Ashley Highfield Advocates Use of White Space for Broadband in UK at Edinburgh International Television Festival

In a speech at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, the managing director of consumer and online at Microsoft UK (and former BBC director of future media and technology) Ashley Highfield advocated the use of unused spectrum in the broadcasting bands to provide fast broadband to rural communities. This is an endorsement of the White Space initiative first proposed in the US by a coalition of corporations including Microsoft and Google. It also provides a possible alternative to the unpopular proposal made in the Digital Britain report that a charge of 6 pounds be levied on all landlines to pay for broadband expansion and upgrade. (See also the online forum on Digital Britain.)

Highfield’s prediction that the TV industry has a window of 2-3 years to create viable digital businesses, or face “a version of the iTunes moment”, has gained most media coverage.  Interesting that his speech came on the same day that James Murdoch attacked the BBC, and the provision (or in his terms the ‘dumping’) of free news and entertainment content on the internet, for hindering competition

“The corporation is incapable of distinguishing between what is good for it, and what is good for the country,” [Murdoch claimed]. “Funded by a hypothecated tax, the BBC feels empowered to offer something for everyone, even in areas well served by the market. The scope of its activities and ambitions is chilling.”

“Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet. Yet it is essential for the future of independent journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it,” he said.

He added: “We seem to have decided to let independence and plurality wither. To let the BBC throttle the news market, and get bigger to compensate.”

Erica Naone has written an article (18 August 2009) on the technological issues around the white space idea in the MIT Technology Review.

Video of the whole of Murdoch’s MacTaggart lecture is available via the Guardian’s website.

The BBC’s business editor, Robert Peston, responded by reportedly engaged in a ‘slanging match’ with Murdoch.  Peston earlier delivered the Richard Dunn memorial lecture entitled “what future for media and broadcasting?”.


The beginning of the end of DVB-H? – Live streaming TV to iPhone app

This may be very premature, but the announcement of the release of a streaming video application that (in theory) allows any broadcaster to deliver live TV to the iPhone via 3G and Wi-Fi rather than DVB-H might just be the development that encourages greater take-up of mobile TV outside Korea and Japan and works around the mess of standards and options for DVB-H (see David Wood’s blog on the DVB World 2009 event earlier this year).

Sarah Perez for ReadWriteWeb reported on 6 August

Content delivery network Akamai announced today that their partner and live TV provider Livestation has officially launched its streaming video solution which allows any broadcaster to deliver live TV to the iPhone. To demonstrate the capabilities of this technology, Livestation has also launched two applications which stream live TV news over both 3G and Wi-Fi connections. Other broadcasters that choose to build mobile applications with the company’s new white label turn-key solution can have an app branded and then sold in the iTunes App Store as the broadcaster’s own.Livestation quietly launched their first mobile application streaming live content over a month ago with the release of BBC World News, which debuted in June 2009. This iPhone application delivers live TV news to viewers in 16 European countries but is sadly not available in the US as of yet. European viewers can watch the news over two types of streams provided by the app: either a 96 K stream on 3G and Edge networks or a higher-quality 300 K stream delivered over Wi-Fi. Akamai’s CDN steps in to help Livestation scale these streams to the millions of iPhones worldwide.

White Spaces presentation

Erica Naone reports for MIT’s Technology Review

Long-range, low-cost wireless Internet could soon be delivered using radio spectrum once reserved for use by TV stations. The blueprints for a computer network that uses “white spaces,” which are empty fragments of the spectrum scattered between used frequencies, will be presented today [August 18] at ACM SIGCOMM 2009, a communications conference held in Barcelona, Spain.

Rest of the story here.