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Monday, 4 October 2010

Interesting articles in the papers

The troops are being lined up against LTE, and BT strives to show how much it really cares. I love the smell of fear in the morning.
This blog post can be read at

There's an interesting couple of little snippets in the papers this morning firstly in the Independent, there's the dire warning that `New generation mobile phones will ruin cable TV signals' and then on the BBC website that `BT competition seeks out UK's next fibre hotspots'

What is interesting about these two stories is that they give a strong sense of the dinosaurs shaking their fists (or whatever these early reptiles shook) at the asteroids hurtling towards the earth, which would eventually wipe them out.

The cable companies have a lot to lose from LTE, because it could deliver exactly the same sort of content, but at the same time be portable. The scenario is that with one account, and one piece of kit you could get all the internet you need, and when you go on a camping holiday holiday you just take your phone, and the associated wireless router with you, and it's laptop heaven for the kids who can surf their evil social networking sites till the cows come home, or perhaps trample the tent.

The other story is interesting because it gives an insight into the mind of BT. There will be some people in the organisation who will see some of the broadband/Fttc/Ftth projects which have been set up by local community interest companies, which in effect largely exclude BT. Newton Upon Rawcliffe is a prime example, where people have in effect by-passed BT to get a reasonable speed of Broadband.

When you get up to 5/10Mbps you don't actually need a phone, Skype and similar packages become just as convenient. The fear in BT is that if they don't act soon some reasonably sized communities could simply by-pass them, and be lost for good.

LTE may not be the ideal solution where Ftth is the Holy Grail, but it might bring some comfort to rural areas when it becomes available. It could offer possibilities if it is rolled out alongside the main motorway and rail networks.

The closest comparisons to the chill that the conventional providers may be feeling is telephones in hotels. Remember when making a phone call from your hotel room cost upwards of a pound a minute, well does anybody actually use hotel telephones now, since the arrival of mobile phones?

The warning is stark to the established industry, provide or die.

There are parallels with mobile phone coverage. When I first moved to Teesdale sixteen years ago the only network with any kind of coverage was Orange. I changed to Orange, and most of the people around me signed up too. Now Orange is the dominant network, because even though others have improved their coverage Orange got there first and like banks, most people are reluctant to change.....

There is a lesson here for the established internet telecommunications industry.


Cyberdoyle said...

just read the FT story about BT infinity starting up a similar drive to the enabling exchange fiasco in 2003. They at least pointed out that "The criteria have been chosen partly to exclude rural areas where phone exchanges only serve very small numbers of homes and businesses. BT is unwilling to roll out its superfast broadband network to remote areas without public subsidy."

Mark Holdstock said...

Sadly the FT article is behind the paywall, however what is interesting is that I suspect that the `powers that be' at BT have realised that what Guy has done at Newton could be replicated in a larger built up area, one which is more commercially viable for them. It's as though competition is emerging by default.

Pauline said...

Sorry Lins, don't agree with you on the first story. LTE isn't a replacement for cable because it doesn't do TV. I don't really think the cable TV companies have much to worry about.

The fact that LTE might interfere with cable TV signals is potentially quite a big issue. If you don't subscribe to Virgin Media, I bet you have coax in your house from the roof-top aerial to the TV!

We're constantly being bathed in a soup of electromagnetic radiation which is getting stronger as new wireless services come online. Someone should worry about whether this has any effect on other electronic equipment - or ourselves for that matter!

Mark Holdstock said...

Actually Pauline, it isn't Lindsey, but Mark. I found it quite interesting that this was research carried out on behalf of Cable Europe, the trade body for the cable industry. I also wonder if this has been backed up by peer-reviewed academic research. If it has it would have been good to see it quote.

Pauline said...

Sorry, my bad. Not used to the fact that there's more than one contributor to the blog. So hello Mark!

You raise an interesting point on research. Ofcom commissioned Cobham Technical Services to investigate this issue, and the report was published in January this year.

The conclusion is buried on p76, and I really don't know what to make of it. Interference can occur, depending on the type of TV tuner, type of cable and some other stuff. They said it's not an issue, but in some cases you will need additional electronics to remove the interference.

Mark Holdstock said...

I suppose in a way, it was the actual content of the original Independent article which stirred my antenna. I wonder if it took rather a lot at face value.

As a journalist I always try to remember the old adage promoted by the late Louis Heron (a former deputy editor of The Times) who famously said that every journalist should ask them selves the question `Why is this lying bastard lying to me...?'

I just had the feeling reading that article that there were questions which hadn't been asked, as so often happens when general reporters write newspaper articles about technical subjects such as the roll-out of fibre...

Unfortunately these days newspapers are staffed so thinly that in many cases there is a tendency to just copy and paste press releases, or to use the story without looking too deeply into the context surrounding it.

I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between what the Cobham report says, and what the Cable Industry says ....

Anonymous said...

Mark, you are right on target I think re Newton stimulating BT to react and look very closely at communities that they previously considered either unviable or where the plan was to seek public subsidy.

What I would like to see from BT is a more cooperative attitude in the national interest and that requires a simple yet profound shift in corporate mindset...

Namely that the access network (the 1st Mile to/from people's homes and businesses, schools and hospitals etc) will no longer be BT's exclusive preserve.

Given that shift in view then it becomes straightforward to work in cooperation with BT to deliver Digital Britain.