New Facebook Messages

On logging into Facebook in the past few days you may have been confronted by the appearance of the new Facebook Messages functions. But what do these changes mean for you?

Facebook MessagesThe idea is to collect all your messages together in one place, so that chats and texts all appear in the same place.

You can now use an optional Facebook email address (e.g. mine is hugopick@facebook.com) and control who can send you messages through your privacy settings. You can see the full conversation history with each friend as a single conversation in one place, which makes it easier to track what you said and when, and with whom.

You can also priorise messages from your friends, as messages from unknown senders go into a folder called Other. Spam is automatically removed for you as well.

Facebook have been quietly talking about email for some time and this is clearly the first stage in their plans to include email in their long term strategy.

 

Patricia Gilliam Interiors

Patricia Gilliam Interiors - link to websiteRelaunching her interior design business in a new location in Salcombe on the south coast of Devon, Patricia Gilliam Interiors required a new corporate identity, literature and website. The result is a completely integrated branding approach for on and offline use, with a customised WordPress based website, business cards and brochures produced as a complete package.

This approach is ideal for start-ups where budget is clearly limited, but more importantly, the resources are simply not available to manage the design, production and print, which can be outsourced as a package to someone who understands marketing, design, production and implementation.

Next up is a Facebook page and other social media tools to assist in the wider community engagement.

Walking the Pickering Way

On Saturday 9th April 2011 my family and I set off from Saltburn-by-the-Sea to walk 75 miles along the Cleveland Way to Helmsley and on to Pickering. This was a sponsored charity event to raise funds for The SMA Trust, of which I am a trustee, and in memory of our eldest son Harry, who died ten years ago of the genetic condition Spinal Muscular Atrophy for which the charity funds research. The website www.madchallenge.org has all the details and anyone can join a team, start their own challenge or simply donate to one of the teams.

We were started off in great style by the Cleveland Concert Band, who turned out in force, which in turn got some publicity going and Tyne Tees TV did an ‘and finally’ slot on the local news on the Saturday night. I did a live radio interview just before we set off and a photographer from The Northern Echo turned up as well – they did a nice piece in the paper.

Marni Smyth, our challenge team captain, and Cath McNicol set us off in their wheelchairs, as well as an SMA family from Newcastle and one from Edinburgh! The latter were keen to come as they see very little research activity anywhere, which is something we aim as a charity to capitalise upon.

Day one was relatively easy until the last two miles, when dissention in the ranks could be heard. Cam as ever had headphones on and was driven along the way by Dubstep beats. We stayed in a YHA camping barn which was, shall we say, basic. It was the only night we needed sleeping bags, but we still had to carry them all the way. Then off onto the open moors the next morning to Chop Gate – a beautiful day requiring sun cream in April! That night’s overnight accommodation turning out to be a mile and a half further than anticipated. However it was definitely worth it as the farm was in full lambing season and foaling mares abounded – Emily was in her element and delivered five lambs before dinner that evening (in case you’re asking, we ate pork that night!).

Day three (our longest distance) was a struggle, especially when it poured for a couple of hours, but apart from that we managed quite ably to get to Sutton Bank before dark, passing some of the most stunning countryside and historical sites along the way. A huge meal at the Hambleton Inn was very welcome, as was the discovery that behind the pub were two racing stables – Emily again couldn’t believe her luck, especially when 15 racehorses from Kevin Ryan’s stable were obligingly exercised in front of us on Tuesday morning.

The Picks at Pickering
The Pickerings arrive at Pickering

Passing Rievaulx Abbey that morning was a treat, although with no time to stop it was only a fleeting glimpse. Dropping down from the moors into Helmsley was so satisfying, arriving in the market square for lunch, before setting off again for the final leg of the challenge. We were joined for part of this by Julie and Evie Smyth, who were great company as we finally arrived, elated by the effort, in Pickering. A few photos under the North York Moors Railway sign and that was it – all done! Well, apart from the 200 mile drive to get back home to a hot bath and a long sleep.

So, what’s the next challenge?

 

 

Effective Social Media Seminar

Effective Social Media seminar
Click to book your place on an Effective Social Media seminar

If you aren’t already actively engaging with more than 600 million Social Media users then you should attend my two-hour ‘Effective Social Media‘ seminar and learn how to leverage LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks for your business, organisation or charity.

The seminar aims to give attendees a solid foundation in the world of Social Media, using interactive sessions and discussion on the social networks that organisations should be using in their marketing mix. Delegates will come away with an understanding of how to plan and manage their digital network communication.

If you have already started social networking you should be using a coordinated Social Media strategy. If not, come and learn how to do so.

The next event is scheduled for 20th May. If you are interested in attending, please contact me or book a place here.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Local olive oil distributor Elanthy Extra Virgin Olive Oil is looking to raise their game and increase their online sales through Search Engine Optimisation of their website, Search Engine Marketing using Google AdWords more effectively, and Social Media so that they can engage with customers more easily. I now act as online marketing consultant for Elanthy.

Elanthy extra virgin olive oilElanthy has a simple online ordering service which will be upgraded in time. They offer a range of other olive oil related products for sale. Elanthy use Oreniki olives native to the Kalamata region of mainland Greece, which is where their olive oil mill is based. Their UK base is in the Cotswolds, distributing by courier to restaurants and households in the UK and abroad.

Buy your olive oil online and get free next day delivery and a free gift!

Domestic staffing and training service

Staffing and training servicesI am currently working with Jane Urquhart to help her staffing and training business The London Academy at Jane Urquhart Limited online.  Offering a range of solutions to discerning households she provides training and recruitment services to ensure the best staff within hotels, private households, palaces, yachts and offices or establishments where clients expectations of their staff are of the highest and where discretion, a quality personal service and attention to detail is the key. Her new website and online marketing will be fully operational soon.

NGA Broadband – Tackling the backhaul question

As I couldn’t read this whole story on Point Topic today, even though it was sent within their excellent newsletter, I am reprinting it here for others that haven’t seen this article on the costs of middle mile services (referred to here as backhaul). If you do subscribe to Point Topic you can access the story here: http://point-topic.com//content/ukplus/shortreports/UKPbackhaul.html

1 Introduction

Accessible, affordable, high-speed backhaul has been identified as key to bringing next-generation broadband services to the UK’s rural and remote communities. These locations tend to suffer from lack of access to backhaul provision because they are usually some distance from their nearest BT exchange and are situated in areas not served by other commercial providers. So, installing distributed antenna is the right decision for such areas.

The importance of backhaul was highlighted by the Coalition Government in its broadband action plan published on 6 December 2010. “Our aim is to ensure every community has a point to which fibre is delivered, capable of allowing the end connection to the consumer to be upgraded – either by communities themselves, or since this will make the business case more viable, industry itself might choose to extend the network to the premises. By 2022, every business will be able to import data no matter where they are on the face of the earth.” The plan, entitled “Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future”, proposes a “digital hub” in every community by the end of this Parliament (in 2015) and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is to explore the viability of the approach at a local level. This builds on the idea of the “digital village pump” first coined by community interest company NextGenUs UK in 2010.

The Digital Scotland Report, published on 26 October 2010 by The Royal Society of Edinburgh, explores backhaul provision in greater depth. “Lack of backhaul capacity limits the provision of local access, the delivery of next-generation speeds to homes and businesses, and the rollout of mobile data services.” A number of remote communities have built their own high-speed local access networks but have limited speeds as a result of sharing a slow backhaul connection. In Scotland these include Tiree, Eigg and Knoydart. The report adds that a high-speed backhaul infrastructure would stimulate investment to build new local access networks as well as benefiting those that already exist.

Proponents of better and particularly fibre backhaul cite not only its beneficial effects on next-generation local access network provision but other benefits including greater efficiency in public services and enabling mobile operators to roll out 3G and LTE 4G mobile broadband offerings.

Industry has highlighted a number of ways in which the cost of both backhaul and access network construction could be reduced, namely sharing existing infrastructure, deployment of new overhead infrastructure, microtrenching and sharing streetworks. Other approaches on backhaul are also coming to the fore, the most interesting of which are demand aggregation on alternative infrastructure and the use of public sector networks.

In this short report we identify the options for providing backhaul to communities seeking next-generation broadband speeds, particularly those in remote areas. We look at the cost of providing backhaul and some of the products available today together with what is expected to be available in future. The emphasis is on fibre-optical solutions.

2 Defining backhaul

Backhaul is the connection over which traffic is carried from a local aggregation node such as a street cabinet or telephone exchange back to an internet gateway. It is sometimes referred to as the “middle mile” as opposed to the “last mile” or the local access network. Backhaul can be provided using different types of technology: fibre optic cable, fixed wireless radio and microwave technologies and satellite.

Essentially there are three flavours of backhaul – local, regional and national:

  • Local backhaul takes traffic from the primary connection point (PCP), back to a local aggregation point or node. Typically the PCP will be one of the green street cabinets operated by BT Openreach, used as a access point for a communications provider involved in sub-loop unbundling, and the aggregation point will be a BT exchange.
  • Regional backhaul collects traffic from the local aggregation node and delivers it to an aggregation point where a national backhaul provider has a point of presence (PoP). Here it connects to the national backhaul network. However, this [regional?] aggregation point need not be a BT exchange. Other providers including Cable & Wireless, KEF Media and TalkTalk have similar connection points, as do some local authority networks.
  • National backhaul takes traffic from the regional aggregation point to a telehouse for internet breakout and onward delivery to the voice network. As above, the national link can be provided by various other providers besides BT.

The backhaul network needs to have enough capacity to serve aggregated traffic demand from the entire community it serves. End-users do not all use the network simultaneously but the network should still be able to handle peak hour demand.

The most likely approach for getting backhaul to a community deployment is for Openreach to provide a fibre as part of its Ethernet portfolio. Alternatively the fibre may be dug by a fibre-laying company, of which Openreach is one. Existing dark fibre may be another option although this is less likely to be available beyond urban areas and national routes.

Alternatively wireless technology could be used to provide the local backhaul element using 5.8GHz radio, making it the ideal cb radio. This would involve conducting line of site surveys and sourcing suitable premises for masts or erecting poles, together with gathering the required wayleaves and landlord commitments. Both fibre and wireless approaches has been employed by Rutland Telecom, for instance, which uses Openreach fibre for its Lyddington sub-loop unbundling deployment, and point-to-point radio for backhaul from a number of smaller villages in Rutland.

3 Costs of backhaul provision

The problem for many rural and remote communities is that the local backhaul element simply does not exist in any readily accessible commercial form. The effect of geography and distance means therefore that backhaul provision comes at a high price. The cost of backhaul varies depending on the individual circumstances of deployments. Anecdotal accounts of specific backhaul costs include those cited in the Digital Scotland Report of £140,000 per year for 34Mbps backhaul supplied by BT to the Connected Communities network on the Western Isles in Scotland. The report goes on to estimate installation and operational costs of £250 million over 15 years for the 2,500 km of fibre it says is needed to bring backhaul to Scottish communities of more than 800 homes.

3.1 Backhaul pricing examples

Sample scenarios

To explore how significant the cost of backhaul is for rolling out NGA, Point Topic has calculated the implications of Openreach’s prices for backhaul projects to serve communities of different sizes over a range of distances. For local backhaul we assume communities at 1,000, 2,500, 5,000 and 7,500 metres from the serving BT exchange. We also consider how the costs per household or business look if they are allocated across 250, 50 or only 10 premises.

Each community is served by one PCP with fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) deployment using sub-loop unbundling, putting VDSL2 into the cabinet. Thus an optical fibre is required to connect the communications provider’s (CP) cabinet, adjacent to the PCP, to the serving BT exchange. The prices for Openreach’s Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) products are used. EAD is due to replace Openreach’s current Backhaul Extension Service (BES) and Wholesale Extension Service (WES) products in June 2011. Prices include both one-off and annual rental elements, corresponding to the standard telecoms categories of capital and operating expenditure, capex and opex.

The differences in economic impact across this range are considerable. If fibre is already available and costs can be recovered from as many as 250 premises then the one-off capital costs would be quickly paid for and continuing opex would be quite modest per home or business, at only £20.30 per year even at 7.5km range. But recovery from as few as 10 premises gives opex per premises of £273.50 even at a short distance from the exchange, far beyond what is likely to be economic on a commercial basis.

The picture is less encouraging if new fibre has to be provided. Opex stays the same but capex is much higher, ranging from £23.80 for a home in a large and nearby community to £3,195 for one in a small community far from the exchange. And costs go up by another order of magnitude if a new duct has to be dug for the whole distance as well. Here the range of capex is from £163.80 to £29,445.

It is also important to remember that here we are looking simply at the cost of backhaul. The figures quoted are only small part of the total cost of providing a broadband service. They do not include, for example, the cost of the CP’s street cabinet or the cost of the unbundled tie cable from PCP to home among many other things. Legal and planning costs, exchange costs, marketing costs and a profit margin all need to be covered by the full price quoted to the end-user.

These simple calculations raise a number of questions without providing answers. What is a reasonable amount to spend on providing broadband to remote places? If my house is a few £100,000 cheaper because it is remote, would it be worth investing even £30,000 to abolish some of the disadvantages of remoteness? And what should the working assumptions be about the take-up of superfast broadband services in rural communities? Commercial CPs cannot afford to assume 100% take-up of a service or anything close to it, but it makes sense to assume 100% in cost-benefit analysis of a publicly funded project. In the long run the aim will be indeed to achieve 100%. Many homes will be users without appearing to access the internet as far as they are concerned, whether for streaming TV, telecare or smart metering.

New website for OPG Power

OPG POwer VenturesIndian power generation company OPG Power Ventures Plc are listed on AiM in London, and on advice from h2glenfern have overhauled their marketing including the production of a new CMS managed website. The site includes RNS and share price feeds as well as share price performance data from Investis.

The new site offers features for shareholders and potential investors, with full reporting information and news.  Search engine optimisation is at the heart of the website, ensuring that it is visible to widest possible audience.

10 Billion App Store downloads!

Apple $10,000 giftcard for the 10,000,000,000th appIt might seem incredible but Apple will shortly announce the 10 billionth app download since they started the service in 2008. They are offering a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card to the user who downloads the ten billionth app, demonstrating just how successful the service has been in that short time.

Apple allows 70% of revenues from the store to instantly go to the seller of the app, and 30% go to Apple. The average revenue for publishers (for each app) is around £450, so it’s not hard to work out just how profitable the business model is.

For my clients this means an app is a viable proposition for greater visibility and exposure, as well as a useful channel for interaction and new functionality.  It also offers potential for an additional revenue stream (for paid apps). The possibilities are endless: for instance recruiters can use apps for job searches and candidate communication, property clients can provide details of deals and location based services, travel clients can push last minute offers and local authorities can engage more effectively with communities.

The potential for reaching users is increasing all the time – social media being the quickest way to gain exposure for other digital services. the opportunities for free apps has arrived in the form of basic app production services, thereby enabling all types of businesses to get in on the phenomenon.

Get in touch to discuss app production for iOS, BlackBerry or Android.

New online training service for domestic staff

Jane UrquhartJane Urquhart is a new client providing training services for domestic staff through her London Academy, which offers tailor made courses for butlers, housekeepers and other senior positions within household management.

As an offshoot from Greycoat Placements, Jane Urquhart Unlimited now handles all training operations and her new website now offers online training as part of the package. Jane’s London Academy online training is renowned for providing butler training, housekeeping and household management training courses for those who are expected to provide the best in service, discretion, personal presentation, problem solving, management of themselves and others and an ability to rise to any occasion.