More digital farflungness

Last week's F-U note on New Zealand broadcasters finally getting around to providing digital broadcasts provoked some interesting correspondence. Steve Biddle wrote in to say that Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB for short) radio trials starting in September this year. The whole thing is run by BCL, with Radio NZ, RadioWorks and Local Media Group taking part.

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- Wining in Web 2.0 style

- More digital farflungness

- All fun and determination games

Truly GIFted

Works in all browsers, but it’s especially good on 1,600*1,200 resolution screens.

Wining in Web 2.0 style

Here’s one for those of you who think Web 2.0 is just a silly fad: the WineLog. As the name implies it’s a weblog where you can rate and review wines of different kinds – they’ve even put sake in there, but let’s not rice to that – plus tag them and share your opinions with others.

It’s a grape idea, soberly executed and (Ed: could you please think of some more oenological puns here, seeing you’re a wineing pom? Thanks).

- WineLog.net

More digital farflungness

Last week’s F-U note on New Zealand broadcasters finally getting around to providing digital broadcasts provoked some interesting correspondence. Steve Biddle wrote in to say that Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB for short) radio trials starting in September this year. The whole thing is run by BCL, with Radio NZ, RadioWorks and Local Media Group taking part.

DAB seems to be a popular standard with some 40 countries deploying it, and big-name manufacturers producing receivers, like cellular phones that also support the digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB) standard. Some of the DAB features sound really cool, like being able to pause and rewind programmes for up to forty minutes.

I don’t know any other details about the NZ DAB trial though, like coverage, cost of equipment, and whether or not the content will be locked up with digital rights management. Digital radio is operational in Canada and Europe, with China, Turkey and South Africa getting ready to roll it out commercially. New Zealand and Australia are still in the early stages though.

JT writes that he’s not sure what all the hoopla is about as he already has digital TV – RSS 2.0 with enclosures for independent content and Bittorrent for big media stuff, without having to suffer any ads. The $75 million would be better spent on building broadband infrastructure he says and quotes Jello Biafra: “Become The Media”. Another one of Jello’s Spoken Word albums (didn’t William S Burroughs do those too?) is called “If Evolution is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve.” That sounds cool too.

So the question is, has Internet supplied content made free-to-air digital TV and radio broadcasts redundant? After all, we’ve got IPTV round the corner and there’s even P2P TV now which seems popular in China in particular but is fraught with legal issues. That’s probably one reason why broadcasters last week didn’t seem very excited about committing millions of dollars to building an infrastructure that may only last a few years.

As a related side note this week, it’s not just broadcasters who struggle with the all-conquering Internet. Our official regulators don’t quite know what to make of it either, says Russell Brown who together with Steven Price wrote a discussion paper for the Broadcasting Standards Authority on the subject.

Although I instinctively bristle at regulation when it comes to any kind of content production, Brown and Price point in the document to some good examples where it is desirable. We all want our news to be as correct as possible and there are many, many things children shouldn’t be exposed to for instance.

Regulation of Internet content is something that will hit any Netizen sooner or later, and the document is a recommended read – share and discuss, Russell says.

- New Zealand DAB rollout announced (PDF)

- Who’s Jello Biafra then?

- Jello’s record company

- TVUNetworks P2PTV

- CyberTiVi P2PTV

- Octoshape P2PTV

- BSA: Future of media regulation by Russell Brown and Steven Price (PDF)

All fun and determination games

The Commerce Commission issued two determinations this week on telecommunications issues, but whereas Vodafone has reasons to cheer over the first one, Callplus and Ihug must be incredibly disappointed over the second one.

In Vodafone’s case, the Commission thought straight and remembered that its role here in life is to promote competition. In its draft determination, the Commission basically gave the go ahead for Vodafone to interconnect its local numbers – that’s 03, 04, 06, 07 and 09 prefixes – with Telecom’s network. This is for Vodafone’s planned converged phone service, where handsets have two phone numbers: one local that works within a two-km designed area (like your house) and a normal mobile one. That way, Vodafone can provide both free local calling and normal mobile phone service with the same phone.

Needless to say, Telecom developed hives when it got wind of this plan and wanted to charge Vodafone mobile rates for calls to and from local numbers. The Commission disagreed however and it seems the Telecommunications Service Obligation or TSO which requires Telecom to provide its customers with free calls in local calling areas came back to bite the incumbent. That’s a wonderful irony, as Vodafone has been stung for many millions of dollars in TSO levies.

The Commission’s draft determination on the application by Ihug and Callplus for unconstrained broadband seems to be pretty duff though. It’s based on the determination that TelstraClear received last year, but it’s very doubtful customers will see any benefit at all.

Why? First, the Commission decided that since some of Telecom’s customers had migrated to costlier plans that were not available at the time of the TelstraClear determination, the wholesale price for Ihug and Callplus had to go up. Including GST, the wholesale price for regulated unbundled bitstream service (RUBS) would be $31.50. Add to that the line rental of $42.35 and you have to wonder how Ihug and Callplus will be able to make any profit at all from the RUBS.

Second, with only 128kbit/s upstream there’s little chance of achieving the unconstrained 7.6Mbit/s downstream due to the way the TCP Internet protocol works. Only around 3.5 to 4Mbit/s is possible and in that case, why not just go with Xtra’s 3.5Mbit/512kbit/s plan as it has a faster upstream?

Third, the determination calls for the RUBS to be implemented in November this year. Roundabout that time Telecom intends to roll out ADSL2+ so what happens then? The Commission says the determination covers ADSL2+ as well, but does that mean up to 24Mbit/s with just a 128kbit/s upstream?

Isn’t this exactly the kind of regulatory uncertainty that Cunliffe’s new telecommunications package was meant to put an end to?

- Vodafone wins first round in converged calling battle

- Unconstrained bitstream, but at a higher cost

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