Monday, July 31, 2006

The do-it-yourself Web emerges

By Martin LaMonica
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: July 31, 2006, 4:00 AM PDT

New services from fledging start-ups enable people to build Web applications themselves, which pundits say will unleash creativity.

(...) Enter the do-it-yourself Web. A growing number of start-ups, like Calbucci's Sampa, are trying to bring Web application creation to the masses, letting mere mortals share spreadsheets online or "mash up" information from different Web sites.

The idea is to empower non-programmers to make sites that are more than a simple collection of static Web pages. In the process, individuals will gain better tools to collaborate and communicate online, particularly when these services are brought to the office, say experts.

"Bringing do-it-yourself (Web sites) to the office may be the beginning of a new movement to free up creativity at the individual office worker level," said John Seely Brown, a consultant and former chief scientist at Xerox. "I think we have the perfect storm for some major changes."

Seely Brown said rapid commoditization of hardware and software, combined with greater bandwidth, makes complex hosted services more viable. Also, modern browsers enable more interactive Web applications and consumers are becoming accustomed to mixing information from multiple sources to create their own applications.

End-user application development is a long-held--and largely unsuccessful--idea. But entrepreneurs and experts contend that emerging tools are paving the way for untrained people to create relatively sophisticated Web sites, typically an outgrowth of blogs, wikis and bookmark-sharing sites like Delicious.

"It's really easy to do collaborative content sharing through blogs and wikis, but I have other tools on my desktop like a spreadsheet and a database," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group. "It'd be really nice to take those familiar tools and bring them to the Web--and that's exactly what's happening."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Companies learn value of blogging
By Tom Braithwaite
Published: July 16 2006 16:30 | Last updated: July 16 2006 16:30

BT is preparing to launch its own blog in a marketing move that is also a riposte to Carphone Warehouse, its smaller rival.

Corporate blogging is increasingly used by companies to improve both internal and external communications, as well as for sheer promotional reasons.

It can also be a risky strategy – if uncensored comments are allowed – that gives individual employees and customers a new level of influence over a brand.

John Petter, BT’s chief operating officer, will start blogging in the next few weeks. He believes keeping an online journal offers a way to reach customers who are increasingly disillusioned with traditional public relations methods.

“They are suspicious of ‘corporate speak’ and they want it straight from the horse’s mouth,” he says. “Especially in a big company they want to know that someone is taking responsibility.”

Mr Petter’s blog is partly inspired by that of Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, who started blogging to promote the launch of his company’s new “free” broadband package for TalkTalk, its consumer brand.

Since April, Mr Dunstone has given an account of the struggle to respond to the interest the new product generated.

Sometimes frank but mainly promotional, he tells readers about floods that disrupted his Mumbai call centre and does not pass up the opportunity to takes a pop at his rival.

“We have already had the inevitable grumblings from BT, suggesting to people that it isn’t really free, and to check the small print,” he wrote. “My response is: ‘do the maths, BT.’ ”

BT, which has recently launched a new high-end broadband package, insists its blog will be an authentic personal account. “If it reads like something that had a whole department manufacturing it then it simply wouldn’t work,” Mr Petter says.

Corporate blogging can be a marketing tool, a new approach to collaborative working or simply a way to free computer resources.

Richard Charkin, chief executive of Macmillan, the publisher, has been blogging since December after his IT department complained that his e-mail newsletter was slowing the company’s system.

Switching to a web-based blog let him solve this problem and try to establish Macmillan as a publisher embracing the digital world.

“I think it’s important for a company to have an image which is forward-looking rather than backward-looking,” he says.

Mr Charkin now claims a readership of more than 20,000 and his insights on the difficulty of marketing non-fiction books and tales of burglars urinating in one of his bookshops are eagerly read in the publishing world.

Even the most secretive professions are embracing blogs, if only for internal communications. JP Rangaswami was instrumental in introducing blogging to Dresdner Kleinwort, the investment bank, where he is head of alternative market models, to give different teams the possibility to share ideas.

“There are still a number of objectors,” he says. “It didn’t sound like work.”

But Mr Rangaswami claims that the introduction of blogs and “wikis” – tools that allow collaboration on writing online – have replaced much of the bank’s corporate intranet and increased efficiency.

He now advises other companies on starting blogs and wikis. “The first fear factor seems to be about loss of control; and my claim is what they perceive as their form of control has already been lost,” he says.

“The relationship genie has got out of the bottle. Twenty years ago somebody might have been [protesting] in front of a bank with a placard – that’s quite expensive in terms of human time and effort. Now you can reach 100,000 people [with a blog].”

Lawyers have also started to embrace online journals in spite of the dangers of breaching client confidentiality. Ruth Ward, head of knowledge systems at Allen & Overy, has introduced internal blogs to the law firm and next month will launch a wiki for collaboration with small groups of external clients.

“It really seems to speak to people very powerfully . . . people who found traditional computer systems such as intranets quite hard work both bureaucratically and in terms of technology,” she says.

But she acknowledges that – like banking – not everyone in the legal profession is comfortable with more open access to information.

“In other law firms where it’s very much dog-eat-dog, the last thing people would want to do is post something that could allow someone else to steal their clients,” she says.

The riskiest area to companies harnessing the power of the internet involves “user-generated content”.

In March, General Motors, the US carmaker, invited users of its website to produce 30-second video adverts for the Chevy Tahoe, its new sports utility vehicle.

Companies that have enjoyed the success of such “viral marketing” have seen positive, often humorous, commercials for their product spread around the internet at no cost to their brand or balance sheet.

But GM’s openness led to thousands of ads attacking the company’s SUVs for their impact on the environment.

In the UK, a spoof blog set up last year by “Barry Scott”, a fictional character created to sell Reckitt Benckiser’s Cillit Bang household cleaner, backfired after the top web searches for “Cillit Bang” produced only bloggers attacking the campaign.

Manipulation of a medium that is seen as inherently authentic is a risky step.

“I’m sure people will try but I think very often they will be found out,” says Ms Ward. “There seem to be an awful lot of people who police the internet.”

The Cloud launches its first Wi-Fi hotzone

David Meyer | ZDNet UK | July 18, 2006, 12:40 BST

Manchester has gained blanket Wi-Fi access, thanks to The Cloud and the Manchester Evening News

Wireless Internet provider The Cloud launched its first hotzone in Manchester city centre on Tuesday.

The company has gone into partnership with regional newspaper the Manchester Evening News (MEN) for the launch, with the newspaper's website, Manchester Online, acting as a free-to-access gateway into the paid service.

"We think hotzones and city-centre coverage generally should have a highly relevant media partner," The Cloud's chief marketing officer James Saunders told ZDNet UK.

"Enabling these content services is something that Wi-Fi can do. It has local relevance and we've managed to do an appropriate deal with them so they benefit from free access, and we benefit from their support in terms of marketing our new UltraWi-Fi [tariffs]."

Saunders described The Cloud's service — available at £11.99 for a week's connectivity and £11.99 per month on a year's contract — as an alternative to datacards, saying it was intended as "a complementary service for the bit in between the home and the office", rather than a home DSL replacement.

Wi-Fi networks tend to offer superior access speeds to those available using 3G services. However, individual connection speeds can fall if too many users are connected to the same access point.

The service has no usage limit, although The Cloud retains the right to impose a reasonable-use policy if they "think there's abuse going on".

The Cloud is also in talks with potential partners to launch its other nine hotzones, described by Saunders as being "at high levels of completion".

The zones — in Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford and parts of London — are already mostly usable, but will "get individual attention" when partners are identified.

Users of BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones, Vonage, iPass and Nintendo Wi-Fi are able to use the Manchester network, through roaming agreements with The Cloud.

Ofcom removes retail price controls

ofcom | press release | 19|07|06
Ofcom removes retail price controls on BT line rental and calls

Today, 22 years after retail price controls were first imposed to limit increases in the price of line rental and calls for BT customers, Ofcom announced their removal.

This significant deregulation follows both the conclusion of Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Telecommunications in September 2005 and a specific public consultation on the removal of retail price controls begun in March 2006.

The removal of retail price controls is enabled by – and reflects – the rapid growth of competition and continued reductions in the cost of phone services for customers. More than 10.7 million households and small businesses now use providers other than BT Group plc for their phone calls – including more than 4.6 million cable customers – and the UK has some of the cheapest phone costs in the world.

This pattern of increasing competition and falling prices is likely to gather pace in the future as new technologies enter the mass market, such as Voice over IP (VoIP) phone calls over the internet, already actively used by more than 500,000 UK households and small businesses. A number of companies have also developed unbundled local loop services which offer phone calls, high-speed broadband, television over broadband and video-on-demand over their customers’ existing phone lines. To date, more than 600,000 local loops have been unbundled, a total increasing by almost 100,000 a month with a further acceleration in predicted demand in the near term.

Fixed line providers also face growing competition from the mobile sector. Mobile phone usage is growing as consumers increasingly turn to mobiles rather than landline phones for many of their daily calls. Mobile phones now account for 31% of all voice call minutes in the UK, up from 20% in 2001 and 5% in 1996.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

BSkyB joins 'free broadband' war

[1] | Tuesday, 18 July 2006

BSkyB's broadband is expected to be bundled with its existing services
The broadband pricing war has heated up with satellite firm BSkyB launching a free service for its subscribers.

Under the offer, existing network customers can get its 2MB "base" package for free. Sky expects 30% of its eight million users to sign up.

New subscribers to Sky Digital will be able to sign up for its broadband offering for as little as £15.

Sky said it would spend about £250m on the move, adding it expected to invest a further £400m over three years.



BSkyB unveils details of broadband offer
Tue Jul 18, 2006 4:29am ET166

LONDON (Reuters) - British pay-TV company BSkyB launched a broadband Internet access service on Tuesday that it will bundle with its satellite TV offering, taking on competitors including telecommunications giant BT Group.

The company, 38 percent owned by Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate News Corp, said it anticipated investment of 400 million pounds ($727.9 million) of EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) over the next three years, and sees it becoming earnings enhancing from 2010.

BSkyB joins broadband free-for-all
By Kate Mackenzie
Published: July 18 2006 11:19 | Last updated: July 18 2006 11:19

BSkyB on Tuesday launched a free broadband internet offering, in what is set to be a key move in the battle for customers between fixed-line telecoms companies, cable operators and broadcasters.

Its shares were 4.4 per cent lower at 517p on the news while competitor Carphone Warehouse, which is pursuing a similar broadband strategy, was 3.8 per cent lower to 265p.

The broadcaster will offer all its satellite television customers free broadband connections with speeds of up to 2 megabits per second and a data download allowance of 2GB - equivalent to about three CDs of data.

It will also offer connections up to 8 megabits, with a 40GB data allowance, for £5 per month and up to 16 megabits with “unlimited” data for £10 per month.

BSkyB will also use voice-over-IP technology to offer unlimited fixed-line phone calls within the UK for £5 per month.

It will invest £400m – about double the amount expected by analysts – over the next three years on building the broadband network it bought last year when it acquired EasyNet for £211m. BSkyB said the broadband product was expected to begin reaping profits in the year to June 30, 2010.

The satellite broadcaster has about 8m customers, but as the vogue for bundling communications services takes hold, it faces pressure from companies that were not traditionally considered competitors. Carphone Warehouse, best known for its mobile phone retail business, in April announced it would offer free broadband with unlimited national phone calls for £20.99, including line rental.

Orange, the mobile telecoms operator owned by France Telecom, has also moved into free broadband provision to its mobile customers.

However industry figures and analysts fear a scenario in which undifferentiated broadband and telephony products push down margins as service providers compete on price for a finite number of customers.

To combat this, providers are focusing on speed and added services. BSkyB’s broadband will include a 12-month license for anti-virus software and a free wireless router.

James Murdoch, BSkyB chief executive, said the company had no plans to branch out into mobile phone services. Its chief competitor in subscription television, ntl, recently bought Virgin Mobile in order to expand its own services.

However Mr Murdoch confirmed his company was considering a bid for AOL’s UK business, one of the largest broadband providers with 2.2m customers. He has previously said the company intends to be a major broadband player, operating “at scale”.

[4] | Published: July 18 2006 11:19 | Last updated: July 19 2006 00:00
BSkyB to invest £400m for broadband arm
By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Emiko Terazono and Andrew Parker

British Sky Broadcasting will pour £400m ($728m, €581m) into building a broadband access business over the next three years in the hope of expanding from its £4bn pay television market to take a piece of the £25bn internet, telecommunications and entertainment market by 2010.

James Murdoch, BSkyB chief executive, said the satellite broadcaster was targeting 3m customers by 2010 – about one sixth of the households expected to have broadband accounts by then.

Its aggressive challenge to rivals such as BT Group, NTL and Carphone Warehouse will entail unexpectedly high upfront investment. Shares in BSkyB fell by 23½p to 517½p as analysts cut 2007 forecasts by as much as 10 per cent.

Expectations of an intensifying war for broadband customers also hit shares in BT Group by 3½p to 226¾p and knocked Carphone Warehouse by 12p to 263½p.

The BSkyB announcement came as Charles Dunstone, Carphone chief executive, was forced by the Advertising Standards Authority to abandon his “free broadband forever” slogan, which had helped the group attract 340,000 broadband customers between April and June.

BSkyB will offer all its television customers free broadband connections with speeds of up to 2 megabits a second and a data download allowance of 2GB. It will also offer connections up to 8 megabits, with a 40GB data allowance, for £5 a month and up to 16 megabits with “unlimited” data for £10 a month.

“For a lot of incumbent players who have been charging a lot [of money] for not a lot, it could be very uncomfortable,” said Mr Murdoch, who claimed consumers could save up to £300 a year compared with rival services.

Rivals disputed the claim, noting that the free broadband service would only be available to about 1m of BSkyB’s 8.1m customers until it took control of more of the landlines that run from BT exchanges to people’s homes.

BT, which has complained about Carphone’s broadband advertising, said: “BT’s broadband is available now, Sky’s tomorrow and Carphone’s ‘free forever’ has never been’.”

Mr Murdoch defended the upfront investment, saying: “It’s a couple of quarters of operating profit to build a franchise that is going to have the durability of decades and open up millions of customers. I’ll make that trade any day.”

The group is building on the Easynet broadband network it bought last year for £211m.

The bulk of the initial investment will include subscriber acquisition costs of about £80, on average, for a customer. BSkyB said the broadband product was expected to begin reaping profits in the year to June 30 2010.

Although SkyBroadband will offer online distribution for BSkyB’s content, including film and sports rights, it stops short of a full internet television service.

Mr Murdoch confirmed BSkyB was examining AOL’s UK internet access business, which has 2.2m customers, but cautioned it was wary about overpaying.

Additional reporting by Kate Mackenzie

Monday, July 17, 2006

Broadband Wales- Consultation

Towards e-Wales - a strategic consultation

The e-Wales strategy is now available for consultation.


Friday, July 14, 2006

low power FM transmitters

Ofcom | press release
Legalising the use of low power FM transmitters for MP3 players

Ofcom today proposed to legalise the use of low power FM transmitters which can be used to connect MP3 players and other personal audio devices wirelessly to radios and in-car entertainment systems . Simple and low cost wireless devices, such as the “iTrip”, are commonly used in other countries to enable people to listen to music transmitted from an MP3 player or other audio device to radios in the home or on the move.

Low power FM radio transmitters for MP3 players are currently unauthorised for use in the UK and Europe because of the potential to cause interference to broadcast services. Ofcom is responding to growing consumer demand for the use of these devices and has led negotiations in Europe to develop a harmonised approach to their use by late autumn 2006.
Deregulation of CB radio

Ofcom also proposes to deregulate Citizens’ Band services, allowing around 20,000 licensees to use short range transmitters for hobby and leisure purposes without the administrative and cost burden of an Ofcom licence.

The deregulation of Citizens’ Band services could also support the growth of Community Audio Distribution Systems (CADs), simple and inexpensive wireless public address systems which are used to transmit local community services. Ofcom recently consulted on CADs and announced trials in Northern Ireland and West Yorkshire in April 2006.
Allocation of new spectrum for low power devices

Ofcom’s proposals also include making more spectrum available to meet consumer demand for other low power devices such as hearing aids, alarms systems, tracking and tracing systems and meter reading devices. Under the proposals these will be able to operate in the 169.4 -169.8125 MHz band.

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 22 September 2006. The full consultation can be found in the Related Items.


Note for Editors and CSEs

1. Ofcom is consulting on a range of changes to the Wireless Telegraphy Exemption Regulations 2003, which are part of its overall approach to reduce regulation whilst encouraging innovative use of the UK’s finite national spectrum resource. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, the use of wireless telegraphy equipment in the UK must be licensed unless it is specifically exempt.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Next-gen network delays hit Newport

Graeme Wearden and David Meyer
July 06, 2006, 14:15 BST

UK-based Newport Networks alarmed the City after revealing that its efforts to sell its VoIP hardware to a major telco have stumbled

Shares in UK network equipment manufacturer Newport Networks plunged by over 50 percent on Wednesday after the company revealed that a key deal with a major telco was proceeding slower than expected.

Newport was founded by UK telecoms billionaire Sir Terry Matthews. It makes a product called the 1460 session controller, which can be used in large telecoms networks to underpin Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services.

In a statement released to the stock market, Newport revealed that it had not, as previously expected, secured a deal with a major "tier one" telecoms operator. Back in early June, Newport had indicated that this agreement would be finalised before July.

In its announcement, Newport also admitted that it had "experienced procurement delays with other large next-generation network projects"