- 6 Jun 08, 10:30 GMT
I've been travelling around Broadband Britain with a whole lot of clutter in my suitcase - three phones, two computers, an SLR camera, three USB mobile broadband dongles, a digital radio recorder and two microphones. But buried in my bag are two lengths of cable - one traditional twisted pair copper telephone wire and one fibre-optic cable,
I've brought them along as visual props for my television pieces. TV is a very literal business and with something like broadband there are few pictures to convey the transition from a network based on copper, which is nearing its speed limits, and one based on putting fibre right into the home.
Mind you, last night when we visited a home where they were trialling Virgin Media's "up to 50Mbps" broadband, I was surprised to find that souping up the cable network to more than twice its current speed did not involve putting fibre into the home. The last link is still a coaxial cable with copper at the core - it's a new standard called DOCSIS 3 - digital over cable apparently - which is making everything go a lot faster. So maybe copper isn't finished yet.
What I didn't pack was any aluminium cable, which would have been useful in Milton Keynes yesterday. The city's telephone network, built in the seventies when the price of copper was sky-high, has an awful lot of aluminium in it, which makes it pretty useless in terms of delivering broadband.
So Milton Keynes, a new town, is trapped in the 20th Century when it comes to the high-speed internet - which is why the fixed Wimax network we were there to cover is an attractive option for some residents with no other way of getting broadband.
We used the Wimax network to do a live broadcast - which we thought might be a world first until we discovered that my colleague Alistair Leithead had broadcast live from Afghanistan via a Wimax network set up in Kabul. For developing countries with shaky fixed-line telephone networks Wimax is quite a useful way of getting broadband. How amusing that this applies to Milton Keynes too. Perhaps the city would like to twin with Kabul?
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