Some of you might be asking why I’m so busy recently, especially since I wasn’t entirely happy in my job. Well, if you missed it back here, I left Box UK to work somewhere else entirely. It’s really exciting and fun work – but what do we do?

The company I joined is called Inuk Networks (pronounce In-ook). They are what’s known as a triple-play provider – providing TV, Telephone and Broadband services through a brand called Freewire. So plenty of people do this already – Sky, NTL and Virgin to name three – what’s different about Inuk and Freewire? Well, the difference is in how we deliver our service. Our entire service is delivered over IP.

Sky have a satellite distribution system which means you need a dish on the side of your house and NTL and Virgin are cable-only services, meaning that they not only have to have cable in your area, but that they also need to dig up your street a bit to put a new service in. We’ve taken a different approach. With so many homes and premises these days getting broadband and the amount of bandwidth available to the home increasing, we’ve chosen broadband as a delivery mechanism. But isn’t this terribly inefficient and costly to stream all that video down an ADSL connection? Well, yes, but we’ve been clever about this.

Basically, we use multicast to send our TV streams to the end user. That’s basically a way of only sending out one stream from our end and having each router replicate the stream for each path it needs – this page on our website explains it clearly. That means that we can scale to millions of users and still only need to have the same amount of bandwidth going out of our network. It also means a scaleable and efficient delivery mechanism for HD – yup, we could potentially deliver HD streams to your home over your DSL connection. So, that’s great – anyone can get it right?

Well, no, and this is where it gets a little difficult. The way that BT has built their DSL product it pretends to be one piece of cable from your house all the way back to your ISP. The ISP then pays for the bandwidth they use. The problem with that is that multicast needs a common path between two households to make it work. For example you and your next door neighbour probably share the same exchange. Your telephone line ends up in the same building with the same equipment. Then there’s one pipe back from your exchange all the way into BT’s core network where it then goes to the ISP. Great! Well, no. The way ADSL works is that the connection is ‘tunneled’ and basically all you see is a cable between you and the ISP. This means that it doesn’t scale well. Which is bad news.

Of course with any bad news, there’s good news, and it’s called LLU or Local Loop Unbundling. This allows someone to take the telephone line to your house away from BT and build up your own delivery network. Effectively it’s like cable except you’re using BT’s existing network. The good news about this is that it’s already here – we’ve signed a deal with Cable and Wireless to provide an IPTV system over DSL connections. Even better is the assertion that if other people are doing it, BT isn’t going to be far behind.

So that’s what I’m up to. I’m going to be posting more stuff up here as time goes on, with a few posts appearing in fairly quick succession. Our rollout is happening at the moment and we’re expecting to go live very, very soon so watch this space. So yeah, it’s groundbreaking, it’s fun and I’m really enjoying myself. So you’ll excuse me if I’m a little bit scarce for a while.

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