Europeans have a strong foothold in information technology research. Not only has their research fuelled growth for the sector and industry, but consumers have also been feeling the positive effects of the technologies that have emerged over the years. Adding to this remarkable development is the MUSE (Multi Service Access Everywhere) project. Backed by the EU with €15.5 million in funding, MUSE contributed to the strategic objective 'Broadband for All' of Information Society Technologies. The MUSE partners targeted the research and development of an affordable, yet faster, broadband network in the first phase of the project. Their efforts paid off and now enterprises are keen to acquire the technology - the so-called Global System for Broadband (GSB) that the partners developed. But their work did not stop there. In phase 2 of the project, the consortium further enhanced services and developed the GSB in order to be in line with emerging technologies and services. 'We really went quite far in phase 2, developing some very advanced systems, but many of them are already quite mature and ready for pre-deployment validation,' ICT Results quoted MUSE coordinator Peter Vetter as saying. MUSE succeeded in developing a solution supporting multimedia services, such as IPTV, and fixed-mobile convergence, which offers consumers two services: (1) access to their broadband service from any location, thus burning fewer holes in their pockets and (2) a single device for video and telephone calls use. But the project also created a 'network intelligence' and offered solutions for giving network access to services and service providers. With respect to IPTV, MUSE has afforded more sophisticated technology through the development of intelligence in the access network. For researchers, the key IPTV challenge was dealing with network deceleration caused by sudden bandwidth use. So by developing a cache system in the access network that is closer to home, MUSE was able to save bandwidth on the metro network, Mr Vetter said. 'It is as if subscribers are given a free Personal Video Recorder (PVR) or TiVo with their subscription, except the network stores the content instead of a hard disk sitting on your television,' the project coordinator was quoted as saying. 'You do not need to programme it in advance.' It's not just consumers that will benefit from MUSE's latest achievements. MUSE has also developed various network interfaces for different service providers, effectively giving them tailor-made network solutions to meet their needs. The industry is now taking a hard look at what MUSE can offer. 'There are a lot of companies working in bilateral arrangements to validate many of the technologies we worked on,' Mr Vetter said. 'Intelligence in the access network, in particular, responds to current problems faced by the telecoms companies and service providers. I don't think it will be too long before some of these enhanced services are deployed.'