Adrian Wooster’s Blog

Adrian Wooster is a widely respected consultant working with INCA on the development of technical and business process standards to support the emerging patchwork quilt. We have syndicated the content of his influential and widely read blog for the convenience of INCA members and site visitors. You can view Adrian's site at

A professional clique of technologists

I sat down with my 12 year old son to set-up our new family PC – me for work that requires Windows, he for his games and video editing.

During our chat we got to talking about ICT at school. Last week his class had to create an advert in MS Publisher; database lessons extend to setting up a card index in MS Access; there is no computer architecture, networking, programming,……

No-one has ever explained that a computer has a hard disk, or the purpose of RAM or an operating system, or what the actually is.

He went in to tell me that he learns more about technology and the Internet from his family and from sessions like this with me than he ever learnt in seven years at school.

Horses for Courses – picking the right tools for the fibre job!

This blog started life on my Posterous page which I use for quick thoughts but the impacts have been troubling me so I decided to move it to my main page and add a little to it.

It started when I spotted this tweet from FiberNews, run by the excellent Marc Duchesne (If you don’t follow @mduchesn, then why not!):

“MikroTik RouterOS – Hardware suggestions for FTTH ISP

Seeing it raised some big questions in my mind, and ones which I think are largely a UK specific issue and not one which may be of particular relevance to other countries beginning to -up.

FttH is long-lasting national strategic infrastructure. At some point in the future there will be a copper switch-off and the fibre infrastructure left behind will become default telecommunications network in each country.

Reaching out for take-up

At this year’s European FttH Summit in Munich Benoit Felton presented some research on the different market approaches adopted by a broad spectrum of established European project. His work identified that successful projects make a conscious decision to either to aggressively develop market share or to adopt a premium position in the market.

As a rule of thumb, many incumbents tend to prefer a premium position for the NGA services as a means of managing their transition from their existing first generation services, while new entrant NGA providers were more varied in their approaches. But one thing was clear from Benoit’s findings – successful NGA schemes need to be very clear about which approach to adopt; sitting on the fence or having an ambiguous market strategy is a mistake.

Concave Hull – a GIS problem put to bed at last!

Its one of those things when you’re tinkering with geeky stuff that sometimes something niggles at you – you know its probably quite easy but you can’t quite put your finger on how to achieve something the way you want it.

And then one day it finally becomes obvious, your hand makes contact with your forehead and you can move on. This is one of those moments.

Convex Hull – the GIS version of stretching a rubber band over pins in a map is easy – most GIS tools have a menu item to do that somewhere.

That’s great if you don’t have any inlets and concave edges to your outline – if you do you need a Concave Hull.

Concave Hulls – a GIS version of vacuum wrapping a set of points plotted on a map.

Sounds easy. Easy to do with a pencil and paper – its just dot-to-dot with the outer-most points – but not so obvious using mapping software, or at least for me anyway.

BUT I’ve finally figured it out (with the help of some very good web resources).

I use a combination of Qgis and PostGIS – brilliant open-source GIS tools. Assuming you have these and can install pgRouting as well then Concave Hulls are very easy indeed!

Is the future of TV in doubt?

Today Sky announced its to launch a standalone TV service. This seems perfectly timed given that NetFlix has recently entered the UK market, joining Amazon’s LoveFilms and a rash of other services and platforms like Google’s YouTube, Apple.TV, and the BBC’s iPlayer.

All this reminded me of something I heard a while back at last years Broadcast Evolution Summit in Cannes – a very good event but notable for the complete absence of any internet “broadcast” companies and a large number of traditional TV executive who were showing very real signs that they didn’t really get what was about to happen to them.

At the Summit, it was pointed out that it took something like half-a-century before a car had stopped looking like horse-drawn carriage. Similarly, early TV’s often looked like some odd amalgam of sitting room furniture and a radiogram; it then took another generation to pass before colour was added; and another until HD was added.

National legislation with global impacts

The blackout by many of the big names in response to proposed US legislation isn’t the first time law makers and pioneers have faced up to each other, and its also not the first time that national legislation, attempting to target a national issue, has had potentially significant impacts on the running of the international .

“not for profit” broadband co-ops v “commercial” operators is missing the point

I was reading this post about US broadband co-ops in Minnesota and it left me bemused. It’s hardly breaking that the US has telecommunications co-ops – they have been there since the year dot in telecoms terms. It was the language used to describe them that prompted me to repsond.

The article is littered with comparisons between the co-ops and “commercial providers” as though, somehow, co-ops aren’t commercial - they don’t trade and make a profit? Really? So how did they last so long?

Broadband, noisy neighbours and dogs answering the phone

I used to explain to non-technical folk (real people) that the reason ADSL is distance limited is essentially the same reason that you can only hear the bass beat and not the violins and soprano of a noisy neighbours music (very middle class neighbours with thin walls).

Higher frequencies attenuate quicker than lower frequencies, so the drums passes through walls when the violin frequencies are more quickly absorbed.

ADSL uses the frequencies we can’t hear because we want to continue to use the phone line to speak to each other. The lower frequencies needed to carry phone calls travel a long way down a copper wire, but the much higher frequencies used to carry a signal will attenuate more quickly just like the  soprano living next door.

As we demand ever higher bandwidth, we need to use more and higher frequencies which will fade away even more quickly, which is why the broadband equipment in VDSL, like BT’s Infinity service, needs to be closer to our homes.

Community services in a multi-dimensional world

I’ve written a few articles on the importance of open access networks, both now and as the market evolves around Next Generation Access networks – but this is grand scheme stuff, its not immediately clear how this works for individual network builders now.

If I were building a next generation platform today I would certainly ensure that ALA was a central part of my strategy, and I would begin to consider how I could use that to bring my investment closer to people and relevant to their lives.

Open is the best (only) policy – Ghost of Christmas Future

In my last post (Open is the best (only) policy) I gave a high-level view on why I think open access networks are important today but I didn’t really explore why I think that offers just a narrow glimpse of why open access will become the single most important thing network operators can do for their customers, and why the UK is unknowingly paving the way.

So a bold statement:

I think that Active Line Access (ALA) will become one of the most important features of public networks in the years to come – but it will take a little time for that to become apparent. I also know that so far very few people have understood this.