The Full Spectrum


October 12, 2012  4:34 PM

MNOs, want to beat the OTTs? Stop making excuses and start innovating

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Ovum, revenue, Skype, SMS, Text messaging

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11:  Dutch tourist Bas Der...

NEW YORK, NY – Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Ovum has been the latest analyst firm to point out the obvious today – mobile operators are in trouble because of ‘over the top’ services.

These OTT solutions – sounds even more dramatic when written as an acronym, yes? – have been growing in popularity with users keen to gobble up their data limits or the more sensible who stick to Wi-Fi networks like glue.

The best example is Skype, which I know I use whenever I am abroad to phone home, saving me thousands of pounds over the years that my greedy operator would have liked to have got his hands on.

But, it is not just calls. There are more and more mobile applications to enable texting to other users, avoiding the charges for SMS messages which are indeed very hefty when abroad.

This is what Ovum’s particular gripe is with. It says that by 2016 operators will have lost $54bn of the revenues they would have been making from text messaging, double the loss of the $23bn it predicts the firms will lose this year.

They are some big figures to frighten the more traditional world of the mobile network provider but in the UK, I’m afraid these revenues fell away a long time ago.

When is the last time you paid for a text message? Ok, there are some people who will spend £1 on a Saturday night to vote for the latest caterwauling chav or celebrity showing off their two left feet, but in general, text messages have become part and parcel of contracts now and rarely does an individual charge get made.

I believe my standard £25 contract has 1,000 free texts included. I’ll fully admit I am not popular enough to use half of those in a 30 day period but I think even teenagers would struggle to breach that by more than a couple of messages.

The days of charging 12p for every text are far behind us and the mobile operators found new ways to entice us to use money.

I concede that the likes of Facebook Chat and Twitter in general may have diminished these revenues and they must have been included in this figure, but I still believe operators have bigger fish to fry.

What the concern should be about is the lost call revenues, the changes in termination rates for operators and the new laws around roaming charges, not SMS revenues.

The real threats are the call services like Skype which as Wi-Fi becomes increasingly available, or as 4G networks begin to roll-out, could replace the noble phone call in time to come – if performance goes up first of course.

Telefonica stood up to the OTTs by launching its own app named TU Me to try and fight them at their own game but I have seen few attempts by its rivals to do the same.

It is time for the mobile operators to stop moaning about others stealing their revenues and start innovating with these types of tools themselves. Then there won’t be as many reports making excuses for their losses. 

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October 10, 2012  10:55 AM

Look at the tech, not the post code

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
China, Cisco, Huawei, Networking, ZTE

Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem.

Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, this week the US rattled a few sabers again with a report claiming ZTE and Huawei were not to be trusted. Apparently, using their kit could allow the Chinese to spy deep within US networks and pose a threat to national security.

ZTE has now also confirmed that its long-standing relationship with Cisco, which involved a level of part supply, has been canned, even though it was Cisco giving ZTE kit, not the other way round.

This isn’t a US-only issue. The UK itself has freaked out about the companies which are rumoured to be state sponsored, but with new publicly funded research involving Huawei and large UK companies installing their kit for mobile networks, it seems fears this side of the pond are settling.

It is unsurprising that the US is posturing quite so much about companies that are growing at an exponential rate and starting to take business away from an area like networkin,g which has been dominated by a US player for so many years. But this is the way the world is heading.

The Chinese and others in the Asia Pacific region are coming up with the best innovations, have the strongest economies to fund them and globalisation is breaking down trade walls like never before.

Scaremongering about technology’s origins is foolish. More and more products, both technological and otherwise, will be coming from this part of the world, alongside other emerging economies such as India and Brazil. Even Russia is growing on the world stage and what will that make the US do? Write a report that another cold war is coming?

The US claims to be embracing trade, innovation and globalisation, but to revert to the Chinese government spy defence when a rival company gets some momentum and threatens a strong homeland market is suspect to me. It also just happens to be a few weeks before an election.

I may be wrong, Huawei and ZTE might end up being proved as a cunning ruse to bring down the western governments, but I don’t see Europeans panicking that the White House is monitoring our networks full of Cisco gear.

I think I will withhold judgments for a while and look at what is the best technology for the job, not at the address of the company’s headquarters.  

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October 5, 2012  1:45 PM

Telefonica says bon voyage to *some* of its jet fleet

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Spain, Telefónica

Gulfstream, G550 Business Jet.

Gulfstream, G550 Business Jet. (Photo credit: dirkjankraan.com)

It is hard to have sympathy for large multinational companies at the best of times, even when they are really going through times of woe, but I can have no sympathy for Telefonica which, according to Bloomberg, is taking action to cut costs that in my view shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

The Spanish company that focuses on the mobile industry and offers businesses tools like video conferencing to stop enterprises having to travel around the world for meetings has made the bold decision to sell off two of its business jets.

Yes, the firm that tells us all to stay at home and talk on its phones or communicate using its video kit has corporate jets.

And it is not just that the firm has jets, it apparently has more jets than any other publicly traded company in Spain.

What is even better is it is only selling two – Telefonica actually has four – and one of them is being replaced as it had already put in the order for a new Gulfstream jet three years ago.

Telefonica hopes to make €35m for the planes but, as a firm whose debt is bigger than its market value, I think it should think about getting rid of the whole fleet and start using some of those tools it so eagerly wants us to snap up as business users, rather than spreading its wings to pop overseas. 

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September 28, 2012  3:11 PM

Delay to innovation is RIM’s kryptonite

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
BlackBerry, research in motion

SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Research in Moti...

SAN JOSE, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: Research in Motion (RIM) CEO Thorsten Heins speaks during the BlackBerry Jam 2012 conference at the San Jose Convention Center (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Has it really been three months since Research In Motion’s last results call? It seems like only yesterday we were writing about the huge losses, massive job cuts and delays to new BlackBerry products, but today the company reminded us of its struggles and the scary figures that come with it.

Revenue had fallen 31% since last year to $2.9bn. This was a rise of 2% from the last quarter’s $2.8bn total but was the second consecutive period the company recorded a net loss – something which hadn’t occurred at RIM since 2009 before last quarter.

There were some smiles on Wall Street as the results weren’t as bad as analysts feared, actually beating some expectations by as much as 16%, but again Thorsten Heins, president and CEO of RIM, warned the rest of the year wasn’t looking any more promising.

The fact is, until RIM removes its head from its proverbial and pushes out some new products, there is nowhere for its results to go but down.

It is infuriating that the company is delaying the launch of its updated operating system – BlackBerry 10 – until next year. For all we know, it could be the greatest mobile OS alive but with Apple’s iPhone 5 hitting the shelves, Android users flocking round Samsung and Microsoft pushing all its marketing guns behind Windows Phone 8, we will all have a new handset to play with before Christmas and won’t be thinking of investing in a phone in the New Year.

The gun was already being held to RIM’s head before the delay, now it’s as if Heins has taken the Russian roulette shooter and filled all the chambers bar one, truly stacking the odds against him and his firm.

Computer Weekly should be getting a glimpse at BB10 and hopefully some new handsets in the next few weeks and as soon as we do, we will let you know if it is the superhero system to save the day for the Canadian company.

But, the longer I wait, the more I think the company is beyond saving and that stalling innovation has truly been RIM’s kryptonite.

And to think, we still have at least one more results call before BB10 launches in 2013. It won’t pleasant reading… 

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September 13, 2012  12:01 AM

US makes UK look lice mice when it comes to tech ed

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
GCSE, Technology

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19:   A young fan of the...

 (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

As the results rolled in again this summer and we saw how few children were taking IT or Computer Science courses at GCSE or A Level, the debates began.

Whilst we questioned how we could best encourage children to take up these subjects, it became very clear their introduction to the topic played a massive part in turning them away.

I had a look at past GCSE papers from 2011 and was appalled at how little technology was in them. Asking how to stay safe when online shopping is a worthy thing to teach a digital nation, but it should fall into general studies not IT.

But what should be included and how should it be taught?

This week I am in Silicon Valley and, as with most things tech, they have shown us up again and given us something to learn from.

There is an organisation in the US called Mouse Squad. It started in New York but now spans the country with 350 sites, 481 teams and more than 5,200 members.

The idea behind it is to build a new generation of techies from the classroom, teaching them how to solve technical tasks and use cutting edge technology. But the real beauty is the students become the IT support for the school, choosing problems they have at the institution and creating ways to solve them through IT.

At Brocade’s headquarters this week, a local Mouse Squad was able to build an Ethernet fabric in less than two minutes, putting many of us so-called technology journalists to shame.

These schemes are non-profit, receive donations from the big technology companies hoping to get their next batch of employees and go towards solving real problems in educational establishments.

I am thinking of starting a campaign to get Mouse Squad to the UK. Who is with me?

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September 6, 2012  10:12 AM

No need to lie Nokia

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
advert, Lumia, Microsoft, nokia, PureView, WIndows Phone

So, less than 24 hours after the launch of its new flagship handsets – the Lumia 920 and 820 – Nokia has been exposed as a faker.

The company gathered the press in New York yesterday to unveil its new devices, based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system, and took great joy in showing off the new features.

It is fair to say a lot of this focus fell on its PureView camera, which gets better snaps by allowing the lens to stay open for longer to capture more light and by using floating lens technology to enable smoother recording of video.

Nokia was really proud of the latter and made a video with two smiley actors riding bicycles and filming one another without a bump in the road.

However, it turns out, the video wasn’t real. Yes, there were real actors holding the phone but, as a reflection in a window they cycle past proves, the actual video was produced by a van equipped with lighting and a stabilised camera.

It didn’t take long for the keen eyed to spot the giveaway frame and now Nokia has had to issue a full apology on its blog for leading prospective customers astray.

“In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of optical image stabilisation… we produced a video that simulates what we will be able to deliver with OIS,” read the post, entitled: “An apology is due.”

“Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only. This was not shot with a Lumia 920. At least, not yet. We apologise for the confusion we created.”

What a shame Nokia. The thing is the camera technology included in the new Lumias is great and a video shown just at the press conference, which the company has categorically said is genuine, was good enough to prove it.

Now, by trying to make an ad as slick as some of its more marketing savvy competitors, it has just given itself a bad name and made customers doubt whether the tech is real.

Big mistake Nokia, huge.

Here is the link for the video Nokia claims is the real deal, showing its own Lumia 920 with OIS on, compared to a popular competitor without. Make up your own mind


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August 31, 2012  11:56 AM

Nice one Nokia – down but not out

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Amazon, Google, Kindle Fire, maps, Microsoft, nokia, WIndows Phone

Nokia is often treated as the sad, old mobile manufacturer that lost its way. The phone in the corner trying to shout “I used to be a contender!” over the noise of the cooler kids like Samsung and Apple at the smartphone party. 

Kindle Fire: Out of the Box

Kindle Fire: Out of the Box (Photo credit: Brian Sawyer)

The tie-up with Microsoft didn’t exactly do it any favours either, as although Windows Phone is a shiny, modern operating system, Microsoft is the granddaddy of software to Nokia’s grandmother of mobile engineering.

But today I hope Elop and his gang stood up and shoved a rude gesture in the face of the Silicon Valley sweethearts when Amazon announced it wasn’t going Google for maps on its Kindle Fire tablet, but plumping for Nokia’s own Oyj service.

Ok, it is only maps, it is not the be all and end all of mobile technology. But, the Amazon Kindle has now sold out in the US – sparking rumours of an updated version to be announced at a press event next week – and IDC claims it accounts for 22% of the tablet market in the US after less than a year on sale.  

With the Amazon app store opening in Europe this week as well, it looks like the tablet which sells for just $199 in the US could be coming to our shores soon.

The fact that it has chosen to partner with Nokia should not only boost the company’s self-esteem but maybe show the wider world there is some worthwhile innovation to come from the Finnish firm yet.

Let’s just hope the Windows Phone 8 devices, also due to be announced by Nokia and Microsoft next week, continue to shake off this legacy reputation and make the European representative a force to be reckoned with in the smartphone wars. 

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August 29, 2012  4:49 PM

What will your seven mobile devices be?

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Cisco, e-reader, Gartner, iPod, laptop, smartphone, tablet computer, Wi-Fi

I have just had a very interesting chat with Cisco’s head of borderless networks in the UK and Ireland, Sarah Eccleston, about what changes bring your own device (BYOD) inspires in enterprise networks. 

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобильных телефонов (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It isn’t always easy for the behemoth of networking to win over us tech journos but, credit where credit is due, this exec knew her stuff.

Mobile devices, especially wireless only ones, are driving Cisco to come up with new ways of installing wireless networks to enable countless numbers of users to access them, but also to allow all the different types of tablets, smartphones and laptops to connect securely.

However, it was the number of these devices and the Gartner research she referenced that caught my ear. Apparently, we are expected to carry round an average of seven by 2015.

We chatted about this in the office and could quickly name five, but seven?

The first obvious two devices we named were a personal mobile and a work mobile. However, with mobile virutalisation on the grow and the possibility of having one handset with two SIMs already on the table, it seems hard to believe we will have both in three years. Back to one then…

The next two again fell into the obvious categories: laptop and tablet. I personally don’t get the need to constantly carry two and, as a yet to be won over tablet doubter, I would stick to my laptop every time. Also if Ultrabooks take off or tablets continue to get more laptop-like capabilities, will we need both in the next three years?

So, already we have narrowed it down to two. I won’t accept MP3 player, especially for in three years’ time where the majority of us will use the ones built into our phone and others will stream from the likes of Spotify. A Kindle or other popular eBook reader could be added to the list but, if you are carrying around a tablet, will you need one? Yes, I prefer the eBook ink but not everyone is as picky as I am.

So, we have mobile phone, tablet or laptop and let’s leave room for one ‘entertainment’ device. Now, where are the other four?

Please let me know what your seven devices will be, as well as what size of bag you will need and if you have health insurance for the back problems that will ensue.  

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August 28, 2012  12:24 PM

OwnFone could be onto something…

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
customise, OwnFone, smartphone, Website

Today has seen me get very excited about the simplest looking technology.

During my usual internet browsing – ok, Twitter – I came across a website called OwnFone.

The idea behind the company is to create a cheap, simple to use and customisable phone that users can design on the web and get delivered to their door.  

The process begins with a prospective customer visiting the website and picking two, four, six or 12 contacts to have custom buttons on their OwnFone. This would be perfect for say children who just need Mum and Dad’s mobile numbers, or elderly relatives who need sons, daughters and healthcare workers within easy reach.

Next you choose a design to make the phone standout and then which tariff you want to be on. The bonus with these is they are only based on minutes, so cost as little as £7.50 a month and only need 30 days’ notice to cancel them without any hidden fees.

Once all this has been filled in online, the company makes your customised OwnFone and posts it out to you, full charged – which it claims lasts three days – and ready to use. As well as being simple, it is safe, as the phone numbers on your buttons are not stored on the handset but on a central server so no one can steal details.  

So, why would I like one? Well, another aspect of the OwnFone is you can divert calls from your usual smartphone to the device. As an avid music festival goer, I would love to be able to create something like this with my friends so we all have each other’s numbers stored but don’t lose or have stolen our more expensive handsets.

Other suggestions are for joggers so they don’t have to have a hefty handset in their pockets or holidaymakers not wanting to lose their phones under sandcastles or in nightclubs.

Now, the phone itself costs £55, but this does include delivery and a 12 month warranty, plus, as I already mentioned, you aren’t stuck in a long term contract either. You can also change numbers for free, although there is a £5 charge for a new button to be sent through the post.

Negatives include no voicemail, a £35 charge to replace a stolen handset and the fact it won’t work abroad, but I genuinely think this is something that could take off for both the less tech savvy user and those on the move who don’t want their pricey smartphone getting trashed.  

I will follow the company’s process keenly and have already started to think who would make the cut for my friend’s buttons…

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August 24, 2012  10:25 AM

No competition for 4G is bad for consumers

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
4G, consumer, Ofcom

This week, Ofcom ruled that Everything Everywhere (EE) would be allowed to liberalise its 1800MHz spectrum and use it to provide 4G services across the UK.

Rival operators, namely O2 and Vodafone, were up in arms about the decision, saying it gave the company – created from a merger of Orange and T-Mobile – an unfair competitive advantage.

However, Ofcom claimed it would do no such thing and, once the others had got their hands on spectrum suitable for 4G in the December auction, things would soon even themselves out.  

Now, I agree with Ofcom that there is a need to get on the technology train that has been passing the UK by when it comes to 4G and the sooner the better. Enabling EE to use existing spectrum means 4G will hit our shores as early as September and we can finally start catching up with the rest of the world.

But I disagree with the idea that allowing EE to be the only operator on the market with 4G is good for the consumer.

The best thing in any market for the buyer is strong competition. It keeps prices down, quality high and the desire to treat the customer better than the next firm alive. If you let a market become too dominated by one player, these things begin to suffer and, in turn, the consumer suffers to.

It looks like EE will have the market to itself for up to a year, as even after the spectrum auction, it will take months for the other operators to test and build their networks. Also, even with the selling off of some of the 1800MHz band to 3, sources have told us EE won’t make that spectrum available to use until September next year, again holding back competition.

I am not surprised EE has pushed Ofcom to allow it to get 4 out there first and I am equally unsurprised that the firm will do everything in its power to remain the only one to have this solution. However, I am surprised that Ofcom has given it the go ahead.

Ofcom’s job is to ensure the interests of the consumer are paramount. A 4G marketplace with only one choice of provider will not benefit the consumer one bit, but instead leave them at the mercy of the giant in control.

I believe Ofcom should make EE clear the spectrum it has sold to 3 before it is allowed to launch 4G services. This way, 3 can come to market with its own offering and a fight will commence between the two to come up with the best offers.

This is the only way I can see to allow for the 1800MHz spectrum to be used straight away for 4G but still keeping the consumer’s interest at the heart of the matter. 

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