Who are Xiaomi? – Google ’em!

Yesterday it was announced that top Google executive Hugo Barra would be leaving the company and joining Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi (pronounced SHAO-mee).

Barra was previously vice president of product management for Google’s mobile operating system Android, and announced the move on his Google+ page:

“After nearly 5½ years at Google and almost 3 years as a member of the Android team — the most amazing group of people I’ve ever worked with in my life — I have decided to start a new career chapter.”

This new path will be as Vice President at Xiaomi Global, and Barra’s decision signals the growing importance and ambition of Chinese phone-makers. The ex-Android exec has said it will be his responsibility to “expand [Xiaomi’s] incredible product portfolio and business globally.”

Yet for many, this ‘incredible portfolio’ and Xiaomi itself are both unknown quantities. How has a three-year old company barely heard of outside China managed to attract such a senior and well-respected figure in the mobile industry? Here’s why Xiaomi matters:

They’re growing fast – Even within China Xiaomi is far from dominating the mobile landscape. Recent figures from Canalys show the company only holds 5 per cent of the Chinese smartphone market in the second quarter of 2013. This is slightly ahead of Apple (4.8 per cent) but still far behind the leaders, Samsung, with 18 per cent.

However, considering that the company only sold its first smartphone in 2011 Xiaomi has seen phenomenal growth. Recent rounds of investment funding have valued the company at $10bn (£6.5bn), more than doubling last year’s valuation of $4bn. This means the company is now worth nearly twice as much as Blackberry.

They’re in the right place – In 2012 the company sold 7.19 million smartphones, in March this year founder Lei Jun predicted sales of 15 million for 2013. Just last month he bumped this prediction up to 20 million.

This growth is partly good timing: figures released by Gartner in August this year showed that for the first time smartphones are outselling feature phones globally and the Asian region is one of the fastest growing. China overtook the US this February to become the world’s biggest smartphone market, and Xiaomi is riding this wave upwards and upwards.

Their business model is right for the times – Comparisons are frequently made between Xiaomi and Apple, and between the Chinese company’s billionaire founder Lei Jun and Steve Jobs. This is tempting (especially considering Lei’s penchant for the jeans-and-trainers look) but essentially misleading: Apple and Xiaomi make their money in very different ways.

Whilst Apple’s profits are largely from generous margins in hardware production (the iPhone 5 costs around $200 to make and retails for around $600) Xiaomi sells its products as cheaply as possible simply to get people onto their system. Speaking to All Things D earlier this year, Xiaomi co-founder Bin Lin said “We essentially price our phones at bill-of-materials.”

They’re not Apple – Lin describes the future of the mobile internet – and therefore the future of Xiaomi – as rooted in services: “Cellphones are really just like PCs were 20 years ago. They generated big profit margins in the beginning. But those margins are in the single digits now. The same thing is beginning to happen to smartphones. So rather than focus on devices where margins will decline, we’re focusing on services.”

And Xiaomi also have a proven track record in services. CEO Lei Jun made his first fortune by founding Joyo.com, an e-commerce site that sold to Amazon in 2004 for $75 million (it’s now Amazon China). It’s convenient to call Xiaomi a phone-maker but they’re also China’s third largest online retailer: their monthly revenues from web services is currently around $3.2m, but that’s predicted to rise to around $21m-$24m by the end of next year.

Meanwhile the average selling price (ASP) for the iPhone is dropping and Apple have been forced into releasing a plastic-cased iPhone 5C (most likely out 20 September) aimed at recapturing sales in markets like China. When Apple has to sacrifice their long-standing sales pitch of offering only the best quality you know that the things must be seriously against them. In China however, Xiaomi’s there already.

And the future? – Despite all of this growth and potential in China, it’s still uncertain whether Xiaomi can be a success in Western markets. Huawei are the only Chinese phone-maker to make any inroads into US and UK markets, and their presence is still minimal.

What plays well for Xiaomi at home – the cheaper handsets for example or selling directly to consumers online – are likely to be looked on suspiciously abroad. ‘If it’s that cheap can it really be any good?’; ‘If my mobile network isn’t selling me this phone, how do I know it will work for me?’, etc. Barra’s move from Google will certainly help develop Xiaomi’s global strategy, but an image problem might be a tougher problem altogether.





Vodafone launches 4G in London



Vodafone UK has today launched Ultrafast 4G in London, bringing a choice of fantastic sports or music
entertainment to Londoners and boosting the capital’s businesses with faster speeds, bigger data allowances and the ability to share that data across at no extra cost.

Vodafone Ultrafast 4G brings the capital’s music and sports lovers a choice of either access to Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV. That’s more than 20 million tracks from the world’s best known streaming music provider; or the best in live action football from across the Premier League and Championship, tennis, cricket, golf and rugby.

All that on top of unlimited data for the first three months, then double Vodafone’s standard data allowances, plus unlimited calls and texts.

Ultrafast 4G services will also help businesses to raise their game by helping people work where they want to,
when they want to. Almost nine out of ten business leaders (86%) believe 4G will increase their productivity by providing a genuine ‘in-office’ experience wherever they are, according to recent research by Vodafone.

In total the arrival of competitive 4G services could boost London’s economy by as much as £1.5bn a year, according to further independent research.

Vodafone’s 4G-ready plans went on sale on August 12, in time for the start of the new Premier League season, and even before the network had gone live, more than 20,000 people had joined up. All customers on Vodafone Red 4G-ready and Vodafone Red Business 4G-ready will get a 4G service in London from today.

The Mayor of London’s Deputy Mayor for business and enterprise, Kit Malthouse, said: “This is already one of
the world’s greatest centres for digital and innovation, but 4G coverage means Londoners and businesses will be able to access some of the fastest wireless internet services in the world. Vodafone’s investment will allow
thousands more to take advantage of 4G, and help London to take a significant step towards the £1.5bn boost to London’s economy that 4G potentially provides.”

Guy Laurence, CEO, Vodafone UK said: “Vodafone Ultrafast 4G is here and we’re giving people a reason to get excited about it as we switch on a new site every 30 minutes. We’re bringing the capital closer to the action with Sky Sports and letting Londoners stream 20 million tracks with Spotify. We’re also giving the city’s busy businesses a boost by helping them take their office with them when they’re out and about. In fact, in the few days since we launched our 4G plans, more than 20,000 people have signed up. So, the question for Londoners now is: which do
you want – music or sport?”



Check the availability and latest deals for Vodafone here





EU ‘plans single telecoms regulator’



The European Commission is thought to be considering a plan for a single telecoms regulator to cover all 28 member states. The new regulator could take over some of the responsibilities of national watchdogs, like Ofcom in the UK.

The Commission said that the proposal was “not a finished document”, so it could not confirm the details. But a leak to the Financial Times appears to show that such plans have been under consideration.

The document, produced by the Directorate General for Competition, says “a true pan-EU regulator would be the most effective solution to remove national divergences”. It suggests that any new regulator would take over some powers from national bodies.

“Advancing further towards a true single market would require gradually moving away from the present status quo of 28 national regulators,” it says.

In a statement, the Commission said the newspaper article “apparently refers to an earlier draft”. It said the plans would only become clear when adopted as a final proposal on 10 September.

The EU Commission is already working on proposals to create a single telecoms market in Europe. Neelie Kroes, the EU telecoms commissioner, is in charge of drafting them.

Under the plans, European telecoms companies would get access to all 28 member states. They would be required to offer EU-wide mobile packages and would no longer be allowed to levy roaming charges. The industry has been heavily opposed to this idea, which would lose them billions of pounds in revenues.

The UK regulator Ofcom said it could not comment on the proposals, as it had not seen them. However, a spokesman said: “Neelie Kroes has already made it clear that there is no need for a single telecoms regulator.”

But the Commission is playing down any apparent differences between the Directorate General for Competition and Ms Kroes. It said that Ms Kroes had been drafting the proposals “in close co-operation” with other departments.

Analysts say they are not surprised by the idea of a single telecoms regulator for the EU. “It is a logical step. It does make sense,” said Dario Talmesio, principal analyst from Informa Telecoms and Media.

But the idea leaves many questions. In particular, it is unclear how any such regulator might allocate the use of the spectrum in any individual country. Up to now, spectrums have been seen as national assets, which governments like to control.

“To British citizens, it would be like a single regulator deciding how to use North Sea oil reserves,” said Mr Talmesio.

European mobile operators already feel aggrieved by the weight of regulation coming out of Brussels. Equivalent markets in North America, Latin America and Asia are much less tightly regulated, leaving operators like Verizon, AT&T and China Mobile with much greater profitability.

“The tone of regulation has driven European operators to a point where they feel they can’t defend themselves,” said Shaun Collins, of the telecoms consultancy CCS Insight.

Some fear they are now vulnerable to companies with deeper pockets. One example is the recent take-over bid launched by Mexico’s America Movil for the Dutch operator KPN.

But since February, some in the industry feel that the mood in Brussels has been more conciliatory, with more consideration for telecoms operators.

Until now, the EU has appeared to be more on the side of consumers, with its campaign to cut bills.



Three abolishes roaming charges in seven countries


‘Feel at Home’ enables customers to make calls to the UK from Ireland, Australia, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden and denmark using their standard price plan.

Three has abolished roaming charges in seven countries with the launch of its new ‘Feel at Home’ offer. It has become the first UK operator to introduce such a plan.

Customers will be able to call, text and use data from their UK price plan, initially available in Ireland, Australia, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden and Denmark.

Feel at Home will automatically activate as soon as the person arrives in one of the listed countries. Customers can roam onto any networks in these countries, and not just other Three operations.
The operator said that if people exceed the limits, they will still benefit from roaming charges lower then Three’s standard roaming rates.

These are 20p per minute for calls, 7p per text message and 10 per MB. Alternatively, if customer’s exceed their allowances and don’t want to be charged roaming rates, they can use My3 on their mobile in the Feel at Home countries to buy normal UK add-ons.
Three marketing director Thomas Malleschitz said: “We want to make sure our customers have the best possible mobile experience. By abolishing expensive roaming charges in select countries, we are allowing our customers to get even more value from their minutes, texts and data abroad by removing the fear associated with staying in touch while travelling.”

This move from Three is a welcome relief for Brits travelling abroad. For too long, mobile users have faced coming home to the holiday souvenir from hell – an eye-watering phone bill. Despite worldwide caps being in place and networks offering special packages to help keep a lid on roaming costs, holidaying Brits that have returned to mobile bill shock pay an extra £120 on average.

Although there were whispers of the EU scrapping roaming charges altogether, nothing has been confirmed yet. So it’s great to see a network take the initiative and help protect customers with a simple and easy to understand proposition, at no extra cost. 

However, with the plan only available in seven countries, customers will need to check that they’ll be covered. While the late launch means it will have just missed the summer holiday season, it is in good time for those planning to catch some rays this winter in sunnier climes. We look forward to seeing the net widen and more countries included as the service develops.




Check the availability and latest deals for Three here




Number Crunching – How much does a phone call really cost?

How much does a phone call really cost? 0800, 0870, 090, 020… There are so many different phone numbers that keeping tabs on how much they cost to call can be confusing. So what do they all mean?

How much does a phone call really cost? 0800, 0870, 090, 020… There are so many different phone numbers that keeping tabs on how much they cost to call can be confusing. So what do they all mean?
This is a handy guide to common phone numbers, some of the ways that they are used and the indicative costs of calling them from landlines or mobile phones. 
The prices below are indicative only and should not be used as a definitive list of call charges. Actual costs depend on your communication provider and a number of factors
such as individual calling plans, time of day and the exact number called. You should check with your provider before you dial. As well as a pence per minute rate, most landline providers charge a call set-up fee to connect calls, which is typically between 3p and 15p.
01 and 02 numbers – geographic numbers:
These numbers relate to specific locations in the UK and are used for homes and businesses. For example, Huddersfield is 01484, Bath is 01225, Edinburgh is 0131 and London is 020.
How much do calls cost? Calls from landlines are typically charged up to 10p per minute; calls from mobiles between 10p and 40p per minute. For landlines there is normally also a call set-up fee, and call charges are dependent on the time of day. Most providers offer call packages that allow calls free
of charge at certain times of the day.
03 numbers – UK-wide geographic numbers:
Many organisations use 03 numbers as an alternative to more expensive 08 numbers.
How much do calls cost? Calls cost no more than calls to geographic numbers (01 or 02) and must be included in inclusive minutes and discount schemes in the same way. Calls from landlines are typically charged up to 10p per minute; calls from mobiles typically cost between 10p and 40p per minute. Calls from landlines and mobiles are included in free call packages.
030 numbers – not-for-profit organisations:
030 numbers were specially designed for not-for-profit organisations, charities and public bodies to offer consumers a single point of contact nationally. The BBC, the Met Police, the RSPCA, Oxfam, Relate, some local councils, Ofcom and a number of government departments use 030 numbers.
How much do calls cost? Calls cost no more than calls to geographic (01 and 02) numbers and must be included in inclusive minutes and discount schemes in the same way. Calls from landlines are typically charged up to 10p per minute; calls from mobiles typically cost between 10p and 40p per minute. Calls from landlines and mobiles
are included in free call packages.
07 – mobile numbers:
How much do calls cost? Calls to mobiles are charged between 5p and 32p per minute from BT landlines and other landline providers and are typically not included in free call packages. Call costs from mobiles vary according to the calling plan chosen. Typically they cost between 8p and 40p per minute. Calls between mobile phones are normally included in free call packages.
070 – personal numbers:
These are different from mobile numbers and calls to them are more expensive. They can be used as a “follow me” service where calls are diverted from another number. Small businesses and sole traders use them to make it easy to manage calls. Personal numbers are also sold on a one-off basis, for example when someone is buying or selling a used car and doesn’t want to advertise their private mobile or fixed line number on a website or magazine.
How much do calls cost? 070 numbers can cost between 4p and 52p per minute if calling from a landline (and often include a call set-up fee, sometimes of up to 51p). From a mobile phone these numbers can cost between 30p and £1.50 per minute. 
08 numbers:
0800 and 0808 Freephone – A number of businesses and organisations use Freephone numbers, including some helplines and charities such as RNID or Age UK, as well as Government services such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.
How much do calls cost? Calls are normally free of charge from landlines but charges may apply from mobile phones. However, the operator must make an announcement before the call is connected telling the caller that they will be charged (the announcement does not state the exact charge). Calls from mobiles typically cost between 14p and 40p per minute. 0500 numbers cost similar amounts as 0800 and 0808 numbers from a mobile.
Chargeable 08 Business Rate numbers – These are used by large and small businesses for sales, enquiry and customer service lines and for some pay-as-you go internet access services.
0843 and 0844 – How much do calls cost? Calls are charged between 1p and 13p per minute for landline customers. Calls from mobile phones are typically charged between 20p and 41p per minute, depending on the provider and the number called.
0845 – How much do calls cost? Calls are typically charged at between 1p and 11p per minute depending on the time of day for landline customers, and often include a call set-up fee of up to 14p. Calls from mobile phones generally cost between 14p and 41p per minute.
0870 – How much do calls cost? Calls from some landline providers cost no more than a geographic rate call (01 or 02, up to 10p plus a call set-up fee in some cases) and may count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way. Calls from other landline providers typically cost up to 11p per minute. From some mobile networks calls typically cost between 14p and 41p per minute. Recently some other providers have also included calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers in call packages, making them free at certain times of the day.
0871/2/3 – How much do calls cost? Calls typically cost between 11p and 15p per minute for landline customers, plus a call set-up fee. From a mobile phone, calls may cost between 20p and 41p per minute. Services provided on these numbers are regulated by PhonepayPlus* to provide additional protection for callers. You can find out more information at www.phonepayplus.org.uk.
118 directory enquiry numbers – How much do calls cost? Calls to directory enquiry numbers (starting 118) can vary significantly in price depending on the directory enquiry service and the phone company you call from. Typically, most calls include a one-off connection charge and then a separate per minute rate, although this also varies depending on the service.
From a mobile or a landline, the one-off charge can be anything between 50p and up to £4 and the additional per minute charge can be anything up to £4. Some mobile providers charge on a per minute basis only with calls costing up to £3 per minute. These numbers are also regulated by PhonepayPlus* and providers are required to state the cost of the call in their advertising.
Premium rate numbers:
09 numbers – 09 numbers are mainly used for competitions, TV voting, horoscopes, chat lines, adult lines, recorded information and professional advice services. You can bar these premium rate numbers from being dialled from your phone, as you can with other numbers. These numbers are also regulated by PhonepayPlus*.
How much do calls cost? Calls typically cost between 9p and £1.69 per minute or per call from a BT landline, but other landline providers can charge up to £2.60 per minute. From a mobile phone charges typically range between 50p and £2.50 per minute or per call.

*PhonepayPlus (previously known as ICSTIS) regulates phone-paid services in the UK. These are the premium rate goods and services that you can buy by charging the cost to your phone bill and prepay account. You can find out more information at www.phonepayplus.org.uk Prices correct as at 12/08/2013

LG puts buttons on back of G2 smartphone


LG is hoping to shake up smartphone design by placing the only physical buttons of its new flagship model on the rear of the handset.

The firm says the G2 addresses the problem that mobiles become harder to control the bigger they get.

The South Korean company recently reported its strongest ever mobile phone figures. However, analysts are split over whether or not their latest innovation is a winner.

The new device features a 5.2in (13.2cm) screen and is powered by Android. Its rear keys can be used to adjust its volume or – if pressed for a longer time – to activate the device’s camera and note-taking software.

LG suggests that using a back-button to take a self-portrait with the front camera also makes it easier to take a steady shot.

“Moving the main buttons to the back of the phone gave users more control since this place was where individuals’ index fingers are naturally located,” it said. “Researchers also found that moving the buttons also resulted in fewer dropped phones when adjusting the volume while talking.”

LG overtook Huawei to become the world’s third best-selling smartphone maker in the first three months of the year thanks to demand for its Nexus 4 and Optimus range, according to market research firm Gartner.

One of its researchers suggested the move could indeed help address issues consumers have with the design of bigger mobiles.

“This is a potentially interesting concept for LG because as phones get larger, the position of the phone in the hand and how you use it is going to change,” said analyst Brian Blau. “Whether the button on the back proves to be a winner long-term has yet to be determined, but it deserves some amount of consideration.”

But another tech consultancy, Juniper Research, dislikes the concept. “I’m not convinced that this represents a killer design,” said analyst Michael Wiggins. “The positioning of the navigation button doesn’t appear to be particularly user-friendly, either, particularly if – given the size of the device – you’re an individual with smaller hands. For a few more millimetres of screen, it’s not a great trade-off.”

LG announced that it shipped a record 12.1 million handsets over the April to June period. However, its mobile unit is not as profitable as that of Samsung or Apple because much of the demand was accounted for by its lower-margin mid-range devices. Coupled with an increased marketing budget and weak sales of its TVs, it meant the firm still posted a 9% drop in net income.

At the time, So Hyun-chul, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp declared that LG needed a “mega-hit smartphone to dramatically raise its profit”.

The launch of the G2 was notable for being the first time LG has chosen to host a special event in the US to unveil a handset – something other manufactures Samsung, HTC and Nokia have become accustomed to.

The new device’s other stand-out features are a 13 megapixel camera with image stabilisation and 24 bit/192kHz audio playback, which LG claims can reproduce music at a quality that is “far superior to a CD”.

“This is LG’s top-tier play and from a specs point-of-view it looks good versus the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is the probably the nearest phone in the market,” said Stuart Miles, founder of gadget review site Pocket-lint. It’s now down to whether people believe strongly enough in the LG brand versus Samsung’s when it comes to choosing which phone to go for. Ultimately I think LG has a chance, but Samsung may just end up steamrollering them with marketing.”

LG said the G2 would go on sale first in South Korea and then North America, Europe and other markets over the next eight weeks.




Compare all deals on LG here.


36m Brits use the internet every day – but what are they all doing?

Trends in access to, and use of, the internet have been analysed for the past seven years in the UK Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. The questions that 1,000 adults are asked each month change as our online habits do – so the questions can be just as telling as the responses.
Trends in access to, and use of, the internet have been analysed for the past seven years in the UK Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. The questions that 1,000 adults are asked each month change as our online habits do – so the questions can be just as telling as the responses.
For example, when households are asked why they don’t have internet access, they can no longer select ‘concern about harmful material’ or ‘lack of knowledge or confidence to use the internet’ as responses.
How do you compare to the national average when it comes to reading news online? What do people buy on the internet? And what does the gender divide look like when it comes to the web? Here are seven of the key trends to come out of this year’s release.
Compared to 16.2m in 2006, the number of people using the internet in the UK has skyrocketed to 35.7m this year – representing 73% of the population. Meanwhile (unsurprisingly) the proportion of Britons who go online less often has fallen, but the numbers still seem surprisingly high; 7.4m did not use the internet at all in the last three months, that’s 15% of the UK population. And 11% of people say they’ve never used a computer at all.
On average, 27% of men make online purchases compared to 22% of women. However that depends on which products and services are being bought – more women buy clothing or food online whereas a greater proportion of men buy films, music, games and software while using the internet.
There are clear gender differences in online habits – 60% of men read news online compared to 49% of women. The biggest gap though concerns downloading software (excluding gaming software) which men are two times more likely than women to do.
British women are 7% more likely to seek health advice online than men (but they’re more likely to seek health advice offline too)
3 out of 4 people in Britain use the internet to send and receive email – but that has always taken up a large part of our time spent online. Comparing 2013 to 2007, the biggest change is in the number of people saying that they read or download online news, newspapers and magazines – which has risen from 20% to 55%.
Ways to connect are rapidly changing – in the space of just a year, an extra 12% of UK households are using broadband (via cable, optical fibre, ethernet etc) and an extra 5% have got mobile broadband. Meanwhile use of DSL has fallen by 12% and the days of dial-up are officially numbered – the 1% of British households that still used it in 2012 have since fallen to numbers so low that they’re not included in this release. 83% of all households in the UK have internet access, up from 80% last year.
When that remaining 17% of UK households were asked why they don’t have internet access, the answers were surprising. Privacy or security concerns are low (just 2% of respondents cited this) and price is becoming less of an issue (12% of respondents, compared to 15% in 2010). But an enormous 59% of households tick “don’t need internet (not useful, not interesting, etc)” as their response – up from 33% in 2008.
We’re not sure why that is. It could be that people spend so much time online while at work that they don’t feel a need for access when at home. Or perhaps as 1 in 2 people now use the internet on their mobile phones, household access seems pointless. If you have other suggestions, please share them below.
The biggest change in frequency of use can be seen in Britain’s older generation. 37% of those aged over 65 now go online every day, compared to just 9% seven years ago.

Marmalade sandwiches a Go-Go (Gadget) at Virgin Media


Virgin Media has brought an array of children’s content from DHX Media to its On Demand service. Fans of Paddington Bear, Inspector Gadget and Caillou can now catch up on the adventures of their favourite characters at the touch of a button, making for perfect viewing over the summer holidays.

Straight from darkest Peru, Paddington Bear has found a new home on Virgin Media and can be seen hankering after his beloved marmalade sandwiches in Paddington’s Birthday Bonanza, Paddington goes to the Movies and Paddington goes to School.

Younger viewers can also enjoy the first season of Caillou, which follows the adventures of Caillou with his family and friends in an innovative show that mixes animation, puppets and video of children in real-life situations to bring its stories to life.

Series one of Inspector Gadget has also joined the line-up, giving customers the opportunity to delve into the weird and wonderful world of the eccentric detective as he fends off dastardly doings by his arch-enemy, Dr. Claw.

The new content is currently available to customers with Virgin Media’s M+, L or XL TV packages and will also be added to Virgin TV Anywhere, the award-winning cloud-based entertainment service, later this month, enabling Virgin Media subscribers to take the shows beyond the TV and access them through the web at no extra cost.

Nick Forward, Virgin Media’s TV product director, said: “We’re delighted to bring Paddington Bear, Inspector Gadget and Caillou into the homes of Virgin TV families. These charming and iconic shows are bound to put a smile on children and parents’ faces alike and keep everyone entertained this summer.”

The new shows join the vast collection of children’s entertainment content already available on Virgin Media’s TV platform. Additional content from DHX Media will be coming to Virgin Media’s On Demand service in the next few months, so customers will soon be able to watch even more episodes of Paddington Bear, Inspector Gadget and Caillou as well as other exciting family favourites.



Check the availability and latest deals for Virgin here





O2 4G mobile network launch date announced for the UK



O2 has announced that its 4G mobile network is set to launch on 29 August.

The service – offering higher mobile data speeds than 3G – will initially be available in London, Leeds and Bradford. O2 said it planned to extend the service to a further 10 cities by the year’s end. It will compete against EE, which is already offering 4G data to 95 cities and has a cheaper basic tariff than O2’s lowest-cost option.

O2 – which is owned by Spain’s Telefonica – has said that its basic 4G tariff would cost £26 a month. By contrast EE’s cheapest rate is £21 a month for voice and data, or £15 a month for just data. However, until O2 reveals what its cheapest rate includes it is not possible to compare the offers properly.

Telefonica UK’s chief executive, Ronan Dunne, said that his firm intended to match EE’s launch speeds. But he acknowledged that his network would be slower, at least initially, in areas where his rival had subsequently installed “double speed” 4G equipment.

He also confirmed that unlike EE, O2’s 4G network would not be compatible with Apple’s iPhone 5, but said he “would be frankly gobsmacked if their roadmap didn’t address that issue”. Vodafone and Three have also said they intend to launch 4G services before the end of the year but have not given dates.

BT – the other winner of February’s spectrum auction – has said it plans to use its frequencies to let broadband customers connect kit to their internet routers via 4G as an alternative to wi-fi, and has no plans to compete directly with the mobile networks.

Switching to a 4G network offers subscribers the chance to download movies, music, apps and other content several times faster than is possible on 3G. It can also reduce the risk of streamed video or interactive games freezing due to buffering, and allows higher-quality video calls.

O2 says customers owning a 4G-compatible phone can switch without affecting their upgrade rights. Taking advantage of all this will encourage subscribers to use more data. O2 has confirmed that like EE, it will charge higher prices for bigger data caps and not offer an “unlimited” option. But Mr Dunne hinted that his firm would try to distinguish itself from others by offering bundled media content. He said consumers who bought a tariff directly from O2 would get a year’s “free music content”, but would not reveal what that involved at this stage. He added there were also further announcements to come about gaming.

He said that subscribers who switched to a 4G contract but did not ask for a new handset would not affect when they qualified for a later upgrade. They can also get the required new Sim cards for free but will need to pay a higher tariff after the move.

By contrast, Three has said it will offer its customers 4G at no extra charge and without the need for a new Sim.

O2 says its network will cover areas housing five million people at launch, and it plans to increase that number by about two million people a week. The other cities it wants to cover by the end of the year are Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh. It aims to reach 98% of the population by the end of 2015 – two years earlier than the deadline set by regulator Ofcom.

Telefonica paid £550m for O2’s 4G licences, which will use the 800MHz part of the radio spectrum. That was less than the amounts EE and Vodafone invested. However, they also purchased 2.6GHz frequencies in addition to 800MHz bands. The 800MHz bands are better at providing long-distance and indoor coverage, while 2.6GHz is capable of higher speeds.

Apple’s iPhone 5 is not compatible with the 800MHz spectrum, but Samsung’s Galaxy S4 can use it. One expert suggested O2’s failure to secure a mix could put it at a disadvantage in densely populated towns and cities. “It’s not just about speed issue but also capacity,” said Matthew Howett, an analyst at the telecoms consultancy Ovum. “The higher frequency spectrum effectively has fatter pipes – you can get more data through them. When lots of people are using 4G to do things like streaming high definition video, it’s important not just to have the availability of the signal but also that the pipe is wide enough to carry all that traffic. Without 2.6GHz O2 is in a bit of a tricky situation.”

One option might be for the firm to pay BT for some of its capacity, but Mr Dunne said “there haven’t been and there are no discussions on that”.

Another might be for it to carry out a process called “refarming” which would see O2 free up some of the frequencies it currently uses to transmit 3G data and use them to provide added 4G capacity. The firm’s 3G service would in turn take up bands currently used by its older and less-used 2G network. However, Mr Howett warned that this could take years to accomplish.


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O2’s 4G network to switch on from 29th August


O2 today sets out its plans for its 4G network launch later this month, which will make it the fastest growing 4G network in the UK. The superfast 4G network will be switched on in London, Leeds and Bradford on 29th August, reaching up to five million people from launch. O2’s ambitious rollout plan aims to make 4G available to an additional two million people per month, culminating in O2’s 2G, 3G and 4G network reaching 98% of the UK population both indoor and outdoor.

By the end of the year, O2’s 4G network will be live in 13 cities. Further detail relating to the specific switch-on dates will be announced over the coming weeks.

To allow as many people as possible to experience and enjoy the benefits of 4G, O2 is launching a range of tariffs starting at £26 a month, which come complete with a 30 day Happiness Guarantee for customers who sign up direct from O2.

Business customers will also be offered tariffs for tablets and mobile broadband from launch and Mobile Wifi (Pop Up Office) in the coming weeks.

4G networks will provide faster data speeds (up to 5 times faster than 3G) and a more seamless mobile experience, marking a new generation for the mobile industry. O2 has invested £550m to secure one of the highest proportions of the UK’s lowest frequency spectrum (800Mhz), which was released to O2 at the end of May and was fully cleared by Ofcom this week. This frequency reaches further than any other, delivering the best indoor penetration and outdoor reach.

Data usage on the O2 network has more than doubled in the last twelve months, demonstrating the ever growing appetite for mobile data services. 4G will complement O2’s current network offering, which includes 9,000 free O2 Wifi hotspots and the more recently launched TUGo, which uniquely allows O2’s consumer customers to make calls over wifi and use their tablet or laptop to make and receive calls and texts.

From today, O2 is introducing a new in-store and social media campaign encouraging everyone to be ‘#O24G’ Ready, inviting people to get their 4G-ready handset and free 4G SIM now, either in an O2 store or via an O2 business account manager.

O2 plans to go beyond what has already been offered in the 4G market and bring to life the digital experience for its customers, starting with 12 months free music content for those who buy a 4G consumer tariff direct from O2. Next generation office applications and services powered by 4G will enable O2 business customers to be more collaborative, more efficient and more productive. Further details on O2’s 4G portfolio will be unveiled in the coming months.

All O2 customers will also be offered free 4G advice and guidance from an O2 Guru from launch, either in-store or via web chat, to explore the possibilities that 4G will unlock. Business customers can receive a consultation with their O2 business account manager to discuss how their organisation could benefit from 4G.

Ronan Dunne, CEO of Telefónica UK (O2) said: “It’s great that I am able to announce O2 4G the day after the spectrum has been cleared for use. Digital connectivity will be made ubiquitous by 4G and become the oxygen of modern life. It is our intention to use 4G to inspire the nation through the possibilities of technology, encouraging people to live more, do more and be more with O2.

“The full potential of 4G is as yet unexplored, but what we can be sure of is that it will allow for a whole new world of opportunity that people are now ready for. Over half of our customers say they use more data than two years ago and even more use wifi wherever they go, to always stay connected. Given this trend, there is no doubt that 4G will transform our lives, be it as consumers, in business or through public sector services.”

Ben Dowd, Business Director at O2 said: “I believe that 4G is not only going to transform the way businesses work, but also how services are delivered to customers. Start-ups and small businesses should also be considering the benefits 4G offers in terms of agility and being able to engage with their customers in new ways. We will be working with our business customers over the coming months to bring the possibilities of 4G to life, but urgent commitment from businesses and the public sector is also required for its true value to be realised.”

To celebrate its launch, O2 is hosting a gig in London at its iconic music venue, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. A headline artist, to be announced in the coming weeks, will perform an exclusive set, which will also be streamed live to screens and billboards across the city, as well as on O2’s social media channels. All tickets will be available from O2 Priority at www.o2priority.co.uk/tickets. O2 customers will have the opportunity to get their tickets 48 hours before general release.

Ronan Dunne concluded: “The mass-market arrival of 4G marks a new generation for the digital age and we want to celebrate the occasion with our customers. This summer, as well as inviting people to join us at our launch gigs, we will also be hosting Europe’s biggest tech festival, Campus Party at The O2, which will be powered and brought to life by 4G. We plan to cement what is a truly momentous time and encourage our nation’s collective endeavours to make Britain truly digital.”


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