Sunday, December 23, 2007

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Christmas wish list | 14.16 Thursday 20th December 2007

Every year of my life seems to have been challenging for one reason or another. But I have always been able to stay ahead of the game and keep on top of technology and business.

In the early days the hardware and software involved was well beyond the pocket of private individuals. Only giant corporations could afford the 100T computers that consumed kilowatts of power and acres of floor space.

These mighty machines have long been eclipsed by PCs and other devices that fit the bag, pocket or hand, consume a few watts and provide each of us with massive computing capabilities at vanishingly low prices. Adequate PCs and laptops are now hitting the $400 break point and all the associated peripherals come at inconsequential cost.

For decades my Christmas wish list has presented a viable spending opportunity - but not this year. To continue making progress and keep ahead of the game, I need things that are just not available.

Number one on my list is bandwidth, and throughout the Western world it just isn't there. I have to go east to find a world of satisfying connectivity and associated creativity. Number two is my need for a machine intelligence that helps me understand system and business complexities and guides me to better decision making.


OFCOM | NGN Responses

OFCOM | Responses to consultation: Next Generation Networks - Future arrangements for access and interconnection

(...) Having an Open Access Infrastructure (OAI (a dark fibre network open to be
used by any service provider)) could be important to areas where there is
limited competition at a wholesale level. BT at present has SMP in the UK
when considering leased lines and Internet access backhaul services. OAI
networks can open up the wholesale competitive market, drive down the price
customers have to pay and open up the market in general to many new and
innovative services based on a number of technologies used to light the fibre

See also:

  • 26/09/07 - Intellect response to Ofcom Consultation on 'Future Broadband - Policy Approach To Next Generation Access' (pdf 33KB)

Question 5: Do you consider there to be a role of direct regulatory or public policy intervention to create artificial incentives for earlier investment in next generation access?
It seems to be very doubtful that the market alone will result in the deployment of NGAs that give full UK coverage. Also, market forces will result in deployment to the most attractive areas in advance of those offering lower returns. Also the sheer scale of the engineering project to deploy NGA technology across the UK will inevitably mean that the services are delivered to some areas later than others. So with or without some form of intervention, there will be some people who get access to NGA later, possibly very much later, than others and without intervention there will be those who never get access to NGA. The issue then is one of inclusion and the extent to which a digital divide, temporary or long term, is acceptable. This is really a policy rather than regulatory matter. However it seems reasonable to conclude that, if a digital divide is not accepted, then intervention will be needed at some point.

Ofcom | Press Release | 26|09|07 | Ofcom considers fast broadband outlook and pledges clarity for investors

Ofcom today published a consultation paper analysing the outlook for future broadband “Next Generation Access” (NGA) networks with proposals for future regulation of this new communications infrastructure.

Regulation has contributed to an effective broadband market in the UK.

Broadband access regulation is based currently on creating and supporting a competitive market capable of delivering a range of services from a variety of providers, spanning many price points and available throughout the UK.

Broadband has become a mass-market service, with providers other than BT offering services over 3 million unbundled broadband lines and Virgin Media offering a service to 50% of the country over cable. Consumers have enjoyed falling prices, rising speeds and increasingly innovative product bundles.

In general the picture for broadband take-up in the UK is good:

* over ninety-nine per cent of the UK is connected to a broadband enabled exchange;
* over half of UK households have taken up broadband;
* almost three quarters have a choice of at least two broadband (ADSL and/or cable) network providers;
* the average headline speed has doubled in a year to reach 4.6mb/s and
* broadband prices have fallen by 9% in the last twelve months.


Regulatory clarity needed to support investment in NGA

As the market evolves, a clear regulatory regime supporting its growth will be key. Its aim will be to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy all the benefits of a competitive and dynamic market and that potential investors have clarity on how their investment will be regulated.

Ofcom proposes to play its part in facilitating timely and efficient investment in very high speed broadband networks with a regulatory policy based on the same principles it established for current generation broadband. Of particular relevance are the principles to:-

* promote competition at the deepest possible point in the broadband value chain, to optimise the opportunities for innovation and sustainable competition
* optimise the scope for innovation to maximise consumer and business benefits from these new services; and
* require equivalence where operators with market power must make their network infrastructure available to their competitors on the same basis.

In addition Ofcom proposes two new principles specific to next generation access networks:-

* regulation must reflect the significant commercial investment risk associated with deployment of these networks in order to ensure incentives for investment are retained; and
* investment in these networks requires regulatory clarity. It is important that the regulatory regime remains in place for a sufficient time to allow investors the long-term clarity they need to invest with confidence.

Ofcom CEO Ed Richards said: “Next Generation Access offers tremendous new opportunities for UK business and consumers, and its potential impact on the economy is very significant.

He added: “Investment in Next Generation Access will represent a substantial commercial risk and the market should decide where and when it will be made. We want to ensure there are no barriers to investment and provide a clear regulatory environment which will help encourage investment.

“But we also want to ensure that the benefits of competition which consumers have enjoyed with current generation broadband can also be achieved as we move to higher speed next generation access.”

The consultation closes on 5 December 2007.

The full consultation is available online at

Government mulls broadband help | Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK

The UK government is considering intervening in the way broadband is rolled out, in an effort to speed up the deployment of super-fast services.

Stephen Timms, Minister for Competitiveness, ordered a summit to look at the role of government in providing next-generation broadband.

While other countries are investing in new ways to deliver higher bandwidth, the UK is seen as lagging behind.

Mr Timms said broadband infrastructure was one of his "personal priorities".

"Today we face a new challenge. Other countries are starting to invest in new, fibre-based infrastructure, delivering considerably higher bandwidth than is available in the UK today," Mr Timms told the Broadband Stakeholder Group and others attending a meeting on Tuesday evening.

"I have decided to chair a high level summit later this year to consider the circumstances that might trigger public sector intervention and the form that intervention might take," he said.

Huge costs

The event was organised by the Broadband Stakeholder Group to outline its own plans to improve the way next-generation broadband is rolled out in the UK.

According to Richard Allan, a member of the Broadband Stakeholder Group and director of government affairs at Cisco, the UK needs to act now in order to keep its place in the top 25% of broadband nations.

"That should be one of the targets that the government sets if it wants to stay economically competitive," he said.

Mr Allan believes that the UK should have 40% of its citizens connected to fibre that can deliver broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second) by 2012.

"The current copper-based system is limited by ADSL which means 24 megabits under very good conditions," he said.

It is estimated that upgrading the whole of the UK to a fibre-based network could cost £10-15bn.

While other countries, including France, Germany and Italy are already looking at ways of improving the so-called access or last-mile network which connects to people's homes, there is so far little investment in the UK.

UK sewers may not be suitable for fibre

According to Mr Allan, the reasons for this are part-historical.

"There is evidence that the cost of civil engineering work in the UK is particularly high," he said.

He believes government intervention in lowering these costs as well as help with planning laws and providing the necessary ducting for fibre would be a step in the right direction.

In some countries ducts for fibre have been made available via municipal sewers although Mr Allan is not sure this is the solution in the UK.

"Traditionally UK sewers are deeper and they are not municipally owned but there are other ways to keep the disruption of digging up roads to a minimum, for example with micro ducts which sees fibre blown through long runs," he said.

The BSG is also calling on Ofcom to provide a regulatory framework to support investment in next-generation networks.

Ofcom looks to future of fast net

Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK

Regulator Ofcom has added its voice to the growing debate about how the UK should roll out super-fast broadband.

It has launched a consultation, running until December, to probe ways to keep UK net services up to speed with those of other nations.

Current broadband speeds have a natural limit which are unlikely to satisfy growing consumer demand for bandwidth.

In other countries, networks delivering speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second) are already being rolled out.

Some experts are concerned that the UK is falling behind its competitors. Last week Stephen Timms, Minister for Competitiveness, ordered a summit on the issue and did not rule out the possibility of public sector intervention.

The debate centres on the question of whether the UK should put in place a nationwide fibre network and, in its consultation, Ofcom lays out some of the options for the UK as well as suggesting ways in which such a network should be regulated.

So-called fibre to the kerb would offer speeds of up to 50Mbps and cost up to £10bn to roll out nationwide, experts predict.

Fibre to the home is more expensive - with an estimated £15bn price tag - but offers speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Ofcom points out that no one technology will answer the needs for more bandwidth. Cable networks will also play an important role in offering high-speed net access and Virgin Media is already trialling speeds of up to 50Mbps.


BT openreach van
Would BT monopolise next-generation access?

As new applications such as net TV become popular so demand for bandwidth increases.

Some countries, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Korea are already investing in fibre networks which deliver speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second).

According to Ofcom, current broadband speeds in the UK reach an average of 4.6Mbps. These speeds will be increased to around 24Mbps when next-generation ADSL - named ADSL2+ - begins rolling out next year.

Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards said that super-fast next generation access was an obvious next step, offering "a fundamental change to the country's infrastructure" and one that would affect how competitive the broadband market was "for years to come".

In its consultation, Ofcom is keen to stress any new network will be regulated in the same way as the existing copper-based access network. This would mean that it would have to be open to all operators, just as BT is forced to make its current network accessible to rivals.

BT, which is already investing heavily in upgrading its core network, said that it would look at fibre "where it makes commercial sense".

"BT welcomes the chance to discuss this issue with Ofcom, the government and the wider industry. We are totally committed to providing our customers with the services they want both now and in the future.

According to BT, more than 120,000 businesses already use fibre services.

Ofcom has not ruled out the possibility that rivals to BT such as CarPhoneWarehouse might consider building a fibre infrastruture for the UK.

But such a big project is fraught with controversy, pointed out Ian Fogg, an analyst with research firm Jupiter.

"At the heart of it, whoever invests in a new network will want to have a return on their investment but, because the sums are so large, the return on investment period will be many years," he said.

There are also concerns that a new fibre-based network would cannibalise the existing investments that companies such as Tiscali and CarPhoneWarehouse have made in ADSL.

In Japan, ADSL is in decline as people migrate to fibre in large numbers.

"In the UK over the last three years, there has been a significant investment in local loop unbundling (a system whereby rivals can get their hands on BT's equipment to offer alternative broadband services). The question that many will ask is whether investment in a new network would undermine the LLU investment," said Mr Fogg.

New divide

A field
There is likely to be big speed differences between town and country

There are also concerns that a fibre network would only be economically viable in dense population areas such as towns and cities, creating a new and even greater digital divide.

"The UK will have to accept a difference in speed. While those on fibre-based networks could be enjoying speeds of up to 100Mbps, those on copper telephone lines will be lucky to get 24Mbps," said Mr Fogg.

Critics are concerned that the UK is falling behind other nations but Ofcom pointed out that market and infrastructure conditions in Britain are very different to those countries where investment in fibre has already been strong. This is due in part to the already-established pay TV market in the UK.

"We are not complacent and we absolutely should be concerned about it but we might have to accept that deployment will be later in the UK," said an Ofcom spokesman.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group described Ofcom's consultation as a "key milestone" in the debate about the future of the communications infrastructure in the UK but warned that the regulator may need to take a more interventionist approach if there were long delays in rolling out next generation networks.

Minister pushes broadband agenda | Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 11:42 GMT

The government is to draw up a battle plan on the best way to roll out next-generation broadband networks.

It will share best practice from high-speed pilots around the UK as well as lay out the business case for future investment in high-speed networks.

The agreement came out of a broadband summit chaired by Competitiveness Minister Stephen Timms.

Mr Timms said ultra-fast broadband would be a key technology for Britain.

He welcomed Virgin Media's announcement that it will be launching a 50Mbps (megabits per second) broadband service in the UK in 2008.

"This is an important stride towards full next-generation access in the UK which I'm sure others will want to match," he said.

Broadband industry leaders met ministers on Monday to discuss how to stop the UK dropping into the internet "slow lane".

More than half of all UK homes now have a broadband connection, at an average speed of 4Mbps.

But the broadband summit heard how other countries are moving more quickly to build ultra-fast networks that can deliver speeds of as much as 100 Mbps.

BT unconvinced

See top 20 countries for broadband speed

Mr Timms acknowledged that the UK can't afford to fall behind.

"If we delay in putting this new network into place, it could be a barrier to the future success of our economy," he said.

Ofcom promised a "robust regulatory framework" to persuade companies to take up what could be a very risky investment.

It is estimated that for BT to roll out a fibre network across the UK could cost £15bn, a cost which the telco is not yet convinced is justified.

Virgin trial

Send us your comments

Speaking at a Westminster eForum event organised by MPs last week to look at the issue of next-generation broadband, Alan Lazarus, head of regulatory policy and strategy at BT, said he was not yet convinced people needed more bandwidth.

"What is the demand? What are the services that people want that take them beyond current capacity?" he asked.

He also pointed out that some of the bottle-necks of current access were in the core network, which BT is already spending £10bn to upgrade.

Also speaking at the eForum, Virgin Media's chief technology officer Howard Watson said its trial of 50Mbps had proved a user demand for such bandwidth.

It will deliver the high speed broadband - more than twice the maximum it currently offers - by the end of next year.

Virgin's 50 Mbps service will be available to more than 70% of the 12.5m homes its cable network covers by the end of 2008, the firm said.

Government cracks broadband whip | Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 01:42 GMT

Broadband firms could face formal action if they fail to give consumers accurate information about the speed they will get when they sign up.

The warning comes from Ofcom as it moves to ensure that net firms do not oversell broadband in advertising.

Customers should get specific data about the speed on their line or be able to back out of the deal.

The regulator said new guidelines on the selling of broadband should come into force early in 2008.

Clear information

The warning came in a letter sent by Ofcom boss Ed Richards to the Ofcom Consumer Panel in response to its work with broadband suppliers on the advertising and selling of high-speed services.


In his response Ofcom boss Ed Richards backed the consumer panel work and said it was talking to the broadband industry about how best to implement the recommendations.

The result of these discussions should be made public early in 2008, he said.

"We are keen that any measures are implemented in the shortest time frame possible," said Mr Richards. "At this stage, we have not ruled out the possibility of using formal powers if we consider it would be more effective in delivering our objectives."

A spokeswoman for Ofcom said that currently the regulator had no powers to enforce the new arrangements on the selling of broadband but would seek them by beefing up the guidelines net firms must abide by.

"This is a considerable consumer issue we are concerned by," said the spokeswoman. "We think consumers should get what they pay for. It's an important decision for them."

Queen launches YouTube channel | Last Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007, 00:09 GMT

The Queen has launched her own channel on the video-sharing website YouTube.

The Royal Channel will feature her Christmas Day message as well as recent and historical footage of the monarch and other members of the Royal Family.

The launch marks the 50th anniversary of the Queen's first televised festive address in 1957.

The palace said it hoped the site would make the 81-year-old monarch's annual speech "more accessible to younger people and those in other countries".

Changing times

The opening page of the channel, which went live just after midnight, bears the title "The Royal Channel - The Official Channel of the British Monarchy" and features a photograph of Buckingham Palace and the Queen's Guards.

This year's festive address will appear on the site at about 1500 GMT on Christmas Day.

Back in 1957, when the Queen delivered her first television message, she acknowledged the need to adapt to changing times.

"I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct," she said from her Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

"That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us."

(...) Announcing the launch of the channel, a spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said the Queen "always keeps abreast with new ways of communicating with people".

"She has always been aware of reaching more people and adapting the communication to suit," she said.

"This will make the Christmas message more accessible to younger people and those in other countries."

The Royal Channel can be viewed at and the Queen's Christmas message can also be downloaded as a podcast from

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Google - OpenSocial | October 30 2007 | Details Revealed: Google OpenSocial To Launch Thursday | Michael Arrington

Details emerged today on Google’s broad social networking ambitions, first reported here in late September, with a follow up earlier this week. The new project, called OpenSocial (URL will go live on Thursday), goes well beyond what we’ve previously reported. It is a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications that work on any social networks (called “hosts”) that choose to participate.(...)


The web is better when it's social

+ | October 30th, 2007 | Google’s OpenSocial: What it means | Posted by Dan Farber @ 11:37 pm

Google’s open social networking platform play is the buzz of the blogosphere tonight. (see Techmeme). Indeed, it is called OpenSocial in that the set of APIs allows developers to create applications that work on any social network that joins Google’s open party. So far, besides Google’s Orkut social net, LinkedIn, hi5, XING, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning (see Marc Andreessen’s post) have joined the party.


This comes on the heels of the Facebook’s dynamic growth based on opening its social graph to developers and Microsoft’s $240 million investment for 1.6 percent of the company. However, unlike Google, Facebook doesn’t open its APIs to support other social networks. The other social networking giant, MySpace, is also planning to open its platform to developers.

This openness is part of what Vic Gundotra, Google’s head of developer programs, meant when he said last week, “In the next year we will make a series of announcements and spend hundreds of millions on innovations and giving them away as open source.”

He explained the newfound openness as more than altruism: “It also makes good economic sense. The more applications, the more usage. More users means more searches. And, more searches means more revenue for Google. The goal is to grow the overall market, not just to increase market share.”


What does OpenSocial mean longer term?

It could become a kind of identity fabric for the Internet–with user profile data, relationships (social graph) and other items associated with an individual, group or brand that is used as a basis for more friction-free interactions of all kinds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

EU Telecoms Reform - faq | EU's proposed Telecoms Reform: the Frequently Asked Questions

The proposed European Commission Telecoms Reform aims to ensure that 500 million EU citizens get easier and cheaper access to a variety of innovative telecoms services and will have, as a result of more effective competition, more freedom of choice between different operators. (...) X

For future of enterprise computing, watch consumers | November 14, 2007 4:00 AM PST | For future of enterprise computing, watch consumers | Posted by Tom Krazit

The enterprise computing industry seems like it's turning into one big utility company.


The future of enterprise computing will draw from what is being developed on the consumer side, Otellini said. "Consumers today are the No. 1 users of semiconductors; they passed over IT and government in 2004. That's a big change; prior to that period, most people developing silicon in the industry were focused on the main market--the enterprise and IT. Today, most of us are focused on the consumer market as drivers."

Not so long ago, if you were technology-oriented and wanted to do something innovative and cool that would make you rich, you wrote a new piece of enterprise software. Or you came up with a new design for a server. Or you figured out a way to link businesspeople with their offices while on the road. Of course, there are always exceptions, but enterprise computing, most believed, was where the real innovation occurred. Those innovations paved the way for the computing industry as we know it today.


However, keeping an enterprise's IT operation up and running is rapidly turning into the technology equivalent of plumbing, or maybe electricity: extremely vital pieces of infrastructure that no longer attract the type of young engineering enthusiasts who built Silicon Valley. Those people are now building Web 2.0 applications. They're designing social-networking communities or virtual worlds, not some new piece of enterprise-resource planning software that's going to set the world afire.

Perhaps that's because they can see the endgame. "We are the IPO market for the enterprise software industry," said Oracle President Charles Phillips on Monday. Hurd echoed the sentiment later that day. "In the end, math wins. When you look at the math right now, in the tech industry, there are only a handful of players that have in excess of $100 billion worth of cash," he said. Enterprise computing has turned into an acquisition race between giants like Oracle, SAP, IBM, HP, and EMC.

Consumer technology and the Web are going in the opposite direction. Sure, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are snapping up anything and everything that seems remotely interesting. But consolidation? Hardly. For every 10 companies gobbled by Google, a new powerhouse like Facebook starts forming its own little tech ecosystem, with start-ups eagerly feeding into it. You don't see that sort of thing in enterprise computing much these days.

The major trends in enterprise computing are things like consolidation and virtualization: how to do more with the stuff you've already got, or how to pare down the electrical costs of running a modern data center. Overall enterprise technology spending is basically flat as businesses work with the assets they already have.

Otellini focused his speech on his new Penryn chips and how they can save enterprises money off their data center expenses through lower power consumption and better performance. Notable goals, for sure. Consumer technology, however, is about the experience, about finding new and better ways to interact with technology.

"Computing is becoming free," Otellini said. That doesn't mean Intel will start giving away its products, but it does mean that the cost of acquiring computing power is getting smaller and smaller every year. In that kind of environment, where computing power itself is no longer the sexy technology, it's the presentation that matters.

Enterprise computing has never been about presentation: it's about getting stuff done. It's about running the payroll for Fortune 500 companies, and about analyzing and sorting huge amounts of extremely complex customer data.

Look, enterprise computing isn't going anywhere. Billions of dollars will continue to be spent on software needed to run increasingly complex businesses and the hardware that will keep it snappy. And the consumer appetite for technology could start to diminish if people have to start choosing between a new PC or HDTV and paying the mortgage or filling up the car.

But just as technology transformed the way the world does business, it's about to have the same effect on individuals, who are mostly still running desktop PCs, calling friends and family on a landline, and driving a car with an analog set of gauges. This is where the talent and the dollars are flocking, improving how we as individuals interact with technology. Not building CRM modules for the midmarket.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Long Distance Wireless | Long Distance Wireless becomes another key toolset for get Broadband to the Last Mile

November 6, 2007 at 8:36 am by jefbuder · Filed under Disruptive Tech, Wireless News

According to the BBC Intel chairman Craig Barrett has been discussing the Wireless Africa Plan on a tour of Africa:

Africa needs to embrace wireless broadband as a potential solution to the digital divide, the chairman of Intel Craig Barrett has said. “It’s cheaper, easier and more efficient to communicate wirelessly,” he told the BBC News website.

The International Telecommunications Union has predicted that the Intel-backed Wimax system could become the dominant mobile standard in Africa.

Mr Barrett, who is in Africa as part of the Intel World Ahead programme, said: “In every African country, except some of the more established economies, cell phones vastly outnumber fixed line phones.

Intel obviously sees the writing on the wall.

Barrett in the article says that once you have the basic wireless network infrastructure and the undersea cables to transport the signal to bandwidth regions such as Europe in place you can “forget about wires and twisted copper and go directly to broadband wireless technologies like WiMax.”


One Wi-Fi-enabled Laptop Per Child | One Wi-Fi-enabled Laptop Per Child | By Naomi Graychase | November 6, 2007

Nicholas Negroponte’s pet project, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), is offering a nice deal to potential donors this month. If putting a durable, Wi-Fi-enabled, energy-efficient, alternatively powered laptop into the hands of children in developing countries isn’t enough of an enticement to get you to give, T-Mobile USA announced on Friday that it will sweeten the deal. If you make a donation of one laptop ($399, $200 of which is tax-deductible) during this month’s Give One Get One promotion, then T-Mobile will reward you with one free year of access at its Hotspots (a $360 value).

The Give One Get One promotion commences November 12th and ends a few days after Thanksgiving, on November 26th. During this time, people who donate one laptop, will be sent a second identical laptop for free.

The green, plastic laptops, dubbed “XO,” were carefully designed with their intended users—rural children—in mind.

“The XO is a potent learning tool created expressly for the world's poorest children, living in its most remote environments,” says the OLPC web site.

The XO can be powered by solar, manually, or by standard electricity. On board wireless networking features include an integrated 802.11b/g (2.4GHz) interface, 802.11s (mesh) networking support, and dual adjustable, rotating coaxial antennas. It also supports diversity reception and is capable of mesh operation when the CPU is powered down.

According to Negropante, more than 7,500 XOs have already been distributed. To make a donation, visit

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Britons sending 1bn texts weekly | Monday, 5 November 2007, 00:24 GMT

Britons are now sending more than one billion text messages per week according to the latest figures from the Mobile Data Association (MDA).

The figure is 25% higher than a year ago and is set to shatter forecasts for how many text messages have been sent to and from handsets this year.

That weekly total is the same as the number sent during the whole of 1999.

Some 4.825bn texts were sent in September 2007, equivalent to 4,000 every second.

"It has exceeded our forecasts quite significantly," said Mike Short, head of the MDA.

The total for 2007 looks set to reach 52 billion, he said. This was far in excess of the 42-48 billion the MDA previously predicted would be sent this year.

Mr Short said there were several reasons for the continuing growth.

"It's convenient, comprehensive, it's on every handset and network and it is cost effective," he said.

Once despatched, a text message is stored on the mobile network until it can be delivered to its intended destination.


That effective guarantee of delivery was perfect for many messages that may not merit an entire conversation or that people did not want to trust to voicemail.

Many people were also happy to get news and updates about topics or teams they follow via text messaging.

But increasingly, said Mr Short, companies were making use of text messaging.

"It's a lot more convenient for a business now to notify lots of their employees about an urgent message using a text message," he said.

At the same time many other companies were using text messages to manage relationships with customers when deliveries, appointments or house calls were due.

"The UK text volumes show no real signs of abating and the UK sits within the top six of the global league of countries sending text messages," Mr Short went on.

"While the trend towards operators offering 'all-you-can-eat' tariffs increases, this will act as a catalyst for consumers' passion for all things mobile."

Google unveils cell phone software and alliance

In much the same way it changed the wired Internet, Google plans to revolutionize the mobile Web through its new open software platform.

By Marguerite Reardon | Staff Writer, CNET | Published: November 5, 2007, 8:13 AM PST

update | Google's cell phone strategy took shape Monday with the announcement of a new open software platform and an alliance of wireless heavyweights that will help form the development community for the planned phones.

Google has long been rumored to be working on software for cell phones that would integrate its applications. On Friday, CNET reported that Google's plans went beyond simply developing software and instead included a whole consortium of companies working to develop an open platform cell phone application.

"Today's announcement is more ambitious than any single 'Google Phone' that the press has been speculating about over the past few weeks," Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said in a statement. "Our vision is that the powerful platform we're unveiling will power thousands of different phone models."

Google is officially unveiling Android, the new mobile phone software, during a press conference Monday morning. Thirty-four companies have said they will join the Open Handset Alliance, a multinational alliance that will work on developing applications on the Android platform. Members of the alliance include mobile handset makers HTC and Motorola, U.S. operator T-Mobile, and chipmaker Qualcomm.

The Android platform consists of an operating system, middleware, a user-friendly interface, and applications. Consumers should expect the first phones based on Android to be available in the second half of 2008, Google said in a press release.


The idea is that through the developer's alliance, handset makers and cell phone operators will be able to develop more user-friendly services and devices that help bring more of the Internet's functionality onto mobile devices. And because of this open model, the companies involved also hope that by scaling the development, advanced functionality will be able to hit the market for less expensive mobile devices that will have more compelling and rich Internet services with more user-friendly interfaces.



Monday, October 01, 2007

UK broadband is among slowest in EU

Even Slovakia has faster internet connections than us | Rob Mead | 01 Oct 2007 08:06 GMT

[Only six EU countries perform worse than Britain when it comes to broadband speeds]

[UK broadband is slow because it relies on 100 year old copper cable rather than fibre-optic technology]

The UK has some of the slowest broadband internet connections in Europe - and we also pay the highest price for the privilege.

Broadband Britain is also behind former Soviet bloc countries Poland, Hungary with an average speed of 2.6Mbps. Slovakia managed to score 2.8Mbps in the survey by the Information Technology Innovation Foundation.

The UK's ranks above Switzerland, Ireland, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Spain and Greece, but behind most other European countries. Finland tops the poll with an average broadband speed of 21.7Mbps.

Finland also scores highly when it comes to low prices for broadband. Households there only pay £2.54 per month, compared to the UK average of £5.50, the Telegraph says.

NEWS/ GoogleNews/latest-on-this-story X

Sample | 15h50:

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British broadband speeds are among the lowest in Europe, and consumers are being charged some of the highest prices for the privilege. ...
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(01-10-07) - The UK has ranked behind Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to come ninth for broadband speed across Europe. The disappointing figures come from ...
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By Nick Farrell: Monday, 01 October 2007, 8:00 AM AN INDEPENDENT think tank has dubbed the UK the "sick man of Europe" when it comes to broadband speeds. ...
BT eyes ultra-fast broadband
Contractor UK, UK - 14 hours ago
BT has risen to the challenge of equipping the UK with an ultra-fast fixed line broadband network – well sort of. Not for the first time, the telecoms ...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Global mobile phone connections hit 2.5bn
Global mobile phone connections hit 2.5bn
Emerging markets spark growth

Published Friday 8th September 2006 09:12 GMT

The total number of mobile connections in the world reached 2.5bn on Thursday, having passed the two billion mark just 12 months ago.

That's according to estimates from Wireless Intelligence, a body set up by research firm Ovum and the GSM Association.

"The cellular industry took 20 years to reach one billion connections, three years to reach two billion connections and is on target to reach its third billion in a period of just over two years," Wireless Intelligence director Martin Garner said.

"Worldwide growth is currently running at over 40m new connections per month - the highest volume of growth the market has ever seen," he added.

According to Garner, most of the current growth is coming from emerging markets with low levels of penetration, rather than from mature regions such as Europe.

The top 10 countries for volume of new connections over the last year were China, India, Russia, USA, Pakistan, Ukraine, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Between them, they account for over half of the growth in the world mobile market over the last 12 months.

A quarter of the growth is coming from China and India. Wireless Intelligence said China's market is still expanding at more than five million new connections per month. India, meanwhile, has seen the rate of new connections quadruple over the last 18 months to reach a level very close to China's.

According to the latest figures, over the four quarters to the end of September 2006, a total of 484m net additions were added to the worldwide total with 41 per cent of new connections coming from Asia Pacific. Eastern Europe and Latin America together accounted for 30 per cent of the growth, while Africa was responsible for 10 per cent of new connections.

In addition, Western Europe, North America, and the Middle East, all regions with relatively mature markets, accounted for 20 per cent of new mobile connections.

It should be noted that the total number of connections differs from the actual number of mobile users. This is because some individuals own a number of handsets, while others have mobiles that are inactive but may still be registered on operators' databases. Nonetheless, the latest figures indicate that mobile ownership is becoming commonplace around the world, no more so than in Ireland where over four million mobiles are in circulation, equivalent to at least one mobile per person.

According to Wireless Intelligence forecasts, the next half billion new connections will take around 16 months to be added, meaning the market is on track to reach a whopping three billion connections around the end of 2007.

Don't mess with mobile users | 14.54 Friday 7th September 2007 |Peter Cochrane's Blog: Don't mess with mobile users

When I look at a mobile phone I see a fixed-line phone with the cord severed and an antenna glued to the top. If ever there was a story of incremental change the mobile phone is it.

In the early days, more than 20 years ago now, the concept was a phone attached to the dashboard of a vehicle - in the style of police and taxi walkie-talkies. No one really envisaged that a phone in the hand or pocket would be a big deal.

Early users were berated as weird and told to get a life. I know because I was very often the butt of such comments. But slowly and very surely the number of users grew until the magic marketing penetration of 30 per cent was achieved, followed by the rush to buy.

This was really driven by the move to pay-as-you-go and the sidelining of the complex contracts that still dog the industry today. The rest, as they say, is history. Or is it?

At no point during this growth in mobile communications did the industry do any more than try to replicate the fixed-line history of the telephone. It was about connecting people by voice.

Text messaging came from stage left as an engineering facility brought to the fore, exploited, and promoted by youngsters. It was never intended as a service, and it created network mayhem with billions of extra connections that rapidly overtook voice calls.

This pattern has been true of the entire history of mobility. Anything and everything that has been a big deal came from outside the industry, from the edge - from the customers and small companies.

Good examples would be ringtones and sporting services, gambling and games. And guess what? Today the industry is resisting VoIP, wi-fi, YouTube and just about everything else the customers are demanding.

At the same time it continues to peddle lame-duck service ideas such as broadcast TV and movies. Will they ever learn? Customers now call the shots.

Like it or lump it, the tail is now wagging the dog and customers are pushing hard for what they want, and sooner or later they will get it. In the vanguard of this continuing revolution is the iPhone.

Whatever you think of it, the iPhone is the first real example of a user-centric mobile device. It represents the first time someone has sat down and said: "Let's consider what the customer really wants and what they really need - and even better, we will build in the usability they crave."


What has not been realised, at least not by many, is that these new user-centric devices and the services they promote run counter to the backward-looking mobile operators who are as desperate to hold on to their old thinking and business model as the fixed-line operators before them.


What users want is seamless communication and services at all times and in all locations, with lots of bandwidth whenever they want it, and access to everything they choose, and all at a reasonable price. There was a time when operators could demand $35 per month for every service: fixed, mobile, broadband, wi-fi, cable and satellite.

But we have now entered a period when all these services will be bundled for $35. And worse, the downward pressure on price will continue at 17 per cent per year or more.

What is the answer? Give the customers what they want. Find what they are willing to pay for. That will not be basic connectivity and access but services and networking. The good news is that there are countless services that people will value and pay for. All the industry has to do is take advantage of those new demands.

But, like music industry executives before them, operators will probably resist to the last, and most likely have a near-death experience as a result. In the mean time there is a new and growing threat from the mobile device producers and their customers.

As sure as eggs are eggs the mobile operators will lose control. If they try to strangle the services that people want, the customer base will migrate to wi-fi and the like.

If mobile operators try to control handsets, then back-street industries will provide the software and chipping services necessary. As always it will ultimately be: Customers 1, Industry 0.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Triangulating Gibson

Gibson | Spook Country


The purported inventor of the terms 'cyberspace' and 'matrix' is currently in the UK promoting his latest book, Spook Country.

(...) how Gibson nowadays writes, and how he demands to be read:

"One of the things I discovered while I was writing Pattern Recognition [Gibson's previous novel] is that I now think that any contemporary novel today has a kind of Google novel aura around it, where somebody's going to google everything in the text ... there's this nebulous extended text. Everything is hyperlinked now."

What the author is outlining here is the theory of a new and innovatively creative reading practice.

(...) And the plot of Spook Country (which revolves around the concept of GPS triangulation)
(...) Hollis is in Los Angeles, doing a feature on locative art


Gibson says: "One of the biggest technologically driven changes in my writing is the awareness that every text today has a kind of spectral quasi-hypertext surrounding it." It is "all of the Googled information that found its way into the book but which isn't available to the reader as a literal hypertext unless you're willing to be the animator of the hypertext process" and Google each term that's distinctive and new.

"It's curious. When I published 'Pattern Recognition' " -- his previous book, which was also set in the recent past and achieved mainstream success -- "within a few months there was someone who started a Web site. People were compiling Googled references to every term and every place in the book. It has photographs of just about every locale in the book -- a massive site that was compiled by volunteer effort. But it took a couple of years to come together. With 'Spook Country,' the same thing was up on the Web before the book was published." Somebody got an advance reader copy, and instantly put up a site for his fictional Node magazine.

Amazon interview

Everything is hyperlinked now. Some of it you actually have to type it in to get it, but it's all hyperlinked. It really changes things. I'm sure a lot of writers haven't yet realized how it changes things, but I find myself googling everything that goes into the text, and sometimes being led off in a completely different direction. X

College Crier online

Google ( web | news | image ) and Wikipedia

  • Spook Country is a novel by William Gibson, released on August 2, 2007 in the UK and on August 7, 2007 in the US by publisher Penguin Putnam.[1]
  • Gibson announced the book October 6, 2006 on his blog, where fragments of the novel have been posted non-sequentially for some time now, which has led to much speculation on the content and plot of the novel. Gibson has confirmed that Spook Country is set in February 2006[2], and is a continuation of his previous novel, Pattern Recognition.
  • Hollis Henry -- Former member of the early-nineties cult band The Curfew, now a freelance journalist assigned by the nascent magazine Node to write a story about the use of locative technology in the art world.

  • Wired | Q&A: William Gibson discusses Spook Country and Interactive Fiction| "Something that started with Pattern Recognition was that I†discovered I could Google the world of the novel. I began to regard it as a sort of extended text — hypertext pages hovering just outside the printed page. There have been threads on my Web site — readers Googling and finding my footprints. I still get people asking me about "the possibilities of interactive fiction," and they seem to have no clue how we're already so there".

  • PR - Otaku | Logging and annotating William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition Updates | 2007.08.13: No, there won’t be a similar annotation for Spook Country. Why? Because structurally, it’s the exact same book: | Gibson is trying to kill off his own creation, cyberspace, by claiming that “hyperspatial [‘eeperespatial’] tagging” will make cyberspace and meatspace exactly the same thing.

  • David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous | Social reading | September 8th, 2007 | John Sutherland writes in The Guardian about William Gibson’s latest book being absorbed into the cloud of links, annotation and commentary. It’s a great example of both the enriching of ideas through their miscellanizing and how reading is becoming a social act.

Everything is miscellaneous

Some extracts from David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous

Digitization ... Trojan horse ... flickr ... museums

Chapter One | The New Order of Order

(...) But now we have bits. Content is digitized into bits, and the information about that content consists of bits as well. This is the third order of order and it’s hitting us—to use a completely inappropriate metaphor—like a ton of bricks. The third order removes the limitations we’ve assumed were inevitable in how we organize information.

(...) The digital world thereby allows us to transcend the most fundamental rule of ordering the real world: Instead of everything having its place, it’s better if things can get assigned multiple places simultaneously.

(...) The digital revolution in organization sweeps beyond how we find odd photos and beyond how we organize our businesses’ information assets. In fact, the third-order practices that make a company’s existing assets more profitable, increase customer loyalty, and seriously reduce costs are the Trojan horse of the information age. As we all get used to them, third-order practices undermine some of our most deeply ingrained ways of thinking about the world and our knowledge of it.

For example, medical information that used to come only through the careful filters of medical experts and medical publications is now available to everyone prior to the basic housekeeping processes of being gone through and put away. The miscellanizing of this information not only breaks it out of its traditional organizational categories but also removes the implicit authority granted by being published in the paper world. Second-order organization, it turns out, is often as much about authority as about making things easier to find.

We have entire industries and institutions built on the fact that the paper order severely limits how things can be organized. Museums, educational curricula, newspapers, the travel industry, and television schedules are all based on the assumption that in the second-order world, we need experts to go through information, ideas, and knowledge and put them neatly away.

But now we—the customers, the employees, anyone—can route around the second order. We can confront the miscellaneous directly in all its unfulfilled glory. We can do it ourselves and, more significantly, we can do it together, figuring out the arrangements that make sense for us now and the new arrangements that make sense a minute later. Not only can we find what we need faster, but traditional authorities cannot maintain themselves by insisting that we have to go to them. The miscellaneous order is not transforming only business. It is changing how we think the world itself is organized and—perhaps more important—who we think has the authority to tell us so.

blog archive

Mobile snaps reveal invisible art | Thursday, 9 August 2007, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Mobile snaps reveal invisible art
By Mark Ward, Technology correspondent, BBC News website, San Diego

Scottish researchers are turning to camera phones to help bridge the virtual and real worlds.

Using image-matching algorithms the researchers have found a way to adorn the real world with digital content.

The technology has already been used to create a guide of Edinburgh that allows people to find virtual artworks placed around the city using their mobile.

Another related project uses the technology to automatically update a person's blog with their location.

"It's about using a camera phone as a magic wand," said Dr Mark Wright of the Division of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh who came up with the idea.

At the heart of Spellbinder, as the project is known, is a database of all the places that participants have added data to. People query it by taking a snap of a location with their phone then using multimedia text messages to send it to Spellbinder.

Mobile phone technology turns 20 | Friday, 7 September 2007, 23:55 GMT 00:55 UK
Mobile phone technology turns 20

Nokia 1100, Nokia
Nokia's 1100 is the world's best-selling handset
The technology behind the mobile phone is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

On 7 September 1987, 15 phone firms signed an agreement to build mobile networks based on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communications.

According to the GSM Association there are more than 2.5 billion accounts that use this mobile phone technology.

Adoption of the technology shows no signs of slowing down with many developing nations becoming keen users of mobile handsets.

Future phones

Robert Conway, head of the GSM Association, said the memorandum of understanding signed in 1987 is widely seen as the moment when the global mobile industry got under way.

Although work on the GSM technical specifications began earlier, the agreement signed in 1987 committed those operators to building networks based upon it.

China has 445 million GSM customers
There are 2.5 billion GSM connections worldwide
64% of mobile users are in emerging markets
About seven billion text messages are sent every day
Source: GSM Association
"There's no doubt that at the time of the agreement in 1987 no one had an idea of the explosive capabilities in terms of growth that would happen after the GSM standard was agreed," he said.

Since then, he said, the numbers of people using GSM mobiles has always outstripped the predictions.

Once the preserve of the well off, mobiles were now "the everyday gadget that's essential to people's lives," he said.

In the UK there are now more mobiles than people according to Ofcom statistics which reveal that, at the end of 2006, for every 100 Britons there are 116.6 mobile connections.

Figures from the GSM Association show it took 12 years for the first billion mobile connections to be made but only 30 months for the figure to reach two billion.

"In the developing world they are becoming absolutely indispensable," said Mr Conway.

This was because handsets were now cheap and mobile networks much less expensive to set up than the fixed alternatives.

Discarded mobiles, PA
There are so many phones that recycling them is a problem

But getting mobiles in to the hands of billions of people was just the start, said Mr Conway.

"The technology is a gravitational force that brings in to its orbit a huge amount of innovators," he said.

In the future, he suggested, high-speed networks would be ubiquitous adding the intelligence of mobiles to anything and everything.

"The technology will be in the fabric of your clothing, your shoes, in appliances, in your car," he said.

For instance, he said, the ubiquity of mobile technology could revolutionise healthcare and see people wearing monitors that gather and transmit information about vital signs.

Phones too could change radically in the future.

"You'll pull them out of your pocket and they'll look like a map but unfold like a screen," said Mr Conway. "We're now on the verge of another wave and that's going to be stimulated by mobile broadband."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Internet, and the embodied mind

Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again
Andy Clark

"Brain, body, and world are united in a complex dance of circular causation and extended computational activity. In Being There, Andy Clark weaves these several threads into a pleasing whole and goes on to address foundational questions concerning the new tools and techniques needed to make sense of the emerging sciences of the embodied mind. Clark brings together ideas and techniques from robotics, neuroscience, infant psychology, and artificial intelligence. He addresses a broad range of adaptive behaviors, from cockroach locomotion to the role of linguistic artifacts in higher-level thought".

Extract |

" (...) The conjecture, then, is that one large jump or discontinuity in human cognitive evolution involves the distinctive way human brains repeatedly create and exploit various species of cognitive technology so as to expand and reshape the space of human reason. We, more than any other creature on the planet, deploy non-biological elements (instruments, media, notations) to complement (but not, typically, to replicate) our basic biological modes of processing, creating extended cognitive systems whose computational and problem-solving profiles are quire different from those of the naked brain. Human brains maintain an intricate cognitive dance with an ecologically novel, and immensely empowering, environment: the world of symbols, media, formalisms, texts, speech, instruments and culture. The computational circuitry of human cognition thus flows both within and beyond the head". ( X )

Interview with Andy Clark | 2004

"vast unconscious curatorial movement"

"EBay in the hands of humanity is sorting every last Dick Tracy wrist radio cereal premium sticker that ever existed. It's like some sort of vast unconscious curatorial movement". - William Gibson (interview), cited by Bruce Sterling.


"This is new. People in really small towns can become world-class connoisseurs of something via eBay and Google. This didn't used to be possible. If you are sufficiently obsessive and diligent, you can be a little kid in some town in the backwoods of Tennessee and the world's premier info-monster about some tiny obscure area of stuff. That used to require a city. It no longer does." ( x )

Thursday, September 06, 2007

continuous transformation

Peter Cochrane | "We are in the midst of continuous transformation" | Bullet points from keynote address, Seamless Freedom: The Wireless Revolution (The Wireless Event, Olympia, London, 2006) :

"We are in the midst of continuous transformation"

> Technology changes faster than us
> Old rules and systems no longer work
> Hierarchies no longer dominate
> Organisations increasingly distributed
> Self reliance increasingly important
> Ultimately, everything becomes a commodity
> Almost everything IT & Wireless can now be DIY

"... the disruptive forces seem to me the the digitisation of everything... everything is getting connected and mobile... smaller, smarter, cheaper..."

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Wi-Fi to supersede wired Ethernet

Report: Wi-Fi to supersede wired Ethernet
David Meyer ZDNet UK | Published: 29 Aug 2007 11:33 BST

Wi-Fi will start replacing wired Ethernet within the next two to three years as users and applications go mobile, an IT analyst group has claimed.

In a report comparing gigabit Ethernet with the latest version of Wi-Fi — 802.11n — Burton Group suggests that companies should begin making plans for switching their local area networks (LANs) from wired to wireless.

"802.11n will put pervasive mobility on the fast track," said Burton Group analyst Paul DeBeasi on Tuesday. "IT professionals should start thinking now about how they will deploy, maintain, and benefit from an all-wireless LAN." In the report, DeBeasi claimed that 802.11n would make serious inroads into wired Ethernet's market within 24 to 36 months. (...)

BT Broadband 4M Milestone

BT | Press Release | September 3, 2007
Four million and counting - BT Retail passes broadband milestone

BT Retail today became the UK’s first broadband supplier to pass the four million customer mark. The achievement cements BT’s position as the UK’s most popular supplier of broadband and follows the fifth consecutive independent survey to identify BT as having the UK’s best performing ADSL broadband service 1.

BT Retail had 172,000 broadband customers in June 2002 when BT put broadband at the heart of its strategy. The acceleration to four million has taken just over five years meaning a new customer has been added on average every 40 seconds over this period. This also equates to more than 2,000 new customers each day during that period. The last million customers have been added in ten months.

The broadband market has boomed in recent years thanks to BT’s investment in making the service available to almost every home in the UK. More than 99.8 per cent of UK homes can access broadband and more than half of these homes have now taken up the service.

This dramatic rise in connections has led to the UK overtaking most of its main competitors in terms of broadband penetration. Only Canada is ahead of the UK in the G8 meaning the UK is ahead of Japan, France, Germany and the US 2. There are more than 15 million connections in the UK with approximately 11.5m of those running over the BT network. The rest are carried via the UK’s cable network.

BT Retail chief executive Ian Livingston said: “Four million customers is a great achievement in such a short time. Broadband has proved to be one of the most popular new services ever seen. It is already delivering next generation television, inclusive free phone calls in High Definition sound and great value mobile calls. Broadband can provide so many more services than just internet surfing and it has become central to many people’s lives and businesses. Customers want to take advantage of the potential of broadband and need a high quality, reliable service – that’s why BT is the UK’s most popular broadband service.”

1EPITIRO survey dated July 16, 2007
2 CRTC Communications Monitoring Report July 2007

Reuters | BT surpasses four million broadband customers | Published: 03 Sep 2007 14:29 BST

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Municipal Wi-Fi

Municipal Wi-Fi
Reality bites
Aug 30th 2007 | SEATTLE
From The Economist

American cities' plans for ubiquitous internet access are running into trouble

IT WAS supposed to democratise the internet and turn America's city-dwellers into citizen-surfers. In 2004 the mayors of Philadelphia and San Francisco unveiled ambitious plans to provide free wireless-internet access to all residents using Wi-Fi, a technology commonly used to link computers to the internet in homes, offices, schools and coffee-shops. Across America, hundreds of cities followed suit. Yet many municipal Wi-Fi projects have since been hit by mounting costs, poor coverage and weak demand. This week Chicago became the first big city to abandon its plans for a city-wide network. “Everyone would like something for free,” says Chuck Haas of MetroFi, a supplier of municipal Wi-Fi systems. But the numbers do not add up.

Most city governments did not want to build or run the Wi-Fi systems themselves, so they farmed the job out to specialist firms such as EarthLink and MetroFi. These companies initially agreed to bear all expenses, expecting to sign up 10-25% of each city's population for a fee-based wireless service. In some places this was to have been supplemented by a free service at lower speed, or supported by advertising. Some cities also planned to subsidise access for poor residents.

But municipal Wi-Fi schemes have been struggling to make ends meet. EarthLink, which runs networks in Philadelphia and New Orleans, recently admitted that “the Wi-Fi business as currently constituted will not provide an acceptable return.” This week the firm said it would lay off 900 workers, including the head of its municipal Wi-Fi division, the future of which is now in doubt.

The root of the problem is that city-wide Wi-Fi, which relies on outdoor radio transmitters, does not provide good access inside buildings, since it uses weak signals which do not always penetrate thick exterior walls. Proponents of the technology also underestimated the number of transmitters that would be needed to provide blanket coverage. Most networks deployed between 2004 and 2006 used between 20% and 100% more nodes than expected, which pushed up costs.

Worse, the networks that have been completed have attracted few users. Taipei's city-wide WiFly system, the largest such network in the world, was reckoned to need 250,000 regular subscribers by the end of 2006 in order to break even, but had attracted only 30,000 by April 2007. America's biggest network, around Tempe, Arizona, was aiming for 32,000 subscribers, but had only 600 in April 2006 and has not provided figures since.

EarthLink and MetroFi have responded by asking city governments to act as “anchor tenants” and agree to spend a guaranteed sum on the service. Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, accepted such contracts from the beginning; their Wi-Fi schemes are proceeding relatively smoothly. But most cities have balked at the change. Chicago's plans foundered when EarthLink and AT&T, the two firms bidding to build its network, demanded anchor-tenant commitments. MetroFi has lost four contracts since April after asking municipalities to subscribe upfront. The consortium planning to build a Wi-Fi network across 1,500 square miles (3,885 square km) of Silicon Valley also wants to switch to an anchor-tenant model.

One problem with the anchor-tenant approach is that few municipalities are in a position to do much with the networks. Despite vague talk about wireless parking meters and enabling building inspectors to submit reports using Wi-Fi hand-helds, most cities lack the back-office systems needed to do such things. “You're building them a better track,” says Craig Settles, a telecoms consultant, “but they don't even have running shoes yet.”

The one bright spot for municipal Wi-Fi is public safety. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, governments at all levels in America set about improving communications between emergency workers. Dedicated radio spectrum has been set aside, and several cities have built Wi-Fi networks to transmit images from surveillance cameras and the like. The hope is that separate systems providing internet access can piggyback on these networks, as EarthLink has done with a Wi-Fi system originally built for public-safety purposes in New Orleans. Equipment providers now make nodes that put both the necessary transmitters into a single box, making such roll-outs cheaper.

Some cities will be able to make this approach work, and may then be able to offer their residents free, or at least relatively cheap, Wi-Fi access too. But many others will not, and will have to follow Chicago in abandoning their utopian dreams of city-wide networks. With Wi-Fi, as with most things, you get what you pay for.