The Full Spectrum


February 11, 2013  1:38 PM

Cameron puts a kibosh on EU broadband funding

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Broadband, Brussels, budget, Conservatives, European Commission, European Union

Flag ~ European Union

Flag ~ European Union (Photo credit: erjkprunczýk)

I am staunchly pro-Europe. Practically I think the union makes a vast and positive difference to our economy, whilst philosophically I prefer to stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours and have our petty squabbles over a conference table, rather than a battlefield.

As such, the past few weeks of the Conservatives ramping up anti-EU feeling has got my goat. It was clear to me our Prime Minister David Cameron was thinking more about getting his back-benchers back on side when making his much delayed speech – following rows over gay marriage or collation politics – rather than thinking of the wider impact on both individuals and businesses.

Last week, he fought long into the night with only Haribo for fuel – according to the Evening Standard – to ensure a cut to the EU budget, saving money passing on from the UK purse over to Brussels. The Tory Right and EU skeptics applauded. Well done ol’ bean, now there is more in the pot to bail out banks rather than save our NHS services!

Only, it seems some politicians just don’t think about the consequences. A cut to a budget means a cut in funding for services. It was clear from all their vitriol, those MPs didn’t care where they were cutting from, as long as Great Britain didn’t have to pay. But now, the cracks in the budget are becoming holes and we can see projects beginning to disappear into the darkness.

Vice president of the European Commission and broadband advocate, Neelie Kroes, wrote a blog this weekend revealing that the proposals for her ‘Connecting Europe’ scheme would only be receiving €1bn out of the €9.2bn they had applied for.

Whilst she desperately tried to remain positive in her words, she had to admit “such a small sum” wouldn’t allow for the big plans she had for investing in broadband networks across the EU.

“I regret that, because broadband is essential for a digital single market, the rails on which all tomorrow’s digital services will run, and this could have been an innovative and highly-market oriented way to deliver it, almost budget-neutral in the long run,” wrote Kroes.

The VP points out that broadband targets have been agreed across the EU to ensure fast coverage for all by 2020, but this will now be the responsibility of each individual state, rather than all working together to ensure connectivity for both businesses and citizens across the continent.

Well bravo Mr Cameron. It is easy to get the public onside when all you talk about is pointless bureaucracy around the size of potatoes, but you manage to omit the schemes that actually could boost the daily lives of everyone, have a real positive impact on the economy and help businesses out of the hole they are in.

Bringing austerity into the EU is ludicrous when it continues to be proved it is damaging the economy on our shores. Investment into the likes of broadband is the best way out of this recession and thanks to party politics in the UK, the whole of the EU will suffer.

Kroes has promised to “work and fight even harder” for her broadband plans. I hope more people will work and fight even harder against allowing squabbles in a political party affect the recovery of 27 states. 

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February 5, 2013  3:28 PM

BlackBerry: ‘Developers were laughing in our face’

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Amsterdam, Applications, apps, BlackBerry, BlackBerry 10, Developers

blackberry

blackberry (Photo credit: arrayexception)

This morning, I was plonked into a keynote theatre half an hour before anything was due to start. I ended up discussing with a colleague from a rival publication how we both felt all we had done in the past few weeks was write or talk about BlackBerry.

RIM’s rebranded media relations team has been going ten to the dozen in the build-up to last week’s big launch of BlackBerry 10. Days of briefings, preview after preview of the new operating system and invites galore to events that have been a mixed bag of valuable and, well, less so.

But, when a company like BlackBerry comes calling and promises updates to their strategy, it is hard for a technology journalist to resist. It is almost addictive to follow this company that has had a black mark firmly on its school report for the past few years, but keeps promising to perform better next term.

So, here we go again. I am now in Amsterdam at BlackBerry Jam, the firm’s developer conference.

There was some enticing news for the developer community this morning, being promised a new programme to build software for the upcoming Q10 handset with that iconic BlackBerry keyboard. There was also a little gift in the form of a shockingly red Z10 handset for all those developers who had got their apps ready in time for the BlackBerry 10 launch.

But it all felt a little desperate. Yes, you need the developers on board but individually built gifts to say thanks, or really to drive them to build even more applications? Oh dear.

It felt even sadder after I had spoken to William Vablais, head of developer relations in EMEA.

“You have to see where we were a year ago,” he told me. “People were laughing in our face [and] saying why are you even talking to us, you are dead, dead in the water, not interested!”

Oh BlackBerry! It can’t have been that bad! Well, ok, maybe it was. I remember an analyst referring to its results last summer as watching a puppy being kicked.

That’s the thing, especially in the enterprise world. BlackBerry is like that puppy that we loved when it was full of youth, but as we watched it get old, we just felt sorry for it. Now, as it shows glimmers of hope with its new platform, we are all keeping our fingers crossed and wondering whether you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Desperate or not, they have got the developer element right. There is no question applications are key to attracting users and developers making sure those all-important programmes give the best experience are priceless.

BlackBerry’s tactics may seem a little too eager, but it has woken up to the fact apps is where its at and if it has any chance of pulling through, it needs the devs on side and all the best built applications on its handsets.

If it convinces them, the future could be brilliant for the old boy. I know I will be watching…

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February 1, 2013  2:14 PM

World Wildlife Fund launches mobile service

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Charity, Vodafone, WWF

WWF at Doha NGO march

WWF at Doha NGO march (Photo credit: WWF@COP18)

Not too long ago, I got all warm and fuzzy about The People’s Operator – a new mobile network running over EE’s infrastcrture that gave 25% of its profits to charity and enabled the user to donate a further 10% of their call costs to a cause of their choice.

Now it is time to get that glow again ladies and gentleman as the WWF – the World Wildlife Fund, not the pro-wrestlers – has launched its own similar venture.

WWF Wildlife Mobile runs as a mobile virtual network (MVN) on Vodafone’s backhaul and offers SIM only services to UK residents.

It claims to provide cheaper standard rates than other operators in the UK, but the main point is it donates 10% of the net revenue of all voice calls, text messages and data usage to the WWF.

It is early days and as such the only contracts on offer are pay as you go. However, the company sound confident it will bring contracts to the market soon enough and then it is just a case of watching the money roll into the charity.

I think these are great and innovativ ways to utilise the large scale infrastcrture with have for mobile operators in the UK but to give something back to the wider world.

Two thumbs up from me WWF. 

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January 30, 2013  11:16 AM

BlackBerry 10 day descends…

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
BlackBerry, research in motion, smartphone

Image representing Research In Motion as depic...

Image via CrunchBase

The day has come BlackBerry fanbois and fangirls! Anyone out there? Come on, there must be someone who is excited about Research in Motion finally launching its BlackBerry 10 software this afternoon?*Tumbleweed*

Ok, all jokes aside, I am grateful that launch day is here. I feel like I have been writing about BB10 for most of my career and it seems an awfully long time ago that I had my five minutes of fame on CNBC talking about the delays.

RIM’s CEO, Thorsten Heins, really made his firm the Grolsch of the smartphone world with two episodes of “it’s not ready yet,” delaying the launch as its rivals brought out market dominating devices like the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. 

Now after a year in the job, Heins is hoping a global launch and pushing out over-prepared executives – this video is painful, I promise – will ignite the passion of the smartphone buying public and see his company back to the dizzy heights of 90% market share and being a business person’s best friend.

I am attending the London launch this afternoon to see the finished product of the operating system and get to grips with the new handsets on offer. Check back here and on the Inspect-a-Gadget blog for more details later today. 

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January 28, 2013  4:04 PM

IT needs more men and less boys

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Business, Women

I am afraid I am veering away from my usual rants on SDN or mobiles to focus on a different sort of networking today, dear readers.

When I came into the office this morning – somewhere I managed to get without a man holding my hand, opening doors for me or paying for my tube fare – I received a press release that boggled my delicate little mind.

A new ‘club’ for business workers is being launched, but not one of these pesky clubs open to everyone than means you don’t feel special or superior as a member. No, it is specifically aimed at “an elite group of boys who have made their mark in business and want to enjoy their success with other boys.”

I was a tad dumbstruck. For starters, why on earth was “The Business Boys Club” contacting a technology journalist – terrible PR mistake, although it isn’t clear who their PR is. The contact listed is Marcus Sedghi but we just had a less than polite phone call from the chap saying he was not their PR. He wouldn’t tell us what connection he had with the group. 

But my major issue was the reason the release stated such a group was necessary.

Founder of the club, Simon Badland, said: “There are loads of networking clubs out there, and many that are exclusively for women. I thought it was about time that the boys had the chance to network in a single sex environment too.

Oh dear. Really? Has the past several hundred years not been enough for you?

I am a female IT journalist. Both IT and journalism are very male dominated professions. I will accept the premise that there has been more female focused groups emerging in the private sector but I will not accept they are overpowering the old boys clubs that have existed as long as people have gone out to work.

The reason these women’s groups, such as Women in IT, exist are as a support network for the outnumbered, giving strength in solidarity to those entering a workplace who know they may be different from the norm. Computer Weekly hosts an awards for women in our industry as well, not to put men down but to show there is a career available to women who want to enter the market and show their technological skills, but may otherwise be deterred by the numbers.

Badland considers this an injustice on his group of male elitists and that I do not understand.

But don’t think this is just the little flustered woman’s delicate nerves getting to her. I work with successful business men on a daily basis and when I showed one of my male colleagues this release, he said he couldn’t have been more patronised. He likes the company of women, he likes spending time with people from all walks of life and he has no desire to pay over £500 to become part of a group of, well, I won’t use the word he did, that want to sit in a bubble of status quo rather than embrace the modern era.

I can only assume they targeted me knowing I write for a largely male audience, but from those of you I meet, I know the majority of you will be as appalled as me and my colleague.

Successful people are those who look to explore every avenue, see the strengths in their team members and put in 100% to the task at hand, not boys who hide in a seedy club complaining that women are allowed to wear trousers to work or the fact they have been let out of the kitchen in the first place.

Maybe they do need a group like this as their way of thinking is so outdated, they are becoming a minority. Alas I don’t think we are there yet but every day I work in IT, it keeps showing me there is light at the end of the tunnel and a work environment open to all.   

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January 23, 2013  12:08 PM

Remember, the journey to fast 4G is a slow one

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
4G, auction, Bidding, Ofcom, spectrum

English: 4G LTE single mode modem by Samsung, ...

English: 4G LTE single mode modem by Samsung, operating in the first commercial 4G network by Telia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today sees the bidding process for the UK’s much sought after 4G spectrum finally kick off.

There is no doubt it has been a long time coming and, if you read the rest of the press coverage of it today, it now sounds like 4G for all is just around the corner.

I would hold your horses though as this long and complex process is due to drag out for some time.

Before Christmas I was invited to Ofcom to meet with Ed Richards, the organisations’s CEO, and have the auction process explained in detail.

Using bags of enticing sweets to represent lots of spectrum – alas only two rather than 28 that will be on offer to bidders – we were shown how the regulator would set a price per lot and see if those telecoms companies involved were willing to pay.

If more than one company was interested, Ofcom would decide on the increment to raise the price by for the specific lot before asking the same question. This would rinse and repeat until all parties reached their maximum and it was left with one contender still in the race.  

Of course, this would leave some lots going unsold if bidders dropped out simultaneously, so a second round of bidding will then have to begin until all the combinations of spectrum are doled out.

Richards had an optimistic look on his face when he said this could happen by the end of February, but the reality is the bidding process is unlikely to conclude until March.

Then we will have to wait for the winners to pay up before they can get their hands on the frequencies.

Then we will have to wait again as they finish developing their infrastructure to utilise the spectrum.

Then we will have to wait for trials and pilots to be undertaken successfully.

Then, and maybe then, we as customers might be able to sign up to 4G deals for our mobiles, tablets or laptop dongles.

The reality is it will be summertime at the earliest before this stage arises, if not later in the year. So whilst it is right to celebrate the process beginning, we must be realistic about the timeframe and remember the journey to fast 4G speeds is a slow one. 

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January 16, 2013  12:36 PM

BT, line rental shouldn’t be in the small print

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
ASA, Broadband

BT Tower in London

BT Tower in London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not long ago I had to move house. Unfortunately, as someone who rents in London, this happens more often than I would like and is always a headache. But until money for deposits start falling from the sky or get donated by generous readers – What? It was worth a shot! – I can see this ordeal happening several times more.

Anyway, along with the redirecting of post, changing address with your bank and learning which is the best pint at the new local, high on my agenda is sorting out a broadband connection. As with most of you reading this, being online is incredibly important to my job and whilst as a journalist I am able to work from pretty much anywhere, I need that strong connection to do so.

I was free from my previous broadband contract so it was time to browse the ISPs and find the best offer out there on my street. Luckily for me being in London, I could choose from a huge number, and all the adverts were shouting out about broadband from £10 per month, £5 per month or even free for the first six months.

This last one was BT. How could I resist that? Especially knowing I would probably have to move in a year again and cancel the contract anyway. But, it didn’t take long to see this “freebie” was no such thing.

Whilst the broadband connection would come at no charge, customers would have to pay line rental of £14.60 per month. Since when was £14.60 per month free? What if you didn’t want a phone line and just wanted the broadband? Could you get it free then? Of course not.

I had a bit of a row over the phone with BT about this at the time but got no further. Today though, I was pleased to see the Advertising Standards Agency take the telecoms giant to task about it.

“Because the line rental was in fact payable from the start of the contract and this was not made clear in the ads we concluded the claims were misleading,” read the ASA’s ruling.    

The adverts have been pulled and must not appear again.

I now have a deal with Virgin Media which is for broadband only. Yes, it is not a dissimilar price from the ones that include line rental and yes, Virgin put up the price a few weeks ago, but on principle I don’t want to pay the extra few pounds for a landline phone I don’t need and won’t use.

This trend of sneaking line rental into the small print and leading customers astray about your cheap deals needs to stop. Well done to the ASA for pulling one of the worst offenders up on it. 

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January 14, 2013  1:14 PM

You have to love David and Goliath court room drama…

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Cisco

East Carolina University

East Carolina University (Photo credit: phi1317)

We all know if you are a big gun in the world of technology, especially from the US, you can seem untouchable. If you are the world’s largest networking company, you definitely act like it.

So, I wasn’t hugely surprised when I read today that Cisco has been accused of ripping off a slogan from the East Carolina University for one of its own advertising campaigns.

“Tomorrow starts here” is plastered all over the literature from ECU –  a facility that specialises in technology and software development. In fact, Google that phrase and, ignoring the news coverage of this unsavoury event, you will see the university’s YouTube channel, full of clips on how to better yourself through education.

Its chancellor, Steve Ballard, claims his institution had used the phrase for over 10 years and had even run campaigns in the likes of Forbes and Wired to promote the university.

That means I find it quite difficult to believe the big advertising bosses at Cisco had no clue it was being used by someone else with, let’s face it, a grander purpose that selling hardware.

Cisco has yet to make a statement on the case – we are expecting something to come through later this afternoon – but I wish luck to the ECU and to the tomorrow’s of its students. You have to love a bit of David and Goliath court room drama, right?

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January 11, 2013  2:53 PM

RIP MSN – the messenger of my generation

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Facebook, Microsoft, msn, MSN Messenger, Skype

msn

msn (Photo credit: Rufus Gefangenen)

This week I have been pondering the end of an era and come close to wiping away a tear over the loss of a staple of my teenage dramas.

The sword was already hanging over the head of Microsoft Messenger – or MSN Messenger as we all knew it – but I today received the email telling me 15 March was the date for transferring your contacts and moving on to the new(ish) pastures of Skype.

See, I was born in the mid-eighties. I am from the generation before the “digital native” who knew how to play with an iPad as soon as they fell out from the womb, but also slightly later than those who thought Pong was the height of sophistication.

Although my earliest tech memories tend to be of my sister’s Amstrad or my own Nintendo consoles, my teenage years were dominated by the internet and the cries from my father to make sure I disconnected every 59 minutes so we could take advantage of the free hour deal Bulldog did at the time.

When I was in senior school, the craze rushed through the halls like football stickers did a few years before and everyone was trying to come up with the coolest email address to use on Hotmail. As the token ‘goths’ at school, we were trying to come up with the darkest – I remember a specific phase as ‘Satanic Rose’ – and once we all had the net at home, we would spend hours whining to each other over MSN about how the world hated us or how great the latest Cradle of Filth album was.

As I went through my teens, it continued to be a huge part of my life. Leaving for university meant I could still talk to friends back home, meeting new people at gigs used to end with “what’s your MSN name?” and dull statistics lectures used to be cheered up with details of who had done what at the student union the night before. I even managed to meet my best friend on MSN years before we even met in person – sometimes I think he would have preferred we hadn’t…

Then came Facebook. We all had MySpace already, but Facebook felt different and, even before the chat function was installed, my friends and acquaintances drifted away from MSN to the world of status updates and the infernal tagging of photos on nights out that should have remained between your nearest and dearest.

I never had the heart to delete my account and once in a blue moon I sign into Hotmail and glance at the chat bar to see which blasts from the past are online and still using MSN.

It is great Microsoft are offering the option of merging your contacts onto Skype and trying to keep the dream alive but I use Skype for work, keeping in contact with colleagues, companies and occasionally a friend or two when I am working abroad. It is not somewhere I see myself swapping anecdotes about someone’s house party or, well, the latest Cradle of Filth record.

I have a feeling many MSN users of my generation will feel the same and stick with Facebook or even Twitter for these more frivolous conversations, rather than a video platform that, whilst it has caught the imagination of many, doesn’t have the fun vibe and ‘part of a community’ feel that gave MSN such an impact over its competitors like ICQ or Yahoo Messenger.

Thanks MSN, you helped me survive school, make friends at uni, end relationships swiftly and wile away many a long night growing up in deepest, darkest suburbia. You will be missed.

RIP MSN MESSENGER

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January 8, 2013  11:35 AM

For the sake of Nokia, go Android Elop

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Android, Microsoft, nokia, WIndows Phone

English: Stephen Elop meets the bloggers in 20...

English: Stephen Elop meets the bloggers in 2008 Suomi: Stephen Elop vuonna 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week is witnessing the birth of a plethora of new technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – our very own Digital Disney Princess Caroline Baldwin is there for Computer Weekly, so check out her Inspect-a-Gadget blog. Yet, what are we all talking about? Stephen Elop and Nokia.

You may not be able to describe the CEO as charismatic, but he does get tongues wagging when he lets out choice titbits about the future of the ailing mobile manufacturer which once wore the industry crown.

Many questioned Elop’s decision back in 2011 to join hands with his old bosses at Microsoft and wager Nokia’s future on the Windows Phone operating system. Yes, the handsets won over many of the critics, but the likelihood that another mobile operating system would capture the imagination of a public obsessed with iPhones and only just getting their teeth into Android seemed farfetched.

Some thought it would have been safer to go down the Android route – look at what it has done for Samsung – or even taken a page from HTC’s book, spreading its bets across both Google’s open source OS and Microsoft’s new player. But Elop insisted that a “three horse race” was needed and Microsoft was the right choice to enable the Finnish firm to take on Apple and Google.

Hmmmm. Well, it seems that dedication to the brand is wavering already…

In an interview with leading Spanish newspaper El Pais, Elop told the reporter sticking with Windows Phone was no longer the only option; despite his previous staunch replies to journalists – including this one – that it was Nokia’s set future.

“Today we are engaged and satisfied with Microsoft, but any rotation is possible,” he said.

Now speculation is rife. Will Nokia ditch Microsoft? Will it finally launch an Android handset? Will either of these moves save the company from the certain doom it is facing thanks to the current smartphone wars?

I thought it was mad then and I still think it would be mad for Nokia to ignore Android as it goes forward. According to Gartner, it holds over 70% of the mobile OS market share and sold over 120 million handsets in the third quarter of last year. The same research showed Microsoft’s mobile OS held just over 2% market share. 

Elop is a careful man who is less fluffy than other CEOs and only speaks when necessary, so there is no doubt in my mind this comment was meant to lead us to conclusions of an Android future. But he needs to stop dragging his heels.

I can sympathise that he might now was to anger the not-so-sleepy giant that is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, but the longer he leaves it, the less chance Nokia has of making an impact on the Android market and the emptier the coffers get to fund, not an iPhone killer but a Samsung Galaxy S slayer.

Mobile World Congress is less than two months away. Perhaps Elop will stand up and make a public decision then. I hope for the sake of Nokia he does. 

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