To BT Infinity and beyond

BT has launched its Fibre to the Cabinet / Premise (FTTx) offering known as 40Mb BT Infinity Broadband. The FTTC offering uses a variant of VDSL to the home over normal copper.

The service is being rolled out across the UK and BT hopes to have 40% population coverage by 2012. This will of course exclude most rural users as it will only work in densely populated urban areas where the distance between the cabinet and the home is short (VDSL/2/2+ only works up to about 100m). Around 4m homes are expected to be within coverage on the launch.

BT Infinity Option 1 costs £19.99 a month with a £50 set-up fee. The user gets 40Mb/s downstream, 2Mb/s upstream and a 20GB data usage allowance.

BT Infinity Option 2 costs £24.99 a month with no set-up fee. The user gets 40Mb/s downstream, 10Mb/s upstream and unlimited data usage. Unlimited in this case means 'fair use' which gives BT the option of cutting users off or charging them for bandwidth.

Both come with an engineer install and a BT Home Hub.

More information is available from BT's Product Pages which have an address checker which shows what speed Broadband is available to the customer - if it's below 40Mb/s then it's an ADSL or ADSL2+ package.

Now could be interesting times as neither BSkyB nor Carphone Warehouse (TalkTalk) have announced their fibre plans, but both are allegedly planning fibre roll-outs to compete with BT (they should co-operate and build a single network to compete with BT, but that's another story) with Sky already testing new IPTV set-top boxes.

BT have definitely got a lead and a huge existing network and existing infrastructure on which to build a FTTx network, will BSkyB, CPW be able to roll-out fast enough to compete?

Firefox 3.6 is here

The latest version of Mozilla's Firefox web browser has been released now supporting new CSS attributes, new DOM and HTML 5 specifications and full-screen video (which both YouTube and Vimeo are starting to support).

Javascript should speed up by about 12% and web pages load about 20% faster than Firefox 3.5. More calls have been made asynchronous, so the whole system should feel 'snappier'.

There are also security enhancements to report out of date old plugins (and the ability to single click to download an updated version) and the browser will no longer automatically download plugins.

This is a must have upgrade for anyone running v3.5 of Firefox.

At the moment downloads are reasonably fast but as more people learn about the upgrade, there's likely to be some congestion as the USA wakes up today.

It can be downloaded from here or via the Help/update in Firefox itself.

Amazon Kindle becomes a tablet

Amazon have released an SDK for the Kindle range of eBooks allowing and an app store (with the same 70:30 split that Apple offer to developers through its app store).

Apps that use less than 100KB of data will be offered as a 'one off' purchase, if the app uses more than 100KB then there's a monthly rental. If an app is less than 1MB in size it can be offered for free.

This is a recent Kindle development and is seen as a way to protect themselves against Apple's forthcoming tablet as Apple are rumoured to be negotiating content deals that will mean Apple's device will be an eBook as well as offering iPhone features.

Though specifications of Apple's tablet have not been made public, it's suspected it will use an ARM core (like the iPhone) and be based on iPhone OS v4. At least a version will have 3G connectivity. This will mean iPhone apps written for the iPhone itself will run natively on the tablet. The tablet will therefore appeal to computer users who want to run basic apps on the device and the eBook community who gain an eBook with processing capabilities.

It's likely they'll be another slew of announcements from the new eBook entrants such as Plastic Logic, Barnes and Noble etc about their new app stores and SDKs.


Vodafone Home Gateway drops in price and becomes Sure Signal

Vodafone has renamed its home femtocell system from Vodafone Home Gateway to Sure Signal while also dropping the price from £160 to £50 for a one off payment. It's also possible to rent the Sure Signal box for £5 pm.

Femtocells are an easy way for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to reduce their backhaul requirements as they create small coverage areas with the femtocell which uses the customer's broadband connection to connect back to the MNO. As the femtocells are 3G, they'll see what frequencies are available in the area and use free channels thus co-operating with whatever the MNO has there in the macro network (2G femtocells are much more complicated and require frequency planning).

Though Vodafone haven't said why they're suddenly pushing femtocells again (the Home Gateway has been poorly marketed), it is likely that it coincides with the launch of the iPhone on their network and the considerable increase in data that it produces. By being able to alleviate the 'home' data use issue, they may be successful in maintaining the overall network stability.

In future Vodafone may even give Sure Signal devices away for free (and put them in busy areas like shops etc), they may even offer 'free' calls to home users to encourage them to install the gateways.


27th Jan for Apple's worst kept secret, or is it?

Apple are holding a 'special event' for journalists on the 27th Jan in San Francisco.

Everyone is expecting the launch of Apple's tablet computer (the iSlate or whatever it's going to be called) which will have a 10.1" touch sensitive screen.

There's now speculation that Apple will also release v4.0 of the iPhone OS at the event and also iLife 2010.

There's speculation wether to the tablet will run a souped up version of the iPhone OS or a modified version of Snow Leopard. Rumours are that standard iPhone apps will run on the tablet in emulation mode while native apps use a special version of the iPhone developers kit which knows about the extended screen size. It's also expected the tablet OS will support backgrounding of applications. There's also rumours that the tablet will be based on an Intel Atom CPU or like the iPhone an ARM variant.

Apple has allegedly already been telling select developers to ensure their apps are resolution independent and some developers have had early access to the iPhone v4.0 SDK.

Apple are notorious for not pre-releasing an information relating to launches, but more recently they seem to be dribbling bits of information to select journalists in a manner so they can plausibly deny anything officially - while keeping the market on tenterhooks and pushing the hype machine into overdrive.