Re: Et Tu, Virgin
The Virgin network was built, as said above, by private firms using private investment (no public money IIRC). Therefore they can do what they want with it, within the terms of the licence they have from OFCOM.
337 posts • joined 6 Aug 2008
The Virgin network was built, as said above, by private firms using private investment (no public money IIRC). Therefore they can do what they want with it, within the terms of the licence they have from OFCOM.
"Yup - analogue lines are good. Mobile phones are generally pretty handy these days too - cell masts tend to be protected pretty well."
During our last "weather event" (Feb 2014 storms) we lost total mobile coverage for about 18 hours, thanks to the only mobile mast in the area suffering serious wind related damage. Even when it does work, indoor signal strength is patchy at best. However in a more populated area with better coverage I agree that Mobiles do have a place, but I'd still prefer a fixed landline due to mobiles suffering contention issues.
>I hereby dub these red emercency corded phones "Batphones"
Waaay ahead of you...
The one simple thing that every small/medium office can do to keep things going when the lights go out is to keep a couple of standard, regular, run-of-the-mill corded phones in a cupboard. Then, if you lose power then at least you still have something to plug in to the direct exchange ADSL or fax line just in case. In fact, I've set up two old 1980s corded phones as permanent standby on our ADSL line.
They're pretty much bombproof, and come in a fetching shade of red.
As for generators, just be sure that your switchover gear is in good condition. Multiple short connections/disconnections can cause more damage than the original power failure. Also, make sure that you've connected all of your vital equipment to the generator. There's no point having a load of servers spun up and ready to go if you've not supplied power to the external network termination gear.
The problem we had in my part of North Wales during the last weather "event" (the very high winds of early 2014) was that while I was sat there listening to our local BBC radio station, the signal was cutting in and out. It seems that BBC Radio Cymru is dish/microwave fed to our local transmitter (Llangollen VHF), and the receiving gear was taking such a battering it was moving out of alignment.
last year our local TV relay mast was, without any fanfare, upgraded to supply BBC DAB. As I was looking to buy a clock radio at the time I decided to go DAB, as the price difference was not massive.
Now, I live in a stone built house (60cm/2ft walls), and while our local FM transmitter is a high power job and not overly far away (Llangollen VHF, 15-20 miles away), reliable and non-hissing reception required either sticking the radio in the window or using a carefully aimed amplified VHF aerial (in the case of an old HiFi).
Having had the thing for almost a year, here's a quick run down of the good and bad bits of my DAB experience.
The good points:
While the DAB radio is a Mono/single speaker receiver, the sound quality is good and, more importantly, is consistently good. The lack of annoying hissing is very good, and the channel selection style of tuning works well if you occasionally want to listen to another station (you daren't retune an FM radio here, otherwise it takes you an age to get it "right" again).
At the moment (and for the foreseeable future) we only get the BBC DAB multiplex, which does carry a decent range of stations and programmes. In our area BBC 5 live was always a hit and miss affair, as the MW signal did not take kindly to the mountains of North Wales.
There are of course a few downsides however:
The one that most annoys me is that due to the BBC DAB mux being UK wide, our "national" BBC stations (BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Wales) aren't carried on it. To get those, you have to swap back to FM (or in the case of Radio Wales, AM). That then entails adjusting the antenna to get as little hiss as possible (and as the transmitters aren't in the same place, adjusting it back for DAB). It seems that due to the unique way that DAB works, the BBC "national" multiplex has to be the same everywhere, with the BBC taking space on the local commercial multiplex for local services. The problem is of course that as I've mentioned above, we don't have (and probably will not have for some time) a commercial DAB multiplex.
The other main issue is probably more of a software issue with the radio, but is still a mark against DAB. The problem is that the BBC loves setting up "pop up" DAB services such as Radio 2 country and also they like to shift radio 4 output such as "today in parliament" and morning worship to their own DAB services. What this means is that while these services aren't transmitting, they still appear in the station list, causing clutter. A factory reset kills them for a while, but the buggers always come back.
"It was gifted, the land value alone of BT at the time was probably worth more than the capital value ascribed by the Gov of the day. History just repeated with Royal Mail"
Of course, it's child's play to move a telephone exchange. It's not like there's a load of cabling infrastructure running in and out of them is it...
Only that while that does sound great, not all phone line poles have access to a power supply.
Yes, it costs a fortune to dig up the road.
However, you can simply demand access to the BT ducting that's already there. And BT have to supply it, at a price the regulator (not BT) decides.
Out of interest, how does ordering a new line or reporting a fault work under the NZ system? Do you still have to go through a retail firm to do it?
"perhaps because your exchange is owned by BT and the local NIMBY's wont let their BT share price drop..... by letting other Telco's planning applications through"
There's no PP needed for LLU kit, but surprisingly they're not rolling that out either....
"Er, short memory old chap. BT was gifted all that expensive (monopoly) infrastructure for a knock down price back in the 80s which was built up at taxpayers expense before that. This gives BT a considerable advantage as it inherited all the existing ducts and doesn't have to dig anything up."
BT got that infrastructure at that price because it was old and clapped out. BT had to raise its own funds to pay for the (then) new System X and System Y exchanges and all the upgrades that entailed.
As for being built up at taxpayer's expense, the GPO charged a fortune for phone calls, and any profit it made would no doubt have gone straight to the exchequer rather than be reinvested in the network.
Of course BT is in a dominant position thanks to that network, however they are the only network provider who HAVE to allow 3rd parties access to their network for regulated, predetermined prices.
"Possiby because the Govt isn't offering them a big fat subsidy to do so, either directly ala the rural BB rollout or indirectly via an inflated connecton charge."
Fact is that the only other serious bidder for the work (Fujitsu), basically said "We want all of the contracts. If we don't get all of the contracts we won't do it).
"And that's why Ford is not responsible if the tyres on your new car all burst if you drive above 60mph. Oh, ..... wait a minute."
Ford and Firestone fell out over who was to blame....
I can understand where Pat is coming from regarding the "fun" of handing a major manure-fan interface.
For me, it's mainly the challenge of getting whatever has gone bang back up ASAP, with the added bonus of being able to "bend" rules and procedures that you know add nothing and simply cause delay. It's the challenge of focusing on the problem and find a workable (as opposed to the "right") solution fast that gives job satisfaction for me.
As for management, yes they should be kept informed, but its usually during such events as these that a "less is more" attitude to management input works best. Especially if you have non-technical management involved.
"There are far, far more cell sites than there are transmitters for public broadcasting."
I can believe that, but as I say, in my experience of rural areas cell sites and TV transmitters (local fillers, not main sites) are usually on the same mast or tower, for the simple reason that most villages large enough to warrant a TV filler mast are also likely to be large enough to warrant a cell site. Also, you only have to deal with one "landlord" (Arqiva) and there's definitely power available.
As it stands I doubt many landowners are being given the chance to turn them down. Most rural cell sites I know of are stuck on to existing TV and radio sites.
"In reality it will be used to line the pockets of shareholders..."
Who, to be fair, have stumped up the money to build the network in the first place.
This is true, however if you are rolling out extra mobile coverage then the ability to supply 4G/3G internet service would be rather handy.
A few reasons:
Pylons, electricity poles and phone poles don't always go where you want a mast to go. For example, where I grew up the phone and electricity lines followed the valley floor, not the mountain tops where you'd want a phone mast.
Wind turbines aren't static, they rotate to face the wind, and those big spinning metal blades may not help RF propagation much
Big tress usually have preservation orders on them, so you can't nail your kit to them. Also, wet leaves are very effective at blocking RF.
"Well you are lucky, in Germany the first carriers are letting their ISDN equipment rot. So it's not uncommon to have frequent line breakdowns... or even occasional crosstalk between channels. (How is that even possible on ISDN? And no, I can rule out analogue crosstalk as the A/D-conversion happened in a controlled place far away from any analogue phone line or people speaking.)"
It seems that in the UK the ministry of defence has basically told BT/Openreach that they can't kill off ISDN, so we still get a decent service. Our only issue was last winter when violent lightning storms cooked our ISDN30 termination unit at least twice. It seems the standard surge protectors that would be fitted to an ISDN line aren't fitted to ours as the attenuation penalty would be too great for the line to function. Luckily we're on next-day fault repair as standard.
"You always still have a PSTN gateway, but you move as many people off it as you can. A slightly higher internet connection is going to be cheaper than multiple landlines."
Out here, internet connections come in two flavours: Expensive or Unreliable
Unreliable is the current ADSL link. Approx 6mbit, so not the worst around, but the local exchange, despite serving a sparsely populated area, regularly suffers contention. Add to that past experience of losing ADSL for two days versus an ISDN line that only seems to die if we suffer direct lightning strikes and ISDN wins on unreliable.
Yes we could go for a leased line, but a 2mbit (burstable to 10mbit) leased line here costs over £1,700 a month (no, that isn't a typo). Our 12 channel ISDN30 is around £170 a month so is a no-brainer for us.
We've deployed VoIP/SIP trunks at other offices (usually those with FTTC) and it works well. If we ever get FTTC/FTTP service to our main office then I will probably bin the ISDN30, but until then it can keep solidering on.
Until you move out to the countryside, where internet bandwidth is at a premium, and ADSL reliability takes a nosedive.
Yes an ISDN30 old and expensive, but its pretty much bombproof. No contention issues if the exchange is overloaded, no waiting for BT Wholesale to fix the DSLAM in the exchange (again) and most telcos regard them as a priority.
"...you remember that the next time you tax a loved one to A&E."
What rate is that tax paid at? I.e. will a broken leg cost me a granny or next door's pet spaniel?
First of all, this is a great piece, discussing VoIP while not treating it as a panacea. We've been looking at SIP trunks etc. for some of our offices, and have a lot of legacy kit.
The main consideration for us is reliability. Many of our sites are in rural areas, where even 4mbit broadband could be considered luxurious. In these kinds of areas, leased lines/EFM are seriously pricey, and for our use an 8 channel ISDN30 does the job well. Yes ISDN is old hat, but its still with us for a reason, it is nigh on impossible to kill it. We have moved to hosted SIP/VoIP in some of our smaller new build offices, but only where FTTC was available. We also stick voice handsets on our ADSL lines for service when the phone system UPS runs out of juice during power cuts. Also, ADSL can suffer from local/exchange congestion (even on 20:1 business packages) while ISDN gives you all the channels you're paying for no questions asked.
That is not to say I'm against VoIP on the internal/site side. Our last new build office phone system was an Avaya IP office with proprietary IP handsets. This was because we needed it in a hurry, and with proprietary systems its a lot easier to get a service contract than to find someone willing to support something more "homebrew", even if it is simpler and more reliable. At our largest site I've been uprading our inter-building links, and while I have put in 20 pair cables for our Proprietary Nortel system, I've also ensured that there are spare fibre cores to cover any eventual upgrade to VoIP.
"Don't knock our BBC - it might get privatised, then what?"
Then we can all stop being forced, by law, to spend £145.50 every year on a corporation we may or may not even watch.
"Compare it to ANY other broadcaster ..."
You mean all those private broadcasters I can choose whether or not to pay for?
Unless you want bikes to carry properly visible registration plates (just like motorbikes and cars) any police detection of "stolen" bikes would involve either having to upturn and check every bike in a cycle parking rack or officers stopping cyclists in the street to "check their details". Neither of which is really workable on a large scale. As mentioned before, bikes are much too easy to hide (in plain sight or in the back of a transit) and are still ridiculously easy to steal.
As for these cars being "Range Rovers and BMWs" the simple fact is that its no longer worth stealing anything much lower value than a BMW, Audi or Mercedes. Aunt Doris' Fiesta won't yield much in saleable parts, so they're usually taken for the fun of it or during house break-ins to take the loot home. Rangies and BMWs usually attract the more violent organised crime gangs, with reports of people being threatened and attacked so they hand over the keys. I've never heard of someone being threatened at knifepoint if they didn't hand over a set of bike lock keys.
OK, so some bikes have stamped frame numbers.
First of all, are these a legal requirement?
Are these held centrally like car VIN details?
Are they required to be tied to a specific identity/registration document?
If I owned an expensive (£1000+) bike, I'd treat it exactly as I would a classic car with no anti theft devices fitted. I'd get a proper aftermarket lock and alarm and park it in secure areas only.
It took car manufacturers fitting standard immobilisers (and enough years to see off most old cars without) to cut "bread and butter" car thefts. What's needed is for the cycle industry to do the same regarding decent anti-theft measures.
And as for the police caring more about cars, try getting them interested in a 10 year old banger being pinched...
Proper factory fitted immobilisers combined with properly meaty built-in steering locks essentially killed off the old crooklock as a device to stop joyriders.
Without registration, serial numbers and chassis numbers how do you expect a stolen bike to be identified?
"Is there nothing the Transit can't do?"
Drive more than three inches away from the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead?
Things are a bit less sophisticated with UK copper theives.
They take a Transit Tipper, lift a manhole cover, tie a chain to the underground copper bundle then simply drive off, tearing out the bundle and stuffing it on the back of the van.
My parents' microwave blew up the other day, a day before my sister was due to visit them with her baby daughter. So, it was decided that, as I live closest to any kind of electrical shop, I would go shopping for a new microwave. A model was chosen off the currys website and reserved before I left.
Cue me arriving an hour and a half later. I walk up to the desk and announce I have a microwave reserved. I am then led to the microwave display shelf and asked to "point out" which one it is. The problem was the only microwave that looked anything similar to what we'd ordered was marked as a "conventional oven" for £40 more than the website advertised. It took 15 minutes of the salesdroid looking before the we finally worked out the shelf ticket was wrong, and we ended up having to match product numbers. Turns out the "conventional oven" was in fact a microwave and was the right item.
So, salesdroid now grabs said microwave and takes it to the till. The only problem is he bashes the box against a load of end-of-row displays before arriving at the till. Luckily the till applies the right price and of course they try and sell me a £15 warranty...
Next time, when I'm not in a hurry, the web or John Lewis will be getting my business...
"Is the Internet not allowed in your city?"
Last time I checked, I couldn't walk in to a big "The Internet" shop and walk out 10mins later with a new kettle. You can't always wait for delivery.
We had to use VM Business cable for one site because they were the only firm who could supply us without going down the leased line route. 50/5 isn't mega quick, but it works pretty well.
We outfitted a 4 person office with FTTC and VoIP in August. Once the internet connection was up and running we were off. Call quality etc. perfectly reasonable.
We did have an outage recently (our supplier, Voipfone, had a major issue) but that was an hour or two. As you say, the real problem is that despite the lack of any technical cleverness, a standard phone line very rarely breaks.
A sole trader has no "employees" (i.e. someone else you pay to work for you)
"Or, more correctly, BT don't want the hassle of small businesses who want business SLAs for domestic prices, and will give BT too much grief when they don't get what they "expect"."
Business ADSL/FTTC costs are higher than domestic ones, and the SLA is usually next business day, so not overly onerous compared to the two business day Openreach now has to apply to domestic lines.
Next day and same day are more expensive still.
The leased line/superfast broadband "grants", as you say, paid a contribution towards the installation costs of a leased line. The problem is that while the installation costs are pretty considerable on leased lines, they're usually less than two months cost of rental, which as a rule is 10 times higher than FTTC.
Yep, Openreach's SLA is for voice and whatever you can throw down the line "as voice" (e.g. fax/moden). ADSL and ISDN are basically "best effort", and if they can't or won't supply them then its your problem.
This is why I tell people to report any slow broadband fault that's obviously a line fault issue (noises/crackles/no dial tone) as a voice fault and keep broadband out of it.
Its saddening, but reassuring, to hear from someone in the same ridiculous situation as us. For most offices under 30 users a business grade FTTC connection would be ample bandwidth. However telcos don't want to roll these out, much prefering long term contracted EFM/leased lines.
I've signed up to the Royal Mail's junk mail opt-out here: http://www.royalmail.com/personal/help-and-support/how-do-I-stop-receiving-any-leaflets-or-unaddressed-promotional-material
Its all a bit "get a from from the locked filing cabinet at the bottom of the dark stairs behind the sign that says 'Beware of the Leopard'" but its cut my junk mail to pretty much zero.
It was considerably cheaper for me to have a meter than to remain on unmetered. Then again I do live alone so it might be different for a large family.
"We didn't have a choice, it was compulsory, something that has been changed after our test run was over."
I take it you're in the South of England? Sounds about right for round there.
Here in Wales you have three choices:
1: Standard, unmetered water on a fixed rate based on the Rateable Value of your house. About as accurate a way of judging water usage as an ouija board
2: "Assessed Rates". Your water usage is estimated on factors such as number of residents, number of bathrooms, dishwasher/waching machine and so on. Slightly cheaper than option 1
3: A meter. Compulsory in new houses, but you can get one fitted to any supply for free. If you find that you're paying more on a meter (not likely unless you're filling a swimming pool) then you can have it removed (I think there was a limit of a year or so). Anyone who buys the house after you must keep the meter and can't have it removed.
The meter in my house is a Denis Ferranti electromechanical job. It allows me to view my energy usage at a glance (through the rotating disc) and simply works.No ifs. No buts. No phoning home. My electricity supplier requests meter readings, and I supply them. Someone checks it physically about twice a year.
How on earth will a smart meter benefit me? My usage is allready minimal.
Put a chair next to an upstairs window. Use the phone while sitting in that.
When you're over two miles from the nearest exchange (or even cabinet) 2mbit is good going, so anything that provides more bandwidth than that is a real bonus.
Plus of course there's the bonus of usable mobile reception when you're out and about (and for when Openreach take weeks/months to replace downed overhead lines)
... has done something along the same lines. He took a Meteor and bolted it in to a Rover SD1 shell, and used an epicyclic geartrain (from a Leyland Leopard bus) to connect the low reving Meteor to the autobox from a V12 Jaguar.
But the point still stands RE access and resultant damages (or lack of)
Talktalk etc. allready have access to exchanges for their LLU equipment.