold; by Q1 2005, that figure increased five-fold to 1.5 million.

More mobile

* Total revenues for the mobile telecoms industry now exceed those of fixed-line calls and access as consumer usage of mobile increases, encouraged by price reductions and the emergence of new services. Between 2000 and 2004, the total number of minutes spent making mobile calls in the UK almost doubled (from 34 billion minutes to 62 billion). During the same period, minutes spent making calls over traditional fixed-line networks fell by 6% (from 174 billion minutes to 164 billion). As a consequence, b etween 2003 and 2004, mobile telecoms revenues increased by 16% to £12.3 billion. Revenues from traditional fixed-line voice services fell by 6.2% to £10.5bn from £11.2bn in 2003.


Ofcom Senior Partner, Strategy and Market Developments Ed Richards said: “This report shows that UK households are now accelerating into the digital age. In parallel, industries formed over decades are being reshaped by digital broadcasting and broadband with every month that passes.”

The Communications Market 2005 report is available online at

SOURCE: Ofcom website here


(2) Compare (1) to Ofcom's recent consumer survey:

Consumers and the communications market: where we are now (Ofcom, April 2005).

a)The Ofcom Consumer Panel research report 'Consumers and the communications market: where we are now' along with key findings, plus focus documents on national and consumer segments.

This report details the findings from the market research project commissioned by the Consumer Panel into the current residential consumer and SME experience of the communications market. This will be an annual survey to assess changing consumer concerns year on year, and will be used by the Consumer Panel to inform its work in a number of areas.

The research focused on the residential consumer and SME experience of telecommunications (fixed and mobile), the internet (including broadband) and (for consumers only) broadcasting – including digital switchover – and use of technology.

The two key objectives for the research are to establish:

* What is the level of consumer knowledge regarding what is going on in the communications market and the choices/ alternatives they have now and will have in the future?

* What is the current consumer experience in the communications market?

+ Full report: here
+ Focus report on Wales: Ofcom Consumer Panel Research, Quantitative Research Findings, Focus on Wales (Saville Rositer-Base, April 2005): here

b) Excerpts from Focus report on Wales: Ofcom Consumer Panel Research, Quantitative Research Findings, Focus on Wales (Saville Rositer-Base, April 2005)

Summary of key findings for consumers in Wales compared to UK

•Less likely to have heard of broadband, digital radio and 3G
•Awareness and understanding of digital switchover does not differ from the UK as a whole

Keeping informed
•Less likely to keep informed of developments in communications technologies at all

Ownership, use and satisfaction
•Less likely to have mobile phone or internet at home
•More likely to have digital TV
•Less likely to access the internet at all
•Less likely overall to have ever switched suppliers for their home communications services
•Less likely to be dissatisfied with their home communications services
•More likely to have any difficulties using a TV, but no real difference regarding other technologies

[ie the Focus Report on Wales highlights a digital deficit for Wales- which topic was aired in the recent Welsh Consumer Council conference session A Communications Agenda for Wales: see here]


(3) Wider trends towards digital being...

[Ofcom's upbeat message of "more broadband/digital/mobile" and "acceleration into the digital age", finds an echo in the recent horizon scanning forays of two leading US pundits (both of which highlight wireless internet access)- with a macro business perspective on The Fifth Wave (Business2.0) and a micro personal connectedness perspective on Continuous Computing (Technology Review).]

How to Ride the Fifth Wave
Business 2.0 | Michael V. Copeland, Om Malik | June 15, 2005

Cheap computing, infinite bandwidth, and open standards are powering an epic technological transformation that will churn up huge new opportunities -- and perils for those who can't adapt.

Rick Rashid makes his living staring off into the distance. He's head of Microsoft (MSFT) Research, the software giant's R&D arm, and it's his job to peer far over the horizon to divine where technology is headed. He ponders out-there issues like what each of us could do if there was enough computer storage to save every conversation we have from birth to death, or what happens when giant LCD panels become as cheap as today's whiteboards. Which makes it slightly incongruous that, at the moment, he's sitting in a Victorian-era hotel talking about steam engines.

The setting is San Diego's Hotel del Coronado, built in 1888, and Rashid is explaining how a blast from the past has given him a new notion of the future. On a recent vacation to London, Rashid visited Britain's Science Museum. He lingered before an exhibit of one of James Watt's earliest steam engines and others that followed in various sizes and configurations. It occurred to Rashid that in the 19th century, the answer for every engineering problem was a steam engine. If it was a big problem, it was solved with a big steam engine. Small problem? A small steam engine sufficed. Steam engines were everywhere. The technological muscle they provided sent Britain and ultimately the rest of the world chuffing into the industrial age.
Then it hit him: "I realized that we are coming into a stage now where our version of the steam engine is the microprocessor and software," Rashid says. "We are getting to a point where it is truly cheap and easy enough to put a combination of processors and software into anything, for any reason."

See article here

July 07, 2005 | Computing's "Fifth Wave" | Posted by Wade Roush at July 7, 2005 05:46 PM in Continuous Computing.

In the July issue of Business 2.0, senior writers Michael Copeland and Om Malik argue that computing is entering its fifth wave, an "epic technological transformation" comparable to the introduction of mainframes in the 1960s, minicomputers in the 1970s, personal computers in the 1980s, and networking and the Internet in the 1990s. The three forces feeding this new wave, they say, are cheap, powerful computer hardware, especially mobile phones and handhelds; broadband Internet access from almost anywhere; and "technological openness," meaning the emergence of a "global tinkerer's workshop, where thousands of creative minds are constantly cobbling together code that entrepreneurs and even established businesses can cannibalize, free of charge, for parts to build new software systems."

Now, compare those three forces to the tagline of my Continuous Computing Blog: "Mobile Devices + Wireless Everywhere + Web 2.0 = A Social Revolution." On the first two elements, we're in exact agreement. And what Copeland and Malik call openness, I'm simply calling Web 2.0: a set of standardized, remixable tools for building sophisticated Web-based software services. When I talk about Web 2.0, I have the same examples in mind as those cited by Copeland and Malik (Amazon Web Services, Google's APIs, et cetera).

+ Read more here

+ See related article:

Wade Roush | Social Machines | 5 July 2005 | Reproduced from the print version of Technology Review's August 2005 issue
Continuous computing: the proliferation of cheap mobile gadgets, wireless Internet access for everyone, a new Web built for sharing and self-expression... suddenly, computing means connecting.
See here


Continuous Computing
To grasp how rapidly things are changing, consider all the things you can do today that would have been difficult or impossible just a few years ago: you can query Google via text message from your phone, keep an online diary of the Web pages you visit, download podcasts to your iPod, label your photos or bookmarks with appropriate tags at Flickr or Delicious, store gigabytes of personal e-mail online, listen to the music on your home PC from any other computer connected to the Net, or find your house on an aerial photograph at Google Maps. Most of these applications are free—and the ones coming close behind them will be even more powerful. With more and more phones carrying Global Positioning System (GPS) chips, for example, it’s likely that companies will offer a cornucopia of new location-based information services; you’ll soon be able to find an online review instantly as you drive past a restaurant, or visit a landmark and download photos and comments left by others.
This explosion of new capabilities shouldn’t be mistaken for “feature creep,” the accretion of special functions that has made common programs such as Microsoft Word so mystifyingly complex. There is something different about the latest tools. They are both digital, rooted in the world of electrons and bits, and fundamentally social, built to enable new kinds of interactions among people. Blogging, text messaging, photo sharing, and Web surfing from a smart phone are just the earliest examples. Almost below our mental radar, these technologies are ushering us into a world of what could be called continuous computing—continuous in the usual sense of “uninterrupted,” but also in the sense that it’s continuous with our lives, in all their messy, social, biographical richness.


Computing Is Real Life
It’s clear that new technologies are making computing continuous—meaning both “always on” and “smoothly shading into our real lives.” But what’s actually new about the experience of continuous computing? How is life changing for those with the money to buy a few mobile devices and the time to sign up for Web-based social services?
At bottom, the shift is bringing computing far closer to our everyday experience. We’ve just seen how social software can give us new ways to tap into the collective wisdom of the people in our social groups. But that’s only one consequence of continuous computing. On a more personal level, for example, the portable devices that sustain the information field are more respectful of our bodies and our perambulatory nature. No longer do we have to slouch over desktop computers all day to stay connected to the Net: computing devices have become so small, light, and ergonomic that we can take them almost everywhere. Visit any airport, beach, or city park and you'll see people carrying laptops, cell phones, and dedicated devices such as cameras and music players as naturally as if they were part of their clothing. For people who must take their cell phones absolutely everywhere, there are even "ruggedized" devices like Motorola's new i355 handset, which meets U.S. military specifications for resistance to dust and blowing rain.
Mobility, in turn, has created a demand for software that's sensitive to our ever-changing locations. Already, many cell phones sold in the United States contain systems such as GPS receivers that report users’ whereabouts during 911 calls. So far, few carriers have created ways for third-party software developers to put this location information to other uses, but in time, navigation tools and automatic-access location-specific shopping or dining information will become standard fare for cellular subscribers. In this area, Japanese and South Korean companies are, as usual, showing the way. Tokyo-based cellular provider KDDI, for example, sells phones that use GPS and onscreen maps to guide urban pedestrians to their destinations.
And this, in the end, is what’s truly new about continuous computing. As advanced as our PCs and our other information gadgets have grown, we never really learned to love them. We’ve used them all these years only because they have made us more productive. But now that’s changing. When computing devices are always with us, helping us to be the social beings we are, time spent “on the computer” no longer feels like time taken away from real life. And it isn’t: cell phones, laptops, and the Web are rapidly becoming the best tools we have for staying connected to the people and ideas and activities that are important to us. The underlying hardware and software will never become invisible, but they will become less obtrusive, allowing us to focus our attention on the actual information being conveyed. Eventually, living in a world of continuous computing will be like wearing eyeglasses: the rims are always visible, but the wearer forgets she has them on—even though they’re the only things making the world clear.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wireless Philadelphia chooses three finalists

"Philadelphia is the first major city to announce the deployment of a city-wide wireless Internet, covering 135 square miles..."

Here's the full article:


The Daily Item | Business News | July 21, 2005
Wireless Philadelphia chooses three finalists

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Wireless Philadelphia has chosen three finalists to design, deploy and maintain high-speed wireless Internet access in the city: consortiums led by AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Earthlink.

AT&T has partnered with Lucent and BelAir Networks while Hewlett-Packard’s group encompasses Aptilo Networks, Alvarion, Business Information Group and Tropos. Earthlink linked with Motorola Canopy and Tropos.

Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization overseeing the deployment of a wireless network covering the entire city, gave preference to proposals offering a complete system instead of partial services, said Dianah Neff, the city’s chief information officer who is overseeing the effort.

The nonprofit weighed the merits of 12 proposals — eight of which offered "turnkey" solutions.

Neff said the group considered not only cost but coverage, performance and the technology’s "ability to scale," or expand to accommodate more users.

Wireless Philadelphia will choose the winning proposal July 29 and another one as a backup, Neff said. At that time, negotiations over contract details will begin. Once the seven-year contract is awarded, the chosen group’s performance will be reviewed yearly.

"This is a great opportunity for HP," said Enrique Barkey, worldwide director of the company’s Civilian Agency Solutions unit. The concept of "digital cities is really getting a lot of traction and we want to be a key player in this market."

According to its proposal, HP would act as a sort of project manager, overseeing the creation, integration and maintenance of the system, he said.

Philadelphia is the first major city to announce the deployment of a city-wide wireless Internet, covering 135 square miles. The goal is to give low-income residents access to affordable high-speed Internet services, since the project expects to price services at $16 to $20 a month. The service will be open to all income levels.

"We’re the best deal in town," Neff said.

The cost to deploy, maintain and support the project is estimated between $15 million and $18 million, Neff said. It will be financed by bonds, foundation grants and low-interest bank loans. The initiative, which should go live by next summer, expects to see positive cash flow in its second year of operations.

Wireless Internet speeds are expected to range from 1 to 3 megabits-per-second, Neff said. That’s comparable to digital subscriber line, or DSL, speeds.

The city will own the network and sell space to Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, such as Earthlink. In turn, the ISP will deal directly with the customer. Consumers who want wireless Internet access inside buildings or homes will likely need to get a bridge or a router, which Neff estimates as costing anywhere from under $85 to as much as $130.

But ISPs vying for customers might offer discounted or free equipment with one-year contracts.

Neff also said she’s talking with DirecTV and Echostar, which owns DISH Network. The two satellite TV giants offer high-speed Internet access through partner ISPs.

Ron Sege, president and chief executive of Tropos, a maker of Wi-Fi mesh equipment that’s a partner in two proposal finalists, estimates that more than 300 U.S. cities and towns will be involved in municipal Wi-Fi projects by the end of the year.

"This is a very rapidly growing phenomenon," he said.

His company’s products are used in about 200 cities nationwide, where customers pay $20 or less a month for wireless Internet access, Sege said. In Chaska, Minn., consumers pay $16 a month.

The wholesale cost to operate and maintain the network runs about $8 to $10 per subscriber and the ISPs charge about double the rate, Sege said.

Municipal Wi-Fi’s pose a threat of varying degrees to phone and cable companies. Verizon has been more vocal about municipal Wi-Fi cutting into its high-speed Internet business, but Comcast Corp. also is getting a bit worried.

The nation’s biggest cable company has approached the mayor and members of the City Council "one on one" to express its concerns, Neff said.

The cable operator said it sees flaws with Philadelphia’s wireless undertaking.

"Based upon our understanding of the current Wireless Philadelphia approach, we are skeptical of the plan’s feasibility," said David Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president and a former top city official, in a statement. "Investment in a competitive, challenging and risky business like broadband is something better left to private companies, not taxpayers or quasi-governmental entities. We do not believe that it is appropriate public policy for the government to subsidize our competitors."

Neff counters that phone and cable companies were subsidized for building telecommunications infrastructures — not only in terms of tax breaks, but cable companies were given a monopoly over the areas they service.

See the full article here

Saturday, July 16, 2005

"Making it happen - Consumer policy in Wales" - Broadband and ICT

Paul N Squires | Oportunity Wales Weblog | 11 July 2005

As part of last Thurday's event "Making it Happen - Consumer Policy in Wales" in Cardiff, the afternoon's agenda was devoted to broadband. Communications and policy expert John Wilson, and head of the Broadband Stakeholder Group in Wales, Charlie Bass, are the afternoon's hosts. We were on-line in City Hall and I was blogging the sessions as they are presented. The following text comprises a series of notes on what was discussed...

John Wilson:
- Post-devolution Wales is shifting from an industrial to a knowledge economy

Michael Eaton, Welsh Assembly Government, Broadband Wales:
- ME has a policy, strategy, and operational unit. Wales must have the best affordable, available roadband infrastructure, to support what people and businesses want, and to support better government = enabling technology. It's an interesting position to sit - to improve stakeholder opportunities - in the value chain.

Rhodri Williams, Ofcom:
- Ofcom has a wide spectrum of responsibility. It is trying to rethink regulatory strategy, and to concentrate firepower on those which most need it, and get out of "microregulation". Ofcom's duties concern how things are managed; provision of services; and protection. Ofcom has representation on the concent board and consumer panel for Wales, and an Advisory Panel for Wales

Charlie Bass, The ITC and Broadband Stakeholders Group
- What is a consumer? There are two ends of this - people act and react to technologies in different ways.

Nich Pearson, Welsh Consumer Council:
- There is a gap between where improvements are happening, and where they are not. There are poor service deliveries to remote areas - not just broadband, but TV.

Read full posting here

Welsh telecoms regulation is weak and inappropriate

Marjorie Delwarde | pingwales | Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Issues related to devolution, regulation, geography and finance were addressed at a Welsh Consumer Council event held last week at Cardiff City Hall. The workshop discussing the communications agenda for Wales engaged key stakeholders in a lively debate on how to deliver the benefits of new technology to their Welsh consumers.

‘The Communications Agenda for Wales: Delivering the benefits for all' workshop was chaired by John Wilson, consultant and member of the Broadband Stakeholder Group. The expert panel comprised Michael Eaton, director of Broadband Wales, Welsh Assembly Government, Rhodri Williams, director of Ofcom Wales, Charles Bass, chair of the Wales Broadband Stakeholder Group, and Dr Nich Pearson, director of the Welsh Consumer Council.

Wilson kicked off the debate with an introduction to the situation in Wales in terms of regulation, infrastructure and digital divide. As Cardiff has recently been chosen as BT's UK pilot city for the rollout of its new IP-based 21st Century Network, the question of Wales' communications agenda has never been so critical.

According to Wilson, the challenge is to converge policy agendas. Technology is there but it needs bridges and people to join things up. He also shared his vision of a gigabit Wales in 2015, before inviting Michael Eaton to speak.

Eaton began by pointing out a few misconceptions regarding ICT and broadband. According to him, ICT is there to support other things happening, such as to improve people's lifestyle, business opportunities and public services. As for broadband, he expressed his great surprise at the way the industry is marketing this technology.

He commented, "For whatever reason, the industry (BT, NTL, Freeserve) is still fixated by ‘you can get high-speed internet'. I actually find it very bizarre as a marketer because it doesn't point out any benefits that you're going to get as a consumer as a result of using this technology."

He also stated that finance was a crucial issue. "What we are trying to do is to get out of the way. For me, success is not having my team exist. We only exist because the market place doesn't seem to be delivering what the citizens and businesses in Wales want naturally and this is because of finance and historically it had to do with regulatory behaviour and the predecessors to Ofcom," he explained.

He concluded that the marketplace has to educate consumers, though he admitted this takes time. As technology is moving faster and faster, it is difficult for anyone to come to terms with it. However he stressed that there is no point assuming that just because we like broadband, the rest of the world likes it too.

Rhodri Williams followed with a presentation of Ofcom and its role as a regulator in Wales, modelled on the US regulatory body Federal Communications Commission. Ofcom consults widely with stakeholders and carries out extensive market research while trying to maintain a light-touch approach to regulation. Since its inception in 2003, the UK regulator has published findings of its reviews into public service broadcasting, the telecommunications industry and spectrum liberalisation and trading. (...)

Then it was Charles Bass' turn to introduce the Wales Broadband Stakeholder Group and its role in contributing to the Welsh broadband strategy. He highlighted a growing trend which sees consumers becoming increasingly demanding and questioned whether Welsh businesses would keep pace with national and international competition as consumers increasingly opt for service reliability over regional loyalty.

Bass also remarked that he spends 40 per cent of his time travelling by car between North and South Wales, and has found that he lacks mobile coverage in the middle of Denbigh, at St Asaph and on the A55. He criticised the Welsh Assembly Government for using the term 'ubiquitous coverage' when in fact it means 'selective coverage' at best. He rebuked the government for focusing more on the macroeconomic environment, notably along the M4 corridor, than the microeconomic environment found in rural areas.

Nich Pearson closed the debate. He cast a pessimistic view of the Welsh communications industry, declaring that Wales suffers from weak and inappropriate regulation. Not only is mobile coverage in Wales extremely poor, said Pearson, but even basic services like mobile phone and television reception present a problem in rural areas in Wales.

He said: "We have a history of problems with TV signals with conventional aerials. We have problems with digital freeview reception in Newport. We have the problem with the slow roll-out of cable services in certain areas." The geographical issue in particular left him perplexed. Even in the Portuguese mountains he was able to have full mobile coverage, so why not in Wales?

+ Read full article here

+ Related postings:

  • Cardiff 1905-2005 : From the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution: here
  • Broadband comes under Welsh consumer policy scrutiny: here
  • Welsh Consumer Council Conference- Making it Happen: Consumer Policy in Wales: here

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

WalesBSG- Meeting, Anglesey, 3 Aug 2005/ Anglesey Connected wireless project


Next meeting:Wed 3 Aug 2005, Anglesey
Hosted by Anglesey County Council (Barry Eaton)

Treadbury Bay Hotel
Car parking available

Other recommended accomodation:

Meet for coffee 10h00
Meeting starts 10h30
Lunch will be provided
Target close 14h30

NB this is Eisteddfod week, so please allow plenty of extra time for travel!



As Secretary I just sent out invites to the meeting. Our agenda will include a presentation on the Anglesey Connected project by our host, Anglesey County Council. I did a google for the project, and noticed that google ads offered me links for wi-fi hotspots. Here's some of the results...

Its interesting to see the Parliamentary profile that Anglesey Connected assumed, around Jan 2004, when Parliamentary debate- and pressure- focussed upon the broadband deficit in the UK, and before the incumbent telco's aggressive ADSL roll-out strategy. Wireless was seen as a strategic last mile solution for rural areas. We note the "technology neutral" response, in government's reply to the Opposition's suggestion that Anglesey Connected "offers solutions as to how availability and take-up of high-speed Internet services might be rolled out more widely throughout the United Kingdom". Note that Anglesey connected affirms an Island-wide broadband solution beyond a "first generation"-ADSL broadband product:

"'First generation' broadband - ADSL and equivalent is a first step but is very much a half way house. The product cannot therefore be considered a viable strategic solution for broadband access and availability for the Island".

Looking ahead, wireless will remain a strategic last mile/first mile broadband solution for Wales- alongside the structural factors of the "remote and rural areas" agenda and the issue of backhaul].



The Council of the Isle of Anglesey
Anglesey Connected Cyswllt Mon

Broadband Britain Challenge Champion 2003

Broadband on Anglesey

The issue of broadband availability and access is one of increasing concern on the Island. At this time the only broadband offering is via BT and their ADSL product, which has limitations in its access and availability.

'First generation' broadband - ADSL and equivalent is a first step but is very much a half way house. The product cannot therefore be considered a viable strategic solution for broadband access and availability for the Island.

There has been no taker for the available ITC licence to provide broadband services to the Island despite initial optimism. It therefore falls upon the Isle of Anglesey County Council to lead developments in this field in order to achieve the aims and objectives of the Assembly, Lifelong Learning initiative, Peoples Network and other similar projects, by the installation and implementation of a comprehensive and cost efficient solution which can ultimately be utilised by all sectors of the community wherever they may reside on the Island.

Anglesey Connected

‘Anglesey Connected’ is a new and innovative wireless broad-band Internet access project worth an initial £1.3 million and is the first network of its kind in the U.K.. Funding has been received through the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), National Grid for Learning, New Opportunities Fund and Objective One ERDF together with monies from the Local Regeneration Fund.

The project will create the infrastructure for a broad-band community network across the whole Island.

See web-page here

Islanders get connected

BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | Islanders get connected | Friday, 28 March, 2003
The Anglesey Connected project will create a broadband network across the whole island, and has been made possible because of £1.3m of funding under the European Union's Objective One scheme...

Read full article here

2003 Broadband Britain Challenge Champion for Wales award winner

See press release here: | Groupe Pathfinder link all of Anglesey’s schools and libraries with broadband network | 21 Aug 2003 |

Lords Hansard text for 5 Jan 2004 (240105w07)
Written Answers Monday, 5 January 2004:

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they consider that the Anglesey Connected programme, aimed at providing high speed Internet access to public sector institutions and facilities on the island of Anglesey, offers solutions as to how availability and take-up of high-speed Internet services might be rolled out
more widely throughout the United Kingdom.[HL506]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Anglesey Connected solution is one of many different methods of delivering broadband in the UK. The Government do not intend to promulgate a particular system of broadband delivery UK-wide. Our approach is to leave decisions on broadband delivery to those best placed to make them, taking account of all the relevant considerations.

See here

Lords Hansard text for 14 Jan 2004 (240114-14)
Internet and Broadband Access:

The Earl of Northesk:

(...) I would not like the Minister, to imagine that I have been unduly critical. There are encouraging elements in some of their approaches to broadband. I am aware of recent developments such as Ofcom's decision to open up the 5.8 gigahertz band to wireless service providers. That should facilitate the deployment of broadband, particularly in rural areas. As the Minister, Stephen Timms, has said:

"there will be cases where the market will not deliver and targeted support may well be needed. Where the lack of broadband availability is a limiting factor in economic regeneration, that can be a justification for using existing funds for regional economic development".

That is a very welcome policy stance, albeit its virtue is dependent upon appropriate action being taken. Happily, like the noble Lord, Lord St John, I can extol the merits of the DTI's broadband aggregation project as a potential means of filling some of the gaps in broadband availability. Indeed, in that context, I have been very impressed by the Anglesey Connected programme and the imaginative way in which it has been used to extend the reach of broadband and the potential use of "piggy-backing" in that part of Wales. The key point is that, as BT has observed, the Government have to be seen to be utilising broadband capabilities, if at all possible in partnership with local communities and the private sector, in their own delivery of services. That would do a great deal to unlock both availability and take-up.

See here

Getting connected on the move: Online hot-spot finders for Anglesey (also spelt Anglessey); google mobile

Online hot-spot finders: try for yourself, here's a sample:

Anglessey: 1 result
Holyhead: 4 results
Did you know that myHotspots are now resellers for BT Openzone credit
vouchers? Find a link under every BT Openzone hotspot listed...

Holyhead: 3 results

SMS Hotspot Locator
Text the word hotspot to 80010 to find your nearest hotspot. BOZII's SMS hotspot locator allows you to find your nearest hotspot quickly and cheaply. Text the word hotspot to 80010 from your mobile phone and message will be return within a few seconds informing you of closest location. It does this by working out the physical location of your phone and then compares the longitude/latitude results to our hotspot database.

Need info on the move? Try google mobile (UK):

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ofcom Consultation: Cave Audit of Spectrum Holdings


The Chancellor announced in his December 2004 Pre-Budget Report that Professor Martin Cave would conduct a comprehensive independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings (IASH), with the aim of releasing the maximum amount of spectrum to the market and increasing opportunities for the development of innovative new services.

The public sector is the single biggest user of UK radio spectrum, with many holdings dating back to a time of limited demand and relatively unsophisticated technologies. The IASH has been established to determine the scope for increased commercial access to this spectrum to meet the growing demand for new wireless services. It builds on the principles set out in Martin Cave’s 2002 Review of Radio Spectrum Management, which set out the rationale for allocating the spectrum through market processes but did not examine specific spectrum allocations in any detail. As a result of the 2002 Review Ofcom is currently implementing spectrum liberalisation for private sector spectrum, to increase efficiency and innovation. However in some some cases, especially in the public sector, spectrum liberalisation alone cannot deliver optimal allocation into the future.

See the IASH website here



  • See the consultation document here
  • see HM Treasury press release here
  • Responses should be sent by 1st September to: responses[at]
7 July 2005

Professor Martin Cave today invited views on issues that he will address in his Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings, which focuses primarily on public sector holdings. These issues are set out in a consultation document and interested parties are encouraged to respond to the issues raised, which indicate the proposed direction of the Audit.

The radio spectrum is a valuable, finite resource. In the 2004 Pre-Budget Report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer commissioned an Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings. The Audit is focusing on bands below 15GHz used by the public sector and fixed links and concentrating on those with the most potential for use by commercial organisations. Professor Martin Cave was asked to investigate whether these frequencies are being used as efficiently as possible and to review the effectiveness of incentives for making efficient use of spectrum.

The consultation document:

* identifies specific bands which may have the potential for more effective use;
* proposes that in the future the public sector will need to meet new spectrum demands through market mechanisms in all but exceptional cases;
* expresses support for public bodies being able to trade spectrum rights– and benefit from doing so – if they wish, and addresses possible barriers to this;
* assesses the need for the public sector to adopt a more strategic approach to spectrum management, suggesting that the UK Spectrum Strategy Committee (UKSSC) should produce a regular forward look of public sector spectrum needs;
* examines possibilities for improving Administrative Incentive Pricing, including extending it in some areas, e.g. in the aeronautical sector, and changes to better reflect band sharing;
* sets out the Audit’s intention to encourage more band sharing, through clarification of the incentive structure and the possibility of engaging a third party to facilitate the process;
* addresses specific organisational issues which may be preventing more efficient use of the spectrum holdings such as procurement processes and information sharing.

Professor Martin Cave said:

“Radio spectrum is a valuable resource. The public sector is the largest user of this resource, for which there has been - and is likely to continue to be – growing commercial demand. It is therefore important to ensure that effective use is being made of these holdings. The introduction of market mechanisms into spectrum management will introduce both challenges and opportunities for the public sector. These need to be addressed, and mechanisms put in place to incentivise efficient use of these major holdings, now and in the future, while safeguarding the operation of essential security and safety of life services. I would encourage all those with an interest in these issues – public sector uses and those commercial users who might benefit from the changes we are suggesting – to contribute to this consultation. ”

The closing date for responses is 1st September 2005. Professor Cave will publish his recommendations and Final Report ahead of the Pre-Budget Report 2005.


1. The Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings was commissioned by Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, as part of the Pre-Budget Report in 2004. The remit of the Audit covers public sector use of spectrum, and extends to commercial Fixed Links spectrum use (as an area where the market alone may not deliver an optimal outcome in terms of spectrum efficiency). The public sector is the single biggest user of UK radio spectrum and the Audit will determine the efficiency of use of these holdings and scope for improving this.

2. Professor Martin Cave is Director of the Centre for Management under Regulation at Warwick Business School. He specialises in regulatory economics, especially in the communications sector. He is the author of the Independent Review of Spectrum Management (2002), commissioned by the UK Government to investigate the changing role of regulation in spectrum.

3. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services. It is responsible for spectrum management issues for approximately 70% of the radio spectrum that is used by commercial organisations. In January 2005 it set out a comprehensive programme of potential spectrum awards over a number of years.

4. Media enquiries: see website here

EC consultation: Wireless Access Platforms for Electronic Communications Services

On 24 June, the European Commission's Radio Spectrum Policy Group launched a public consultation on "Wireless Access Platforms for Electronic Communications Services" (WAPECS).

WAPECS is a generic term suited to a "technology neutral" approach to spectrum management, and it has emerged as a central theme in RSPG's work programme for 2005-6.

The consultation document defines WAPECS as "the platforms used for radio access to electronic communications services, regardless of the bands in which they operate, or the technology they use." However, a recent survey of EU member countries found that "a wide range of frequency bands was identified for WAPECS, the majority being for licence-exempt operation."

The 20-page consultation document can be downloaded here.

"Comments received, from both Member States and other interested parties, will be considered in developing an RSPG Opinion on WAPECS. The intention is to develop a draft Opinion for consideration by the RSPG at its next meeting in late November 2005."

Comments should be sent via email to infso-rspg[at] by 15 September 2005.

[ Source: Open Spectrum Foundation news page here ]

Friday, July 08, 2005

Cardiff 1905-2005 : From the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution

This posting follows yesterday's event:

The Communications Agenda for Wales workshop session, at the Welsh Consumer Council conference Making it Happen: Consumer Policy in Wales, Cardiff City Hall, 7 July 2005. See here for my background materials for the conference session.

In my introduction as Chair I engaged in a historical reflection upon our location in Cardiff City Hall. As this year is the 100th anniversary of Cardiff as a City 1905-2005, I'll indulge a little further in this theme:


Cardiff 1905-2005 : From the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution

The locus of Cardiff City Hall provides a useful vantage point for historical reflection, as this year is the 100th Anniversary of Cardiff as a City.

1 Cardiff 1905: The Industrial Revolution

Cardiff City Hall: the visible emblem of the wealth and power of Cardiff and the South Wales coalfield
  • architectural signifier of the triumph of the public municipal sphere
  • Civic boosterism: "Coal Metropolis Cardiff", "The Welsh Metropolis", "The Chicago of Wales"
  • City status 1905 : New Town Hall (Villa Cardiff) opened in 1903(?), thence used as Cardiff City Hall
  • the UK's first planned civic centre, Cardiff's civic architectural vision finds a root in the 1893 Chicago Exposition
2 Cardiff 2005: The Digital Revolution?

Signs of the Digital Revolution?

Welsh Assembly Government policy: ICT is a key component of economic development and regeneration strategy:

  • ICT strategy framework, "Broadband Wales": programme vision for the transition of Wales from an industrial to a knowledge economy
  • Increased availability and improved take-up of broadband is expected to generate a step-change that will help to underpin the successful transition (of Wales) from an industrial to a modern, knowledge economy. (- Broadband Wales Unit, Welsh Assembly Government)
Telecoms- this week's big news:
  • BT and Welsh Assembly leaders announce that Cardiff will be the UK pilot for BT's 21CN- to deliver next generation network and services:
  • Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government, said: “It’s incredibly exciting for us that Wales has been selected to provide the test bed for BT’s new 21st Century Network. The Welsh economy is thriving and growing. This investment by BT clearly signifies that Cardiff and central South Wales is one of Europe’s most dynamic and progressive regions. The end result will transform our personal and business lives, and help attract high tech industry and services to Wales.”

3 Network Economy

C19 network economy:
  • coal
  • the world of railways and coal
  • railway networks colonizing the globe, imperial trade (See Lenin's Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism)
C20 network economy:
  • IP- Internet Protocol
  • the world of digital networks
  • "the weightless economy"
The essential continuity across the industrial and the digital eras is the persistence of the network economy. A world in which infrastructure and the economics of networks structure the spheres of the possible, our daily lives enmeshed in a global network of trade and communications, within which each individual node contributes to and benefits from the power of the network.

4 The theme of invisibility (1): from bits to bites

Invisibility- the transformation from an industrial to a digital landscape?

Industrial Revolution:
  • a monumental landscape of power
  • coalfield/docks/civic centre
Digital Revolution:
  • an invisible landscape?
  • fibre, wireless (spectrum)
Invisibility- the shift from moving bits to moving bites (Negroponte).

Raymond Williams spoke of the Long Revolution in tracing the dynamics of progressive change from the industrial revolution to the post-'45 social democratic settlement. The invisible revolution emerges as a characterisation of the permanent revolution of technology and our current phase of modernity.

5 American Wales: From the Industrial Frontier to the New Electronic Frontier

The spectacular urban-industrial landscape of iron works, coal mines, railways, docks, and civic architecture was all-encompassing in its transformations- a scale and rapidity of growth such that Cardiff was dubbed "The Chicago of Wales".

It has been said that there is more fibre underground in Cardiff Bay than there is in the City of London and that Cardiff Bay is second only to San Francisco- a new urban mythology, a new genre of digital boosterism?

At its official launch in November 2002 Cardiff community network Arwain deployed a 802.11 licence-exempt broadband wireless connection 7 km across water from Flat Holm to Cardiff Bay - a conscious following in the footsteps of Marconi's world's first wireless transmission across water from Flat Holm.

Because of the link with US pioneer Dave Hughes of Colorado, Cardiff's pioneering community wireless networking activities drew more attention from American commentators than closer to home. With no-licence wireless an exemplar of the revolution at the edge of the network, grassroots innovation in Wales was suddenly a vital node on the global map.

Former CTO for BT Peter Cochrane debated the American-Welsh wireless future in the East Coast based Cook Report on Internet. Californian sociologist-seer of the digital revolution Howard Rehingold's Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (2002) included a chapter sub-heading "Tonga, Mongolia, the Rez and Wales: The New Electronic Frontiers":
While Hendricks was unwiring North American Indian reservations, Hughes paid a visit to the land of "nine generations of rebellious Welsh Minister forebears" (...) An activist from Wales came to Old Colorado City to videotape Hughes proclaiming his vision for the future of Welsh telecommunications. The video is online- a remarkable combination of tour, demo, how-to, and polemic. In the activists video, Hughes emphasizes the same benefit to local small businesses he pushes in rural Colorado: Wireless broadband isn't just bringing more things to consume and buy but offers a channel to create, sell, and promote their local point of view to the rest of the world. (...)
The view from the year 2005? We are still in frontier territory, with a sketchy and yet increasingly confused map :
  • In the year 2005 the Wireless Vision for Wales of the year 2000 still persists - of user-producer and community empowerment, of Wales as a producer of value and not just a consumer of other people's products and services.
  • Yet over time the signal-to-noise ratio has diluted, as we experience a resurgent telco-centric promise for the delivery of the future.
Rheingold's words of 2002 will ring in our ears yet:
While the United States and other nations tie up the development of their communication systems because of the investment by telephone companies in 3G licences, watch places like Wales to see the future media sphere emerge first. Or visit Okinawa, which some policy analysts in Japan are pushing to become a "radio haven" for the development and deployment of advanced wireless technologies.
- as we either navigate a migratory path forward (- effective deployment of wireless technologies, with particular reference to licence-exempt rights of access to the radio spectrum), or else we wander in the dis-connected wilderness.

6 The theme of invisibility (2): Radio spectrum, The Invisible Wealth of Nations

Three key structural areas have been asserted for the Broadband agenda for Wales (from an infrastructure and access perpsective):
  • the remote and rural agenda
  • backhaul, backhaul, backhaul!
  • a strategic role for wireless as a first mile/ last mile broadband solution
Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations laid the foundation for classical political economy. Adam Smith spoke of the "invisible hand" that regulates the individual's pursuit of self-interest- that is the market mechanism that works for the greater common good, the Wealth of Nations.

The radio spectrum presents the new frontier of the digital revolution- what we may call the "Invisible Wealth of Nations" (- cf Levin's "invisible resource").

Current spectrum management policy has enshrined a neo-liberal economic model- "the invisible hand" (the market mechanism)- for the "invisible resource"(radio spectrum).

"I gave a presentation to the Assembly the other week", said the Ofcom Wales Director at our conference session, "and was asked 'but what is spectrum'?- and so I show this slide" [- showing a powerpoint slide of Ofcom's standard diagrammatic representation of the electromagnetic spectrum- the mindset of managing spectrum according to bands].

Now contemplate Einstein's famous "No Cat" analogy for describing radio:
  • "You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."
So how do we make the invisible resource visible ? how do we make the invisible hand visible? - How do we achieve an understanding that the radio spectrum is a strategic national resource, and that the public interest has to be engaged? That it not be left to the vaunted "market mechanism" alone?

We are left chasing Maxwell's Rainbow ( see George Gilder's Telecosm)



The Cook Report on Internet

Howard Rheingold

George Gilder, Telecosm: The World After Bandwidth Abundance (2000)

  • "The supreme abundance of the telecosm is the electromagnetic spectrum..."

  • "The discovery of electromagnetism, and its taming in a mathematical system, was the paramount achievement of the nineteenth century and the first step into the telecosm. The man who did it was the great Scottish physicist James Clark Mawell. In his honour, we will call the spectrum Maxwell's rainbow. Today most of world business in one way or another is pursuing the pot of gold at the end of it" (Chapter 1, Maxwells' Rainbow).