BT selected by Telefonica UK to deliver network capacity for 4G services

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BT has signed a new ten year deal with Telefonica UK to support the introduction of 4G services for millions of O2 mobile customers.

Under the terms of the deal, BT will build a new high capacity transmission network to help O2 stay ahead of the continued explosion in mobile data traffic as a result of mobile users accessing mobile internet applications via their smartphone or tablet device. The roll out of 4G services across the UK is expected to place even greater pressure on mobile networks. The new managed network solution from BT Wholesale will provide O2 with the network capacity required to support the increasing demands of customers choosing its planned 4G services.

BT will also provide O2 with a sizeable increase in backhaul capacity by delivering the high speed mobile backhaul links between its mobile base stations and the new transmission network. Furthermore, the new transmission network will help O2 migrate from legacy TDM to Ethernet based IP services, helping O2 deliver a host of new applications to its customers whilst reducing its overall transmission costs.

Adrian Di Meo, Chief Technology Officer, O2 UK, said: “With the UK’s 4G spectrum auction complete, UK mobile data traffic is set to grow by more than 400 per cent by 2016 1. This is a huge opportunity for us, as well as a technical challenge. But through our partnership with BT Wholesale, customers of O2 will be backed by a high-performance mobile internet network which we believe will release the potential of 4G services and result in unrivalled mobile phone and internet browsing experiences.”

Chet Patel, Managing Director, BT Wholesale Markets, said: “Our network solution will help O2 to deliver a next generation mobile experience to their customers to fully exploit the exciting possibilities of 4G technologies. We are moving quickly to get O2 up and running.”

 

 

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Warning over bug in Android Viber chat app

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Google has removed 22 applications from its Android Market after they were discovered to contain fraudulent software.
 
Apps posing as popular third-party software such as Angry Birds tricked users into sending premium text messages. Unlike some other app services, Android Market apps are not vetted prior to being added to the store.
 
Google has said it swiftly removes apps that violate its security policies. Lookout, a mobile security company based in San Francisco, believes the fraud attempt originated from Russia.
 
After notifying Google of the 22 affected apps, Lookout said it then identified five more apps running the so-called “RuFraud” scam. The scam would make a user believe they were about to download a game or program, but instead they were giving the phone “permission” to send a text message costing about £3.
 
Google has confirmed that the additional apps have now been removed. Lookout believes that there have been at least 14,000 downloads of apps containing RuFraud. Users across Europe were affected, including the UK.
The company said attacks of this nature have risen in the past few months.
Google has come under fire in the past for not doing enough to remove substandard or dangerous apps posing as popular software. Rival stores, such as those from Microsoft and Apple, require all apps to go through a vetting process before being added. Alternative app stores for Android have been created by companies such as Amazon, offering additional curation and more vigorous checks.
 
David Emm, a security researcher for Kaspersky, said Google needed to put in more effort to filter out harmful applications in their store. “The flexibility of the Android Market is great, but that comes at a potential price to security.
“It will become a potentially bigger problem in the future. Android’s market share is going up, and so is the number of malware-infected mobile software.”
 
Mr Emm said Google might need third-party help to add screening functions for applications being added to the store. “I think it’s a question of using existing desktop technologies and transferring them to mobile,” he said.
 
He worries that existing vulnerabilities in Android applications leaves the door open for wider breaches on Google’s network. “The concern is that your Android Market account is attached to your Gmail account – which means if my Market account is hacked, it adds another security problem.”
Meanwhile Microsoft, whose Windows Phone is an Android competitor, has launched a competition offering a free smartphone to disgruntled Android users who tell their story. Ben Rudolf, Microsoft’s “Windows Phone evangelist”,tweeted: “If you have #droidrage from Android malware, share your story with me and you could win a #windowsphone!” The marketing ploy was dismissed by Graham Cluley,author of Sophos’ Naked Security blog.
 

“Microsoft would be wise not to look too smug at the current focus on Android malware issue though – and using the issue as a promotion for Windows Phone 7 may be shortsighted,”he wrote. “Let’s not forget, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
 
Naked Security later reported on an apparent vulnerability whichallowed a Windows Phone’s messaging function to be disabled by simply receiving a text.
 

Ofcom to clear up the cost of calling premium numbers

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The cost of calling freephone numbers from mobiles could be slashed, under new proposals from Ofcom, but, not until 2015.

The regulator is investigating the cost of calls to companies and public sector organisations whose numbers begin 08, 09 and 118. These numbers mainly are for information, banking, directory enquiry and entertainment services but unless a consumer calls from a BT landline, it is unclear how much they will be charged.

Ofcom is proposing consumers will pay an access charge to their operator for all calls to these numbers and a service charge to the company they are calling. Both charges will be displayed on bills and advertising material. Ofcom is also proposing freephone 080 numbers will actually be free to call from a mobile phone.

The consultation will close on 28th May 2013 and Ofcom will publish its decision by the summer. It said any changes to how telephone numbers are charged are a ‘fundamental restructuring’ of the current model and would take around 18 months to implement.

Huawei entry level smartphone

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Huawei has unveiled the Ascend G510 smartphone, an entry-level device to go on sale with Vodafone in the UK today.

The Huawei Ascend G510 has a 4.5-inch screen, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 170mAh battery.

It has a five megapixel camera, runs on Android Jellybean 4.1 and comes with surround sound to enhance video and gaming experiences.

It will be available from Vodafone for £13 on contract and £130 on prepay.

The device will come with Huawei’s Emotion UI, which allows users to personalise their home screen with the applications they use most often.

Huawei Device UK director of product management James Powell said: “For years, ‘entry-level’ smartphones have meant compromise – phones not powerful enough, with screens not big enough, to be able to truly deliver on the promise of the mobile internet.

“The Ascend G510 is the latest in a line of Huawei smartphones to challenge that, and our most powerful yet in the low-to-mid tier.”

 

 

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President Obama considers ditching his BlackBerry for a Samsung or LG

Canada has provided a £170m loan facility to European telecoms firm Telefónica to help it buy BlackBerry products and services, as the Ontario-based company tries to recover from a year in which it made a £425m loss and revenues fell  40%.

 
Barack Obama is considering ditching his BlackBerry for a rival mobile phone brand, in what would be a symbolic blow to the struggling Canadian handset maker.
 
The White House Communications Agency (WHCA), which provides communications systems for the president and the secret service, is considering switching from the keyboard-based device the US president has used since he was a senator to a touchscreen handset. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, products by South Korean technology groups Samsung and LG are being considered.
 
For BlackBerry, the incursion of Samsung or LG into the White House would be the final fall from grace. The company has plummeted from its once-essential position among government and business users because of its encrypted email system to become a lossmaking also-ran. Last November it had to raise $1bn (£610m) in debt financing after an attempt to engineer a sale failed and its chief executive, Thorsten Heins, was jettisoned in favour of industry veteran John Chen. The company is due to announce its fourth-quarter earnings next Friday, having recorded net losses of $5.5bn over the previous three quarters on revenues of $5.8bn.
 
For Samsung or LG, a switch would be a huge publicity coup after becoming powerful players in the fast-growing smartphone market. Samsung is the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer. A switch could be “months away”, the Wall Street Journal said. Although Obama uses an Apple iPad for some activities, there is no indication that the WHCA is considering an iPhone for his use.
 
If Obama were to give up his BlackBerry – which when on the campaign trail in 2008 he said would “have to pry it out of my hands” – then he would be following millions of Americans who have fallen out of love with what was once the most popular smartphone in the US. In September 2010 there were 21 million BlackBerry owners in the US – but by January this year that had fallen to fewer than 5 million, according to research company ComScore.

 
Obama has been an affirmed BlackBerry user for at least a decade, but after becoming president in 2008 he had to give it up briefly for a secure Sectera Edge phone specially created by the National Security Agency. But that was quickly replaced by a customised BlackBerry with special security software called SecureVoice, developed in conjunction with the National Security Agency.
 
The Department of Defense – which runs the WHCA – and the White House did not respond to a for comment before publication.

 
BlackBerry said that “for more than a decade, BlackBerry has been securing the US government’s mobile communications and only BlackBerry is designed to meet the high-security needs of US and allied government agencies”.
 
It added that: “Other vendors such as Samsung and LG still have a long way to go to catch up to meet the government’s stringent requirements and certifications.”
 
A big concern for the US security agencies would be to make any phone that the first family uses completely secure against eavesdropping or other forms of hacking. That would involve careful reviews by the NSA and DoD.
 
Samsung is the second-biggest smartphone brand in the US behind Apple. Its Knox software to protect phones against hacking has also been approved for use in the US Department of Defense, along with the iPhone, where they are being considered for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
 
BlackBerry meanwhile has been struggling to survive. During the past year it has sold off one of two private jets and has begun disposing of land and buildings, selling $36m worth to the University of Waterloo and announcing the sale of a further 3m square feet of business space and land to an unnamed buyer to be completed in the coming two months. “The successful sale of property in Canada will help us move toward our goal of continued operational efficiency,” said John Chen, BlackBerry’s chief executive.
 

Canada provides £170m loan to Telefónica to help save BlackBerry

Canada has provided a £170m loan facility to European telecoms firm Telefónica to help it buy BlackBerry products and services, as the Ontario-based company tries to recover from a year in which it made a £425m loss and revenues fell  40%.

 
Canada has provided a £170m loan facility to European telecoms firm Telefónica to help it buy BlackBerry products and services, as the Ontario-based company tries to recover from a year in which it made a £425m loss and revenues fell  40%.
 
The news comes as Carphone Warehouse in the UK begins assessing customer interest in BlackBerry’s Q10 phone, which it says may go on sale in May, and could either ignite the firm’s revival – or see it fizzle out. Carphone Warehouse has opened “pre-registrations” section on its website for the new keyboard-based phone.
 
Export Development Canada (EDC) announced the huge loan of working capital to the Spanish-owned company, which it said would “facilitate BlackBerry market share growth within Telefónica”.
 
Such loan facilities, which in effect have the backing of the Canadian government, are usually made to ensure that the buyer has sufficient funds to make the purchase. But they can also minimise the risk for the buyer by limiting the amount of money provided upfront.
 
EDC said the facility “just makes the purchase [of phones and services] and related lending easier, quicker and more efficient for all parties”, adding: “There appears to be a need for financing for [Telefónica] at this time.”
 
The Q10 is the first BlackBerry phone running its new BB10 software which has a keyboard – unlike the Z10, a full touchscreen phone launched in January. The Q10 is likely to prove key in BlackBerry’s efforts to keep its corporate clients and persuade those who have left to return..But after a year in which BlackBerry has seen its number of subscribers shrink by 4m to 76m, its share among both business and domestic consumers in the key market of the US plummet along with revenues, at least one carrier is taking an arms-length approach to the company. Last month it was revealed that the buyer of 1m handsets running the BB10 software was Brightstar, an electronics distributor which will distribute the handsets on behalf of the carrier Verizon to “big box” retailers and other outlets such as supermarkets. That reduces the risk to Verizon if the handsets do not sell as well as hoped, and gives Brightstar the option to distribute them to other retail outlets for other customers.
 
BlackBerry is also closing down its BBM music service – apparently a casualty of its dwindling US consumer base.
 
Launched in August 2011, BBM Music in the US required users to pay $5 a month – for which they could choose to listen to 50 songs, and then change 25 of those each month. People could also download music from the playlists of other users. BlackBerry’s US consumer base has slumped from 16.7 million users at the time of the launch to 7.6 million in January 2013, according to ComScore.
 
The service will shut down on 2 June following a business review, and existing subscribers will be offered a free 30-day trial on Rdio, a competing service.

O2 gets flexible with new Refresh contract

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O2 has launched a new flexible contract, splitting phone and airtime charges into separate contracts and allowing consumers to upgrade at any time.

O2 Refresh will launch from 16th April 2013, with a range of phones including the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, Blackberry Z10, Samsung Galaxy S3 and Apple iPhone 5. Customers can upgrade their handset at any time, only having to pay the remaining balance on their device.

 Three airtime plans are available, starting at £12 per month. For the entry level plan, consumers get 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 750MB of data. If they pay £17 per month, they get unlimited minutes and texts, plus 1GB of data. For £22, they get unlimited minutes, texts and 2GB of data. Once a phone is paid off in full, consumers will only have pay their airtime charges each month. O2 gave an example of a consumer buying an HTC One device on a £17 per month airtime tariff. They would pay £49.99 upfront, and £20 per month for the handset. Over the course of a two year contract, they would pay £529.99.

 Feilem Mackle, sales and service director at O2, said: ‘Mobile phone technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, yet the way phones are sold has remained largely static. Increasingly our customers are telling us that they don’t want to be tied to the same phone for two years and, with 4G coming to O2 this summer, we want to make it easier for our customers to benefit from the latest technology. For the first time in the UK, O2 Refresh will make it possible to get a new phone part way through a pay monthly contract, at any time – quickly, easily and cost-effectively.’

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WhatsApp refutes rumours of takeover bid from Google

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Reports that WhatsApp is a takeover target for Google have been rubbished by an executive at the messaging software maker, marking the second occasion that it has been moved to play down speculation that the search giant is sniffing around.

Neeraj Arora, business development head of WhatAppn, told AllThingsD that there is no substance to claims that the firm and Google are in negotiations with a view to enacting a £1 billion acquisition.

Reports suggested that WhatsApp was holding out for a larger fee, mindful of the value of a highly rated messaging solution to Google as it bids to compete with rivals such as BlackBerry’s BBM and Apple’s iMessage.

Google and Facebook are thought to have tabled bids for WhatsApp last year, which publically refused to acknowledge the companies’ interest.

Since then WhatsApp has become the most popular paid-for app in over 100 territories worldwide, with the concomitant user base that comes with that adding to the app’s attractiveness to would-be buyers.

 

 


 
 

Free BT Wi-fi while you shop at eight Prupim UK shopping centres

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More than 118million shoppers will have access to free Wi-fi at eight of the UK’s leading shopping centres, following the signing of a new partnership between PRUPIM, the real estate investment management arm of M&G, and BT.

Manchester Arndale, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, The Brunswick Centre in Scarborough, The Grafton Centre in Cambridge, Cwmbran Shopping Centre, The Galleries in Washington, Tyne and Wear, Culver Square Shopping Centre in Colchester and Rams Walk Shopping Centre in Petersfield will introduce centre-wide free public BT Wi-fi over the coming weeks, starting with The Mall at Cribbs Causeway where the service launches next week (17th April).

The move was made in response to customer feedback and an increasingly omni-channel retail marketplace, and is expected to have a positive impact on the time consumers spend in the eight centres. It will give retailers an opportunity to promote offers, and highlight special centre events and messages to a captive audience, in accordance with the wider customer engagement programmes run at each of the shopping centres.

John Duxbury, Director of Asset Management & Leasing at PRUPIM, comments: “Shopping behaviour is changing and retailing is a more interactive experience than ever before. As one of the UK’s leading retail sector investors we want to support our retailers’ growing omni-channel operations and to create a fuller shopping experience within our centres for customers; this partnership with BT is a key part of that strategy.”

Andy Baker, CEO, BT Wi-fi, said: “More and more shoppers are using wi-fi enabled devices to log onto the internet via BT Wi-fi. In fact, our research shows that 52% of people now use a tablet or smartphone when shopping.

“We already operate the largest wi-fi network in the UK, with more than 4.5 million hotspots, and our new partnership with PRUPIM brings this valued service to an even bigger audience, offering even greater levels of service for shoppers enjoying a day out.”

 

 

Mobile phone celebrates 40th anniversary

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The first mobile phone call was made 40 years ago today, on 3 April 1973.

Marty Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, called a rival colleague at another telecoms company and announced he was speaking from “a ‘real’ cellular telephone”.

A report carried out by the International Telecommunication Union in 2012 found that there were six billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide. At the time the global population was seven billion.

“In 40 years we’ve moved rapidly from the mobile phone as a businessman’s tool, through consumerisation and internet access to everything being connected,” Dr Mike Short CBE, former president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology and Vice President of Telefonica Europe, told the BBC. “In the future we will see a much wider range of devices – many of which will be wearable,” he added. “We will work more fully with all the senses. The move to glasses has begun – how can we use eye control to change and look at pages?

The DynaTAC 8000X, Motorola’s first commercial handheld cellular phone, was launched in 1983.

“Wearables, in terms of (smartphone) watches, are coming. We’ll also see health measurement body vests that can communicate with your phone and then your doctor,” said Dr Short.

Martin Cooper, now aged 85, is renowned as the “father” of the mobile phone. He admitted he thought the initial cost of the devices (in 1983 the first models cost $3,500, or £2,300) might be prohibitive to the mobile phone becoming a mass-market product, but he did recognise that the hefty handsets would probably shrink.

“We did envision that some day the phone would be so small that you could hang it on your ear or even have it embedded under your skin,” he said.

Mr Cooper said his vision for a mobile phone was first conceived in the late 1960s when the car telephone was invented by AT&T. He wanted to create “something that would represent an individual so you could assign a number not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home but to a person,” he said. “It pleases me no end to have had some small impact on people’s lives because these phones do make people’s lives better. They promote productivity, they make people more comfortable, they make them feel safe and all of those things,” Mr Cooper added.

He was also pleased to have been one step ahead of the competition. “When you are a competitive entity like we were, it’s one of the great satisfactions in life,” he said.