July 9th, 2006

So, this is the first of a new set of musings.  It is about 7 years since I wrote something on my site (yes, I know, a little long since I wrote something).

UK Television

This weekend I have been rewiring my television connections in the house.  It is amazing what a difference it makes using high quality copper dual screened cable.  I did have about 3 or 4 aerial amplifiers in the chain to propagate the signal around the house.  There is some very old aerial cable in the house and many old splitters.  The original 1970s aerial design had two rooftop antennas and then an aerial socket in every house.  In the 1980s I changed this to have a single antenna and loop through one room so the video recorder could be viewed in every other room.  Now I have been upgrading the cabling and cutting down on amplifiers and passive splitters, which has made a lot of difference.  I am also using F connectors instead of UHF connectors which helps, although my thumbs have lost a bit of skin through winding on the connectors.  

There are still big changes in store for the UK TV industry.  There is the "digital dividend" or "closing analogue TV".  Suddenly we will change from having international TVs with PAL (I/G etc), SECAM and NTSC, to having digital TV configured according to local needs.  Will we still have an international standard?  Why is it difficult to get hold of TVs with DVB-T now?  I keep looking on all the usual websites and it is hard to get any web shop to display "show me all the TVs you have with built in DVB-T".  TVs have a long life - we have one which dates from 1992, is 4:3 with 16:9 compatibility (picture squash for 16:9 signal so you still get all the 625 lines being used).  What do I do with that if I get a new TV?  If I don't get a new TV with DVB-T then what happens in 3 years time when they turn off the analogue signals?  I am sure there must be millions of people in the UK who are not even thinking about the analogue switchoff. 


This week, I will be attending the joint OMA/TISPAN meeting in France.  This is a significant step for the telecommunications industry.  To date, much of the mobile and fixed work has been done in separate, quite isolated groups.  For example the key inventors of SMS and MMS were not at all involved in the work on fixed SMS or fixed MMS.  The telecommunications industry recognises the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) as the key place to develop international standards for applications for mobile, and with the Next Generation Networks approach, the difference between fixed and mobile is becoming smaller and smaller.  In a fixed-mobile convergent world, there is no need to develop applications twice (once for mobile, once for fixed).  So OMA is the right place to develop fixed-mobile convergent applications.

One of the significant presentations to the meeting will be a paper on Converged IP Messaging, which has been given the abbreviation "CPM" by OMA.  This work is about providing a consistent user experience and converged harmonised set of network platforms, for an integrated messaging system.  Sounds a bit of a mouthful.  The key thing will be that handsets will provide a "messaging" user experience, one set of menus, one address book, rather than different user experiences for SMS, MMS, Instant Messaging etc.  One of the industry struggles here is much broader than the mobile experience, it's about market economics vs standardisation.  The internet provides a plug-and-play approach to messaging - you select a system, download a client and then you are able to communicate with a community.  The problem is that that community is limited by the uptake of the particular system.  Will one group of messaging systems with full interconnect ever work or are we destined to plug in to many different systems to communicate with everyone?  Can market economics provide a way to limit the number of communities?  This seems unlikely, given the age of the current set of IM systems.  Can standardisation provide a way to integrate the communities?  Well, maybe.  I remember with fondness the integation of the different SMS systems in the UK.  The level of communication using "text" was very low whilst there were separate island communities.  Once full connectivity was established, texting figures went through the roof.  All of the mass market communcations systems provide access to a global community not a set of island communities: telephony, email, SMS.  Is IM destined to be a geek technology and not a mass market technology?  Probably, unless we can get away from the island mentality.

The documents for the OMA-TISPAN meeting are public here:  http://portal.etsi.org/docbox/tispan/Open/TISPAN-OMA-WORKSHOP/  

Copyright Kevin Holley, 09th July 2006