Did anybody tell the NZX?
According to the NZ Herald “Chorus is a business unit of Telecom NZ” … so it must be true.
Seriously folks, can the level of accuracy in the New Zealand mainstream media really get any worse?
If you’re a sports fan in New Zealand you’ll be aware of the acquisition of the New Zealand broadcast rights to the English Premier League by Coliseum Sport, a new start-up who’s goal is to break the stranglehold of existing broadcast TV by streaming games over the internet.
Unfortunately for Coliseum they’re already set themselves up to fail. Not because of their model, but the poor technological solutions that they’ve chosen to deliver their content. Delivery of video content over the internet is the future of media, and with the rollout of fibre optic cable to 75% of New Zealand homes by 2019 as part of the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) rollout, New Zealand homes will have the capability and bandwidth to enable broadcasters to bypass existing terrestrial and satellite delivery platforms – that’s not to say New Zealand doesn’t already have world class broadband, because we do - over 80% of premises are capable of receiving a internet connection of at least 10Mbps, and around 50% of those premises are capable of receiving VDSL2 which can deliver between 30Mbps and 70Mbps depending on your distance from your local exchange or roadside cabinet. What UFB does differently is enable guaranteed bandwidth to premises, and more importantly enables multicast delivery of content over the UFB network, something that is essential to deliver high bandwidth content to multiple premises. Delivering content over the internet is the way of the future, particularly as people move to replace viewing live content with watching On Demand content when and where it suits them.
Coliseum Sport’s failing isn’t the decision to deliver content over the internet – it’s the options that exist to view their streamed content. No matter how many internet enabled devices people may have in their home, the big screen TV is still the entertainment hub of the home. While tablets may be convenient for watching content in bed, nothing can match the experience of watching high definition content on a big screen TV. Logic would dictate that anybody looking at replacing the existing broadcast model would focus on replicating the experience, but it seems it’s the aspect Coliseum have chosen to ignore. Right now your only option for watching Coliseum Sport content is to use a PC as their content uses Adobe Flash for it’s streaming – although there are are Android and iOS apps in development to allow viewing content on these devices. If you want to watch content on your big screen TV your only option is to hook a PC up to your TV, something that’s not difficult if you own a laptop, but it’s still a very cumbersome task that simply shouldn’t be required. If you don’t own a laptop that you can move to near your TV it’s probably not even an option.
Coliseum’s have completely overlooked the fact that every home in the country that has a TV with Integrated Freeview|HD (known as an IDTV – Integrated Digital TV) or a MyFreeview|HD recorder already has the technology built in to solve their problem. Pretty much every IDTV sold these days is required to have internet connectivity to comply with Freeview specifications. While many so called smart TVs already have their own applications such as YouTube for viewing content from the internet, building applications for multiple brands of TVs is expensive and time consuming, and that’s where MHEG5 steps in to save the day.
MHEG5 is an open standards Application Programme Interface (API) that is mandatory on every Freeview|HD IDTV or Freeview Set Top Box (STB) sold in New Zealand. MHEG5 allows interactive applications to be run on the TV or STB, an example of which is the Freeview Electronic Program Guide (EPG). The EPG application is device agnostic, meaning it will run on every MHEG5 capable device and deliver the same consistent user experience across every device that it’s run on. One of the coolest features of MHEG5 is the interactive channel extensions and ICStreaming extensions – two extensions that allow interactive content on your TV using content that is sourced via the internet. Support for this is required on every Freeview|HD IDTV and MyFreeview|HD recorder now sold, and it means your TV can access streaming content delivered over a broadband connection without the end user having to install any software or change any settings - all that’s required is for the TV to be correctly connected to an Internet connection. Support for ICStreaming is not required on every standard Freeview STB, however some do support this capability.
MHEG5 ICStreaming is already used in countries such as the UK to deliver BBC iPlayer content to end users, and has also been chosen by Quickflix who will be launching a MHEG5 based service into the New Zealand market before the end of 2013. This will make viewing Quickflix content on your TV as simple as watching regular broadcast channels, and means Quickflix don’t have to develop applications for the different brands of smart TVs on the market.
The capabilities of MHEG5 are exceptionally powerful, and there is nothing to stop other broadcasters or ISPs from building their own MHEG5 applications and delivering content over the internet. What’s surprising so far is the lack of interest from existing players such as TVNZ and Media Works who both currently offer On Demand services, but make viewing that content on a TV far more difficult than it needs to be. The key is making content easy to access, and both of these players, along with Coliseum Sport, don’t yet seem to have grasped this simple concept.
There has been a lot of talk in the last year about Sky TV’s dominance of the Pay TV market, with many people concerned about their businesses practices around exclusivity of content and pricing. Whether or not you agree on Sky being evil, they’re ultimately the main source of entertainment for many NZ homes, and many people can’t wait for the day they face some competition and have a choice of Pay TV providers.
What if I told you that Sky’s competition already existed? That’s right. With the purchase of TelstraClear, Vodafone is sitting in a prime spot, ready to engage in a war with Sky TV if they so desire.
TelstraClear was formed with the merger of Telstra New Zealand and Saturn Communications. Saturn Communications started it’s life as Kiwi Cable and deployed a cable TV network on the Kapiti Coast before expanding into Wellington, and later Christchurch. Expansion into Auckland was stopped by politics – in particular the NZ Herald who did an an amazing job ensuring that TelstraClear were not allowed to deploy their network in Auckland. This ensured that Aucklanders were subjected to the early 2000’s monopolistic practices of Telecom rather than being given freedom of choice when it came to fixed line phone and internet providers.
On the Kapiti Coast, Wellington and in Christchurch, Saturn Communications deployed what is known as a hybrid fibre co-axial network, or HFC for short. This network also has a traditional copper network for phone services that was rolled out alongside the HFC network. The network has a fibre to the node (FTTN) architecture consisting of both fibre optic and coaxial cables, with fibre carrying data to node (the roadside cabinet) where it’s converted to a radio frequency (RF) signal and then carried over the coaxial cable to your home. Each cabinet will typically cover several hundred homes.
Inside your home the co-axial cable is connected to your set top box (STB) which uses the Digital Video Broadcasting over Cable (DVB-C) standard. This is very similar to the DVB broadcasting standards used for terrestrial (DVB-T) and satellite (DVB-S) broadcasts used by Freeview and Sky. In it’s early days Saturn Communications sourced much of it’s content independently, but lacking a sport offering meant it made sense to partner with Sky, ultimately resulting in TelstraClear essentially just reselling Sky TV over it’s network.
Now that you’ve grasped the basics I’ll now explain why Vodafone’s acquisition of TelstraClear was a smart move. Not only did it give them a fixed line network and a nationwide fibre network, it also gave them New Zealand’s most advanced internet protocol (IP) playout system for TV. Every customer watching TV via their Vodafone STB is actually watching content that started it’s life in the Vodafone network as an IPTV stream, however rather than being IP all the way to your home, it’s converted to RF to be carried over the co-axial cable. Since the signal is digital all the way, no loss of quality occurs along the broadcast path. What is important however is that every channel they offer already exists in an IPTV format within their network, meaning it can easily be delivered over any IP delivery network anywhere within New Zealand.
Those of you with a T-Box will have spotted the Ethernet port on the back that is currently only used for electronic program guide (EPG) updates. This Ethernet port is also cable of being the source of all content, with IPTV content either live or on demand streamed directly to your T-box with no requirement for the HFC network.
It doesn’t take a smart network engineer to realise that broadcasting high definition content over the internet currently is an exceptionally inefficient use of bandwidth and that both terrestrial and satellite do a far better job of this. In the xDSL world where speeds are limited by your distance from an exchange or roadside cabinet and your internal home phone wiring, delivering IPTV content is something fraught with potential issues. Just on 84% of NZ premises have access to broadband speeds of 10Mbps or greater, with around 50% of those having access to VDSL2 which will deliver average speeds of around 35Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream. When you consider that a single 1080i Full HD broadcast TV channel broadcast over terrestrial or satellite uses up to 10Mbps, you can already see the issues that are faced. Those issues are solved by the current rollout in New Zealand of ultra fast broadband (UFB), with the construction of a fibre optic network to 75% of New Zealand homes and businesses already underway and due for completion by 2019. With fibre speed no longer becomes an issue, and a home could easily have several STB’s streaming 1080i HD content with no need to worry about it significantly impacting their internet experience.
As the UFB network rolls out Vodafone are in the prime position to take advantage of the IPTV revolution. While the T-box may have had a chequered past with numerous software issues, it’s now a relatively stable product. More importantly however, the IP based playout system that Vodafone now own gives them a massive head start over anybody else contemplating such a product. Building such a system isn’t cheap.
Now that I’ve given you a technical rundown of delivering IPTV, you’re probably going to ask where the content is. This is the question everybody is asking, but the answer is quite simple. It’s already there. Vodafone already have an existing resell agreement with Sky that allows them to rebroadcast Sky content, along with sourcing several additional channels not carried by Sky. What needs to be remembered is that much of this content is not exclusive to Sky, and anybody who wants to rebroadcast many of the channels carried by Sky is free to do so providing they’ve got the money to pay the content owner. There is realistically very little in the way of Vodafone deciding to go it alone and acquire rights to somewhere in the vicinity 80% of the content that Sky offer – with one notable exception – sport. This very much puts the ball in Sky’s court (literally). Sport is very expensive to produce and it’s not clear if Sky actually break even on revenue from their sports channels or whether they are cross subsidised. If Vodafone went it alone without a sports channel they’re only going to have limited success in the market, but the effect on Sky could be significant. Would Sky then do the smart thing and resell sport to Vodafone? Or would they simply hope that sport is a big enough selling point to ensure differentiation in the marketplace? My money is on the former. I’d also put money on Vodafone allowing their IPTV service to in effect be bundled by other internet providers, ultimately putting them head to head with Sky, and hopefully delivering us a future with a much greater choice of content, both live and on-demand.
UFB’s going to mean an exciting future in the NZ marketplace…
If you’ve had a New Zealand passport issued since November 2005 you would have spotted the Near Field Communication (NFC) page in your passport. This solid page contains a NFC chip which duplicates the data printed in your passport electronically, and also contains a digital copy of your photo along with the biometric data relating to this photo.
An ePassport is now mandatory for visiting a number of countries, and if you’ve been to Australia in the past couple of years chances are you’ve used a Smartgate machine at the airport rather than having to be processed manually by Customs. The Smartgate kiosk reads the biometric data from your passport and when your photo is taken it is compared to the biometric data in your passport to establish a positive match.
If you have a modern Android phone with NFC capabilities you can easily view the contents of this NFC chip.
Download the NFC Tag Info app from the Play store to your Android phone, and once installed click on the app to run it. If you now try and read your passport you’ll see an error come up saying “Basic Access Control is active”. BAC is an security layer protecting your passport from being accessed without an encryption key, essentially preventing your ePassport from being read by somebody who doesn’t have physical access to the passport. The BAC encryption key is generated using your passport number, date of birth, and passport expiry date – data that is only printed inside your passport.
If you now go back to the main menu you’ll see an option to “setup access keys”. enter your passport number, date of birth and passport expiry date and press save. This will generate the encryption key required to read your passport.
If you now put your phone next to your passport the app will be able to read the NFC chip and you should see your passport details and photo appear on the screen.
A number of other details can be viewed, including the biometric data for your photo and the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) data which is the machine readable text that appears at the bottom of your passport photo page.
To change electronic details of a passport additional layers of encryption exist also – you can’t change your details simply by having the BAC encryption key as this allows read only access.
If you’re interested in knowing more here are a few links you might want to check out:
iOS devices need to have the carrier pack configured to allow LTE on supported networks before LTE can be used. This option will only show in phones that have had the carrier pack set to allow LTE. Vodafone New Zealand isn't listed as an official LTE carrier on the Apple website but it would be safe to assume that Apple aren't going to ruin things for Vodafone and announce something before Vodafone themselves do.
So what secret are Vodafone holding from us?
It's no secret they've just upgraded over 400 cellsites around the Auckland region over the weekend to deliver 900 MHz Dual Carrier 3G services across the Auckland region (I wrote about this here on Friday). Vodafone also have plenty of 1800MHz spectrum to deploy a LTE network on.
Does this hardware support a technology they haven't yet told us about? You decide...
Example A - $12.99 vs $20.00 for the identical tablets at two different pharmacies.
If you do suffer from hayfever I highly recommend Levrix tablets, I've found them amazing. It might just pay however to check the price before you buy them.
Credit card security isn't a laughing matter these days. It's certainly not difficult to find people who have had their credit cards compromised and fraudulent transactions charged to their account. Typically this has been as a result of physical card security being compromised by the use of a card skimmer attached to an ATM (numerous instances in Auckland), a compromised EFTPOS terminal recording card details (a major burger retailer in Queen St, Auckland), or by staff who have access to credit card records randomly copying numbers down for use (a foreign call centre for a major telco). Banks have complex systems monitoring transactions in real time and will often detect card fraud and put a hold on your card well before you're even aware there could be an issue. While card fraud normally doesn't leave the card holder out of pocket due the liability limits banks have in their terms and conditions, having to get a new card can often be a real pain if you have automatic payments such as bills set up on it.
Having had my card compromised while in Australia in the middle of 2012 and then spending an entire afternoon dealing with the consequences while trying to enjoy a relaxing long weekend away means I have zero tolerance to anybody in the industry dealing with credit cards who isn't willing to comply with industry guidelines. As far as I'm concerned you deserve to be named and shamed if you're accepting credit cards and failing to comply with industry guidelines.
The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council are responsible for creating data security standards for cardholder data. Known as the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) this document covers the requirements and security assessment procedures that should be used in the banking and payments industry to ensure that card security remains a top priority. It's common to refer to being "PCI complaint" when your systems are complaint with this standard.
It's therefore surprising so see a large business like Wellington Airport failing to comply with industry PCI standards governing credit card security, and more so the fact this lack of security has now existed for several years in their car park ticketing machines.
Despite what some may think, a credit card number, or Primary Account Number (PAN) as it's technically known as, isn't just sixteen random numbers. Each card issuer has a unique Bank Identification Number (BIN) which comprises the first six digits of the card. The next nine digits are the account number, and the last digit is a check digit calculated using the MOD 10 algorithm, otherwise known as the Luhn Algorithm, calculated off the prior fifteen digits. This algorithm isn't complex, and it's easy to calculate this check digit with a piece of paper and a pen.
PCI DSS requirement 3.3 covers the storage and use of PAN numbers
3.3 Obtain and examine written policies and examine displays of PAN (for example, on screen, on paper receipts) to verify that primary account numbers (PANs) are masked when displaying cardholder data, except for those with a legitimate business need to see full PAN.
Mask PAN when displayed (the first six and last four digits are the maximum number of digits to be displayed).
As you can see the PCI DSS requirements are that the first six and last four digits are the only digits that should be displayed on a receipt. Why? Because displaying any more than this leaves your card number open to being compromised.
The first six digits are unique to your bank, so displaying these poses no real security risk. The last digit is a check digit, and the prior three prior digits are only 1/3 of your account number. Using a MOD10 calculator to calculate the remaining six digits still leaves a vast number of possibilities, so many in fact, that it poses no great security risk.
Wellington Airport receipts display the last six digits of the PAN, as pictured below (I've crossed two out so you can't see them). This now only leaves four digits that need to be generated, and literally leaves only a handful of possibilities for the card number. For all intent purposes you may as well be displaying the full PAN, as a card card can be compromised with access to the first six digits and the last six digits of the PAN.
A Wellington Airport parking receipt by itself isn't going to let somebody exploit your credit card - as they're only displaying the last six digits of the PAN. Combined with another receipt from a PCI compliant terminal or retailer however and your card number can be compromised. Considering many people throw receipts away together it's entirely possible that somebody could gain access to two receipts which would enable them to reconstruct your credit card number.
So a small tip from me - if you use your credit card at Wellington Airport be careful what you do with your receipt. It could be the most expensive car park you ever use!
Update 05/01/2012 :
Fellow Geekzone Moderator Nate spent some some time whipping up some code using the MOD 10 algorithm to generate possible card combinations. By entering an incomplete credit card number and X's to signify the masking all possible full PAN numbers are displayed. These could then easily be submitted automatically to a payment gateway to establish the valid number. If PCI compliant PAN masking of six digits is followed the 100000 possible combinations make this a a virtually impossible task. With non PCI compliant PAN masking such as that used by Wellington Airport this could be done in a matter of minutes with access to appropriate payment gateways.
Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett, Chorus External Communications Manager Robin Kelly and Head of Industry Relations Craig Young, and TechDay’s Sean Mitchell will answer your questions and provide practical information on how you can make the most of UFB.
If you live in Auckland this is clearly a fantastic opportunity to learn about the UFB project and understand how fibre will be installed to your home or business. A free breakfast is also a great selling point!
For more details check out the Orcon website
With internet traffic growing year on year and users continually expecting faster data speeds, one area that still causes issues is how to carry those bits and bytes around a building or home. If a premises doesn’t have cat5e or cat6 cable for Ethernet, retrofitting it can be an expensive and very time consuming process. Wireless can be a solution, but still can’t deliver the sorts of speed that Ethernet can, and installing a reliable high speed wireless network in a building still requires cabled access points if decent speeds are to be maintained. One solution to this problem is the HomePNA standard which allows data to be carried over existing copper or coax cable, completely avoiding the hassle of having to run Ethernet cable, and delivering speeds faster than wireless. The HomePNA 3.1 standard offers speeds of up to 200Mbps, support for 802.1Q VLAN tagging, fully transparent Quality of Service (QoS) using 802.1p, and supports cable runs up to around 1km. When deployed over coaxial cable the technology is referred to as HCNA (HPNA over Coax)
Late last year I trialled some Netsys NH310 units from Snappernet. These units allow existing TV coaxial cable to be used to carry Ethernet data, in much the same way cable modems work over the TelstraClear Cable TV network using the DOCSIS standard. By using different frequencies than the TV signals, both can be combined and run over a single coaxial cable. These units feature 100Mbps Fast Ethernet ports, and in real world testing deliver speeds of around 90Mbps – fairly typical for a 100Mbps device. Over the coaxal cable the HPNA protocol supports speeds of up to 200Mbps, so the 100Mbps fast Ethernet ports are in effect a bottleneck in the system. Up to 64 slave units may be connected to a single master unit, all of which will share the available bandwidth.
The Netsys HN310H Master unit features 5 Ethernet ports and 2 coax F connectors, one for the TV aerial input, and the other for HCNA out. The HN310C slave unit features 2 Ethernet ports, and 2 coax F connectors, one for the HCNA input, and the other a passthru port to connect into your existing TV or Set Top Box (STB). While setup of this hardware may look simple, some knowledge of MATV (master antenna TV) or SMATV (satellite master antenna TV) is essential to deliver the optimum performance from this hardware. 16dBM isolation is recommended between the master and slave units, with a minimum of 8dBm isolation required for these devices to function correctly. If your setup has isolation of between 8dBM and 16dBM and is also being used for TV distribution you may need to use of a high pass filter between the slave passthru port and TV/STB to avoid any interference to the TV signal. In many MATV or SMATV distribution networks 16dBM TAP’s are installed as standard so this is a perfect match. The HCNA standard uses frequencies between 15MHz and 40MHz so this hardware can happily co-exist with both terrestrial and satellite distribution networks.
One thing to be aware of is that most TV amplifiers sold in New Zealand and Australia used in MATV/SMATV distribution networks don’t support a return path, ie. they will block signals from travelling from the output port of the amplifier to the input port. This means that master and slave units must both be installed on the output side of the amplifier. If there are multiple amplifiers you’ll either need to install multiple master units, or replace the amplifiers with units that support a return path. Many splitters, diplexers and TAP’s sold in NZ also only support frequencies from 45MHz upwards, so these will also need to be reviewed and replaced with equipment that supports frequencies from 5MHz upwards.
Configuration is done using the web interface on the master unit. Once the master unit is configured and slave units hooked up to the coax network they appear in an access list with their MAC address, here they can be associated a plan speed if required, with a number of predefined speed options being available. Individual VLAN’s can be assigned to both of the RJ45 ports on the slave units from the web interface, and there are a number of diagnostic tests available to show signal level and network performance of each individual slave unit.
These units are a very cost effective way of delivering Ethernet to hotel or motel environments that will typically have coaxial cable for TV but no Ethernet cable. With Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) due to hit NZ this year, this hardware could also provide solutions to premises where retrofitting cat5e or cat6 cable for Ethernet is going to be costly. Other HPNA equipment also exists that runs over copper cable, so existing cat3 phone cable can also be utilised without needing to look at more expensive xDSL based solutions.
Overall the setup is relatively straight forward, and once installed the performance is brilliant. There are certainly plenty of small issues that could arise attempting to install these in an existing MATV/SATV setup, and if you have no knowledge of TV distribution networks, and I would highly recommend anybody thinking about this solution seek outside advice from somebody with knowledge of MATV/SMATV setups.
The real world performance of these units is awesome, and they were chosen for a large scale deployment in an apartment building here in Wellington delivering high speed symmetrical internet connections with VoIP services. The bonus of being future proofed for higher speeds in the future means that delivering a 100Mbps service to customers with a good CIR is totally within the capabilities of this product. Overall they’re a product that creates a fantastic solution and comes with with a great price point.
<shameless plug on> If anybody is interested in looking at these as a solution for a environment such as a hotel, motel, or apartment block I’m happy to provide consultancy advice or work with you on deploying a solution, my details are listed on the right. <shameless plug off>
I couldn't help notice the deal on Spreets today, only $160 for a "GPS Navigation & Multimedia System that Includes an eBook Reader, Games, & Music & Movie Player! Worth $455. Delivery Included"
This product is apparently an essential trip to take on holiday "Don’t head off on your summer holiday road trip without it!" the promo blurb says. It features "the latest in GPS navigation technology".
This is fine if you live in Australia. If you read the fine print this units has the "latest Australian maps pre-loaded", with no mention anywhere of the inclusion or ability to load New Zealand maps onto it.
Even worse the Spreets page claims the product is worth $455. I wonder why the company that is distributing it only sells it for $345 including free delivery, and a 10% discount if you pay by credit card?
Is this really a bargain? Or just an overpriced piece of junk that in all reality is virtually worthless for it's intended purpose in NZ? That's up to you to decide, but I certainly won't be buying one.