The telecomms industry is in a Mexican stand-off and we'll have to pay for the data we use. So reckons David Williams, the outspoken chief executive of broadband-by-satellite outfit the Avanti Group. Williams had an interesting letter in the FT yesterday castigating "content free loaders". So I gave him a call. Williams' …
I'm pretty sure I'm already paying for a service I'm not actually receiving, thanks very much. How many of us get the speed the ISP quote?
If you really want to know...
If you really want to see how your actual versus paid for service quality stacks up have a look at www.web-meter.com.
Parsing "content free loaders".
I guess you meant "content freeloaders" but at first glance I took it in as "content-free loaders".
Considering the prevalence of utter crapola that is in the intertubes these days, I believe that your first assumption was perhaps more accurate...
Gas main replacement
National Grid are currently digging up a large part of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire to replace the old cast-iron gas main (and causing major traffic chaos in the process!). You would think that whilst they are doing that, it would be sensible to throw in some fibre-optics at the same time. That kind of joined up thinking would see large swathes of the country flooded with street-level fibre within a few years.
OK, you can pick yourselves up off the floor now and stop laughing!
Been there, didn't do that
When the Gas Board in Ireland re-installed practically every domestic gas installation in the country when switching from "town gas" to "natural gas", it was refused permission to run an internet connection at the same time - because that would give it an unfair advantage over private operators, who wouldn't be able to make as big a profit.
The end result? 10 years on, and Ireland still has some of the worst broadband infrastructure in Western Europe.
I don't get it
Is he saying that broadband is overvalued or tv is overpriced?
They have to be joking
Joe Public can't afford that. £600/month is half the salary of a substantial portion of the population. You can't charge what people can't afford - you'll have no customers left in no time at all.
I've just realised that I don't own a digital PVR. I've never really thought about it, because I've never needed it, because I've got iPlayer. But 10 years ago I was quite happy to set the video for things that were on while I was out.
If the internet was metered, I would have bought a PVR a long time ago, and I would be sitting with a TV guide in front of me (an online one, naturally) once a week and "harvesting" everything I wanted to watch for later viewing. But it's cheaper for me to consume finite "commons" resources than tap into the broadcast network.
I don't think he's joking per se...
I think what he's trying to point out is that with unmetered access, unicast IPTV is as "cheap" as broadcast TV to the punter on the street, or even cheaper, if you don't currently have a Freeview box or sattelite receiver. The benefit of IPTV is the availability of on-demand viewing. It is therefore a "better product" at the same price point, so the way things are at the moment, the bedroom PC will start to be used as a replacement for the bedroom TV. I don't have a Freeview dongle for my laptop, for example -- I just use iPlayer and 4OD. I even use iPlayer sometimes when I'm watching live.
So by having unmetered access we discourage people from using the efficient, robust and well-developed broadcast infrastructure and instead consume the internet's finite resources. Not only do most people not realise that there is no "broadcast" on the internet, but even those who do (eg. me) don't really care enough to conserve.
So we wouldn't expect the metered family to run up £600 a month -- we wouldn't expect the capacity requirements of a metered internet to be anywhere near as high as that of an unmetered one.
Ask yourself this. Many phone companies offer unlimited free calls. Would they continue to do so if people started listening to radio over the phone? Would they have the capacity?
Marketing vs Engineering
"Ask yourself this. Many phone companies offer unlimited free calls. Would they continue to do so if people started listening to radio over the phone? Would they have the capacity?"
Considering the fiasco of digital radio most people would be more likely to be listening to digital radio via their mobile broadband in smart phones, especially in cars, now and in the future. Whatever the plans are I hope their are based on sensible pricing rather than on punitive cost to _dissuade_ customers from legitimate uses of the service they were sold.
"Unlimited" is rather unambiguous and attractive to customers since the old dial-up per minute costs were ridiculously when free evening calls were the norm at the time. "High capacity" would approach honest and better made up front rather than the shameful entrapment most IPS operate. Few ever expect a free lunch, but if some idiot is fool enough to promise you unlimited lunches then a clue stick beating is called for said moron.
ISPs have failed to invest in the future (thanks to price/speed wars rather than focus on capacity) and naively expected that the internet services/habits would remain static. One can only hope that the new pricing includes room for new brains in the running of ISPs.
Hardly a new theory, of course, but does this mean that they have given up on trying to get the BBC to pay for all the traffic it sends out? (or rather pay for it twice over, since they already have to pay for the connection to the internet at their end.)
Not sure how accurate any of the maths is, either, what are those prices based on?
I think he's right.
My concern would be the pricing structure. We're used to metered usage for electricity, water and gas so it's not that far fetched to see metering coming back for networking. The problem is going to be how you provide users with information on their usage. Most people can figure out that turning all your lights on, winding the heating up or leaving taps running will cost money.
How do you teach them that watching three hours of HD TV is more expensive than standard definition? Come to that how to calculate the cost? three hours of unicast HD TV right now is horribly expensive. But in ten years - not so much one assumes.
If we ever get multicast operating then the cost could drop even further although that depends on a lot of variables. Personally I'd argue that multicast on IP is silly for the UK given our existing satellite, DTT and cabling coverage. The one advantage of IPTV is that it offers true VoD - and multicasting can't help there.
I think he's...well I shouldn't say really
And comparing bandwidth to finite resources that countries go to war over is loopy. It's a Victorian Tories wet dream.....I can see it all now, meters on the sides of the telly....
Oh and in the Netherlands, the pavements are often dug up every year or two and they lay them all nice and neat again. All that shiftiing sand.
It's not a biggie.
interest here. he runs a non-terrestrial internet connection biz.. kinda talking himself up as viable.. or did my in-work scan of the article mis-read..
Reading between the lines
Three points bound feverishly to mind:
1) Williams is flogging broadband via satellite, which can have reasonable bandwidth but dreadful latency. So pointless for gaming but perfectly acceptable for TV, since we rarely notice the lag there. Hmm, I wonder what his company's pricing structure is like? Probably not...
2) ...£15.99 for 10GB, which is a curious example. By 'curious' I mean 'ridiculous', since it isn't representative of the market and throws most of his other assumptions out.
3) Now, his overall point about "who pays" is actually mostly valid (and something mobile companies are finding out with their clogged airways). However, at least with fixed-line communications, there are technical alternatives to thousands of people downloading the same programme from the same servers at the same time. Caching, for one, even for live broadcasts. And, dare I say it, even P2P...
In summary: Williams has a vested interest and I'm reading between the lines.
I wouldn't say satellite is good for bandwidth unless you're broadcasting (ie;multicasting). For Unicast it's horrible. It might sound clever to have a 100Gb/s transponder on your bird but when the signal is being sent to all of Western Europe the contention is potentially horrible. 100Gb/s shared by several thousand people isn't so clever. It's the same with any kind of wireless technology. You lose the one-to-one link back to the exchange.
Actually even traditional cable services have this problem but the latest tweaks to DOCSIS are doing a reasonable job of keeping ahead. Still - most cables only have 3Gb/s to play with I think and if they feed several dozen houses the potential is there for local loop congestion as speeds enter the hundreds of megabits territory.
So I'm not agreeing with him absolutely but I do think he has a valid point that needs to be discussed. 'All you can eat' has always had a weak-point and at present some people are exploiting that model to the detriment of other people and the providers. The devil is going to be in the detail though when it comes to a solution. As another poster said - how do you charge for something that is not a resource. Network charges generally come from investment and maintennance rather than because you're consuming something that is finite.
"100Gb/s shared by several thousand people isn't so clever."
100Gb/s shared by (say) 10,000 = 10Mb/s surely? (Did you mean something larger than several thousand people)
I dont imagine many people have the equipment to send a signal back to the satellite so, on the whole its going to be one-way traffic.
"broadband by satellite"
Sorry, but he's the one who's doomed, and therefore whatever else he may have to say is at best questionable (though in this case he is actually talking sense; bandwidth costs money and more bandwidth costs more money).
There's almost no hope for broadband by satellite, except as a very very very niche service in very very very few parts of the world with very very very specific requirements.
In places where DSL or cable isn't practical, some flavour of wireless (be it WiFi, GPRS, 3G, the invisible WiMax, or whatever) is generally a better option than satellite, unless the horrifying latency of a satellite round trip is of no consequence. For example, daily downloads of a price file to a shop might be OK by satellite, but surfing and the like won't be much fun.
Satalite broadband is very useful and where DSL or Cable isn't practical tends to be in the middle of no where so there is no WiFi, GPRS, 3G or WiMax access...For example out at sea or in the more remote parts of even the deveolped world like Canada and the USA where a phone line is there but DSL access is a no go and mobile signal is a joke.
Satalite broadband is big business, just because you don't use it doesn't mean that millions around the world don't either.
What he's really saying
is "I run an extremely expensive business, with huge overheads, almost no customers and such a paltry bandwidth allocation that it makes smoke signals look fast" All this guy wants is for everyone else to suffer for the poor choices he made when he started in the satellite business, and use the same cost structures that he has got himself into.
You'd hear the same sort of arguments from stagecoach operators, against motorway users: requiring that every car is pulled by 2 horses, has 2 employees riding "shotgun" , and never exceeding 10mph.
Basically, his industry had its heyday somewhere around 1985 and hasn't realised that it became irrelevant as soom as modem speeds kit 19.2KBaud.
I use satellite broadband a lot and I like it quite well. There are a lot more places in the world without Internet access than you think. There are lots of places in the U.S. alone with no broadband access.
I'm already paying for a Mb package and I'm happy. TV received over freeview; I don't need the Sky permium charged stuff. High Def channels coming to terestrial freeview broadcast ... there is no mileage in TV over IP for me. As for films, I'd rather spend a couple of quid on a DVD. I don't need the high def blu-ray thingy.
But neither do I download swathes of pirated music and all that stuff. One or maybe two movies over Torrent a month, and those that I like, I buy. (about two thirds of the films I download, I buy. The new version of Pink Panther 2 with that American commedian never made it to twenty minutes before I stopped watching it.) so I'm not using my full bandwidth allowance. I could, perhaps, do with a little more delivery speed for the video shorts that I want, but copper is still perfectly capable of delivering thatshould ADSL2 get rolled out in our country village. I'm achieving 7Mb/s to the exchange already.
As I believe I've said before, if I had 100Mb/s optics to the house, I'd chew up my monthly allowance in half an hour. What is the point of that?
Now ... start digging my roads up and you'll have me spitting feathers in no time. Let the freetards suffer - I waved goodbye to all I can eat a few years ago when I last moved home.
You've got a problem here. Media companies are all going to distribution over IP. They're assuming that the current digital broadcasts are pretty much the limit of what can be done over radio, and that content over IP is the future.
That means your nice standard episode of Dr Who (ignoring HD and all the whizbang stuff) is still going to hit a couple of hundred meg, and you will be paying by volume.
Or die from trying
Since people won't be willing to spend such an amount on anything remotely ethereal.
I know if I'd get that I'd certainly look at how much I actually use and how much I'm willing to pay.
My current 20 day average is 140GiB and most of that is the daily remote uploaded backup(4-5GiB).
What ISPs need to learn is that being just an ISP is NOT a good business model. Link it up... add VoIP service, add IPTV or some other TV... bundle it all togheter etc... Then you can charge a bit more yet still a bit cheaper than getting each separately. Then they can actually get. I think if you want an ISP only business don't expect large profits. Think more breaking even. Maybe add some cloud services... i.e. storage, email, and other things.
Leave scheduled TV and Radio where it is, carried by broadcast RF - and preferrably on the existing analogue channels and FM. This works perfectly well and is a cheap transport method. In addition, these require much less energy to operate than the fancy new all-digital crap being rammed down our throats. Can you say DAB? This should be kept in mind: we'll need all the power savings we can get when the current crop of generators start to shut down around 2015 and there are no replacements ready to take over.
Keep the much more expensive digital networks for the non-broadcast and interactive data transfers its currently used for, and maybe consider charging both source and consumer for the bandwidth they actually use rather than the current capped allocation.
Of course, this means that all those seeking to make money by flogging off the broadcast channels and their fanbois running round begging for crumbs (Mandy, I'm looking at you) won't make all that lovely wonga but do the rest of us really care?
So the simple solution is...
BT Wholesale charging £16 for 10GB is ridiculous, people who have proper backhaul like Be are more than happy for me to download between 200GB and 1TB per month for roughly the same price!
The suggestion of the article is that most of these providers are only 'happy' for you to download that much because most of their customers don't.
If everyone was maxing out their connections they might have to charge something closer to what BT Wholesale want.
Wow, 1TB a month?
That's non-stop downloading at an average of 3.4Mbit/s. I thought I was thrashing my connection leeching ca. 120GB a month. I bow to your superior freetardery. And I'm also happy that they'll squeeze you before they squeeze me. Sadly I think even with the awesomeness of Be, that day will come.
Most of us do...
As a bit of a freetard with Be, I'll confirm that most Be customers probably do use similar data volumes. Most of us probably get close to what our line can take rather than what our ISP throttles it to.
A long time ago I heard that at very high levels (the likes of BT and other major "internet" contributors who run the inter-country links, backbones etc...) the charging is done by who sends the packet not the recipient.
(don't know if that's true or just legend)
As an ISP for "users" you'll be doing a lot of receiving and not much sending so the cost is just for your infrastructure, which will be decreasing daily as Cisco et al release higher capacity routers/switches etc...
Maybe the BBC's ISP will start to charge them more for supplying the data, which will just get stuck on everyone's TV license!
BE - Really can't fault em
I am with Be as well - probs average circa 250GB/ month - i spoke to their customer service as i was a little nervous of being hit by some kind of fair usage policy cap. They just laughed and said that is what their network is for and that there were many people hitting around a TB/month and this wasn't problematic for them.
Also - the debit card i had set up for payment on the account expired / i was sent a new one with different number - totally forgot about BE. i got a nice friendly email about 4 months later asking me to see check payment details - All the while i was downloading / streaming a fair ol' wack. Can you see the likes of BT not cutting you off for non payment.
I am sure there are other good ISP's out there but I will be sticking with BE. 2 years of great service and great speeds. Fan-blooming-tastic
not only, but also :)
Although I agree that BT's pricing is a bit dodgy a lot of that can be laid at the feet of the regulator, Ofcom. BTw will always be more expensive than LLU because BTw is available on virtual every exchange in the country. LLUOs only go where they can make money. Of course BTw have economies of scale and existing infrastructure to help but I bet most market 1 exchanges are making a loss or barely turning a profit. Ofcom allows BT very little leeway to charge a premium for those exchanges so the prices have to go up across the board.
You should thank me.
Firstly Be have never (as far as I know) made a profit. Even as part of Telefonica they probably still make a loss although from an accounting PoV it probably depends how they cross charge O2 for using their network.
Secondly Be's model only works because some of us don't download much. I bet my usage rarely goes above a couple of GB. There's quite a few of us stick with Be for the quality of the service and occasional burst usage.
A bit harsh!
I think it’s a bit harsh to label people freeloaders for using their paid for broadband service!
Bandwidth is not like gas or electricity, once you've put in the infrastructure, its just there. If the ISPs want to supply it, they need the infrastructure to do so, that is mostly their investment not an on going cost.
I've heard of these wonderful things called airwaves. You can broadcast a TV signal, basically for free, and people can recieve it. Oh, if only there were a way for thse broadcast signals to be displayed on a TV without having to go through the Internet...
It's completely stupid to stream TV through the Internet until we have seriously new ways of delivering data. The cost is just horrendous. We can have broadcast towers and video recorders.
OK, I like iPlayer, but tell me it isn't really decadent, and there is some way that all TV watching can move to the Internet without a massive investment in infrastructure. If we are talking £50bn (I would say that's low-balling it) then per household that is £2500, assuming everyone has it. If it only goes to half of households, then we're talking £5000 *each household*. Do you have that money to get iPlayer rather than just a normal TV?
I was about to post something similar... but you already said it well enough :-)
I also agree
If people really want to watch the TV on the computer (only HD monitor in the house?), then why not use the computer as the DVR?
Record the broadcast over the regular airwaves/cable at the broadcast time while you are out, etc. and then watch it after you crawl back from the pub?
Lord knows, the cable and TV companies could really make some money by having a program/service/website at cheap (.99p / mo) to setup the schedule it, etc. Only issue might be a receiver card, but obviously the broadcasting company would love to sell you one of those as well, eh?
Or - heaven forbid - the broadcasting company has a *secure* torrent to pull those shows available for a week or so after the broadcast date, complete with commercials inline, that you download for viewing through the website/service/etc...
Thought a bit more...
Here's a compromise, because I've thought a bit more. The most popular shows, the ones that 8mn+ watch each week, can be beamed at night over the airwaves, and then stored digitally at home, for the person to watch the next day if he or she wants to. News and live shows are broadcast as normal, and the stuff that's not particularly popular can either be streamed over the net as and when, or a request put in for it to be broadcast at 3:30am the next day, via your local aerial.
Actually, this is a great idea, thinking about it. Each aerial beams out what people have asked for. If you want it now, you can pay for a 'premium' version that is streamed over the net, and for all other people, it gets logged and then broadcast locally from the TV aerial. If we go digital we can broadcast dozens of programmes simultaneously, so this might actually work.
You can then pay to access the back catalogue on a per-show basis, or be able to request shows from the last week using the system outlined above (like on iPlayer). Since you aren't watching it, they could be burst transmitted anyway, saving even more bandwidth,
OK, so there are some kinks that need to be ironed out, etc. But this sounds like a much better plan than IPTV... For popular things broadcast makes sense.
Can someone explain...
...why it costs more for provider to transmit 1MB of data than it does 1GB? It's data. It's doesn't weigh anything. It doesn't require any sort of "heavy lifting". It's just electro-magnetism (or light, if you are lucky enough to have fibreoptic).
Excuse my ignorance, I'm merely a poor SysAdmin but I've never understood this argument.
Re: Can someone explain...
Are you really a sysadmin?
"It's doesn't weigh anything. It doesn't require any sort of "heavy lifting". It's just electro-magnetism"
Electricity doesn't weight much either. Is that free to generate and distribute?
Wow... just wow...
Comparing electricity - twice as much electricity needs to consume twice the resources - to information - resource expenditure up-front to create content then negligible resources to replicate and transmit digitally - is not a valid comparison. Yeah, pushing electrons does cost money - just not very much. Many, many orders of magnitude less than it'd cost to produce new content (or distribute the information physically).
And, did you even bother checking those sums your paymaster provided? They're way, way off.
Weak sauce old chap.
But electricity is created from expensive materials, like coal and gas.
Data is created from minute amounts of electricity that is sent down a little cable. I don't think it's a fair comparison.
Did I miss something?
Is this a pitch for why people need satellite broadband??
This article just don't make sense... unless I'm mistaken all ISP's have a top limit for downloading, 20gb for instance with my account from Zen.
Easy to max out if you're downloading movie ISOs or show torrents, or nowadays by "renting" movies from XBOX Live or PSN. It's cheaper to get that content from Sky using their flakey HD box.
Everyone knows that IPTV can't arrive before the whole infrastructure is upgraded; Don't they?
You are mistaken
See bethere.co.uk for an unlimited plan.
Full speed 24*7 if you want it.
I've not done that much but have downloaded a significant quantity of data without any trouble.
There are others with similar offers but I think Be are still the cheapest.
I think I missed a step...
His figures assume every single person is going to go to IPTV - why? It's like basing an argument on 2+2=5 - no matter what conclusion you arrive at, if your initial premise is flawed, then the conclusion will be too.
Virgin already do that
Virgin already have an "up to" 10MB service which they already cap at 2.5MB for "up to" 10 hours a day.
There's no such thing as a freetard's lunch
Wouldn't that be a freelunchtard?
Ok thats just weird
I was going to post exactly the same thing as Tom 15 - trust me, we're not bots!
Backhaul just does not cost that much, unless you _HAVE_ to buy it from BT as part of an IPStream DSL connection.
Do you really think it costs Virgin, Sky or O2 £16 for 10GB to transit data, or were you just happy to tap-tap up this moron's press release without any critical input?
something nobody has mentioned...
if im paying for every MB i download, can i then charge game companies that require me to download 500mb patches? will M$ pay for their updates? downloading a game demo (say 1gb) will cost ME money? its an instant fail.
ive been on BB for about 10 years now and for the last 5 or so ive rarely used it for anything other than windows updates, game patches and legally downloading song i buy - im paying for this already. now, im more than happy to not pay a fee if i dont download any updates etc that month, but i dont expect they would offer that would they?
also, would i trust my ISP to accurately tell me how much ive downloaded? not a chance.
this is just total FUD
No such luck
I live in New Zealand.
Ever since the intro of ADSL we have had to pay for every bit that streams over our phoneline. Yes, even half a gig game patches. The only exception is currently Telecom's BigTime plan (which is 24 pounds a month), it has 'unlimited data' but the speed isn't that great so there is only so much that you can download in a month.
Only my plan I get 2Mbit/s download, 128Kbit/s upload (yes, Kbit/s) and a data cap of 2 gig (yes, 2 gig) for 13 pounds. The extra 20 gigs that I need to purchase to get me through the month cost another 9 pounds.
Needless to say the 'sneakernet' is pretty popular here, and a lot of files are shared friend to friend rather than peer to peer. If I want to buy a game off Steam I buy it, and get the files of someone else who already has it, to save me 3 pounds worth of data.
Count yourself lucky that you have had a free ride so far.
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