Wednesday, December 20, 2006

UK: "Digital Dividend" consultants oppose license-free use

UK: "Digital Dividend" consultants oppose license-free use; Ofcom invites other views

Yesterday, UK telecom regulator Ofcom issued a Consultation paper on future uses of the "Digital Dividend" - the frequencies to be released when TV broadcasters migrate from analog to digital transmission.

At the same time, they released a related set of "preparatory reports" by several teams of consultants.

There is a significant difference of opinion between Ofcom and the consultants on the question of whether to reserve "Digital Dividend" frequencies for license exempt applications.

This difference leads Ofcom to encourage the public to use the just-launched consultation to provide better arguments and new proposals for worthwhile license exempt applications in the UHF band.


Yet Ofcom is willing to give license exempt use the benefit of the doubt - at least at this stage of the Review:

"...we propose to make available channel 69 for wireless microphones and similar low power devices such as in-ear monitors; we also propose to deregulate access to most or all of this spectrum, by making access free, on demand, to users, without the need for a licence;

"...we are keen to investigate other potential innovative uses of the spectrum, but so far we have received few specific proposals. We are seeking to gather more evidence through this consultation, so we can make a more informed judgement next year on whether additional spectrum should be set aside for possible low power uses. We are also undertaking a wider review of how to facilitate more licence-exempt use of spectrum...

"[We] are also inviting views on the case for holding back a small amount of spectrum - cleared or interleaved - as an 'innovation reserve'. This would be against the possibility of major technological developments - such as new low power uses - that could find it difficult to access the rest of the spectrum..."

Thus, the 8th question posed in the consultation document deals with these issues:

"Do you consider that additional spectrum from the digital dividend should be reserved for low power applications? If so, please provide as much evidence as possible about the nature of the application and its potential value to society."

The public consultation period began 19 December and runs to 20 March 2007. Details about how to submit comments can be found on the Digital Dividend Review home page.

Friday, December 01, 2006

BT plans to build Wi-Fi networks in cities

[December 1, 2006] BT plans multi-city Wi-Fi in U.K

Hotspot Hits
By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

December 1, 2006

BT plans to build Wi-Fi networks in cities across the United Kingdom. And to get started, it has picked at least one major partner. Motorola will “design, deploy and manage city-wide Wi-Fi networks” — specifically, mesh networks — built under the BT Openzone brand. The companies will begin with six out of 12 planned cities, including Birmingham and Newcastle. The six other cities, including Westminster, will expand use of Cisco equipment already has in place, but BT has yet to reveals who it will work with. Of course, not everyone is happy about BT’s plans. For once it’s not people who think Wi-Fi makes them sick, the other growing wireless trend in the U.K. This time, it’s just good old-fashioned vendor rivalry. System integrator React Technologies told TechWorld it’s upset that these very public-oriented projects were not put out to the market for bids. React works with mesh equipment from Strix Systems. BT says it didn’t want to delay things, but may do a formal public tender for services in the future. Other providers, such as CitySpace (which will unwire 3 square kilometers of Bristol and expand the “Technology Mile” section of Islington), attack the BT deployments for not being free. The Cloud accuses BT of lacking openness by limiting the applications users can run on the networks. Overall, the BT expansion will help them further push a fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) service called Fusion.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

First customers go live on BT's 21st century network

Press Release | 28 November, 2006

BT made communications history today with the transfer of the first customer lines to its 21st Century Network (21CN), the world’s most advanced next generation network. As planned, BT has started to move customers in the village of Wick, near Cardiff, to the next generation infrastructure. The upgrade, which took place without the need for an engineer visit, new telephone, or a new telephone number, is part of the first phase of the national roll-out of 21CN.

21CN will bring a range of benefits to businesses and consumers over years to come. New voice, data, broadband and multimedia services will be delivered quicker and cheaper than before, including faster broadband. 21CN will also give customers more control over the way they use their services.

The migration of the first customers to 21CN is a landmark event in BT’s next generation network programme. To reach this important milestone BT has re-built around ten per cent of the UK’s core national communications infrastructure, installed 21CN equipment at over 100 sites across the UK, and laid more than 2,300 kilometres of new fibre optic cable in South Wales. BT has also invested more than 1,500 man years in developing new IT systems to support the new network.

Reaching this major milestone has also been the result of pan-industry collaboration through Consult21, a forum which provides a regular open platform for all communications providers to understand and influence BT’s plans for 21CN. This includes the details of the roll-out programme, as it affects hundreds of communications providers across the UK.

Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale and BT board sponsor for the 21CN programme said, “Today marks a symbolic and momentous occasion for BT, the communications industry and for the UK as 21CN, over three years in the making, starts to become real for customers. Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call 130 years ago – we are also making history with the first live UK customer calls using a carrier class, all IP network. Years of research and development, network build and design, rigorous trials and testing, together with open collaboration with the communications industry have culminated in this historic moment. A network transformation on this scale has not been attempted anywhere else in the world – it’s happening now in South Wales, and the rest of the UK will follow over the next few years.”

Following the first phase of customer migrations in Wick, customers in Cardiff, Bridgend and the Pontypridd area will be the next to have their voice and broadband services transferred to 21CN. By the end of summer 2007, around 350,000 customer lines in South Wales are expected to have been migrated to the new infrastructure.

When complete, 21CN will deliver existing and new converged communications services to homes and businesses nationwide. BT believes that the underlying network and the new services it will create, including the first nationwide wholesale broadband service offering planned speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s, will make converged communications faster, more efficient and more cost effective than ever before.

BT connects first customers to all-IP network

BT connects first customers to all-IP network
BT's next-gen telecom network goes live in ambitious move to offer consumers 'triple play' services

By John Blau, IDG News Service
November 28, 2006

More than 100 consumers in the U.K. village of Wick are among the first customers to be connected to BT Group's next-generation telecommunications network, which went live Tuesday.

The BT 21st Century Network, dubbed 21CN, is one of the most ambitious network overhauls of its kind in the world. Instead of using traditional circuit-switched systems to transport phone calls, the U.K. operator is switching its entire networking infrastructure to IP (Internet Protocol) technology.

The move to an all-IP network will allow BT to offer consumers and businesses "triple-play" voice, data and video services over a single ADSL2+ (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband connection, at speeds up to 24Mbps. Among the new services supported by the network are VOIP (voice over IP) and IPTV.

At the same time, the move will allow the operator to lower operating costs. It expects to save around £1 billion ($1.9 billion) per year as a result of the network overhaul. Total cost of the overhaul is estimated at £10 billion.

By mid-2007, BT plans to have switched more than 350,000 lines to its next-generation network, according BT spokeswoman Anna Easton. "We aim to use the first phase as a learning period," she said.

The operator aims to have "the bulk" of the country's 30 million lines converted to IP by the end the decade, Easton said.

As part of its carrier wholesale operations, BT will resell capacity over its new network to around 400 telecommunications service providers in the country.

21CN is an advanced IP broadband network system based on intelligent systems, such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), which allows the service provider to control the communications activity to meet a customer's requirements, and MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching), which enables the efficient designation and routing of IP traffic flows.

BT launched its 21CN project around three years ago, according to Easton.

Jump-Starting the New Economy with Fiber

By Masha Zager
Oct 23, 2006, 12:26

Once a country of coal mines and steel mills, Wales is now a high-tech hub. Fiber optic connectivity is key to the country’s transformation.

Two generations ago, Wales was famous for its coal mines and its steel mills – an economy dominated by heavy industry and a history of labor unrest. Today, this region of the United Kingdom is a high-tech hub, with companies in the vanguard of software design, digital media, opto-electronics, telematics, automotive design, bioscience and many other advanced technologies.

How did the country make the transition from the old economy to the new one? By leveraging assets left from the old economy, creating new ones, and bringing them all together in new ways. Fiber optic networks are an important piece of the puzzle.

Old Assets, New Purposes

One legacy of the old heavy-industry economy – because steel mills use a lot of energy – was a high-capacity electrical grid in South Wales. The abundant supply of electricity made the area attractive for large data centers, which also have enormous requirements for electricity. The existence of data centers then became a driver for further investment.

Another legacy was the fiber optic infrastructure that had been built by the British military. Much of this fiber infrastructure was eventually decommissioned by the military, and the dark fiber became available for civilian use.

A final important asset was the educational system. Wales is home to a major national university and a number of smaller educational institutions, some of which have outstanding scientific research facilities. Currently about a quarter of the students graduate in high-tech disciplines.

A digital media industry sprang up around Cardiff, the Welsh capital, in part because the area’s low rents were attractive to startup companies and in part because the Welsh-language television station located there had trained a pool of workers skilled at developing content that could be easily dubbed, like animation. (English-language television stations have never had to worry about exporting their content.) Web designers and facilities companies followed on the heels of the film and television producers.

Promoting Business Investment

The Welsh government has successully courted foreign investment with grants and other incentives, along with information about the country’s fiber optic lines, data centers, skilled workers and university research facilities. More than 200 North American companies, including Ford, General Electric and Dow Corning now operate in Wales.

But the government also focuses on developing homegrown high-tech companies. The 18 Centres of Excellence, or university-industry partnerships, have benefited local companies as well as multinationals, leading to breakthroughs in fields ranging from machine communications to radio wireless communications to bio-informatics.

Yet another strategy has been the creation of high-tech incubators where startups share access to advanced computing equipment, research facilities, high-speed networks and other infrastructure. The Technium incubator – the result of a partnership between the Welsh government, the University of Wales, the European Union, and private-sector companies – began with a single installation in 2001 and now includes nine facilities throughout Wales, with a dozen more planned. Each Technium focuses on a different sector – sustainable technologies or performance engineering, for example.

Early-stage digital media companies that aren't ready for the Technium environment benefit from the @Wales Digital Media Initiative, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Regional Development Fund. Entrepreneurs can set up shop in an @Wales facility with nothing except their entrepreneurial vision. They rent space, services and equipment – everything down to a desktop computer – at commercial discount rates, sometimes by piggybacking on government contracts. Specialists are available to give them advice about financing, marketing and other aspects of starting up a business.

Bringing Broadband to Business

To supply these high-tech companies with broadband, @Wales’ Intelligent Cities program bought up fiber connectivity that the military was decommissioning, aggregated it and made it available to companies in Southeast Wales at affordable prices.

“Media industry use is very peaky,” explains Evan Jones, the head of digital and incubation for @Wales. A film company might upload a huge video file for a news segment, and then not make any significant demands on the network for the next 24 hours. Because the companies aren't all using the network at the same time, they can share 100 Mbps of bandwidth without interfering with each other’s use.

One typical Intelligent Cities client is an animation company that sends successive drafts of animated videos to clients for review. Another client is Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, an arena for soccer games that is blanketed with wireless access, particularly in the press area. Press photographers and cameramen can send photos and video footage to their news organizations during and after soccer games, using the Intelligent Cities fiber for backhaul. “The amount of bandwidth needed is awesomely large,” Jones says. “Then the next day it’s near zero.”

Though the digital media industry uses by far the largest share of Intelligent Cities bandwidth, there are other clients that have similar needs for “bursty bandwidth” – for example, a radiologist who works remotely for a hospital in the United States, an arts organization that streams live performances to widely dispersed audiences and a plastics manufacturer that has to send and receive large CAD files.

To keep costs down, Intelligent Cities configured its fiber network with a central media server, as if it were an office LAN. With this setup, sending a file between two users of the network doesn’t require actually moving the file, only changing the permissions associated with it. This enables local users to “download” huge files instantaneously.

The success of Intelligent Cities led to a new project that began this year – FibreSpeed Wales. Because no private operators would bring broadband to industrial parks in less-populated North Wales, the Welsh government started the project itself, with partial funding from the European Union.

FibreSpeed Wales follows the public-private model that many U.S. municipalities have used successfully. Based on an RFP issued this spring, a vendor was selected to design and build high-speed fiber optic networks at North Wales’ 14 business parks. The government will then select a company to administer the networks on an open-access model, allowing any provider to offer Internet service with 10 Mbps symmetrical speeds or higher. The Welsh government is hoping that FibreSpeed Wales will provide the same economic benefits in the north of the country that the Intelligent Cities program has provided in the south.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

British Wi-Fi is sickening

[November 27, 2006] British Wi-Fi is sickening
Hotspot Hits
By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

November 27, 2006

Just as many schools start to enjoy the benefits of Wi-Fi access, at least a few in England are afraid of it. Or, rather, the parents of the pupils are, according to the Times of London report from last week. Parents lobbied the headteacher at the Prebendal School in Chichester, West Sussex, to get rid of the Wi-Fi equipment, citing concerns for the health of children. The school did it, saying there were no studies to prove it was safe. Never mind that no studies show it unsafe, either. (They also said it didn’t work very well, anyway.) The same thing happened at Ysgol Pantycelyn, in Carmarthenshire. At Stowe School in Buckinghamshire west of London a teacher got sick after the network was installed in his classroom, prompting its removal. At least one woman in Stoke Newington told that she can tell whenever Wi-Fi is around her by how it makes her feel “exhausted, nauseous and sleepless.” The blow-back on blaming Wi-Fi for sniffles, migraines, and more in the country is so bad that the council in Norfolk is openly defending its £1.1 million Norfolk Open Link project meant to deliver free broadband to the masses against such attacks. Wi-Fi already blankets the city center, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and the Norwich Science Park via 200 access points on lamp posts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ofcom- Technology Research and Development- Spectrum Access

Press Release


14 November 2006

Ofcom today published its second annual Technology Research and Development
Report which provides an overview of emerging technologies that have the
potential to make more efficient use of the radio spectrum.

Spectrum is a finite natural resource that underpins the operation of all forms
of broadcasting, fixed and wireless telecommunications as well as essential
services such as defence, transport, the emergency services and healthcare. New
and innovative technologies that make more efficient use of this valuable
resource benefit both consumers - with the introduction of new services - and
the economy.

Ofcom's Technology Research and Development programme is funded though the
Spectrum Efficiency Scheme via the Treasury. Ofcom estimates that emerging
technologies explored as a result of the research programme could generate up to
£6.5bn in revenues for the UK economy over the next 20 years.


One new technology that is highlighted in today's report is Dynamic Spectrum
Access, or DSA.

DSA would allow intelligent communication devices, such as mobile phones,
laptops or PDAs, to roam onto any available wireless network at any point in
time, rather than restricting service provision to just one network provider.

With a variety of different networks and providers to choose from, a
communications device could intelligently select the cheapest service for the
customer. DSA could also automatically select the network with the appropriate
service quality and bandwidth to match the service the customer wants to use,
whether it is a voice call, SMS messaging, browsing the internet or video

DSA technology would make efficient use of the spectrum by linking the supply of
spectrum with demand though an open and competitive marketplace for real time
access to spectrum.

DSA is underpinned by a technology that would allow network operators to
transmit pricing and service quality information to communication devices such
as mobile phones. Ofcom is leading the research into DSA and will conduct
further work on the technology and economic issues in the coming year. Based on
the initial research, Ofcom believes that the technology could be ready to
deploy in five to ten years' time.

Peter Ingram, Ofcom's Chief technology Officer, said: "Ofcom has a critical role
to play, backed by Treasury funding, to research and encourage innovation in the
next generation of wireless technology. New technologies that make efficient use
of the spectrum benefit both consumers and the UK economy as a whole."

For a full copy of the Technology Research and Development Report, go to:


Technology Research Programme 2005/06
Executive Summary

This report provides an overview of the technology research and development programme at Ofcom during 2005/06. It presents key findings and outlines the conclusions and implications that Ofcom has drawn from this work.

This is the second annual Technology Research Report. Ofcom publishes an overview of technology research and development on an annual basis to inform stakeholders of findings and to solicit feedback on both the results and the future direction of the programme.

While Ofcom is the regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, however this research programme is deliberately biased towards radio spectrum. This is because Ofcom has a unique role in managing the radio spectrum, which underpins the operation of broadcasting and wireless telecommunications systems. Most visions of the future foresee dramatic increases in the amount of information sent wirelessly; only by making better use of the radio spectrum can these visions be realised. By understanding potential future developments, Ofcom can determine how technologies and services might develop and shape regulatory policy accordingly.
Key findings

It is typical in many areas of technology, including wireless, for only a few developing technologies to succeed. Our key findings this year are consistent with this, suggesting that of the many new technologies that are currently the subject of research and development in industry and academia, we expect only a few to have a significant impact on the use of the spectrum in the next decade. The technologies which we have considered which could have a significant impact on the use of new spectrum are mesh networks and dynamic spectrum access. Those technologies we do not expect to have an impact in the short to medium term include cognitive radio and software defined radio.

In addition, we have studied a number of potential issues with liberalisation and found that they do not pose a significant problem. We have also highlighted mechanisms for improved spectrum efficiency in areas of the spectrum where liberalisation is not expected to apply in the near future.
New Technologies and Concepts

Ofcom has undertaken research into a number of new and emerging concepts and technologies in order to understand their potential, gauge whether regulatory change is needed and further their development where appropriate. From this work we have concluded that these are broadly split into two categories:

* Those which we see as emerging in a longer timescale, of at least 10 years or possibly not at all which might be due to remaining technical hurdles for which no solution is yet clear, or due to insufficiently strong business cases.
* Others which bear evident promise, and may have benefit within a 10 year timescale.

The former category includes technologies such as Cognitive Radio and Software Defined Radio. Research and development into these technologies continues and in some cases niche applications exist where the technologies are applied, however universal adoption or the case for it does not seem likely in the near future. It appears to Ofcom that additional regulatory measures to facilitate these technologies are unlikely to be fruitful at this stage.

In the latter group we have identified a number of technologies with promise and where we can take measures to facilitate and encourage an environment for innovative new services and applications to emerge. These include:

Dynamic Spectrum Access , a concept which could enable users to dynamically access required spectrum, allowing for example the cheapest selection to be made by a phone automatically, for whatever service is required at that time and place. Broadly it seems that it is business and regulatory issues, rather than technical issues that present barriers to the development of the concept. On the technical side it seems feasible to deploy such a concept in a 5 to 10 year timescale. The concept offers the possibility of providing a complementary means of wireless service delivery to those already established, offering the potential of providing the end user with greater choice.

Mesh networks , where we concluded last year that mesh has the potential to provide complementary coverage to existing cellular systems, for example:

* Extending hotspots to wider areas.
* Provision of broadband networks to rural communities.
* Enabling sensor networks which have the potential to bring significant benefits to UK society, for example in the transport and healthcare sectors.

Ofcom has supported the emergence of mesh networks by undertaking research which has provided insight into where the benefits from the technology are likely to emerge, dispelling some of commonly misunderstood statements about the technology, and by developing improved propagation models for services which will be based on mesh networks.

Convergence of networks and devices is a trend which is increasingly evident in emerging services, for example BT’s Fusion and Orange’s Unique, which enable seamless phone calls indoors and outdoors. Ofcom is facilitating such developments through improving the understanding of signal propagation from indoors to outdoors and vice versa. This will assist with a better understanding of the capability of outdoor wireless signals to propagate indoors and provide useful services, and to allow the introduction of new service deployments indoors whilst providing safeguards against interference.

Liberalisation of the radio spectrum is central to Ofcom’s vision of spectrum management. Benefits that might be accrued from the introduction of trading and liberalisation to the UK have been estimated to be around £1bn per year. Liberalisation is not without risk. Inappropriate reductions in restrictions on users of the radio spectrum, for example allowing complete freedom in the use a licensee makes of the radio spectrum, could result in significant harmful interference between users and a reduction in the economic value of the radio spectrum. Therefore, our research in this area has concentrated on providing increased certainty in the delivery of a liberalised trading environment to ensure the benefits are realised with the minimum risk. Areas we have addressed to deliver these safeguards are:

Fragmentation of the radio spectrum , which could potentially leave areas of the radio spectrum which are too small to be usefully used. Our work has concluded that fragmentation is not currently a significant problem, and it is unlikely to become so in the future in a liberalised trading environment. Furthermore, should fragmentation occur, technology has been identified that could make use of broadband services by aggregating these spectrum fragments.

Improving our understanding of the threat of interference from sources of unwanted emissions, such as electromagnetic compatibility, Ultra-Wideband and spurious emissions, where we have identified that current levels of interference generated are not likely to be harmful, and they are not likely to degrade our spectrum quality further. Adequate protection is offered through existing regulations.

Development of a generic radio modelling tool for liberalised spectrum and associated underpinning propagation research. Tools which Ofcom has used under the command and control regime for spectrum planning and assignment are not sufficient in a liberalised environment. A new regime of spectrum management requires a new tool that can assess interference and undertake spectrum planning and assignment between different services. Ofcom has commissioned work which has resulted in the development of such a tool. This will allow Ofcom to respond more rapidly to licensee requests to change the use they make of their spectrum, with a high degree of certainty that harmful interference will not be caused.

Improving certainty to encourage use of lightly used frequency bands. Higher frequencies tend to be more lightly used, primarily due to the less favourable propagation characteristics. For example, as UHF frequencies become increasingly congested, there is growing interest in the use of frequencies above 3 GHz, for mobile and broadcast purposes. Ofcom has underway development of accurate propagation models for these frequencies which will help to reduce risk in deploying services at these higher frequencies and also enable better spectrum management of these services in the future.
Enhancing spectrum efficiency in areas where liberalisation cannot help

There are areas of the radio spectrum where we have chosen not yet to adopt a liberalised regime. Work commissioned by Ofcom has resulted in a number of measures for improvement in these areas, including:

Better management and utilisation of licence exemption; where we have undertaken a review of the use of licence exemption, including where it should be used and how to utilise it most effectively; for example should politeness protocols be mandated and if so where? Is there a frequency above which all spectrum use should be licence exempt? Ofcom will be publishing a consultation on its strategy and recommendations as a result of this work early next year.

Improving satellite system efficiency ; where we have investigated the application of spatial diversity and concluded it is a cost effective means of utilising spectrum more efficiently in the short term.

Facilitating the move away from congested areas of the spectrum in fixed services, by proving the capability of Free Space Optics systems By undertaking work to prove the capabilities of these systems we have identified the applications where they might be used and reduced the barrier to service providers who might employ such technology for fixed services. This could enable a radically increased deployment of short range fixed links in underused spectrum.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

cnet - Wireless Basics

Avoid the tangled-wire tussle

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In this hands-on class, you'll learn how to make it all happen. Step-by-step videos show you how to install and configure a wireless router and install a Wi-Fi adapter in your PC. You'll also explore Windows configuration options for establishing your Internet connection and learn how to hook up your network to your printer and other computer peripherals.

ENROLL today in CNET'S FREE "Wireless Basics" online class to learn how to:

Install and configure a wireless router and adapter;
Prevent hackers and neighbors from gaining access to your network;
Share files and printers throughout your home;
How to connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Flickr becomes channel for community protest
By Marjorie Delwarde | 31 Oct 2006

A community group is using photo sharing website, Flickr, to protest against the Bury council’s decision to auction a LS Lowry painting to balance its budget deficit.

Set up only a few days ago, the Bury Lowry group has 93 members, attracting the interest of not only the locals but also people from the US, Australia, Austria, Brazil and Denmark. To date, 52 people have signed its petition.

John Wilson, an administrator of the Bury Lowry group, told Ping Wales: “This painting reflects the industrial England and its working class. Lowry is one of the best known British painters. The controversy surrounding the sale of this painting is about the identity of this area.”

Although Flickr primarily allows the management and sharing of photos, one of its main appeals is its social networking aspect.

Wilson explains: “Flickr members can comment on each others’ photos. I posted an image of Lowry’s painting, and this acted as a catalyst for the formation of the online campaign. Several people commented on the image and that’s how it all started.”

Broadband advocate, curator and artist, Wilson views this use of Flickr as a testimony that the internet is no longer just about entertainment and consumers downloading files or software, but is a place where serious conversations can also take place.

Frank Foran, former Bury resident and founder of the Bury Lowry group, adds: “[John] and I thought the global imaging community was the ideal place to showcase an endangered image, A Riverbank by LS Lowry, due to be sold at Christies on 17 November, and focus more attention on the issue.”

“Flickr is a social networking facility where strong feelings on an issue can be expressed and form the basis of useful discussion. I hope that the Bury Lowry site will be an influential forum in the ongoing debate.”

The group hopes to widen the debate and generate further awareness and as a result put further pressure on the council to reconsider its decision.

According to Foran, the council is no stranger to online protest campaigns. When the council tried to close down two large secondary schools, it was forced to change its mind after a massive and sustained campaign largely run [using tools from] Google, he says.

Commenting on the council’s response to group’s protest letter, Foran says: “We have yet to receive a reply to the letter published, though the hard copy can only just have reached the council. We sincerely hope that the council will respond to our criticism.”

A spokesman for the council told Ping Wales: “We are aware of the group however the sale is going ahead as it is a council decision. So far, we have had seven contacts regarding the Lowry sale, three of which have been in favour.”

The 1947 oil painting will be auctioned at Christie's in London on 17 November. The Bury Times reports that the council hopes it will raise £500,000 to balance the budget, and a further £421,000 to meet the overspend on the new Ramsbottom Library.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Flicking angry over sale of painting

October 25, 2006, 4.45pm • No comments yet » • 29 Views
Flicking angry over sale of painting

John is touting a meme. I’m a bit busy to look into it in any depth at the moment, but I will pass it on…

As BBC News reports, “a council planning to auction an LS Lowry painting to help balance its books may be excluded from the Museums Association, its chief has said”.

John and some other concerned social history geeks started a petition on Flickr opposing the auction; they say:

Add your voice to the Petition and make your own comment. Spread the word- invite your flickr contacts to join the Bury Lowry Petition!

That’s at

The Welsh Web 2.0
By Robert Andrews | 27 Oct 2006

Web-savvy Welsh speakers are volunteering translation skills and some digital hwyl to help stake out the new wave of Web 2.0 services for the mother tongue (...)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The future is tera-scale computing

‘The future is tera-scale computing,’ says Intel

SAN FRANCISCO — Intel is aggressively pursuing its research and development as it unveiled more prototypes of microprocessors for various applications that would have an impact into the people’s lives.

(...) Alan Crouch, director for communications technology lab, pointed out the importance of industry collaboration in developing wireless innovation. "The future of mobility is accessing anything, anywhere and when do you want to be delivered easily, reliably and securely."

"It all begins on what the user wants through ethnographic research and look at improving mobile devices and networks and leading standards and spectrum policy," said Crouch.

He believes that mobile standards will co-exist and that the challenge is seamless connectivity across all wireless devices - from 3G with overlay and seamless access to WiMax (802.16e), WiFi (802.11) and UWB.

"Our vision is complete the service transparency to the end user on any wireless network," said Crouch.

There is also a need to look at the end-to-end system implications from Internet Protocol (IP) services, network layer and radio access layer.

Intel had a joint collaboration with British Telecom (BT) that involves building BT’s 21st century network architecture that allows mobility across multiple networks.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ofcom- Nations and Regions

Ofcom | Nations and Regions - Statement on the policy implications arising from the Communications Market: Nations and Regions research


1.1 Ofcom conducts ongoing research into the markets it regulates. In April 2006, Ofcom published a series of research reports on the Communications Market for the Nations and Regions of the UK (‘the Research Reports’).

1.2 The Research Reports examine availability, take-up and consumption of internet, telecommunications and broadcasting services. They compare findings across Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the nine English Regions among consumers and small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

1.3 The research was undertaken to address feedback from stakeholders that Ofcom’s work should take into consideration the differences between the nations and regions of the UK. The project is consistent with Ofcom’s duties under the Communications Act 2003 to secure the availability of a wide range of electronic communications services throughout the UK, having regard to the different parts of the UK and in rural and urban areas.

1.4 Most data in the Research Report was collated from research undertaken in the second half of 2005, including Ofcom’s residential tracking study, the Media Literacy Audit and operator data for mobile phone, digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable coverage.

1.5 This statement sets out the policy issues raised by the research and should be read in conjunction with those findings as published in April. The Research Reports can be found on Ofcom’s website at:
Purpose of this statement


Nations and Regions - Statement on the policy implications arising from the Communications Market: Nations and Regions research [12 Oct 2006]

@Wales Digital Media Initiative

@Wales bestowed international honour - first in the UK
Source: Welsh Assembly Government
Published Monday, 16 October, 2006 - 06:03

The Welsh Assembly Government’s pioneering @Wales Digital Media Initiative is the first in the United Kingdom to receive the international accreditation for its work (...)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tablet PC + WiFi to replace medical charts and patient files | From "Med Charts Over Wi-Fi, STAT," by Eric Griffith, WiFi Planet, 2 October:

"You see them on every medical TV show - doctors consulting clipboard charts, filled with reams of paperwork with delicate and critical information about the patient.

"How 20th century.

"Catalis of Austin, Texas certainly thinks so. Founded and run by Dr. Randy Lipscher, the company's goal is to get rid of all that paper by getting its software application, Accelerator 3.0, into the hands of all the healthcare workers it can. The Web-based interface - called a graphical health record (GHR) - is perfect for tablet PCs, and requires no typing. Yet Lipscher claims the software delivers an increased data input rate. That's great, but how does Accelerator share its data?

"Over wireless, of course...

" 'When we first met with Catalis months ago, they shared with us the application and what it looks like, how graphically it can show the human body to indicate to a patient their ailment, how it links with medical records,' says Dan Lowden, vice president of business development and marketing for Wayport. 'We were blown away.'

"[Catalis and Wayport] will partner on appropriate deployments. Catalis customers without Wi-Fi infrastructure in place will be pushed toward Wayport as a provider. Lowden says Wayport will be building an entire division of the company devoted to the healthcare space, suggesting the Accelerator GHR where appropriate. What's more, when Wayport installs Wi-Fi in the healthcare facility, it can extend that service to waiting patients or visitors as an amenity so they can access the Internet while waiting around. It's a model similar to what Wayport provides at McDonald's, where its Wi-Fi helps run debit card readers and the like, but also offers for-fee connections to patrons.

"Catalis spent several years doing research and development, but has already deployed Accelerator in a couple of university hospitals. The system can connect physicians with other areas of the hospital they might otherwise not be able to access directly, such as the pharmacy or radiology (finally, digital x-rays). The software takes care of coding and billing information, and even synchs with the receptionist to verify appointments and follow-up visits. Lipscher says that while similar systems exist, they can take weeks for training. He claims that Accelerator only takes two days of training for physicians to get comfortable with it. He calls it a 'Mac interface in a DOS world.'

" '[The software] makes the office safer for patient data, checks drug interactions... and the physicians make more money, as the software has built-in account capabilities,' says Lipscher. Not to mention that speeding up data entry means the docs just might get to go home earlier."

"I have seen Wi-Fi's future, and it's free" | "I have seen Wi-Fi's future, and it's free" by Victor Keegan, The Guardian, 12 October:

"A number of places in the UK have claimed to be rolling out free wireless connections for the community to encourage internet use, but only Norfolk has got it up and running. It needed to do something dramatic because, as one of the sparsest rural communities in the country, it would run the risk of missing out, not least as a magnet for industry, if it waited until the private sector came along. It is symbolically fitting that Norfolk - birthplace of Thomas Paine, acclaimed by some as the patron saint of the internet - should be thrust into this pioneering role. At present the eight-week-old experiment, funded by a £1.1m grant from the East of England Development Agency, is centred on Norwich but it will soon be extended to 22 villages.

"Is this the future? The answer is that so far, it is going pretty well despite teething problems. My laptop got through to the web first time both in the Forum, the city's fine new community area where the central library is sited, and in a Starbucks, though the signal was patchy as it is planned primarily to be used outdoors. At one stage I had to walk across the market place to get a strong connection, probably because buildings or trees were getting in the way of a signal from one of 228 small transmitters fixed high up on lamp posts each covering 200 to 300 metres. Some 165 of these are already working and the rest will be switched on by the end of the month. The bandwidth available to the general public is only 256k but public-sector worker workers get 1MB.

"Norfolk County Council claims there are already 1,000 connections a day - far higher than expected - and it is already seeing benefits including midwives getting bedside access to information from the web, a TV installer able to order spare parts from a rooftop, and freelance photographers able to transmit photos directly to agencies rather than having to return to the office. In future it will make CCTV cameras cheaper to install and there are plans to use mobile CCTV units that reduce rowdiness.

"All this is potentially revolutionary. If Wi-Fi or high-powered derivatives such as WiMax (which can transmit over tens of miles) become widespread then no one will need an internet service provider (ISP) except for premium services (such as spam filtering) because web-based email and internet access will be free.

"There will be no need either for the mobile phone companies as presently constructed because calls will be routed through the internet as long as the recipient uses the same service.

"It was partly not to upset private-sector providers (charging £5 to £6 an hour for access) that Norfolk pitched the bandwidth low for citizens. But if Wi-Fi is to take off for telephony it will have to cover whole towns as it is pointless walking around, phone in hand, paying £5 to every local provider you come across to keep connected. The Wi-Fi enabled phones I took to Norwich did not work, but this was due to the labyrinthine procedures needed to set up new access points for these early models.

"Norfolk's business model of getting public funds to finance development with the council providing infrastructure (lamp posts etc) is a good one, but the difficulty of attracting scarce public finance is likely to mean that a US model, with the private sector providing capital and local authorities infrastructure, is likely to prevail. But if private money is reluctant to take the risks then the public sector should jump in.

"As Norwich is already starting to show, the investment may be justified simply to improve the productivity of public-sector employees. And if you add in the external benefits to business, hospitals and universities and, above all, the empowerment of ordinary people, then it could become irresistible.

"Paine, the great champion of citizens' rights, would surely have approved. "

WiFi's future in UK libraries | From "Report outlines WiFi future for libraries," UK Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Council news release, 22 September 2006:

"A report launched today from the MLA and WiFi specialist RegenerateIT anticipates that by 2009 half of all [UK] libraries will offer some form of WiFi (wireless technology).

"The report estimates that there are currently about 23 per cent of library services delivering WiFi with 42 per cent of library services planning to offer WiFi in the next financial year.

"Benefits of WiFi in libraries include more flexible use of space - particularly important given the limited space in many rural areas - and increased availability of library PCs, allowing a greater total number of users to benefit from IT access in the library.

"Most of the existing library WiFi services are being offered free, according to the report Review and Evaluation of WiFi in Public Libraries.

"The next steps in provision of library wireless services are the installation or expansion of hotspots to more libraries and the marketing of those hotspots to ensure a full take-up."

FCC votes to let low-power devices use empty TV channels after digital switchover
FCC votes to let low-power devices use empty TV channels after digital switchover

From "FCC lets wireless sneak between TV airwaves," Reuters (via], 12 October:

"The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to permit certain wireless devices to use vacant airwaves between active television channels as long as they do not cause interference.

"Companies such as computer chipmaker Intel have pushed the FCC to make those airwaves available for use without a license for services like high-speed wireless Internet. But broadcasters have worried about possible signal disruptions.

" 'Allowing low-power wireless devices to operate in the unused portions of the television bands could be an efficient and effective use of this unused spectrum,' FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said at the agency's monthly open meeting.

"The FCC agreed to permit the use of fixed, low-powered, wireless equipment on some unused channel frequencies and said it would conduct testing to assess interference and encouraged others to submit their findings.

"The FCC said it expected to have the laboratory test results on interference by July and would set final technical requirements for the devices by October 2007.

"The National Association of Broadcasters said it looked forward to working with the agency.

"Marketing of the devices would only be allowed when television broadcasters switch to airing their digital signals and return their old analog airwaves to the government in February 2009, the FCC said.

" 'I think it strikes the right balance by promoting the development of new technologies while ensuring that over-the-air television is not subject to harmful interference,' said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

"Signals from the airwaves at issue -- frequencies below 900 megahertz -- can easily penetrate walls, trees and other obstructions, unlike the higher frequencies.

"Intel attorney Marjorie Dickman said the company welcomed the FCC's decision because it wanted additional airwaves available for other uses than television service. Intel 'commends Chairman Martin for moving forward with the proceeding and looks forward to continuing to work with the FCC to make additional airwaves available for fixed-wireless, high-speed, Internet services in rural areas and for personal, home and office networking purposes,' she said...

"Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved."

Official FCC news release, 12 October 2006: "FCC Takes Steps to Allow New Low Power Devices on Vacant TV Channels"

"Separate Statement of Commissioner Michael J. Copps": "...Then there is the question of whether the white spaces should be used on a licensed or unlicensed basis. The Commission's assumption has always been unlicensed - indeed, the caption of our 2004 NPRM (and today's item) is Unlicensed Operation in the TV Broadcast Bands. I have long supported freeing up additional unlicensed spectrum. In many contexts - as with the enormously successful bands that support today's Wi-Fi networks - unlicensed uses most closely approach the ideal of the people's airwaves, to be used in direct service of the public interest. With our recent AWS auction and the upcoming 700 Mhz auction, we are opening up a huge swath of prime spectrum to licensed use - and it seems to me, on the present record, that the appropriate balance is to open up the TV white spaces to unlicensed use..."

"Statement of Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein": "...Wherever I travel, I hear the calls for more unlicensed spectrum from operators who need more capacity to drive broadband deployment deeper and farther into all corners of the country. In this item, we are rightly exploring the latest and most exciting cognitive radio and spectrum sensing technologies that are available to see how they can enable spectrum facilitation in the television bands. Of course, broadcasters have used the public spectrum for many years to serve rural and urban areas alike in providing news, civic information, education and entertainment. I fully support our request for comment on how best to ensure that harmful interference is not caused by the operation of unlicensed devices. The American people care a lot about the quality of their television reception. We will hear an earful from consumers if this is not done right. I am particularly pleased with our decision today to allow channels 14-20 and 2-4 to remain 'on the table' for further testing to determine their suitability for possible unlicensed services in the future... Finally, while the item does provide a balanced view of the benefits and challenges of unlicensed versus licensed operations in the white spaces bands, I want to specifically express my preference for use of this spectrum on an unlicensed basis. Unlicensed services, with their low barriers to entry, present such a great opportunity for the deployment of broadband offerings in communities across the country no matter their size or financial status. Considering the favorable propagation characteristics for wireless broadband services in the 700 MHz band and the important obligation to protect existing television operations from harmful interference, I believe that unlicensed operations present the best use of the spectrum for this country."

"Statement of Commissioner Robert M. McDowell": "I am excited about this item because it starts a chain of events that will lead to an explosion of entrepreneurial brilliance. I am also delighted that it provides tremendous opportunities for further unlicensed use of these slices of the spectrum..."

Rural county among top in UK for high-speed net use

Oct 10 2006
David Williamson, Western Mail

MONMOUTHSHIRE is fast becoming Wales' answer to Silicon Valley, with one of the highest levels of high-speed internet usage in the United Kingdom.

The mainly rural county is ranked six in the country by BT, with more than 18,000 homes and businesses now using ADSL broadband.

When all other forms of internet access are also taken into account, Assembly Government figures show that Cardiff is no longer the broadband capital of Wales. Newport leads with 51% of its residents now subscribed to a broadband service.

The Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff follow closely on 50%.

Nationwide, broadband take-up continues to climb, with 43% of Wales now subscribed to a broadband service - up from 39% in 2005.

The research, conducted by the Assembly's Broadband Wales programme, shows that Anglesey is the most improved county, with broadband take-up in the area increasing 38% in the last year from 29% to 40%. The next biggest increase was in Powys (up 30% to 39%), and Wrexham (up 27% to 42%).

As well as being better connected, the research also shows that Wales is getting faster, with 26% of those surveyed having connection speeds faster that 1Mb, which will allow users to run advanced applications such as videoconferencing, gaming and music downloads.

Although the PC remains the most popular method of connecting to the internet, there has been an increase in the number of people accessing on their mobile phones - almost 20% of respondents.

The telephone line is still the most common way of connecting to the internet, although there has been growth in use of both cable and wireless technology.

The impact of the Regional Innovative Broadband Support Programme (RIBS), which involves internet-enabling the final 35 exchanges in Wales, is not reflected in the research, which was completed before its launch.

Andrew Davies, Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, said, "The positive results of this latest wave of research are a testament to more than four years of hard work by our Broadband Wales Programme to raise community awareness and understanding of broadband.

"While I am pleased that broadband take-up is continuing to climb, we have to build on the success of the programme to ensure take-up continues to improve across all parts of the country."

The research involved surveying 5,500 residents across Wales' 22 local authorities.

It contrasts with data based on a much smaller sample released in August by the Office for National Statistics.

This found that 40% of the UK had broadband access (up from 28% last year) but said Wales had the second-lowest broadband take-up rate in the UK at just 32%.

This research said London had the top rate, with 49% of households connected to broadband.

BT's analysis is based on its wholesale sales to homes and businesses of ADSL internet access. It found the highest penetration was in Buckinghamshire (47%) and Aberdeenshire (44%).

Commenting on the popularity of high-speed access in Monmouthshire, Ann Beynon, BT's director for Wales, said the challenge was now to encourage greater use among the population as a whole.

"This is excellent news," she said.

"But Monmouthshire's success mirrors that of Wales as a whole which is one of the fastest growing parts of the UK in terms of broadband take-up with increasing numbers of homes and businesses realising the benefits the technology can bring.

"With more and more people using broadband's new and exciting services online, the challenge is now to continue to develop increasingly compelling content to encourage even greater growth."

Photographer Steve Pope, a broadband user from Caldicot, said the technology had made a huge difference to his business.

"Once you start using broadband you wonder how you ever managed without it," he said.

"So when I moved to the area, ADSL broadband was one of the first things I ordered.

"Since photography has gone digital, clients want their pictures the same day - and because you are dealing with such large files, without broadband it would be totally impractical."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Google Docs and Spreadsheets

October 10, 2006, 9:02 PM PDT
Google Docs and Spreadsheets: Not quite Google Office, but closer
Posted by: Rafe Needleman

Google Docs and Spreadsheets
Google Docs and Spreadsheets puts all your files in one place.

Google just launched the feature I was kvetching about yesterday when I covered Zoho: an integrated file system for its productivity applications. Until now, documents created in Writely and in Google Spreadsheets lived separately. But in the new, publicly available Google Docs and Spreadsheets, at, all the documents you create in either Docs (no more "Writely") or Spreadsheets are displayed in one interface, where you can tag your files and sort them however you want. It's a big improvement.

Google is also bringing the user interfaces and the feature sets of the two applications closer together. Both look very similar, and both have similar common functions, such as import and export. But it's clear that the Google apps were built by separate teams. Little differences give it away: The collaboration function is a separate page in Docs, but a right-hand panel in Spreadsheets. Spreadsheets also has a built-in chat feature to complement its real-time group editing capability. Docs has no chat (although it does have group editing). On the other hand, Docs lets you see a list of all the revisions other users have made; Spreadsheets does not.

Most importantly, although you can see all your files in one place, the two applications aren't really integrated. You cannot embed a spreadsheet into a document, for example. That's lame.

Today's release of Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a step forward, and I trust that Google will continue to improve the feature set, usability, and integration of these two products. At a preview for bloggers earlier today, we heard about some future plans such as integration with Gmail (when you get a word processing file or a spreadsheet as an attachment, you'll have the option to open the file in Docs and Spreadsheets). The team is also working on APIs, so other programmers can access the functionality of the applications. Also, Google is going to "take a shot" at a disconnected version, for users who want to access files when they are offline. And they're working on other applications, too.

I like Google's online applications despite their early-stage flaws and omissions. They're easy to use, and their collaboration features, while basic, set them apart from standard office applications. People looking for clean and simple online applications will find Google Docs and Spreadsheets useful. Those who need a more fully developed online suite right now should check out Zoho and ThinkFree. This market is moving fast; it's being reported on TechCrunch that Zoho will launch a more complete and very tightly integrated online productivity suite, Zoho Virtual Office, at the Office 2.0 Conference.

Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam

Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam
Sat Sep 30, 2006 11:00am ET253
By Lucas van Grinsven, European Technology Correspondent

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Amsterdam has the world's busiest Internet exchange, thanks to nuclear physicists and mathematicians who in the 1980s connected their network needs with the academic belief that knowledge needs to be free.

At a time when the neutrality of the Internet is at stake, and Internet service providers (ISPs) are moving to prioritize their premium traffic, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange is a reminder that the Internet was built on the principle of the unrestricted exchange of ideas and information.

The popularity of the AMS-IX. the official name of the exchange, is the result of a liberal foundation which has created a place where ISPs can do business any way they like.

"'Anything goes unless it's forbidden', was our motto from the beginning. We added a few rules later on, but any unnecessary organizing is being prevented," said Rob Blokzijl from Nikhef, the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics in the Netherlands.

It shares this spirit with the designers of the Internet who decided that all data packets were created equal, and with Tim Berners-Lee who developed the World Wide Web at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN as a universal and neutral platform.

"The public will demand an open Internet," Berners-Lee said in a recent interview with Reuters.

Indeed, the debate over "net neutrality" is one of the biggest issues facing the Web today on both sides of the Atlantic, pitting big cable and phone companies against Internet powerhouses like Google Inc.

At issue is whether broadband providers should be allowed to create "toll booths" that would charge Internet companies to move content along fast broadband lines, a move critics say would restrict the freedom of the Web.

The birth of AMS-IX is in fact the accidental consequence of Blokzijl's deal -- over a cup of coffee -- to team up with a neighboring center for mathematicians and computer scientists. They bundled their network budgets to buy more network capacity from powerful telecoms monopolies back then.

"It took months to get a line between Amsterdam and Geneva, and we had to coordinate between the local telecoms operators because they wouldn't talk to each other," Blokzijl recalls.

Shortly afterward the first commercial Internet providers started their businesses and connected to the emerging Internet hub in Amsterdam.

"The scale advantaged started when we had four of five ISPs. The rest is history," Blokzijl said.



Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam. Do we need Internet Censorship?
Gail Orenstein | flickr

Monday, October 09, 2006

Solar-powered mesh project helps find new frog

David Meyer
October 06, 2006, 15:35 BST

A sustainable networking project in the Amazon rainforest has turned up an unknown amphibian, proving Nicholas Negroponte right in more ways than one

A solar-powered wireless mesh network in the Amazon rainforest has played a part in the discovery of a new species of frog.

The frog, currently nicknamed Yachanita, was discovered last month on a field station, which was connected by mesh to the Funedesin (Foundation for Integrated Education and Development) network in Yachana, Ecuador.

According to Richard Lander, co-founder of UK mesh networking company LocustWorld — whose technology is used in the network — the scheme itself may be the first of its kind.

"We have lots of mesh networks where the occasional inaccessible mesh box gets power by solar or wind or replaceable battery, but this entire centre is powered by solar electricity. The fact that this centre in the middle of the jungle is able to achieve Internet connectivity through solar power, we think, is unique," Lander told ZDNet UK on Friday.

Mesh networks are constucted out of a number of mesh access points which can automatically form connections with other nodes within range, and reroute traffic if a node drops offline. This makes the networks self-organising. They can be set up in a matter of days, and at a fraction of the cost needed to establish a traditional telecommunications network.

The network was designed and installed by Bruce Schulte, an American who was inspired by the concept of sustainable mesh networking after attending a training session held in Ecuador by LocustWorld's Joe Roper last year.

Running off a single satellite link, the Yachana network provides connectivity for a biological research centre 5km down the river, as well as the local high school.

Funedesin manages to squeeze uses in telemedicine, ecotourism, solar power, ecology and education out of that single connection. The foundation even recently moved its office back into the middle of the jungle — it had previously needed to operate from the capital.

Supported by the revenue it gains through 2,000 annual visits from ecological tourists, Funedesin will now be setting up a college nearby to train others in the simple art of mesh networking, with support from LocustWorld.

Lander told ZDNet UK that such networks were fulfilling a prophecy by MIT Labs founder Nicholas Negroponte, who predicted in 2002 that each Wi-Fi system would end up "like a small router relaying to its nearest neighbours", with messages hopping "peer-to-peer, leaping from lily to lily like frogs".

"Negroponte had the vision to see this concept of lily pads — we've implemented it using mesh networking worldwide," said Lander.

"It's got so far round the world that now we've got new species of frogs being discovered."

Ofcom says iTrip will be legal for Christmas

Colin Barker
October 06, 2006, 15:45 BST

The regulator has confirmed it is ready to legalise use of the add-on that turns your iPod into a radio station

After years of illegality, the iTrip and related devices are about to get the UK's stamp of approval.

The communications regulator Ofcom announced on Thursday that after a successful 10-week consultation it is giving the stamp of approval to the small FM transmitters that connect to the iPod and broadcasts a signal that can heard on a car radio or home stereo receiver.

Many people have been happily using them illegally for years.In fact, Ofcom has estimated the number of iTrips being used illegally in the UK at around 87,500, or 10 percent of the potential market of 875,000.

The iTrip, which costs around £40 with similar devices available from £10 and up, can be set to a free FM channel so you can listen to your iPod using any radio receiver. Tune your household radios to the same frequency and you can have tunes from your collection of iPod music, playing in every room in the house.

The issue in the past has been that, while they're perfectly legal in the US, using them here contravenes the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations in the UK. This didn't put off UK users, as witnessed by US retailers reporting that the UK was one of the most popular markets for these devices.

The Griffin iTrip is currently legal to sell in Europe, since it has a CE mark, but in the UK its illegal to use because it broadcasts an FM signal. The law in question was drawn up to restrict pirate radio stations, rather than micro FM transmitters.

Derrick Stembridge, marketing director of Griffin Technology, welcomed the news from Ofcom. "It's great that Griffin will be able to support legally sold and used iTrips," he said.

Steve Hawkins, managing director of distributor AM Micro, has been a keen proponent for the change in law. "It's ridiculous to consider such harmless technology as illegal. Thankfully with the help of MPs like Don Foster [Lib Dem MP for Bath] and the staff at Ofcom that looks certain to change very soon."

HP unveils vision for personal communications

Richard Thurston
October 09, 2006, 16:00 BST

Company believes mobile workers of the future will carry a personal wireless hub to keep all their devices connected

HP has revealed its vision for the future of mobile devices by unveiling, as a concept, a wearable wireless communications hub.

The hub — which resembles a wristwatch and would be worn on the arm — would handle a user's connectivity requirements. All the individual's other mobile devices would then communicate solely with the hub.

Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for HP's personal systems group, said, "People want more powerful devices with more memory and more radios, and you have to cram all this in. So we have this concept of a watch, which is something we are driving to. Devices just need to communicate with this watch."

McKinney said users would set up a personal area network using ultra wideband (UWB), but also Bluetooth if they were still using today's devices. All the radios for external connectivity — whether 3G, Wi-Fi, WiMax or any other bearer — would be contained in the hub.

The hub would also allow a device, such as a smartphone, to seamlessly move between different networks. McKinney added that moving all the radios into the watch would mean radios could be removed from each device, making devices simpler to use and cheaper to manufacture.
HP's concept mobile hub
The wireless hub would use UWB to keep a user's devices connected

But McKinney rejected suggestions that data security could be at risk with such a profileration of individual networks. He said devices would only communicate with a device which had a MAC address white-listed by the user. If a device was stolen, the user would need to remove it from the white-list.

McKinney estimated that it will take until 2016 for a hub resembling a wristwatch to be commercially available. Before that it would go through several iterations, he said, first appearing as a credit card-sized box that could be carried in the user's pocket.

HP also unveiled a range of related products, including a "Smart Shelf" and adjoining Wall Display, which would act as a charger for the hub and could also be used as a monitor.

In the nearer term, HP will soon release two versions of its popular iPAQ PDA containing built-in satellite navigation software. The RX5700 and RX5900 will ship for little more than it costs to buy TomTom software on its own, HP said. The devices, which are Wi-Fi-enabled and run Windows Mobile, will go on sale in November.

HP will also start selling its first laptop with built-in 3G connectivity next month. The 6400 model, which will ship to businesses for £799 (ex VAT), will come with a Vodafone SIM pre-installed.


Fat cat telcos are killing the net

The reality is that all the necessary control can be realised from the periphery of the net. It really does not require a huge centralised control system with billing added on top for good measure.

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Fat cat telcos are killing the net
Published: Friday 7 July 2006

I feel as though we are standing on the edge of a very dangerous precipice...


The reality is that the internet protocol (IP) was never designed or intended for real-time anything! In order to achieve any reasonable QoS level it is necessary to nail down routings on a call-by-call, session-by-session basis. Ironically the internet then starts to look like a circuit-switched system à la the old telephone network.

The net neutrality debate gives the old school the opportunity to resume control, to create a two-tier net, to grab more of the money and to restore their fortunes. And in phase one they would like to groom the traffic carried to increase the efficiency and the earnings per packet. But it gets worse fast!

The telcos et al see an opportunity to regulate the whole net and control the packet flow so they can extract more revenues by creating tiers of usage for individuals and websites by volume and speed. This would create, at least, two classes - one faster internet for those with lots of money and one slower one for those without. And I have to say, this also means goodbye to the freedom and uniform utility we currently enjoy.

The reality is that all the necessary control can be realised from the periphery of the net. It really does not require a huge centralised control system with billing added on top for good measure. Is there an existence theorem for this alternative approach? Yes! Just take a look at Japan and Korea. They are streets ahead with populations already watching TV and listening to the radio over fibre to the home using IP.

In my view this is a pure money play by the dark side, who, if they succeed politically, will catapult us back to a time when they controlled connectivity and information flow. And if it happens in the US, which would be wonderfully ironic as that is the country that created the internet, we might see the EU network operators queuing up with their wallets open ready to skim off more money than they are actually due by exactly the same mechanisms.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We have two basic choices. To go for a world of increasing complexity, as we try to squeeze more and more out of a given amount of transmission bandwidth and routing capacity, or to throw more and more bandwidth at the problem to achieve a greater simplicity at the expense of efficiency.

As bandwidth now (effectively) costs nothing, I vote for increasing simplicity (relatively speaking) as have Japan and Korea.


: Poking CIOs with a stick

Everything is moving to the edge of networks and organisations - computing power, communication, skills, information and knowledge.

11.45 Monday 2nd October 2006
Peter Cochrane's Blog: Poking CIOs with a stick


# Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s people who knew deep technical stuff (nerds) were derided and discounted. The management attitude was that these people were irrelevant and a pain. Deep tech understanding was not seen as necessary to manage anything. How the world has changed - today some of the richest people in the world are ex-nerds!

# This retrograde management attitude had a lot to do with the greater than 85 per cent failure rate of IT programmes through that era, that continues today in industry, defence, education and healthcare. Know-nothing managers are a menace to any industry and profession.

# Not including the end user, not understanding the technology and not understanding the difference between data, information and knowledge is not only dangerous - it turns out to be very expensive!

# The biggest universal mistake has been to take the old paper processes and transplant them to the screen, and then create even more paper! IT presents a much bigger opportunity to change organisations and operations but, unfortunately, people seem unable to adapt and change in more than one dimension at a time. Contrast the old (50- to 100-years-old) companies to the new (10- to 20-years-old) and it is stark in the way they use IT to create, run and advance the business.

# Increasing numbers of mobile workers means the notion of centralised databases are going to be more difficult to sustain. In a lot of companies the transition will be from filing data away in a predetermined structure to finding what a worker needs when they need it, a far more Google-like existence.

# We have to think about data, information and knowledge being collected, collated, created and stored by a wide variety of sources and not just think in terms of centralised operations. Mobile workers and young people are a new source of everything. For example, the young jump straight to Google and Wikipedia as their sources, whilst a mobile workforce is hunter/gatherer-like, collecting and creating on the move to meet their immediate need. This is a far cry from the deskbound cultures of old.

# And then there is modelling, any kind of modelling, from crowd behaviour and flow in a retail store, to market modelling and ecological economics. We can no longer afford the crude management decision-making tools of the past as it is all getting far too complex for the knee-jerk reaction!

# CIOs and their teams have a prime responsibility to keep companies and boards ahead of the game. They have to be the IT and potential threat radar, the thinkers, the modellers, the guiders of the corporate hand. Keeping on top of the latest Office patches isn't where the action or responsibility lies.

# Young people will help transform everything. They think and act differently and come with new expectations and skill sets that often outclass and outflank the established order of the IT department. Most likely they will not work for a centralised and controlling regime, and will certainly usurp the old ways of doing things. This new attitude and skill set needs to be embraced as an opportunity for change rather than being a target for punitive action.

# Everything is moving to the edge of networks and organisations - computing power, communication, skills, information and knowledge.

# Increasingly the future will be about taking risks - not blind risks - but calculated, modelled, tried and tested risks. And the CIO has a new and key role in the process. IT isn't an adjunct function of the company; it is central to success and as such needs to be recognised as an asset by boards and managers in general. Unfortunately, IT is one of today's least-loved corporate functions and seen as some form of creative chastity belt. This has to change fast if organisations are to grow and prosper - the clock is ticking!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hotel Wi-Fi rates slammed

David Meyer
October 02, 2006, 14:00 BST

The Good Hotel Guide 2007 has named and shamed hotels that charge the earth for Wi-Fi access, but analysts suggest they may still be good value compared with mobile data roaming charges

Hotel Wi-Fi pricing has come in for a bashing in the latest edition of The Good Hotel Guide.

The 2007 edition of the Guide points out that some UK hotels charge as much as £5 an hour despite the low running costs of a Wi-Fi network — a Cambridge hotel is even identified as charging their guests £20 for one day's access.

Wi-Fi access has increasingly become free in US hotels, the guide notes, but analyst Ian Fogg, of Jupiter Research, believes the comparison is not necessarily accurate.

"When you're rolling out Wi-Fi, it depends on the construction of the hotel and American buildings are very different," Fogg told ZDNet UK on Monday, adding that it was "not as simple to roll out Wi-Fi access [in a hotel] as many people think — to offer a good signal in every bedroom is very challenging".

Fogg suggested that the first step towards tackling hotel Wi-Fi pricing in the UK should be transparency, as it is "not sufficiently clear when booking a hotel what type of broadband is available, what price it is — they normally just say 'Internet available'".

This problem was particularly prevalent for business travellers who visit multiple locations, as they would have little opportunity to discover hotels with cheap or free Wi-Fi.

Fogg also claimed that hotel Wi-Fi access is perceived as expensive when compared to home or office access, but often fared well in relation to the exorbitant roaming rates charged by operators for mobile data services.

He added that a key factor was "whether [Wi-Fi access] remains an additional charge" or gets absorbed into the overall room rate, and suggested that hotels may increasingly seek to differentiate themselves from the competition by advertising "free" Wi-Fi, as often happens in the US.

Intel advances Centrino with faster wireless

Richard Thurston
October 02, 2006, 11:30 BST

3G and 802.11n are on the roadmap for the next generation of Centrino, due next year
Intel will embrace the upcoming high speed wireless LAN standard 802.11n with an upgrade to its Centrino wireless chipset.

Centrino, which is built into many laptops, currently only works with the three most widely deployed wireless standards — a, b and g.

Next-generation equipment based on 802.11n will offer throughput of up to 300Mbps, compared with a maximum of 54Mbps at present.

802.11n hasn't yet been certified, but several vendors are already shipping pre-certified kit. This has prompted Intel to release a new version of Centrino code-named Santa Rosa, which is due in the first six months of 2007.

Santa Rosa will be based on the Core 2 Duo processor, and it will also feature a built-in 3G EDGE module, provided by Nokia.

Santa Rosa's two radios will give users a choice of wireless connectivity without having to install a separate datacard.

"Our vision for Centrino is that we have a solution that attaches to the fastest, or most cost-effective, solution available," said Intel spokesperson Chris Hogg. "The enhancement will deliver many benefits to users."

But critics were less convinced by the appeal of Santa Rosa.

"Most businesses work on a three- to five-year lifecycle [for mobile devices]," said Martin Morey, head of the Mobile Computer Users Group. "So the take-up is likely to be quite slow. They are not pining to be early adopters."

Morey told ZDNet UK that the most important thing was that sessions over mobile connections did not drop whichever bearer was being used.

"It's fine that Intel are putting these developments into their chipsets, but the really important thing is that sessions persist," said Morey.

Some corporate users are holding back from buying 802.11n equipment because the standard is not yet finalised, and they are concerned that equipment produced now may not be interoperable.

Intel is trying to address these concerns by establishing an interoperability programme with equipment vendors.

Hogg said: "We were keen to bring the benefits of the product [to our customers] in a suitable timeframe. It is pre-standard, but we are doing a lot of the testing work. We wanted to do the quality assurance of our 802.11n solution".

The Wi-Fi Alliance — a global supplier-led organisation — is running a more widespread interoperability testing programme covering nearly every equipment vendor.

The four vendors Intel has publicly chosen to work with all provide primarily consumer and small office equipment: Buffalo, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear.

Intel is also porting some of its vPro desktop firmware to Centrino, so IT managers will be able to wirelessly perform a range of administrative tasks on user's laptops.

WiMax will be integrated into Santa Rosa in 2008, the company added.

Innovation the key to unlock a competitive future for Wales
By Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief executive, NESTA | 2 Oct 2006

There was a time when Wales could build an economy just by optimising for efficiency on the back of a competitive manufacturing export base. That period is now coming to an end. Instead, if we are to compete economically as well as solve the social and environmental problems of the 21st century, we must maximise our capacity for innovation.

This fact is increasingly being acknowledged and this week Cardiff will host the inaugural Innovation Wales - the technology exhibition & conference. The event will bring together a wide range of hi-tech companies, venture capitalists and public and private bodies to consider how Wales can capitalise on its vast innovative potential.

A few years ago one commentator wrote that Swansea could become a 'Welsh Silicon Valley', and it is imperative that Wales has the self-confidence to regard such ambition for its university cities as viable and credible. To do so it must work to enhance and integrate the ingredients necessary for an innovation economy to prosper: well-established links between higher education institutions and businesses so that ideas can be nurtured into commercial successes; a sufficient and diverse pool of start-up funding so that young companies can get off the ground; and the presence of a large number of creative individuals to come up with new ideas at the outset.

At NESTA, we use the largest single source of endowed funds in the UK to invest in start-up businesses and ensure that these projects are effectively mentored as they strive to develop into successful companies. Across Wales, we have, so far, invested in 29 projects and businesses totalling £1.5m and recognise that innovation is not merely a safeguard against future economic stagnation, but vital to solving contemporary problems.

Used Tyre Distillation Research (UTDR) in North Wales illustrates exactly this point having just opened a recycling plant to help turn the estimated 50 million tyres discarded in the UK each year into feedstock for use across other industries. UTDR’s system is green, economical and fulfils a pressing need given that the most frequently used manner of disposal – landfill – is now outlawed under new EU environment rules.

Similarly, Swansea-based Starbridge Systems is developing a revolutionary new micro-pump for use across a range of medical disciplines, but which could be particularly important for diabetes sufferers. With the disease now reaching epidemic proportions across the world, Starbridge is being supported by NESTA as they look to advance a prototype to allow sufferers to carry a three-day supply of insulin on their body, and so lead a safer life less inconvenienced by the need for regular injections.

Starbridge is, in fact, part of the well-documented Technium Wales network which provides specialist incubator facilities for hi-tech, creative and knowledge-based businesses. Indeed, Wales has an encouraging number of programmes in support of such firms, including the Wales Innovation Relay Centre, CTI Wales, SmartCymru, the Technology and Innovation Group and the much-vaunted Wales Innovator Network.

All these organisations have looked to enhance Wales' capacity for innovation, but still more can be done across the country to ensure that young Welsh companies have improved access to high quality, bespoke early stage business support during the difficult first steps of their development.

Money is only one part of the equation for these firms, and all those involved in attempting to bolster innovation must look to boost the soft support available in the form of access to networks, mentors, role models and expertise.

The question of how best to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation is becoming one of the leading issues of our day. Politicians from all sides are beginning to realise that the challenges of wealth creation, employment and environmental decline all point inexorably towards innovation as the common solution.

The media is starting to pick up on this trend, and politicians must build on this momentum to formulate a national mission for innovation – a mission in which Wales has a pivotal role to play.

Innovation Wales takes place at Cardiff City Hall this Tuesday, October 3 (9am-7pm). Entrance is free.

Friday, September 29, 2006

WAG seeks public views on Wales' IT strategy

By Staff Writer | 29 Sep 2006

The people of Wales have a month to contribute their views on how the Welsh Assembly Government can use IT to improve public services and the economy of Wales, as part of WAG's ‘Towards e-Wales’ consultation. The closing date for responses is 31 October 2006.

Responses from the consultation will lead to an implementation plan to be issued later in 2006, which will stress the priorities for action to exploit IT in public services and Wales’ economic development strategy.

Those living and working in Wales are invited to share their views on how best to heighten Welsh economic performance, improve public services and ensure all citizens can exploit the opportunities offered by ICT and benefit from developments in telecommunications infrastructure.

This consultation follows the recent restructuring of WAG and the setting up of the new e-Wales Unit, which supersedes the previous Broadband Wales programme.

The enefits of the Broadband Wales scheme has come under the microscope in a report issued by WAG this month. The Broadband Benefits Report] [pdf] carried out by Newport-based Atkins Management Consultants, studies the impact of broadband and the Broadband Wales programme on the Welsh economy and covers the period 2000-2015.

WAG says: “The key findings of the report estimates that the net benefit of broadband on the Welsh economy to be at least £1.4 billon and the net benefit of the Broadband Wales programme to be at least £357 million.”

The report also states: “We estimated that, if the programme had not been established, there would have been 7.5 broadband connections per 100 inhabitants in Wales as at June 2005, compared to our estimate of actual penetration of 12.7 connections per 100 inhabitants.”

According to the study, Wales is doing well in providing first generation broadband, but is still lagging behind the UK and other industrialised countries when it comes to faster broadband services.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Minister's wiki experiment suspended

Minister's wiki experiment suspended
Graeme Wearden
September 06, 2006, 16:25 BST

After asking the public to contribute their views on environmental policy, David Miliband says he won't be put off by 'malicious' interventions

Government minister David Miliband has vowed to continue experimenting with online engagement after his department's first move into wiki-policy ended in disarray (...)

BT launches mobile TV service

David Meyer
September 07, 2006, 11:30 BST

Communications giant claims Movio is a world first, but analysts see challenges ahead

BT has announced the launch of its mobile broadcast TV service, Movio, with partner Virgin Mobile.

The service, for which Virgin currently has one handset — the Lobster 700TV — runs over the existing Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) network and also provides access to radio channels on that network.

BT claims Movio is the first wholesale service in the world to include live TV, DAB radio, a seven-day programme guide and "red-button" interactivity for mobile phones.

Channels include BBC1, ITV1 and E4, although certain content such as "some film, sport and US-produced content" will not be broadcast on the service, BT said on Thursday. The BBC1 tie-in is a year-long trial and Channel 4 may join in later, although it is providing its made-for-mobile "Short Cuts" service in the meantime.

"Viewing TV via the mobile is fast becoming a reality and the popularity of our existing services proves a strong demand for mobile viewing already exists," said Rod Henwood, Channel 4's director of new business, on Thursday.

However, analysts have previously told ZDNet UK that, while demand exists, no one yet knows how big take-up will be and operators who don't work together on standards are taking a big risk with the technology.

Analysts at Gartner said on Thursday that the mobile sector could get a boost from TV services, if they are implemented correctly.

"In mature markets, mobile TV might be a good way to convince people to replace existing phones. However, vendors need to design handsets carefully. Trends towards thin phones and smaller 3G devices mean users might not appreciate a bulkier device, even though a larger screen will be easier to watch," said Gartner.

On Wednesday Orange issued a statement saying it had "considered the DAB service from BT, but with only one compatible handset currently available and only a small number of channels on offer, [streaming TV over 3G] remains the best means of delivery for Orange".

Another rival format to DAB-IP is DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting — Handheld), which can supply a greater number of channels but for which spectrum is currently unavailable.

Virgin is expected to release pricing and availability details for the Lobster handset later on Thursday.

BT set to take broadband lead again

Matthew Broersma
September 12, 2006, 13:25 BST

ntl:Telewest's March merger made it the UK's biggest broadband service provider, but it's likely to cede the top position back to BT Retail by the end of the year, according to a new study.

A report released by Point Topic on Tuesday, covering UK ISP market share through Q2 2006, found that the cable provider's ability to keep adding broadband subscribers has been hampered by geographic limitations. As a result, ntl:Telewest's broadband growth has slowed considerably, while BT has forged ahead with its DSL services.

At the end of March, ntl:Telewest was 5 percent ahead of BT Retail in broadband subscribers. By the end of June the gap had narrowed to 2.4 percent, according to Point Topic.

At this rate, BT will once again be number one by the end of the year, with 25 percent of all the UK's broadband subscribers — 3 million subscribers in total, Point Topic said.

"Once again, it illustrates the inherent difficulty of competing against the incumbent in this type of market," said Point Topic chief executive Tim Johnson, in a statement.

Those figures cover BT Retail, but the company also has a large wholesale operation, which got a boost on Monday with a deal under which Vodafone will launch itself into the broadband business as a BT reseller.

Point Topic found that the ntl group, encompassing the ntl, Telewest and Virgin ISPs, grew by only 3.1 percent in the second quarter, below the market average and a steep drop from its growth of 10.3 percent in the last quarter of 2005.

Meanwhile, BT has gone from 22.4 percent of the market in September 2005 to 24.3 percent in the second quarter of this year. That is BT's fourth successive quarter of growth, Point Topic said.

ntl:Telewest is ultimately limited by the reach of its network, and competing telcos have been unable to get BT to release its grip on its network via local loop unbundling, Point Topic said. Meanwhile, BT has been able to focus on straightforward marketing to bring in new customers.

Trains get satellite broadband boost

Matthew Broersma
September 12, 2006, 17:35 BST

The telecoms regulator says train companies can now use the same high-speed satellite Internet uplinks as planes and ships

Ofcom on Tuesday made available a new type of spectrum licence that could allow train operators such as GNER to upgrade their on-board wireless services to two-way satellite links, similar to those already in use on aeroplanes and ships.

Wireless hot spots have become ubiquitous in city centres, but transport operators have been slower to bring wireless Internet access to passengers, partly because of the technical hurdles involved in maintaining a continuous link to a moving vehicle. Trains also need to deal with ground obstacles and tunnels.

Train operators such as GNER and Virgin have settled on solutions that combine satellite and cellular coverage, normally using satellite for the downlink and cellular services (including 3G, GPRS and GSM) for the uplink. The combination means connectivity can be maintained even in tunnels.

Plane-based systems such as the now-defunct Connexion by Boeing tend to use simpler systems based on a two-way satellite link. Previously, licensing constraints barred trains from using a satellite uplink. Ofcom has now lifted that constraint, creating a new licence category for train-based systems.

"Currently, some train operators are using stationary satellite uplinks mounted at the side of the track. The new licence class allows them to have an on-board satellite uplink," said an Ofcom spokeswoman.

Ofcom has had licence types for planes and ships for some time, but created the new type because of the increasing use of wireless links on trains.

The licence applies to the 14-14.25GHz band. Trials using this band on train systems have already been carried out in some European countries, Ofcom said. Some existing train satellite systems use other bands — for instance, Icomera, which provides GNER's system, uses the 1.2168 GHz frequency.

Details of the new licence type can be found on Ofcom's Web site, here and here.

GNER launched its on-board Wi-Fi service commercially in July.

Last month Korean Air said it would sue Boeing over the failure of its in-flight broadband venture, Connexion by Boeing. The Korea Times said the airline had spent $400,000 equipping 29 planes to be able to offer in-flight broadband connectivity and had been planning to roll out the service to another 25 aircraft by 2008.

Boeing announced the closure of Connexion earlier in August, saying there was little demand for the service.