No 4G in the UK until 2013…at the Earliest

Ofcom LogoOfcom, the UK’s regulator for the telecommunications industry, issued an update on its plans for the auctioning off of the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum bands. These are the frequencies that will be used for the delivery of 4G services.

There has already been one consultation on the auction of the frequencies but based on the responses received, Ofcom has decided to carry out an additional second consultation at the end of 2011 which will run for around 8 weeks. The outcome of the consultation and auction proposals will be published in the summer of 2012, with a delayed frequency auction expected in Q4 2012. More likely Q1 2013, based on their track record.

Ofcom think that this delay to the auction is quite acceptable because the frequencies involved won’t be available until 2013. The last region to turn off the analogue TV signal will be Northern Ireland on 24 October 2012, freeing up the 800 MHz spectrum. The digital switchover programme was announced in 2005 and started in 2008, moving by region until 2012. I don’t know what it takes to achieve this technically, but it seems rather slow. It’s not as if the UK is a big country.

Looking back historically, Ofcom awarded the 3G spectrum in 2000. Mobile telecoms company Three was the first to offer 3G services in 2003, so it took 3 years to move from award of spectrum to service availability. I’m really hoping the that telecos can move a bit faster than they did with 3G but frankly I’m not holding my breath. The whole digital TV changeover and 4G auction has been a farce here in the UK with the US and other parts of Europe well ahead. I won’t be surprised if us Brits are still waiting for 4G in 2015.

AT&T Buys T-Mobile: Good For Anyone?

A few hours ago the news broke that AT&T has agreed to purchase rival mobile carrier T-Mobile for $39 billion.  As that news sinks in the big question becomes – is it good for consumers?  AT&T says that the U.S. wireless industry is “one of the most fiercely competitive in the world, and will remain so after this deal.”

I tend to feel otherwise.  After all, has anyone noticed the pricing plans seem to be a bit similar?  Has anyone noticed the ridiculous pricing of text messages?  I am not accusing them of collusion, but if forced, I could make that argument.

So now, years after breakup of Ma Bell, the telco’s have moved another step closer to regaining that old “one company to rule them all” feel.  AT&T, however, would like you to think otherwise.  In their press release they lead one to beleive this is about infrastructure and moving their network closer to 4G.  That makes sense because AT&T has gained a notoriously bad reputation in recent years due to connectivity issues, mainly with iPhone users.

So what does everyone think?  Will this be good for consumers because it will bolster the under-powered AT&T network?  Will it be bad for consumers because it takes away another option for those shopping for a wireless plan?  I tend towards the latter, but if you feel differently then let us know in the comments.

Marriage & Cell Carriers

The air is electric with heady excitement. The big day has finally arrived. “This one will be nirvana!” you tell yourself. As you enter the doors and walk down the isle, there she is waiting at the altar, all decked out in a one-use dress. Your heart races with anticipation.

There’s your dream — waiting there for you, with a pre-nuptial agreement in one hand and divorce papers in the other, complete with fine print written in legalese.

For some of us the marriage is a happy one. For others it is a marriage of convenience. And for a small number the marriage ends up going sour and costing them a bundle of money.

Am I talking about a wedding? No, I’m talking about the trip to the cell phone store.

We tend to get all excited about the latest phone models, comparing this feature set with that feature set, this screen with that screen, etc. Once we make a decision and our heart is set on a specific device, we eagerly sign the contract and end up married to a cell carrier for the life of the contract.

Devices aside, the big U.S. carriers have been making constant improvements to their networks. It’s a huge job, but there’s a lot of future money at stake.

In the realm of cell phones, I’ve always found it fascinating and somewhat telling how people will bounce from one cell carrier to the next, seemingly on a whim. If it becomes chic to talk bad about a specific cell carrier, it seems that a lot of people will change cell carriers the same way some people will worry about saturated fats or the latest diet fad.

And now we have the iPhone 4 and it’s purported antenna problem story of the past few days. At this point Apple has sold more than 3 million iPhone 4’s and the vast majority of iPhone 4 users have been happy with their new phones. Yet I find it interesting that all of this media attention about antenna problems has put doubt in the minds of some iPhone 4 owners.

That new spouse might be cheating on you…

Smart Phone Critical Mass

The smartphone is a concept and an evolving device that has been around for a few years, though until now mass consumer adoption has been slow.

The introduction of the iPhone in June 2007 marked a radical improvement in smartphone interface design, usability and device capabilities. The iPhone caused a big upheaval in the then somewhat sleepy cell phone market. Even though the iPhone was an instant hit and unquestionably successful product, Apple’s choice of tying the iPhone exclusively to AT&T in the United States likely slowed the pace of faster smartphone adoption. In a way, this slowing of smartphone adoption has been good because it has allowed carriers to beef up their networks in the interim.

Google entered the smartphone market announcing Android in November of 2007. Initial implementations of Android-powered devices demonstrated promise, but it has taken a while for Android itself to be improved, and smartphone manufacturers such as HTC and Motorola to come up with highly-desirable devices that take full advantage of Android’s evolving and and advanced features and capabilities.

We are now in July of 2010. The iPhone 4 has been introduced. Alongside the iPhone 4, highly-desirable and functional devices such as the HTC Evo 4G, Droid Incredible , Droid X, and other Android-powered devices have either arrived or are shortly to come on the market. Now there’s suddenly a new problem – all of these devices are in short supply, and manufacturers such as HTC are scrambling to ramp up production to meet the demand that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Where did all of this smartphone demand come from? There are several pieces of the marketplace puzzle that have finally come together all at the same time. The new smartphone devices are finally at a point where they are highly usable. Multiple competing cell networks are finally at a point where data connectivity and speed make them usable. Also, millions of consumers over the past few years have become intimately familiar with “dumb” phone models that have had smartphone-like features embedded into them, such as integrated cameras, limited Internet browsing, gaming, text messaging and GPS functionality. They make regular use of these features, and are ready to move up to better devices with larger screens.

The smartphone has reached critical mass and is ready to continue the march towards maturation. Smartphones are becoming a very mainstream product. People who a few years ago would have never considered any phone labeled with the smartphone moniker are now readily embracing the new devices.

As a result of this mass consumer adoption of the smartphone that’s now underway, the market for highly-specialized smartphone apps will continue to explode to a degree in the future we might consider surprising even today. Multiple millions of consumers have millions of different needs and expectations. This exploding smartphone app market lends itself to the development of highly specialized niche applications.

Virtually any type of personal or industrial use a computer can be put to can likely also be done with a specialized app running on a modern smartphone. One tiny example of this is already in use is the area of automotive diagnostics. For many years, automotive technicians have used laptop computers in conjunction with special software connected via a cable to an automotive diagnostic port to onboard vehicle computers. Such software already exists for the iPhone to be used in place of a laptop computer, able to replace the cable connection with a Bluetooth connection. Imagine this realized potential multiplied a million times and you catch a glimpse of the future potential for smartphone apps and the uses these devices can and will be put to.

GNC-2010-05-28 #579 Where is the Gremlin

I swear if it is not one thing it is another. You will get the low down mid-show, but I am batting a thousand here the last couple of shows. Feel like a total Rookie.. I am being tested and reminded that no mater what you do the machines have a mind of their own from time to time.. It’s just how the ball bounces really. Fun for all in this show that’s for sure.

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Talking to Phone Customers Before they go Over in Minutes… What a Great Idea!

Cell Phone Overage

Yes, there was sarcasm in the title. But the FCC proposed a really is a great idea. Tell people when they are about to hit their limits.

I remember when I got my first overage bill. It was $130 more than expected. While I was a bit perturbed, I understood and paid it off. Definitely took a hit in my pocketbook.

Of course I did have a Land line and my Nokia phone (which still was just for calling people) had only 250 minutes and $.40 a minute after. I also could walk 20 feet to the west and all of a sudden get “Roaming” charges. So going over on a plan was easy – in 1998.

Nowadays, the land line is gone in liu of Skype and Google Voice. The Cell is the primary contact for calls, texts, emails and facebook posts. I have an unlimited text and data plan and if I go over in minutes, I have a backlog of rollover to keep me safe. Then again, I pay $130 a month…

Stopping the Overage:

37 years after the first cell phone call was made, companies are finally realizing that someone might go over in their minutes. O.K, the FCC is realizing this and trying to make the phone carriers comply. If the user hits their limit, they get a message stating that.

The user then can choose if they want to rack up additional charges or turn their phone off until the next month starts. Wait – you can turn a phone off?

Similar but Sad: Data Plan overage

Vodafone in the UK – who nixed their unlimited data plan – announced they will be offering a free text service to warn people if they hit their limit. So those of you in the UK who watch their soaps or Dr. Who from the phone during lunch might not be able to watch more than 1 episode for the whole month.

Remember last year the Chicago Bears fan who watched the game from his netbook on a cruise ship? He got $3000 in overage fees for his wireless data plan.

It’s all about a text

I get texts from AT&T whenever my bill is ready; Or if I haven’t paid last months yet. I suppose it’s time of month to see that text message aga…. oh wait. Here it is. They are so eager to make sure you pay your bill, but not that eager to let you know if you stretch your limits.

Automation

It’s not like someone has to sit by their phone and text everybody that goes over “Dude: You’re hitting your limit.”. We have automated scripts that can do that. Just like my bank has an automated script to tell me when my account hits below…. oh wait. Just got THAT text message, too.

I totally agree on an alert system. I can’t log into the website everyday to see where I am in minutes. Then again, if I ever go over

GNC-2008-02-01 #344

Lots of great commentary and listener feedback. We are almost at the point where we can do a listener feedback show.. Just kidding thanks for being a great audience.

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Listener Links:
Antivirus Companies Loosing Battle
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Show Notes:
Middle East and Asia Web Outage
Parallels versus VMware
Singapore ISP must give up P2P users Info
Garbage Lawsuit
50 Year old Space Junk
Pirate Bay is Safe
ICANN Domain Testers
MacBook Pro Rumors
Surprise Images from Mercury
US Fiber Upgrade 100 Billion Dollars
TiVo to Focus on HD
AT&T Wireless Outage
Amazon acquires Audible
RealPlayer Labeled Bad
FCC C Block hits Minimum Reserve
Internet makes Lazy
Cell Phone Directory
Amazon Earnings S3 and E2 Explodes
Messenger send Pics from Mercury
ISS Spacewalk
Thanks Podcast Sisters
Cox Looking at Outbound email
XP PC World Survey