Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Would You Browse for Furniture on your Phone?

Every company now seems to feel like they should have a Twitter account and an iPhone app. Where they were once hesitant about going online they are now desperate to appear cool by mastering the latest social networking craze or spending all their money on a fancy website. Having refused to get online until people stopped coming into their shops they are now reaching out via the web and learning fun phrases like Web 2.0, the Tipping Point and Crowd Sourcing.

Both House of Frasier and Ikea have released versions of their 2010 catalogs as iPhone apps. The apps let you browse through what is available in store although it is not actually possible to buy products via the Ikea one (Ikea only deliver to certain areas so online sales aren't their strong point). A lot of the items these companies sell would need to be seen in person (you wouldn't buy a sofa without seeing it) but the apps aim to give customers 'inspiration'.

Some have questioned the usefulness of a phone application when it comes to selling furniture. Bill Westerman, CTO of Create with Context believes that it is unlikely to be cost effective: "The enormous cost of development won’t always be financially sensible. The aim of any app is to tap into customer loyalty, keep shoppers interested in the brand and ultimately make money."

Most people in the UK wont have the ability to use an iPhone application so perhaps retailers would be better off trying to make a really great mobile site. Mobile sites are getting more hits than ever before as more and more phones become able to access the web. A great mobile site would need to be accessible to those with slower connections or at least have high and low bandwidth versions.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Mobile Broadband News on Facebook

Mobile Broadband News now has a Facebook page! To keep up to date with new posts just visit Mobile Broadband News on Facebook and click 'Become a fan'. All new posts will now be shown on Facebook as well as here.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Broadband news to see when new posts are published and join in the discussion, I am also on Identi.ca here.

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch via, you can email me via my Google Profile here.

Thanks for reading,

Simon Grant.

Monday, 14 December 2009

41 Percent Say That Mobile Broadband is their Main Connection

Considering that mobile broadband has a reputation as a supplementary technology it comes as quite a surprise that 41% of people who took part in a recent Ofcom poll said that it provided their main connection to the internet. Mobile broadband is typically thought of as an additional way of connecting for those on the move but this has clearly changed.

Most mobile broadband users aren't as mobile as you may imagine, infact 78% predominantly use their dongles at home. This shows us that many mobile broadband users do not have a fixed line connection. The benefits of a mobile broadband dongle go beyond portability particularly for those who do not have a phone line or are looking to save money.

According to Ofcom thosed aged 15-34 are most likely to solely use mobile broadband with 1/10 having a contract. Less well off household are also going for the mobile option with those earning less than £11,500 per year often opting for mobile broadband only. Mobile broadband is clearly maintaining its popularity and looks set to overtake fixed line connections by the end of the year.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Online Music Streaming Becoming Increasingly Popular

Once upon a time it would take longer to download a song from the internet than it would to actually play the song. Thankfully things have come a long way since then and music streaming is an everyday reality rather than a far of dream. its safe to say that the internet has had a massive impact on how we buy (or not) and discover music. It has also opened up the possibilities when it comes to how we listen to music.

These days even some pay as you go phones come with music downloads (although the less said about Nokia's Comes With Music the better). Most internet users stream music from Youtube even if they don't subscribe to any online radio stations. A recent study by Rajar has investigated the usage of online radio and found that its popularity is rising rapidly. Last month alone in the UK 4.5 million people listened to online radio compared to 2.9 million in October of last year.

Rajar's Measurement of Internet Delivered Audio Services (Midas) report also showed that listening to podcasts and to listen-again services such as the BBC iPlayer was also growing, but at a reduced pace.

One of the most popular online radio services is Spotify who allow users to stream millions of tracks in exchange for either listening to adverts or paying a monthly subscription. Spotify has some major flaws (its search function is basic at best and discovering new music is a struggle) but it allows you to choose what you listen to which means that it is under your control. Ideally Spotify would take some tips from Last.fm in order to become an interactive community.

Its clear to see why Spotify would be more popular than traditional radio, whatever you listen to chances are you will find something you like on Spotify. In this sense it caters for a much larger potential user base than any commercial radio station could without needing to appeal to everyone. What Spotify really needs in some user interaction so that it is easier to find new artists which are relevant to your tastes and get recommendations from people who like the same things you do.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Skype Launches Live Streaming Experiment

In a bid to publicize the ability of their software to make traditional phone calls as well as instant message Skype have employed a man to sit in a deserted part of Spain and answer calls via Skype. A live stream of the event is also available (play the video below and the live stream is then displayed).

Skype users are able to contact 27 year old Rob Cavazos via the website www.phoneboxexperiment.com which also features a live stream (it looks windy in Spain today!) Calls can be made by anyone with credit on their Skype account.

Skype were inspired by the Mojave phone booth which was referred to as the loneliest phonebox in the world before it was removed in 2000. The phone, which was 15 miles from the nearest highway, became an early internet sensation and would regularly receive calls from around the world.

Skype is the most well known of the various VOIP (voice over IP) applications and the most popular with 521 million user accounts in operation. Recent advances have included the Skype Mobile as well as a mobile application available for download here.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Londoners Leave 10,000 Mobile Phones in Taxis Per Month

According to a survey commissioned by Credant Technologies each month sees around 10,000 mobile phones left behind in London Taxi cabs. The worst month for phone losses is December as people are more likely to be inebriated enough to not notice their phone slipping out of their pocket. Presumably the reduction in the size of mobile phones make them easier to lose these days.

Many people are lucky enough to be reunited with their phones by a friendly taxi driver. Other will find that the next fare has taken their device never to be seen again. Loosing your mobile phone can be a real hassle and also a cause of concern due to the amount of personal data the average phone contains. If you are a user of pay as you go phones you may loose all your credit as well as your handset. If you have insurance you will be able to get a new handset but what about its contents?

Chances are your mobile phone contains hundreds of photographs, emails and even music tracks that could easily be lost. Even if you have your data backed up at home you are likely to worry about who has your data and what they intend to do with it. If you access social networking sites from your phone its best not to save your passwords unless you want to see somebody else updating your Facebook page. Similarly it is best to log out of applications such as Skype mobile and other IM providers.

The best way to avoid these issues (other than not forgetting your phone) is to keep your phone locked and use a password for access. This also has the benefit of not letting you use your phone unless you are sober enough to put in a password - not more drunk texts! It is also possible to lock or encrypt your memory card so that the data stored on it is safe. There are now applications available which allow you to remotely lock your phone by text message.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Anti Piracy Laws May be Hard to Enforce for Those Using Mobile Broadband

Shortly after dinning with music industry big shot David Geffen on his yacht this summer Peter Mandelson suddenly announced plans to crack down on illegal online file sharing. Mandelson plans to criminalise vast swathes of the population and 'throw them off the internet' if they are caught sharing copyrighted material.

Many have suggested that the proposed law is flawed in many ways and seems to contradict the Government's 'Digital Britain' plans. Treasury secretary Stephen Timms claims that the main ISPs are "pretty supportive of where we have now reached" although Talk Talk and BT disagree. There have also been questions raised about the likely cost of the plans and how exactly they will be funded.

Mobile Broadband operators have expressed their concern at the proposed new law and suggested that tracking those who illegally download via a mobile connection may be problematic.
"[ISPs] are not allocating one IP address per customer. They can't backtrack, as things stand, to identify the customer. They would be required to build the databases that would be able to do that mapping, and that would be very costly."

Mobile Broadband Group chief Hamish MacLeod

The databases required would cost the industry around £35m at a time when they are looking to expand coverage and increase speeds. The industry is unsurprisingly not eager to shoulder this cost especially those who specialise in mobile broadband. As mobile broadband download limits can be lower than with fixed line broadband, mobile users are not thought to download as much copyrighted data.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fring Video Call App Comes to Nokia Phones

Mobile phones have had 3G video calling functionality for several years now but it doesn't seem to have taken off. Many of us use use instant messenger applications such as Skype or MSN messenger in combination with a webcam on our laptops or PCs. So far video calling on mobile devices has failed to become widely popular, perhaps due to high usage costs.

Now that VOIP technology has come to mobile devices so we are able to instant message or make internet voice calls for free using applications such as Skype mobile or Windows live messenger mobile. These applications are free to download and free to run if you have unlimited web usage as part of your contract. Even if you have to pay for web access it is likely to work out cheaper than traditional calls. The next step was clearly going to be internet video calling and it would seem that it is now available.

Introducing Fring.

It is now possible to make free Skype video calls via your mobile phone using a service called Fring. Fring is an 'identity-aggregating app' which allows you to contact your friends via different social medias like last.fm, Skype, and Facebook all through one application. So far the video calling option is only avaliable to those with Symbian S60 Nokia phones. For more info see the video by Fing embedded below or visit their blog.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband Overtakes Fixed Cost

October sales figures have shown that for the first time pay as you go mobile broadband contracts have become more popular than fixed price contacts. According to Broadband-Expert.co.uk 53% of new customers in October chose the pre paid option. This is the first time pay as you go has overtaken fixed usage contracts.

Pay as you go mobile broadband has been increasing in popularity over recent years particularly with infrequent internet users. The ability to only pay for usage rather than fixed monthly fee means that the contracts, like those of pay as you go phones, tend to work out cheaper. They also offer an alternative to the 12-24 month contracts often necessary for prepaid mobile broadband.

Recent years have seen an increase in 'light users' who only go on line occasionally to check their email or use Ebay etc. For these people a fixed line broadband connection is an unnecessary expense and mobile broadband a suitable alternative. Pay as go go offers the most competitive deals and has seen its popularity rise during the recession.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Is Offline Computing a Thing of the Past?

Microsoft have announced that their Cloud Computing Platform Windows Azure will 'come out of test mode' in January next year and be fully operational by February. This is a big step for Microsoft who know that they need to have a top notch Cloud Computing (simple explanation) offering in order to compete. It also shows that Cloud Computing is where tech is heading. Although this has been known for some time Microsoft's announcement may well speed things up.

While many are ready to write off Microsoft as an declining icon of computing's last generation, Ozzie sees Microsoft positioned to leapfrog some of the companies that tend to be thought of as the leaders of the cloud computing world--names like Amazon, Salesforce and Google. - Cnet

Most of use use Cloud Computing applications for our personal email accounts with providers such as Gmail or Hotmail. Looking to the future more and more computing will be achieved via a web browser without the need for offline software. Consider the following examples you may already use:

1. Spotify

Spotify allows you to stream music over the internet without having an offline copy. It means that you don't need to carry around your music collection on an mp3 player, you can access it from an internet enabled device.

2. Skype

Skype allows you to instant message your contact over the internet and can be downloaded to a range of web enabled devices. If you use the Skype Mobile or the mobile app you can make VOIP (voice over IP) calls and thus bypass the phones traditional call making technology in order to make free calls.

3. Picnik.com

Picnik lets you edit photos via your web browser. It has all the basic functions the average users needs such as cropping, rotating and adjusting contrast. Once you are done editing your photo you simply download it back to your desktop.

As I said in a comment on a recent Independent article on Azure:

Cloud computing is a great idea (I use various online tools such as Gmail, Picnik and Remember The Milk) but it relies on users having a good connection speed so infrastructure improvements will help it to take off.
If you take Cloud computing to it's logical conclusion all we will need in the future is a device that acts as a browser with no need for offline tools of any kind. You can already see this happening on mobile devices with the increasing popularity of apps like Skype for mobile and Windows Live mobile messenger which bypass the normal call making methods in favor of VOIP calls.

Perhaps the future will see us carrying around mobile web devices with cameras and the ability to make traditional calls may be forgotten. If everything you need to do (or more realistically, want to do) can be handled by online apps all you really need is a portable web browser.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Decline in Home Phone Usage

The use of a fixed line home phone has become less popular as mobile phones have become more widespread. For many a fixed phone line is only necessary in order to receive broadband as calling costs are covered by inclusive minutes as part of a mobile phone contract. Those without an internet connection or with a mobile broadband contract may forgo having a phone line at all.

Not being able to make phone calls whilst on the move was the norm where now the idea seems strange. It seems odd to me that I once only had the ability to go online at home rather than being able to use an internet enabled phone whenever and wherever. The rise in email and applications such as Windows Live Messenger Mobile and the Skype mobile means that most forms of communication are always available.

"Having a landline is about having a commitment to place as much as anything. Mobile phones are about mobility in a much deeper sense than just convenience. It's about not being rooted in the same way as a landline, which gives a feeling of stability."
Ben Highmore, University of Sussex

In 2007 a survey found that 15% of households had at least one mobile phone but no landline. The recessions is likely to have increased this figure as households cut back on what they see as luxuries. Whilst most people seem to be unwilling to stop using the internet altogether mobile broadband can offer savings to those with less frequent usage patterns. Three million UK homes now have a mobile broadband contract and that figure is growing rapidly.

As a recent BBC article on the subject points out those in rented accommodation are reticent about paying £120 to have a phone line activated when that figure could pay for around 8 months worth of mobile broadband. BT is attempting to encourage us to use our home phone for important conversations. Unfortunately for them a lot of mobile phone contracts include unlimited calls and people are unlikely to pay twice for anything during a recession.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Spotify Helps to 'Curb Music Piracy'

A recent survey has shown that those who use Spotify to stream songs for free are less inclined to illegally download music. Of those questioned who admitted to illegally downloading two thirds said that using Spotify had encouraged them to reduce the amount they downloaded.

This makes you wonder if people want to own music or just want access to it? Now that it is possible to download almost any album for free has owning a collection lost its appeal? CD sales continue to fall whilst legal downloads become more and more popular. It will be interesting to see if the popularity of music streaming will have a negative effect on legal mp3 sales.

Whilst users with a free Spotify account cannot own or stream songs offline they can have round the clock access. Those with a premium account can stream offline and on mobile devices such as the iPhone or the HTC Hero for £10 a month. So far the mobile app is only available with a monthly contract rather than on pay as you go phones so bandwidth limits are not an issue.

Legal downloads continue to rise in popularity with Amazon's mp3 store being a positive example. It has become the second most popular provider of mp3s behind iTunes perhaps due to its household name and lack of DRM crippled files. As CD retailers close their doors it is clear that the music industry needs to change its model. Spotify may well be leading the change.

Monday, 2 November 2009

TalkTalk Criticize Broadband Tax Plans

The Government 's plans to introduce a broadband tax in order to cover the cost of providing 'broadband for all' has been criticized by telecoms company TalkTalk. The planned tax, announced as part of the Digital Britain report, would cost users around £0.50 per month and is likely to be leveled at those receiving fixed line broadband.

TalkTalk's chief executive Charles Dunstone (who seems to enjoy being provocative) has said that the £6 per year tax could force low-income households to give up their internet connections:

"This is an unjust and regressive tax on all phone customers which will subsidise mostly richer rural households that can afford high priced super fast broadband services. As well as being unfair we estimate that the increase in price will mean that over 100,000 mostly low income homes will be forced to give up their broadband lines. This is wholly inconsistent with the government's plans to tackle digital exclusion."

Whilst it is admirable to defend those who are on low incomes who stand to gain from having a broadband connection, the figures just don't add up. An extra 50p per month is unlikely to dissuade people from getting connected. Cheaper alternative such as pay as you go mobile broadband are available and the benefits of an internet connection are hard to ignore.

Only 10% of people polled by Ofcom this summer intended to cut back on broadband costs. With the money people are able to save by shopping online a broadband connection could pay for itself.

BT have previously suggested that the tax be paid by those who own a mobile phone in order to spread the cost. The Conservatives have opposed broadband taxation so the outcome of the general election might decide the fate of the tax.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Three Mifi Mobile Broadband Router Goes on sale

I reported the launch of Three's MiFi mobile router back in August. The device is now on sale and Three have announced details of the price plan it is available on. Firstly a quick recap for those who missed the original post:

Traditional Wi-Fi connections are only found in fixed locations such as coffee shops, train stations or at home. They allow users to connected wirelessly but require a wired connection to a telephone line for the incoming signal. The Mi-Fi will use mobile broadband technology to connect allowing users to set up ad-hoc networks anywhere they can receive a signal.
The Mifi is currently available on a monthly rolling contract for £15 per month with a cost of £69.99 for the device itself. The alternative for those looking to simultaneously connect multiple devices is to buy several pay as you go mobile broadband dongles. Users of the Mifi only pay one monthly fee regardless of how many devices they connect.

More details about the Mi-fi including up to date contract information can be found on the three site's Mi-Fi page.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Business Mobile Broadband Sector Continues to Grow

The first section on the population to fully embrace mobile broadband was business users. Portable dongles were originally aimed at those who spend their life on the road going to meetings and needing to check and send documents on the move. A recent report by ABI Research has predicted that business take up will continue to grow despite the state of the economy.

ABI expect business subscriptions to increase by 17% next year despite many companies having to cut back on outgoings. It seems that mobile broadband is considered a necessity rather than a luxury. Eastern Europe and the Middle East have been highlighted as key areas for growth of the mobile data business market. Even subscriptions in the UK are expected to continue to rise in the coming years despite the recession.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Spotify Comes to the HTC Hero

The Spotify iPhone App was released back in July for premium subscribers. It allows users to stream an unlimited amount of free music via their mobile phone for £9.99 per month and includes the ability to create offline playlists.

The Spotify catalog includes over 5 Million tracks from 375,209 artists. Users can sign up for free although the service is temporarily invite only at the moment. Free users are unable to connect via mobile phone.

Spotify have recently announced that they are now working with Mobile Phone provider 3 to bring the Spotify mobile app to the HTC Hero. So far only customers with a HTC Hero on a 24 month contract will be able to use the app which is being launched next month.

Three also hinted that their deal with Spotify will eventually extend to other products including mobile broadband. Presumably Spotify streams will be excluded from monthly download allowances for mobile broadband customers. Three have previously embraced Skype's VOIP technology so they clearly aren't afraid to move with the times.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Smart Phone Etiquette

Ours is the first generation to grow up with the mobile phone and the internet. We now have the internet in our hands in the form of the smart phone but when isn't it smart to use your phone? Can you check your emails in company without causing offense?

A report commissioned by Intel has investigated people's attitudes to smart phone usage and found that most people are still uncomfortable if you use your phone in their company. 69% of participants thought that mobile phones should stay in the pocket in company. Only 60% thought that going online or using your phone during a date was bad manners.

Half of those asked thought that going on line at the dinner table was a no-no. The other half aren't welcome at my house! The worst offenders in my opinion are those strange people who think that it is okay to play music out loud via their mobile phone's speaker in public. These people tend to have bad taste in music along with poor judgment.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Prince Charles Concerned by 'Broadband Deserts'

The Prince of Wales writing in The Telegraph has expressed his concern at the lack of mobile broadband coverage in rural Britain. Charles, who set up the Rural Action Programme following the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, believes that rural areas need high speed broadband in order to prosper.

"...there is no doubt that our countryside remains in crisis and we have to continue to find new ways to help. The provision of services – without which no community can survive, let alone flourish – must be central to our efforts. And it has become clear that one of those services – the lack of access to high speed broadband – is putting many of those who work in rural communities at a severe disadvantage."

Mobile broadband
has been suggested as the solution to the problem of limited fixed line broadband penetration in rural areas. The Government's aim of 'Broadband for all by 2012' as part of the Digital Britain Report is reliant on increasing mobile broadband coverage. Currently about 2 million people in rural areas are not able to receive broadband of 2mbps or above.

The Prince said that access to broadband would help to support businesses, schools individuals in rural areas. He describes "broadband deserts" where no signal is available and warned that without broadband more farmers would have to abandon their livelihoods.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Mobile Broadband is Mostly Being Used at Home as an Alternative to a Fixed Line

Mobile broadband used to be mostly sold as a portable way to access the internet. Before the Blackberry became popular having a pay as you go mobile broadband dongle meant that you could check your emails when you were out of the office or on a train. Business men and women where the core market and you certainly didn't get a free laptop.

Recent research by Virgin Media has shown that 78% of their mobile broadband customers predominantly use their dongles at home. This shows how the mobile broadband market has changed; these days it is often seen as a cheaper and easier alternative to having a phone line. Why pay to have a phone line installed and then pay a monthly fee if you have an inclusive mobile phone contract? Why buy a laptop when you can get one for free with mobile broadband?

There are of course reasons why some people stick with fixed line broadband (lets not get into that debate now). People who rent or don't have much of a disposable income are increasingly choosing the mobile option. The fact that they aren't being as mobile with their laptop doesn't surprise me, particularly with the rise in Smart Phones that have a decent 3g connection.

Monday, 12 October 2009

3 Wins Best Mobile Broadband award

3 Mobile has won the best mobile broadband award at this year's Mobile Choice Consumer Awards. Three's 15GB tariff beat off the competition to take first prize for the best monthly package. Three offer a Samsung N130 netbook, mobile broadband dongle with 15GB data allowance and 100 free texts for £25 a month.

"We are delighted to be recognised as winners for our Mobile Broadband year on year and to be able to offer our customers deals that are great value for money," Marc Allera, sales and marketing, Three.

TheMobile Choice Consumer Awards also include categories for Phone of the Year, Tariff of the Year and Best High Street Retailer. The winners are decided by the readers of Mobile Choice.

T-Mobile and Orange Merger Could be Delayed

The merger of two of Britain's biggest telecoms providers is likely to be delayed whilst it is investigated by the Office of Fair Trading. The merger which was made public last month would create a company with a 37% stake of the mobile phone market in the UK and reduce the number of large providers to four.

The Guardian reports that the merger has been refered to EU regulators by the OFT and could be delayed. Consumer groups have been vocal in oposing the merger which they say will lead to reduced competition in an already limited market. Proposed reglations could mean that several of the main providers could be forced to sell of parts of their mobile spectrum to avoid any one company having too large a share.

The 3G spectrum needs improvement if the Governments pladge of 'broadband for all by 2012' is to be met. The Government has called on mobile broadband providers to increase their coverage to areas that cannot recieve fixed line broadband. (The Guardian article linked above claims that providers will have to 'plug the gaps in existing fixed-line infrastructure with wireless broadband'. They seem to be confusing Wireless broadband (which uses a wireless router plugged into a phone line) with Mobile Broadband) . If no single company is allowed a larger share of the spectrum this increase in coverage will have to have the backing of each of the main providers.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Carphone Warehouse CEO Charles Dunstone Says that 'Mobile Broadband has Peaked'

The CEO of The Carphone Warehouse (and Talk Talk) Charles Dunstone believes that Mobile Broadband 'has peaked' and is being deserted by consumers. Speaking to The Guardian he said that:

"We get a sense that the mobile broadband thing has peaked. We are seeing some of those people begin to realise that the bandwidth you get on mobile is so much less than you get on a fixed line. Mobile broadband is increasingly a supplementary rather than a substitutional thing, and an increasing proportion of Carphone sales are of pre-pay dongles."

I was amazed to read this particularly after a report released earlier in the week stated that mobile connections are set to overtake fixed line subscriptions by the end of the year. As I mentioned on Twitter Mobile Broadband take up has doubled in the past year alone which makes Dunstone's comments seem at best misinformed.

He makes a good point about a lot of mobile dongle sales being to fixed line customers but the suggestion that mobile broadband has peaked seems way off. Those of us who have grown up with mobile phones see little point in having a landline and if mobile broadband speeds increase it could do serious damage to sales of traditional broadband subscriptions.

Some of the networks are clearly struggling to cope with infrastructure not yet ready for so many connections and will be forced to improve. The pay as you go mobile broadband market is very competitive so whom ever can offer their customers the best speeds and most reliable connection is set to do well.

I would be very interested to see any statistics Mr Dunstone can provide to back up his argument. As ISP Review says "every other piece of research we've seen has appeared to communicate the opposite conclusion."

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Mobile Broadband to Overtake Fixed Line Connections by The End of the Year

Mobile broadband subscriptions (including high speed internet connections on mobile phones) are expected to reach 600 million by the end of the year. Fixed line subscriptions look set to reach 500 Million. That means for the first time ever there will be more mobile broadband connections than those operating via a phone line.

The scale of mobile broadband take-up is staggering, the International Telecoms Union reported a 50% increase in subscriptions over the last year alone. Mobile subscriptions are expected to reach 4.6 Billion by the end of the year so clearly the percentage of mobile phones with high speed internet access remains low. Pay as you go mobile broadband and free laptop deals continue to grow in popularity.

the increase in connections could be negative for the consumer in the short term but will lead to improvements in infrastructure likely to benefit all users in the long term. Increased demand will see the current 3g infrastructure strained but improvements will be made. Whilst even the best mobile broadband can fall behind fixed line in terms of speed consumers will expect improvements and providers will be looking to proved them.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Three Offers 15GB Mobile Broadband for £15

Mobile Broadband provider Three are now offering 15GB of data per month for £15. The deal is avaliable for those who sign up to a 24 month pay monthly contract. This is perhaps Three's best mobile broadband offer for those willing to comit to a long term contract.

Most mobile broadband contracts offer around 3-5GB for £15 so this latest offer will appeal to those who are 'heavy' users. There is nothing worse than going over your monthly alowance and being charged an arm and a leg for a few mb of data so the 15gb limit will appeal to some.

Hopefully this offer will lead to a 'price war' between the main providers. If a company wants to keep its customers during such shakey financial times they need to offer great value epecially for luxurys such as mobile broadband. Three seem to know this, lets just hope the others are paying attention.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Vodafone Criticized for Download Speed Discrepancies

A recent report by Broadband Expert investigated the actual download speeds customers can expect to recieve with each of the main mobile broadband providers. It will come as no surprise to anybody that users are unlikely to experience 'up to...' speeds often quoted.

Vodafone in particular was singled out for criticism, not because their mobile broadband was particularly slow, but because they claimed to provide speeds of up to 7.2Mbps. Despite this tests carried out resulted in speeds of around 1mbps. Most providers quoted speeds of up to 3.6mbps about 3 times faster than the average speeds experienced during tests.

Vodafone's claims to offer speeds up to twice as fast as their competitors was disputed by Broadband Expert. Vodafone have responded to the report by claiming that "reliability and consistency were more important to customers than speed" which begs the question: why are they advertising such high potential (but unrealistic) speeds?

Whilst the best mobile broadband is reliable and consistent nobody wants consistently lower than advertised speeds. Mobile broadband providers should not, in my opinion, be allowed to advertise speeds that less than 25% of users can expect to receive.

This is not the first time Vodafone's claims have been questioned. An advert they created featuring a mobile broadband dongle as a rocket with the tag line "The fastest, most reliable mobile broadband in the galaxy" was disputed by the Advertising Standards Authority and had to be pulled.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Broadband Tax To Be Law By Next Election

The minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms has said that the new broadband tax will be law by the time the election comes around. Speaking at a debate in London Mr Timms said that the tax is still a priority and will be 'presented to parliament as part of the Finance Bill'.

The proposed tax which aims to raise cash to improve the nations broadband infrastructure will cost those with fixed phone lines 50 pence per month. The idea for the broadband tax was proposed in the Digital Britain report in order to finance the government's plan to provide 'broadband for all' by 2012.

Those without a fixed line will not have to pay the tax another reason why mobile broadband is best when it comes to saving money if not for download speeds. Pay as you go mobile broadband users will be able to avoid the tax which may help to provide them with a fibre optic connection (eventually).

The tax has proved to be controversial with the Conservatives saying that they would oppose it. Some have said that broadband providers should foot the bill as they stand to profit from increased broadband coverage whilst others have questioned the ability of a 50p tax to pay for a fibre optic network.

Steve Weller of uSwitch.com says that the proposed tax is 'a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.'

"We are talking about a digitally dependent economy and society, and as such, the Government should be looking to share the burden across businesses and consumers alike."

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Starbucks in the UK Offer Free Wifi to Loyal Customers

Starbucks has followed the lead of Pret-a-Manger in offering customers free Wifi in their stores. The Wi-Fi will be provided by BT Openzone and will be in 650 branches in the UK. In order to connect customers will need to sign up for a Starbucks reward card. Reports so far suggest that this will allow them unlimited acess.

Those with Wifi enabled laptops and mobile phones will be able to benefit from the service whilst they sip over-roasted coffee.

Monday, 21 September 2009

New Peugeot To Include In-Car Internet

We all know that the internet is moving away from the computer and into our everyday lives. 3G enabled mobile devices mean that we need never be offline (unless we are unfortunate enough to wander into a 'notspot'.

Peugeot have decided that their new 5008 needs an in-car Wifi router so that multiple devices can connect to the internet during those long tedious car journeys. No specific technical details have been released yet but it looks like the device will be an inbuilt router which will connect to a mobile broadband 3G network via a USB dongle.

It remains to be seen how useful an in-car router will be considering that most internet devices may soon have inbuilt mobile connections. If two people wish to connect and you have a pay as you go mobile broadband contract I guess it would be suitable.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Students Boost Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband Sales

Pay as you go mobile broadband is perfect for students. Having a fixed line connection in rented accommodation is expensive and can be a pain to organize so mobile broadband is an obvious choice. A pay-as-you-go contract means not having to pay for anything other than what you use, no point paying for mobile broadband during the summer if your parents have a traditional fixed line broadband connection after all.

Tesco's Telecoms division has just reported that they have seen a 71% increase in takeup for their flexible pay as you go mobile broadband which coinsided with the begining of the University year. Tesco sells mobile broadband contracts with a selection of providers including Orange and O2 including pay as you go and pay monthly contracts.

Vodafone Launch Wireless Mobile Broadband Router

Vodafone has launched a wireless mobile broadband router with the snappy title 'Vodafone Mobile Broadband Hotspot'. The VMBH will allow users to set up WiFi networks for multiple devices all using a single Mobile Broadband signal.

The device would seem to be similar to 3's MiFi which was launched last month which also allows multiple devices to get online via mobile broadband using a wireless connection. The routers are aimed at business users or those in larger households without a phone line. Only those receiving the best mobile broadband signal will be able to reliably connect more than one laptop and still receive decent download speeds.

“The Vodafone Mobile Broadband Hotspot offers mobile professionals, students and families a one-touch connectivity solution that turns Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as MP3 players and laptops into connected mobile internet devices,”
Huw Medcraft Vodafone mobile broadband director.
The device itself has been named the MiFi 2352 which sounds similar to 3's MiFi. It will be interesting to see if 3 have trademarked the MiFi name and if so what action they take.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

3 Billion Mobile Broadband Users by 2014?

There could be 3 billion mobile broadband subscribers by the year 2014 according to the CEO of telecoms company Ericsson. Hans Vestberg was speaking at the Broadband World Forum in Paris when he made the prediction. Vestberg says that although mobile broadband is only in 1 in 10 homes so far Ericsson are expecting this figure to rise dramatically.

"It's a fantastic growth we can see in front of us"

Mr Vestberg added that "there are currently four billion mobile phone users and that this is likely to rise by three billion in the next five years". The stats quoted include multiple those who own multiple SIMs taking into account the fact that some households have several mobile phones, pay as you go mobile broadband and traditional fixed line broadband.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Orange and T-Mobile to Merge

As predicted on this very blog Orange and T-Mobile are to join forces to become the largest mobile telecoms company in the UK. The deal has been announced but has yet to be checked by the relevant regulatory bodies. The new company will start with 28.4 million customers and around 37 percent of the market. No details about branding have yet to be released but T-Mobile has been under performing lately and insiders have suggested that this deal has saved them from certain doom so I wouldn't be surprised in their brand name is let go.

This means that the Big Five mobile phone companies in the UK are now to become the Big Four with O2, 3 and Vodafone making up the numbers. Some have speculated that this could have a negative effect on consumers. Whilst the new Orange/T-Mobile hybrid will no doubt be able to offer increased coverage for mobile and mobile broadband it reduces the amount of competition in the UK market which could have an influence on prices.

Whilst the merger will cost the newly formed company it will also allow them to drastically reduce costs. Duplicate base stations and retail outlets will be closed and staff costs reduced. Most large towns have both an Orange and a T-Mobile shop and there will be no need for these to both remain open. Those who are already signed up with one of the companies are likely to see signal and coverage improvements.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The End of the Mobile Broadband Dongle?

Whilst mobile broadband continues to increase in popularity the future of the 'dongle' looks like it might be at risk. The trusty USB accessory might become a thing of the past, confined to the internet rubbish heap alongside dial up modems.

The GSM Association and Microsoft recently collaborated on a study into the possibility of creating laptops with built in mobile broadband receivers. This would bypass the need for wireless dongles in a similar manner to how built in wireless receivers have taken over from USB powered wifi dongles.

This latest development shows how much faith the GSMA are putting into mobile broadband as The Future of the Internet. They see pay as you go mobile broadband and a service for all internet users rather than just businessmen and those without access to a phone line. If mobile broadband speeds and reliability continue to increase a fixed line may become an obsolete idea after all who actually uses their home phone to make calls?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Mandelson To Discuss Broadband Access with The Big Five

Lord Mandelson has announced plans to organize a meeting with the five main mobile broadband operators in the UK to discuss broadband access. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is possibly looking to speed up the spread of mobile broadband coverage to rural areas in order to meet the targets set out in the Digital Britain report.

Mandelson will meet with Vodafone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and 3 who between them provide pay as you go mobile broadband to 1 in 10 households in the UK.

The Government aims to provide 'broadband for all' by 2012 although if Mandelson has his way and those who illegally download music and films have their broadband connection taken away from them this could be a challenge. The proposed move would criminalise a large percentage of the population and would make 'broadband for all' impossible. Lord Mandalson recently decided that illegal downloading should be stopped days after meeting with David Geffen, founder of Asylum Records and DreamWorks although those events cannot be connected because that would mean that Mandelson was corrupt.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Mobile broadband Tax Plan May Be Scrapped

As previously mentioned the Government has been planning a broadband tax in order to raise money to help provide 'broadband for all' by 2012. The idea of a planned tax was first put forward in the Digital Britain report as money is needed to improve the broadband infrastructure including the provision of better quality mobile broadband services to rural areas.

The planned tax would be paid by all those with a broadband connection and would be around 50p per month. Some have criticized the plan as they do not feel that the public should be funding infrastructure improvements when it will be the broadband providers who will stand to profit in the long run. Others have said that the tax is unlikely to raise enough money to make a real difference.

Speaking to The Times the Communications Minister Stephen Timms said:

“If the question is, is the levy definitely going to be legislated for this side of the election, I can’t say for sure. Things that are contentious will have to be left until after the election”

The Conservatives have said that they are against the broadband tax so the outcome of the election could decide the future of the tax. The debate will no doubt continue in the meantime.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

3 announces 170 per cent rise in mobile broadband subscriptions

The telecoms provider Three has recently announced that it has seen a 170% increase in new mobile broadband subscriptions for the first half of 2009. The company currently has 3.8 million mobile broadband customers between their fixed monthly and pay as you go options.

Three's revenue has increased by 2% making them one of the only major broadband companies to record a profit this year. It seems that only the best mobile broadband offers will attract customers during a recession. The average spend of most of Three's customers has gone down but they have attracted new customers to their mobile broadband offering.

Monday, 17 August 2009

50 Million Mobile Broadband Users Predicted in the Middle East by 2013

Mobile phone ownership rates are high in the Middle East and rising fast, in the UAE for example the penetration rate is 198.6 percent meaning there are on average two handsets per person. The latest worldwide success story in the telecoms world is undoubtedly mobile broadband and predictably it is taking off fast in the Middle East.

It has recently been predicted by Informa Telecoms & Media that mobile broadband subscription levels in the region could reach 50 million by 2013. To put this is perspective this would be more people connecting via a mobile broadband dongle than currently connect by any method.

"In the MEA region, there is no doubt that mobile broadband adoption will grow faster than the global average. We have observed that in some of the regional markets, mobile broadband services are attracting the majority of net additions. Very soon, mobile broadband will become the preferred option to access the internet, and I would estimate that by 2015 the total number of subscribers will reach 50 million."

Zoran Vasiljev of Value Partners

The lack of infrastructure in the Middle East means that mobile broadband is seen as a good alternative to a fixed line connection. As the coverage levels and speeds increase data traffic is expected to raise by 1,587 percent. The flexibility and portability of the best mobile broadband packages make them a big hit with business customers in the east.

"Mobile broadband has been a true success story over the past two to three years, and mobile data and wireless subscriptions will overtake fixed line data subscriptions in both numbers of customers and in revenue. The ever-growing and unmet demand for access coupled with lack of fixed infrastructure investments (improvements) have contributed to this trend and I do not see this changing or reversing. Demand for mobile broadband will exceed that of fixed line services."

The report also suggests that mobile broadband subscriptions will overtake fixed line connections globally by the year 2011. 65% of connections are expected to be mobile by 2013.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Television Channels Try Free Content As Online TV Usage Increasing

Another day, another broadband study, this time about those who watch television programs online. For those of us who are old enough to remember dial-up watching full length TV programs online without any significant loading time still seems amazing. Now that speeds have increased around 15% of those 'with a reliable broadband connection' use the BBC's iPlayer service to watch programs online.

Television channels are starting to realize that they need to put their content online for free in order to reach viewers who are watching less television. They know that if they don't offer their content online somebody else will and they might as well be getting the ad revenue. Channel 4 have recently put a large percentage of their back catalog online via their 4OD service after failed experiments with an online pay-per-view service.

The stats from this study would seem to contradict those of a recent study by YouGov into online viewing. 53% of those asked by YouGov said that they would not watch more online TV even if they had a faster, more reliable connection. Whatever the stats say it seems to me that the idea of watching a program at a fixed time via a television will one day seem as old fashioned as dial-up.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Broadband Increasingly Popular in Rural Wales

Ofcom's recent survey showed that broadband take up has continued to increase despite the recession. Connections are up 10% from last year with around 68% of households being online and 1 in 10 having a mobile broadband contract. The stats for Wales show an even bigger increase in connections with 30% more households getting online within the past 12 months.

Those in rural Wales are slightly more keen with 60% having a broadband connection compared to 58% of city dwellers. This goes to show that broadband coverage is perhaps more wide ranging than previously thought. Ofcom's coverage maps would seem to suggest that most of rural Wales is not covered by a 3G signal from any of the main providers. Despite this 11% of the Welsh population are using mobile broadband including those outside of the main urban areas.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Orange Launches Mobile Broadband Contract for Under £5 Per Month

The mobile broadband industry suffered some negative press recently when Ofcom released it's data about average download speeds and coverage. The average speed achieved is actually considerably less that the 'up to' speeds normally advertised. This will come as no big surprise to most but Ofcom argued that the main providers should be more clear about the speeds customers are actually likely to experience.

Orange has attempted to get customers back on side by offering a new low cost pay monthly mobile broadband package. The contract is the first to be offered for under £5 per month and comes with a free dongle. Users are tied in for 18 months giving a total cost of around £90.

Other new contracts recently released offer pay as you go and even month-by-month mobile broadband contracts. There is now a much wider range of contracts on offer to the 9/10 homes which have yet to sign up for mobile broadband.

The downside to Orange's new contract is that is only offers a meager 500mb monthly download limit. This might be enough to check your emails and browse occasionally but it wouldn't last long for most users. The deal is only being offered to those who already have a fixed line broadband or mobile phone contract with Orange.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Mobile Broadband Provider 3 Unveils Mi-Fi

Mobile broadband provider 3 has announced plans to launch a new device which they hope will change the way we connect to the internet. The device which has been named the Mi-Fi acts like a mobile Wi-Fi modem allowing multiple users to connect anywhere.

Traditional Wi-Fi connection are only found in fixed locations such as coffee shops, train stations or at home. They allow users to connected wirelessly but require a wired connection to a telephone line for the incoming signal. The Mi-Fi will use mobile broadband technology to connect allowing users to set up ad-hoc networks anywhere they can receive a signal.

The device is aimed at both home and business users and will potentially be useful as a back-up connection when fixed line connections fail.

Consumers Choose Mobile Broadband Over Holidays and New Clothes.

Ofcom have released the results of their latest survey and once again it shows just how popular broadband had become. The results show that whilst the Recession has affected people's spending habits a broadband connection is still seen as a necessity rather than a luxury. Consumers were asked what they had cut back on in order to save money in these economically tough times and most were unwilling to give up their internet connection entirely.

47% of those who responded to the survey said that the would cut back on going out for dinner and 41% said they would cut back on holidays in order to save. A quarter said that they would spend less on new clothes and 19% planned to spend less on their mobile phone. In contrast only 10% planned to cut back on broadband.

Around 68% of households now have a broadband connection, up 10% from last year. Mobile Broadband is the fastest growing sector with around a quarter of a million new connections this May alone. This means that just over 1 in 10 households now have a mobile broadband contract which is amazing when you consider that the technology is only a few years old.

The perceived lack of money means that consumers are becoming increasingly interested in getting better deals particularly when it comes to long term pay as you go mobile broadband packages. This will no doubt benefit those with the best mobile broadband packages but those who's offers are less competitive stand to lose out.

Monday, 3 August 2009

New Broadband Test Gives Hope To Those In Rural Not-Spots.

A test network has brought Broadband to those living on the remote isle of Skye in Scotland. The network was created by The University of Edinburgh in conjunction with the Highlands and Islands project in order to show that a quick and reliable broadband connection is possible in remote rural areas. It was created using a low-cost ring of wireless phone relays connected to the current internet connection at the Sabhal Mor Ostaig college.

The Government has pledged to provide 'Broadband for all' by 2012 as part of the Digital Britain project. This includes rural areas where fixed line and mobile broadband are not currently available. Bringing broadband to these areas is vital and, it would seem, not as difficult as once thought.

"Access to the internet is fast becoming a basic utility in cities, but in rural areas it is often unavailable. People living remotely need web access to run businesses, use mail order, to access educational support, or to contact friends and family. Broadband speed is doubly important in remote areas where radio, TV and telephones may not work well. Our study shows how high-speed access can be made available to remote areas."
Prof Peter Buneman, Edinburgh University.

Many areas of Scotland are still without an internet connection in part due to lack of investment. Broadband providers are unlikely to recoup costs from sparsely populated areas so government funding is vital. This test shows that providing coverage to rural areas is possible but further research and funding will be needed if the government is to meet it's target by 2012.

1 In 4 People Don't Know Their Mobile Broadband Download Limit

One of the most important factors to be taken into consideration when choosing a Mobile Broadband contract is the monthly download limit. It can be difficult to estimate what your average monthly usage will be but it is important to get the right allowance. Those who use the internet to check emails and make occasional purchases are likely to be 'light' users. Those who download music, stream videos and use the internet daily will need a higher limit to avoid incurring costs.

Going over your download limit can result in surprising large charges which are more like fines than payment for extra usage. In fact O2 has been criticized for charging a whopping £200.70 per extra GB. To put it in context that would get you about 12 months of Mobile Broadband with most providers. The cost of providing extra bandwidth does not justify this fee which O2 have referred to as 'a deterrent'.

A recent survey has shown that around 25% of Mobile Broadband users don't know what their download limit is. This puts them at risk of incurring a charge for every extra MB used. Most providers inform their pay as you go or fixed contract users when they are nearing their limit although this shouldn't be relied upon. Those looking to sign up for Mobile broadband can estimate their monthly downloads using Three's Data Usage Calculator.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Can Mobile Broadband Help The Govenment Provide 'Broadband For All'?

The Government has pledged to provide 'broadband for all' by 2012 as part of the Digital Britain project. They believe that broadband is essential for everyone from school children to big business in order to strengthen the economy and reduce poverty. Children from homes without an internet connection tend to get, on average, lower grades. Businesses need fast connections in order to compete with the global market.

At the recent Broadband For All seminar Phil Sheppard, who is the Director of Technical Solutions at Three, said that he believes that Mobile Broadband can be used to get the country connected. He suggested that if Mobile Broadband providers were given access to more of the digital spectrum they would be able to create enough high-speed coverage to help the Government to reach their goal.

“Mobile Broadband tends to be capable and commercially capable of providing the 2Mbps broadband universal service commitment and is an extremely efficient way of doing it. It is very cost effective, it actually doesn’t need government funding, what it needs is access to spectrum, that’s the key”.
The allocation of empty areas of the spectrum (such as that which will be freed up by the switch from analogue television) is causing a lot of debate amongst mobile broadband companies. Hopefully the Government and the Digital Britain Group will take the bait and work with the providers to increase coverage and speed. Those in rural areas could benefit greatly if more of the digital spectrum is given over to Mobile Broadband.

American Mobile Broadband Usage Rises

As I have mentioned previously Mobile Broadband has taken off in a big way. An increasingly large percentage of the population connects via a mobile device and the demographic continues to widen. Until now there has been less information available about mobile broadband take-up in America. A new report from the Pew Research Center has changed that.

The report shows that mobile connections are continuing to increase in popularity in the USA. Around 56 percent of American Adults have used a mobile connection in 2009 in 2007 this figure was around 25 percent. It is worth noting that the research includes connections via 3G mobile devices for instance high-end mobile phones. The launch of the iPhone has helped to popularize internet enabled portable devices and gone part of the way to banishing the terrible memories of WAP connection and tiny screens.

"Mobile access strengthens the three pillars of online engagement: connecting with others, satisfying information queries and sharing content with others" - John B. Horrigan of the Pew Project

19 percent of Americans questioned said that they use a mobile internet device (either a cell phone or a mobile broadband enabled laptop) on a daily basis. The fact that the best mobile broadband offers continue to decrease in price and the availability of good pay as you go mobile broadband with greater coverage means that these figures are likely to increase. Good internet access is becoming the number one selling point for new mobile phones and the technology is improving rapidly. I wouldn't be surprised if this time next year two thirds of Americans had connected via a mobile device at some point.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Some Broadband Users Would Get Better Speeds Using Mobile Broadband

One of the downsides of mobile broadband is that you are less likely to get a great download speed than with a fixed line connection. Speed are improving as is coverage and these are only likely to improve as time goes by. However when I speak to people who have mobile broadband the most common complaint is not that they can't get a signal just that it isn't fast enough.

A recent report by Top 10 Mobile Broadband has said that those in certain areas are likely to be able to get quicker download speeds by switching to a mobile connection. The areas affected, which include Marlow and Henley-on-Thames, currently only get speeds of around 0.5Mbps for traditional fixed-line broadband. 0.5mbps is surprisingly slow connection for a fixed line, perhaps due to distances from a major phone exchange.

Whatever the reason for the poor connection those affected could get better speeds using mobile broadband. Some of the best mobile broadband connections would offer quite a change of pace to browsers in Marlow or Henley on Thames.

Friday, 10 July 2009

BT Suggests that Mobile Phone Users Should Help to Spread the Cost of the Broadband Tax

In the Digital Britain report published last month Lord Carter who is the Communications Minister proposed a 50p per month tax on all fixed phone lines. The aim of the 'Broadband Tax' is to help cover the costs of providing high-speed broadband to the nations computers.

What is needed in order to improve our broadband infrastructure is nothing short of a complete overhaul. The current copper phone lines were not designed to transport large amounts of data at high speed, they were designed to handle voice calls. The problem is that there is some debate about who should be paying for the new system.

BT has suggested that in order to reduce the tax per customer more people should be taxed. Their solution is to place a tax on mobile phones as well. Some of the £1.5bn which is expected to be raised by the tax may be available to mobile operators as well as fixed line companies as they are both able to join the bidding process for a share of the funds.

BT's director of industry policy and regulation (snappy title!) Emma Gilthorpe has said "the government should consider the opportunity to widen the base for the tax and possibly reduce the amount that each individual household pays". The problem with this theory is that most households own a combination of a fixed line and several mobile phones so in the end the same people may be paying the same amount as they would with the standard fixed line tax.

Those without a fixed phone line, mobile broadband customers for instance, might end up paying towards the improvement of the infrastructure if BT's proposals are considered.