Friday, October 12, 2007


In modern physics we now know the four fundamental forces in the unified theory of forces (the fifth could not be located): the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, gravity and electromagnetism. A component of electromagnetism is the electromagnetic spectrum which deals with the topic of Broadband. The electromagnetic spectrum from 10 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz is a natural resource of communication. The part of the spectrum that is regarded as the radio spectrum encompasses all forms of wireless communication including television, all radio broadcasting, telephone calls sent by microwave radio, is densely populated by services of all kinds. It is clear that both national and international wireless communication would be chaotic without some system for allocating the finite number of places in the radio spectrum. The primary international institution established to allocate places on the spectrum and to promulgate technical rules is a specialized agency of the United Nations, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The Philippine agency is the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The term broadband first came to public awareness when the ZTE-NBN deal started to stink. Before this, it was familiar only to Web surfers with Internet connections at home.

Briefly, ZTE-NBN is an amorphous arrangement between a Chinese Company ZTE to supply and install a broadband backbone for the Philippine government infrastructure. It was signed in Boao China by Secretary Mendoza of DOTC and witnessed by President Arroyo. Shortly after signing the papers were lost or stolen, reconstituted, but has yet to be exposed to the public. The lack of transparency evoked suspicions of overpricing, bribery and other illegalities.

President. Arroyo decided to discontinue the NBN-ZTE deal during her bilateral meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Shanghai early Oct. Arroyo called on local telecommunications firms to propose how the government could reduce communications costs and link up with the broadband network. She confirmed that she asked Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza to discuss with private telecommunications firms how the government could cut down its huge phone bill amounting to P3 billion a year.

Mrs. Arroyo said it is the local telecommunications firms that created the problem because of their high charges for the government’s communications needs. Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the government must step in because local telecommunication firms would hesitate to provide service to areas where they would not make money. Business firms are loathe to invest in orphan areas – Big Pharma on research and development on rare diseases, airlines on remote airports.

The NBN deal cancellation has also led to the suspension of other Chinese-funded project proposals including the Cyber Education project, for which the President also expressed her disappointment. Investments from the business process outsourcing industry have been put on hold because the government has no broadband network.

“We said also that by 2010 we would like every high school to be connected. If you’re a high school in a 6th class municipality, how can you be connected now without the Cyber Ed?” Mrs. Arroyo said.

What is broadband? (You pull the tail in New York, and it meows in Los Angeles. The wireless is the same, only without the cat. )

Broadband is just a word we use when we're talking about any kind of fast Internet connection. If your computer already has an Internet connection, you probably connect to the Internet with a modem that plugs into your telephone line (often referred to as a "dial-up connection"), and you're probably no longer satisfied with the performance it offers.

A broadband connection is actually not all that different from a dial-up connection. The equipment is very similar - a different kind of modem, and in many cases the connection is still made through your telephone line. You’ll be able to do things that just weren't practical with a dial-up connection. You'll be able to:

• Watch video clips and listen to music in real time, including live broadcasts.

• Download music, software, film trailers and other files much more quickly.

• Play games online.

• Do everything you could do before, just much more quickly!

Dial-up modems are generally only capable of a maximum bitrate of 56 kbit/s (kilobits per second) and require the full use of a telephone line—whereas broadband technologies supply at least double this speed and generally without disrupting telephone use.

Although various minimum speeds have been used in definitions of broadband, ranging up from 64 kbit/s up to 1.0 Mbit/s, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Broadband Statistics report is typical in counting only download speeds equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s as broadband, and the US FCC use 200 kbit/s in their definition.

Speeds are defined in terms of maximum download because several common consumer broadband technologies such as ADSL are "asymmetric" - supporting much slower upload speeds than download.

Broadband, often called high-speed Internet usually has a high rate of data transmission. In general, any connection to the customer of 256 kbit/s (0.256 Mbit/s) or more is considered broadband Internet. The International Telecommunication Union Standardization Sector (ITU-T) recommendation has defined broadband as a transmission capacity that is faster than primary rate, at 1.5 to 2 Mbit/s. The FCC definition of broadband is 200 kbit/s (0.2 Mbit/s) in one direction, and advanced broadband is at least 200 kbit/s in both directions. OECD has defined broadband as 256 kbit/s in at least one direction and this bit rate is the most common baseline that is marketed as "broadband" around the world. There is no specific bit rate defined by the industry, however, and "broadband" can mean lower-bitrate transmission methods. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use this to their advantage in marketing lower-bitrate connections as broadband. In practice, the advertised bandwidth is not always reliably available to the customer; ISPs often allow a greater number of subscribers than their backbone connection can handle, under the assumption that most users will not be using their full connection capacity very frequently. (My own cable modem fiber optic connection allows 150 kbps nominal but drops to 120 actual downstream and 60kbps upstream.)

This aggregation strategy works more often than not, so users can typically burst to their full bandwidth most of the time; however, some systems, often requiring extended durations of high bandwidth, stress these assumptions, and can cause major problems for ISPs who have excessively overbooked their capacity.

The standard broadband technologies in most areas are DSL and cable modems. Newer technologies in use include optical fiber connections closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable plants. Fiber-optic communication has played a crucial role in enabling Broadband Internet access by making transmission of information over larger distances much more cost-effective than copper wire technology. In a few areas not served by cable or ADSL, community organizations have begun to install Wi-Fi networks, and in some cities (Cagayan de Oro for one) and towns local governments are installing municipal Wi-Fi networks. As of 2006, high speed mobile Internet access has become available at the consumer level in some countries. The newest technology being deployed for mobile and stationary broadband access is WiMAX.

One example of a robust broadband network is a passive optical network (PON), which brings fiber as close to customers as possible. This network is often described as d-fiber-to-the-home. It will support switched wavelength services with bandwidth to the customer at rates up to 622 Mbps (Megabits per second downstream) and from the customer (upstream) at rates up to 155 Mbps, about 100 times faster than most commercial DSL services.

National Broadband Policy

To explore the pivotally important topic of high speed internet access for government, it involves discussing the extent of access to broadband technology, whether the prices are affordable, whether the speeds are adequate and how to make future improvements. This presupposes a transaction that is legal and transparent, a more credible definition of speed than the current 100 kilobits per second for broadband and more granular measures of deployment, as well as to start gathering data on price and the experience of other nations.

Key notes on broadband figures for December 2006 :

European countries have continued their advance with high broadband penetration rates. In December 2006, eight countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Norway and Sweden) led the OECD in broadband penetration, each with at least 26 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

Operators in several countries continue with their upgrades to fibre. Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and Fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) subscriptions now comprise nearly 7% of all broadband connections in the OECD and the percentage is growing. Korea and Japan each have more than 6 fibre-based broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) continues to be the leading platform in 28 OECD countries. Cable modem subscribers outnumber DSL in Canada and the United States.

The breakdown of broadband technologies in December 2006:

DSL : 62%, Cable modem : 29%, FTTH/FTTB : 7%

Other (e.g. satellite, fixed wireless, powerline communication) : 2%

Broadband connections included in OECD data must have download speeds equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s. The new FTTH/FTTB category includes fiber-to-the-home subscribers and fiber-to-the-building subscribers who are connected to the fibre in the building via LAN type technologies (e.g. Ethernet). The “other” broadband category includes satellite, fixed wireless and power line communications. It does not include 3G mobile technologies.

Satellite Internet

This employs a satellite in geostationary orbit to relay data from the satellite company to each customer. Satellite Internet is usually among the most expensive ways of gaining broadband Internet access, but in rural areas it may only compete with cellular broadband. However, costs have been coming down in recent years to the point that it is becoming more competitive with other high-speed options.

Satellite Internet also has a high latency problem caused by the signal having to travel 35,000 km (22,000 miles) out into space to the satellite and back to Earth again. The signal delay can be as much as 500 milliseconds to 900 milliseconds, which makes this service unsuitable for applications requiring real-time user input such as certain multiplayer Internet games and first-person shooters played over the connection These problems are more than tolerable for just basic email access and web browsing and in most cases are barely noticeable.

There is no simple way to get around this problem. The delay is primarily due to the speed of light being only 300,000 km/second (186,000 miles per second). Even if all other signaling delays could be eliminated it still takes the electromagnetic wave 233 milliseconds to travel from ground to the satellite and back to the ground, a total of 70,000 km (44,000 miles) to travel from you to the satellite company.

Since the satellite is usually being used for two-way communications, the total distance increases to 140,000 km (88,000 miles), which takes a radio wave 466 ms to travel. Factoring in normal delays from other network sources gives a typical connection latency of 500-700 ms. This is far worse latency than even most dial-up modem users' experience, at typically only 150-200 ms total latency.


The Mabuhay Satellite Philippines Corporation gave yet another first for the Philippines. For the first time in the ASEAN Summit history, the major international broadcasters used Agila2 satellite for their broadcast requirements. Mabuhay also provided satellite uplink services.

Futoshi Yamada of NHK Japan said, “This is the first time for NHK and the Japan Pool to use Mabuhay Uplink service and the Agila2 satellite. At first, we were reluctant, but when we experienced the efficiency of the service and power of the satellite, we decided to use it for all our feeds from Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).”

The 12th ASEAN Summit is not the first time that Mabuhay showcased its capabilities in satellite service. In December 2005, Mabuhay was designated as the Exclusive Satellite Service Provider for the 23rd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, providing satellite uplink facilities for all broadcasters of participating countries. In the 22nd SEA Games held in Vietnam, Mabuhay was the Unilateral Transmit Facility for the Philippine Pool, which brought the games to local broadcasters.

Agila2’s footprint and radiated power are two major points in the success of Mabuhay’s satellite service. The footprint covers over 21 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. A spotbeam in Hawaii provides access to mainland US through its partner teleports. The radiated power goes as high as 41dBW, providing good reception to receivers within the coverage.”

The company's Agila-II satellite system cost an estimated US$ 243 million to implement. Agila-II is a high-power communication spacecraft with a design based on the Space Systems/Loral FS-1300 satellite bus, has an electrical capacity of more than 9 kilowatts at launch and is expected to produce an estimated 8.2 kilowatts at its end of life (EOL). This makes it one of the most powerful communication satellites ever built and launched into space. Deployed to orbit by a Chinese Long March 3B rocket on 20 August 1997, Agila-II is expected to achieve a mission lifetime of more than 15 years.

Agila-II carries more than enough capacity to relay 50,000 simultaneous two-way telephone conversations and 190 channels of digital TV programming.

The satellite's C-band coverage beam illuminates Bangladesh, China, the Hawaiian islands, India, Japan, Pakistan, The Philippines, and Southeast Asia, while the Ku-band coverage zone encompasses Taiwan, portions of mainland China and Vietnam, as well as the entire Philippines archipelago. The satellite's transponders may also be commanded for the purpose of broadcasting direct-to-home digital TV services.

The spacecraft is presently located at 146 degrees east longitude. The Aguila satellite control and management facilities are located at the MPSC Space Center in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Cellular Broadband

Cellular telephones are becoming capable as Internet browsers. Since the cellular phone towers are already in place, cellular broadband access is rapidly becoming a popular means to access the Internet, with or without a cell phone.

Most of the cell phones sold today have some kind of support for Internet access. Since cellular networks often cover large areas of the nation, many traveling people prefer cellular Internet access to other technologies such as WiFi wireless and satellite. Because many people need to connect computer equipment to the Internet, and not just their cell phone, cellular broadband access is available with this in mind. A user with a single computer can access the Internet by tethering their cell phone to their laptop or PC, normally using a USB connection..

Power-line Internet

This is a new service still in its infancy that may eventually permit broadband Internet data to travel down standard high-voltage power lines. However, the system has a number of complex issues, the primary one being that power lines are inherently a very noisy environment. Every time a device turns on or off, it introduces a pop or click into the line. Energy-saving devices often introduce noisy harmonics into the line. The system must be designed to deal with these natural signaling disruptions and work around them.

Computer Education Project (CEP)

President Arroyo has given DepEd the go-signal to resume efforts to implement CyberEd CEP which was suspended along with the national broadband network project due to controversies and allegations of bribery.

According to plans, DepEd will tap satellite technology to enable it to provide interactive digital technology to some 37,000 public schools throughout the country, ensuring the delivery of quality education to public school students. With satellite broadcast capability, DepEd plans to beam 20-minute lectures of the best public school English, Math and Science teachers in other public schools to ensure that quality education in model public schools are also available to other schools.

Many critics have sprang up, some within the department itself that claim the failure of the Department of Education (DepEd) to attend to its most basic functions such as distributing textbooks and computers for the use of public school students all over the country showed that it was not ready to implement an ambitious multi-billion undertaking such as their proposed P26.48 billion Cyber Education Project (CEP).

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), a federation of public and private school teachers’ associations, said that a recently released Commission on Audit (COA) report on the operations of DepEd for 2006 showed gross inefficiency and ineptness.

Antonio Tinio, ACT chairperson asked, “How can the DepEd be entrusted with the $465-million Cyber Education Project when it cannot even manage the most basic logistical tasks, such as the distribution of textbooks?”

It was learned that COA auditors found that for 2006, DepEd failed to distribute 2.51 million textbooks and instructional materials worth at least P186.96 million to intended school beneficiaries. It also found that P138.84 million worth of computer packages were not used because recipient schools lacked the capacity to use them, while another P115.7 million worth of computers were diverted to principals’ offices rather than to the classrooms for which they were intended.

“The revelation that a large number of computers acquired by the DepEd are not actually being used in the classrooms raises serious concerns about the agency’s readiness to implement high-tech, high-maintenance ICT projects such as CyberEd,” Tinio noted.

“In this light, we reiterate our call for the cancellation of the Cyber Education Project and for the government to focus instead on addressing the basic needs of our public schools,” Tinio said.

A number of formidable problems court disaster. Foremost is the human aspect, demanding the hiring of teachers holding a teacher’s professional license coupled with an IT proficiency certificate (whatever that entails), persuade the person to accept assignment to a miserable post and then to motivate him/her to stay. Good teachers are emigrating to overseas jobs. Even in urban areas, teachers would have to be computer proficient but also have Internat savvy – firewalls, anti-virus, spam, phishing, and protect students from bad sites – sophisticated teachers know that kids are not all created equal – some are brighter, some dumber, some timid, some daring. The bolder kid will explore and discover porno, sleaze and pedophile chat.

Remote barangays lack electricity to power computers or to recharge batteries of cellphones, laptops.or CB radios. This link would have to be served by lo-tech carrier pigeons which would run the gauntlet of air-rifle hunters.

And think about all those numerous textbook entry errors (garbage) transmitted at cyber speed.

Broadcast TV in U.S. will convert from analog to digital in 2009, locals are expected to follow suit. Hardware advances every one or two years, obsolescence in five.

Some of the severest critics of the superfluity of CyberEd come from bloggers, aka informal journalists lurking in the Web. The following samples were culled from some blogs:

“… The private sector is already doing part of the job … Ayala Foundation is currently engaged in an outreach project called GILAS (Gearing UP Internet Literacy and Access for Students), where it connects selected public schools to cyberspace thru the internet, and multimedia (esp. TV). As of yearend 2006, it already did that for 1,040 high schools benefiting at least half a million students across the country. Ayala Foundation’s goal is to connect 5,789 public high schools to cyberspace by 2010.”

“…not a single cent coming from the national coffers. USAID and Australia are already giving support for Phil. education. USAID alone appropriated some $30 million in 2005, another $30 million in 2007, and promised to give $190 million in the next few years, mostly for education in Mindanao.”

A statement from USAID: “Once one of the best in Asia, the Philippine education system has deteriorated in recent years. In response, USAID is training teachers and providing computers, textbooks, and other materials to schools. By supporting improved teaching of math, science, and English in Mindanao’s public schools, USAID is increasing access to quality education and livelihood skills in areas most affected by conflict and poverty.”

The Cyber Education project would use television sets to broadcast lessons to all public schools in the country for just 20 minutes of lessons a day, excluding the days that the TV sets would be out of commission because of typhoons, brownouts, system failure etc. Is it necessary to broadcast the lessons to all the schools simultaneously? More practical instead to just produce millions of DVDs and send them to the schools - one disc costs only a few pesos, and it can be played repeatedly. If some students miss the lesson, the disc can be replayed. In the Cyber Ed, once they miss a lesson, the lesson is gone for good.

Tied Loans

The CyberEd project, like the discontinued ZTE-NBN is a tied loan project.

“More strict oversight by Congress or parliaments over government projects financed by foreign aid and foreign loans would result in a more efficient accomplishment of the projects supported by such aid or loans. It would also reduce if not eliminate cases of corruption involving foreign financial aid or loans for projects in developing countries, including the Philippines,” Senator Loren Legarda said.

Legarda’s call for a Senate probe and IPU’s statement against tied loans came on the heels of the controversy over the $329-million national broadband network deal between the government and ZTE Corp. of China. The project would have required the government to enter into a “tied loan” agreement with China.

Under a tied aid agreement, “the transfer of funds and technical aid are made contingent on the purchase of goods and services from the donor countries,” according to IPU. In a draft report, IPU said tied aid “decreases the value of a resource that is in desperately short supply in the fight against poverty, it is also incompatible with the other objectives set by the donors.” The absence of free market contracting means they cannot obtain the same goods and services at a lower price elsewhere. Tied aid may result in the transfer of unsuitable products, services and technology,” the IPU report said. “Comparisons of purchase prices have shown that tied aid reduced the value of the aid by 11 to 30 percent,” it said.

"If it weren't for electricity we'd all be watching television by candlelight."George Gobol.

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