BT Openzone wi-fi network closing to O2 customers


From 1 July customers of O2 will no longer have access to BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots around the UK, when a four-year deal between the two firms ends. In an email to customers, O2 says its own network of more than 8,000 wi-fi hotspots will still be available in various shops and restaurant chains.

BT Openzone has five million hotspots but O2 says that only 4,200 of them were ever shared with its customers. It means O2 will lose around one third of its current wi-fi hotspot network.

The change is the result of a four-year agreement between the two telecoms firms coming to an end on 30 June. “From 1 July 2013, we will no longer offer access to BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots to our customers,” said O2 in a statement. “We’ll continue to extend the reach and scale of O2 wi-fi through exciting partnerships with venues including O2 shops, restaurants, retail outlets and outdoor and indoor locations across the UK.”

The firm says it has six million wi-fi customers. The end of the deal with BT Openzone follows disappointment for O2 in the 4G spectrum auction held in February, Kester Mann, senior analyst at CCS Insight, “The reduction in the number of hotspots is a blow to O2 customers,” he said. “At the recent 4G auction, O2 failed to secure frequencies at 2.6GHz. This may mean that it will struggle to meet the growing data-needs of its customers, particularly in high-density areas.”

“A focus on alternative technologies such as wi-fi may have given the operator the opportunity to address this potential shortfall,” Mr Mann added. “This is particularly important given that its 4G licence mandates a minimum indoor coverage requirement of 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017.”

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Buy British online to grab a bargain



Shoppers looking for a good deal online should buy British according to TalkTalk’s latest Digital Price Index (DPI) report. The price of goods sold through international e-retailers are rising four times when compared to domestic e-retailers. Buying British Online is therefore not only good for the wider economy but good for your wallet.

The findings come from TalkTalk’s quarterly DPI tracking the rate of inflation of a basket of goods bought online against a comparable basket of goods bought in-store.
The report, conducted for TalkTalk by researchers Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), showed that online prices continued to be lower than the high street but that UK e-retailers offer the best value overall. Prices from UK internet retailers are falling by 1.0% year-on-year whilst they are actually rising by 3.4% for international e-retailers due to the weakness in the pound, positive inflation abroad and higher air reight costs.

The number of businesses selling online have increased by 29% between 2010 and 2012, a very significant jump. They are also offering greater choice so UK online shoppers don’t need to look farther afield to find the goods they want and at the best price.

TalkTalk’s Tristia Clarke said: “Buying British is a concept that we are familiar with in terms of traditional high street purchasing but the same holds true online. Shopping online has never been more popular in the UK with internet sales rising by 21 per cent in the last year.

The increasing number of UK e-retailers help drive down prices online. TalkTalk offers the best value broadband, telephone, mobile and TV services on the market, by stripping out unnecessary costs and passing the savings to our customers. Online retailers have a similar model, which is giving them the edge in an increasingly competitive market. It just goes to show that Britain is better off online.”

TalkTalk’s DPI report also showed that the decrease in prices by UK based internet retailers dominated any international increases and caused overall online prices to fall by 0.3% which is in stark contrast to prices on the high street which increased by 1.4%, the 13th consecutive quarterly increase on the In Store Price Comparator Index.
Shehan Mohamed, economist at CEBR continued: “We expect online prices to fall for much of the year as a result of on-going competition on the internet and lower energy prices for businesses which should be passed on to consumers.”

Graham Walker, CEO Go ON UK, which is a new cross-sector partnership to champion organisations and individuals getting online said: “This new research underlines the fact that online shopping offers the best value to consumers. It is encouraging to see more businesses getting online to offer consumers more choice and better deals. However, two thirds of UK SMEs are not online and therefore are missing out on this vibrant marketplace. As online shopping grows in popularity with consumers in search of the best possible offers it is important that we support British SMEs to develop the basic online skills to benefit.”



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Couple’s £163,000 mobile phone bill shock

An electrician and his wife had a shock when they received a mobile phone bill for £163,000, then fought for months to have the debt cleared.
An electrician and his wife had a shock when they received a mobile phone bill for £163,000, then fought for months to have the debt cleared.
For 15 years, Alan and Carolyn Mazkouri, from Swansea, had a business deal with Orange for 10 phones. They said that they normally had a bill for £300 a month, before the shock demand came in September. Orange has now apologised and promised a refund and a gesture of goodwill.
Mr Mazkouri’s contract with Orange covered his work phone and the phones used by his employees. He reported a problem with his phone last summer when the handset seemed to overheat. The phone was eventually replaced by the shop where he bought it. Shortly afterwards, the phone was cut off and the couple were informed that this was the result of a large bill on the account.
The bill suggested that Mr Mazkouri’s phone had downloaded data by dialling up the internet every 20 minutes for three weeks. The data use was the equivalent of downloading more than five million emails or 15,000 songs – and resulted in a bill of £163,178.86.
Mr Mazkouri described himself as a technophobe who had trouble sending a text message, so was “dumbfounded” by the download of such a huge chunk of data.
He said that Orange agreed to cancel the debt, but then continued to send him bills for more than seven months. He was left frustrated after trying to contact Orange, and even instructed a solicitor to do the same. He described the saga as an “absolute misery” for him and his family. Now, Orange has cancelled the whole bill and offered Mr Mazkouri £250 in compensation.
“We apologise to the Mazkouris for the inconvenience. We have fully refunded all charges from this exceptionally high bill and offered a further gesture of goodwill. We look forward to hearing from them,” a company spokesman said.
Mr Mazkouri said he was switching mobile phone provider.

Blackberry expands BBM chat app to Android and iOS


BlackBerry is making its Messenger (BBM) real-time messaging service available on Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Google’s Android platforms from summer, abandoning the platform exclusivity that had for years been a crucial tool in attracting and retaining users.

Announcing the move at the company’s developer conference, software vice president Andrew Bocking said: “the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service. BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community.”

Chief executive Thorsten Heins called the move “a statement of confidence”. BlackBerry says that BBM has more than 60 million monthly active users, with more than 51 million using BBM for an average of 90 minutes per day. Its customers collectively send and receive more than 10bn messages daily, with almost half read within 20 second of being received, it said. The free app will be available once approved for Apple’s iOS 6 software released last year and devices running Android 4.0 or higher, released in late 2011.

BBM was once seen as an iconic messaging system which drew both teenagers and business people onto the BlackBerry platform because messages could only be swapped between its own handsets. But with its installed base of users falling, the company has had to look for ways to generate revenues from its software expertise. The move pitches BBM into a fight with other cross-platform data-reliant apps – known as “over the top” services – such as WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber. On Apple’s iOS, it will put it up against the company’s own iMessage app – though that does not work across different platforms.

But BBM is now one of the smallest cross-platform apps, with WhatsApp claiming more than 200 million active users, and WeChat around 190 million.

In the planned initial release, iOS and Android users would be able to experience the immediacy of BBM chats, including multi-person chats, as well as the ability to share photos and voice notes, and engage in BBM Groups, which allows BBM customers to create groups of up to 30 people.

BlackBerry says BBM provides customers with a high level of control and privacy over who they add to their contact list and how they engage with them, as invites are two-way opt-in. iOS and Android users would be able to add their contacts through PIN, email, SMS or QR code scan, regardless of platform. Android users would also be able to connect using a compatible NFC-capable device.


Samsung claims 5G mobile data transmission breakthrough

peoples-phone-samsung-5gSamsung says it has developed technology that could sit “at the core of 5G” – the successor to the 4G mobile-communications standard.

The company says its equipment is capable of transmitting data at more than 1Gbps across a distance of up to 2km (1.2 miles). It suggests the tech would eventually allow users to stream ultra-high-definition video while on the move.

However, one expert says the news needs to be put in context.

Prof Rahim Tafazolli – who heads up the University of Surrey’s 5G research efforts – suggests that even if the latest development was used, it would only be “a small part of the larger jigsaw” of technologies needed to deliver 5G. His words carry weight since his own £35m project to develop a 5G standard is part-funded by Samsung.

Samsung says it has developed the world’s first “adaptive array transceiver” technology, an innovation that allows part of the super-high-frequency Ka band of the radio spectrum – at 28GHz – to be used for cellular data transmission.

The firm indicates its equipment, which features 64 antenna elements, overcomes a problem involved with using this frequency, which can cause the signal to weaken in rainy conditions. “Samsung’s recent success in developing the adaptive array transceiver technology has brought us one step closer to the commercialisation of 5G mobile communications in the millimetre-wave bands,” said Chang-Yeong Kim. head of the firm’s Digital Media & Communication Centre in Seoul.

A press release added that the South Korean firm hoped devices based on the technology could be brought to market by 2020, offering mobile data transfers “up to several hundred times faster” than today’s 4G tech. “As a result, subscribers will be able to enjoy a wide range of services such as 3D movies and games, real-time streaming of ultra-high-definition (UHD) content, and remote medical services,” it said.

Prof Tafazolli stressed it would still be some years before the 5G standard was finalised. His own team’s efforts were focused on transmitting data over an even higher frequency band in the radio spectrum, he added. He also said it was not inevitable that whatever technology was agreed on would offer much faster data speeds, suggesting that finding a way for the next-generation system to cope with the expected growth in demand for mobile data use might take priority.

“Some of the companies are still putting too much emphasis on speed when discussing going from one generation to another generation,” he said. “In my opinion 4G achieves a decent speed and what we need to do is crack the capacity crunch we are facing.”

Prof Tafazolli’s work is funded by Samsung, Huawei, Fujitsu Laboratories and the UK government, among others. Alternative work is being carried out in Japan, China and elsewhere. Developing the technologies involved in 5G could prove lucrative. As an industry standard, its inventors would have to license the innovations involved to rivals, but they would be able to charge a small fee for each device that used them.

 Discussions about which part of the radio spectrum to use will take place at the UN’s World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015.


Nokia unveils Lumia 925 smartphone


Nokia has unveiled the Lumia 925 smartphone at a launch event currently taking place in London.

It will begin shipping globally from next month, available in black, white or grey and costing €469 (£399) SIM-free. Sales are expected to start in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and China, followed by the US and a number of other markets.
So far, O2, Vodafone and Three have confirmed they will be selling the Lumia 925, which is likely to replace the Lumia 920 as Nokia’s flagship product. Find out who is offering the best deals on after launch.
The Lumia 925 is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapgragon processor and runs the Windows Phone 8 operating system. It has an aluminium body, the first time a Lumia smartphone has been made from metal.
Featured is a 4.5-inch screen made from toughened Gorilla Glass, an 8.7-megapixel rear camera with Nokia’s PureView imaging technology, 1.2-megapixel front camera and HD video capability.
The camera features Nokia Smart Camera mode, which enables users to capture 10 images and use options such as ‘Best Shot’, ‘Action Shot’ and ‘Motion Focus’ to edit and create the best shot.
Nokia will release this as a firmware update called ‘Nokia Lumia Amber’ to its entire Windows Phone 8 smartphone portfolio in the summer.
Wireless charging is also enabled with the handset, this time with a cover that fits to the back of the phone. The covers will be sold separately and be available in black, white, red and yellow. This technology was first debuted by Nokia on the Lumia 920 with a wireless charging plate.
Other features include 16GB of internal memory with 7GB of free SkyDrive storage. Nokia’s HERE suite of location and navigation services and Nokia Music, which provides unlimited streaming of free music playlists, are also pre-loaded.
Nokia Smart Devices executive vice president Jo Harlow said: “We keep innovating. We’re advancing experiences on the Nokia Lumia portfolio, whether that means great new benefits for an existing Lumia owner, or bringing new showcase devices like the Nokia Lumia 925.”

Microsoft Windows Phone Division corporate vice president Terry Myerson said: “Together with Nokia, we continue to change the way people think about smartphone camera. The work Nokia has done with the Lumia 925 further enhances the imaging capabilities of the Lumia smartphones.”




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Mobile theft rose to over 820,000 last year



An estimated 826,000 people in England and Wales were victims of mobile phone theft in 2011/2012, compared with 759,000 in 2009/2010.
Those most likely to have their phone stolen were children aged 14 to 17 and those aged 18 to 24, with the theft rate for these groups being twice the average.
Women aged 18 to 24 were at highest risk, with one in 20 having their phone stolen.
The crime survey for England and Wales (CSEW) also found there was a decrease in mobile theft from children aged 10 to 13, from 2.6 per cent in 2009/2010 to 1.7 per cent in 2011/2012.
Mobile theft rates among owners aged 14 to 17 also fell year-on-year from 5.2 per cent to 4.0 per cent.
There was an increase in the rate of thefts among owners aged 75 and over, from 0.2 per cent in 2009/2010 to 0.7 per cent in 2011/2012.
The proportion of thefts and robberies involving a mobile phone increased to 46 per cent in 2011/2012 compared to 31 per cent in 2010/2011.