The Full Spectrum


September 3, 2013  11:37 AM

Today Nokia becomes the telecoms company it should be

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Microsoft, nokia, NSN, Steve Ballmer

I am sure by now you have seen the news that Microsoft has agreed a deal to buy Nokia’s device and services businesses for a significant €5.44bn. Nokia expects €3.2bn of that to be a gain and even expects its price per share to rise as a result.

Most are talking about the significance to Microsoft. It couldn’t be clearer that they want Stephen Elop back to take the reins when Steve Ballmer steps down and to c

Nokia Siemens Networks logo

Nokia Siemens Networks logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ontinue on this new path to become a devices and services company, rather than the legacy software firm we are all used to.

What I find interesting though is the future of Nokia, a company that has finally cut its losses and is going to focus on the successful part of the business – NSN (Nokia Solutions and Networks).

There has been some change within the division in recent years. Previously a joint venture by Nokia and Siemens, the latter decided to drop out of the business and focus on mobile broadband equipment, which it saw as the biggest growing segment of the networks market.

There was fear around whether the company could make it, with 17,000 layoffs expected and pressure on Nokia to give it the same attention as it was battling in the world of mobile. But after confirming the €1.7bn sale of Siemen’s 50% share in July this year, results have been strong. The most recent quarterly figures showed profits of €8m, up from a €226m loss in the second quarter of 2012.

Now Nokia has shed its struggling mobile arm and passed it on to Microsoft, which seems determined to make it work for better or worse, the Finnish company can focus its efforts on a profitable business that it fully owns and in an area where it has a chance against its competitors like Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson.

Networking might not have the glamour or grab the headlines in the same way smartphones do. But as mobile continues to grow across the globe, both for consumers and in the business world, the equipment at the back-end is going to become an even more imperative part. NSN has its place here, and a strong one at that, and I think this move is one of the most sensible Nokia has made in some years.

Chairman of the board and home-grown talent Risto Siilasmaa is now interim CEO and, although it may not be plain sailing, I think the seas to be travelled in Nokia’s future have never looked calmer. 

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August 15, 2013  3:13 PM

My battle with BDUK – update one

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
BDUK, Broadband, BT, DCMS, roll-out

As many of you will know, I have been following the BDUK process closely over the past few months and things in recent weeks have been hotting up.

You see, both citizens and businesses were starting to get antsy with the government and local councils for keeping schtum as to which areas would be benefiting from the state funded broadband roll-out and which wouldn’t.

On top of that, smaller ISPs waiting to vie for the contracts to serve the unlucky percentage not covered by BDUK were fuming at BT for keeping locations hidden and stifling their plans to deploy their own networks.

But a meeting with the public affairs select committee in July blew the stalemate wide open when Sean Williams, group director of strategy, policy and portfolio at BT, put his foot in it and said his company has no issue with the location details being released.

The department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) followed this up with a letter from its minister, Maria Miller, to local councils urging them to publish details as soon as possible for the good of everyone.

In addition, both the DCMS and BT confirmed every council which had signed a contract on the BDUK framework had a list of postcodes confirming the areas which would be part of the roll-out.

Yet, the local councils were still hiding in their town halls and not publishing this key data.

So, we knew they had the data, we knew the main parties associated were fine with it being published and we knew whatever the DCMS or BT said, local councils would continue to drag their heels.

I decided it was time to chase them and get the details myself and as a result you may have seen the article we have been updating, both as councils come back to us with their responses and as new contracts get signed.

I wanted to write a blog and update you on my progress. The quest – and seriously, it has become one – is far from over but the way I have been dealt with has been quite eye opening.

There were no sneaky tactics used on this side when trying to get the information. A simple email was sent to the appropriate person pointing to what was said in the PAC committee and Maria Miller’s letter and asking for a copy of the postcode data.

If this was declined, a follow up email was sent, again referring to the government and private sector stance on it and pointing out that it was in the public interest to do so.    

If declined again, an FOI request was put in.

It has been three weeks and the responses we have received, or not received, have been varied and on the whole disappointing.

        Nine of the councils haven’t even deemed my continued emails worthy of replying to

        Four councils told us they were still concerned about contractual obligations to BT which deem the information commercially sensitive

        Some still claim they haven’t completed surveys of where broadband will go, despite signing the contracts

        And others have just been rude…

A lot of the replies I received said they were concerned the plans would change, meaning they would get in trouble for leading people up the garden path. But, as I said to these councils, if that caveat is included, there is still no reason not to publish the postcode data.

Credit to some of the councils, like Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, which has published both a map and postcode checker with where the projects will reach. But even they didn’t give us the list of postcodes.

Today’s response took the biscuit though. After trying to negotiate the list out of Staffordshire County Council, I sent an FOI request as I knew they had the information and there was no argument it wouldn’t be in the public interest to release it.

The response? My FOI was denied under section 22 as the information was intended for future publication. Basically, a middle finger up at me saying we will publish it when we damn well choose.

Dear God/Allah/Buddha/Dawkins, why are these lists so closely guarded? Is BT still pulling the strings behind closed doors or are local councils just that badly organised they can’t remember where they put them? Both are viable options from my experience…

But, the ludicrous nature of these flippant responses has only made me more determined and I have been given a nod to a new tactic that may help. Regardless, I will carry on pushing until we get all of these councils to publish their data.

If you have any information that could help, drop me an email at jscott@techtarget.com.

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August 1, 2013  4:47 PM

Don’t forget the equipment behind the big names

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Ruckus Wireless, Virgin Media, Wi-Fi, Wireless

Wi-Fi Signal logo

Wi-Fi Signal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As regular readers will know, case studies are a big thing over here at CW and we love to share with our readers not just new technology releases but how the solutions are used, any problems along the way and the reaction of customers.

The use cases regarding Wi-Fi are coming in thick and fast and one that dropped into my inbox today made me think about who gets the credit.

Ruckus Wireless is at the centre of numerous roll-outs but as the equipment manufacturer it doesn’t always get touted.

For example, today it sent me a press release detailing its involvement in the O2 branded deployment of Wi-Fi at Canary Wharf. I knew about the roll-out but when O2 was shouting from the rooftops about its latest contract win, Ruckus’ name was never mentioned.

I am sure this happens to other companies too. I have just interviewed Birmingham City Council about its upcoming Wi-Fi project with Virgin Media Business – article to follow – but the equipment manufacturer wasn’t mentioned.

Also, earlier in the week I interviewed the IT director of University of Nottingham about its new wireless network – again, article is on its way – which it built in partnership with BT, but the focus was that headline name, not the worker bees behind providing the technology.

Now, as a journalist, it is my job to ask the question and don’t worry, I will, but I just wanted to sing the praises of the often ignored manufacturers. Yes, I will tell you where to go when you call me with a rubbish press release about a new product launch (please take note this is NOT what we cover), but you are integral to the customer story and your innovations make it possible.

Time for those guys to get a bit more recognition I think.

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July 26, 2013  1:10 PM

Don’t let Huawei trust issues distract from the UK government controlling our networks

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
BBC, filtering, Huawei, Porn, TalkTalk

English: Huawei Technology in Shenzhen, China

English: Huawei Technology in Shenzhen, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The BBC today ‘revealed’ Huawei was the company behind TalkTalk’s net filtering system known as HomeSafe. The service allows customers of the ISP to choose to block certain types of content from their homes, from pornography to social networking sites, and has been available since 2011.

Although praised by Prime Minister David Cameron, there is a fundamental difference in the system compared to what he has been touting this week. HomeSafe is voluntary. Cameron, however, is saying he wants content deemed as porn to automatically be blocked unless the household can face the embarrassment of saying they want to receive it – an automatic opt in to blocking in other words.

Now, I have a lot of problems with this proposal, even ignoring the technological issues surrounding it. If this actually makes it through to being legislated, I won’t be blocking anything to my internet connection, not because of some insatiable need for adult films (hush you dirty minded lot) but because I don’t trust what will be deemed pornographic by those making the rules. 

The fact our government seems to keep mistaking child abuse and porn in their current rhetoric proves the extreme one way, but how extreme will it go the other? The Daily Mail online? Page 3? Anything with a Kardashian – OK, now the blocking isn’t seeming so bad…

But also, I don’t feel comfortable with the list of things blocked under these new rules. For example, I don’t condone extreme violence but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it in news reports exposing horrendous activity that should have a spotlight shone on it. 

So in my opinion, the only hope of these proposals being taken seriously and having a chance to be accepted will hang on who decides on the definition of the content.

Right now, Huawei makes that choice for TalkTalk. This has caused some nervous reactions as the firm is still facing questions over links with the Chinese government and, no matter how many times they say they can be trusted, fears in the UK have yet to be sated – although the reaction has been much more proportional than the US for example

But I think everyone needs to calm down. TalkTalk is happy with Huawei’s database of which sites should be blocked and which shouldn’t, the service is voluntary and although all requests to the internet over TalkTalk routers go through the system, it doesn’t stop people viewing website unless they have chosen to do so.

It is of no surprise to me that one of the leading technology companies from the country most renowned for blocking content has been deemed the one with the best software to do this for a voluntary scheme.

Now, if the automatic opt in proposals come into force, more questions would need to be asked if Huawei was used. Not because it is a Chinese firm, but because I don’t think a private sector company should be making the moral decisions for UK households. Admittedly I don’t think the state should either, but interest groups from both sides, academics, media representatives, a huge array of society should have a say on what is blocked or not blocked, not one company or one Prime Minister.

I remain somewhat sceptical about Huawei as I have yet to see proof either way of its guilt or innocence when it comes to sharing information with the state. What I do know is its technology is highly thought of within the telecoms sector and if these experts continue to choose it, there must be a reason.

What I don’t like seeing is yet another fear mongering article about the Chinese getting into our networks, distracting from the real issue – the UK government getting into our networks. Let’s worry about the results of Downing Street’s latest ploy to win votes first before we get het up about things that haven’t even happened yet, or may not even come to fruition. 

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July 11, 2013  2:52 PM

The 4G Wars – turns out nobody cares…

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
4G, Broadband, consumer, Ofcom, YouGov

The operators argued until they were blue in the face, Ofcom kept us waiting and waiting, and EE put all of its  investment squarely behind the technology – but it seems the person on the street couldn’t give two hoots about 4G.

A report released by YouGov today shows 33% of consumers “can’t see the point” of 4G, whilst 31% have no idea of the benefits it offers, despite the mobile providers making such a fuss about the speedier mobile networks.  

It reminds me of the obsession with superfast broadband. Whilst governments and ISPs all rant and rave about speeds of up to 300Mbps, take up is still incredibly low – just two for every 100 broadband connections, according to Ofcom.

Let’s face it, the geekier amongst us may long for these dreamy speeds but the average consumer just wants capacity to stream iPlayer without any buffering.

The only way we can measure adoption of 4G is through EE as the only operator in the UK offering the technology, but it has always been a bit shifty about revealing adoption figures too, signalling a lack of appetite for the speeds.

At least with 4G the wait for roll-out has been relatively small compared to fibre. All the operators should have their services live by the end of the year, meaning competition will be improved and hopefully the premium prices will come down, perhaps attracting some more people on-board.

But what this report shows is the technology industry is failing to get the message out about what 4G brings to the user and their device. Maybe we should all stop arguing with each other and start showing the world what faster networks can do. 

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July 8, 2013  2:25 PM

Networking managers – we need you!

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Networking, User groups

At Computer Weekly, we like to bring you the real stories of how your peers are using technology in their businesses and organisations, not just what the vendor wants you to hear about their latest solution.

But the key to these stories is not the journalist or even the technology, it is you and your experiences, and we think it is time those working with the networks were given more of a voice.

We are seeking networking managers or IT managers with a strong focus or passion for networks to form the first Computer Weekly user group for networking.

We plan on starting small, getting a few of us together over dinner to talk strictly off the record about issues important to you and trends within the industry you are excited about.

But from there, who knows. We hope to grow the group and start having regular events with interesting speakers talking on the topics you care about, as well as giving you a chance to network with your peers and share your thoughts and experience.

So, if you want to be involved from the start or be kept up to date with progress as the user group grows, get in touch with me at jscott@techtarget.com.

I cannot wait to hear from you and learn more about what you are going through as the leading networking managers in the UK.

 

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July 5, 2013  11:02 AM

BDUK delays are embarrassing the UK on the global stage

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
BDUK, Brussels, DCMS, European Union, NAO
English: Parliament buildings London UK

English: Parliament buildings London UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I received the National Audit Office’s report on the BDUK project for rolling out fibre broadband.

The report sought to answer whether the scheme represented value for money f

r the taxpayer and how it was progressing so far, and there is no other way to describe it than painful reading.

The NAO slammed the government – specifically the department for culture, media and sport – for limiting competition with the process it put in place and not being strict enough on checking whether the figures the incumbent provider BT put forward for the project were fair. But the headline grabbing story is how far behind schedule BDUK is.

Rather than 90% of the UK having access to superfast broadband – which the government defined as 24Mbps and above – by 2015, now we will have to wait until 2017 to reach this goal – albeit with an extra 5% of the population promised coverage.

That is 22 months late. The DCMS has tried to blame agreeing state aid funding with the EU but, as the report points out, this only took six months longer than the initial planned period of five months, so it is a joke to try and place the blame solely at Brussels’ door.

I spoke to the DCMS yesterday and asked for more reasoning – or excuses – as to why this hold-up had happened and they told me: “This is a major programme and the timetable depends on a number of factors including procurement timescales, readiness of local bodies, and supplier capacity. It will also rely on capacity being released from the commercial deployment.”

The spokesman said now the department had clarity on the procurement and implementation timetables they could make “a better assessment of the necessary timescale than was the case when the programme was first announced.”

I’m sorry, but shouldn’t the DCMS have done this in the first place? It has been in talks with industry for years about this project and it should have taken the advice and technical nous of these partners to identify how realistic the roll-out was.

I can’t help but think this is still a money issue. I know I have ranted along these lines before but why are we spending so many billions on other elements of infrastructure in the UK when our internet connectivity is so far behind?

The web is the modern equivalent of roads and rail; it is as the old phrase states the internet super highway! What it can bring in services to the public, economic benefit to companies able to present on a global scale and even just communication between one another should not be put second to a high speed rail line that no-one seems too bothered about and won’t be completed for 20 years.

The government promised £100bn for infrastructure projects last week. Of that, just 0.25% is going to broadband whilst around 40% is planned to be spent on HS2. This makes no sense! Yes, things like the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) show that just throwing money at the problem doesn’t always work, but there is no doubt in my mind better funding would speed the roll-out and put some of the original goals back on track, plus you cannot argue austerity when there is £100bn in the pot.

Both in Europe and the wider world, speeds are shooting through the roof and governments are accepting the need for superfast internet connections. Here we are now saying everyone will have 2Mbps by 2017. That goal might have been ok when labour touted it for 2012 but with the EU setting a target of 30Mbps for all by 2020, it is just embarrassing how far behind the curve we are.

In the end, it is the UK that will suffer for this dawdling and the mistakes made by the DCMS. We cannot compete on the global stage in business and innovation with the basic technological foundations missing and rather than pushing back deadlines and crying about the deficit, the government should stand up, open the public purse and start pushing this project forward at the rate it should have been from the beginning.

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July 4, 2013  10:31 AM

I wanna rock… but I need Wi-Fi!

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Internet access, Lemmy, petition

example of a riff of traditional heavy metal

example of a riff of traditional heavy metal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is no secret to regular readers of my blog that my heart is filled with music of the somewhat heavier persuasion. Whilst technology is a passion, heavy metal is and always will be my first love, from the beginnings of Black Sabbath to the Black Metal of Behemoth.

So, as you can imagine, when the two combine into a campaign I agree wholeheartedly with, that blast beat filled heart of mine skips one and I stand to attention.

A new radio station named Team Rock – something my friend and I refer to as Team JSco as the tracks look like my Spotify playlist – has launched a campaign calling for free Wi-Fi networks to be set up across the UK.

Such connections are available in South Korea so the founders of the station are asking, and rightly so, why can’t we have it in the UK? And let’s face it, with announcements in recent weeks of the government back tracking on its 2015 targets for rolling out fibre broadband and only putting 0.25% of its extra £100bn investment into infrastructure towards the roll-out, we need to think how we are going to get this country connected.

Team Rock has started a petition on the Number 10 website to try and rally support, not just from rockers like me but any part of society that believes internet connections are needed and needed now.

“Aside from providing new opportunities for businesses, it would spur a massive boom in innovation,” it reads. “It would also bring connectivity to remote areas of the country which suffer from poor internet access.”

Whether you appreciate the dulcet tones of Trent Reznor or not, you can’t disagree with that.

With 100,000 signatures, we can get this debated in parliament so come on, sign up, or I’ll send Lemmy round to persuade you… 

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July 3, 2013  10:50 AM

BT – the next OTT provider thanks to 4G

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
4G, BT, OTT, Wi-Fi

BT Ireland logo (2005 - Present)

BT Ireland logo (2005 – Present) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night, I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with the CEO of BT Global Services Luis Alvarez. And yes, that isn’t me being facetious; he was actually very pleasant company and very affable – not something always associated with BT execs in my previous experience.

We chatted for a few hours on topics from cyber security to his son’s jukebox mobile phone app, but I was intrigued about his revelations on the 4G space.

BT bought into 4G as the surprise bidder in Ofcom’s spectrum auction earlier this year. Going under the name of Niche Spectrum Ventures, it got a bargain compared to other operators, winning 2 x 15MHz of 2.6GHz and 1 x 20MHz of 2.6GHz for just £186m.

But the outgoing CEO, Ian Livingston, promised BT would not be re-entering the mobile market – even if I can’t help but think the firm has been kicking itself for years for letting go of its assets that now sit under the O2 brand.

Alvarez revealed last night the firm’s plans of plugging 4G into its wireless routers, giving more connection options to its customers. But what perked my interest was this wasn’t just a data option in his eyes.

“Around 80% of mobile calls are made inside buildings,” he said. “By offering 4G connectivity through our routers, customers can use our 4G network to make calls, seamlessly switching between Wi-Fi to the 4G connection.”

The CEO denied it was directly competing with mobile operators. However, he said BT was working on applications that could be used as “over the top” services – IP-based solutions like Skype or WhatsApp that use the hardware but circumnavigate the mobile network – for making phone calls, meaning it would be taking revenue from the other providers.

It doesn’t seem like we will have long to wait either. Alvarez said the technology was already being tested and roll-out could happen this year, which would coincide with the other winners in the 4G auction launching their own services.

The move seems like a smart one by BT. It may not have a mobile network in the UK but its growing Wi-Fi offering, alongside the superfast broadband reaching out to all areas of the country and now its new sports channel gaining traction, it needed some sort of mobile option.

Its success, however, will depend on pricing. The appeal of BT Sport is you get to see premium content for free. Will we get premium connections for similar? I highly doubt it, but if they make it price competitive, it could stop users from upgrading to 4G contracts with the likes of EE, Vodafone, 3 or O2 and instead plump for having fixed 4G on their home router or when roaming from hotspot to hotspot.

What is clear is BT won’t make any friends in the mobile marketplace, but who needs friends when you have 4G?

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June 12, 2013  12:03 PM

We need proof about Huawei before we get the party started

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Huawei, Whitehall

Banqueting House, London

Banqueting House, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday was possibly the most awkwardly timed summer party I have ever attended, and not just because of the ironic grey clouds hanging around outside the window.

Just a week after the publication of the ISC’s report into allowing certain vendors’ equipment into our critical national infrastructure, Huawei hired out Banqueting House, smack bang in the middle of Whitehall, for its annual bash.

The event was mostly for customers and high profile ones at that – I had a very nice chat with representatives from Telefonica Digital and EE – but there was also a smattering of intrigued MPs, such as Stephen Timms, and, of course, a few journalists like me.

Huawei’s PR team told me the event was planned months ago to coincide with the opening of its new UK headquarters down in Reading, but they couldn’t keep the sad expressions from their faces that any event this close to the ISC report would focus on the more controversial topic of whether the Chinese firm could be trusted by the British, not a shiny new building.

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, gave the opening address, which showed what a different attitude the UK had to the US for example, which has damned using Huawei as a threat to national security.

Instead WIlletts was very focused on the economic growth we could gain from the firm’s investment, not just with jobs at home but with exchange programmes, research sponsorship and SME partnerships all tied in with this growing company.

The cynic in me is unsurprised that the Tory politician thinks of profit and private markets before safety and security, but in all honesty, there is still yet to be any proof Huawei’s equipment is capable of leaking information to the Chinese government, unlike its proven track record of booming results and growth across the world.

The only thing that laid it on too thick for me was the speech by Huawei’s CFO, Cathy Meng, who whilst a calming influence, used the word trust around seven or eight times in her three minute delivery, and I really don’t think even the cabinet are that trusting of Chine telecoms firms.

What we need is some categorical proof either way about Huawei’s equipment, not scaremongering US politicians or incredibly British reports that focus on the process rather than the technology.

If it is shown on paper the kit is safe, maybe next

 year’s summer party won’t be such a nervewracking experience for everyone involved and words like ‘trust’ and ‘transparency’ from MPs and CFOs will be more believable. 

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