Broadband speeds are up again. From rural areas to cities everyone can now browse the web and download content faster than ever. Well, 0.9Mbps faster, after Ofcom data showed the average broadband speed in the UK is up to 18.9Mbps.
This is undoubtedly good news, although many millions more will still be waiting to join life in the fast lane of the information superhighway, as superfast rollouts continue. Still, progress has been made; the UK average broadband download speed was a paltry 3.6Mbps in November 2008, when Ofcom first started taking measurements.
So, download speeds are up and work continues to bring services to as many as possible, a job well done for all involved. Perhaps, but not so fast.
Upload speeds are in a far less healthy state and progress has been poor. In the first report that looked at data from 2008, the average broadband upload speed was a pathetic 0.42Mbps.
This is worth considering: in 2008, when Facebook was already well established and the iPhone was making its mark on the telecoms landscape, the average household would have struggled to upload photos to send in an email, or put files into a cloud-based system.
Now, six years later, after huge investments in the UK's broadband's infrastructure the average upload speed has risen to ... 2.4Mbps. This may be a five-fold improvement but it's still hopelessly slow.
Last year V3 noted with some alarm that the average speed was just 1.8Mbps. It had risen to 2.3Mbps by April this year and has now risen by a measly 0.1Mbps. All-in-all, not very impressive.
This is worrying. In 2008 uploading data was an important part of the web, but it is now fundamental. There is rarely a popular site out there that isn't now used for sending content to the web - Skype, FaceTime, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Twitter and the rest.
For home workers and freelancers who need to send files such as large videos, design drawings, music clips or images, to contacts and the cloud, these low speeds are crippling.
Ofcom's report notes that uploading content is becoming more commonplace, but does little to acknowledge the problems the low average speeds are causing.
"Broadband advertising tends to focus on download speeds. However, upload speeds are important for a subset of the population, such as those sharing large files and using real-time two-way video communications," it said.
V3 did ask Ofcom for a comment on these figures and whether it is being worked on, but had received no reply at the time of publication. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Internet Services Providers Association were also contacted.
No doubt the focus in the near-future will remain on download speeds and this is unquestionably a vital part of the digital backbone of the UK, but uploads must not be ignored.
With an election round the corner, V3 would like to see the political parties show some tech nous and make noises about improving upload speeds to help the digital economy thrive, rather than being fixated with downloads and ever-increasing headline speeds.
Politicians, eh? The incoming digital economy and society commissioner for the European Commission, Günther Oettinger, has not even set up his office with a plant and a picture and already he's in hot water for ill-considered comments.
During a meeting earlier this week he said that celebrities were "dumb" for putting nude pictures of themselves online.
"If someone is dumb enough as a celebrity to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online, they surely can't expect us to protect them," said Oettinger. "I mean, stupidity is something you can not - or only partly - save people from."
This statement, blaming the victims of a breach of their privacy and showing a slight misunderstanding of the cloud, has been rounded on by digital activists who see it as clear proof that Oettinger is not the right man to take on such an important digital post.
Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has posted a blog criticising Oettinger, noting that it is somewhat worrying - as V3 would agree - that someone set to be in charge of European digital policy has either a misguided moral stance on the issue or a worrying lack of understanding of technology - or both.
"The person applying to be in charge of shoring up trust in the internet so that Europeans do more business online just victim-blamed people whose personal data was accessed and spread without authorisation," she wrote.
"By picking this example to make that point despite lacking an understanding of the facts, by making a mockery of what he should recognise as a serious problem and by doing it in this aloof and insulting tone, Oettinger is seriously calling into question whether he is qualified for the job of shaping our digital society for the next five years."
The BBC reported that a spokesperson for Oettinger said he was trying to make a point about cloud security, although he denied the chance to apologise for the remark.
"Everybody has a right to privacy. The EU Commission wants to make cloud computing safer." A noble aim, sir. But perhaps we may be so bold as to suggest that starting this mission by siding with the victims of a theft rather than blaming them tends to help.
One thing is for sure, Neelie Kroes would never have said any of this.
24 Sep 2014
Wembley Stadium has seen it all: from England's sole World Cup triumph in 1966 to Live Aid in 1985 and FA Cup finals that have seen giants toppled and records broken. The stadium has just won the right to host the Euro 2020 final, so there's plenty more history to be made as well.
V3 was at Wembley on Tuesday to hear from EE about how it is working with the stadium to boost numerous aspects of its tech, from the rollout of 300Mbps 4G in 2015 to new contactless payment and mobile-ticketing systems.
While there, we snapped a few shots that give a glimpse into the technology behind the stadium that keeps everything ticking.
Wembley and EE are working to bring mobile ticketing and contactless payments to the stadium to reduce queues and improve the experience for fans.
The control centre for Wembley is used on match days by a raft of organisations including the police and fire services, as well as the stadium's own support staff, with a raft of machines ready for action.
The rise of social media means Wembley now monitors and displays messages from those at events, carefully screened of course. Also, if you look closely you can see the mouse pointer from the system between the two graphics.
The image below on the left shows the antennas used to broadcast mobile signal over the crowds at the stadium. The smaller white ones are used within the stadium corridors and crowd areas.
The picture on the right shows the inside of the base station rooms at the stadium where all four operators – Vodafone, EE, Three and O2 – have their kit. As with all server and base station rooms they're not very eye-catching locations, but they are fundamental to the running of Wembley.
What is perhaps more eye-catching is the news from EE that it has installed almost 300 LED sensors in the Wembley arch that, from 2015, will change colour based on social media sentiment or crowd noise, helping transform the iconic Wembley arch.
22 Sep 2014
For many years mobile operators have complained that their ability to make money has been curtailed. This has come from a combination of factors, chiefly falling revenues from phone, text and data services, and, conversely, the need to spend billions upgrading networks.
As such, the rollout of new services, such as 4G around the UK over recent years, has been seen as a chance for operators to finally start recouping some of these losses by charging consumers more for data.
However, there is one issue with this. Consumers still don't spend huge amounts of money. Well, not the amounts operators need to start turning over serious profits.
But, as businesses become increasingly mobile, there is a silver lining on the horizon in the form of 5G, which will take capacity, speed and coverage and improve them all massively. This could open a whole new possibility for telecoms operators to sell enhanced mobile services to businesses as a key part of their IT and communications needs.
This idea was espoused by Mischa Dohler, the chair professor in Wireless Communications at King's College London, while speaking at the 5G Huddle event in London on Monday, attended by V3.
His argument was that because the speeds and capacity of 5G are likely to be so far beyond the needs of consumers, many operators will gain more financial joy by focusing on B2B industries, such as oil and gas, construction, nuclear energy or transportation.
“The good news is that these sectors have lots of cash,” he added. "They all complain about a shortage of cash but really they have huge revenues and margins."
Dohler said the downside of pushing mobile services to businesses would be the high cost of entry to a new market, but he said that any incumbent or new players who do become established should be able to make good money.
"With a high entry barrier comes a high exit barrier, so unless you screw it up you shouldn't make a loss on this [5G]."
This will be music to the ears of telecoms operators, if it comes true.
While technology has improved many areas of our lives, there is one part of day-to-day life where the advance of wearable technology poses many dangers: driving.
Ever since mobile phones started to become widely used there have been attempts to stop people from chatting, texting and browsing while in the car. Sadly accidents caused by such activities remain commonplace, as Traffic Cops will attest.
Now, another problem looms: smartwatches. With numerous devices popping up that can sit on the wrist and ping notifications and messages to the wearer, those behind the wheel face even greater likelihood of being distracted.
This is exactly what the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) fears, as it warns those embracing wearables, especially the new Apple Watch, to remember the law of the land.
Neil Greig, IAM director of Policy and Research, said: “An iWatch [sic] has the potential to be just as distracting as any other smartphone device. Indeed more so if you have to take your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road to interact with it.
“Enforcement will be difficult for the police, but powers exist to seize and interrogate devices in the event of a serious crash. The very device that distracted you also has the power to convict you.”
Underlining the risk such distractions pose, the IAM said that data from its simulator study on smartphone use between 2006 and 2010 found distraction from a mobile phone was a factor contributing to 1,960 road accidents where people were injured; this figure includes 110 fatal accidents.
Wearables could make this situation worse, the IAM added. “Constant alerts will require motorists’ regular attention. As opposed to using a legal hands-free piece of equipment the iWatch [sic] will require drivers to use two hands to operate the device – impacting speed, lane position and time spent looking at the road," it said.
The IAM noted that the Department for Transport has already confirmed that the Apple Watch will be treated the same as a mobile phone. As such, the penalty for using it behind the wheel is three licence penalty points and a £100 fine.
However, if the Watch causes death by dangerous driving a prison sentence of at least two years is enforced. Clearly, this is far too big a price to pay just to learn that someone on Twitter liked your picture of a cat. Watch the road, not your wrist.
Salesforce’s plan to rebrand Heron Tower in its own image look set to fail as the City of London plans to introduce new rules that will put an end to the scheme.
Salesforce announced the intention to rebrand the building Salesforce Tower in May. At the time other residents in the building – which included a rival software vendor – were outraged at the move.
However, according to a report from City A.M. the City of London now looks like it will introduce new rules that mean only firms with more than 50 percent of a building’s office space can apply for a naming rebrand.
Salesforce owns just six floors of Heron Tower so will not meet this threshold. V3 contacted Salesforce for comment but the firm was silent on the matter.
The decision to change the rules for renaming buildings will likely be taken at the next City of London Planning and Transportation Committee, which is scheduled to take place on 23 September.
The City A.M. report says the tower will instead take on the somewhat more innocuous moniker of 110 Bishopsgate. V3 contacted the City of London for confirmation of this but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Salesforce may have always envisaged the problems that the move would create and simply announced the plans for a name change knowing it would generate a bit of free publicity.
However, given the hubris of US West Coast tech firms, and Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff, the firm will have been hoping to cast a shadow under its own name in such a venerable and revered piece of the business world.
Ultimately, though, it appears The O2 and the BT Tower will remain the only significant technology-branded buildings on the London Skyline.
10 Sep 2014
Apple’s image of a slick, highly polished company took a sizeable blow on Tuesday night as its attempts to live stream the launch of its iPhone 6 turned into a farce.
First of all the live stream seemed to be double-tracking the music that played before the event began, which meant people around the world were subjected to what sounded like an amateur DJ attempting to merge two tracks, without any success.
Apple determined to send me mad by playing Haim *and* mood music all at once on its livestream.— Rachel Weber (@therachelweber) September 9, 2014
Then, almost as soon as the live event began, the stream stopped and a strange piece of holding text was displayed instead. People took to Twitter to express their shock at this state of affairs, while several parody accounts of the TV Truck sprung up too.
OMG APPLE TV… Truck Schedule. pic.twitter.com/YL0owavMMC— James Grosch (@jamesgrosch) September 9, 2014
Once this passed and the stream returned, there was a new, quite interesting problem. A translation, possibly Chinese, was being broadcast on top of the remarks of Tim Cook and co. This made it hard to hear what was being said, as you had to try and ignore the unfathomable translation that was louder than the live event
Is Apple working up to making us all learn Chinese? This live stream is decidedly janky.— John Lilly (@johnolilly) September 9, 2014
This didn't matter too much, though, as the stream soon fell over again. All in all a most frustrating experience and one that Apple top brass are no doubt mortified happened, with recriminations likely.
"By Apple making the decision to add the JSON code, it made the Apple.com website un-cachable."
If that was the case, it certainly doesn't do much for Apple's tech chops. However, given the strength of the company and the clamour for its new products, no doubt the issues will soon be forgotten.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has handed down a huge $7.4m fine to Verizon for failing to give new customers the ability to opt out of marketing calls from the company.
The FCC's scary-sounding Enforcement Bureau’s found that Verizon failed to notify approximately two million new customers on their first invoices or in welcome letters, of their privacy rights. This included how to opt out from having their personal information used in marketing campaigns.
The fine is a huge amount for something so, ultimately, trivial as to be rung a few times by sales reps from the company, but it underlines the vast disparity between the US's stance on data privacy and the UK's.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which oversees issues of data protection and privacy in the UK, has come down hard on marketing firms in recent years, issuing fines of £45,000, £50,000 and £90,000 against companies that bombarded people with calls, despite being told to stop.
Comparing the two situations, the latter error seems the more egregious. While it may be annoying to not be told you have the right to opt out of marketing calls, to actively tell a company not to contact you and have them ignore that, seems so much worse.
Of course, it should be noted that the fines handed down by the ICO were against small to medium-sized companies, rather than a telecoms giant such as Verizon, and the FCC may have been making a point to other similarly sized companies of the seriousness of the situation.
Even so, though, a UK business giant could only face a fine of £500,000 from the ICO for any data or privacy error, so perhaps it's no wonder that, despite fines repeatedly being handed out by the watchdog, data breach incidents continue to happen.