Friday, July 17, 2009

How to be safe online this summer ... get yourself outside instead!

With summer holidays now upon us (well, if you're 14 maybe but not if you have to work for your living), OFCOM has launched an online safety campaign.

According to OFCOM:
  • Two-thirds of 5-7 year olds now use the internet at home, rising to over three-quarters of 8-11 year olds and over four-fifths of 12-15s.
  • Of these, one fifth of 5-7 year olds use the internet without an adult present, as do almost half of 8-11 year olds and two-thirds of 12-15s.
  • 12-15 year olds say they spend an average of nearly 14 hours a week online.
  • Over a third of 12-15 year olds say they mostly access the internet in their bedroom. During this time they could encounter inappropriate or even potentially harmful content.

Their advice video is here:

Though surely the better advice is that handed out by that classic children's television, "Why Don't You ... just switch off the television [or computer], go outside and do something less boring instead."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mobile broadband spectrum battles

Following on from Viviane Reding's comments last week, the European Commission has formally opened a consultation period on how the digital switchover spectrum should be managed on a pan-EU level. Predictably, given the success of GSM, they are trying a repeat performance with mobile broadband.

Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and, of course, Finland have already committed to releasing some of the digital dividend spectrum for mobile broadband... and as we've seen from the Digital Britain report, the UK is heading in a similar direction too.

However, the point isn't that regulators are making spectrum available for mobile broadband, the point is what spectrum is available. We're seeing auctions at 2.6Ghz, refarming of 900mhz and now 790-862mhz (the so-called 'digital dividend' band).

You can see why the Commission is claiming that at extra €30 billion in economic benefits could be realised through continued EU co-ordination.

However, this all brings me back to a point I raised last month - who manages the spectrum? Is it the national regulator (you only need to look at Finland to see a regulator happy to plough their own furrow)? Is it the ITU? Well, it should be the ITU. Afterall, its of limited use having an LTE dongle that only works in the. We may as well go back to CDMA v. GSM battle of yesteryear.

So you can see why the European Commission is getting involved. But there are much bigger stakes to play for than just what happens to the old analogue TV spectrum. If mobile broadband is going to deliver real economic benefits, we need to think much bigger. And the ITU needs to step up to the mark.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Digital switchover spectrum worth €200 billion - Reding

It looks like Viviane Reding is alive and kicking at the European Commission after being nominated for another five year term and issuing her customary rallying call to governments and the telecom industry to move faster down the path of liberalisation.

Less than a month after the UK government released it's Digital Britain report restating it's ambition to complete the digital switchover from analogue TV by 2012, Reding has urged European government's to bring forward plans and not wait until 2012. What's more, Reding reckons the EU-wide switchover would increase the value of spectrum by between €150 billion and €200 billion.

That's a hefty sum, although just how much operators are able and/or willing to pay for spectrum right now is a different matter. Indeed, the tone coming out of the Digital Britain report was far more about maximising coverage rather than maximising the monies generated by any spectrum auctions... which when you consider the still poor 3G coverage in the UK, is probably a sensible move.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

OFCOM releases UK 3G coverage map

OFCOM has today released its first UK maps of 3G mobile network coverage, and it makes interesting reading.

The maps come with some caveats. The benchmark they've used is already pretty low, that is to say the signal strength needed to count as 'coverage' was just 10% of maximum transmit power and this had to be exceeded for 50% of the locations for 50% of the time. Oh, and it only measures outdoor coverage, not indoor where signal strength degrades even further. So it's a very conservative map, designed to give the operators the best chance of succeeding you might say.

And who comes out looking best? Well, H3G is the clear winner when it comes to nationwide coverage (although if you're Welsh, Scottish or from Norfolk you can still forget it). Orange comes a credible second. Quite frankly though, for all the naming and shaming, O2 is still pathetic. You can maybe drive from London to Liverpool and have 3G the whole way, but you'd have to pick your route damn carefully. The one that surprised me though was Vodafone. I expected better (and to use the same 'test' as for O2 as above, you can't even do London-Liverpool and stay within Voda 3G coverage because of a 'Not-Spot' that looks to be around the Northampton area!).

But all is not lost, because while the nationwide 3G coverage is still poor for many operators, the coastal coverage is excellent! That's right, if you want to sail from Margate to Falmouth, 8 out of 10 sailors say their yachts prefer Vodafone!