Ofcom make more spectrum license exempt

Ofcom has announced plans to make spectrum license exempt in the 3400 to 3800 MHz band and the 2GHz band.

The 3400 - 3800 MHz band can be used for personal locator beacons on land, wireless road safety systems and wireless access terminals, while the 2GHz band is used for mobile satellite services.

Also terminals used for the 2012 London Games Tetra Network are also license exempt.


The Next Generation Secure Memory Initiative to secure mobile devices

Panasonic, Samsung Electronics, SanDisk, Sony and Toshiba have teamed up to form the The Next Generation Secure Memory Initiative which will put DRM (Digital Rights Management) on to mobile devices and memory.

This should allow content providers to put their content on mobile devices securely, allowing Blu-ray HD films to be copied on to a mobile device and played.

The system uses public key infrastructure to ensure robust copy protection.

If they achieve their aims, then the technology should be available on Flash memory such as SD Cards and on Google's Android, connected TVs and Blu-ray players.

Ofcom mandates battery back-up for FTTP services

Ofcom has published a statement mandating battery back-up for fibre provided broadband. The Communication Provider must provide at least 1 hour's battery back-up time.

When broadband is provided over copper (using standard ADSL/2/2+) or even when the service is FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) where cabinet to the premises is over copper (using VDSL/2/2+) then the copper pair is powered from the cabinet and even if the premises suffers a power-cut, then line will still be powered and phone calls can still be made.

With FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) then fibre goes all the way to the customer premise and there is now power. Telephony services are provided over the fibre, so if there's a power-cut to the premise both broadband and telephony services are lost. If the premise end of the fibre has equipment that is battery backed, then at least calls can be made.

Ofcom recognises that FTTP deployments at are an early stage in the UK and will monitor the situation and amend if necessary.

iTunes Match, great, but SLOW

Apple seem to have sorted the initial problems with iTunes Match and it's now up and running, the service costs £21.99 per annum.

The first thing it does is scan your music collection to see what tracks are available in the iTunes Store, it then marks them and makes them available through iTunes.

Then comes the slow bit, any tracks it can't directly match get uploaded to iCloud and that takes a LONG time.

My music collection consists of around 11,000 tracks, of which around 8,000 were matched to iTunes Store tracks. That leaves just over 3,000 unmatched tracks which have to be uploaded - and iTunes seems to upload around 300 per day, so it's going to take a while (around 10 days of leaving the computer on and continuously uploading). Hopefully Apple will track users' uploaded tracks and if it spots identical tracks from other users will use those for matching purposes.


Apple's iTunes Match comes to UK (sort of)

It's now possible to purchase Apple's iTunes Match in the UK (in iTunes, go to Store, then Account - which appears at the top right corner under 'Quick Links' - then there should be a setting for Match and then purchase the service for £21.99pa, then 'add this computer').

Unfortunately it seems very random as to whether all or any of it works (except for the actual purchase). Adding this computer sometimes is there and if clicked may re-appear after. If the actual Match tab appears in the left, it doesn't seem to do much (last night it just went to a Genius page and then disappeared again). There's obviously a few teething problems or it was just launched early (or even by mistake).

This is very untypical of Apple, usually when things are officially launched they're pretty polished, if services are made available early it's usually to the developer community who are much more forgiving of bugs and errors.

If this is the shape of things to come now that Steve Jobs has gone, it's a slippery slope.

Duedil raises second angel round

Duedil, the company that offers free information about UK and Ireland companies and company directors has raised a second angel round from Jonty Hurwitz, the founding CTO of Wonga followed by Passion Capital and Federico Pirzio-Biroli.

Duedil is different from most other sites in that they link the information from the 7m original data points on companies and directors (so they have over 30bn data connections) so if you look at a company and list the directors, then you can click on any of the directors and see what other companies they are (or have been) associated with.

They also link to other data sources for information about County Court Injunctions, any legal actions etc, with more data sources being added all the time.

Hurwitz sees the vast potential for business growth in big data analytics and will bring his technical and strategic expertese to Duedil, which he hopes will develop into the premiere source of business information in the world.

Though currently all of Duedil's information is free, they must be developing paid for models or the company will haemorrhage cash as licensing the business information costs a lot of money. They must also be at risk from existing companies such as Credit Expert (Experian) who could build similar services on top of their existing data, though Duedil has developed an extremely nice UI which would take time to duplicate.

Maggies Hope Page is Million Dollar Homepage v2

Alex Tew famous for the Million Dollar Homepage site, has now set-up another site Maggies Hope Page in order to raise funds to support his cousin Maggie and her family as she has cancer and they are faced with mounting medical bills.

People can buy 10 x 10 pixels for £5 which is suitable for a small icon/image, though of course larger blocks can be purchased for larger images.

Maggie was diagnosed in January 2009 with breast cancer which has now spread and she now has 25 tumors on her lungs, liver, spine, hips, ribs and brain. She has divested her life savings and remortgaged her house to pay for alternative remedies, but though knowing her husband David will have to raise Liam, Danny and Anne, David, Cian and Fintan by himself and under huge debt.

Anyone going to the site buying blocks of pixels will be helping the family.


New look GMail has chat and calls

It seems that the new version of Google's GMail has re-instated free calling into the web based email service.

It has been available to US users since launch as part of Google Voice and appeared briefly in other markets, but now it's come back (at least in the UK version).

Your Google Talk contacts appear (if they're on-line) but there's now also a call icon when clicked brings up a popup with the ability to dial numbers.

If this stays, then there's a good chance their going to introduce Google Voice outside the US and can compete with Skype.


Cardmunch, probably the most useful iOS app in the world

Cardmunch (now Cardmunch by LinkedIn) is an iPhone app (though it will work on an iPad or iPod Touch) is a business card reader that gets the details off the card and put them into your address book (and if wanted, request the user to connect on LinkedIn).

That doesn't sound very exciting, but what actually happens is that a picture of the card is sent to a real person (similar to Amazon's Mechanical Turk) and they type in the details they can read and at some point later the application notifies you that the card is ready.

This means that you get back the card data which tends to be pretty clean and accurate (without having all the graphics data there too).

Once in your address book, it's easy to search for new cards as they all have "scanned by Cardmunch ..." and any oddities can be easily fixed.

Once you use it, you'll never look back.


New start-up Quantenna gets Gigabit WiFi out

WiFi has been around a while but there are always improvements being made. The last major release 802.11n support MIMO, faster transmission speeds and auto-channel selection.

A new standard 802.11ac is an improvement to WiFi operating in the 5GHz band (an improvement to the old 802.11a standard) supporting 80MHz channels (802.11a supports 10/20MHz channels) though it has not actually been ratified yet.

The leaders in the WiFi chip business are Qualcomm Atheros and Broadcom but a new start-up Quantenna with funding from Telefonica has released a new chipset QAC2300 which implements the draft 802.11ac standard. The greater channel size will allow for in-home streaming of things like HD video.

The other major new standard is 802.11ad which operates in the 60GHz band (which is also license exempt in the UK) and this will also allow for extremely high speed services, though the range is very limited as pretty much everything will stop a low power 60GHz signal (like glass and walls) and at higher power it's dangerous as it's ionising radiation which can cause damage to human tissue.


Moshi Monsters leaves the web and move on to the Nintendo DS

Moshi Monsters the children's on-line social world that already has over 50m registered users (between 6 and 12) has now moved on to the Nintendo DS with the release of Moshling Zoo.

The game allows children to run the Moshling Zoo and they have to collect up to 52 different Moshlings (which are Moshi Monster pets) including some rare and even ultra-rare types.

The game is available now from on-line retailers for £29.99, and a limited edition is available from Game which includes three days membership to the on-line version of Moshi Monsters, 1,000 free Rox (the in-game currency of MoshiMonsters), Topps series 2 trading cards, an exclusive Moshi Monsters top trumps card and the exclusive Moshling.

Moshi Monsters comes out of Mind Candy the brainchild of Michael Acton Smith and will be followed by music videos (if they don't get sued again) and video series.


NVidia introduces Tegra3

NVidia has starting showing off it's new Tegra3 ARM based system (code named Kal-El). It has 4 cores based on the Cortex-A9 architecture and a 12 core GForce graphics GPU which allows for hardware accelerated affects such as dynamic lighting, Flash Player 11, HTML5 and WebGL.

It can also output to HDMI and support NVidia's 3D Vision technology which converts OpenGL to stereo 3D for viewing on a 3D TV.

However the main advancement is that it offers 3 times the graphics performance while offering a 61% lower power consumption than the Tegra2. It achieves some of this by actually having 5 CPU cores (the 5th being a low power ARM variant) and only using the Cortex-A9 cores for intensive CPU applications, so when a system is just playing music or some other non-CPU intensive task the big cores are powered down. This is known as variable symmetric multiprocessing (vSMP) and is a technology patented by NVidia.

The Tegra3 will be used in a forthcoming tablet from ASUS known as the Asus EE Pad Transformer Prime.

Other ARM licensees such as Texas Instruments (TI) are already snapping at NVidia's heals with forthcoming high performance OMAP chips which will support technologies such as holographic displays, HD augmented reality, real time voice translation and natural speech interaction.

There are now more ARM processors than actual arms in the world now.


Ofcom fine Just4Us TV and Playboy TV

Ofcom has fined Just4US TV Ltd (£60,000) and Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd (£40,000) for offensive advertising relating to premium rate call services enabling the viewer to chat to the female presenter. The fines are payable to HM Paymaster General.

The channels concerned are Red Light 1 (operated by Just4US TV) and Red light 2 and Red Light 3 (operated by Playboy TV). Just4US TV is a wholly owned subsidiary of Playboy TV.

The offences occurred in April 2011 and the finding highlighted a number of examples of broadcast material that was clearly inconsistent with the Chat Service Guidance2, such as images of the presenters:

* spitting on their bodies to emulate ejaculate;
* using a cupped hand and on one occasion a telephone to cover their genital area, resulting in clear pressure between their hand or telephone and the genital
* pouring oil onto their buttocks and genital area; and
* wearing clothing that did not adequately cover their genital area (in one case outer labia were clearly visible).

These channels were all broadcast on Sky's open channels (marked Adult on the EPG).


Moonfruit makes on-line selling easy

A couple of weeks ago, Moonfruit the website building service launched the ability to set-up an eCommerce enabled shop through their on-line tools.

The system called Shopbuilder allows a site owner to set-up an eCommerce enabled shop in 10 minutes. The back-end is provided by PayPal and there are tools to enable stock control and other features an on-line retailer requirers.

The system can also make the items available through Facebook and Twitter (with eBay coming soon).

Moonfruit currently host over 4m sites and these now all can be eCommerce enabled so anyone who may have thought about selling on-line can now do so very easily.

With the social network integration, this really does differentiate the service from other eCommerce solutions out there as it provides a one stop eCommerce solution. The site produced will even work with mobile browsers so giving access to the millions of users who now use the Internet through their mobile phones.


Sony Ericsson drops Ericsson for €1.05

Sony Ericsson is departing ways with Ericsson and Ericsson is being paid €1.05bn for the privilege. Sony will incorporate the phone division into it's networking and connected devices devision and will retain IP rights.

The partnership was formed 10 years ago with Sony and Ericsson owning an equal 50% stake, both had declining phone divisions. In the 10 years the market has progressed to smartphones and Sony has incorporated technologies from other divisions into the phones themselves such as their Cybershot cameras and Playstation Portable.

Ericsson were a world leader in cellular radio systems, but much of the handset radio technology is now available from established chip vendors so Ericsson's value to SE is less.

Sony will now continue to drive the smartphone market but as part of Sony Corporation directly.


Microsoft completes acquisition of Skype

Yesterday (13/10/11) Microsoft completed the acquisition of Skype which now can operate as a business devision of the Redmond Corporation.

The official Microsoft press release is here.

The sale went through for $8.5bn which is a considerable sum for a service which is basically free, though Skype is generating revenues.

Lady Gaga goes Goo Goo about a Moshi Cartoon

Moshi Monsters the brain child of Michael Acton Smith and parent company Mind Candy has been slapped with an injunction by world famous pop star Lady Gaga to prevent them promoting or launching any music based on the fictional Moshi character Lady Goo Goo.

The single "The Moshi Dance" was due to be released on iTunes after the phenomenal success of the YouTube video which received over 1m millions views a month over the summer. This has also put a stop to the planned release of "Pepper Razzi"

Lady Gaga's lawyers said that children might be "confused" by the similarity of the characters, but even a 6 year old can differentiate between a real life person and a Moshi Monster cartoon character.

Michael Acton Smith commented “This court ruling is a huge disappointment. It’s pretty obvious that kids will be able to tell the difference between the two characters. The shame is that millions of kids fell in love with Lady Goo Goo’s debut single on YouTube and now won’t be able to enjoy her musical exploits. It was all done in the name of fun and we would have thought that Lady Gaga could have seen the humour behind this parody.”

This could have implications for tribute bands and other parody acts, though allegedly changes to the UK law may stop this kind of block happening in future.

In the meantime it's only upsetting who now can't get Lady Goo Goo's music legally (50m of them worldwide), though maybe it will please parents who now won't have to fork out buying the singles.


RIM plays a game of TAG

RIM the company behind Blackerry has introduced Blackberry TAG an application for Blackberry v7 devices with NFC (near field communications) that allows Blackberry users to touch each other's phones together and they can transfer information (such as Blackberry messenger IDs) to each other.

Users can also share contact information, URLs, photos and other multimedia info, simply by touching phones.

Though a standalone application it will incorporated into the next version of Blackberry's v7 operating system (OS) and an API made available so other applications can use the technology. NFC is an important technology (though most see it's use in wallet type apps), though various iPhone and Android apps allow transferring info between devices using Bluetooth etc and these apps are popular.

SOme say it might be too little too late for RIM, but it should encourage more of the youth market where they are already popular.

Snapdragon S4 powered by bugs

This is either the cruelest video ever (there's no "no harm to insects was involved in the making of this video") or quite funny. It's to show how little energy is required to power a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 powered phone.

Sometime you have to be cruel to be funny, but it does make a point (whether insects are powering the device or not) at the low power requirements of the new chipset.


BT and EE launch LTE trial (in Cornwall)

BT Wholesale and Everything Everywhere have launched a trial of LTE (long term evolution or 4G) services running in Cornwall.

The trial will support 200 users split between mobile and fixed users in an area where fixed broadband is currently unavailable.

The trial uses equipment form the Chinese vendor Huawei and will run until next year.

Cornwall is a convenient area to run these kinds of trial as there is poor fixed line coverage, the conversion from analogue to digital TV has already taken place (so the 800MHz spectrum is available) and even if they get a few things wrong, there's no one to interfere with anyway.

As a shared trial, BT and EE will be ensuring the equipment can share access to the two seperate networks.

Plessey introduces EPIC sensors

Plessey Semiconductor has introduced a new sensor based on their Electric Potential Integrated Circuit (EPIC) that be used for ECG (electrocardiogram) applications.

The sensors don't work in the same way as existing ECG systems in that they measure the electric field instead of the actual voltages, so the sensor can detect an ECG from 2 conductive sensors (say in each hand) rather than having multiple sensors attached to the body in various places to get a good signal (the current sensor pads are covered with gel and are not re-usable and cost about $2 a set). The EPIC system can use cleanable sensors so can be used continually.

The detection of electric fields is similar to magnetic field detection.

The sensor can detect as low as 1mV p-p.

Voltage in the atmosphere is around 100V per (vertical) metre and the human body being made up mainly of water can distort this field, therefore the sensor has other uses as it can detect people (moving or entering an area) even through walls.

If the system really works, it could have huge benefits for the health system and sensors could be incorporated into lots of devices like stretchers or even hospital beds.

The people detection applications would fall more into security and other services.


Ofcom delays auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz (again)

Ofcom, the regulator that deals with broadcast, media, telecoms, radio and now the postal service has once again delayed the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auctions which now won't happen until at least the Q4 2012.

The 800MHz band will become available after the digital dividend (i.e. when the analogue television services are turned off in 2012), while the 2.6GHz band was reserved as an IMT-2000 (3G) band for future 3G services (or if the new 3G entrant i.e. 3UK failed and another network was set-up).

Both 800MHz and 2.6GHz are suitable for 3G services as existing phones should be able to use them (multiple band phones), they are also suitable for future mobile services such as LTE (Long Term Evolution) which is better known as 4G.

There is as more spectrum available in the 2.6GHz band than all existing 3G networks have already, however 2.6GHz has poor propogation characteristics as it is easily absorbed by buildings etc. 800MHz on the other hand has extremely good propogation characteristics (analogue TV signals work all over the UK) but can't transmit so much data. Thus 2.6GHz is suited to urban areas where there are large amounts of users and high data rates are required, while 800MHz is suited to rural areas as single sites can cover large areas.

This is also why all the legal wrangles have hindered the auction. All the 2G networks (O2, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile) got new 3G spectrum when the 3G licenses were awarded, while 3UK just got 3G spectrum. Recently Ofcom allowed the 2G networks to refarm their 2G spectrum for 3G use, giving existing 2G networks extra 3G spectrum.

Meanwhile Orange and T-Mobile combined (and had to give up some 2G spectrum in order to meet competition rules) to become Everything Everywhere.

3UK also felt aggrieved that it had a lack of spectrum as it didn't have any 2G spectrum in the first place.

Initially O2 and Vodafone had complained as they felt the 2.6GHz spectrum should have been given to existing 3G networks as it was a 3G band and threatened to take Ofcom to Judicial Review.

3UK also felt that existing operators should have their sub 1GHz spectrum capped (both O2 and Vodafone have spectrum in 900MHz for their 2G networks).

Court threats came and went and Ofcom held consultations and the spectrum auctions (that were originally meant to take place in 2007) got delayed and delayed again.

Then the Olympics were won by UK and by now broadcasters were using HD TV and even 3D TV and that meant remote broadcasting camera systems required much more spectrum than Ofcom had originally planned so they just allocated the unused 2.6GHz band and the (what would be now freed) 800MHz band for the broadcasters so neither could be made available at least until after the Olympics.

Ofcom is now planning a further consultation in late 2011 which will take at least 2 months which will then allow Ofcom to publish a statement in Summer 2012 and then an auction can follow later (i.e. not practically until Q4 2012). Ofcom actually released this information on Fri 7th Oct at 5pm (oddly when most news desks had closed for the day - Government departments tend to release bad news late on a Friday or just before public holidays - though Ofcom of course isn't a Government department but a Quango).

Various groups have seen this as hugely damaging to the UK economy as it will eave the UK well behind the rest of Europe (and the US) in terms of rolling out next generation 4G networks (LTE), though it's also a bit of a red herring as the UK networks haven't actually published plans to to rollout 4G networks any time soon (refarming 2G bands should provide considerable spectrum and greater 3G coverage). Though groups have claimed the economic loss to the UK could be around £730m.

As Ofcom have now reserved these bands for the Olympics they wouldn't realistically be available until 2013 anyway, so the new consultation and further auction delay won't materially affect actual rollouts based on these bands.

Things are not yet settled, there could still be legal battles and it's not going to be plain sailing. It's unfortunate that Ofcom (and thus the UK) was going to be one of the first countries to auction the 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands and now it's likely the UK will be one of the last to.

Nuance takes over voice, text and screen input

Nuance the company that pretty well dominates the text-to-speech (TTS) and speech-to-text (STT) market is now taking over the whole device input market too. It previously acquired Tegic (who produced the T9 text input system from AOL for $265m in 2007.

T9 was developed by Cliff Kushler while at Tegic, who then left to found Swype who produce a device input system for Android phone (users swipe their finders across the touch-sensitive screen to write words), it has been installed on around 50m Android phones.

Nuance has now purchased Swype directly for $102.5m ($77.5 now and a further $22.5m after 18 months).

Nuance's STT technology is already used in Google's Android, Apple's iOS, RIM's Blackberry and allegedly in the Siri service which is used by Apple's iOS v5 (and the iPhone 4S).


RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs has died at the young age of 56 after years of fighting cancer.

He has affected many people in many ways, mainly good though in the early years at Apple he was thought of as a bully but mellowed after being kicked out and then brought back in.

He revolutionised the home computer market with the Apple I and then the Apple II (with Steve Wozniac) - after which it went slightly pear shaped and he got fired and went to start Next Computers.

The Next Cube was a design classic (and later Apple designs kept hankering back to it) and NextOS was way beyond its time (and computing capabilities).

After Microsoft had bailed Apple out with a $250m cash injection and saving them from bankruptcy (and MS being a monopoly in the desktop OS space), Apple purchased Next (which was a commercial failure) and took on NextOS which later evolved into MacOS X.

In the meantime Steve Jobs had purchased a small computer generated image (CGI) start-up (spun out of LucasFilm) called PIXAR which he eventually sold to Disney ...

Steve Jobs also took on board an unknown British Product designer (Jonathan Ives) who made technology fit what were to become iconic designs such as the iMac, iPod etc. Changing the face of computing to what it is now.

Apple's iPod dominated the music player market since it's inception (over 70% of all music players sold) which has continued with the iPhone and iPad.

Apple made a bold decision to move from IBM/Motorola with the PowerPC to Intel's x86 CPU, but IBM was concentrating efforts on consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PS3. Though Intel's CPU's weren't that special, Intel had the resources to support Apple and allowed them to produce the Macbook AIR which used the same silicon as normal Intel CPUs but on a new substrate allowing a much more compact design of the physical hardware.

The iPhone was also a radical move from the traditional smart-phone which was a phone that could sort of do apps. Apple changed that and made a small computer that could sort of make phone calls. When the iPad came out - they dropped the phone call bit altogether (well apps could make calls, but using data not voice circuitry).

Whether people are Apple 'fan boys' or not, Steve Jobs made a huge impact on the computing industry as we know it now and fundamentally changed the way music could be obtained and played, put design first and made the technology fit and made a computer into a phone.

He made some mistakes along the way like the Apple Lisa. The Newton was revolutionary but never had the software or hardware for it be useful. Apple also dallied in expensive printers (one of the first laser printers) and digital cameras.

He will be missed even by Windows die-hards.

There's currently a tribute on the Apple home page and a page dedicated to the man himself, which is simple yet poignant ...


Droidcon takes place on the 6th and 7th of Oct

Droidcon is the London Android conference and it's taking place at the Business Design Centre in Islington over 2 days (6th and 7th Oct 2011).

There's a great selection of speakers (including myself - I'll be talking about enterprise solutions - or not) and there's a lot of actual good speakers. There'll be a mix of techie and other talks.

Ofcom now looks after your post too

Ofcom the 'super' regulator that looks after the broadcast, media, radio and telecoms industries also now regulates the Post Office having officially taken over the role of Postcomm from Oct 1st 2011.

The Postcomm website will remain live until October 31st at which point it will be archived on the National Archives website.

Any Postal matters will be located on the Ofcom Website.


MeeGo is dead, Long Live Tizen

Intel has decided to drop Meego (the combined efforts of its own Moblin efforts and Nokia's Maemo) in favour of a new Linux mobile OS known as Tizen which comes out of the Linux Foundation and LiMo Foundation.

Tizen will support smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, netbooks and in-vehicle infotainment systems and though Linux based will make use of HTML5 web apps. It will be jointly technically led by Intel and Samsung. Intel will help developers migrate from MeeGo to Tizen.

Samsung has already stated it will open source its BADA operating system in 2012, though it could now sit on top of Tizen.

Both companies hope that it will open up the market to another Linux like operating system that isn't Android thus reduce Google's dominance in the smartphone marketplace.

Qualcomm introduces new powerline and WiFi chips

Qualcomm (or to be exact Qualcomm Atheros) has announced severel new chips including the AR7420 which is Homeplug AV compliant and supports up to 500Mb/s wire speed over standard home electrical mains wiring. The chip uses frequencies from 2 MHz to 68 MHz (which may annoy a few ham radio enthusiasts). There's also a companion chip the AR1540 which is a line driver supporting multiple countries.

Also announced is a high performance WiFi system on chip (SoC) known as the AR9580 in co-operation with Mindspeed Technologies which incorporates Qualcomm's 802.11n multi stream WiFi chip in conjunction with Mindspeeds's Comcerto® 1000 broadband packet processors giving 1Gb/s bandwidth suitable for video over WiFi (VoW) solutions. The SoC is suitable for OEMs and end-user designs.

EDIMAX have launched a wireless access point known as the WV-A900APN based on the AR950 suitable for VoW solutions.


Amazon to release colour Kindle (Fire)

Amazon is expected to release it's new colour Kindle (Fire) tablet tomorrow (28th Sept 2011).

It's expected to be a 7" tablet (similar to the Blackberry Playbook) featuring a dual core Texas Instruments OMAP processor (ARM based). It will run a forked version of Google's Android operating system that does not come with any of the Google applications installed, including Android Marketplace.

Instead it will have its own applications and access to Amazon's Android store, obviously including access to eBooks through the Kindle eReader.

Though the current Kindle eReader supports their own proprietary .azw format, though moving forward they should support some form of HTML5/ePub3 interactive eBook format.

The device is expected to launch in November with a price tag between $250 and $300 (in the US).


Ofcom bans ARCs

Ofcom, the regulator that deals with broadcast, telecoms and radio has published a statement that will stop telecoms and broadband providers from automatically renewing contracts for those services.

Currently automatically renewing contracts (ARCs) come into effect at the end of a minimum contract period (MCP) and will then enter a new MCP automatically unless the customer explicitly terminates the contract. If they miss the termination period they may then may be subject to an early termination charge (ETC).

The regime comes into force in December 2011 for all new telecoms and broadband contracts for new customers and by December 2012 for existing contracts (that may be already ARCs).

This only affects consumer and small business contracts.


Ofcom to charge Communications Providers for number allocations

Ofcom, the super regulator that looks after broadcast, radio and telecoms has issued a statement about protecting number ranges and intends to charge for their use.

The initial exchanges affected are area code Bournemouth (01202) which is likely to need new supplies during 2012, followed by Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Cambridge (01223) and Milton Keynes (01908) by 2016.

The first stage will force local users to dial the full local number (including the geographic code) which will allow Ofcom to allocate number beginning with 0 and 1.

Ofcom is also proposing to charge 10p per allocated number for new allocation and for EXISTING allocations in those exchanges where numbers are running out.

This may not sound like a bad thing, but it's going to cause huge problems for communicatoins providers (CP) with customers using telephone numbers in these ranges, especially if they're a smaller provider (mainly affects VoIP providers).

Currently Ofcom allocates numbers in blocks of 10,000 normally or 1,000 in exchanges where numbers of running out. This is due to the way telephone calls are routed between telephone exchanges and is based on BT's inability to handle blocks less than 1,000 numbers (due to legacy telephony constraints). BT actually manually loads all number blocks into their exchanges so each time a CP gets allocated a block - they inform all the other CPs of the blocks and they put the information into their systems (telephony switches/exchanges). Though it affects all CPs, BT is still the main telephony network in the UK and by default they'll transit the calls through their network.

The big telephony providers won't really be affected by this as they have millions of customers, so the additional payments for handling blocks of 1,000 numbers is minimal, however the costs for a smaller VoIP provider can be significant.

As the charging applies to existing numbers allocated (to encourage providers to hand back unused numbers) smaller providers will be forced to pay (even if they've just reserved numbers just so they can offer local numbers all over the UK).

The problem is that say a CP has a couple of customers in one of the exchanges where numbers allocations are restricted, they will have taken a block of at least 1,000 numbers. They either have to give the whole block back and the customer loses their telephone number, or the CP keeps the whole block. It's also impossible to port the number as then there will be a whole in the block and again it can't be given back (unless it's ported to another provider who will take the whole black - which is only going to be possible to the larger CPs where the costs won't be significant).

So this new policy hurts all the smaller providers - who'll just have to discontinue offering numbers in protected blocks (and get existing customers to give-up their local numbers) while supporting the large incumbents.

There is a solution to this, Ofcom could maintain a central on-line database of numbers and what CP they belong to (and there's even an existing telephony protocol that supports this called ENUM). Then any CP wanting to route calls to a particular number would first consult the database and then route the call the relevant provider.

This would allow Ofcom to allocate SINGLE numbers rather than blocks and CPs would only need to pay for numbers they actually use, it would also mean they could return any numbers not in use. This would then allow the smaller CPs to maintain numbers even in the protected exchanges and they could return huge amounts of unused numbers in other exchanges too.

Many of the VoIP providers support ENUM now and it would be trivial for them to support a CP interconnect version of ENUm too. Unfortunately companies like BT and other incumbents don't and they control the market.

If Ofcom does implement this policy many smaller CPs will be financially constrained which might make their VoIP services uneconomical, so they'll have to stop offering VoIP which will just play into the incumbents and make them even more powerful and resistant to change.

Ofcom needs to support a central database of number allocation utilising ENUM and force CPs to use this for inter CP call routing and then allocate single numbers. This will encourage competition and ensure there is market choice for consumers in terms of CP choice and of course remove the current issues of numbers running out.


Ofcom offering a new digital channel

Ofcom is making available a 5th HD channel on the HD Digital Terrestrial TV multiplex. The existing 4 HD channels are BBC HD, BBC One HD, ITV1 HD and Channel4 HD (4HD). The HD multiplex uses MPEG-4 (compared to normal standard definition TV which is based on MPEG-2) and uses the DVB-T2 transmission standard (normal SD transmissions use DVB-T). Applications cost £15,000 payable to Ofcom (which is non-refundable whether the license is granted or not). There are also license conditions so only the following may apply for a license" -
    the holder of a licence to provide a Channel 3 service. Channel Four Corporation. the holder of a licence to provide Channel 5. the Welsh Authority. the public teletext provider.
Applicants may apply here


Ofcom offers new spectrum for Transportable Earth Stations

Ofcom has opened up new spectrum in the C and Ka bands for use by Transportable Earth Stations (TES) i.e. portable satellite communications devices.

The spectrum has been made available immediately and users can apply for licenses on-line.

These licenses come with fees which Ofcom have also published.

This will allow satellite comms equipment to offer greater connection speeds by making use of the increased spectrum.

Ofcom opens Whitespace spectrum

Ofcom the super regulator that deals with regulation of broadcast media, radio and telecoms has made a statement about opening-up 'white space spectrum' and allow for devices to be deployed in a license exempt manner (in the UK there is no such thing as unlicensed spectrum and all transmission or reception equipment is covered by either a specific license or a 'blanket' license published by Ofcom and as long as the user/equipment abides by the conditions of the blanket license they don't need a specific license - bands like 2.4GHz which covers WiFi and Bluetooth devices are license exempt).

The equipment will have to connect to a central database (that Ofcom may actually subcontract to 3rd parties) which will note their geolocation and provide information about which frequencies are in use in that area. Ofcom may mandate a 'switch-off' mode such that if interference is detected in the area, white space devices may be forced to stop transmission.

This will be particularly suitable for rural areas as the 'white space' spectrum can be used to support wireless broadband and other services. This is significant as Ofcom are proposing that the TV bands can be used (as digital multiplexs use interleaved frequencies such that neighbouring transmitter sites don't interfere with each other) and TV bands have good propagation characteristics. Ofcom is also considering the UHF bands, though these may be more problematic longer term.

Ofcom also is considering use for WiFi like services (for localised high speed connectivity) and machine-to-machine communications which could cover things like meter reading.

Though Ofcom will have to consider European harmonisation so it make a while to implement (Ofcom is hoping for systems to be in operation by 2013), this is a bold step by Ofcom in making use of 'wasted' spectrum and being very proactive.

Ofcom will have to introduce an SI (Statutory Instrument) which is passed by Parliament to amend the WTA (Wireless Telegraphy Act) to make the spectrum license exempt.


Ofcom issues a notification to HomeServe

Ofcom the super regulator has issued a notice under section 128 of the Communication Act 2003 to HomeServe (HomeServe Plc) for persistant breaches pertaining to automated dialling equipment making silent calls and redialing within 24 hours when the call was answered by an answered by an answering machine.

Ofcom has the power to fine companies under Section 130 of the Act if they fail to remedy their actions once notified.

Previous companies to receive notifications and or fines for silent calling have been: -

    RWE npower PLC ("npower") Ultimate Credit Services Ltd (“UCS”) Equidebt Ltd (“Equidebt”) Barclays Bank plc (“Barclaycard”) Abbey National plc (“Abbey”) Complete Credit Management Limited (“CCM”)


Ofcom puts TV companies on notice

The following companies have been put on notice for non payment of broadcast license fees: -

LicenseeLicence NumberService Name
A&A Inform LimitedTLCS/680Russian Hour
ARY Digital UK LimitedTLCS/290Ary Digital
ARY Digital UK LimitedTLCS/924QTV - Islamic Education Channel
ARY Digital UK LimitedTLCS/925ARY News
Canis 103 LimitedTLCS/1109FOBO Movies
General Entertainment & Music LimitedTLCS/1326GEM TV
Middlesex Broadcasting CorporationRTSL/034Leicester TV Limited
Passion Broadcasting TelevisionTLCS/885Passion TV Limited
Praise Channel Broadcasting NetworkTLCS/692Praise Channel Limited
Prime Plus LimitedTLCS/793PTV Prime Plus

Ofcom makes a large percentage of its revenue from broadcast licenses and failure to pay those fees are considered to be a serious breach of license conditions - which can mean the license can be revoked.


Ofcom fines TalkTalk and Tiscali £3m

Ofcom has fined TalkTalk and Tiscali £3m each for mis-billing customers after they had been previously warned to get their systems in order.

Between 1 January and 1 November 2010 the companies billed 62,000 customers for services they did not received. They were then warned to fix their systems by December but billed another 3,000 customer between December and March.

TalkTalk and Tiscali have already paid £2.5m in compensation to customers for refunds and good-will payments.

Ofcom showing biting - or just publicly showing they have some teeth?


Nuance buys Loquendo

Nuance who are buying up everyone involved in text-to-speech (TTS) and speech-to-text (STT) have just purchased Loquendo from Telecom Italia for $75m.

Many TTS companies have evolved out of telecoms companies as they have had to had speech engines in their telecoms switches to announce to users call issues etc and even services such as the speaking clock - which in some countries are completely automatic. Efficient natural sounding computer generated speech is difficult to achieve and Loquendo have been leaders in this area in Europe (anyone using a TomTom device will be familiar with a Loquendo speech engine).

This adds to Nuance's already large portfolio of TTS products.

Nuance were also famous for purchasing Spinvox (for around £64m) the Marlow based company that converted voicemails into text messages, but were the probe of a BBC journalists investigation after it was alleged that voicemails were sent outside the EU in violation of data protection law for manual conversion by agents. Nuance shut the consumer division of Spinvox down to utilise their carrier connections.

Google to buy Motorola Mobility

Google is buying Motorola Mobility their (ex) handset division for $12.5bn in cash, however Mobility also manufactures set-top boxes (and a lot of them) which fits in nicely with Google's TV plans.

The deal should complete in 2012 but there will be a lot of US and EU competition regulations to wade through, so the deal might actually a while to get final approval. Shareholders should be happy as Google paid $40 per share which was a 63% premium (on Friday's closing price).

Google will gain access to a large patent portfolio which may help them against the threat from other IP holders such as Microsoft and Apple, though it's unlikely to do much for the fight against Oracle and their Java legal issues.

Motorola are one of the major Android licensees and Google expect to keep them at arms length in terms of Android development. It's likely that Google will sell all or part of the division in the future - so a cash deal means it's easy to chop off the divisions without their being any legacy tie-ins to Google.

Google's Nexus One was manufactured by HTC, the Nexus S by Samsung, this deal probably means the next Nexus will be a Motorola unit.


Duedil - find information on companies for free

Finding information about companies has always been complicated, basic information is available at Companies House, but to get anything useful you have to pay.

If you really want detailed info, then someone like Dun and Bradstreet offer very complex information, but it's really geared to accountants and CFOs.

There's now a new service that offers all Companies House information, plus more in an incredibly easy to use format. You need to sign-up, but it's free i.e. due-dilligence for the masses.

The service can be used to look for suppliers, competitors and clients (who you may want to do business with) and displays a wealth of information. What's also useful is that the information is all cross-linked, so say searching on a company and listing the directors, clicking on the director will show all the companies they are (and indeed have been) involved with.

Duedil also shows if there are any CCJs or other outstanding litigation and even ASA complaints as well as financials and a host of other information that is constantly being added.

If you need company info, Duedil should be your first port of call.


Moshi Monsters invade New York

Though there are over 15m US Moshi Monster users, so far they've only been able to play on-line.

On 5th August 2011 that will change as Moshi Monsters launch their range toys including the 6 plush Moshi Monsters and 32 Moshling mini figures at Toys"R"Us in Times Square from noon through 3pm.

There will a range of 'special' appearances and activities including: -

  • Moshi Monsters characters, Poppet and Katsuma, appearing live in the fur!
  • Moshi Monsters themed face painting.
  • Autographs by Mr. Moshi himself (Michael Acton Smith, founder of Mind Candy and creator of Moshi Monsters).
  • While supplies last, attendees will receive a complimentary Moshi Code giveaway, created exclusively for the event, of a super sparkly Liberty trophy, used to decorate a user's virtual room on MoshiMonsters.com.

The first 250 attendees will also receive a special copy of Moshi Monsters Magazine


Ofcom publishes report on DEA site blocking compliance

Ofcom the super regulator that looks after radio, broadcasting, media and telecoms has published a report (PDF) about blocking access to sites that publish illegal (copyright infringing) material in-line with section 17 and 18 of the Digital Economy Act DEA).

The report is quite long and complex and goes into detail on the different ways that sites can be blocked i.e. IP address, DNS manipulation, uniform resource locator (URL) manipulation, simple packet inspection (SPI) and deep packet inspection (SPI). There are also potential hybrids of various of the above methods with varying degrees of cost and effectivenes.

There is an existing system for blocking access to illegal material (such as child pornography) with a list maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), though it can be effective for specific URLs, it can break (such as the incident when and entry on Wikipedia was blocked and most of the traffic from the UK to Wikipedia came from 6 proxies run by the dominant ISPs).

Amusingly where references to getting round several of the schemes are mentioned in the report, they have been redacted.

The report does indicate that existing methods of reporting copyright abuse (under section 97A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988) are not going to be speeded-up by injunctions under section 17 or 18 of the DEA.

The report points out methods of encouraging site owners to co-operate in that if a blocking notice was put on the site, all of their site would be blocked, which might encourage the site to remove the offending content. There is also mention of co-operation of virtual private network (VPN) providers as pretty well all blocking can be undermined by utilising a VPN tunnel.

Ofcom are also keen to ensure the injunctions are not unduely punitive and there is accountability.


VoIP can be a dangerous game

Many businesses are starting to deploy or already have deployed IP PBX's (private branch exchanges) which are the guts of VoIP that route calls to local telephones or allow employees to make external calls.

Companies will either run the IP PBX themselves or even deploy remotely in a data centre (generally for a multisite company) or run a hosted system from a VoIP company.

Unfortunately if these systems aren't deployed carefully it can be easy for 'hackers' to connect to them and make out-going phone calls which can rapidly generate huge bills (they tend to target international premium rate numbers that they control, or just are used to route calls for 3rd parties).

Asterisk is a very commonly used open source IP PBX and in the past, the default SIP configuration allowed open access (this has been closed in newer releases). Many IP PBX's will also have open VoIP/SIP access (i.e. unauthenticated remote access - which allows remote users to dial internal extensions, however without having a sensible dial-plan these users can do outward dialling too).

In some cases the VoIP configurations will only allow secure connections, but the web configuration will have default credentials, so a remote attacker can just go in and create a new VoIP user which they then use to outward dial.

A company suffered such an attack over the weekend and was faced with a bill for £12,000+ worth of phone calls.

Though the company was to blame for not securing the web interface, the telephony provider (which could be a normal PSTN provider i.e. someone who provides traditional fixed line services or a VoIP provider) should have provision to check for unusual traffic patterns. So if normally calls are just made to the UK, they should block calls if there's suddenly a large volume to international numbers.

Any company getting a new phone system should check their provider offers such checks or they could be faced with large bills that they'll be liable for.

Worksnug goes live on Ovi

Last week (28/07/11) Worksnug announced their new iPhone app which includes all of HP's ePrint locations. The app offers an augmented reality display showing locations of workspaces and now also free HP ePrint solutions. The locations can also be viewed using a traditional map view. The app also providers addition tools for the mobile worker such as an integrated decibel meter in the mobile app, allowing users to assess and share noise levels inside working locations, and a unique ‘VoIP Checker’ tool, which assesses the ability of public WiFi networks to support VoIP calls.

Today (01/08/11) Worksnug have announced the availability of their Symbian app which has gone live in the Ovi store.

Worksnug also have a Blackberry client.

Worksnug was founded by Richard Leyland in 2009 to solve the problem of where to work when on the move and has now a growing database of public and public workspaces. The company has relationships with Plantronics, Cisco, Skype and HP.

New PhonePayPlus regulations affect all PRS providers

Ofcom has issued a statement concerning premium rate phone services (PRS) which come into force on the 1st of September 2011.

PhonePayPlus (PPP) is the industry regulator for PRS (and Ofcom have empowered PPP to handle all PRS regulatory issues). PPP will issue a new Code of Practice (12th edition) on the same date (12/10/11) and this will affect all PRS providers (not just the current subset).

The new code will tighten up issues left in the previous code and PPP is there to protect consumers (Ofcom have to power to ban companies and individuals from operating PRS if they misuse them).


Springboard gives birth to 10 promising companies

Friday 29th July was investor day for Springboard, the mentoring and accelerator program based out of Cambridge, where the 10 companies that had gone through the system did their final pitches to a packed audience made up of investors (in Springboard itself), mentors (including myself) and lots of VCs.

Springboard is loosely based on the TechStars program out of the US and was initiated by Red Gate Software in 2009 (this being the second incarnation). This year it was supported by Red Gate, angels and NESTA and took place in the Hauser Forum.

Compared to The Difference Engine (a similar program which took place in Sunderland last year) the teams and pitches were definitely more polished and all came out vastly improved (and some radically different) from when they started the program.

The teams were (in order of appearance)

Adwings - Lithuania - a ad publishing platform that allows tracking of campaigns to various destination media including print, digital and mobile.

Apiary.io - Prague, Czech Republic - A 'techy' service allowing companies to quickly build and deploy web APIs (application programming interfaces) while testing and monitoring and documenting them.

Arachnys - Cambridge, UK - a services for providing due-diligence on companies in emerging markets by consolidating all available information.

Hubflow - Bournemouth, UK - a service that converts existing training material into a mobile format (with tracking metrics to see how well the user is performing). This allows companies to offer training materials to their employees on their mobile device to be completed in dead time (such as when commuting) or at their own convenience.

Mayday - London, UK - a web based service that plugs into a company's .Net process to alert the company to errors in the process, hopefully before customers start complaining.

MiniMonos - Wellington, NZ - a virtual world for children (male) between 8 and 12. A Freemoim service with subscriptions and virtual goods. The site has been around for 2 years, but the new site launched last month and now has around 300,000 users. Membership packs will be available from Sainsbury's in Oct (next to Moshi Monsters etc).

Playmob - London, UK - a platform allowing games developers to easily integrate charitable payments into games (i.e. for virtual goods) and for Charities to easily sign-up to the service which should fully launch in October 2011.

Publification - Tartu, Estonia - a web based HTML5 authoring system and browser based eReader that works across multiple platforms (i.e. desktop and mobile). Once books have been downloaded they can be read off-line. The platform can be white-labelled for publishers and authors can also self-publish.

Tastebuds - London, UK - dating site based on music likes where matches are made based on music preferences. Users can just add artists they like or the service will import from Last.fm and/or Facebook.

Total Gigs, Newcastle, UK - a web service allowing disparate users to share content from events they have attending (making them into groups). After the event has taken place users can relive the event from the group content.

The program was driven by John Bradford with day to day organisation help from Jessica Williamson.

John's next accelerator program is Ignite100 and if the quality improves every time he runs one, it should produce some amazing companies.


RIM releases BBM v6

RIM have released Blackberry Messenger version 6, which allows application integration so say a BBM connected game will allow the user to invite a BBM friend to play.

The first wave of BBM connected applications will go live on Blackberry World today.

There are around 45m monthly active users of BBM and RIM hope to increase this by adding functionality to BBM such as location services and VoIP.

If Apple and Google can offer a competing messaging system that really competes with BBM, then it really may be the end of RIM.

Skype for Windows offers deeper Facebook integration

Skype have released version 5.5 for Windows which now allows checking the availability of Facebook friends without leaving the Skype client.

There are also improvements to the group chat functionality and the video quality.

Though Skype currently dominate this space, Vonage are releasing mobile clients that will allow VoIP calls, there is already a Vonage client for iPhone which integrates with Facebook chat (but doesn't allow access to other Vonage users).


Mozilla plans mobile OS

Mozilla is joining the mobile operating systems bandwaggon and plans to launch Boot to Gecko (B2G) an open operating system designed to run web applications in the cloud.

Google has already gone part of the way with ChromeOS which so far has only been deployed on Netbooks (while Android boasts native apps). HP's WebOS is also out there, on both phones and tablets.

Intel are also trying with MeeGo - though the loss of Nokia (who have migrated to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 or WP7) might have slowed things down.

The B2G will support Firefox (Mozilla's open source browser), they're are not tying the OS to it and will support 3rd party browsers if they wish to support B2G.

Another mobile OS may just confuse the market more, though the Mozilla product is likely to be completely open source (as far as any OS can be that supports closed parts such as the GSM/2G/3G stacks).


RIP Steve Lacey

This weekend turned out to be a weekend of carnage, a right wing fanatic killed lots of people in Norway and Amy Whitehouse died. However the most depressing thing turned out to be the death of a good friend Steve Lacey, who was killed instantly when a road-rage driver lost control of his car which went over a central reservation barrier and ploughed into Steve's car.

Steve was a a lovely guy and made a lasting impression on everyone he met, definitely a geek but a nice guy too.

He leaves behind his wife and 2 young children, he will be sorely missed. Thoughts are with his family.


TIM is 75 on Sunday 24th July

TIM is affectionate name for the BT speaking clock (or as it's now called Timeline), which was the first 3 letters of the T.I.M.E on the old telephone pad.

It's now accessed by dialling 123 and it still gets around 30m callers per year.

It was originally designed at the Post Office Engineering Research Station at Dollis Hill in North London (which is also where Collossus the code breaking 'computer' was conceived) and introduced on July 24th 1936. It was only available to London callers, only going national in 1942.

There have been 4 permanent voices the first being Jane Cain 1936 - 1963, followed by Pat Simmons 1963 – 1985 and Brian Cobby 1985 – 2007 (the only male voice) and finally Sara Mendes da Costa 2007 to present.

There have also been celebrity voices (Lenny Henry for Comic Relief in 2003 and Alicia Roland for ChildLine. Mae Whitman the voice of Tinker Bell in 2008 for the release of the movie and Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole, Chris Moyles, Kimberley Walsh and Fearne Cotton for Comic Relief 2009).

The speaking clock used to be accurate to 1/10 of a sec on, but is now accurate to 5/1000's of a second (and Big Ben's time is checked against the speaking clock).


Intel's Museum of Me

Though it's been around for a while, Intel have developed an application called the Museum of Me which takes your social graph (by logging in with Facebook Connect) and then uses data from your feed and places it on the "wall" of the virtual museum.

It's almost creepy as it's as though you're looking at your life in the past, but it's visually very impressive.

Here's an intro video

This also shows how much information is available to applications when utilising Facebook Connect, that's more scary.


Ofcom reduces BT's wholesale broadband charges

Ofcom the super regulator today has published a statement which means that BT will have to drop its wholesale broadband prices by 12% below inflation where they are the only broadband provider. Ofcom believes this will lead to better competition as resellers can provide a better quality of service.

The price controls come into effect on 17th August 2011 and remain in effect until March 2012.

Ofcom also published a statement on charge controls for 08 and 09 number ranges as BT has significant market power for call origination and also number translation services.


SeaMicro puts 768 cores into a 10U system

The new SeaMicro SM1000-64HD is an evolution of the SM1000-64 offering 1.5 times the speed but only consuming 1.25 times the power.

Each unit packs 384 dual-core Intel Atom processors and each processor can have 4GB RAM (i.e. 1.5TB in total) and can support 64 SATA hard drives for storage.

A base unit costs $237,000.00 which sounds a lot, but it's relatively cheap for that amount of compute power.

A standard 42U rack can hold 4 systems allowing 3072 cores per rack.

SeaMicro have said eHarmony and Mozilla are both using their systems.

They are open to using ARM CPUs when the right server processors are produced.


BBC launches a crowd-sourced 3G mapping app

The BBC has launched an Android application that measures 3G signal strengths in the background (along with location data), so that real-time UK coverage maps can be produced.

The app is available from the Android Marketplace (a free download).

The app was developed by Epitoro for the BBC.

Though it's a nice idea, there are other solutions out there and OpenSignalMaps have been around for a while and are mapping 2G and 3G signals worldwide, their app is available from the Android Marketplace too.

It's a shame as the OpenSignalMaps app has been around for a while but not had the traction that the BBC can make happen, maybe they should combine forces to aggregate the data.

Neither the BBC or OpenSignalMaps has an iPhone app (it's much harder to do and may go against Apple's T&Cs), though OpenSignalMaps say they're working on one.


Spotify launches in US today

Any current Spotify users can invite their friends from across the pond to use the service while anyone in the US can sign-up to apply for membership.

It's taken a while, but Spotify US is a go-er and they've beaten Apple with their new iCloud service and others.

It's yet to be seen how popular Spotify will be in the US as there are existing music streaming services.


Ignite100 applications close 17th July

Ignite100 is a new incubator program based in Newcastle that gives teams up to £100K in funding. It replaces the Difference Engine incubator.

Initially teams get £5,000 per founder (up to £15,000) and move to Newcastle for a 13 week intensive program and after completing the program (and achieving certain agreed milestones) then they gain the rest of the £100,000 as a convertible loan note.

The program is supported by Finance for Business North East Technology Fund, managed by IP Group plc, and from the Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures, together with a group of angel investors including Hotspur Capital Partners and Green Lane Capital.

Ignite100 is accepting applications now and applicants my apply here.


Skype releases v5.2 for MacOS X

Skype have just released version 5.2 for Mac, it now supports group video calling (and sharing screens when in a group video call). Unfortunately these features require a Skype Premium subscription, though a seven day trial is available - a day pass costs £2.99 +VAT while or £4.99 +VAT per month.

There's also a few new features that allow easier multi-tasking so if you move to another program, controls are still available in the video control bar to mute or end the call. The history and contacts areas have also been decluttered making Skype more manageable.

Skype will upgrade via the program itself or directly from here.


Skype brings video calling to Android

Skype has announced that Skype for Android 2.0 now supports video calling which will work with Skype for iPhone, Mac and Windows. Video will work both over WiFi and 3G.

Support for handsets include the HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson, Xperia pro and the Google Nexus S.

Facebook are going to announce a 'major new service' next week and it's rumoured that Facebook video calling will be based on Skype (though the rumour is recent, Skype has been working with Facebook for some time and precedes the Microsoft acquisition). The video calling will be in browser, though it's not clear whether the user has to have the Skype client installed too. This should give Skype a major boost as Facebook has 750m users compared to Skype's 170m (active), it should also help Facebook and Microsoft head off Google's voice service.


Alcatel-Lucent develops 400Gb/s processor

This isn't a normal CPU that comes in a general purpose computer, but a network
compute engine and 400Gb/s is high speed. As mobile data and Internet data incre
ase the core backbones have to support more and more traffic.
LAN speeds have been increasing over the years and while a few years back everybody was happy with 10Mb/s Ethernet, now home (wired) LANs are 100Mb/s or even 1000Mb/s (1Gb/s).

At the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) they have to cope with much higher speeds and LANs might run at 10Gb/s or even 40Gb/s and very shortly 100Gb/s (the 100Gb/s standard was only ratified last year and it takes a while for vendors to produce equipment based on the standards). The next speed increase takes the LAN up to 400Gb/s.

It's all very well running high speed LANs but they need to connect to other things (just like a home router with multiple LAN connections) and the equipment needs high speed network processors to be able to move data around and work out where it should be going in real-time.

Traditionally the high speed core router market has been dominated by Cisco followed by Juniper and more recent Huawei from China. This now put Alcatel-Lucent back in the race for providing the next generation of Internet systems.

Alcatel-Lucent's processor is known as the FP3 and can handle 70,000 simultaneous HD video streams or 8.4m cloud sessions and it's these types of services which are expanding rapidly and the core networks need to stay ahead of consumer demand.

Ofcom simplifies Spectrum Trading

Ofcom today has published a statement on simplifying spectrum trading which includes sub-leasing and other enhancements.

Currently Ofcom tend to be heavily involved in the process of trading, now a licensee does not need the consent of Ofcom to trade their spectrum, though some bands such as 2G and 3G bands are still covered by existing requirements.

Ofcom is also allowing leasing and sub-leasing if spectrum so if a licensee has excess capacity they may lease part of their spectrum to a 3rd party, now that 3rd party may also sub-lease part of their spectrum (though the originating licensee must keep accurate records of all sub-leases.

This should allow new innovative services to be launched as there's a lot of spectrum that's been licensed and not being used efficiently.


Microsoft makes more from patent licensing than WP7 licenses

Microsoft (MS) has a huge patent portfolio and a lot related to mobile technologies used in mobile operating systems such as Android and others.

It recently added General Dynamics Itronix division (who make ruggedised systems running both Windows and Android), though a small player it is going after companies like this to show that it may be better to license Windows Phone 7 (WP7) rather than use Android and pay MS patent license fees.

MS has already reached agreement with large companies such as HTC (one of the largest manufacturer's of smartphones again running Android and WP7) and has lawsuits against Motorola and Barns and Noble.

It is thought MS are trying to destabilise Google's mobile power base and get manufacturers to use WP7 as it's protected against any other kind of licensing in terms of intellectual property.

It's alleged that Microsoft make more money from Android IP royalties than they do from WP7 licenses - so though they'd like more vendors to adopt WP7, they're winning on both sides.

Ofcom mandates battery back-up for FTTP services

Ofcom the super regulator that covers media, broadcast and telecoms is holding a 10 week consultation about proposals that operators of FTTP (fibre-to-the premises) must provide battery back-up for the service which is located in the premise. This is to ensure that phone calls can still be made during a power cut (and thus still provide access to the emergency services) which is a condition of the Communications Act (General Condition 3).

The initial idea was to mandate 4 hours battery back-up which has now been reduced to 1 hour as the majority of power cuts in the UK are less than 1 hour. 1 hour back-up also means smaller batteries that are easier to obtain, install and recycle and are more likely to be accepted by consumers.

Ofcom does recognise that some premises will require longer back-up times, but these will be examined on a case by case basis.

The Ofcom summary is available here and the consultation closes on 10 Sept 2011.


Ofcom fines Satellite Entertainment Ltd

Ofcom, the media regulator, fined Satellite Entertainment Ltd (SEL) who run Essex Babes, Northern Birds and Live XXX Babes £90,000.00 for failing to provide recordings of what was transmitted on 9 occasions. The fine is payable to HM Paymaster General.

SEL also lost editorial control of what they broadcast for 6 weeks by allowing another company to transmit using its license.

It seems SEL refused to provide recordings and frustrate Ofcom's regulatory process which Ofcom found unacceptable. SEL were fined as a breach of condition 11 of their license.

The full Adjucations may be seen here.


O2 prepares for Glastonbury

O2 (the subsidiary of Telfonica) has been working in the background for the Glas
tonbury Festival that opened yesterday, by installing 6 cell sites around the fe
stival site.
By the time the festival closes, O2 will have spent 200 days with a team of 20 people making sure everything has been set-up and kept working smoothly so that the 150,000 or so revellers can keep calling or textting each other.

O2 expect that festival goers will talk for over 3.4m minutes and use up 1088GB of data (that's over 1TB) which is a lot of traffic for a 5 days event. O2 will also be monitoring the network and ensuring it will be tuned for peak periods such as when a band finishes when everybody uses their phone to find out where their frends are.

Orange are also associated with the festival and are known to add extra cell sites to increase coverage, but this year they are offering an app (Apple, Android and Nokia) that allows punters to see who's playing on what stages and the acts that follow. They will also be providing a charging station suitable for hundreds of people to simultaneously get a boost, however this year they are also trailling t-shirts that have a piezo-electric film that converts audio into electricity and each shirt should be able to charge two phones over the 5 days.

Glastonbury is now really becoming a 'techno' festival, maybe next year robots will be seen in the crowds.


Ofcom allows Spectrum Trading for 2G and 3G spectrum

Ofcom today published a statement that will mean from the 4th July 2011 2G and 3G licensees will be able to fully or part trade spectrum in the 900MHz, 1800MHz (2G) and 2.1GHz/2100MHz (3G) bands.

This may allay some issues arising from the 800MHz / 2.6GHz forthcoming auctions.

UK Broadband to offer LTE/4G services as early as 2012

UK Broadband (a subsiduary of Hong Kong based PCCW who are owned by the same people that run Hutchison Wampoa who own 3 in the UK) have announced that they will be rolling out an LTE (Long Term Evolution) or 4G network this year and it will be ready for use by next year.

UK Broadband recently acquired Pipex Wireless so now they own a large chunk of spectrum in the 3.5 and 3.6GHz bands. Initially, both UK Broadband and Pipex Wireles, were offering WiMAX based networks but the current trend is for LTE as mobile networks will support this as their 4G systems (effectively killing off WiMAX, at least in Europe).

The aim is to offer MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) services i.e. wholesale mobile services to other operators such as Virgin Mobile (who is already an MVNO of T-Mobile). LTE will support both voice and data, though it's the high speed data services that will be attractive to operators especially if they can off-load data from the existing 3G networks which are suffering capacity issues.

It's not all going to be plain sailing as mobile phones only look in certain bands (currently 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz for EU GSM/3G) though 850 / 900 MHz is used in the Americas, so UK Broadband or PCCW will have to persuade handset manufacturers to support the 3.5/3.6GHz bands which is likely to be difficult, though specific LTE data equipment could be another option (as in a 4G dongle).

Ofcom were meant to be auctioning the 800MHz analogue TV spectrum next year and the 2.6GHz IMT-2000 reserved band, both being suitable for LTE services, unfortunately BT and O2/Telefonica have now challenged Ofcom's decision to cap the sub 1GHz spectrum available to any network and this may cause further delays in both the auction and actual availability of the spectrum which was neant to be made available after the 2012 London Olympics.

BT Whitespace spectrum trials "encouraging"

Spectrum is a valuable commodity and in the UK it's pretty well all allocated (well there are certain bands that are hopefully going to be auctioned soon). It's either been taken up by (mainly) the MOD, commercial TV/radio, mobile and even some space for public use like the 2.4GHz band which is used by WiFi.

The lower the frequency of the radio wave, the better propogation characteristics it has (i.e. it travels further in air and penetrates buildings well) so even though higher frequencies can carry more data, it can be hard to get the signal to users without building very dense radio networks so the signals don't have to travel very far.

Current analogue TV uses the 800MHz band which obviously has very good propogation characteristics as pretty well anyone in the UK can receive an analogue TV signal. During 2012 all analogue transmitters will be turned off and everything migrated to digital.

Therefore there's a lot of interest in using these lower frequency bands for wireless broadband for remote areas as a single big transmitter can be dumped into the middle of the remote area and it connected back to civilisation, but everyone in the area will be able to get a signal from it - i.e. they'll be able to get a broadband connection.

This is a very attractive proposition, except for the fact that frequencies in the range of 400 - 800MHz are currently being used or have planned use which slightly scuppers its use for broadband.

BT are trialing a system known as white space transmission and it's really quite clever. The transmitting and receiving systems listen to the relevant bands that they want to use and only pick sub-bands that aren't already being used. Since modern radio equipment can be very selective and use specific frequencies, there's actually a lot of white space spectrum around (older radio systems were noisy and though bands were allocated, there are always gap-bands in between so that the real radio bands wouldn't "bleed" into each other causing interference - those gap bands contain valauable - now usable - spectrum). Also not all areas use all the sub-bands. The trials are being conducted on the (very) remote Scottish Island of Bute, so even if BT get things wrong, there's not going to be a lot of people to upset, but the trials are going well and BT is going extend to coverage to another 12 users July.

If the trials are successful this could offer a glimmer of hope in getting broadband to rural communities who are not going to be covered by BT or other operators fibre (or even 3G) roll-outs.


The Inspire Conference, but was it inspiring?

It seems everyone who organises anything these days must also put on the obligatory conference which is "the" conference to go to.

On June 7th and 8th at the organisers of Launch48 put on the Inspire Conference at UCL's Senate House in the centre of London. Even if the conference failed, Senate House is one of the most inspiring buildings in London, it doesn't quite fit, looking more like something out of a US skyline.

The conference was located on the ground floor with the exhibition in the main hall and coffee/lunch opposite with WiFi (supplied by UCL) present everywhere (the WiFi required a login, but remained available even at peak usage with no drop-outs or reduced bandwidth - other venues should take note).

If there's any comparison, the organisers probably would like to compare "Inspire" with TED and if it continues it may well develop into something similar, though there a lot of very good talks, they weren't particularly inspiring (for example Nick Halstead of Datasift/Tweetmeme gave a very impressive talk on Big Data - but was it inspiring?).

Some products that people talked about are inspiring (i.e. Angry Birds), but the actual talk (or interview with Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio) again wasn't.

Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy was probably the exception and gave a brilliant talk which was also inspiring.

It was a good idea to change the exhibitors for each day (well most of them) and the stands were quite busy.


Many people prefer using a mouse rather than a trackpad or the "it's not quite right" system built into their laptop, but using a "normal" mouse means finding a work area that's large enough for it to move around. That generally means no mouse for mobile workers who want to use their laptop on a plane or on train (or even in a car, but probably not a good idea while driving).

Now a New Zealand company called Swiftpoint have come up with a solution, the Swiftpoint Mouse, which is a tiny wireless mouse that works with Apple Macs and Windows PCs. It's about 5cm long and 4cm at it's widest with contoured sides so that your fingers sit comfortably. There's a space to rest your thumb (coloured red) and your index finger sits on the top operating the mouse buttons or scroll wheel and your 3rd finger tucks on to the other side and rests in a little nook.

It's been designed so that it will work on the surface of a laptop next to the touch pad (or even on a touch pad) even on the metalic surface of a Macbook.

Cleverly the mouse detects when your finger is present on the thumb grip and turns off the power when your finger isn't there.

The two buttons on the top of the mouse correspond to left and righ buttons on a standard mouse for Windows or Click and Control-Click for Macs. The scroll-wheel can go back or forwards, but is stepped so you know you're moving it and it's pretty precise.

The mouse also performs some clever tricks, if tilted to the right so the scroll-wheel is then in contact with the surface, moving the mouse will then scroll the window you're in rapidly up or down (in-line with what the mouse is doing), which is useful for rapidly moving though documents. If the front button is pressed and the scroll-wheel moved, then the screen will magnify i.e. zoom in and moving the mouse backwards then zooms-out. Pressing the back button while moving the scroll-wheel will mean a document will move a page at a time.

It's a wireless mouse and it comes with a USB adapter that is just under 3cm long and just over 1cm wide (including the USB connector) so it protrudes about 1 1/2cm out of the socket. Unfortunately that's just wide enough to block other USB devices (at least on a Macbook) unless they're very thin. The adapter has three little metal connectors on it and acts as a mouse charging station with the mouse sitting on the adapter. That also means it will only work on USB ports that are on the side of a laptop (or similar) and not say on the USB ports on a Mac keyboard which are slightly under it. The device is plug-and-play and is recognised by pretty much any version of Windows and MacOS X 10.4+. The USB adapter magnetically attaches to the mouse when not plugged in, so it's harder to lose when not in use.

On MacOS X the operating system initially thought a keyboard has been plugged in, but just exit from the keyboard set-up utility (which automatically pops up) and the mouse just starts working.

The mouse has a 1000dpi (laser tracking) resolution and requires very little movement to move things around on screen, both the buttons and scroll-wheel are easily accessed and though initially fiddly, you rapidly become accustomed to using them and then it's actually very easy to drive the mouse and use all of it's features.

Placing the mouse on the USB (connected) dock for 30s will charge the mouse for around 1 hour's use, while a full 90 minute charge will power the mouse for between 2 to 4 weeks.

It's not that cheap, retailing at £49 in the UK. But if you're the person that prefers a mouse to a laptop trackpad, this could be just the right device for you.

It can be bought on-line from Swiftpoint.


Digium release Switchvox version 5

Digium the company that maintains the open source Asterisk IP PBX have released version 5 of Switchvox. Switchbox is based on the core Asterisk product, but with a nice Graphical User Interface (GUI) to configure it.

Switchvox is designed to fit into SME sized companies and v5 adds FMC (fixed mobile convergence) options so that up to 6 devices can be added to an extension which includes mobile (smart) phones.

The system also supports advanced APIs (application programming interfaces) so that external systems such as help desk or CRM applications can be integrated.

A new install will cost $3,195.00 for up to 30 users. Existing Switchvox users can upgrade for no cost.

Ofcom says LTE800 operators have to fix Digital TV

Ofcom will be auctioning the 800MHz band and it's expected that licensees will use the spectrum for LTE (Long YTerm Evolution)/4G services.

Unfortunately there may be interference issues with terrestrial digital TV broadcasts which may affect around 3% of the population which is around 760,000 homes.

Many interference issues will be resolved with the simple fitting of an RF filter between the aerial and the digital TV receiver, however around 0.1% of viewers will still have issues and Ofcom want those effected to have digital satellite receivers installed. It's expected that the LTE licensees will be burdened with the cost of the filters of digital satellite equipment which could cost around £100m on top of any spectrum auction fees.

Ofcom are now going to hold a consultation to see the real extent of the problem.


Techpitch 4.5

On the 25th May 2011 2Pears held a pitching competition at Pinsent Mason LLP (located between Old St and Liverpool St).

The judging panel was chaired by Danvers Baillieu (who happens to work for Pinsent Mason) but is maybe more famous for the illustrious Bootlaw series of workshops that he organises.

Other members of the judging panel were Eric van der Kleij CEO Tech City Investment Organisation, Glenn Shoosmith CEO BookingBug, Megumi Ikeda Comcast Interactive Capital, Amine Laouedj goetzpartners Corporate Finance, Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson Huddle and Silicon Stilettos and Grace Yusuf or Kyubid.com. Some of the panel might have been slightly worse for wear having just returned from the eG8 conference (or should that be party) in Paris.

There were 9 pitches from start-ups: -

Gabriel Ortiz presented Clickslide - a platform allowing both developers and end-users to rapidly produce websites or mobile applications.

Sue Green with Dancetothis - aiming to be the central resource for dance in the UK i.e. linking how to videos, local events etc. Crowded market.

Tom Harrow with Findababysitter.com - pretty much the name says it all.

Ian Pickard with Gigaboxx - a system allowing artists and record companies to directly sell to the fans at a gig or event. Can produce a mobile app (music store) which is customised to the artist.

Dupsy Abiola with Intern Avenue - a site that is trying to get employees to pay interns.

Anil Stockner with Marketinvoice Ltd - A trading (auction) platform for companies to trade their invoices and get paid immediately (so the bidder will offer a price for the invoice and their fee).

Josh Liu with Minutebox - Minutebox is a platform allowing people with skills to sell them to other people using Red5 as a media server. The user sets their price and what skills they have and other users can buy their expertise on a per minute basis.

Matthew Scherba with Plancentric - a new approach to project planning (well enterprise resource planning or ERP).

Simon Phillips with Tools of Directing Ltd - a way for content creators to add meta data to video in the production process.

In terms of presentation Josh Liu's was by far the most succinct as he presented in time and got the all his points across and everyone understood what Minutebox did.

Dupsy Abiola's also stood out as she obviously understood the intern problem and was trying to address things in a positive way.

Anil Stocker's Marketinvoice has the potential to be very large, one to watch.

Some of the other ones were flakey (as in presentation or the business itself), but that's to be expected at a random pitching event.

All in all a great event and the Pinsent Masons auditorium is actually a great space to hold these kinds of events as the speakers can be heard and the presentations seen on the two screen set-up.

There are some pics of the event on Facebook


Ofcom publishes possible 4G capacity gains

Ofcom the super regulator today published its report into what capacity gains that 4G networks could provide compared to existing capacity on 3G networks.

In summary compared to existing HSUPA 3G networks, there will be an increase of 3.3x which will increase to 5.5x by 2020 i.e. 3.3 to 5.5 times as much traffic can be put over the equivalent spectrum which will be opportune as data usage increases.

However network operators will need to manage the topology of their 4G networks more carefully than current 3G networks.

The statement may be found here.

Microsoft-Skype kills Skype for Asterisk

Many will know Asterisk the open source IP PBX (IP telephony system) that is commercially supported by Digium.

At Astricon in 2008 Digium announced a partnership with Skype that would allow an Asterisk system join the Skype network as a Skype client, though commercial (costing $66 per channel i.e. each concurrent call the Skype network requires a channel) many people used this to connect their internal VoIP systems to the outside world taking advantage of free Skype to Skype calls and cheap calls to the normal telephone networks using Skype-out.

Unfortunately the partnership is now dead as Skype (or now Microsoft Skype as Skype is to be known after their acquisition by the software giant) have decided to discontinue the licensing of Skype proprietary code that is included in the Skype for Asterisk product.

Customers can still purchase Skype for Asterisk until 26th July 2011 and Skype will continue to support the product until 2013 (and Skype "at their discretion" may continue support beyond that).

Though Skype for Asterisk only represents a small proportion of the Skype population, is this indicative of the way that Microsoft is taking the company as Asterisk and other open source solutions directly compete with some of Microsoft's offerings? If so it's a shame as it it's likely that only MS products will work with Skype and thus further locking customers into Microsoft's solutions.

Though to be fair, rumour has it that Skype was already looking at ways of ending the relationship with Digium.

Everything Everywhere and BT trial LTE800

BT and Everything Everywhere are trailing LTE (Long Term Evolution or 4G) on the 800MHz band in Cornwall. 100 mobile and 100 fixed users will take place.

800MHz is part of the spectrum that Ofcom are planning to auction this year which will is currently being used by analogue TV, though some areas have already switched over to digital so the frequencies are already clear. The whole of the UK will switch by 2012.

The trial will actually use 2 x 10MHz channels in the upper band (which Ofcom are considering how to license) and though LTE can theoretically speeds of up to 150Mb/s, Everything Everywhere have stated that users should expect between 2 and 40Mb/s.

The 800Mhz band is being auction in conjunction with the 2.6GHz band (with caps depending on what portions are being bid for) and there is expected to be considerable interest from both the existing mobile network operators and broadband providers (some of who will be new entrants).