21/04/2005

Science Museum and WiMAX

There was an article in IEE Review about the Science Museum's WiMAX trial near Swindon. It came out with some interesting revelations.

Firstly the area is isolated, there's little telecomms infrastructure there including lack of GSM coverage.

Secondly they were going to lay their own fibre, but that would have cost near enough £1m.

Thirdly (and here's the crux) Intel are based in Swindon and offered to run the trial.

The site is several hundred acres in size (it's an old airfield) and has 11 hangars. They're using WiMAX from Intel to the airfield and between hangars and WiFi in the hangars themselves.

Now the problems with WiMAX has always been frequency allocation/regulatory not the technology which is great. They've got around this by going to PCCW (who own the UK 3.4GHz license) and asking to "borrow" it in this area. Since there's so little in the vicinity it's very unlikely PCCW would roll-out in that area anyway. So PCCW said yes and then Intel went to Ofcom and applied for a test license to run a WiMAX trial on 3.4GHz.

It does seem to work, even though the power levels in use in the trial are lower than PCCW are allowed to use.

However it does show that rolling out WiMAX in the UK isn't going to be easy, Intel could have chosen 5.8GHz Band C, but they chose not to. Other areas aren't going to be so lucky as PCCW will want to offer service there.

The WIreless LAN Event



The show seemed smaller than last year, and there was definately less of the hype (well apart from a lot of WiMAX buzz, but that's to be expected - Intel had a large stand).

It's definately a business show geared up for the b2b market. The traditional players were there offering WiFi kit, as well as Wireless operators etc.

Netgear were pushing their new MIMO 802.11g router (with annoying blue LEDs showing which antenna was in use), but the technology does look clever (6 antennas which are switched between) allowing full 54Mb/s over the air connectivity.

D-Link also had MIMO kit, but not actually for sale yet.

Intel were there of course pushing WiMAX, which may more may not be the next big thing - in the UK at least.

Mapesbury Communications had a small stand, they provide the hotpsot network for T-Mobile at Texaco service stations and elsewhere, but they've also got some interesting VoIP/Wireless solutions and can build out Wireless networks using some new technology.

CSR were showing VoIP over WiFi radio systems (they make chipsets).

T-Mobile had a big stand and were showing their T-Zones and also some nice PDA's (MDAIII).

Will next year's show dwindle or will it just become a WiMAX show?

20/04/2005

'Standards wars' threatening Ultrawideband - ZDNet UK News

'Standards wars' threatening Ultrawideband - ZDNet UK News

Ultrawideband (UWB) is a really interesting technology, WiMAX is actually a UWB system but only uses a small subset of frequencies.

UWB works by sending signals over a large section of spectrum so it could work from <1GHz all the way up to 100's of GHz. It's clever because it uses a lot of error correction and splits the data up over lots of parts of the spectrum. So a "bit" of data may actually be sent over 100's of frequencies simultaneously. A receiver "listens" to the whole set of frequencies and puts the data back together again. If any particular frequencies aren't received (they may be absorbed by walls, or reflected etc) then the receiver can still reconsitute the data as it's spread across a large number of frequencies. This does mean data rates are reduced, but the system is highly resilient.

In the US the Federal Communications Agency (FCC, similar to the UK's Ofcom) has allowed the US of UWB for short range communications, but at very low power. This allows UWB to be used as a replacement for wires and give very high data rates (100's of Mb/s). As the power is so low, anything that isn't a UWB system will just assume the signal is background noise and ignore it. If other systems are using some of the same frequencies and drowning them out, again it doesn't matter as the UWB system will have spread the data over many frequencies, some of which wont be being used by anything else.

Ofcom originally inferred they were in favour of UWB and would allow its use in the UK, but they still haven't announced a decision, which is angering some UK players who would like to see it adopted here and produce UWB systems.

UWB can also be used in high power applications, but these would likely used licensed bands.

A very interesting application can be for cable TV, a US manufacturer has produced a UWB specifically for this and can send data down a co-ax cable at over 400Mb/s, which would support many channels of TV and Internet and voice. It would also not degrade so much as current CATV systems do with the more people in a street getting service.

UWB is a pretty exciting technology, it just needs Ofcom to clear the way.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music | Court releases file-share details

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music | Court releases file-share details

Well it had to happen, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has applied to get court orders against several ISPs to hand over the details of their customers.

The BPI will then take the users to court and try to seek compensation and legal costs from those distributing music.

ISPs hard not to hand over customer details to anyone, but they do have to comply with court orders (and generally with law enforcement agencies - with caveats), but once a court order is in place the data is there.

This could spell the start of more actions if this is successful, but will it curtail file sharing. It may have some effect.

However watch this space for news of interesting movements that may allow at least limited file sharing with record company approval.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Wimax to plug rural broadband gap

BBC NEWS | Technology | Wimax to plug rural broadband gap

Here we see another Intel hyped article on WiMAX. As stated in an earlier article as yet the is no WiMAX (only preWiMAX) and who knows if it will actually be allowed in the UK as it has to meet ETSI/Ofcom interface requirements (which are unlikely to reach the stated 50Km).

BT might successfully launch a service, as they are likely to buy the 3.5GHz lincese off Pipex Communications, which means they'll be able to use the lightly licensed spectrum of 5.8GHz Band C and the licensed 3.5GHz band.

19/04/2005

New services as Skype hits 100 million users - vnunet.com

New services as Skype hits 100 million users - vnunet.com

Another gripe at Skype. It seems if you subscribe to SkypeIn they give you free Voicemail, but if you don't you have to pay for it. Of course if you sign-up to voicemail first, then you don't get a discount on the SkypeIn service.

It's a shame Skype haven't made these things clearer, especially as they are still in beta and thus potentially annoying the very customers (i.e. early adopters) that would otherwise spread the word of how good the services can be.

18/04/2005

About SkypeOut

About SkypeOut

Skype are on to a money spinner here, if you buy SkypeOut - but do NOT use it (from their web page - which probably most people don't actually read "Your SkypeOut credits will remain active for 180 days after your last SkypeOut call") they just cancel your credit.

I bought SkypeOut so if I was not at somewhere where I had a phone or easy access to one, I could use Skype and make calls that way. Unfortunately not as they just wiped the credit from my SkypeOut account. I'd have to make a call every 180 days if I want to keep it active. OK that's not so difficult, but not what I'd want to use it for.

There's also no warning that it's about to expire, it just disappears from your options.

Not really a good customer experience, and I hope they'll change their policy.

Scotsman.com Business - Technology - American private equity company eyes Thus as target for merger

Scotsman.com Business - Technology - American private equity company eyes Thus as target for merger

"Columbia Ventures already owns 7.1% of the Glasgow company but chief executive Ken Peterson has revealed that he wants to combine Thus’s UK telecoms network with his undersea transatlantic cable to supply telecoms services on both sides of the Atlantic."

Well it makes sense. THUS has a share value of under £200m (at the closing price of 14.25p on Friday - so even less today as the share price dropped to under 14p). With network assets of more that £0.5bn and a turnover of £360m it looks a good buy.

Of course it's only a good buy for someone with cash, they'd have to make an offer to buy out the existing shareholders (mainly institutions) and they'd need a UK network.

THUS has little money for new investment (and new products) so they need external cash. They could go to the banks for a loan, but then they'd be at the mercy of the banks who are vary wary of investing in telecoms companies.

A foreign operator needing a UK network (or a UK operator wanting the Demon brand) would make a good partner, there are some clever people at THUS and the network being one of the most modern in the UK can support the tranch of IP centric services that convergence is demanding.