UK’s 4G – Common-sense or Cover-up?

Ofcom LogoThe 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.

 

Windows Phone 7 in the UK

Windows Phone 7Windows Phone 7 handsets are going to be hitting Europe on 21st October, a full two weeks ahead of the USA, who won’t get the new phones until 8th November.  With a potential 10 phones on offer, it will be interesting to see which ones are offered at launch.  So if you want to get one up on our US cousins, here’s a run down of which phones and which carriers will be selling Microsoft’s latest.

HTC HD7O2
O2 have announced that they’ll be launching the HTC HD7, allegedly the handset with the biggest screen at 4.3″ and the most memory at 16GB.  5MP camera with HD video recording, Wi-Fi and a 1GHz processor, which is all pretty standard. O2 will be offering the phone on contract and on Pay-and-Go for £379.

Orange
Orange will be selling the two phones, the HTC Mozart and the Samsung Omnia 7.  So far they’re the only carrier to announce multiple handsets.  The Samsung’s specs are given below under Three.  The Mozart is exclusive to Orange at launch and has a 3.7” WVGA Super LCD Display, 8 MP camera, Dolby sound and a  1GHz processor. 

The Mozart will be free on a £35 per month, 24 month contract, whereas the Omnia 7 will be free on £40 per month, 24 month contract.

T-Mobile
Nothing has been announced yet.  Given their recent merger with Orange, it’s possible that the phones will only come through Orange.

Samsung Omnia 7Three
Three is going to be offering the Samsung Omnia 7 with pre-orders taken from Tuesday 12th October.  The Omnia 7 comes with a 4″ Super AMOLED screen, 5 MP camera with 720P HD video recording, upto 8GB RAM, 11n WiFi and the obligatory 1GHz processor.  Available free on contract from £35 per month.

Vodafone
Vodafone hasn’t announced anything yet formally but their press media centre is currently down.  Informally, it’s believed to be the HTC Trophy 7 and the LG Optimus 7.

All the carriers appear to be putting extra software on the phones tailored to offers and promotions, e.g. Orange have their regular 2-for-1 cinema promotion and there’s going be a film application tied in with that.

It currently looks like five out of the ten announced phones will be coming to the UK for the launch in October.  That’s not a bad selection to choose from and it will be interesting to see what the hands-on reviews reveal.  Only a few weeks to go…

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