The Full Spectrum

August 2, 2012  3:20 PM

BlackBerry PlayBook: Another 4G tablet we can’t take advantage of…

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
3G, 4G, Canada, LTE, research in motion, RIM

Research in Motion (RIM) today unveiled an updated version of its tablet device, the BlackBerry PlayBook, with one major selling feature – its 4G compatibility.

The new tablet will go on sale first in Canada on 9th August before being shipped into other markets over the coming months.

Their first tablet wasn’t hugely well received, with miniscule sales figures and issues surrounding the first operating system, but I’m always keen to see new efforts. That is until I’m told the focus of the upgraded device is its 4G capabilities.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 19:  Blackberry Playbook t...

CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 19: Blackberry Playbook tablets are offered for sale at a Best Buy store on April 19, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The tablets, made by Research In Motion, went on sale today in the United States and Canada. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

I don’t blame RIM. Many countries around the world want their tablets to work with Long Term Evolution (LTE) to speed up the data traffic going to and from their devices, so it makes sense to include it in the latest version.

What infuriates me is that despite living in the land that brought you the World Wide Web, the television, even the corkscrew, I still cannot get my handson a fast cellular network.

The continual dragging of feet by our regulators and governments on distributing the spectrum for mobile operators to establish 4G networks – the auction has only just been announced and still won’t take place until 2013 – means we are still at least a year away for the first roll-outs in the UK.

That is if the operators themselves don’t kick off about some unfair advantage one of its rivals will get along the way, pushing the fight through courts of law and public opinion, and pushing the timeline for deployment back even further.

Yes, when we get 4G networks, I want them to be done right, but when mobile manufacturers are building the capabilities into their devices and selling them before we have even agreed a date for a spectrum auction – look at the new iPad – it make me furious.

The debate this week in the Houses of Parliament have been about getting the broadband network right and, again, that is likely to face more delays, giving us no hope of having the best connections in Europe by 2015.  But at least a date was set on this and there has been a certain amount of drive by industry and government alike to hit the goal.

We need a goal for 4G. Regulators and operators need to speed the process up, stop arguing and think of the public.

They need to get the networks set up across the country so, if we choose to spend several hundred pounds on the new BlackBerry PlayBook, we can use it to the best of its abilities.

They need to do this, not months or years down the line, but now. 

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July 24, 2012  4:19 PM

Three UK faces competition for final spectrum allocation

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
4G, O2, Ofcom, Sky, spectrum, Virgin Media, Vodafone, Wi-Fi


Ofcom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s announcement of the long awaited 4G spectrum auction has got tongues wagging as Ofcom has confirmed it will reserve a portion of the frequencies for a fourth operator.

The idea is to promote more competition so consumers aren’t just left with the three major mobile operators – Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere – to choose from when it comes to faster mobile data.

Unsurprisingly, everyone expects Three UK to be that fourth company as it already has a sturdy business in the UK. However, Ofcom told me earlier today it would be “too far an assumption” to think Three would win the bid without competition as other firms had “formerly expressed interest” in getting their hands on the spectrum.

The next obvious contender would have been Virgin Mobile, yet, it seems the company has thrown its toys out the pram. A spokesman told us the ISP was interested in the 2.6GHz spectrum up for offer as it could help improve wireless connectivity, but as Ofcom is only offering packages with 2.6MHz combined with another frequency – either 800MHz or 1800MHz – it wouldn’t be worth the investment.

Next up would be Sky. Rumours have been around for months that the TV and internet provider was looking to launch a mobile service in the UK. However, it is still sticking to the official line with us that it has no plans in the offing to extend its mobile solutions past that of its public Wi-Fi network, which it acquired with its purchase of The Cloud. I asked about increasing this connectivity with 2.6GHz but got short shrift.  

So who else could there be? If other ISPs take the same attitude as Virgin Media, it is unlikely we could see any of them trying to gain spectrum, and with three dominating mobile operators, along with an underdog, could there be room for another player to enter the game?

So, Three remains the likely candidate, but it will be worth watching the trials and tribulations of the auction process – considering how fraught the journey has been so far – to see if any other prospects put their heads above the parapet. 

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July 23, 2012  2:26 PM

The shared experience of the Tour de France

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Networking, Wi-Fi, Xirrus

Yesterday the world watched as the first British cyclist for 100 years won the most gruelling cycling race in the world.

Bradley Wiggins 2010 Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins 2010 Tour de France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hundreds of thousands of supporters tuned in for the final leg of the Tour de France which saw Bradley Wiggins take first place and cycling become the most talked about sport of the day – even with the Olympics around the corner.

As someone who doesn’t even enjoy cycling, even I managed to get caught up in the buzz around Wiggins and felt the pang of joy for him when I saw the rider cross the line during my Sunday lunch at the local.

But, as with the games, the task of bringing the excitement of the event to all of the viewers took précis technology behind the scenes.

Xirrus was responsible for the Wi-Fi networking to keep 125 TV broadcasters, 2,300 journalists, 70 radio stations and 450 newspapers connected and able to share all the news, statistics and footage of the event with the spectators.

It also connected up all of the organisers for the event, ensuring operations ran smoothly across all 21 stages of the event.

It’s hard to believe it needed only five Xirrus Rapid Deployment Kits and it only took two employees two hours to set up at each site.

But, even with a select back-end, it ran very smoothly, enabling even the most cynical back home to enjoy the competition.

Now, here is hoping the companies involved in the Olympic Games mange to pull this off just as well.

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July 16, 2012  1:41 PM

Nokia sleeps before it’s dead

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Microsoft, nokia, WIndows Phone

Nokia Lumia 800

Nokia Lumia 800 (Photo credit: John.Karakatsanis)

Before we have even polished off the bottle of whisky needed after listening to RIM’s painful figures, Nokia is heading our way with its second quarter results, due on Thursday.

I would normally wait until results day before shedding a tear for what was once a great company, much like RIM, but with the news today it is slashing the price of its flagship phone – the Nokia Lumia 900 – to just $49.99 (£32) we all know there cannot be good news coming our way.

The Finnish mobile manufacturer has struggled in the past few years due to the growing competition of smartphones from faster and sleeker developers at the likes of Apple, as well as missing the boat of adopting Android, whilst all the smaller guys grew from the partnership – again, much like RIM.

It lost its spot as the largest mobile manufacturer to Samsung, had cut 10,000 jobs and pledge €1 billion for on-going restructuring – if I say much like RIM any more times…

But even the most cynical of us felt there may have been a slight light at the end of the tunnel when it teamed up with Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 is a beautiful piece of software and it excited those in the mobile industry, thinking there was finally something to turn the iOS and Android fight into a three-way battle.

It seems though, despite even the hardware looking appealing to our eyes, the operating system has become a third wheel and is hanging around the cool kids asking to be picked but being left on the bench.

Sales for all Nokia handsets in the first quarter were €4.24bn, compared to just over €7bn for the same quarter in 2011, and losses hit €3bn over just three months. Although its CEO, Stephen Elop, tried to remain positive last quarter, even he admitted his firm had “faced greater than expected competitive challenges.”

Windows Phone has not been the saving grace he had hoped and with Symbian dead as an operating system, it is hard to see which way the company can move next.

Nokia has revamped the hardware, made a big bet on the software and thrown a huge amount at its marketing, but is still the traditional company who made our brick handsets back in the 90s and has now been put in the back of the drawer with all the old chargers. If the Lumias can’t bring it back into people’s pockets, I’m not sure what will.

We will bring you all the figures and news from the company’s results call on Thursday.

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July 12, 2012  3:27 PM

Companies must reveal who is to blame for outages

jscott1 Profile: jscott1
Cisco, Huawei, O2, outage

O2-UK SIM Card

O2-UK SIM Card (Photo credit: DeclanTM)

Today has seen yet another technical failure leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the UK without a tool that is necessary to their daily lives.

This time it is O2, a few weeks ago was RBS and in between has been a number of hits to the likes of Amazon and Salesforce, not hurting consumer daily activities, but cutting businesses off from much needed tools.

The problem is the causes of these outages are so often hushed up. Take the London Internet Exchange (LINX) that went down in on 31 May. Despite chasing around and getting reliable sources to pass on information, a public response of the cause was not issued until 26 June, leaving Juniper – the original suspect – red faced for over three weeks, despite not being to blame.

RBS was the same.  CA Technologies is thought to be the culprit and many trustworthy insiders have said as much, but the bank is still keeping pretty quiet on the true cause of its outage.

Today I had a run in with Cisco about the O2 outage. It took them three hours to confirm if it was down to the hardware it provided the mobile operator – it wasn’t – despite the fact the firm was a prime suspect after touting its involvement with O2 through case studies earlier this year. Huawei has still not bothered to get back to us as to whether the fault came down to its management of the network.

Add to that the fact it is known as common practice to keep these things quiet. Earlier this week I met with BT to talk about the technology they are providing for the Olympics. I asked if the firm would make public any issues it had and what was to blame. The spokesman said he would not reveal anything unless it was obvious to the viewer something had gone wrong.

The point is this: it is bad for everyone involved if you don’t come clean about the problems you are facing. For the company dealing directly with the consumer – say O2 or RBS – it makes you look incompetent and like you have no clue about what is happening in your back-end systems. For providers of technology – such as Cisco and Huawei – the sooner you clear your name, the better and, if you are the culprit (before Cisco worry, we know you are NOT responsible for the O2 outage) the more time you have to spin the story to make you look like you care about what the customer is going through and get on with fixing it.

When O2 got the Apple iPhone as an exclusive and it overloaded the network, people branded the handset as being useless for making calls. Now customers know you have to look deeper at the problem, and providers like O2 will get a very bad reputation if it doesn’t come clean and tell us who is really to blame at the next layer down.

The latest theory by the way for O2 is it was technology from Ericsson but, shock horror, the spokesman will neither confirm or deny whether it’s involved. After 24 hours of the outage, O2 know what technology it is, even if it can’t fix it, the company providing the technology know what it is, even if it can’t fix it too, and all this so-called crisis management leaves those affected more frustrated that the information is being hidden from them.

The best PR for a company is truthful and forward. O2 has been praised about its regular updates and good Twitter interaction. If everyone who has an outage can do this AND be truthful as soon as possible about what is wrong at the back-end, only the ones causing the issues will take the flack, not everyone associated with the company. 

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July 9, 2012  11:57 AM

Silverstone F1 – the infrastructure blame game

jscott1 Profile: jscott1

If you are a F1 fan like me or even caught a glimpse of the news this weekend, you would know it was the Silverstone Grand Prix on Sunday. You would also know that the typical British summer tried all it could to damage the spirits, and the cars, of all the attendees as the track was covered in water and parking fields turned into mudslides.

Yet when I left the house at 6:30am on Friday morning to join the Force One India team, I was full of high spirits, unaware of the trauma that lay ahead to get a glimpse of shiny, fast cars and, hopefully, Jenson Button.

Jenson Button at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Jenson Button at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traffic backed up for miles, we had to walk through the rain from the village where our cab driver unceremoniously dropped us off and my corporate outfit for the press briefings in the morning looked more like I had just returned from Glastonbury.

Funnily enough, the trauma was quite fitting to the announcement the F1 team was due to make. Once all the executives had fought their way through the jams, we were informed about a new partnership with Internap which would see the company take over the hosting of its website.

As Force One’s head of partnerships said, F1 is all about the glitz and glamour of the high performance technology. However, the team’s website was slow, couldn’t handle rich media and had a fit anytime traffic spiked – usually over a race weekend.

By handing over the managed hosting and network optimisation to Internap in March, it claimed there had been no downtime for the site, increased return traffic and longer browsing times from their visitors. There was also a 50% rise in load times and all this led to some cheesy social media feedback from Force One fanboys.

The point is, this weekend Silverstone was blamed for bad organisation at its track and put customers off from coming back. This same thing was happening to Force India. The truth is, it was down to the infrastructure and weather at Silverstone, like it was down to the infrastructure and elements for the website, that caused the issues.

It was the same when O2 got the exclusive of the iPhone. No-one was prepared for the huge spike in traffic it would cause, the network overloaded and many complained that the first generation iPhone was useless for making phone calls, when really it was the back-end and huge usage that was to blame.

If the spikes in traffic are prepared for and the infrastructure is optimised to its full potential, no-one gets the bad reputation and all the visitors for both Silverstone and Force One’s website, have a good time.

However, for me, more hours of walking in the rain, an hour long fight to get a taxi and three changes on the trains to get home had left a rather bad taste in my mouth about all of them. Come back and ask me again once I have dried out…

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