I’ve been doing a little travelling in Europe over the past few months and with modern life being what it is, mobile connectivity is a must. In my case, it’s provided by UK’s Three and this year’s situation is much improved over previous years. Three has introduced “Feel At Home” which lets customers use their mobile phone for both voice and data in 16 countries round the world at no extra cost. The countries include USA, Australia, France, Italy and Ireland and the limitations are reasonable, such as no tethering and a 25 GB data cap. When you are in one of the 16 countries, it is brilliant – you can play Ingress, call home and check your email without worries of bill shock on your return. Good job, Three.
Outside of the 16 countries, it’s not so rosy. Three have a tariff called “Euro Internet Pass” which is GB£5 for a day of unlimited data. Sounds ok, but “a day” ends at midnight UK time no matter what time you purchase the Pass or the time zone that you are in. But my biggest complaint is how frustratingly difficult it is to buy the Euro Pass. To start with, I can’t simply go into My3 account and buy the Pass; I have to go via a special link to a particular web page. Second, the phone has to have a 3G connection, not wi-fi. Yes, you read that right – you have to be data roaming on 3G to buy the Euro Internet Pass even if you have a perfectly good wi-fi connection. Three helpfully suggests disabling push notifications to avoid per MB roaming charges immediately prior to purchasing a Pass. You can read that gem on their website here - point 2. It’s ridiculous – at times I got so cross with the whole process while trying to buy the pass that I simply gave up and used free wi-fi where I could. The Spanish cortados make the trip to the coffee bar worthwhile, though….
The launch of 4G services in the UK by Everything Everywhere today has been heralded by the majority of the tech blogs and news sites as a long-overdue success. But is this a victory for common-sense or has Ofcom simply managed to cover-up its own incompetence? (For those outside the UK, Ofcom is the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.)
Here’s part of article from GNC that I wrote in October of last year.
“Ofcom, 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.”
So how is it possible that Everything Everywhere, or EE, as it is going to be called, can a launch a 4G service when the frequency auction hasn’t even begun?
The answer is that Orange and T-Mobile, the partners in EE, put a proposal to Ofcom that they should be allowed to use one of their existing frequencies (1800 MHz) to launch 4G services in the UK without waiting for the auction. Ofcom thought this was a brilliant idea and gave the go-ahead. As you can imagine, some of the other players in the UK’s telecoms market (Three, Vodafone, O2) were less than thrilled at Ofcom handing EE a 4G monopoly for at least six months. Imagine how tempting it would be to switch networks if a 4G iPhone 5 was available from EE and only EE.
Depending on your point of view, the launch of 4G in the UK is either a victory for a common-sense approach to available spectrum or else it’s a monumental cover-up over the way Ofcom has failed to manage the transition to 4G.
I’m in the latter camp and I won’t be buying a 4G device or service from EE.
Squeezing among all the CES news, UK mobile telco Three reports a huge jump in smartphone data over the past year. On New Year’s Eve, smartphone traffic was up nearly 600% in the UK compared with the same evening a year before. On 31st December 2010, 14 TB of data was transmitted. For the same date in 2011, it was 80 TB.
A similar pattern emerged on New Year’s day, with 74 TB in 2012, compared with 14 TB in 2011. Facebook seems to have become the place for New Year’s wishes with a 20% rise in traffic between midnight and 1am.
I sometimes think people should look up from their phones a bit more often. Now I know I’m right!
If you ever needed evidence that mobile telcos (MNOs) are moving their business focus from telephones to data, then look no further than a recent post on Three’s blog. Phil Sheppard, the company’s Director of Network Strategy, revealed that 97% of the traffic flowing through Three‘s network was data. Only 3% was voice.
Also staggering was the growth in smartphone data use which grew 427% in 14 months. Yes, over 400% in slightly more than a year. It’s clear that in the last year, lots of people have upgraded to smartphones and are now actively using them online. There’s probably a combination of reasons for the explosion but the wider choice of handset models at a range of price points will be the main reason.
Three has always paid attention to data, being the first mobile company to offer 3G in the UK back in 2003, but with figures like this, it would be a fair assumption that every mobile telco is now shifting more data than voice traffic and that means these companies are more like mobile ISPs (Internet Service Providers) than phone companies. Whenever you hear an announcement by one of these companies, think about it in these terms.
If you got an iPad for Christmas, here’s what you did with it over the holidays, according to mobile telco Three.
- You had your iPad unwrapped and working by 10am on Christmas Day.
- You downloaded Maps, Skype, Angry Birds, ebay, YouTube and Sky Sports News apps.
- You visited Google search, iTunes and Facebook the most often, followed by ebay. Were you selling unwanted presents or looking for the gift you didn’t get?
- While you were out and about and using 3G data, you were using GPS navigation, reading news websites and playing games. You were also dreaming about your next holiday, surfing travel sites.
- But it wasn’t until Boxing Day that you really got to play with your new toy.
I know this isn’t exactly surprising but I think it captures in a snapshot the essence of consumer technology and activity at the end of 2010. Remember the iPad didn’t exist at Christmas 2009, Angry Birds wasn’t yet the phenomenon it was to become and no doubt 2011 will bring its own crazes and defining technology. It will be interesting to look back at this in a year’s time and see what’s changed.
UK-based mobile telco, Three, today announced a new pay-per-day mobile data option. For only £2 ($3), you get a day’s worth of internet access with a limit of 500MB. There’s no monthly commitment.
Three’s Director of Mobile Broadband, Joe Parker, said: “Three’s Pay Per Day deal is the ideal proposition for business travellers, iPad owners and students who have a fixed broadband connection at home but also want the flexibility of being able to snack on mobile broadband whilst away from their home.”
I fully agree with him. Most of the time, I have access to wi-fi at home, at work or at client sites. However, there have been a couple of times when I needed 3G access on my laptop for a few hours but I wasn’t going to pay the £10 ($15) for 1GB of data that expires after 30 days. This would have been perfect and I’m sure other carriers will follow suit.
I’m already Three customer, but if I wasn’t, I’d switch just for this.
Update: Three has confirmed that the “day” finishes at midnight on the day after the purchase is made, so if you timed it right you could actually get nearly 48 hours out of your “day”.