Shoppers hit sales early with Christmas Day online sprees


UK bargain hunters got online early this year with many accessing the internet on Christmas Day to snap up the best seasonal sales deals.

This is according to research by Sheffield-based Internet Service Provider PlusNet, which analysed web usage and traffic on Christmas Day.

The Marks & Spencer and Argos websites featured in PlusNet’s top ten most popular internet sites accessed, with traffic peaking at around 10pm.

Social networking sites Bebo and Facebook also proved a big hit on Christmas Day as people opted to get online with friends and family to wish them season’s greetings.

YouTube also benefited with people looking to access the Queen’s speech online for the first time.

Those looking for technical support for new technology helped Apple and Microsoft also make the PlusNet Top Ten.

“The shops may be shut but the internet is always open,” said Neil Armstrong, products director at PlusNet. “Christmas Day internet usage shows that there is no day of rest for the British bargain hunter with many unable to wait until Boxing Day to bag the best deal.”

The full PlusNet Christmas Day Top Ten Sites were:

Marks & Spencer




Checkout the latest deals on PlusNet broadband here.

T-Mobile and 3 pool 3G mobile phone networks

T-Mobile has clarified its policy on mobile data use after anger from its customers. The company initially said that it would slash the amount of data all of its customers could use to 500 MB.
T-Mobile and 3 are pooling their 3G mobile phone networks in a move to bring wireless broadband to 98% of the UK population and save £2bn over the next decade by cutting out 5,000 phone masts.
Both sides denied that the deal, confirmed Tuesday, is a precursor to a full-scale merger of the UK’s fourth and fifth placed networks. But the strength of their agreement marks a tacit admission by 3’s owner, Hutchison Whampoa, that it is unlikely to find a buyer for some time.
Kevin Russell, 3’s UK chief executive, said the joint venture deal includes contingencies should either company be taken over, but both expect it to be a long relationship.
“It’s a marriage but it’s deeper than a marriage and, dare I say, far harder to break up than a marriage,” he said. While “the sexy stuff is equity consolidation, I think that is currently unrealistic in the UK market”, he added. Instead companies will look to asset consolidation, pooling resources to cut out costs.
“This is a major change in how mobile networks are built and run,” added T-Mobile UK chief executive Jim Hyde. “In terms of consolidation (going forward) this has nothing to do with that, this has to do with combining our two networks together. It’s the right thing for us to do … to accelerate our mobile broadband proposition.”
Both companies spent billions during the dotcom boom buying licences to offer 3G services, but the technology has so far failed to reach a mass market, not least because the first handsets available were unattractively clunky.
In the UK, T-Mobile has just a million active 3G customers among its 12.5m users, despite having launched the service almost two years ago. All of 3’s 3 million customers are on its existing 3G network although usage of services other than voice calls and texting is disappointingly low.
The first generation of 3G technology also failed to deliver the super-fast speeds that were originally promised, coming in at a fraction of the speed available over fixed-line broadband connections. As a result both companies have been investing in new HSDPA technology to get faster access.
By the end of 2009 the two companies plan to have 13,000 sites, covering 98% of the population with a mobile broadband network capable of speeds up to 7.2 MB per second – or nearly twice the current average residential broadband speed and nearly twenty times faster than existing 3G services. T-Mobile’s 3G network currently covers about 85% of the UK population while 3’s covers about 90%. That, however, leaves massive geographic gaps, many of which will be plugged by the joint venture.
3 UK’s Russell said the promise of the mobile internet is now starting to arrive as customers start to do more with their phones than merely make calls and send texts. New gadgets such as Apple’s iPhone have also helped to make the mobile internet easier to use – although the current handset, exclusive to O2, is not compatible with 3G networks.
While rivals O2, Vodafone and Orange are all offering residential broadband services over existing phone lines, the network sharing deal has strengthened the resolve of both 3 and T-Mobile not to get involved in the fixed line market.
“We believe mobile broadband will become the dominant connection to the internet for everyone,” said Hyde.
“We have no intention” to offer fixed line services, added Russell.
Hyde added that no jobs will go as a result of the deal. Both companies have already outsourced some network jobs to Ericsson.
The joint venture agreement extends to 2031 – 10 years longer than the 3G licences owned by T-Mobile and 3. Both companies expect those licences to be extended but the network deal may also extend into the next generation of mobile network technology, called Long Term Evolution (LTE).
Having a bigger network will reduce 3’s need to use Orange’s 2G network to fill in the gaps. Its deal with the company, owned by France Telecom, runs until 2010 but 3 expects to make less and less use of the Orange network as its deal with T-Mobile rolls out.
The £2bn cost savings are divided equally between both companies and between capital expenditure savings – as both companies will need to acquire fewer sites – and operating expenses – as they will be pooling existing sites.

Warning: Christmas can seriously damage your broadband connection


Customers of all UK ISPs may find broadband speeds slower than expected this Christmas, according to PlusNet.

While day-to-day performance varies between broadband providers, there are less well-known contributors to dips in service quality which can affect any home at any time. Based on calls to its UK-based support centre, PlusNet has identified some of the issues which can combine to make the festive period a performance blackspot:

1. Christmas tree/house lights – most people put up tree lights without ever thinking that they could contribute to communications issues. Once they are switched on Christmas tree lights increase the amount of electrical interference in the home. This can lead to slower broadband speeds or unstable connections.

2. White goods – washing machines, dishwashers and even microwaves are all contributing factors to high electricity use. Given the amount of cooking and entertaining which happens over the festive period, interference can increase, which could again lead to slower speeds or unstable connections.

3. Street lights – as the nights draw in, ‘light-up’ time gets earlier, so we spend more time under the glow of street lights. When the street lights come on the noise and interference on a telephone line can increase and cause problems with broadband speed and stability.

4. Bad weather – every Christmas may not be white, but you can usually guarantee some adverse weather conditions in late December. Poor weather conditions can damage telephone lines and significantly impact broadband performance

“While we expect home Internet use to be widespread over Christmas, customers could possibly see some issues if several of these factors converge,” said Neil Armstrong, Products and Marketing Director at PlusNet.

“The broadband connection does not stand alone and is inextricably linked to other elements in and around the home. That’s why any Internet user, regardless of their service provider, may experience disruption due to uncontrollable factors. We feel it’s important to let customers know what these factors are and what they can do to minimise the negative impact they have.





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