Comms 2011 – the year we began joining the dots

27 Dec 2011

The year 2011 was a crucial year in joining the various dots that would turn Ireland into one of the world’s foremost digital economies, from getting the ball rolling on 4G and LTE, new fibre networks joining the country to a new communications minister who is setting deadlines and targets for telecoms CEOs to deliver Ireland’s next-generation networks.

Speeding up to 4G

Ireland’s wireless spectrum bands will be put up for auction next year. As new 4G technologies like LTE arrive, will the country finally get decent broadband?

Across Europe, countries are getting ready to put vital wireless spectrum bands up for auction and usher in a vibrant new telecoms future. Early next year, Ireland’s telecoms watchdog, ComReg, will auction 28 blocks of spectrum to the highest bidders for between 2013 and 2030.

Some estimates suggest it is reckoned the Irish State could raise up to €260m from these auctions. Why are these licences important? Well, consisting of old 2G (second-generation mobile) and freed-up spectrum once the country turns off its analogue TV system in October 2012, the wireless bands could be used by telecoms companies to deliver next-generation broadband to consumers and businesses.

Working in tandem with fibre to replace old DSL lines, the next generation of mobile (4G) known as long term evolution (LTE) could see wireless speeds of between 50Mbps and 100Mbps, even in underserved parts of the country.

This will be critical in a world where more and more of the population will own bandwidth-hungry smartphones and existing broadband speeds will not be considered suitable for the applications and businesses of tomorrow.

US$15m UK-Ireland fibre network rollout

A US$15m sub-sea network connecting Ireland and the UK – the first sub-sea cable laid in 11 years – was laid in December, connecting north Dublin and Anglesey in Wales.

The network, which came into being after two and half years of rigorous preparation by CeltixConnect and its owners Sea Fibre Networks, promises to be Europe’s most advanced sub-sea network.

The route between Dublin and Anglesey is the shortest route and will be pivotal in the deployment of latency (speed) -sensitive digital and financial services in Ireland, and thereby vital to future foreign direct investment (FDI) efforts.

When live, the sub-sea network will reduce 100km off existing sub-sea cables to reduce latency. The new fibre network will more than double the existing capacity connecting Ireland and the UK.

Govt sets NGN broadband targets and deadlines

In June, the Next Generational Broadband Taskforce was given six months to “put flesh on the bones” of plans to move Ireland from basic broadband to ensure faster broadband everywhere, by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD.

Launching a new metropolitan area network in Claremorris, Co Mayo, Rabbitte said the key is to be certain of minimum speed targets and know when they can be available.

He convened a taskforce consisting of industry CEOs and department officials, and said he intended to see Ireland achieve EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes’ targets of 30Mbps broadband to all citizens and 50pc of citizens subscribing to 100Mbps by 2020.

Rabbitte stressed the Government’s commitment to high-speed connectivity nationwide. “Simply put, we want to ensure faster broadband everywhere soon.”

Porn publishers sue ICANN over .XXX domain

Two major online porn publishers have filed a lawsuit against ICANN over the .XXX domain name that ICANN approved this year. The publishers accuse ICANN of behaving in a monopolistic manner and of unfair practices.

Luxembourg-based Manwin, which is the company behind major porn sites like YouPorn, and a company called Digital Playground, filed the lawsuit at a US district court in California.

The case challenges the authority of ICANN and the way the .XXX top-level domain was approved.
The companies are seeking “preliminary and permanent injunctive relief” requiring that the .XXX registry contract be openly rebid to introduce competition.

SOPA and PROTECT IP will censor web, warn top tech CEOs

Google’s Sergey Brin, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington and many others signed a letter warning that the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act will have a “chilling effect” on innovation and result in the US government having the power to censor the internet.

In an open letter, the leading executives warned of the dangers of the passing of the two acts in the US Senate. Writing on Google+ this morning, Brin said: “I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.”

In the letter, the executives said they were worried the new proposed acts, which started out as well meaning, will require web servers to monitor users and that this would have “chilling effect” on users.

They warned that the proposals would deny website owners the right to due process of law, undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the internet and give the US government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.

NASA satellite debris plunges into Pacific; solar storms active

With mystery surrounding as to where exactly debris from a six-tonne decommissioned NASA satellite fell early – the biggest crash of a NASA satellite since 1979 – NASA was adamant the satellite’s debris fell in the Pacific Ocean, over an 804-kilometre stretch.

The 5,897kg Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was originally sent into orbit aboard a space shuttle mission (STS-48) on 15 September 1991. Its aim was to study ozone and other chemicals in the Earth’s atmosphere.

“It was the first multi-instrumented satellite to observe numerous chemical components of the atmosphere for better understanding of photochemistry. UARS data marked the beginning of many long-term records for key chemicals in the atmosphere. The satellite also provided key data on the amount of light that comes from the sun at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths,” said NASA.

In 2005, UARS completed its mission. Since then, it had been gradually losing altitude.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years