Original URL: https://www.theregister.com/2006/05/05/iptv_future/
IPTV/VoD: The open fourth platform
Rome wasn't built in a day...
Industry comment Just when you thought the days of the digital TV "walled garden" were over, this week Sky released its new Sky Net platform, which is almost as imaginatively titled as the new service to be released by the start-up Aggregator this year.
It seems the world is taking a giant leap backward to the days of web portals and brand marketing that failed so dismally in the past. At the least Aggregator’s service will use a broadband connection, as Sky’s new train set is still firmly routed in the days of signal-noise ratios of 33.3k dial-up modems.
Openly touted as nothing less than a revolution in interactive television, these internet-like services are trying to put a internet-like world on our living screens that any small business or individual can be part of. The trouble is that this "openness" is fools gold and they come with a sting in the tail – they are still fully controlled by the big boys, and they don’t quite share the philosophy that drove the uptake of the internet.
Traditionally, television platforms have been differentiated by their mechanism of transmission – satellite, terrestrial, cable and recently, DSL. Each operator has arguably relied on the reach determined by their network coverage first, and their content offering second; you can’t offer the best content in the world to people unless they can actually receive it.
If you put them side by side, most offer the same type of thing, but by different means. They're also really quite spectacularly boring and suffer from the terrible disease known as "me too", which is almost always a quick path to obsolescence in other markets.
It's all been about TV up until now, so this first round of service extensions are a step towards broadening their range of content and staying ahead of the technological game. The experience of using a TV service is intimately tied to the brand its offered under, so it's no great surprise broadcasters and investment bankers scramble to design nice looking, user-friendly screens that are easy to use and as idiot-proof as possible.
That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing; it's the driving vision that accompanies it which turns the whole thing sour. Each one of these operating menus (EPGs, or electronic programme guides) is controlled by a brand, and nothing gets near it that is not totally under the control of that brand's owner. Everything on Sky is Sky branded and controlled – if you want to create, innovate, market or experiment, you need Sky’s permission. If you want to create new services and use TV as a medium, you are accountable to Sky or NTL. Oh, and you pay through the nose for it too. These TV platforms are closed, private and proprietary. They will never been anything but that, despite the protestations of the portal people.
Now contrast that with the internet, which is nearing a head-on collision with the world of pay television. In a little over 10 years, it has become the most powerful force of social change ever witnessed on this planet. It has the power to topple governments, create billionaires overnight and offers a virtually free platform for anyone to create and innovate around.
The decision by academics at CERN to release their intellectual property to the world is as significant as the US-led HGP openly publishing the human genome. The internet is the great equaliser. Geography and distance have become irrelevant and a world has opened for the human race to collaborate in ways noone could have possibly imagined.
It did all that because it was built on a principle of openness and philanthropy. The contrast between those two vastly different worlds go some way to explaining the difficulty technologists have had in adapting current business models for IPTV, or the confusion that comes with defining new ones.
How do you reconcile a free, open platform with a closed, pay TV one? It’s an extremely difficult question that the greatest of minds in the corporate world are struggling with. Not a day goes past without talk of how widely adopted IPTV will be as a 4th platform.
All the signs point to IPTV being food for the lions in the UK, with Homechoice being the most frequently quoted example. Video Networks' technical accomplishments have been nothing less than extraordinary, as have KIT’s. They've made many mistakes and come in for a very serious kicking more times than journalists can count, but the biggest one is arguably that their platform is effectively doing nothing different than cable.
TV over DSL is simply cable in telco's clothes – as far as Joe Public is concerned it's the same service, delivered over copper wiring. The architecture is the same, the content and menus are the same, and the commercial model is the same.
The big difference between Video Networks and NTL however, other than their record-breaking cash burn, is who provides the cabling. Whereas NTL and Telewest had to bear the expense of digging their own infrastructure, Video Networks had to suffer BT.
It could be argued that Video Networks now has the upper hand on cable, as the LLU market in the UK is becoming more fluid and friendly to those willing to invest in it. There are no roads to dig up, plenty of broadband subscribers, and a rapidly improving network that is capable of delivering new and innovative interactive services.
NTL did also lay copper with their fiber deployment and even trialled HDTV over ADSL2+ in the recent past. It would seem that a better route ahead for them to expand their reach would be to invest heavily in LLU and use copper to deliver the same (but heavily adapted) type of service as there is already talk of them using IP as the transmission mechanism over their coax wiring. Naturally, there are huge technical hurdles to overcome with this approach (e.g. cable broadcasts the entire spectrum of changes rather than one at a time in the BT last mile), but if Video Networks can manage it, so can NTL.
So the argument about IPTV desperately needing a differentiating factor is a valid one, but is rapidly becoming a vacuous, bankrupt and fruitless search of a way to be a better cable TV. If, like Homechoice, you go up against cable, or even Sky, you were bound to end up in trouble from the very start.
IPTV as a platform that competes with the incumbents is understandably deserving of scepticism. You're providing the same service, with additional problems included in the bargain for free. The tragedy for the IPTV companies in the UK is that they were decades ahead of their time when they launched, but as all true pioneers eventually experience, just as they break through the ice, they have been scalped. As long as we blindly follow the crowd and revolting venture capitalist train of thought, we will be slicing inches of the wedding cake. We need to be baking a new one.
What we need to do is change our thinking entirely – "outside the box" as fat, political, halitosis-ridden middle managers would say. We need to stop thinking of IPTV as being differentiated by its transmission method, and fly up for the bird's eye plan view of what the next generation of TV will be like as an experience.
The answer to this insidious bankruptcy of thought is deliver a conceptual shift about what TV is. We need to take the openness of the internet and merge it intelligently with the premium content world of pay TV in a way that respects the needs and vested interests of the big brands but is a new type of service that is open to all. We need to take the glasses off that are tinted with brand logos and stop thinking in terms of labels.
The differentiator for IPTV needs to be that it is an open platform that anyone can innovate around. That’s a small statement in words, but it has enormous implications when you think it through. There has never been a TV network in existence that has been open, and if we left it to the corporate fat cats, ever would be. There is no TV platform on the market anywhere in the world that could ever offer the same, or would ever dare.
If we are going to bring the underlying power of the internet to TV, let’s charge it up with 100,000 volts and set out to truly change the entire world, instead of whimpering on about whether it will be a good cable substitute. Let's take the box in the living room and set it on fire, and open it up so anyone can be a BBC. Rome wasn't built in a day, but let's set our sights on something much higher – a greater vision that would be difficult to fulfil in our own lifetimes. When you consider what we could do if we liberate ourselves from the chains of monopoly, it's incredibly exciting. No more walled gardens, no more schedules, and no more limitations. Our current TV platforms all of a sudden look like dinosaurs of a lost age.
There are important caveats to such a dreamy utopian scenario in that consumers don't take to technology like technologists do. The average pub-goer has difficulty coming to terms with programming his old VCR, let alone a shining new interactive set-top box. Sky's genius is making their platform easy enough to use that your pet could work it. We can't overpower consumers with gadgets and overwhelm them with content, as it creates awkward barriers to adoption. This is TV, after all, and carpet-bombing people with everything we can find is overkill, as is working on the false assumption that people use televisions like they use PCs.
Opening up a television platform is a profound step that can't be considered lightly – other than the technological steps, there are commercial barriers that make it a difficult process. It is television based on a new idea rather than a new infrastructure. The experience of IPTV is a radical change from what we have all known before, as it provides true personalisation and two-way interactivity. Viewing comes through interacting rather than passively sifting through a funnel of unordered material we didn’t opt in for.
The nature of on-demand content empowers the viewer and enables true freedom of choice that very few have had before, and the good news is that after the initial learning curve, it's extraordinarily compelling and easy to sell.
The infrastructure of most platforms in the UK is almost always proprietary and a closely-guarded trade secret. Each broadcaster uses their own systems that are fully customised, with suppliers falling over themselves to lock their clients into their technologies and controls. All share an implementation of the common MPEG-2 standard (for both compression and RF transport), but implement their scheduling, play-out, EPG, conditional access and middleware differently.
IPTV technologies generally tend to follow open standards that enable easy interoperability, unless of course you use products provided by Microsoft, Siemens, Alcatel or any other gorilla. The fundamental architecture of an IPTV platform is based on web standards that have been tweaked – mark-up languages like HTML, XML and others. Menus are web pages that are specially adapted for TV viewing.
To develop for Sky, you need to spend extortionate amounts of money buying into Open TV's proprietary middleware and/or their own WapTV microbrowser (which uses the ETSI-certified WTVML language derived from WML). NTL and Telewest use the Two Way TV "Arc" system twinned with the HTML-based TV Navigator software originally built by the now-dissolved Liberate Technologies (now SeaChange). Freeview/OnDigital comes closest with the open MHEG-5 standard, which is an absurd declarative language created for digital Teletext services that runs through a Pantalk virtual machine. Don’t even ask about Homechoice or KIT.
All of these wildly different interactivity engines are implemented differently and have helped a market for cross-platform publishing spring up in the iTV world.
IPTV as technological platform owes much to its formative precedent of streaming video over the web. Typical standards (again unless you use proprietary products like Microsoft Windows Media or On2) revolve around MPEG-4 (all 22 parts), SMIL, real-time streaming protocols like RTP/RTSP, signalling protocols like SAP/SDP, transactional messaging through XML-based web services (SOAP, WSDL, UDDI etc) and distribution systems like multicasting.
Each piece of CPE has a different integration path because of differing hardware, but the most crucial point that underpins all this effort towards interoperation and compatibility is that the IPTV community has learnt from the lessons taught to us by the web and has opted to work within an open framework that tries its best to provide standardised abstraction when it comes to integrating proprietary systems.
Using open technology standards is commercially beneficial as it allows innovators to easily cross-train an already enormous pool of developer talent that is available on the market today. Graphic designers need a re-think course to learn about TV display, and developers need to learn TV-specific extensions of middleware and differences between PC and set-top box capabilities.
The barriers to building IPTV services are 1000 per cent lower than they are for TV platforms we have today. Almost anyone can set up a demonstration service literally within hours for negligible cost. Adapting existing web applications is incredibly easy as they use the same technologies.
Traditional platforms take months of training and testing to build anything the brand owners will accept, and cost a small fortune to even get involved in. Sky noticed it, hence the "Sky Net" service and micropayment mechanisms.
Real-time DVD-quality video from within in a web application is a developer's wet dream – one that the likes of YouTube and Google Video have been edging us closer to for some time now. Video ondemand is simply digital video files (AVI, MPG, MOV etc) being streaming over an QoS-enabled IP network using RTP/RTSP, and live video is just another of those streams, with its source set to multicast IP address and controlled with the likes of IGMP.
With this kind of technology already freely available to anyone who looks for it, we have the basis of an open TV platform that anyone can develop for – even the weekend hobbyist. Access to that platform needs to be wide open so it is truly available equally to all. Anyone's IPTV service should be accessible on any IPTV platform by any subscriber anywhere.
Indeed, one of the first pioneers of IPTV services in the UK are the academic community. Dozens of universities and colleges already provide high-bandwidth network connectivity to students across multiple campuses that they typically use for trading terabits of illegal music and movies (with Direct Connect, or DC++), when not finishing their assignments.
Small ISPs that are involved in specialised, targeted local-loop unbundling are plugging terrestrial TV aerials into their networks and serving up multicast TV and radio over wide area IP networks onto student PCs and into communal living areas.
It's a booming business, as the same systems can be extended to hotels and new property developments. Proprietary system vendors are running their hands in anticipation of getting their hands on the notfor-profit cheque book.
The first choice IT managers at universities face is whether to build a TV system from their beloved open-source products or buy something in that somebody has already made. What makes these projects interesting is that the heavy-duty localised infrastructure is already in place and also that the motivation for building them is not typically commercial and so you tend to have more flexibility and possibilities for innovation.
The usual requirement is for putting Freeview over the LAN as IP multicast and propagating the TV channel their media students run as part of their course studies. What they want to do is usually possible with over-the-counter PC components available on the high street (such as TV tuner cards) and free software (VLC etc).
What these organisations need to do is collaborate to build the core of a standardised, open TV platform themselves, based on open source technology that costs very little and allows students to innovate around it to their hearts content. Building an open structure (e.g. XML API for scheduling and data tools, listing of multicast addresses, bandwidth allowances and traffic shaping, access to network drives, providing code for applications etc) and allowing students to play obviously provides academic benefit (or "value" as moronic businesspeople would say). Working together also helps prevent unnecessary duplication of resources and expenditure.
It's easy to see why ISPs are interested in building their IPTV networks, as they have the skills inhouse and are proficient when it comes to network systems. Theoretically speaking, we should be able to see over 200 new individual TV platforms of different sizes built and launched that you could buy over the counter in Dixons, just as you can Sky Digital or Wanadoo broadband.
There is no reason why you should have to use more than one set-top box, in the same way that you don’t have to swap mobiles when you change mobile provider. Boxes should be able to be "unlocked" and pre-installed with a giveaway CD from a shop. Content issues aside (and they are not small issues at all), all would be built on similar systems, using the same languages, messaging, back-end servers and infrastructure principles.
The question that arises for content developers from this is how to avoid having to build over 200 different copies of their IPTV "service" application, as it would effectively consist of over 200 versions of the same TV "website".
Openness and interoperability solves this beautifully – using the likes of HTML and RTSP means services are transferable and can work on al platforms. So if you are a Yell, Lastminute.com, Ladbrokes or Thomson Holidays, you build it once and run it across every IPTV platform simultaneously, all from the cosy warm surroundings of the data centre that houses your primary websites.
The experience for a consumer is also preserved across platforms in perfect harmony, meaning their individual accounts and electronic "passports" can move with them if they choose to change TV service provider. This approach is becoming increasingly known as "software as a service", or "SaaS", although in desktop PC environments it has somewhat of a different meaning because of the more advanced capabilities of general purpose processing found in a normal computer, compared to a set-top box microprocessor. When you empower people to innovate around your platform, the response is nothing less than extraordinary.
Grid thinking and crowd leverage that underpins this open philosophy also helps scientists utilise spare processing power to listen for aliens and crunch genetic data. Google Maps is a prominent example – its policy of allowing third parties to integrate their services into its own applications has made it the de facto standard. Anyone can integrate or innovate for free, without discrimination or tiered access. There are thousands upon thousands of developers indulging their excitement at the power at their fingertips, creating applications that the originators could never have ever considered when they first put the API together.
Usergenerated content and technology is exponential in its popularity and applicability to normal everyday life. And IPTV is poised beautiful to exploit it – something no other TV platform could offer if they turned themselves upside down.
This is IPTV's killer app and its differentiator. It is our mission. It is the platform’s USP. This is the vision we must realise and help bring to fruition. It needs to become our philosophy. We are setting out to kill normal TV as we know it.
Anyone should be able to offer their own live multicast or on-demand TV or radio channel. Anyone should be able to offer their own application portal that is accessed from the public internet. Australians living in London should be able to access all their favourite channels from their British sofa and families should be able to create slideshows of photos that relatives in any country can view whenever they want to. Subscribers should be able to explore and customise their very own TV service crafted from their own favourite content – African channels and movies for African customers, live streaming video generated from multiplayer video games for Playstation-lovers, and an infinite number of new adapted applications that are currently revolutionising the way we use the web – sites like Flickr, Digg, eBay, and MySpace.
Anyone should be able to create something that can go on a TV to be shared amongst multiple viewers and if they want to, make money from it in the same way as eBay and PayPal have created an entirely new genre of home business. Subscribing to an IPTV service should offer you a massive and unlimited amount of content that brings as little or as much of the whole world to your living room as you want.
The IPTV brands of the future need to concentrate their efforts on making access as widely available as possible and making all this content easy to find and consume. It's a strange irony that TV as a supposedly mass market medium doesn’t allow that market to contribute and evolve it.
Our new worldwide TV platforms have the capability to reverse the conventional broadcasting paradigm. It's not theirs anymore, it belongs to all of us.
The excitement generated by anyone being able to innovate for TV is fuelling the interest in IPTV, and rightly so. As extraordinarily inspiring and amusing it will be to unleash 200 Sky Digital’s, the market couldn't support it forever, as the battles over broadband testify.
The unpalatable immediate future for content providers lies in splintered disparate audiences composed of varying numbers of subscribers – 5,000 here, 40,000 there and so on. These individual subscriber bases will form an aggregated IPTV audience that is not counted by the single brand, but by their demographic profile and the way they consume television, rather than how it is transmitted.
It will be possible to go even further and collate sub-audience data for specific genres and programmes that are offered on-demand. ISPs can release personalised services that are entirely designed from a generic template for a single demographic – Asian communities, gay and/or lesbian groups, expats in countries more than 1,000km away and more. But what follows this gentle explosion will be the inevitable and necessary market force of consolidation – as we are seeing with telecoms, small brands will be hoovered up into bundled into larger entities.
The immediate way to populate IPTV platforms with content is to use the sea of back-catalogue archive material that sits gathering dust in broadcasters' cupboards and that which is on the internet. Normal broadcasting convention dictates that the only content available is what is scheduled for transmission rather than the full breadth of everything that has ever been produced. There is a larger commercial benefit to media companies in digitising their archives as it means what had normally reached the end of its shelf-life can be still generate money.
The economics of digital distribution mean that on-demand platforms can offer a range of content that older incumbents can never hope to match unless they decide to offer IPTV as well. Allowing people to innovate almost guarantees a wave of creative new services and content created by third party developers and brands that is unstoppable – user-generated content (UGC) also makes a massive contribution that cannot be ignored.
We all know content is king, and an open platform means truly unlimited content from all over the planet. Tens of thousands of TV and radio channels, hundreds of thousands of movies and TV programmes, vaults of music tracks and videos, thousands of flash movies and web applications and tens of thousands of games. Let’s build an international multimedia network that anyone can add their own channels and content to that can join together any type of IPbased service with any other. If we combine truly universal access with the ability to access niche content from the most specific of genres, and make it simple enough for a child to use, there is nothing that any existing TV platform can do to match it except join in.
The vested interests of dinosaurs and those that work for them would mean they would have you believe that the only type of content that people want is football, movies and sex. Not so. Yes, they are extremely popular, which is why they are so highly fought over, but they are not the be all and end all of television even if the conventional rules of popularity still apply regardless of the technology they operate within. This is the only world these people know. The people that repeat this trite rubbish tend to have very little comprehension of on-demand systems or acceptance of change.
IPTV is seen as a serious threat to them so they play the infamous and highly effective FUD game ("fear, uncertainty and doubt"), in order to maintain control and feed precious egos that would suffer should their lack of knowledge come to be known. After the latest movies (which are in short supply and are drip fed), the most popular content for on-demand services are porn, music videos and back catalogue TV programmes. Ask anyone you know what they would watch if they could – the chances are most will say some bizarre bmovie or old TV-series they miss.
Just imagine how history would have panned out if Churchill took people's advice and shut up, or if Bill Gates decided in advance that IBM would never buy his operating system – where we are now is the same situation as there are critics galore claiming they see a bleak future this whole IPTV craze. The best and most revolutionary ideas are defiant and disruptive, and so is the case with IPTV. Creating an open platform is about as defiant and disruptive as you can get, which is why there will be massive resistance until the market forces mean incumbents have to adapt just to survive.
Offering vertical niche content is one way to slowly build many unique audiences that can be consolidated at a later date into something much bigger. Niches are something that big boys can’t offer because their economics don't allow it – it's strategically prudent to attack your enemy where his defences are weak as it helps you to find a way to invade and poison the core.
But we need balance when it comes to offering such a breadth of content, primarily being the questions of how viewers find their way around these huge libraries and how we make sure children don't access unacceptable material. The internet is the wild west of the content world – the openness of the platform and the ability of anyone to publish information means there are very few effective controls on who can access what.
Bringing the openness of the internet to TV requires forethought and a structure for tiered access with PIN codes and age ratings. These in themselves won’t stop everything, but they will be an important first step. Security for people is just as important (if not more so) as it is for systems and data.
As 30 seconds browsing the internet shows, not all content is presented too well, and that is putting it lightly. Sky has a very strict QA procedure for red button applications on their platform which is colloquially known as SSSL ("triple SL"), which is at the other end of the scale.
Reaching for truly universal access and lowering barriers to entry means that there is no amount of support staff that will be able to cross-check every piece of content put out, and we don’t want to be policing every little thing either.
Preserving quality is a crucial principle and a massive commercial risk – not everything is going to be good, nor will it all play by the rules. On systems with simple navigation, its imperative is to do as much work for the subscriber as possible at the back or head-end transmission centre so they can move around easily and spend their money liberally.
The answer to this particular problem relies on using community recommendation and rating schemes that use popularity as a guide to what to display on people’s screens, filtered through their personal preferences. For those that doubt, Google is based on popularity, as are the music charts.
What becomes very clear when thinking through all the implications of building an open system based on the model of the internet, is how a number of centralised systems will be needed. The web has DNS, VoIP has Enum, and IPTV is missing that vital cross-platform international register of assets – a multimedia "DNS" if you will, that all operators can use and reference.
An open system means a standardised billing procedure for nano and micro-payments, multilateral age ratings and parental controls, and centralised authorities such as RIPE and Nominet that can arbitrate amongst networks and content providers to ensure equality of access for all. BSS and OSS (primarily provisioning) services can still remain proprietary if necessary, but an extension of our existing IP-based service infrastructure that is tailored for video will become essential over time.
The ITU recently announced it is setting up a focus group specifically for IPTV and more and more interest is being shown in building a trade organisation that works as a "W3C for IPTV". Work is currently underway to form this very body (tentatively titled as the "IPTV Consortium" or "IPTVC"), which is desperately need to coherently promote the cause of IPTV and on-demand content – to share our vision, the mission to change TV as we know it, and to maintain both open standards and cross-platform interoperability. This much energy and momentum must be channelled so it doesn't become a rudderless ship.
The difficult issue for network operators is how to react to this new era of video delivery. Scaling for video demand is extraordinarily tricky, especially as business models are still being formulated and proven in such a volatile market. The days of the "two tiered internet" are upon us, as services that run over copper DSL are bandwidth hungry and require 100 per cent reliability that is not currently on offer.
The cheapest way to transport media is over the internet, but since it is a bottlenecked pipe, there will almost certainly need to be a layer of specialist carriage (as a VPN) secured on tier one backbone infrastructure that is quality assured and heavily policed to provide the right environment for propagating multimedia cost-effectively worldwide. The Mbone project attempted this but was generally derided as it didn’t have the necessary scope or commercial backing it needed.
The internet in itself is simply a spaghetti of interconnecting networks that talk to each other via peering points – yet another example of openness that has delivered the foundations of the digital infrastructure that will power the knowledge economy of the 21st century.
Carphone Warehouse has changed everything by offering free broadband with its branded telephony services, and we have taken a quantum leap that will be sending shockwaves for some time to come. The new ISP dynamic will be free broadband connectivity, pay for by value-added services that start with telecoms products and carry on with IPTV and video on-demand. Bundling will ultimately become about how many services you can squeeze in for free without making a significant loss.
If you're involved in this world, you’ll know that demand has skyrocketed since the beginning of the year – what was a discussion point is now a reality. We've taxied to the runway and the engines are firing up.
It's also important to remember that IPTV is a mechanism for delivering television and doesn’t necessarily involve a set-top box – any IP network that has sufficient bandwidth and is capable of multicast and traffic-shaping can support multimedia services, be it a local area network or 3G mobile platform.
An open platform for IPTV is a concept bigger than your television – it is of a world where there are few limits and massive potential for innovation. Integrating seamlessly between networks needs to be deliberately simple to fuel excitement in the new medium and allow it permeate into other industries and sectors. Maximum choice, heavy personalisation, a preserved experience and seamless mobility are key to our wider economy and are a boon to consumers who are tired of being locked into the prison big TV brands deliberately lock them into. Empower them, and we shall see change unlike anyone has seen in their own lifetime.
It's easy and fashionable to criticise Microsoft for a multitude of sins, its prime one being that just as the man with the hammer thinking everything is a nail, that it assumes people will use TVs the way they use PCs. While that may not be true for the time being, the inescapable and inevitable future is that set-top boxes will improve in capability and ultimately provide a PC-like experience on our TVs as a secondary central machine interface to our lives that we use to get common things done.
But it is dangerous to rubbish that assertion as their mistake is one of timing, not of accuracy. IP will become the dominant method of transmission, and TV will become considerably more interactive, but it will take time. Three months is a long time in this business, but the changes we make now will impact us for decades to come.
Digital TX Limited is a London-based provider of technology and consultancy solutions for interactive digital television and broadband media. Alexander Cameron can be reached at email@example.com.
As well as co-ordinating the birth of the IPTV Consortium (IPTVC), Alex is now offering a great value one-day workshop course on IPTV and Video On-Demand (VoD) specifically for web and media professionals. It can help you get up to speed on the latest technologies, content deals, operators and applications across the world, and offer immense value in identifying both new opportunities and threats for your business and personal career. If you would like more information, call Alex on 07986 373177 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers who quote The Register as their source will receive a 10 per cent discount on the course fees.