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Milton Keynes Cable
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Old 27-08-2008, 09:51   #1
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Milton Keynes Cable

The MK cable is still analogue. For the basic service you don't need a box, just connect your tv, to the wall socket, tune in as normal and away you go.

Now I've just helped two of my neighbours set up their tv's on the basic package, and they can get several more channels than I can.

I found one of the channels on my tv, it's down at the bottom end of the tuner, the others appear to be spread throught out the range of 22-68, however, I can't find them even if I fine tune through the whole UHF band.

I thought my neighbours might have dual standard tv (UHF & VHF), but that's not the case.

Any ideas why I can't get the extra channels?


Now for item 2

There's been a long running, unanswered question about the MK cable future. It's owned by BT and leased by VM. It is an unholy mix of copper, aluminium and fibre optic. Neither party is prepared to commit to upgrading it to all fibre optic in preparation for analogue switch off in 2011 (for our region).

Apparantly BBC 3 Counties got involved and VM said they intend to keep the cable as analogue, collecting the digital signal and converting to analogue before squirting it down the cable to analogue TV sets. SO MK could be in the unique position of people with digital tv's needing STB's to convert the analogue signal back to digital. Madness.

Another problem exists in that a few years back VM (then NTL) said the cable could not handle any more channels (The basic package is BBC1,2,News ITV Anglia and Central [or whatever they are called these days], CH4, Five, QVC and Hallmark [plus as I said some people get another six or so channels]), so presumably even when they do thier digital shuffle, we still won't get the additional free to air channels.

Right now I'm dithering between VM's cable package, Freesat from Sky, Freesat and Freeview. I'm trialling a Freeview box for Teletext Extra, so I'm committed to that for about a year, and to be honest there's not much I find of interest. The other free offerings don't look much better either.
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Old 27-08-2008, 11:34   #2
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Some TVs just have a wider band of channels that they can scan, I believe that answers Point 1
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Old 28-08-2008, 08:10   #3
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Nah, I reckon Virgin Media will upgrade this area even it means having no help from BT. This area has potential.

A better idea after when BT ditched its relations with Sky, BT could have acquired the Cable franchises, get rid of Cable Telephone services and just use BT's existing network. That way BT could offer:

Digital/Analogue Cable TV
Cable Broadband
IPTV-Eventually

And over BT's existing telephone network:

ADSL for out of Cable areas
Telephone service

It would have made sense in BT buying NTL,Telewest,Smallworld,Wight Cable and maybe taking over the defunct Aberdeen Cable network, then BT would have a fibre optic national network covering just over 40% of the UK which can be expanded over time. As BT is the UK's predominant provider, there fibre optic Cable network would also be open to other companies wishing to offer faster speeds and Digital TV like Tiscali.
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Old 28-08-2008, 10:24   #4
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham M View Post
Some TVs just have a wider band of channels that they can scan, I believe that answers Point 1

I'd agree, but some of the channels are in the 38-45 area of the UHF band. I seem to think it relates to the actual frequency being used.

I suppose it's not really a problem, as some of the channels are on Freeview, just a bit niggling.

---------- Post added at 10:24 ---------- Previous post was at 10:10 ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by m419 View Post
Nah, I reckon Virgin Media will upgrade this area even it means having no help from BT. This area has potential.

A better idea after when BT ditched its relations with Sky, BT could have acquired the Cable franchises, get rid of Cable Telephone services and just use BT's existing network. That way BT could offer:

Digital/Analogue Cable TV
Cable Broadband
IPTV-Eventually

And over BT's existing telephone network:

ADSL for out of Cable areas
Telephone service

It would have made sense in BT buying NTL,Telewest,Smallworld,Wight Cable and maybe taking over the defunct Aberdeen Cable network, then BT would have a fibre optic national network covering just over 40% of the UK which can be expanded over time. As BT is the UK's predominant provider, there fibre optic Cable network would also be open to other companies wishing to offer faster speeds and Digital TV like Tiscali.
The MK cable is already owned by BT. Legislation prevents them from being both a service carrier and content provider. The history is that when MK was built, way back in the late 60's, no TV aerials were allowed and all homes were to be ready cabled. Quite innovative for the era. We go the BBC and ITV channels (BBC1,2, ITV London, Anglia, and Central, and a local cable channel called Channel Five). Over time this changed and BT added Sky (later Sky1)and Galaxy (remember them?).

As the legislation changed to allow more cable operators to compete, and in order to give them the oportunity to compete in areas already cabled, BT were explicitly banned from both owning a cable and providing services on it.

BT decided to sell the MK cable, and asked some stupid price for it. Not surprisingly nobody wanted to buy, so the were forced into leasig it to NTL, who were absorbed into Virgin Media a few years ago. The agreement is that VM will maintain the metal bits and BT the fibre. Problems come up when the box joining the two is at fault, and there always seems to be a disagreement about who repairs the box.

BT don't want to upgrade to fibre, no profit in it for them; VM don't want to pay for the upgrade, too expensive. The upshot is more and more people are putting up Freview ariels (which are now allowed) or Sat dishes, and dropping the cable, which costs £36 per year for the basic package.

The MK cable is not growing either, there is no longer any requirement for new home to be pre-cabled, so no growth potential for VM.

Personally, I don't see there being many people on the cable by this areas Digital Switch Day in 2011.
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Old 28-08-2008, 10:36   #5
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Quote:
Originally Posted by arefem View Post
The MK cable is already owned by BT. Legislation prevents them from being both a service carrier and content provider. The history is that when MK was built, way back in the late 60's, no TV aerials were allowed and all homes were to be ready cabled. Quite innovative for the era.
That was the 60s all over in this country. Plenty of hippie ideas but no money to implement them properly. Milton Keynes was cabled on the cheap and now you're all suffering the consequences.

Quote:
BT don't want to upgrade to fibre, no profit in it for them; VM don't want to pay for the upgrade, too expensive. The upshot is more and more people are putting up Freview ariels (which are now allowed) or Sat dishes, and dropping the cable, which costs £36 per year for the basic package.

The MK cable is not growing either, there is no longer any requirement for new home to be pre-cabled, so no growth potential for VM.

Personally, I don't see there being many people on the cable by this areas Digital Switch Day in 2011.
Answer = stuff the lot of them. If you want subscription TV, get Sky; if you don't, get Freesat (which you already have). Don't be put off by the apparently restricted channel list on Freesat at present; this is due to a combination of rights issues keeping some channels off the EPG, and time required to launch others on Freesat without ballsing up Sky's own platform, seeing as the two services share the same satellite transmissions. Most if not all of these issues should be resolved by the end of this year.

Freesat may never have quite the same line up as Freeview. But while channels like Virgin 1, Dave and UKTV History may never appear on Freesat, Freeview will never and can never offer the kind of HD service that Freesat will ultimately deliver.

So it really is a choice between Sky and Freesat I reckon, depending on whether you want access to subscription channels or not.

As for your internet over those dratted aluminium wires, well, if you're feeling like an innovator you could always install a two-way satellite broadband hook-up and then create a wireless mesh in your corner of the town to re-sell some of the bandwidth to your neighbours and split your costs. Mesh networks are very popular in rural areas (our local village has one, but we're too far out to use it!) but I see no reason why it can't work in MK.

Alternatively you could move to live in a town where the cows aren't made of concrete and the streets aren't aligned like some hippie's notion of stonehenge.
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Old 29-08-2008, 10:01   #6
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Hi Chris T

Thanks for your amusing comments.

MK is not so bad, but more about that later

Apart from moving, I think you are right. I'm waiting for the dust to settle over the Sky/FreeSat/Freeview offerings, and keep looking at the BT and Virgin alternatives. Of course by then the push will be for HD or even SuperHD.

It's a shame that what was such an innovative idea when it started has been allowed to degenerate into the current mess. The problem hasn't really been caused by BT or VM, more by the deregulation of the communications industry and the increase in television channels. Apparently the cable can't handle many more channels in it's current state, so people are understandably switching to the alternatives. Eventually somebody has to decide whether to upgrade the MK cable or turn it off; given my earlier comments I think they'll turn it off. A similar thing happenned in Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City a few years back when the council paid for every house to have a TV arial in place of the communial VHF cable system. Oddly, the company running the cable then offered additional channel s for a fee on a system they had previously said was uneconomic to repair - I sense a conspiracy!

History, they say, has a habit of repeating it's self. I seem to recall the original TV broadcasts were down a peice of wire, then we got TV arials. Later we were told cable was the future, next it was Sat Dishes (which is just another sort of arial) and DTV, and now TV over the Internet (another cable). I supose the next 'innovation' will be Internet via Sat Dish or from mobile phone-like local masts (back to arials again).

My broadband speed is acceptable for my use, the 'Upto 8Mb' I get from TalkTalk actually comes in at a reliable 4mb, but as I'm not a heavy downloader I'm happy most of the time. It's a balance of cost effectiveness and convenience.

Now to dispel you aspertions of MK, the grid road system worls well, and once you get the hang of it you can navigate from one estate to another very quickly. The estate roads themselves don't all follow the straight line principle, so some feel vert village like whilst others are more like a small town. As for the cows, well they have given MK a lot of press and attracted a lot of visitors, so as advertising goes they have been a huge success, and there are only six of them (12 if you count the clones that were put in place some years back - the originals are going on display in the MKDons stadium).

My broadband speed is acceptable for my use, the 'Upto 8Mb' I get from TalkTalk actually comes in at a reliable 4mb, but as I'm not a heavy downloader I'm happy most of the time. It's a balance of cost effectiveness and convenience.
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Old 29-08-2008, 13:40   #7
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

I thought the legislation was brought in just after when BT bought shares in BskyB. Because the cable service in some parts of Westminster is the same as Milton keynes. However, they had more channels than what you listed above, but in addition, a channel exclusively available called Westminster TV was on. This BT owned,NTL leased cable franchise has now been upgraded and is able to offer Digital TV and Broadband but no NTL telephone line.

Most other parts of the area are able to get NTL/Videotron phone service so westminster was covered by two franchises.
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Old 07-01-2009, 17:24   #8
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Hi all,
yes the VM analogue cable here in MK is crap for the reasons identified above.
And they charge £48 per year for the base (cheapest) package (BBC1/2 ITV1, C4,C5, Hallmark, QVC)

My current solution:
Freeview via aerial I installed in my loft
Freesat HD (Humax) via dish I installed on the side of my house.

All is hunky-dorey

Regards,
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Old 08-01-2009, 11:40   #9
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Fortunately, when they upped the price a few years back, i started paying by DD, so it only costs me £36pa.

I'm part of a test on a new Freeview service, which does not run out until July this year. Then I'll decide whether to go Freesat (Sky or BBC/ITV) or stick with Freeview. Must admit Freesat looks like the leading contender at the moment.

Lots of people in MK have stopped thier cable accounts, but VM don't seem to get around to disconnecting them. I guess it not economical to send an engineer round if the customer is only getting the basic package. I'm not willing to take the risk just yet as some customers get disconnected quite quickly.

Last edited by arefem; 08-01-2009 at 11:51.
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Old 09-01-2009, 08:46   #10
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Hi arefem
that DD option sounds good - I will investigate thanks.
What new Freeview service is that - I might want to take it up?
Freesat picture quality is much better than VM cable (and so is Freeview)
Disconnection: yes someone I know has been running like that for a year now.
Regards,
Neil
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Old 09-01-2009, 11:02   #11
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Quote:
Originally Posted by arefem View Post

Apparantly BBC 3 Counties got involved and VM said they intend to keep the cable as analogue, collecting the digital signal and converting to analogue before squirting it down the cable to analogue TV sets. SO MK could be in the unique position of people with digital tv's needing STB's to convert the analogue signal back to digital. Madness.
Sorry, but you do appear to be misaprehending Digital TVs. The devices marketed as Digital TVs in this country are actually just TVs with Freeview boxes built in. Most still do accept analogue tranmissions.
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Old 10-01-2009, 11:35   #12
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

Hi all,
is that new Freeview service "Project Canvas"
i.e.
"The new broadband Freeview service could see on-demand programming including the BBC iPlayer and the ITV Player available direct to TV set-top boxes by early 2010.

"This proposal will bring catch-up from the PC to the TV set in your living room, and all for free"

Project Canvas, as the enterprise has been called, still needs BBC Trust approval but aims to get ISPs and device developers on board too and will also be available on Freesat."

etc.
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Old 11-01-2009, 16:33   #13
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

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Originally Posted by neilgl View Post
Hi arefem
that DD option sounds good - I will investigate thanks.
What new Freeview service is that - I might want to take it up?
Freesat picture quality is much better than VM cable (and so is Freeview)
Disconnection: yes someone I know has been running like that for a year now.
Regards,
Neil
Not too sure if the DD option at £2.99 is still available. I took it out when they raised the rates a few years back. Stupid really of VM, before that I paid annually up front.

The Freeview service is Teletext Extra. Register on thier user panel and they send you a free, basic Freeview box. You need to send a text everyweek for a year, and at teh end of the year they send you £50 M&S vouchers.

More info here
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Old 11-01-2009, 16:36   #14
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

The minimum subscription in Milton Keynes is £4 a month whether you pay via Direct Debit or not
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Old 11-01-2009, 16:40   #15
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Re: Milton Keynes Cable

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Sorry, but you do appear to be misaprehending Digital TVs. The devices marketed as Digital TVs in this country are actually just TVs with Freeview boxes built in. Most still do accept analogue tranmissions.
I get your point Stuart, but as the switchover gains pace, manufacturers may well decide to drop the electronics that handle the analogue. I guess it's really a wait and see situation. By the time it happes in MK, 2011, I'll need a new TV, and I'll probably have either a Freeview ariel or Freesat dish anyway.

Have to say, a lot of the Freeview channels are pretty dire, and I don't really see how things like Lottery Extra can be called a channel. They would be better off sharing another part-time channels allocated slot.

After all the fuss about the Quiz channels, I'm surprised the latest Casino channel has been allowed too.
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