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Communications Technologies & Business Opportunities

Below is an extract from my undergraduate research written during 2000-2001. It describes a what the future looked like during that period when ‘convergence’ was a popular buzzword. Most of the content was written 13 years ago, and think some of this still stands up well today.

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School of Computing

BSc Computing

Final Stage Project

Steven J. Baker

Communications Technologies & Business Opportunities

2000 / 2001

 

Acknowledgements

 

I would like to thank ONDigital for their time in assisting me with technical literature. I would also like to thank my wife for her patience and support, without whom none of this would have been possible.


Abstract

Telecommunications, broadcasting & IT companies are merging together to take advantage of the communications revolution, as Internet technologies converge with mobile phone, cable, digital TV & digital radio technologies. The dissertation will be looking at how existing & emerging communications technologies are driving these businesses and others.

 

Aim

 

The dissertation will focus on the global community, and how advances in global communications are facilitating enterprise. It will cover two areas, with equal consideration giving to each:

Technology aspects, such as the Internet and its underlying and emerging technologies, such as ADSL; satellite communication & TCP/IP over satellite and how digital TV broadcasts are converging with network technologies; BlueTooth wireless technologies; and cellular phones, including the different generations.

The dissertation will also research and conclude on the commercial issues and implications of these technologies; trust and privacy; business and marketing strategies; costs & economics involved such as mobile phone licences; multimedia distribution; and security.

I will look at existing & emerging technologies from a technical viewpoint, and attempt to assess the commercial implications from a business point of view.


Contents

 

Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 8

1     The Internet…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 9

1.1      What is the Internet ?…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

1.1.1       What is the World wide Web ?………………………………………………………………………………………. 9

1.2      A Brief History………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

1.3      How does the Internet work ?…………………………………………………………………………………….. 10

1.3.1       Internet Architecture…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10

1.3.2       Web Browsers……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 10

1.3.3       Web Servers…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 11

1.3.4       TCP/IP, URL, Net Addressing and Domain Names……………………………………………………… 11

1.3.5       IPv6……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 13

1.3.6       FTP and HTTP…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13

1.3.7       XML…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13

1.3.8       Hardware Required for Internet Access……………………………………………………………………… 14

1.3.9       Software Required for Internet Access……………………………………………………………………….. 14

1.4      What are the disadvantages of the Internet?……………………………………………………….. 14

1.5      What are the advantages of the Internet?…………………………………………………………….. 15

1.6      Control of Internet Content……………………………………………………………………………………… 15

1.6.1       Yahoo, Nazi memorabilia and Free Speech………………………………………………………………… 16

1.7      Who are the main companies involved?……………………………………………………………………. 16

1.8      What about commercial aspects ?……………………………………………………………………………… 16

1.8.1       The Internet Bubble…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 17

1.9      Case Study – Yahoo.com……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18

1.10    Case study – The crash of Boo.com……………………………………………………………………………. 18

2     Digital TV & Digital Radio…………………………………………………………………………………………… 19

2.1      What Is Digital TV?……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 19

2.2      How does it work?………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 19

2.3      Building Blocks of a Digital TV System…………………………………………………………………… 19

2.4      Impact………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 22

2.5      What are the disadvantages of Digital TV ?………………………………………………………….. 22

2.6      What are the advantages of Digital TV ?……………………………………………………………….. 23

2.7      Who are the main companies involved?……………………………………………………………………. 23

2.8      What about commercial aspects ?……………………………………………………………………………… 23

2.8.1       Untapped Business……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 24

2.8.2       Case Study – ONDigital rapped over full web access adverts…………………………………….. 24

2.9      What Is Digital Radio?………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 25

2.10    How does it Work ?…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25

2.10.1     The BBC’s Digital Radio Service………………………………………………………………………………… 25

3     Cellular Phones & WAP………………………………………………………………………………………………… 26

3.1      What is a Cellular Phone ?………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26

3.2      How do they work ?……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26

3.2.1       The First-Generation…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 27

3.2.2       The Second-Generation – GSM…………………………………………………………………………………… 28

3.2.3       The ‘2.5 Generation’ – GPRS………………………………………………………………………………………. 29

3.2.4       The Third-Generation – UMTS…………………………………………………………………………………….. 29

3.3      What are the disadvantages of Cellular Phones ?………………………………………………. 30

3.3.1       Cellular Phone Health Risks………………………………………………………………………………………. 30

3.4      What are the advantages of Cellular Phones ?……………………………………………………. 31

3.5      Who are the main companies involved?……………………………………………………………………. 31

3.6      What about commercial aspects ?……………………………………………………………………………… 31

3.7      What about WAP ?………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 32

3.7.1       Disadvantages of WAP……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 32

3.7.2       Advantages of WAP…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 33

3.7.3       Does Connectivity matter more than Content ?………………………………………………………….. 33

4     Communications Media………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 34

4.1      ATM……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 34

4.2      ISDN……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 35

4.2.1       Benefits of ISDN………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35

4.3      ADSL…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 36

4.3.1       OFTEL, BT and ADSL………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 36

4.4      PSTN……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 37

4.5      Satellite…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 37

4.5.1       IP over Satellite…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 37

4.5.2       GEOS…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 38

4.5.3       HEO…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 38

4.5.4       LEO……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 39

4.6      Cable…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 40

4.7      Bluetooth………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 41

4.8      Power lines………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 41

5     Similarities & Differences between these Technologies………………………. 42

6     The Future ?………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 43

6.1      The ‘Dark Horse’ – the Metamorphism of the Games Machine…………………………….. 43

6.2      Case Study – FutureTV………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 44

7     Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 46

7.1      Reflection………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 47

APPENDICES……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 48

APPENDIX 1……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 49

The Electromagnetic Spectrum……………………………………………………………………………………………… 49

APPENDIX 2……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 51

GSM Frequency Utilisation within Europe………………………………………………………………………….. 51

APPENDIX 3……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 55

Cabinet Office Policy on Potential Use of Digital TV……………………………………………………… 55

Bibliography………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 61

 


Table of Figures

 

 

 

Figure 1-1 Domain naming structure 12

Figure 1-2 Example IP routing table 12

Figure 1-3 ISP Charges 14

Figure 1-4 NASDAQ Mar 2000 – Mar 2001_ 17

Figure 2-1 Building Blocks of a Digital TV System_ 20

Figure 2-2 Digital TV Conditional Access 21

Figure 3-1 Division of Coverage Area into Hexagonal Cells 26

Figure 3-2 Frequency reuse within cells 26

Figure 3-3 The Building Blocks of the AMPS First Generation Mobile 27

Figure 3-4 GSM 2G Layout 28

Figure 3-5 Cellular market share 31

Figure 4-1 ISDN infrastructure 35

Figure 4-2 Satellite orbits 39

Figure 4-3 Cable services 41

Figure 6-1 The Sony chain_ 44

 

 


Introduction

 

 

Digital technology, which makes possible the conversion of words, sounds, pictures and moving images into coded digital messages, is driving the computing and telecommunications worlds ever closer, and the networks facilitate this distribution. My aim is to take a ‘look under the bonnet’ of some of the technologies such as pay – TV and IP – over – satellite and assess their commercial impact.

 

When I originally decided on the theme of the project, it was because I wanted to gain a deeper insight into the convergence of the different communications technologies. This was due in part to the increased interest and headline making about these technologies and the varying fortunes of the companies involved, and also because it is an area I find both interesting and fascinating. I believe the much quoted phrase about’ over – estimating technologies in the short term and under – estimating in the long term’ is especially true concerning applications such as digital satellite TV, cellular phones and Internet applications.

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1      The Internet

 

 

1.1      What is the Internet ?

 

A collection of communication networks interconnected by bridges and / or routers.[1]

 

The Internet is a giant distributed collection of public and private networks connecting millions of companies, research and education institutions, databases, libraries and individuals across the world. The interconnected set of separately managed and run networks and subnets, each with their own unique identity, known as autonomous systems, appear to the end user as one large network. When the user enters the URL[i] (e.g.), www.lastminute.com, the separate networks appear transparent and the user can be unaware of this.

The ‘Internet’ with a capital ‘I’, normally means the commonly referred to ‘Internet’, including the world wide web and email. Alternatively, an ‘internet’ with lower case ‘i’ normally refers to an internetwork of networks.

The Internet is not centrally organised and therefore no person or organisation controls it.

 

1.1.1       What is the World wide Web ?

 

A global, interactive, dynamic, cross – platform, distributed, graphical hypertext information system that runs over the Internet.’[2]

Web interactivity is the capability to talk back to the Web Server, to request pages, to send feedback or other information to the publisher of the web pages, and to communicate with other readers of pages. Traditional media, such as TV and radio are not interactive. With the exception of changing channels, the user has little choice over what he / she wants to see.

The web is cross – platform because it is accessible using a variety of platforms including handheld devices such as WAP[ii] enabled cellular phones, palm & laptop computers, television sets, PCs, Macs and high end Unix computers. The World Wide Web is not limited to any single machine, although the truth is slightly less idyllic. With the introduction of Java and browser plug – ins, some platforms do not support these, therefore making parts of or whole sites unavailable to certain users. Browsers running on wireless hand – held devices cannot display traditional HTML[iii] pages, but only WML[iv] pages. Also, because of the market dominance of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, many web pages are designed and tested accordingly.

The web is distributed globally across tens of thousands of web sites, each providing content available to millions of users, making it a distributed system.

1.2      A Brief History

 

In 1969, ARPA[v], of the US Department of Defence developed the ARPANET, the first operational packet switched network, to encourage collaboration and communication between academic and governmental institutions. It began operations in four American Universities; the UCLA, the University of Santa Barbara, the University of Utah, and the SRI[vi] . The ARPANET expanded during the 1970s, as other educational and research institutions connected their networks to it.

 

In the early 1980s, a high speed network supported by the US NSF[vii] replaced ARPANET, and a large number of companies and organisations began to connect their networks to this new network to form a backbone network. The military site split from the new NSF network to form their own closed network, known as MILNET.

 

Other networks can connect directly to the Internet backbone by installing a high speed gateway. Unfortunately, the gateway connection is expensive, and beyond the means of most individuals and companies. Due to this, ISPs[viii] began to appear in greater numbers. ISPs are companies who have their own high speed gateway to the Internet backbone, and charge a fee for accessing the Internet through their gateway. Users who cannot afford their own high speed connection subscribe to an ISP to provide Internet access. The ISPs commonly charge a monthly fee, although some, such as Freeserve, provide free Internet access (see commercial aspects).

1.3      How does the Internet work ?

 

1.3.1       Internet Architecture

 

The Internet consists of several autonomous systems, all with their own subnets. Because of the addressing facilitated by IP[ix], all the hosts can be assigned dynamic or static IP addresses which can be used for routing packets of data through the Internet.

 

What is an Autonomous System ?

An autonomous system is a separately managed and run internet, with it’s own management and routing algorithm. The Internet is considered as the core backbone to which autonomous systems are attached. See APPENDIX for diagram of autonomous systems and the Internet.

 

1.3.2       Web Browsers

 

The web browser is an Internet navigation tool, sometimes called a web client, which is a software application that allows the user to view pages and navigate the World Wide Web. The two most dominant computer based browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Netscape Navigator, which are both available for free, and can be downloaded over the Internet, although this is difficult if you don’t already have a browser, but are commonly given away with computer magazines. Browsers are also available to facilitate Internet access through television and cellular phones.

 

The two main tasks performed by the browser are to :

  1. retrieve documents from the web
  2. format and display web documents

 

When the browser is given the URL (a pointer to the information on the Internet, such as www.lastminute.com) it has to either access that piece of information, or operate based on the contents of the pointer. For hypertext web documents, the browser communicates with the web server to request the documents. Browsers commonly communicate with FTP[x] servers and Gopher servers for file transfers, Usenet news postings, and email, etc.

 

Web pages are written in a language called HTML, which includes the text to be displayed, the page structure, and links to other documents, links, or other media. The browser formats this information and displays the web page accordingly. Different browsers can and will display the same web page differently.

 

Additional features of browsers include the running of Java applets, read and play multimedia files and to read mail.

 

1.3.3       Web Servers

 

This is a software application that runs on a web site that processes requests from web browsers for files. If the server accepts the connection, it sends the content of the requested files to the browser, and then closes the connection. The web server can handle many simultaneous requests from browsers for the same document or for different documents.

 

Web servers (sometimes called HTTP[xi] servers) are responsible for :

 

  1. Publishing of web pages on the Internet
  2. Simple file management. The web server can send ‘HTTP 404 : File not Found’ messages back to the browser if a requested file does not exist, can handle aliases for redirecting the browser to a new URL if the files have moved, return directory listings, and keep log files on the requests received for web sites.
  3. Process forms, scripts and programs. More commonly, web servers are used for managing form input and for providing database connectivity for pages and forms to facilitate dynamic content. To do this, scripts are run on the web server which instruct it to perform certain tasks such as read or write to a database or perform payment processing. Technologies commonly used for performing this are CGI[xii] Scripts, Microsoft’s ASP[xiii], JSP[xiv], and Allaire’s ColdFusion.
  4. File processing. The web server can insert dates or hit – counters into the web documents before they are sent to the browsers, or they can perform more sophisticated tasks.
  5. Authentication and Security. This enables protection of files and directories on the web server by password protection. Some servers also provide a mechanism for implementing SSL[xv]. This provides authentication to prove the server is who it says it is, and encrypts the data sent between the server and browser, to prevent unauthorised eavesdropping of data.

1.3.4       TCP/IP, URL, Net Addressing and Domain Names

 

The TCP/IP protocol is the standard for communications throughout the Internet, and is used to break the data into packets and send them across inter-networks. The TCP[xvi] protocol is concerned with establishing a connection and error and flow control. IP is primarily concerned with routing and addressing.

 

When a user enters a URL such as www.microsoft.com/updates, this name has to be resolved to an IP address, such as 192.75.13.22. To do this, DNS[xvii] is used. DNS is giant distributed naming system used on the Internet. It is used to map easy to remember domain names onto IP addresses, as well as other administrative tasks. When a user requests www.microsoft.com/updates, the local DNS server which is authoritive for the user, checks it’s records and if it has no record of www.microsoft.com/updates, it sends a iterative query to the root domain name server. This tells the local domain server to go and query the domain server authoritive for the ‘.com’ domain. This server when queried, then sends a reply back to the local domain name server telling it to go to the domain name server for ‘Microsoft.com’. This process continues until the local domain server receives a reply from the domain server authoritive for ‘www.microsoft.com/updates’, which gives the IP address of the web site. Although resolving the domain name to an IP address sounds like a long-winded process, domain name servers cache the results for an defined time (TTL[xviii]), allowing fast resolutions of names for future use.

For more information on domain naming hierarchy, see FIGURE 1-1.

 

 

Figure 1-1 Domain naming structure

 

 

image004

 

Key

Root

Top level domains

Sub domains

 

 

 

 

 

The user now has the IP address, uniquely identifying the web site. To route the data between the user and the web server, routing protocols are used, which are part of the function of IP. There are interior gateway protocols (IGP) for routing in one autonomous system, and exterior gateway protocols (EGP) for routing between autonomous systems across the Internet. Examples of theses are routing information protocol (RIP) and open shortest path first (OSPF). The aim of these routing protocols is to communicate with each to exchange information about the best route to hosts on the Internet. The best route is measured in hops (number of routers traversed) in the case of RIP, or time taken to reach a destination. These protocols also indicate if any routes are inaccessible due to problems with routers, etc. This information is stored in routing tables, which contain the destination network id, the next router to reach the destination, metric (hops or cost), subnet id. See FIGURE 1-2 for example routing table.

 

Figure 1-2 Example IP routing table

image006

 

When a packet of data is to be sent using its IP address, it compares the destination network id with the local network id to which it is attached. If the network id is different to the local network id, the outer forwards it to the next router in the path to the destination. The data packets are routed in this way until it reaches the router which it is directly attached to by the sub network.

 

Who do the routers know the network id when an IP address is given to them ?

To do this subnet masks are used. Simplified, subnet masks are used with IP address to identify which part of the address is the network, and which part is the host. For example, 192.75.6.21 is a dotted decimal equivalent of a 32 bit binary address. A subnet mask in dotted decimal of 255.255.255.0 translated to 32 bit binary will be 11111111.11111111.11111111.00000000. The router looks at the subnet mask, and the portion of the mask populated by ones indicates the network address, and the portion populated by zeros indicates the host address. Therefore, IP address 192.75.6.21 with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 indicates that the network id is 192.75.6 and the host id on that network is 21.

 

1.3.5       IPv6

 

The current IP addressing uses a 32 bit address to identify source and destination addresses. Due to the huge growth in the Internet and of more private networks attached to the Internet, this 32 bit address length became insufficient to accommodate all the systems needing IP addresses. The driving force behind the new protocol, called IPv6, was the need for more IP addresses. IPv6 uses 128 bit source and destination addresses, as well as other functional enhancements to accommodate high speed networks carrying more multimedia as well as a large amount of data.

1.3.6       FTP[xix] and HTTP[xx]

 

These are known as process / application layer communication protocols, and they address the ability of one application to communicate with another, regardless of hardware, operating system, or any other differences. They are most commonly used ‘on top of’ (with) the TCP/IP protocol.

 

FTP is used to facilitate file transfer between two machines. It is not only a network protocol, but a program, which allows file and directory operations. This is the transfer protocol that allows the transferring of files. FTP can facilitate this between any two machines that are using it. Operating as a protocol, FTP is used by applications. As a program, it’s employed by users to perform file tasks by hand. FTP also allows for access to both directories and files, and can also accomplish certain types of directory operations, like relocating into different ones. FTP teams up with Telnet to transparently log the user in to the FTP server, and then provides for the transfer of files. FTP can’t execute remote files as programs.

 

HTTP is the set of rules for exchanging files (text, graphic images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) on the World Wide Web. HTTP is an application protocol, used with TCP/IP, and is the underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web. HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands.

 

Essential concepts that are part of HTTP include (as its name implies) the idea that files can contain references to other files whose selection will elicit additional transfer requests. Your Web browser is an HTTP client, sending requests to web server (a.k.a. HTTP server) machines. When the browser user enters file requests by either “opening” a Web file (typing in a Uniform Resource Locator) or clicking on a hypertext link, the browser builds an HTTP request and sends it to the IP address indicated by the URL. The HTTP daemon in the web server receives the request and, after any necessary processing, the requested file is returned.

 

 

1.3.7       XML

 

XML is a method for putting structured data in a text file, such as spreadsheets, address books, financial transactions, technical drawings, etc. Data is stored in text format as opposed to binary format, allows the user, if necessary, to look at the data without the program that produced it. XML is a set of rules, guidelines, conventions, for designing text formats for this data, in a way that produces files that are easy to generate and read (by a computer), and that avoid common pitfalls, such as lack of extensibility, lack of support for internationalisation / localization, and platform-dependency.

 

XML looks a bit like HTML and like HTML, XML makes use of tags and attributes, but while HTML specifies what each tag & attribute, XML uses the tags to delimit pieces of data, and leaves the interpretation of the data completely to the application that reads it. XML allows the programmer to create custom tags to delimit data. For example, a <phonenum> tag could be created for sending phone numbers as data using XML files.

 

Because XML is a text format, files are nearly always larger than comparable binary formats. That was a conscious decision by the XML developers. The advantages of a text format are evident and the disadvantages can usually be compensated in different ways. Disk space is becoming less expensive, and programs can compress files efficiently. In addition, communication protocols such as HTTP can compress data on the fly, thus saving bandwidth as effectively as a binary format.

 

1.3.8       Hardware Required for Internet Access

 

Commonly computer, including PC based computers (90% of market) or Macintosh. Other ways include mainframes, WAPS, Internet TVs (including set-top boxes), Email telephones, and Palm type computers. Commonly for stand alone computers, an internal / external modem is needed, or for networked computers with access through router or gateway, a network interface card to connect to the LAN[xxi]. Internet TVs gain access through cable, satellite or terrestrial links. With terrestrial and satellite TV reception, a telephone line is needed for return path.

 

1.3.9       Software Required for Internet Access

 

Operating systems such as Windows 3.x, Windows 9x, Windows NT, Windows 2000 / Me, Mac OS, Linux / Unix are needed for computer access, along with a browser, with PC based graphical browsers commonly used such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, or less common text browsers such as Lynx. Computer based Email packages such as MS Outlook, and an FTP client for upload and file management of remote sites are commonly used. Set – top boxes, Internet TVs, and WAP enabled cellular phones include software for browsing and Email.

 

1.4      What are the disadvantages of the Internet?

 

In the UK, ISP rates are still considered an obstacle to Internet access, with subscriptions providing a deterrent to many users. See table:

 

Figure 1-3 ISP Charges

 

ISP NameTypeConnection SpeedMonthly ChargeCall Charges

NTL

HomeHighway

512 / 256 kbps

£40.00

None

Telewest

HomeHighway

512 / 256 kbps

£33.00

None

BT

ADSL

512 / 256 kbps

£40.00

None

Freeserve

PSTN

56 kbps max. using analogue modem

None

BT local rate call charges

AOL Flat Rate

PSTN

56 kbps max. using analogue modem

£14.99

None

 

There are many other complaints levelled at ISPs including contractual obligations giving ISPs freedom to cancel accounts of heavy users of unmetered services, controlling content of customers web sites, varying service levels with busy lines, and expensive and sometimes misleading technical support. ISPs are self – policing with the ISPA[xxii], but it has been argued that stronger legislation is needed[3]

 

Because of the overhead caused by TCP error and flow control, connection speeds can be painfully slow, especially when using a modem and PSTN. Although 56.6 kbps modems are the standard, actual connection rates are commonly much slower.

 

Much of the information is less reliable than other resources due to the lack of control. Anybody can publish information on the Internet, and although libellous or copyrighted material is under legal protection, there is nothing preventing persons from publishing inaccurate material.

 

Virus transmission gains headlines, and the majority of viruses have been passed by email, and are known as ‘Trojan horses’. These are passed in the form of mail attachments, or are scripted into HTML messages using Active scripting. These are generally targeted at PCs running Microsoft Windows platforms, and commonly are designed to exploit security flaws in Microsoft products such as Outlook Express, as was the case with the KakWorm virus.

 

Explicit or malicious material is a problem on the World Wide Web. In the UK, there was a court case in January 2001, where several men were charged with being members of an international club where child porn was exchanged over the Internet. And in France, a judge has ordered US based Yahoo to block French users from gaining access to online auctions of Nazi memorabilia. This opens the question of civil liberties and free speech, although one could argue that while the diversity of the Internet is one of it’s advantages, some of the material has no place in society.

 

1.5      What are the advantages of the Internet?

 

The Internet is irrespective of geographical situation – it collapses nationality into a two or three letter code at the end of the net or email address. Web pages can be published in different languages, facilitating multilingual exposure. The Internet by it’s nature, is different from traditional transmission media, because it is point to point and the consumer can request pages from millions of sites across the globe. Alternatively, TV, radio and other established forms of media use broadcast, where transmission is targeted according to national, geographic, political or cultural boundaries.

 

The Internet gives free & easy access to information, which was once only available to librarians, reporters, academics, etc, and was once under the control of governments or companies, etc. This free information encourages diversity and gives fast access to less mainstream topics with people devoting sites to certain topics, hobbies, interests, or obsessions. The Internet also facilitates freedom of speech, although this is subject to some controls.

 

Broadband access is becoming more available & cheaper, facilitating on demand multimedia. 56 kbps modems limit the use and / or quality of the Internet content. Streamed multimedia such as video is commonly very low quality at these speeds, and there are sometimes interruptions in viewing video, while the file is buffered. With broadband access, the potential for good quality multimedia is present, with on demand video such as pay per view films or sporting events becoming a reality.

 

Ecommerce, especially B2C can sometimes remove the middleman, with the effect of lowering prices paid by consumers. Manufacturers of goods or suppliers of services can therefore retail directly to the consumer without the need for brokerage, agencies or retail shops. By removing the middleman, extra costs incurred through labour, rent / leases, mark – up and bureaucracy are removed. An example of this is RyanAir.com, a ticket – less airline where customers browse and book flights through the Internet, at less cost when compared to their rivals.

 

The Internet can provide benefits to the sick and disabled, allowing support groups to ‘meet’ online, and share information. People suffering from rare complaints have also used it to gain information and  support, and people in need of donated organs have put out requests online.

 

1.6      Control of Internet Content

 

It is widely believed that there is no control over content on the Internet, and although more traditional laws are hard to enforce, there have been new UK laws applied over the last decade:

  • Defamation Act 1996 – This is the libel law and is applied online. This means that if you are libelled, the person who libelled you must prove their claim. Some libel payouts have been huge over recent years. ISPs are sometimes liable, and may act to drop websites if the content is considered libellous.[4]
  • Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act 2000 – It gives police the power to demand encryption keys, and it is now a criminal offence to refuse. Also allows employers to ‘snoop’ on staff email. Although the RIP Act was suppose to modernise legislation covering the interception of communications, it can be argued that will have an adverse effect on Ecommerce, by reducing privacy and allowing Internet use to be surveyed.[5]
  • Electronic Communications Act 2000 – This is a DTI[xxiii] Act that gave legal validity to digital signatures and created a voluntary framework for providing encryption services.[6]
  • Data Protection Act 1998 – This provides protection for users personal data online, making companies who collect, store or process this data to register for the Act, and to follow guidelines. Has made an impact, although many companies, especially small businesses can forget to register, or are unaware of the Act.[7]
  • Computer Misuse Act 1990 – This law was passed to make hacking illegal, although rarely used, it still provides an effective deterrent.[8]
  • Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 – This provides protection for the author or owner of material against unauthorised use, such copying or selling. Applies to sound, video, litery, dramatic or artistic works.[9]

 

1.6.1       Yahoo, Nazi memorabilia and Free Speech

 

This case highlights the problems in controlling content over the World Wide Web, where different countries are concerned and the grey area of national boundaries where jurisdictions can be applied. It highlights both the advantages and disadvantages, and the good and the bad of the Internet…

 

In April 2000, the French Union of Jewish Students and the French International Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism League sued US based Yahoo for allegedly breaking French law which bars the display or sale of racist material. Swastika-emblazoned flags and other Nazi collectibles are among the thousands of items advertised for sale at auctions.yahoo.com.

 

In January 20001, French Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez gave Yahoo three months to find a way to prevent French users from accessing auction pages with Nazi items, and said Yahoo would be fined $13,000 for each day after the deadline that it did not comply.

 

Yahoo said at the time that it would ignore the ruling and refuse to pay the fines unless a US court enforced it. The company contended that blocking all French users would be technically impossible. In papers filed in US District Court in San Jose, attorneys for Yahoo said the French court violated the company’s free speech rights and does not have jurisdiction over content produced by an US  business.

 

Yahoo asked the US court to reassure the Internet industry that such orders are unenforceable.

 

Civil liberties organizations in the United States have warned that if the French decision is allowed to stand, repressive governments could use the same tactic against Web sites run by democracy groups and human-rights activists.

1.7      Who are the main companies involved?

 

In Europe, Freeserve, BT, AOL are amongst the main ISPs, although there are hundreds more, providing different levels of service. Search engines are provided by Yahoo, Google, and Alta Vista, but again there are many more, with many supplied by US based companies. Major online retailers include amazon.com and lastminute.com, although the landscape is changing constantly.

1.8      What about commercial aspects ?

 

The Internet has attracted people who not only want to become rich, but very rich, and believe it is easy to make money on the online. During the late Nineties, there were high expectations for online retail sites, with stocks in ‘dot com’ companies going sky – high, even though few companies were actually making a profit.

 

It was also widely predicted that due to the Internet, many world – class businesses would emerge to become enormously profitable. However, the outcome at the time of writing is different. Consumers have instead benefited enormously by the growth of the Internet. Competition between online businesses, some of which has been fierce, has transferred the value to the consumer, and less to the business. Of the pure Internet companies, very few actually make a profit. The companies benefiting the most are the established companies that were successful before the Internet revolution, such as General Electric. These companies are using the Internet to connect more closely with customers and suppliers, and to become more efficient.

 

Despite the high profile failures of some dot.coms, the Internet can offer many other benefits to businesses besides online retail. A company web site can offer customers the latest news about the company, corporate strategy, competitions, feedback through guest books and forums, updates, related links or product information.

 

Many customers are still wary about using credit card information over the Internet, even though with encryption, this is far safer than disclosing personal details over the telephone. This is in part due to the fact that the customer has no idea who the company running the company maybe and how reputable they are, unless dealing with well – known companies. I believe for retails, the best solution is to have the company website containing product information, with the facility for the customer to pay for goods by other means such as cheque, with fax and telephone numbers to encourage the customer to interact with the sales staff.

 

An online presence for businesses can provide a facility for customers who cannot reach the business during normal working hours. A major benefit of online retail, is that potential customers can anonymously browse products, gaining information such as specification and pricing, without any interaction with sales staff. This removes the pressure to buy, and the customer can then contact sales staff if they wish to make a purchase.

 

1.8.1       The Internet Bubble

 

On the 10th March 2000, the NASDAQ index reached a record high of 5047.69, fuelled by over – valuation of high tech companies, including Internet services and online retailing. At the time of writing on the 15th March 2001, the index is valued at less than half of that value and the trend is showing further falls. In the UK, the Techmark 100, the London Stock Exchange technology index has followed a similar pattern. Although the slowdown in the US economy has decreased the value of stocks, the bursting of the Internet bubble had a huge impact.

 

Figure 1-4 NASDAQ Mar 2000 – Mar 2001

image001

Some high tech stocks whose shares once went for huge sums now trade at less than 10% of their 2000 highs. Yahoo, and the UK based Lastminute.com, have fallen nearly 90% from year-ago levels[10].

 

A year ago, some analysts stated that the valuation of many dot.com and other technology stocks was grossly overstated. Internet retail companies that had never even made a profit were hugely overvalued. Values of many Internet stocks were based on anticipated future earnings and customer base, instead of a solid financial track record. When these earnings failed to materialise, panic set in amongst traders.

 

Many of the companies spent the capital from flotation on heavy marketing and soon ran into trouble. There are many dot.com casualties, including Furniture.com, pets.com, Mortgage.com, Quepasa.com, MotherNature.com, Garden.com and, most recently, eToys all becoming fatalities. Some dotcoms remain, but with stock at a fraction of last year’s prices.

 

In the case of mobile telecoms, Internet services and the B2C Internet sector, analysts have already begun switching to operating profit or revenue per customer as better measures of performance and prospects than growth in customer numbers and profit forecasts.

 

1.9      Case Study – Yahoo.com

 

Yahoo, founded in 1994, pioneered the Internet search engine and has 180 million customers worldwide and is considered by many as the leader in Internet advertising. Shares were floated in the company in 1995 and quickly soared, reaching a peak in November 1999, when the company was valued at £75 billion. Shares collapsed when the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, and following a 20 % crash on March 8th 2001, at the time of writing the company is valued at £5.25 billion.

 

Yahoo was considered by many stockbrokers as one of the safest Internet companies for investors, and the 20% drop in share prices in March 2001 caught many experts by surprise. After analysts predicted profits of £250 million for the year 2001, the company announced that there will be no profits for the first quarter of 2001, with possible losses for the full year, and sales were 25% less than expected.

 

Although part of this decline can be attributed to the slight economic downturn in the US, the main impact is from a weakening customer base that is showing a trend towards returning to more traditional forms of advertising. The company is largely dependant on advertising, a widely predicted growth area until recently, but experts now consider Internet advertising a dying business. Many consumers ignore or close adverts, or even run software to filter out unwanted advertising while using the Internet, and due to this, businesses are starting to return to more traditional means.

 

1.10   Case study – The crash of Boo.com

 

In May 2000, the online fashion retailer Boo.com called in the receiver after spending a hundred million pounds. Boo had huge ambitions, planning to sell in 18 countries, and to create Europe’s first major online retailer.

 

But a combination of management incompetence and technical failure brought the company back down to earth. Their website had been late to launch, and had proved nearly unusable for those without a fast Internet connection. Few people could be bothered to make it through the maze of graphics to actually buy anything. Meanwhile the company was spending cash at a huge rate as the costs of marketing in so many countries piled up.

 

Its Swedish founders, Ernst Malmsten and the former model Kajsa Leander, claimed that it was a lack of vision on the part of their investors which had brought them down. [11]

 

But to outsiders the lesson seemed to be that selling to online consumers was actually a difficult, unglamorous business. Giving large sums of money to people with no track record in running major companies no longer seemed such a good idea.


2      Digital TV & Digital Radio

 

 

For the past fifty years, broadcasters have been using analogue signals as a means of transmitting TV to the mass market. During this period, there was a transition from black and white to colour, which required users to purchase new TV sets and broadcasters to acquire new transmitters and production equipment. This transition had benefits for all concerned, and at present, the industry is going through another transition – from analogue to digital. Again, broadcasters must acquire new equipment to broadcast digital TV and users must purchase equipment to decode the digital signals[12].

 

2.1      What Is Digital TV?

 

Digital TV is the successor to analogue TV.  It is a new form of broadcasting that allows for sharper images, CD quality sound, more channels and interactive services. It is broadcast in a stream of binary digits (zero and one), which is the same language as computers and offers high – speed data transfer rates. Many existing cable, terrestrial and satellite companies are establishing themselves as ISPs, enabling the consumer to browse the Internet and send / receive email through their TV sets.

 

2.2      How does it work?

 

Digital TV uses the same streams of binary digits as computers. With digital TV, the signal is compressed and only the updated data is transmitted, allowing possibly 6 – 8 channels into a frequency range that was previously occupied by one analogue TV channel.

 

Digital TV is received through three possible routes :

  1. Satellite dish, known as Digital Satellite Television. The digital signal are sent from a satellite and picked up by a dish on the exterior of the house. The return path is through the telephone line.
  2. Cable, known as Digital Cable Television. Both digital TV signals and telephone calls come in and out of the house through a cable connection. The return path is through the same cable connection.
  3. Traditional rooftop or indoor Antenna, known as Digital Terrestrial Television. A decoder box is needed and sometimes a modern aerial to receive the transmitted signal. The return path is through the phone line.

 

2.3      Building Blocks of a Digital TV System

 

For accompanying diagram, see Figure 2-1.

The process for processing and distributing digital TV signals is shown below:

  1. Receive digital signals ~ The TV operator receives TV content from a variety of sources including local video, cable and satellite channels.

image009

 

Figure 2-1 Building Blocks of a Digital TV System

 

  1. Compression and Encoding ~ Central to the digital TV broadcasting system is the compression system, which allows high quality video and audio to consumers using a relatively small amount of bandwidth. A compression system consists of encoders and multiplexers. Encoders are devices used to digitalize, compress and scramble a range of audio, video and data channels. When the signal has been encoded and compressed, it is transmitted to the multiplexer in an MPEG[xxiv]-2 stream (MPEG-2 is the standard for digital video compression and features CD quality audio and high screen resolution, and is currently accepted in 190 countries). The multiplexer’s job is to combine the outputs from the various encoders together with the security and program information and data into a single digital data stream of zeros and ones.
  2. Modulation ~ After the digital signal has been processed by the multiplexer, the video, audio and data are amalgamated with the carrier signal. This process is called modulation. The digital signal output from the multiplexer is a single digital stream of zeros and ones. By passing the signal through the modulator, several different states are added, which increase the data transfer rate. There are three major types of digital modulation used :
  1. QAM[xxv] ~ This is the preferred modulation technique for cable TV companies because it can achieve transfer rates of up to 40Mbits / sec. It is a relatively simple technique for carrying digital information from the operator’s broadcast centre to the customer. QAM modifies the amplitude and phase of the signal to transmit the MPEG–2 stream to the customer.
  2. QPSK[xxvi] ~ This is the preferred technique for satellite environments or the return path of a cable TV network, because it is more immune to electromagnetic noise than QAM. QPSK works on the principle of shifting the digital signal so that is out of phase with the incoming signal. QPSK will improve the reliability of the network, but is only capable of transmitting data at 10Mbits / sec.
  3. COFDM[xxvii] – This is the preferred technique for terrestrial broadcast. COFDM operates extremely well in heavily built up areas where digital transmissions can become distorted by obstacles such as buildings and bridges. European terrestrial and MMDS[xxviii] operators mainly use the COFDM scheme. COFDM uses multiple signal carriers to transfer information.

 

image011

Figure 2-2 Digital TV Conditional Access

Other components of digital TV broadcasting include : (please refer to FIGURE 2-1)

  1. Network Management ~ The broadcasting centre is made up of many complex components. To maximise system uptime and monitor the services delivered to customers, a network monitoring  and control system is installed at the broadcasting centre. The main aim is to minimise service interruptions to digital TV customers. Typical features include :
  2. Conditional Access System ~ (See FIGURE 2-2) The main goal of the CA[xxix] system is to control subscribers access to digital TV pay services and secure the operators revenue streams. Using CA systems, network operators are also able to target programming, advertisements, and promotions to subscribers by geographical area, market segment, or according to personal preferences. Restricting access to a particular service is accomplished using cryptography. Encryption protects the digital service by transforming the signal into an unreadable format (in an analogue environment, this is known as ‘scrambling’). A digital set top box, also known as a decoder can be used to decrypt the signal at the subscriber end, to convert it back to its original format. The subscriber can only decrypt and access the signal if he / she has purchased the relevant entitlement. This entitlement may be physically provided by a smart card plugged into the set top box, or in the case of pay per view, the entitlement may be delivered electronically by EMMs[xxx] and ECMs[xxxi] within the broadcast stream. In addition to sending EMMs to specific customers, they can be broadcast to consumers grouped by geographical area and market taste. The two main components of the CA are shown below:
  1. Monitoring the availability of devices
  2. Gathering statistics
  3. Reporting alarms and problems to support personnel
  4. Remote diagnostics

 

Please refer to FIGURE 2-2:

  1. SMS[xxxii] ~ The SMS supports the digital TV business model, handling the customer database and sending requests to the SAS.
  2. SAS – This is the technical management part of the CA system. The SAS translates requests from the SMS into EMMs.

2.4      Impact

 

It appears that the transition from analogue to digital TV will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Cable TV tends to be prevalent mainly in Urban areas, with terrestrial digital reception patchy in outlying areas. Introductory deals offered by ONDigital have been very favourable, while BSkyB offer  packages to tempt their large customer base using analogue transmission to convert to digital.

 

Digital television was launched in the UK on 1st October 1998 via satellite through the BSkyB service and this was soon followed with the launch of digital terrestrial television on November 15th from OnDigital. With the provision of a return channel within digital user equipment, the viewer is able to interact with the broadcast to create a true multimedia system as well as enabling additional services, such as pay per view.

 

On October 3rd, 2000, the BBC sought approval to spend an annual £153m of licence-fee payers’ money on its range of new digital television channels and radio stations. The plans include the launch of TV channels BBC3 and BBC4 and two services for children. The BBC plans to spend £100m on digital TV channels in 2001 and £140m a year from 2002. A further £13m will be spent on radio.[13].

 

A recent report by Merrill Lynch predicts that digital TV penetration will be 47% by 2003 and 76% by 2008 of the approximate 24 million UK TV households. They also suggest that the number of digital TV subscribers in 2005 will be approximately 2.5 million on digital terrestrial, 5.3 million on digital satellite, and 4.9 million on digital cable. This take – up could be advanced by industry and consumer response to the target of 2006 – 2010 for digital switchover set by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport[14].

2.5      What are the disadvantages of Digital TV ?

 

The danger of digital television’s ability to supply potentially hundreds of channels to customers, is low quality television. With viewing figures divided amongst so many competing stations, commercials will be seen by less people, lowering their value. The loss in revenue could affect spending on television programs, resulting in many mediocre programs and channels.

 

Providing a gateway for access to the Internet through digital TV has some problems. It would be desirable to include a filter to block material unsuitable for children. There are also fundamental technical differences between a PC and a TV:

  • Text designed for reading at a distance of 40cm on a PC VDU[xxxiii] will be difficult to read at a distance of 1.5 – 2.0 metres on a TV screen.
  • Colours selected for presentation on a PC will not be ideal for a TV screen
  • Internet ‘plug – ins’ and Java will generally not work with existing set top boxes.
  • Use of image maps or any other navigation that requires a pointing device, or any page that has more than six to eight hyperlinks, is not appropriate for existing set top boxes (these normally use a bounding box or other selection device).

 

National coverage is patchy and varies greatly amongst the three transmission technologies. While digital satellite TV can be received anywhere in the UK, this is less true for digital terrestrial, and significantly less for cable. Although cable is being deployed throughout the UK at a fast rate (over 50% of UK households are now ‘passed’ by cable infrastructure), cable will always fall short of full national coverage because of the economics of providing a service to all households, especially in sparsely populated rural areas.

2.6      What are the advantages of Digital TV ?

 

Digital TV will improve the end users viewing experience by providing cinema quality pictures, CD quality sound, hundreds of channels, the power to view from / switch different camera angles (e.g. for live sport coverage), and will improve access to a range of new entertainment services such as games, email and the world wide web.

 

For the broadcaster, the digital environment decreases the bandwidth utilisation per channel, allowing interactive viewing, and facilitating Internet applications to customers, with the business opportunities arising from this. With this bandwidth utilisation, digital TV will provide a diversity of channels, catering for different tastes. This could give exposure to less mainstream sports, music, radio and comedy.

 

Rating statistics are easier to gather through interactive TV. For viewing figures, the traditional method has been to ask volunteers to make a note of which programs they viewed, to provide a snapshot of the viewing figures of the country. With interactive TV, these figures are logged by the Digital TV subscriber system, allowing much more accurate statistics and forecasting.

 

With BBC digital TV, after the proposed changeover from analogue, licence fees and their draconian enforcement could become a thing of the past. EMMs could be used to filter out BBC channels if a licence was not purchased. In addition to sending EMMs to specific customers, they can be broadcast to consumers grouped by geographical area and market taste. These could be used to target audiences for adverts, which would is major revenue for providers.

 

2.7      Who are the main companies involved?

 

In the UK, BSkyB provide Digital Satellite Television, while Digital Cable Television is offered NTL, Cable & Wireless, and Telewest. Digital terrestrial television is supplied by ONDigital.

 

2.8      What about commercial aspects ?

 

Companies have acknowledged the convergence between PCs, TVs and the Internet and are preparing themselves to maximise revenue from this.

 

The new digital technologies will allow cable companies, satellite providers, and wireless broadcasters to offer a range of revenue generating services such as :

  1. Fast Internet Access
  2. Ecommerce applications
  3. Home banking services
  4. Video on demand
  5. Streaming video and Audio
  6. PC software upgrades
  7. Multi user network games
  8. Media broadcasts
  9. electronic newspapers

 

Audiences could be targeted according to their taste, interests or location giving advertisements and their revenue more impact. With the advent of pay per view, consumers will gain more flexibility. An interesting idea developed by FutureTV, is the idea of two – tier pay per view price bands. For example, the consumer could pay £1.95 to subscribe to a movie complete with adverts, or pay £2.95 to view without interruption from adverts.

The commercial impact from on – demand streamed multimedia could be huge. For example, a customer could view a film such as Jurassic Park on one day, and on subsequent times, a viewing menu could offer other films directed by Steven Spielberg, or other films about dinosaurs, to encourage the viewer to use the services. It could even offer other items of interest such as books, soundtracks or memorabilia using ‘TCommerce’. This idea of grouping by tastes such as film directors or categories would be possible with targeted programming using digital TV, with lucrative commercial implications.

2.8.1       Untapped Business

 

According to the figures in November 2000, 13 million people in the UK are using the Internet on a regular basis, and 25 % of homes have access to the Internet. Therefore 75% of homes or 19.5 million households are still not online.  Reasons for this untapped market could include :

  1. The majority of people who access the Internet do so through a computer. According to consultants Arthur Anderson, the average price of new PC is £802, with hardware, software and charges for Internet access at extra cost. With pace of technology innovations, the new PC could be out of date in eighteen months. This has contributed to the ‘digital divide’[15], where only 3% of the poorest households have access to the Internet, while 48% of the richest households are online.
  2. Many people are still confused by computer unfriendliness. A large number of people still don’t know how to preset their video recorder, and would not contemplate using a computer at home.
  3. Many people use a computer at work, and some don’t want to use one at home while trying to relax.

 

Alternatively, the television has always been at the heart of the British home, and there is barely a household in the UK without one, whether rich or poor, young or old. With the introduction of satellite and cable TV, more than 6 million people subscribed. Analysts indicate that the TV will overtake the PC as the most popular method of accessing the Internet by 2003.

 

 

2.8.2       Case Study – ONDigital rapped over full web access adverts

 

ONDigital has been censured for an advert claiming that its ONnet service has offered consumers full Internet access. The ONnet service allows television access to the Internet for a £5 monthly subscription.

 

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints that its television based web access did not provide the functionality the national press campaign implied. The watchdog has ruled the advert was misleading because certain services, such as newsgroups and multimedia websites, are not available.

 

The advert claims consumers didn’t need a computer “to get full and unlimited access to the internet,” and has invited users to “say goodbye mouse and cold spare room”.

 

On Digital had argued it was unreasonable to expect that it could offer the same functionality as a fully specified computer likely to cost more than £1,000.

 


2.9      What Is Digital Radio?

 

Digital radio is a progression from analogue radio, but with clearer sound, more services and less interference. The signal is transmitted in the same language as computers, facilitating near CD quality sound, and other services such as text and data.

2.10   How does it Work ?

 

Like digital TV, digital radio is broadcast in a stream of binary digits. While FM radio signal is processed to compress it, digital radio only uses data compression, allowing the sound to be clearer and containing the full dynamic range of the music or speech. Although sometimes described as CD quality sound, digital radio uses a different technical specification to CD Audio, but the difference is barely noticeable to most people, and compares very favourably with existing FM broadcasts.

 

The digital radio signal is made up of a single block of frequencies, known as a multiplex, which contains a number of different radio and data services. The individual services are converted into a stream of digital data code and bound together in one larger stream, which is used to transmit them at the same time and on the same frequency. At the other end of the stream a digital radio can unscramble the code and separate all the services for the listener.

 

To receive a digital radio signal, a digital radio tuner is needed to process and unscramble the signal. Digital radio can also be received through digital satellite TV and the Internet. Digital radio cards are available for PCs, which process the signal received from an attached aerial (this is different from Internet radio).

 

Digital radio sets have processors that filter out multipath interference and correct errors, and digital radio is designed to use multipath to their advantage. Multipath interference occurs when radio waves bounce off buildings, hills, or other obstacles. This means the waves reach the set at different times, causing interference, which can be a particular problem in the car.

 

2.10.1    The BBC’s Digital Radio Service

 

The BBC is at the forefront of introducing digital radio in the UK, and their coverage is about 60% of the population of the UK. This includes most of the major towns and cities.

 

The BBC will transmit from existing transmitters that have been converted to transmit digital radio. The BBC’s digital radio transmission is provided by the private transmission company Crown Castle International. Building transmitters is expensive and any decision on further expansion of the BBC’s network would need to be considered by the BBC’s Board of Governors in the context of BBC funding and digital priorities.

 

The BBC invested in 27 transmitters in the first phase. The capital cost was £10million and the BBC has a contract for digital radio with the transmission company Crown Castle International. The BBC publishes financial information in its annual report but the figure combines spending on digital radio, the Internet sites for the BBC’s national networks, and an allocation of BBC overheads. The figure in the annual report 99/00 is £10m.[16]

 

 


3      Cellular Phones & WAP

 

 

3.1      What is a Cellular Phone ?

 

“A system of mobile radio telephone transmission with an area divided into cells, each served by a transmitter”

 

Oxford English Dictionary

3.2      How do they work ?

 

The cellular system operates by the division of the coverage area into small cells (hence cellular). Cells are normally thought of as hexagons on a big hexagonal grid. Each cell has a base transceiver station that consists of a tower and a small building containing the radio equipment (see FIGURE 3-1).

 

Figure 3-1 Division of Coverage Area into Hexagonal Cells

image013

 

 

Because cell phones and base stations use low-power transmitters, the same frequencies can be reused in non-adjacent cells.

 

Figure 3-2 Frequency reuse within cells

image014

A single cell in a typical analogue system uses one-seventh of the available duplex voice channels. That is, one cell, plus the six cells around it on the hexagonal grid, are each using one-seventh of the available channels so that each cell has a unique set of frequencies and there are no collisions (see Figure 3-2). This allows extensive frequency reuse across a coverage area, so that millions of people can use cell phones simultaneously. In a typical analogue cell phone system, the cell phone carrier receives about 800 frequencies to use across the coverage area. The carrier chops up the coverage area into cells. Each cell is typically sized at about 10 square miles.

 

The transmissions of a base station and the phones within its cell do not make it very far outside that cell. Therefore, in Figure 3-2, both of the cells can reuse the same frequencies. The same frequencies can be reused extensively across the coverage area.

 

The power consumption of the cell phone, which is normally battery-operated, is relatively low. Low power means small batteries, and this is what has made handheld cellular phones possible.

 

The cellular approach requires a large number of base stations in a coverage area of any size. A typical large city can have hundreds of towers. But because so many people are using cell phones, costs remain low per user. Each carrier in each city also runs one central office called the MTSO[xxxiv]. This office handles all of the phone connections to the normal land-based phone system, and controls all of the base stations in the region.

 

Cellular phones can be classed into four generations:

 

3.2.1       The First-Generation

 

These are based on analogue communication using frequency modulation. In the example, the AMPS[xxxv] telephone system is used, which is common in North America. Please refer to Figure 3-3

 

There are three basic building blocks of AMPS system :

  1. The mobile unit – These can be mobile (i.e. in vehicles) or portable (i.e. hand held). The mobile unit communicates with the base transceiver. The transmitting power can be controlled by the system to match the size of the cell in which the mobile is operating.  Each mobile unit has three identification numbers:
  • Electronic serial number, which is a unique 32 bit id assigned to the mobile unit when manufactured.
  • System identification number, which is a 15 bit code that identifies the system operator with which the mobile is associated. Using this allows the system to determine if the mobile can operate outside of the service area of the system operator which the subscriber has an account for (a.k.a. roaming).
  • Mobile identification number, which is a unique 34 bit identifier representing the 10 digit telephone number of the mobile unit.

 

Figure 3-3 The Building Blocks of the AMPS First Generation Mobile

image016

  1. The Base Transceiver Station – The transceivers communicate with the mobiles and with the MTSO. The base transceiver supports full duplex communication with the mobile. They are connected to a controlling MTSO usually by microwave or by cable.
  2. MTSO – The MTSO coordinates activities of the base transceivers by performing the switching functions of the mobile network (e.g. handovers as the mobile travels between cells), and also connects calls to the public telephone network. It has the added responsibilities of coordinating back up, providing data collection to support billing, and acts as a test and monitoring facility.

 

3.2.2       The Second-Generation – GSM

 

Due to the popularity (the number of subscribers had grown exponentially) of the first-generation analogue systems, systems that used the frequency spectrum more efficiently become necessary. The second-generation used digital techniques such as TDMA[xxxvi] or CDMA[xxxvii]. They also included advanced call processing features.

 

 

Figure 3-4 GSM 2G Layout

image018

Before GSM[xxxviii] was developed, European countries used several different incompatible cellular phone technologies. GSM was developed to provide a second-generation technology common throughout Europe, so that the same mobile units could be used throughout the continent. Since GSM appeared in Europe in 1991, it has since become the most popular standard worldwide. Second-generation system such as GSM are based on the first-generation system such as AMPS, and share many common characteristics. Additional features of GSM include:

  1. The SIM[xxxix], is a smart card or portable module that stores the subscriber’s id number, the networks the subscriber is authorised to use, encryption keys, and other subscriber specific information. The SIM code is unique instead of the mobile unit, and allows the subscriber to use the SIM in different devices. Therefore, the SIMs roam, instead of the mobile units.
  2. GSM transmission is encrypted between the subscriber and the base transceiver, and is therefore private, compared to AMPS transmission, which can easily be monitored, although the transmission is not encrypted in the land line network.
  3. GSM is designed from the ground up to support data and image services, although data rates of only 9.6 kbps are supported.

 

The building blocks of a GSM system include (please see Figure 3-4 on GSM):

  1. Subscriber – which is the person who owns the SIM, as opposed to the physical mobile unit.
  2. Base Transceiver – The transceivers communicate with the mobiles and with the base station controllers.
  3. Base Station Controllers – controls handovers, power levels, and frequency assignments for subscribers
  4. MSSC[xl] – is the heart of the system, which provides the interface to the public telephone network, and carries out data collection for billing. It is supported by the four databases.
  5. H Database – This is the home location register database, which stores temporary and permanent information about the subscribers that belong to it.
  6. V Database – The location of the subscriber is determined by the visitor location database, which maintains information about subscribers that are physically in the region covered by the switching centre. It records whether the subscriber is active or not, and other subscriber specific parameters.
  7. A Database – is the authentication centre database, which is used for authorisation activities of the system., such as encryption keys, etc.
  8. E Database – is the equipment identity register database, which keeps track of the type of equipment that exists at the mobile station. It also blocks calls from stolen mobile stations and other security features.

 

3.2.3       The ‘2.5 Generation’ – GPRS[xli]

 

GPRS is a packet-based wireless communication service, based on GSM communication and will complement existing services such as circuit-switched cellular phone connections and SMS[xlii]. GPRS phones are expected to be around three times as fast as WAP phones, promising data rates from 56Kbps up to 114 Kbps, and continuous connection to the Internet for mobile phone and computer users.

 

In theory, the GPRS packet-based service should cost users less than circuit-switched services, because the communication channels are being used on a shared-use, ‘as-packets-are-needed’ basis rather than dedicated only to one user at a time. It should also be easier to make applications available to mobile users because the faster data rate means that the middleware currently needed to adapt applications to the slower speed of wireless systems will no longer be needed. As GPRS becomes available, mobile users of a VPN[xliii] will be able to access the private network continuously rather than through a dial-up connection.

 

GPRS will also complement Bluetooth. In addition to IP, GPRS supports X.25, and is an evolutionary step towards EDGE[xliv] and UMTS[xlv].

 

BT Cellnet have already started offering the services to corporate customers, while they, as well as Vodafone and Orange hope GPRS phones will be on mass sale by Christmas 2001, but this target may have to be put back until the end of 2002 due to performance problems such as overheating mobile handsets and poor battery life.

 

3.2.4       The Third-Generation – UMTS

 

UMTS is based on the GSM communication standard, and is a broadband, packet-based transmission of text, digitised voice, video, and multimedia at data rates of at least 384Kbps and up to 2 Mbps.

 

UMTS, endorsed by the major standards bodies and manufacturers, is the planned standard for mobile users around the world by 2002. Once UMTS is fully implemented, computer and phone users can be constantly attached to the Internet as they travel and, using the roaming service, have the same set of capabilities no matter where they travel. Users will have access through a combination of terrestrial wireless and satellite transmissions.

 

Current 2G cellular telephone systems are circuit-switched, with connections always dependent on circuit availability. A 3G packet-switched connection, using the IP, means that a virtual connection is always available to any other end point in the network. It will also make it possible to provide new services, such as alternative billing methods (pay-per-bit, pay-per-session, flat rate, asymmetric bandwidth, and others). The higher bandwidth of UMTS also promises new services, such as video conferencing. UMTS promises to realize the Virtual Home Environment, in which a roaming user can have the same services to which the user is accustomed when at home or in the office, through a combination of transparent terrestrial and satellite connections.

 

According to Nokia, ‘We also know that, regardless of whether you find new technologies intimidating or fascinating, 3G will bring a host of mobile services that will bring more information, more efficiency, and more joy to your life.’[17]

3.3      What are the disadvantages of Cellular Phones ?

 

Wireless communications operate in a less controlled environment, and are therefore more susceptible to noise and security risks. Several high profile eavesdropping cases occurred from celebrities and members of the British Royal family using cellular phones, although these were first generation analogue phones operating without encryption. Analogue cell phones also suffer from a problem known as cloning. A phone is cloned when someone steals its ID numbers and is able to make fraudulent calls charged to the owner’s account. When an analogue phone makes a call, it transmits a unique tag to the network at the beginning of the call. The unique tag (MIN/ESN pair) for the phone is how the phone company knows whom to bill for the call. When an analogue phone transmits its tag, it is possible to listen with a scanner and capture this information. With the right equipment, it is fairly easy to modify another phone so that it contains this MIN/ESN pair, which allows the fraudster to make calls on another caller’s account. Some fraudsters make huge sums of money by then setting up premium rate numbers, such as those beginning with 0898, and continually dialling these numbers using cloned phones.

 

Although it has been claimed that 3g networks will offer up to 2 Mbps of data, this is likely to be about 1 Mbps when the overheads have been taken into account. If every terminal in a cell shares this 1 Mbps of bandwidth, the bandwidth could be as low as 64 kbps. While this is an improvement on the existing mobile data service of 10 kbps, it is only marginally faster than an ordinary modem, and privilege for which people will pay a handsome reward.[18]

 

The cellular approach requires a large number of base stations in a coverage area of any size. A typical large city can have hundreds of towers. These are not only unsightly, but there are some very real concerns about health risks.

 

The current GPRS cell phones under development are suffering from performance problems, such as running too hot and low battery life, and it appears that trials on prototype third-generation or UMTS phones are proving even more troublesome, as engineers struggle to cram the technology into handsets that meets power, size and cost requirements.

 

3.3.1       Cellular Phone Health Risks

 

Despite the concerns about health risks of base stations, the consensus of the scientific community is that the power from the antennas is too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas.

 

Cellular and PCS phones and their base station antennas are two-way radios, and produce RF[xlvi].  RF radiation is non-ionising, and its biological effects are different from the ionising radiation produced by x-ray machines, which is known to contribute to cancer and birth defects. Most of the known effects from exposure to high-power RF sources are due to heating, and if exposure is sufficiently intense, RF radiation can cause cataracts, skin burns, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. There is evidence that hand held cellular phones cause some localised heating of the head, known as ‘hot spots’, of which the long term risks are unclear.

 

At high levels of exposure, there is little evidence that radio waves can either cause or contribute to cancer. Although there are recent laboratory reports that RF exposure might produce cancer-related injuries in animals, the studies use RF levels far above those found in the area near base station antennas[19].

 

3.4      What are the advantages of Cellular Phones ?

  • Allows mobile communications
  • Can operate in or through hostile or difficult environments
  • Communications systems can be deployed quickly
  • Can be installed at relatively less cost, but there is a trade – off with performance.
  • The same information can be broadcast to many locations

3.5      Who are the main companies involved?

 

Vodafone is the largest cellular phone operator in the UK, followed by BT Cellnet. Orange and One To One also have significant market share.

 

Figure 3-5 Cellular market share

image021

3.6      What about commercial aspects ?

 

Although the long term potential is huge, and remains one of the most lucrative areas, the current global telecoms are seeing stocks slide ever lower. The European and North American telecoms companies are among the hardest hit, with Asian telecoms looking far better.

 

The falling share prices of the telecoms companies are partly due to a natural downturn in ICT[xlvii] after the boom of 2000.  Also responsible is the huge outlay incurred by third-generation (3G) mobile costs, and the falling prices in voice telephony due to increasing competition. Heavy debts have become a problem for many telecoms companies, and it is become the number one concern for many. Ways of raising revenue include selling assets, which is the approach adopted by BT and Vodafone.

 

Vodafone have been streamlining their business, by selling assets considered ‘non – core’, and those that do not comply with their future strategies, and concentrating on mobile communications. They have also bought up similar businesses. Through doing this, Vodafone is now the UK’s largest company by market capitalisation, and has more than 78m subscribers worldwide.

BT, with debts or approximately £30bn, has also been stripping itself of assets (although more indiscriminately) to raise short term revenue. In the last quarter of 2000, BT announced the shedding of many of its assets outside western Europe and Japan. BT then seemed to contradict this strategy by announcing the sale of a stake in Switzerland, and publicly falling out with partners in Spain, France and Italy. The drawback to this is the impression of desperation to raise revenue by short term asset selling, instead of shedding assets to stick with their company strategies.

 

3.7      What about WAP[xlviii] ?

 

WAP is a technology designed to provide users of mobile terminals with access to the Internet. WAP is a protocol optimised, not only for use on the narrow band radio channels used by second generation digital wireless systems but also for the limited display capabilities and functionality of the display systems used by today’s mobile terminals. WAP integrates telephony services with browsing and enables interactive Internet access from a mobile handset. Typical WAP applications include over-the-air e-commerce transactions, online banking, information provisioning and messaging.

 

WAP also defines a wireless application environment aimed at enabling operators, manufacturers, and content developers to develop diverse services and applications including a micro browser, scripting facilities, e-mail, World Wide Web to mobile – handset messaging, and mobile to telefax access.

 

3.7.1       Disadvantages of WAP

 

WAP devices are constrained by the slow speeds of wireless data transmission, and average about 10 kbps – about 20% of the speed of a PC connected to the Internet using a 56 kbps modem and a telephone line. This means that while WAP phones may be fine for sending and receiving text messages, surfing the Internet is a frustrating experience, and ruling out downloading video, audio or high amount of data through the terminal.

 

Publishers of web sites use HTML to define typical web pages consisting of text and graphics into easily navigable documents. As well as the low bandwidth restrictions of WAP devices, they neither have the processing power or display capability to display web pages with complicated images. Most WAP phones on the market at the moment display about four lines of text with no graphics capabilities.

 

To access HTML web pages from a WAP device, the page requested goes through a WAP gateway which converts the HTML page to a WML page, while stripping the HTML page of elements that cannot be displayed on cell phones screen:

  • Graphics
  • Animations
  • Frames
  • Elegant font types

 

The end user is left with a web page with several lines of text, and no graphics or audio, and this conversion is commonly troublesome, especially where images are used as Hypertext links. Due to this, many web publishers choose to create separate version of their pages written in WML, and tailored for WAP devices. Many experts believe that creating a web page in WML is more difficult that a typical page in HTML, because WML is harder to learn, and this could be affecting WML’s popularity with developers.

 

The range of services and information on the Internet accessible by WAP devices is still a fraction of the data available on the Internet, and some analysts believe that WAP standards will become obsolete as cell phone technology advances[20].

 

Typing out emails using a WAP cell phone keypad is difficult, and people are finding out that they are paying a lot of money for small screens, with limited services, and people feel that they are not getting value for money.

 

3.7.2       Advantages of WAP

 

WAP devices facilitate mobile access to the Internet allowing up to date information such as news, sports scores, weather reports and share prices, etc. The difference between simply getting into your car and hearing this information on the radio is that WAP information is on – demand as opposed to broadcast like traditional radio transmission.

 

It has been argued by companies in support of WAP, that the WAP specifications can be revised to suit advancing technologies such as third generation mobiles, rather than in danger of become obsolete. An interesting defence made by Scott Goodman, chief executive of the WAP forum “WAP isn’t about browsing the Internet. It’s about delivering unique content that’s optimised for wireless devices. Using or accessing the Internet from a wireless device is a different experience than accessing it from a PC. I use an analogy that accessing the Internet from a PC is like going to an all you can eat buffet. You see a broad range of foods, pick and choose what you want, and move quickly from one food to another, putting as much as you want on your plate. WAP is more like room service. You see a menu, order what you want, and it’s delivered to you.”

 

 

3.7.3       Does Connectivity matter more than Content ?

 

The wireless industry appears preoccupied with content. The new third generation systems that will be introduced around the world in the next few years will provide considerably higher bandwidth than current ones. This bandwidth is universally touted as a way to provide Internet access, and in particular to sell content to users. Yet the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), designed to deliver content to wireless devices, has been a disappointment so far, surprising the industry. On the other hand, the Short Message System (SMS), providing low bandwidth digital messaging between users, has surprised observers by its success. For example, in the U.K., between the second quarter of calendar year 1999 and the second quarter of 2000, the number of SMS messages grew from 159 million to 1.42 billion. Yet in view of history, there should have been no surprise here at all. SMS provides connectivity, WAP provides content. Therefore it is completely consistent with all of human history, and should have been completely predictable, for SMS to be more popular than WAP.[21]


4      Communications Media

 

 

4.1      ATM[xlix]

ATM is a scalable, flexible and ‘future-proof’ technology that allows for transportation of various forms of information, including data, voice, video at high data rates of up to 10Gbps. Global standards are being introduced to ensure compatibility. It is for these reasons that ATM was chosen as the method for the implementation of broadband services.

 

Many new high bit-rate services, such as video, are variable bit rate (VBR). Compression techniques, such as those used for video transmission, create bursts of data, with typical rates between 1.5Mbps and 8Mps. These compression techniques remove repetition within and between successive video frames. Therefore, two successive similar video frames would require less data to be transmitted than two successive dissimilar frames. Within the telecoms industry, Star Wars has become the standard for test purposes because of its sudden changes in colour and background. This compression produces a variable bit rate stream, which is well suited for transmission using ATM cells. The flexibility inherent in the cell structure of ATM allows it to match the rate at which it transmits, to that generated by the source.

 

ATM delivers important advantages over existing LAN and WAN technologies, including the promise of scalable bandwidths at unprecedented price and performance points and Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees, which facilitate new classes of applications such as multimedia.[22]

 

ATM is a connection – orientated technique that requires information to be buffered and then placed into 53-byte cells. The cells are then transported across the network to the destination specified within the cell. Individually, a cell is processed asynchronously relative to other related cells and is queued before being multiplexed over the transmission path.

 

Because ATM is designed to be easily implemented by hardware (instead of software), faster processing and switch speeds are possible. The pre – specified bit rates are either 155.520 Mbps or 622.080 Mbps, with speeds on some ATM networks reaching up to 10 Gbps. Along with SONET[l] and several other technologies, ATM is a key component of broadband ISDN, known as B-ISDN. While the terms B-ISDN and ATM are used synonymously, there is a clear distinction: B-ISDN is the means of carrying traffic seen by the end user, while ATM is the low level MAC[li] protocol which does the carrying.[23]

 

ATM is very similar to packet-switched networks, but there are several important differences[24]:

  • ATM provides cell sequence integrity, meaning that cells arrive at the destination in the same order as they left the source. This may not be the case with other packet-switched networks.
  • Cells are much smaller than standard packet-switched networks. This reduces the value of delay variance, making ATM acceptable for timing sensitive information like voice.
  • The quality of transmission links has lead to the omission of overheads, such as error correction, in order to maximise efficiency.
  • There is no space between cells. At times when the network is idle, unassigned cells are transported.

 

By consolidation of services, network management and operation is simplified. However, new terms of network administration must be considered, such as billing rates and quality of service agreements. [25]

 

 

4.2      ISDN

 

ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. “Integrated Services” refers to ISDN’s ability to deliver two simultaneous connections, in any combination of data, voice, video, and fax, over a single line. Multiple devices can be attached to the line, and used as needed. That means an ISDN line can take care of most people’s complete communications needs, without forcing the purchase of multiple analogue phone lines at a much higher transmission rate.

 

The “Digital” in ISDN refers to its purely digital transmission, as opposed to the analogue transmission of the PSTN. When connected with ISDN, there is no analogue conversion. ISDN transmits data digitally, resulting in a very clear transmission quality. There is none of the static and noise of analogue transmissions that can slow transmission speed.

 

“Network” refers to the fact that ISDN is not simply a point-to-point solution like a leased line. ISDN networks extend from the local telephone exchange to the remote user and include all of the telecommunications and switching equipment in between. When you have ISDN, you can make connections throughout the world to other ISDN equipment. If your ISDN equipment includes analogue capabilities, you can also connect to analogue modems, fax machines, and telephones, even though they may be connected to PSTN.

 

Figure 4-1 ISDN infrastructure

isdn

 

 

4.2.1       Benefits of ISDN

 

While ISDN accommodates telephones and fax machines, its most popular advantage is in computer applications. You can plug an ISDN adapter into a phone jack, like you would an analogue modem, and get a much faster connection with no “line noise.”

 

The most common ISDN service, Basic Rate Interface (BRI), provides two 64 Kbps channels per line. When the two channels are bonded in a single connection, you get a speed of 128 Kbps, which is about four times the actual top speed of the fastest analogue modems. Compression can increase throughput to around 250 Kbps. Dial up times are much faster with ISDN than with a modem and PSTN.


4.3      ADSL[lii]

 

ADSL uses new ways of cramming data down existing telephone lines. Using multiplexing, numerous signals are combined into one complex signal for transmission down the wires, and then separated out again at the destination. The key advantage of this is that the infrastructure is already here.

 

Current data download rates of ADSL range from 512 thousand bits per second (Kbps) to two million bits per second (2Mbps). This could be improved to about 4 Mbps, and the maximum rate of the uplink is likely to be 512 Kbps – a marked asymmetry.

 

One of the difficulties of ADSL is in passing the high frequency signals down the copper cables. The further away from the base station, the more likely the signal is to get degraded. However, installing more base stations, though expensive, could reduce the length of the cable runs and improve the speed.

 

An advantage of ADSL is that the data transfer rate promised is very likely to be delivered as the technology in effect gives the consumer a dedicated line to the exchange. It is ideal for consumers who want an ‘always on’ connection for web browsing, or accessing intranets. On demand video is one of the anticipated applications for ADSL because 2Mbps is adequate for broadcast quality video.

 

BT is launching a nationwide UK service this year, and a small-scale service is already available in East Yorkshire through Kingston Communications. BT will offer business users a service with download rates of 2Mbps and a consumer service at 500kbps.

 

Internet service providers like Freeserve and AOL are to launch their own ADSL services.

 

Benefits of ADSL

  • 24-hour internet connection
  • Video on demand
  • Fast interactive digital television
  • Fast interactive home shopping
  • Video e-mail
  • Video conferencing
  • Fast downloading of games, music and software

 

4.3.1       OFTEL, BT and ADSL

 

British Telecommunications has installed DSL equipment in many of its exchanges and provides wholesale services to operators and service providers, which can offer high bandwidth services to consumers. Oftel, the telecoms industry watchdog, believe that other companies should have the opportunity to provide these new services in competition with BT, using their own DSL equipment and BT’s local telephone network. This should result in a wider range of services to end users and greater value for money.

 

In January 2000, Oftel announced that BT would be required to open up its local exchanges to rival operators. This meant other operators should be able to install their own DSL equipment in or near to BT’s local exchanges to provide high-speed services to consumers and businesses. Operators will not necessarily have to buy BT’s wholesale DSL service but will be able to develop other types of services to offer their customers

 

BT has given a commitment to have unbundled local loops available from 600 exchanges by July 2001, subject to getting suitable orders from operators.

 

BT has been criticised for the delay in deployment of ADSL throughout the UK. An argument levelled at BT is that it is not in their interest to move any faster. If BT rapidly deployed ADSL, it would have to allow its competitors access to the local loop. An ISDN service is available nationwide, and BT already has an attractive option for ISDN customers. If ADSL was deployed too quickly, this could affect its ISDN revenues.

4.4      PSTN[liii]

 

The was originally designed to provide two way speech circuits between two subscribers, each using telephones, with characteristics appropriate for human conversation (i.e. operates between 300 – 3300 Hz). Constructed from analogue and digital cable, and radio links, PSTN handles an increasing amount of data traffic.

 

The modem was a big breakthrough in computer communications. It allowed computers to communicate by converting their digital information into an analogue signal to travel through the public phone network. There is an upper limit to the amount of information that an analogue telephone line can hold. Currently, it is about 56 kbps. Commonly available modems have a maximum speed of 56 kbps, but are limited by the quality of the analogue connection. Some phone lines do not support 56K connections at all, and there were currently 2 competing, incompatible 56K standards (X2 from U S Robotics (recently bought by 3Com), and K56flex from Rockwell/Lucent). This standards problem was resolved when the ITU released the V.90 standard for 56K modem communications.

 

To connect a computer to the PSTN, as commonly used for Internet access, a modem is needed to convert digital data before it can be sent over the analogue PSTN circuit. Modern V90 modems allow maximum data rates of 56.6 kbps for download, and 36.6 kbps for upload. Allowing for the overhead of error and flow control, even with these latest modems, data transfer is still relatively slow and restricts the use of Internet applications, to applications requiring small bandwidth.

4.5      Satellite

 

Satellite transmission has the capability of providing global communications without the need for extensive terrestrial infrastructure.  Satellites cover areas where land lines do not exist or cannot be installed. A satellite can serve as an access link to a terrestrial network or form a direct communications link between locations separated by large distances. This includes transmission to and from moving terminals such as ships, airplanes and trains. Satellite links can interconnect corporate locations to form intranets. They can also bypass congested terrestrial links in ISP networks.

 

Delivering data from space promises unrivalled coverage of the planet but is primarily a one-way system – download only. To send data back, users have to plug into a phone or cable modem, although it is possible to have a rooftop satellite dish act as both receiver and transmitter. However, with interactive television, for example, where users may only need to respond with “yes” and “no”, a slow upload link may not be a problem.

 

And in large countries, such as South Africa, people are already taking advantage of the fact that no telephone or cable infrastructure is needed.

 

The data download rates can be very fast, with commercial satellites delivering up to 155 Mbps, but more common will be 4 to 6 Mbps per channel, which would be shared between users.

 

4.5.1       IP over Satellite

 

Many broadband network technologies are dependant upon terrestrial based physical cabling to support high data rates. RF[liv] mechanisms are becoming more popular for connecting mobile and fixed users to the Internet, but are constrained by performance limitations as well as those posed by geographical, environmental, and technical aspects. IP over satellite can offer a broadband wireless technology offering performance similar to terrestrial links and supporting residential, corporate and ISP network configurations across the world. Over the past two years, DVB[lv] technology has been extended to encapsulate and deliver high quality broadcast video and audio, and now IP packets. It also possible to use a rooftop satellite dish to act as both a receiver and transmitter for IP over satellite. Astra, the European satellite provider expects to offer a two way satellite interconnectivity service by the end of 2001, using the satellite dish as a terminal to transmit and receive data over a satellite link. This service will receive up to 38 Mbps of data over the downlink and 2 Mbps over the uplink. IP over satellite can offer a wireless alternative to ADSL and cable for broadband Internet access.[26]

 

There are problems associated by this, the most notable being signal delay. TCP requires acknowledgements to be sent from the consumer for error and flow control, and because the sender is waiting for these, performance can be degraded. There are several mechanisms for dealing with TCP performance problems over satellite links, including larger windows, path transmission unit discovery, and selective acknowledgements.[27]

 

Satellite are characterised by their orbits, which may be elliptical or circular (See Figure 4-2). The three are shown below :

 

4.5.2       GEOS

 

Geosynchronous satellites (GEOS) are the most common type and in a circular orbit 22,300 miles (35,838 km) above the Earth’s surface, rotate at the same angular speed as the Earth, and will therefore remain above the same spot on the equator. The advantages of GEOS include:

  • Because the GEO satellite is stationary relative to the Earth, there are no problems with frequency changes due to the relative motion of the satellite and terrestrial antennas.
  • Tracking of the satellite from Earth is simplified
  • At 22,300 miles (35,838 km) above the Earth’s surface, the satellite can communicate with approximately 25% of the Earth

 

Disadvantages of GEOS include:

  • The signal can become weak after travelling 22,300 miles (35,838 km)
  • The far Northern and Southern hemispheres are poorly served because the GEOS rotates in the equatorial plane of the Earth
  • The signal delay is substantial. Even for a signal travelling from a point on the equator directly underneath the satellite travelling at the speed of light to the satellite and back is 0.24 seconds.
  • Because their assigned frequencies are used over a wide area, while this may be desirable for TV broadcast, is wasteful for point to point communications.

 

4.5.3       HEO

 

Because GEOS satellites rotate above the equator, the angle above the horizon in Northern Europe can be very low, and easily obstructed by hills and buildings. In Russia, where this problem is pronounced, some of its satellites use highly elliptic orbits (HEO).  The elliptical orbit is inclined at 65 degrees to the equator, and is furthest from Earth over the Northern Hemisphere at 24,856 miles, and closest over the Southern hemisphere at 500km. This system offers a better angle of inclination to the horizon over the Northern hemisphere and Polar region, and also, spends most of its 12 hr orbit over this area. Three satellites are used for 24 hour coverage. The advantages of HEOS include

  • Very good coverage over the Northern hemisphere and Polar regions

 

The disadvantages of HEOS include:

  • Because the orbit is not Geosynchronous, to facilitate 24 hour coverage, multiple satellites are used.
  • At the highest point in the orbit, the apogee, the altitude of the satellite is higher than GEO satellite, and the signal loss is even higher.

 

4.5.4       LEO

 

Constellations of inexpensive low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites, called lightsats are the basis of many recent satellite proposals including Iridium. LEOS orbit between 200 – 700 miles above the Earth, and therefore the signal strength is much greater than GEO satellites for a given transmission power (and loss / delay less). Advantages include :

  • Coverage can be more localised so that the frequency spectrum can be used more efficiently.

 

Disadvantages include:

  • To provide 24 hour broad coverage, many satellites are needed.

 

Figure 4-2 Satellite orbits

 image039

 


4.6      Cable

 

Fibre-optic cable uses hair – thin strands of ultra – pure glass, and its top selling point is its high capacity – 10 Mbps for both downloading and uploading data is likely to be common in the future. Cable can also easily be coupled with different communications technologies.

 

On the downside, laying the fibre-optic cable is expensive and only those who live or work in urban areas are likely to be within striking distance of a cable node. The “last mile” is usually made over copper wires.

 

During the early 1980s, the UK government had noted events in France where a state funded telecoms system was successfully introduced and the Hunt committee’s findings resulted in the 1984 Cable & Broadcasting Act, where cabling would be provided by the private sector.

 

In 1982, ITAP[lvi] envisaged Britain beating the rest of Europe in a market – driven, private enterprise rewiring for cable TV and interactive services.  Unfortunately, cabling in the UK ground to halt in 1984 when tax relief on capital expenditure was scrapped, and did not restart until 1991 when the government :

  • Allowed cable companies to offer telephone services as well as TV
  • Excluded BT from providing TV and home entertainment services until 2002 (to generate competition)

Cabling increased with cable companies trying to establish monopolies in profitable areas, undercutting BT by up to 20%. Despite this increase, it appears that the cable industry has spent more time digging up streets than gaining customers, and penetration has been low.

It has been argued that:

  • During the first industrial revolution, a transport infrastructure of road, rail and canal networks was created. The government should now be constructing a fibre – optic cable national grid to provide services to every home, like several other countries.
  • In 1991, BT had over two million miles of fibre optic cable, but was not allowed to carry anything other than telephone calls. It is pointless cable companies digging up streets for cable laying when BT could have provided what is needed, and had this been decided 10 years ago, Britain could have been a leader in terms of its infrastructure.

 

Adoption of cable across Europe varies enormously, with less than 2 % of homes cabled in Greece, compared to 92 % of Belgian homes. Even with 70 % of UK population being covered by cable, this may only represent about 15 % of the geographical area, leading to a technology gap in rural areas, while competition in urban areas could result in lower prices. Had the government funded the cabling infrastructure, we would be seeing more penetration into areas deemed financially unviable by private cable companies.

 

Some new homes and offices are being built with ducts so that fibre-optic cable can be fed in at a later date, but having cable right into many homes is unlikely to be economic, many analysts believe. One possible disadvantage is that if you share a cable, if everyone in your street is on at the same time, the data transfer rate is slowed. However, the cable companies would say having too many customers is a nice problem and argue they would just add more nodes.

 

 

Current cable services offered in parts of the UK are shown below:

 

Figure 4-3 Cable services

 

Cable ProviderIncoming SpeedOutgoing SpeedInstallation CostMonthly FeeExtras
Telewest512 Kbps128 Kbps£50.00£33.00Requires NIC card on PC
NTL512 Kbps128 Kbps£25.00 min.£40.00Consumer must purchase cable modem @ £139.00 (approx.), and subscribe to min. cable & TV package @ £9.25  / month

 

4.7      Bluetooth

 

Bluetooth is a short – range wireless system to allow computing and telecommunications devices to be connected without cables. It was originally designed as a way of making wireless headsets for use with cellular phones, but has been rapidly adopted across the electronics industry and is becoming the de facto standard. More than 1000 manufacturers are committed to making a range of Bluetooth enabled devices from laptops to fridges.

 

As well as replacing cables, Bluetooth allows will make it easier to set up wireless networks in listed buildings, and public places such as schools and hospitals without the use of data cabling. (Although mains power cabling would be required, unless battery powered units are used). Bluetooth will also allow devices to swap information whenever they come into contact with each other.

 

Many cell phones, handhelds and laptops already have infrared ports for wireless interconnection, but range is normally limited to about 1 metre, and are reliant on line of sight between devices. Bluetooth technology has a maximum range of about 10 metres and operates in the frequency range of 2.4 – 2.5 GHz ISM[lvii] band, in which low power radio transmitters are allowed to operate without getting a government license. To avoid interference with other devices, Bluetooth hops around frequencies at a rate of 1600 times a second.[28] Currently, data transfer rates of up to 712 Kbps are supported.

 

Many analysts see wireless data transfer, based on radio frequencies, being of greatest use within homes or offices. It would be possible to use a laptop in any room in the office or home, without having to have phone or cable ports in every room. However, the rate of adoption of Bluetooth will depend on how often electronic devices are changed. Although many people change home PCs and cellular phones every year on average, fridges, freezers and washing machines tend to be far less frequently changed, possibly affecting the uptake. It could be a long time before we see our fridges re ordering milk using wireless technologies.

 

4.8      Power lines

 

One option, which is not currently being developed, is to use electricity cables to transfer data. This has the advantage of having a ready-made network in virtually every home in the developed world and could deliver data at 1Mbps. Industry rumours suggest that the technology worked well but radio frequency tests showed that lampposts were acting as powerful transmitters and drowning surrounding areas with interference.


5      Similarities & Differences between these Technologies

 

 

Digital terrestrial, digital satellite and digital cable all offer more channels than analogue TV, but with digital terrestrial being the most limited in terms of bandwidth. The advantage of cable is its fast uplink speed, opposed to the slow speeds offered by the return path of satellite and terrestrial transmission. Current WAP download speeds rule out most applications other than text display, while the 3G mobile devices are promising much higher speeds when they finally appear.

 

At present, the cable data services and the ADSL services being offered are of similar price and performance, with 512 Kbps download speeds being common for residential consumers.

 

Streaming multimedia will play an important role in the future, but most consumers are still restricted to poor resolution streams due to the available bandwidth, and the fact that the current Internet IP architecture is not robust enough. Media streams suffer under network congestion and weak spots as they pass through servers and routers that have not been scaled for this type of demand. The increase in broadband connections and initiatives to upgrade the Internet, such as IPv6 will address some of these shortcomings, facilitating TV-quality video[29].

 

The choice of appliance for convergence leads to the thick or thin client question, reminiscent of the debate in the 1990 between Sun, Java and Oracle versus Microsoft and Intel. With the huge local processing power of PCs, they could handle true interactivity, create, edit, store and share media, therefore moving power and control to the consumer and away from the network. The TV, considered as the thin client has none of these features, but even entry level TVs do not freeze or crash.


6      The Future ?

 

 

Recent research has concluded that the future home will have three co-existing electronic platforms: the digital TV, the PC and the third generation mobile phone. Although many web – based services will potentially be available on all three, in practice preference will evolve through usage and familiarity with the characteristics of the three media. Although digital TV is expected to become the dominant medium for Ecommerce and Email within the home, some applications and services will continue to be best suited to the greater local processing power of the PC, while others will be targeted at the mobile user. It is also possible that digital TV technology will also be deployed more widely outside the home for use as public access terminals or ‘kiosks’ within public areas (supermarkets, community centres, libraries, health centres, etc.).

 

In the US, where cable TV penetration is greater than the UK, about a third of the cable TV revenues pay for content. This means that two thirds pay for the network. If convergence moves delivery of most of the content to the Internet, and transport grabs two thirds of the total revenues from content, then the network will get a huge new source of revenue. This could make a huge difference to network financing.

 

This is not unfeasible, because the current content distribution system could be deemed inefficient. Book authors and musicians normally receive in royalties less than 10% of the retail price of their work. A participant in Amazon.com’s affiliate program can sometimes get more money from a book sale generated by a link from his or her home page than the author does from royalties. The Internet offers a chance to reduce some of the inefficiencies of the current system. For the current dominant content producers, the real threat from the Internet is probably less from piracy, and more from disintermediation. New producers can come in and offer better deals to both the creative talent and the consumers.[30]

 

Potentially, unmetered broadband Internet access will change the way people use both the Internet and television. With the Internet, there will be no need to log on and off, download times will be faster and fears over the cost of the call will be removed. This means a vast range of services offered on the net would be instantly available on demand – films, music and games, along with local information such as traffic and weather reports. Normal phone calls would also be made without having to disconnect Internet access, and video e-mail and video conferencing would become cheap and easy. The revolution in entertainment this would bring would be closely related to television use.

 

Also, interactive television services, such as home shopping, would become fast and sophisticated, and some retail analysts have predicted that online retailing via TVs – or “t-commerce” – could rapidly overtake PC – based shopping.

 

Users in large urban areas will harness the ability of fibre-optic cable to both receive and send huge amounts of data. People in less densely populated areas will rely on ADSL technology and in remote areas and undeveloped parts of the world, data will be downloaded from satellites. [31]

 

Wireless technologies will not only enable fast data delivery to those on the move and but also allow people to roam their homes and offices without tripping over tangled cables with the advent of BlueTooth technologies.

 

6.1      The ‘Dark Horse’ – the Metamorphism of the Games Machine

 

Could powerful games consoles be the ‘dark horse’ of the platforms? Providing processing and graphics power of modern PCs, Internet connectivity, DVD drives, Dolby Digital and DTS sound, these could be the future of home entertainment. If Sony, manufacturers of the PlayStation 2 games machine, signed a deal with a distributor, such as a cable TV carrier, this would complete the chain:

 


Figure 6-1 The Sony chain

 

Content                                                 Distribution                                         Platform

Sony Pictures   image042                                       image041  Sony Playstation

Sony Music

Sony video games

 

The next generation Sony games machine will offer online shopping and other Interactive services. It has been reported that Sony has signed an agreement to provide online banking through the PlayStation[32]. With Microsoft planning to break into the games console market, I believe that we are seeing the metamorphism of the games machines into the home entertainment system, providing a serious alternative to the three electronic platforms of the digital TV, the PC and the 3G mobile phone.

 

6.2      Case Study – FutureTV

 

FutureTV is an expanding global company that has developed hardware and software for the integrated delivery of high quality, on-demand video, audio, games, targeted advertising, Ecommerce and high speed web access through the television. FutureTV interfaces with ADSL or cable networks to deliver a range of interactive facilities and applications.

 

FutureTV has moved on from the concept of the “square black box” commonly associated with digital and interactive TV systems. Instead, it has separated the interface part that is used by the viewer to input information through a remote control and a personal access card from the digital home control unit which contains the electronic processing system that connects to the TV, PC and hi-fi system. The result is that the only piece of equipment that needs to be on view is a small, attractive coloured case, not unlike a personal CD player in size and appearance. The new device has been christened Media Access Eye (MAE), and can be located unobtrusively anywhere near the TV set. As home networking develops, the Media Access Station could become the main network terminal and be placed in a more central position, such as beneath the stairs, or wherever utilities enter the house. [33]

 

On November 29, 2000, FutureTV and MasterCard International’s smart card subsidiary, Mondex International Ltd, announced the launch of a full service solution for making financial transactions through interactive TV.

 

The FutureTV-Mondex alliance will integrate with operators’ systems specifically for the purchase of video-on-demand movies and products sold through interactive advertising.

 

It will also present operators with a convenient Affinity Card programme that will allow for discounting and electronic couponing with local merchants and advertisers. For example, a viewer who purchased a video-on-demand movie with their cable operator-branded FutureTV-Mondex card, could get an instant discount when they purchase a DVD at their local electronics store, or when purchasing tickets to local entertainment and sporting events.

 

FutureTV-Mondex will offer cable operators a complete suite of back-end transactional capabilities that will allow:

 

  • Secure payments via the Internet on TV;
  • T-Banking via debit cards and smart cards;
  • Credit card purchases with a MasterCard card;
  • Merchant smart card system for electronic coupons;
  • Support for interactive advertising transactions; and
  • Instant e-cash payments for video-on-demand, music-on-demand and pay-per-view.

 

FutureTV and Mondex will interface with operators’ interactive TV and video-on-demand systems, and then take the transactions to make the appropriate connections to the established banking and credit card systems.

 

At the heart of the product is the Mondex software application, which is carried on a computer chip. This chip can reside in a variety of devices, including a wallet-size card, mobile phone, PC and set-top TV box. [34]

 

 

 


7      Conclusion

 

 

 

It could be said that we have witnessed three ages of IT. The first was dominated by mainframes and minicomputers, which helped automate many existing operations. The PC era brought the computer to the desk, the home, and the lap, and provided for individual applications. The third era is dominated by networks such as the Internet, which allow devices to be linked across the world and transmit all manner of data in digitised form[35].

 

The popularity of TiVo and ReplayTV highlights that consumers are showing a preference to accessing information when they want it, and with the convergence of cable, satellite and telecommunications, TV viewers will be freed from ‘appointment TV’. As streamed video and satellite TV can be broadcast across national boundaries, some people see this is a threat, because political propaganda could spread through these media, but this can be balanced against the fact that citizens will be able to gain a broader perspective on world affairs, instead of one moulded by national government. I believe that with content becoming more freely available from an array of worldwide sources, views cannot be distorted by nationalistic or political interest, and ultimately the viewer chooses where to acquire information.

 

But, is it really a healthy climate when ownership of media such as television, radio and newspaper becomes more concentrated on a worldwide basis? For example, Rupert Murdoch’s News International owns 40% of UK based satellite TV operator BSkyB, a substantial part of Pearson, which publishes four UK newspapers, and has interests in several European pay TV companies, such as Canal Plus and Bertelsmann. Murdoch also owns hundreds of newspapers, magazines, TV channels and publishing houses worldwide, and such is his position, politicians are aware that tackling him is a risky business, because of the risk of his newspapers turning on them, especially at election time. The extent of Murdoch’s coverage across the world can make national broadcasting boundaries, network structures and legal requirements obsolete. With Murdoch’s 200 or more media interests worldwide, is news content taken from his BSkyB in Europe, Star TV in Asia, or Fox TV in the US really offering a global perspective or just the same content in different dialects? Will cable and satellite TV (and in the future, streamed video) smother the world with the same bland influences such as US chat shows, or will it protect cultural identities and foster diversity? It can be argued that the Americanisation of the Internet and TV content will not cause true convergence, but a watering down of national identities, and the ‘MacDonaldisation’ of media content.

 

I feel that the openness of the Internet and the increase of on – demand applications will counteract these issues to a greater extent. Consumers will have the freedom to display and view alternative opinions and sources without the bias of large corporations or nationalities. But what about control of content? In the mid – nineties, the UK government outlawed the supply of satellite decoding equipment used to receive hard – core porn channels from Scandinavia such as TV Erotica. Filters are available for Internet browsers, but school children are more likely to know how to bypass these filters than their parents who set them. I believe national broadcasting laws will become increasing difficult to maintain.

 

What is to happen to the great British tradition of public service broadcasting and Reithism? Lord Reith, the first DG of the BBC, believed that the BBC should provide a public service of excellence, and that broadcasting should ‘inform, educate and entertain’ – to cultivate audiences. It can be argued that this was an arrogant, pompous view held by a man with no accountability to commercial interests. Commercial cable and satellite TV companies are already open to accusations of serious programming with each channel aiming to capture the largest slice of audience by showing programs with the widest appeal, therefore reinforcing existing tastes as opposed to cultivating them. In America at present, while switching between channels, it is noticed that many of them contain only soap operas or chat shows.

 

I believe in the Reithian view that the BBC lead as well as reflect. This great tradition is being continued with its excellent BBC Online web service, providing services such as educative content, while becoming immensely popular worldwide. But how are BBC licences and revenues to be collected? With the expected convergence and digitisation of TV over the next decade, we may see the TV detector van being replaced by SMMs, scrambling BBC services to non – licence paying customers.

This leaves the problem of the online content, unconstrained by geographical and national borders. At the time of writing, recent plans announced for the BBC to sell advertising on its news international web site have met a barrage of criticism. It has been estimated that 50% of the users of the publicly – funded BBC Online come from overseas, and it’s long been questioned whether UK licence fee payers should support this service[36]. BIPA[lviii] has argued that news content for the new service will be taken from its licence fee funded arm, BBC Online. I believe the main issue is whether the BBC will be under pressure from advertisers to target content due to commercial interests, an area that had previously set it apart from its other news rivals. I think a solution would be if licence fee payers were given the opportunity to log in to the existing non – commercial site, leaving us free from advertising. This would be relatively simple to maintain, by assigning access to the site from the existing database of licence payers.

 

WAP devices facilitate mobile access to the Internet allowing up to date information such as news, sports scores, weather reports and share prices. It could be argued that this could be achieved using a small portable analogue radio costing about £10 with no subscription charges. Pocket LCD TVs never set the communications world alight, so why should mobile Internet? The difference is that WAP information is on demand, as opposed to broadcast like traditional radio transmission. However, the current wireless WAP networks are not as open as the Internet, and the data available is restricted by the carriers and hardware manufacturers. The explosive growth of the Internet was a direct result of its openness. The medium become so popular because any business or individual could create its own site on the Web with a relative small effort.

 

The mobile telecommunications industry was surprised by the huge popularity of SMS against the lower than expected take up of WAP phones, and the ‘killer application’ of the Internet was the Email. This leads me to believe that as communications technologies affect society, society also influences communications technologies. When the first telephones were introduced, social use was discouraged, yet this was their greatest success, and decades later, who can forget BTs ‘Its good to talk’ campaign starring Bob Hoskins? Humans enjoy social interaction and only the medium is changing, from wired telephones and hand written letters and postcards to SMS, Email and Internet forums.

 

7.1      Reflection

I have found the composition of this dissertation and it’s research, both challenging and stimulating. It has also been very rewarding. Personally, although graduating from University within weeks equipped with an array of IT disciplines, I felt the need to gain an insight and understanding into the ‘bigger picture’ of ICT. Through undertaking this dissertation, I can now appreciate and understand how the IT and computing content studied as part of my degree, fits into the scope of communications technologies such as cellular technologies, digital TV and other media facilitating convergence. It has also proved invaluable in helping me to understand the business aspects of ICT, such as advertising and subscriptions.

 

The only problem compiling the dissertation has been with the technologies and commercial aspects changing and evolving rapidly during the lifecycle. It has felt at times like the sands were constantly shifting under my feet, but this illustrated that the subject area is evolving continuously, making it a stimulating area to research.

 

 

 

APPENDICES

 

 

 

 

 

APPENDIX 1

 

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

 

 

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

 

 


APPENDIX 2

GSM Frequency Utilisation within Europe

 

ERO INFORMATION DOCUMENT

On

GSM Frequency Utilisation

within Europe

Updated: February 2001

 

 

European Radiocommunications Office

 

This document summarises the information collected from administrations and

operators concerning the frequency sub-bands licensed to GSM operators (900

and 1800 MHz bands) across Europe. The information reflects the status on

approximately 1 January 2001. This information can also be found on the ERO

Internet Homepage (www.ero.dk).

 

This document contains GSM networks in Europe using the following frequency

ranges:

E-GSM: 880-890 / 925-935 MHz (2 x 10 MHz)

GSM-900: 890-915 / 935-960 MHz (2 x 25 MHz)

GSM-1800: 1710-1785 / 1805-1880 MHz(2 x 75 MHz)

 

Details are given about the following countries:

 

1 ALBANIA                         19 LATVIA

2 ANDORRA                       20 LITHUANIA

3 AUSTRIA                          21 LUXEMBOURG

4 BELGIUM                        22 MALTA

5 BULGARIA                      23 THE NETHERLANDS

6 CROATIA                         24 NORWAY

7 CYPRUS                            25 POLAND

8 CZECH REPUBLIC      26 PORTUGAL

9 DENMARK                      27 ROMANIA

10 ESTONIA                       28 RUSSIA

11 FINLAND                       29 SLOVAKIA

12 FRANCE                         30 SLOVENIA

13 GERMANY                   31 SPAIN

14 GREECE                        32 SWEDEN

15 HUNGARY                     33 SWITZERLAND

16 ICELAND                       34 TURKEY

17 IRELAND                       35 UKRAINE*

18 ITALY                             36 THE UNITED KINGDOM

 

* Status January 2000

 

 

 


APPENDIX 3

Cabinet Office Policy on Potential Use of Digital TV

 

 

 

 

 

Information Age Government Champions

Executive Summary

Nature and purpose of this document

This is an interim and provisional statement of policy on the potential use of digital TV (DTV) for delivering public services. It explains what DTV is, its likely coverage and the relevant policy issues, and provides guidance for the public sector on planning the use of DTV for delivering services.

The Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) has started a major study into Electronic Service Delivery across Government which will look particularly at DTV. These guidelines will also evolve in line with the emerging findings of that study.

DTV is a new technology which has only recently become commercially available. The technology itself, the structure of the market and the interactive services available on DTV are all developing fast, even by the standards of the IT industry. It is therefore anticipated that, as a result of external changes alone, these guidelines will need to be updated relatively frequently.

The medium of Digital Television

Television is already the most popular public communication medium. Nearly all (over 97%) of UK homes have at least one TV set and the average adult will spend eight years of their life watching its screen. This already powerful technology is about to take a major leap forward with the introduction of DTV.

The area of greatest potential strategic benefit lies in the opportunity it affords for the convergence of the TV and IT worlds by extending beyond pure broadcasting into two-way interactive communication. As a minimum, this will offer a myriad of opportunities for combining broadcast programming with data and other digital content, ranging from simple selection facilities (such as an electronic programme guide or advanced teletext) to programme-related information (such as multilingual captioning or sports statistics) to full online access to the World Wide Web. At the maximum, it could include virtually any IT functionality — effectively becoming the ‘PC of the future’. To what extent this is achievable will to a significant extent depend on the specific technology employed.
The introduction of DTV — and in particular the use of such technology to provide interactive services — represents a major new opportunity for the delivery of government information and services directly to the household, which has to date been constrained by the absence of suitable technology in most homes. Many public sector organisations will find that DTV is an increasingly significant factor in the realisation of their service delivery strategies.

There are currently three main technologies, with significantly different characteristics: digital terrestrial television (DTT), digital satellite television (DST) and digital cable television (DCT).

Rate of take-up of DTV

Deployment of DTV in the form of public access facilities or ‘kiosks’ (for example in public libraries and community centres) could quickly extend the effective reach of DTV services and help promote awareness and take-up.

Estimates of the future rate of take-up vary. Some commentators expect that DST will maintain its lead over DCT for the next few years, although this lead will narrow. As the public starts to understand the potential offered by interactive DTV, then demand for all platforms is likely to grow rapidly. Interactive services will transform the way that the public regards the TV set in the corner. DTV will become a medium for ‘doing’ rather than just for watching.

A recent report by Merrill Lynch estimates that, as at the end of 1999, there are around 0.5m DTT subscribers compared with 1.8m DST subscribers and fewer than 0.2m DCT subscribers — a total for all DTV platforms of no more than 2.5m out of about 24m UK TV households. They project a total UK DTV penetration of 47% by 2003 and 76% by 2008. They also suggest that the number of DTV subscribers in 2005 will be about 2.5m on DTT, 5.3m on DST and 4.9m on DCT. Take-up could be advanced by industry and consumer response to the target of 2006—2010 for digital switch-over set by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

As a word of caution, however, it is by no means yet certain to what extent consumers will make use of relatively complex interactive services such as banking and travel reservations within the traditionally more passive domestic viewing context. By this standard, many government interactions may be viewed as relatively complex and will require careful user interface design to ensure that they are not socially exclusive.

 

DTV and the Internet

A further key factor in the take-up of DTV will be how quickly it can become an effective vehicle for access to the Internet. Many of the new interactive services such as home shopping, online banking and travel reservations will also be implemented on conventional Internet access platforms and could therefore in principle be extended to DTV consumers via DTV Internet access.

However, providing a ‘gateway’ for TV access to the open Internet is not straightforward. Not only will it be desirable to include some form of ‘filter’ to block unsuitable material, but there are also fundamental differences between a PC and a TV (in terms of display resolution, viewing distance, user input/selection devices, etc.) that will need to be resolved. In the short term, this may in some cases mean that DTV Internet access will be limited to ‘walled gardens’ of selected and ‘repurposed’ websites.

Anyone developing new Internet content today with the intention of making such content available through a variety of DTV and other channels will need to be aware of potential compatibility issues and the implications that this may have for ‘lock-in’ to a particular DTV service provider.

Public services which would benefit from DTV

Potential public sector applications for DTV are many and varied and beyond the scope of these initial guidelines. However, in broad terms, such applications could range from simply providing a new and more interactive way of making information accessible by the citizen (such as medical advice or educational programming), to a channel for seeking public views (or even voting on certain issues), to supporting use of ‘e-forms’ for a wide variety of ‘transactions’ with public sector bodies (such as renewing a driving licence or claiming benefit).

Ultimately, interactive television has the potential to transform whole areas of public service, such as education, health and employment.

This aspect will be the subject of further investigation in the aforementioned PIU study.
Local services on DTV

Localisation of content increases the potential of DTV to assist with the social inclusion agenda. In particular, it provides a mechanism for individuals and community groups to articulate their views. Focus groups conducted by local authorities that have utilised cable TV have demonstrated that there is a strong interest in this type of content. The potential for community development and democratic renewal is clear.

Action to be taken

Although DTV is still at a very early stage and will continue to evolve, the evolution could be very rapid and it is therefore necessary for public sector bodies to start planning now in order not to miss the opportunity for exploiting this important new medium.

The types of public services and information delivered on DTV may vary greatly but the basic principles and good practice in management and design of services should not. Not only should such services be of a high quality, but they should also present a coherent impression of government activity.

The first step should be to identify which services would most benefit from delivery via DTV, and the changes needed to existing communications strategies, business processes and IT systems to make this happen.

The broadcasting industry is regulated. This affects a number of aspects of procuring and providing a service. It is advisable to discuss the planned services with the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to ensure that no regulatory difficulties will be encountered.

A future version of these guidelines will address the issue of setting up a framework contract, or catalogue, to enable the efficient and economic procurement of DTV-related services.

Who should be given responsibility?

Each department, agency and local authority should identify an individual to be responsible for co-ordinating and planning the use of DTV, preferably in conjunction with the use of other new media channels. This individual should be a senior manager who is able to co-ordinate and galvanise the interests of communications, IT and service delivery.
If the job is concerned wholly or mainly with delivering information to the public, it makes sense for this responsibility to rest with Communications Directors rather than IT Directors. In the case of interactive services (including those delivered via DTV), the IT Department will need to work closely with new media specialists (which many Communication Units now have) as well as with directors responsible for service delivery.

In a future version of these guidelines we will consider best practice in the management/operational area.

 

 

The wider picture

Other new media which will need to be considered alongside digital TV include:

•third generation mobile phones (which will provide facilities for e-mail and web browsing).
•digital home phones with screen and keyboard for Internet access.
•games machines which have Internet access (currently Sega Dreamcast and Sony Playstation 2).

A future version of these guidelines will cover other new media such as these.

 

 


Bibliography


[i] URL – Uniform Resource Locator

[ii] WAP – Wireless Application Protocol

[iii] HTML – HyperText Markup Language

[iv] WML – Wireless MarkUp Language

[v] ARPA – Advanced Research Projects Agency

[vi] SRI – Stanford Research Institute

[vii] NSF – National Science Foundation

[viii] ISP – Internet Service Provider

[ix] IP – Internet Protocol

[x] FTP – File Transfer Protocol

[xi] HTTP – HyperText Transport Protocol

[xii] CGI – Common gateway interface

[xiii] ASP – Active Server Pages

[xiv] JSP – Java Server Pages

[xv] SSL – Secure Socket Layer

[xvi] TCP – Transmission Control Protocol

[xvii] DNS – Domain Name Server

[xviii] TTL – Time To Live

[xix] FTP – File Transfer Protocol

[xx] HTTP – HyperText Transfer Protocol

[xxi] LAN – Local Area Network

[xxii] ISPA – Internet Service Providers Association

[xxiii] DTI – Department of Trade and Industry

[xxiv] MPEG – Moving Pictures Experts Group

[xxv] QAM – Quadrature Amplitude Modulation

[xxvi] QPSK – Quadrature Phase Shift Keying

[xxvii] COFDM – Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing

[xxviii] MMDS – Microwave Multipoint Distribution Services

[xxix] CA – Conditional Access

[xxx] EMM – Entitlement Management Messages

[xxxi] ECM – Entitlement Control Messages

[xxxii] SMS – Subscriber Management System

[xxxiii] VDU – Visual Display Unit

[xxxiv] MTSO – Mobile Telephone Switching Office

[xxxv] AMPS – Advanced Mobile Phone Service

[xxxvi] TDMA – Time Division Multiple Access

[xxxvii] CDMA – Code Division Multiple Access

[xxxviii] GSM – Global System for Mobile Communications

[xxxix] SIM – Subscriber Identity Module

[xl] MSSC – Mobile services Switching Centre

[xli] GPRS – General Packet Radio Services

[xlii] SMS  – Short Message Service.

[xliii] VPN – Virtual Private Network

[xliv] EDGE  – Enhanced Data GSM Environment

[xlv] UMTS  – Universal Mobile Telephone Service

[xlvi] RF – radio frequency

[xlvii] ICT – Information Communications Technology

[xlviii] WAP – Wireless Application Protocol

[xlix] ATM – Asynchronous Transfer Mode

[l] SONET – Synchronous Optical Network

[li] MAC – Media Access Control

[lii] ADSL – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line

[liii] PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network

[liv] RF – Radio Frequency

[lv] DVB – Digital Video Broadcast

[lvi] ITAP – Information Technology Advisory Panel

[lvii] ISM – Industrial – Scientific – Medical

[lviii] BIPA – British Internet Publishers Alliance


[1] Stallings, W. & Slyke, R., V., Business Data Communications, Prentice Hall, 1998, p364

[2] Lemay, L., Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 4.0, Sams, 1999, p10

[3] Thompson, B., I Want my PPP, Internet Magazine, January 2001

[4] HTTP://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1996/1996031.htm, Defamation Act 2000

[5] HTTP://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000023.htm, RIP Act 2000

[6] HTTP://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000007.htm, Electronic Communications Act 2000

[7] HTTP://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/19980029.htm, Data Protection Act 1998

[8] HTTP://www.ja.net/CERT/JANET-CERT/law/cma.html, Computer Misuse Act 1990

[9] HTTP://www.butterworths.co.uk/academic/lloyd/Statutes/copyright.htm, Copyright, Designs and  Patents Act 1998

[10] HTTP://www.news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business, Nasdaq’s Year of Turmoil

[11] HTTP://www.news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business, Dot.com to Dot.bomb

[12] Driscoll, G., The Essential Guide to Set Top boxes and Interactive TV, Prentice Hall, 2000, p3

[13] Teather, D., BBC seeks public nod for £153m digital TV plan, The Guardian, Wed Oct 4th, 2000

[14] HTTP://www.iagchampions.gov.uk/iagc/guidelines/digitaltv, Planning for Digital TV

[15] Kendall, P., Guide to the Internet through the Television, Associated Newspapers PLC, 2000, p5

[16] HTTP://www.bbc.co.uk/digitalradio/, Digital Radio

[17] HTTP://www.nokia.com/3g/whatis, What is 3G ?

[18] Kahney, L., The Third – Generation Gap, Scientific American, October 2000, p42

[19] HTTP://www.mcw.edu/gcrc/cop/cell-phone-health-FAQ, Cellular phone antennas and human health

[20] Bannan, K., J., The Promise and Perils of WAP, Scientific American, October 2000, p37

[21] HTTP://firstmonday.org/issues/issues6_2/odlyzko/, Content is Not King

[22] HTTP://www.cisco.com, ATM Internetworking

[23] Bental M., ATM and Internet Protocol, Arnold Publishing, 1998, p2

[24] HTTP://www.sci.pfu.edu.ru/telesys//studwork/telfut96/isdn/atm/tute.htm, An ATM Tutorial

[25] Martin de Prycker, “Asynchronous Transfer Mode: Solution for Broadband ISDN“, Ellis Horwood Limited, 1991.

[26] Metz, C., IP-Over-Satellite, IEEE Internet Computing, Jul – Aug 2000, p84

[27] Allman, M., Glover, D., & Sanchez L., Enhancing TCP over Satellite Channels Using Standard Mechanisms, IETF RFC 2488, Jan 1999

[28] Kahney, L., Blue in Tooth and Claw, Scientific American, October 2000, p43

[29] Forman, P. & Saint John,R., W., Creating Convergence, Scientific American, November 2000, p40

[30] HTTP://firstmonday.org/issues/issues6_2/odlyzko/, Content is Not King

[31] HTTP://www.news.bbc.co.uk/sci/tech/, Which Broadband Technology Will Win, 2000

[32] Fischetti, M., The Future of Digital Entertainment, Scientific American, November 2000, p40

[33] HTTP://www.futuretv.com/, FutureTV launches new media access station at IBC 2000, 2000

[34] HTTP://www.mondex.ca/fr/media/, FutureTV and Mondex launch t-commerce solution, 2000

[35] Rowe, C., Thompson, J., People and Chips, McGraw Hill, 1996, p140

[36] BBC News to take Ads?, Internet Magazine, Emap Automotive Publishing, April 2001, p17

 

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    stevenba

    |

    Unfortunately not I’m afraid. It does vary with the type of activity and LinkedIn frequently change their policies, but at present, LinkedIn’s maximum is 30 days.
    Regards
    Steve

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    N_jarolmasjed

    |

    Hi there.thank you for your website
    Is there any possibility to see all my updates in linkedin from the bigining?I had been linkedin member for about 3 years or so and .I had shared simething that I need it now and unfortunately I lose to have them any where else they were gone. I’d have been grateful if you can guide me
    Many thanks