i2010, the flagship principle of the renewed Lisbon partnership for growth and employment, calls for the further development of Europe’s broadband infrastructure. A group of European firms has joined up to do just that. The three firms have come together under the auspices of the EUREKA programme, which encourages market focussed R&D among its members, to study ways of delivering broadband internet access over traditional cable television lines.
With broadband access on the rise and expected to grow exponentially in the years to come, reliable quality service is necessary to ensure that Europeans aren’t left lagging behind on the information super-highway. The EUREKA project ‘Virtual Fibre’ has found solutions to increasing the connection speeds over cable TV lines without the need of a costly infrastructure overhaul or the purchase of special modems.
|Coaxial cable can deliver broadband solutions without major infrastructure upgrades.
Current broadband TV networks employ DOCSIS, or ‘Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification’, for information transfer. However, as webcams and other novel communication technology are added to the average user’s repertoire, two-way transfer is becoming increasingly vital. The new system developed through the EUREKA initiative set out to provide consumers with higher speeds symmetrically. The resulting technology can deliver speeds up to 10 times that possible with existing cable TV.
The technology was the brainchild of the Dutch cable provider @home. They approached
their suppliers with the idea of providing citizens and businesses with faster
connection speeds in the short- to medium terms. ‘We have a long relationship
with both Teleste in Finland and Tratec Telecom in the Netherlands and so we
brainstormed the idea to them,’ explains Jelle Cnossen of @Home.
The technology was recently piloted in the Dutch town of Boxmeer, with each resident being provided symmetrical access to the Internet at 10 megabit/second (MB/s), with local businesses offered 50 MB/s symmetrical connectivity. The technology was recently sold in South Korea, a possible indication of a global market where Europe may be getting a jump on the competition.
Esko Myllyla of Teleste, the Finnish project partner handling much of the technical work, discussed the added value of the international aspect of the project in general and of EUREKA in particular. ‘EUREKA labelling was not absolutely necessary for us but was important in the eyes of our local public funding authorities,’ he said. ‘Moreover, the EUREKA label helped pull the three parties in this project together more strongly – that was the key benefit. We all realised that we were not developing things each on our own behalf but rather we were developing something together.’
EUREKA encourages cross-border, market-oriented research among its 37 members, of which the EC is one. EUREKA is an organisation independent of the European Commission, though complementary activity between the two bodies is actively sought.