Good to talk, better to read

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The Independent Culture
Where in the World Wide Web do you go to find all the latest news about the fast-paced telecommunications industry? Chris Gill suggests three electronic publications you will want to bookmark

Why don't we change the way we work? Well, I've recently been finding out. For a start, if you want BT to give you a proper demo of videoconferencing you have to travel to London - a nice irony, although one which will surely be lost on those trying to keep BT's profits in check by spending heavily on TV ads.

But of course we will all change, eventually - it's just that we'll need more bandwidth than ISDN2 can offer. So it pays to keep a close eye on the telecoms arena. On the Web I fully expected to find nothing but US magazines, but lo: two very worthwhile sites of British origin.

Total Telecom, with the cute URL, is an EMAP publication with a clearly specialist flavour. "As well as providing users with access to current and past articles from Communications Week International and Communications International, Total Telecom hosts a range of unique information sources and interactive services for the busy telecoms professional."

But TT does carry material of wider interest. When I looked in, the lead story was "Europe will use privacy and free trade laws to resist cryptography policies promoted internationally by the US." Down the page, below various stories about national telecoms companies, was the news that "Japan's personal handyphone system (PHS) will not take root in Europe, despite heavy lobbying by its originator, NTT, and phenomenal success in its home market." The interests already vested in DECT (digital European cordless telephony), Europe's homegrown answer to digital cordless, apparently leave PHS with little or no future here.

The front page includes an abbreviated archive of recent news items and, if you're lucky, news items have links to other related stories, forming an excellent resource: from a story about Microsoft's WebTV Plus - a set- top box that will use the broadcast network to download "thousands" of Web pages overnight on to a built-in hard drive for viewing during the day - I was able to get to several other stories to put this one in context.

But much more what I had in mind - and one of the most valuable technology- watching sites I have encountered - is d.Comm, an Economist group publication. At its launch two years ago d.Comm was the group's first electronic publication - and, what's more, one with no paper-based equivalent. Its subtitle is "For the converging worlds of communications and information technology" - a broader focus, which explains why it turns out to be accessible and valuable to the non-specialist like me.

There are departments for News (one story a day), News Briefings (backgrounds to the news, apparently produced at roughly weekly intervals - eg, "Carving up CompuServe") and Features, with an archive going back to July 1995 containing a rich store of interesting stuff.

The technically interesting part of d.Comm is that the site can provide a customised version of the news and features it carries. Indeed, d.Comm claims to have been the first Internet publication to provide such a personalised system - a sort of primitive push system. You operate this by setting up a personal hotlist of subject areas, and requesting articles of under or over a certain age that fit your profile. Neat, but in my experience inoperable.

Pearson Plc, the owner of the Economist, has lots of other angles on telecoms information, most of them connected to the operations of its flagship, the Financial Times. As part of its impressive-looking database of telecoms material, FT Media and Telecoms does a daily news bulletin, Telecoms Today, with an archive going back to July 1996 - but the content is rather industry-PR-driven ("Ericsson To Outsource Cable Assembly" - wow!).

Total Telecom


Telecoms Today