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Technological nirvana

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 10:35 UK time, Friday, 15 September 2006

BBC News has bureaux in 39 foreign cities - but only in one can we go anywhere, anytime and broadcast live for radio and television using the web.

So where is this technological nirvana - Tokyo, Los Angeles, Brussels?

A news report is broadcast from Afghanistan, using a wireless networkThe answer might surprise you - it's Kabul. The city is one of the first in the world to be a giant wireless zone. Using "wi-max" and a trusty laptop, correspondent Alastair Leithead can broadcast from pretty much anywhere in Kabul - and all at a fraction of the cost of traditional satellite links.

Using a small black box on the roof of the car, the team in Kabul can pick up a 512k broadband signal right across the Afghan capital - and all powered from the cigarette lighter in the car. Gone are the days when we had to fly out staff and equipment from London to make this stuff happen.

Why does it matter?

Because Afghanistan is now rivalling Iraq as one of our biggest stories. Thirty British servicemen and women have been killed there since June. The BBC is the only international broadcaster to have a permanent presence in Kabul - and by harnessing the latest technology, it means that money we used to spend delivering the news from remote places in the world can now be spent on gathering the news. And that has to be good news.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 10:54 AM on 15 Sep 2006,
  • Rich wrote:

It would be interesting to know about the bureaux - there are obviously ones in places like New York and Brussels, but where else? Any obscure places??

Hats off to the BBC. One simply marvels at the technology used. The BBC should be congratulated for the painstaking efforts to provide ground-breaking news. Kabul is certainly one of the most dangerous cities in the world and yet BBC journalists doggedly risk their own lives to provide accurate documentary reports. The fact that the BBC is using innovative technology to bring us up to date with the latest situation, however dismal, goes to show to what lengths the BBC is prepared to go. Congratulations

Not surprising it wasn't Tokyo. Has been increasingly harder to find free spots, sometimes you can come across an unprotected network, but most of the time you need to pay.

  • 4.
  • At 02:46 PM on 16 Sep 2006,
  • Al Hough wrote:

BBC is relied on by many of us to provide "real" news and not the sort of stuff that is fed to us daily. BBC is the most valuable service on radio and on TV. Great Work!

Devil's advocate?

Premise Number One: "Using a small black box on the roof of the car, the team in Kabul can pick up a 512k broadband signal right across the Afghan capital - and all powered from the cigarette lighter in the car."

Premise Number Two: "...it means that money we used to spend delivering the news from remote places in the world can now be spent on gathering the news."

Your conclusion: "And that has to be good news."

A slightly more cynical conclusion, taken from earlier in the article: "Afghanistan is now rivalling Iraq as one of our biggest stories."

Make it easier to report on you and they will come...

  • 6.
  • At 04:05 PM on 18 Sep 2006,
  • f wrote:

brilliant technologies - respect to all personnel in afghanistan but am i the only person that laments the circumstances by which kabul became a "Technological nirvana" ?

  • 7.
  • At 06:41 AM on 19 Sep 2006,
  • Emmanuel Nwaimah wrote:

How come that the BBC uses wireless broadband in newsgathering in Kabul, but fails to offer broadband as an option in audio streaming of World Service programs from London? I have looked on with dismay over the past three years as lesser known broadcasters have overtaken the BBC in the delivery of high quality audio streaming in three main formats (WMA, MP3, and Real Audio) while the BBC revels in the assumption that broadband is still a novelty in the rest of the world. I hope Kabul serves as an eye opener that countries with no IT infrastructure have a better opportunity to leapfrog the technology gap.

  • 8.
  • At 01:10 PM on 20 Sep 2006,
  • Emma Gascoigne wrote:

"And that has to be good news"

Are you not really suggesting

"And that has to be bad news"

Dear Jon,

Thanks for writing this article. I appreciate your doing a positive story on Afghanistan.

We are very pleased to be a part of this story and be the facilitator of the technology, WiMAX in Afghanistan.

With respect and regards,

Farhad Ghafoor
VP Business Development
RANA Technologies
Kabul, Afghanistan

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