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Networking News Security

TalkTalk Defends URL-Tracking Anti-Malware Service

The Virus Alerts service will log all websites visited, but won’t infringe users’ privacy, says TalkTalk

TalkTalk is going ahead with tests of a network-based anti-malware service which logs all the URLs visited by its customers, despite fears that it will breach users’ privacy.

The Virus Alerts service, which TalkTalk tested in secret until users uncovered the project in July, records all web addresses visited by TalkTalk customers and can warn users who are visiting a site known to contain malware. Users complained in July that it was tested on them without their consent, and compared it to the notorious Phorm service, with which BT intended to target adverts based on user activity.

Users now have an opt-in to Virus Alerts

To avoid the criticism which surrounded July’s secret trial, users will be invited to opt-in to the new test, and the system will not track individual browsing histories, according to a blog by Clive Dorsman, managing director of technology at TalkTalk.

A FAQ on the new service argues that network-based anti-malware is better than that installed on individual PCs, because it allows the ISP to protect other Internet devices in a home as well as PCs, covering  “the whole connected home”.

“We now expect to be able to commence trials for a limited number of customers who have agreed to test our anti-malware system in the next few weeks,” said Dorsman. “This system will warn customers who opt into the service about sites they try to access, which we know to be infected with viruses or other malicious software.”

ThoughVirus Alerts, provided by Chinese network company Huawei, tracks all the sites visited by TalkTalk customers, Dorsman said “the system simply records the destination website URLs; it does not record who sends the request or other personal data with the URL.”

In September, the Information Commissioner investigated TalkTalk over the Virus Alerts test, but apparently it has been convinced that this test is above board. Dorsman said TalkTalk has “had some useful discussions with the relevant public bodies.”

On a different front, TalkTalk is championing user privacy, in opposing the Digital Economy Act, which would require it to monitor users’ downloads and issue warnings to people sharing copyright material. BThis month, BT and TalkTalk won a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.

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Networking News

Virgin Media Business Touts Data Centre Connectivity

Virgin Media Business has launched its heavy duty connectivity offerings for the data centre sector

Virgin Media Business has recognised the increasing demand for carrier grade data centre connectivity with the launch of a tailored service for that sector, which it claims can dramatically reduce power and space consumption.

Its data centre proposition is designed to connect customers to a range of services at speeds up to 10Gbps, coupled with network resilience. Each interconnect can connect up to 8,000 users.

“The launch of our data connectivity proposition is in response to the growth in data centres and the demand for connectivity services,” explained Dave Green, product manager at Virgin Media Business, speaking to eWEEK Europe.

Carrier Grade Connectivity

“We want to support the demand in these data centres, especially as data centres increasingly move outside of the London market. We offer a capacity managed service where our teams ensure that there is always enough capacity at all times for the data centre,” said Green.

Green noted that demand for carrier grade connectivity is increasing thanks to the advent of the cloud. “We enable our customers to achieve connectivity cost savings, and offer a one stop shop for connectivity and services.”

Green said that this new service from Virgin Media Business has primarily attracted interest from companies that own their own private centres and that are thinking of running a cloud-based setup, as well as system integrators. “That is where we are seeing the great demand at present but, saying that, we have had discussions with carrier neutral players as well,” he said.

“When the data centre began moving outside of London, it was often the case that the communications option was the last piece of the conversation,” said Green. “Now there is understanding if a data centre is located in the middle of nowhere, it has to have right the communications connectivity to round off that offering. Otherwise it is like building a roundabout but with no roads leading off it, which is a waste of time.”

Green said that data centre builders are now increasingly getting in contact with Virgin Media Business to see if the company can offer them any connectivity options in the area they are building. Green cited that Virgin’s “massive” network covers 85 percent of UK businesses, thanks to its 186,000 kilometres of fibre in the UK. Besides BT, Virgin Media Business is nine times larger than its next nearest provider.

Power Saving?

But how does the company explain its claim that its data centre connectivity options can reduce power and space consumption?

“Power wise we will utilise wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) technology, (i.e. big fat pipes) to give the right level of connection. The provider we use is Transmode and its power and space footprint is incredibly good. For example, a full loaded box that can support 40 10Gbps services only has 750 watts power usage.”

Green admitted that the data centre connectivity option from Virgin Media Business may not be suitable for all data centres, although the company will talk to anyone. “It is a point about scale. For a small data centre that has mainly connectivity via the Internet, this service may not be appropriate  for them, as it is more suited to data centres with the need for a lot of individual connectivity.”

Green said that, so far, Virgin Media Business has £9 million worth of orders in the pipeline for connectivity services, just from talking to a number of system integrators. “The customer does not have to worry about power constraints or have any capacity concerns, we look after the network for you.”

Network Reach

Green admitted that Virgin’s network may not reach data centres in remote regions of the UK such as in Lockerbie in Scotland, but it will look at the cost of deploying connectivity to those areas or utilise third party pipes.

Green acknowledged that 10Gbps connectivity is pretty much the norm at the moment, but felt it would be a while before we see serious takeup of 40Gbps and 100Gbps. “There has been discussion about 40Gbps and 100Gbps speeds for some time now. Today Virgin runs our core optical services at 40Gbps, but it has been designed to run at up to 100Gbps,” said Green.

“100Gbps is very much in our mind at the moment but personally I don’t see it happening for a while yet because of the cost of 100Gbps blades and routers,” he said. Green thinks there is enough capacity thanks to wavelength-division multiplexing techology.

Resilient Option

Green touted the fact that Virgin Media Business can offer its customers true network resilience. “Our service is credible and can be used for dual network resilience for data centre owners,” said Green. “Other than BT, we are only the other carrier that can offer this resilience, which will help us break into this market.

“We are here to stay and we would be absolutely mad not to take this opportunity to move forward and be a leading provider of connectivity in this space,” said Green. “Data centre connectivity is the just first of our announcements in this space, and you can expect more exciting announcements in the future.”

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Networking News

Vodafone Warns Against Excessive Fibre Investment

A new report by Vodafone suggests that mobile is a better way to patch broadband not-spots than fibre

Mobile operator Vodafone claims that many emerging economies are investing unnecessarily in fibre optic broadband networks, when they should be focusing instead on extending the reach and capability of mobile networks.

In its 2011 Social Impact of Mobiles (SIM) report, Vodafone warns that the current level of investment in fibre optic networks in emerging markets is unsustainable, due to the cost of deployment in rural areas. It also points out that, given the ubiquity of low-cost phones in these countries, mobile is likely to remain the primary way for people to access the Internet.

“We believe that our findings show that the current emphasis on delivering fibre optic cable everywhere overlooks other effective means of extending the use of broadband in an affordable way,” said Diane Coyle, chair of the Vodafone SIM Panel and editor of the report.

Fibre vs. mobile

Vodafone used the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan as an example, to compare the feasibility of extending fibre access networks against mobile networks. The company concludes that the deployment of a fibre access network would only be commercially viable in 3 percent of the districts, while wireless broadband coverage could be provided in 98 percent of the districts.

In reality, the solution to the problem of broadband provision in remote areas is likely to be a combination of different technologies, including ADSL, fibre, mobile 3G and satellite. While Vodafone makes a valid point about the widespread use of mobile technologies in developing countries, it should be noted that the company is itself a mobile network provider, and therefore prone to bias.

The report goes on to state that social networking sites such as Facebook are helping to build demand for data usage to the point where economies of scale accelerate.Vodafone recommends that governments in developing countries make an effort to provide mobile-enabled services free of charge, in order to increase broadband take-up and reduce the digital divide.

The importance of mobile spectrum

The report also highlights that the availability of spectrum will drive technology innovations and better coverage for the growing demand for mobile broadband services in emerging economies.

“It is tempting to see the spectrum challenge as being the same in developed and emerging markets. That would be fundamentally wrong,” the report states. “The reason is that the widespread fixed networks offer the possibility in developed markets of carrying a sizeable proportion of the data traffic (e.g., via Wi-Fi). But those possibilities just do not exist in the emerging markets and therefore all that traffic will fall on the mobile networks.

“Absent plentiful spectrum, the traffic will suffocate service quality. Emerging markets are going to need large and appropriate spectrum assignments to deliver their data applications.”

Meanwhile, in Britain, the communications regulator Ofcom is currently preparing for the long-awaited auction of 4G spectrum around 800MHz and 2.6GHz, which is due to take place in the first quarter of 2012. Ofcom recently released research, stating that 4G mobile technology will deliver more than three times the capacity of existing 3G technologies, using the same amount of spectrum.

This increased spectrum capacity is essential in meeting the UK’s rapid increase in mobile traffic, fuelled by the growth of smartphones and mobile broadband data services. Only this week, a group of MPs opened a debate in the House of Commons, in an attempt to pressurise both Ofcom and the government to expand the provision of 4G technologies to more isolated rural communities.

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Networking News Security

Westminster Abbey Blocks Twitter At Royal Wedding

Signal jamming technology will be deployed at Westminster Abbey to avoid disruptions to the royal wedding

Guests of the royal wedding on 29 April will be prevented from posting live Tweets, after event organisers arranged for signal-blocking technology to be installed at Westminster Abbey.

The move, which was initiated by senior members of the royal family, is intended to cut down the number of news photos and videos featuring mobile phone-toting guests, and also prevent any distracting ringtones from interrupting the ceremony. Those attending the wedding will also be unable to share pictures, send texts or make calls.

The news has reportedly been welcomed by police, security personnel, and broadcasters, who are keen to avoid any disruptions to the event. Mobile phones can also, of course, be used to set of bombs, meaning that mobile phone jamming will act as an additional security measure.

A police official confirmed to Yahoo on Wednesday that the blocking technology will be in place from early Friday morning and will remain switched on for the duration of the ceremony.

Twittersphere buzzing

The absence of Twitter at the actual event does not mean the web will go silent, however. The wedding will be streamed live on YouTube’s official Royal Channel, and will run for four hours beginning at 10am BST.

Meanwhile, AP Live, CBS News, TheInsider.com and the UK Press Association will all have live coverage and commentary of the event, and the BBC, ABC News, Fox News and ITN are all hosting live streams, ensuring that the social media channels will be buzzing.

Talk of the Royal Wedding is already accelerating rapidly on Facebook and Twitter. Overall, tweets about the Royal Wedding have quadrupled since the beginning of the month, averaging nearly 5,000 per hour over the last week and accelerating quickly in recent days. According to data from social media business intelligence platform Trendrr, 46 percent of tweets are positive, 43 percent are neutral and 12 percent are negative.