Nearly one in three UK broadband connections now superfast

peoples phone ofcom logo

Nearly one in three UK broadband connections are now superfast, up from around one in four in November 2013, according to new Ofcom research.
 
The growing take-up of superfast cable or fibre services – connections delivering 30Mbit/s and above – has resulted in average UK broadband speeds increasing by a fifth in the six months to November 2014.
 
The average UK broadband speed is now 22.8Mbit/s, up from 18.7Mbit/s in May 2014, marking the largest absolute rise (4.1Mbit/s) in broadband speeds Ofcom has recorded (-1-).
 
Faster cable and fibre services have lower availability in rural areas, and rural broadband speeds are typically slower, delivering around one third of urban speeds on average.
 
Nearly one in three UK broadband connections (32%) are ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s or above services, up from 24% in November 2013, according to the research. The average actual speed being delivered across connections with headline speeds of ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and above was 50.4Mbit/s in November 2014, although a small proportion of customers will receive actual speeds below 30Mbit/s.
 
Cable broadband saw a 26% increase in average speeds, bringing average cable broadband speeds up to 54.4Mbit/s. This follows a speed upgrade programme by the UK’s largest cable broadband provider, Virgin Media, allowing customers to ‘opt-in’ for faster broadband. The average speed of fibre services (not including cable connections) was 41.6Mbit/s, showing no significant change in the six months to November 2014.
 
The average speed of ADSL connections – still the most common type of residential broadband – saw no significant change in the six months to November 2014, providing an average speed of 7.3Mbit/s.
 
Average download speeds in urban areas increased by 21% in the six months to November 2014, largely as a result of increasing take-up of faster services and Virgin Media’s upgrade programme. As faster cable and fibre broadband services, with headline speeds of 30Mbit/s or more, typically have lower availability in rural areas, no statistically significant change in average speeds in suburban and rural areas was recorded over this period.
 
Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 152Mbit/s service achieved the fastest download speeds of the broadband services covered in Ofcom’s research, averaging 132.6Mbit/s over 24 hours. Ofcom’s research also examines upload speeds, which are particularly important when sharing large files or using real-time video communications. The research found that Plusnet’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s package delivered the fastest upload speeds at 17.0Mbit/s on average.

 
Broadband can slow down at peak times (between 8pm and 10pm on weekdays) due to a large number of people going online at the same time. This is known as network ‘contention’. Sky’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s broadband showed the effects of network contention the least, with 96% of panellists taking part in Ofcom’s research receiving 90% or more of their connection’s maximum speed at peak times. EE’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s broadband performed the least well, with 7% of panellists receiving 90% or more of their maximum speeds at peak times.
 
Cable services also suffered from slowdown at peak times. As Virgin Media delivers maximum speeds faster than its headline ‘up to’ speeds, peak time slowdown for its services is also measured against headline ‘up to’ speeds. The proportion of Virgin Media panellists getting at least 90% of their headline speed at peak times were: for Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 50Mbit/s broadband it was 100%; for 100Mbit/s it was 59%; and for 152Mbit/s it was 33% in November 2014.
 
Ofcom’s report includes analysis on service disruptions or ‘disconnections’ which occur when a modem loses its connection to the internet. When this happens, streaming or downloading may be interrupted and consumers won’t be able load web pages or access email until the modem re-connects. There were no significant differences between the average number of actual daily disconnections of 30 seconds or more for ADSL2+ services, which ranged from 0.4 to 0.9 each day.
 
Among ‘up to’ 30Mbit/s and above packages, the average number of daily disconnections of 30 seconds or more ranged from 0.1 each day for BT and Sky’s ‘up to’ 38Mbit/s packages to 0.5 for Plusnet’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s and Virgin Media’s ‘up to 152Mbit/s packages. Virgin Media’s 152Mbit/s package had the most disconnections longer than two minutes, an average of 0.3 per day.
 
Steve Unger, Acting Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “The UK has seen significant investment in superfast broadband, and millions of households are now benefitting from faster speeds and more choice. But there’s still more to be done to ensure that everyone can share in those benefits. It’s encouraging to see continued investment in infrastructure from broadband providers, supported by Government funding to bring faster broadband to harder to reach areas. By providing the best possible information, Ofcom can help people understand the broadband services available to them and what they can do to get the most from their broadband.”

China’s Lenovo becomes victim of cyber-attack

Chinese computer maker Lenovo has become the victim of a cyber-attack following a warning by the US government about software called Superfish.
 
Chinese computer maker Lenovo has become the victim of a cyber-attack following a warning by the US government about software called Superfish.
 
The Superfish adware program – which offered shopping tips – was shipped on some of the company’s notebook devices.
 
A hacking group called Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the Wednesday attack via Twitter. The group has taken credit for several other attacks, including one on Sony.
 
“One effect of this attack was to redirect traffic from the Lenovo website,” Lenovo said in a statement. “We are also actively investigating other aspects. We are responding and have already restored certain functionality to our public-facing website.”
 
The firm also said it was “actively reviewing” its network security and would take steps “to protect the integrity of our users’ information and experience”.
 
Last week, the computer-making giant said it was offering customers a tool to help them remove the pre-installed software after experts warned that it was a security risk. The firm then said it had disabled the software because of customer complaints.
 
In a later statement, however, the company said it was aware of security risks about the software and was focused on fixing it. Superfish was designed to help users find products by visually analysing images on the web to find the cheapest ones.
 
According to one security expert, the hackers managed to hijack the Domain Name Servers (DNS), which convert the web addresses users type into the IP addresses used by the internet. Cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs wrote that they were able to do so after gaining access to Lenovo’s domain name registrar Webnic.
 
Citing two hackers who he said had been working to expose Lizard Squad, he wrote that the attackers exploited a vulnerability within Webnic to discreetly gain access to its network and then alter the DNS records to divert traffic to where they wanted it to go.
 
On Twitter, Lizard Squad also released what it said were emails stolen from Lenovo employees and codes used to transfer web domains to other registrars. Webnic’s site was inaccessible but a company representative acknowledged the outage and told Mr Krebs: “We’re still in the investigation stage.”
 
On Tuesday, Lizard Squad claimed to have carried out a similar attack on Google’s Vietnamese domain, which is also registered with Webnic.
 
 

BlackBerry left on the line as UK users continue to hang up

BlackBerry will have fewer than 1 million users outside businesses in the UK by the end of the year, a radical slump from a peak of nearly 8 million in June 2012, according to new research from two companies.
 
BlackBerry will have fewer than 1 million users outside businesses in the UK by the end of the year, a radical slump from a peak of nearly 8 million in June 2012, according to new research from two companies.
 
The dramatic fall from grace of the iconic mobile phones, which were blamed for spreading unrest during the London riots of summer 2011 , follows a series of high-profile and expensive flops – first with its PlayBook tablet and then with the touchscreen Z10 phone, as it tried to catch rivals such as Samsung and Apple.
 
The firm has also plunged into operating losses and seen revenues dwindle for 11 of the past 12 quarters. In a bid to cut costs, it has fired thousands of staff.
 
Now new research from eMarketer provided exclusively to the Guardian paints a bleak picture for the company. It says it may have as few as 700,000 non-business users in the UK, and that by 2017 the figure could fall to 400,000.
Separately, another research company, Kantar Worldpanel, told the Guardian that although BlackBerry’s data currently shows 1.4 million non-business users, it is losing 56,000 users every month to other platforms such as Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone. “I’d expect we would see fewer than a million people with a BlackBerry as their primary handset around September 2015,” Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar, said.
The UK used to be one of BlackBerry’s biggest and most loyal markets – but the collapse in consumer base will create financial problems for the company, which under its new chief executive John Chen has retrenched to its original corporate and government roots, where it is prized for its levels of security. But both Apple and Samsung have begun to make inroads there, winning approval from the US and UK governments for their handsets to be used in low-level security work.
BlackBerry’s revenues rely heavily on handset sales: Chen has said that it needs to sell 10m per year to be profitable. But falling user numbers mean fewer sales and a spiralling problem for the company.
 
“BlackBerry’s fall from grace has been spectacular, but these latest figures show that even its previously loyal core seems to be leaving in droves,” said Bill Fisher, UK analyst at eMarketer. “Its market share has been decimated by Android and iOS, and more recently by Windows Phone, which is slowly gaining a foothold in the UK market.”
 
The company has not been helped by high-profile missteps, such as a software update last Thursday that left LadyTanni Grey-Thompson, the paralympic medallist and parliamentarian, bemoaning the random shuffling of her contacts book. She has threatened to dump BlackBerry for another maker.
 

Life saving despatch app launched

New app cuts Londons Air Ambulance dispatch by up to two minutes helicopter EE peoples phone

A revolutionary new mobile app and EE’s 4G network are helping London’s Air Ambulance save lives by reducing the time it takes to dispatch the charity’s advanced trauma teams by up to two minutes. Developed by mobile app developer Mubaloo and EE, the UK’s most advanced digital communications company, the app increases emergency dispatch efficiency by automatically providing London’s Air Ambulance trauma teams with incident information via EE 4G to help them reach patients quicker than ever before.
 
Out of the 5,000 emergency 999 calls that the London Ambulance Service emergency operations centre receives each day, a paramedic dispatches London’s Air Ambulance advanced trauma teams to around 2,000 patients every year. The trauma team responds using a helicopter by day and rapid response cars by night or in adverse weather. The app, which runs on 4G tablets, has reduced the time it takes for London’s Air Ambulance to dispatch trauma teams by up to two minutes, with rapid response cars now being dispatched in as little as 10 seconds with all crucial incident and navigation data in hand.
 
Details of the incident are now transmitted directly over 4G to trauma teams via the app, including incident information, navigation details with real-time flight and route data, allowing doctors and paramedics to focus on getting to the patients as quickly and safely as possible.
 
The creation of the customised app by Mubaloo is the latest development of a long running relationship between London’s Air Ambulance and EE. The two companies have been working together for 18 months, developing new ways of using 4G to boost efficiencies and helping to save the lives of Londoners and visitors to the capital.
 
Dr Gareth Grier, London’s Air Ambulance, said: “Out of the 5,000 emergency calls that are received by the London Ambulance Service every day, we typically see six patients whose injuries are so critical that they need additional specialist treatment on-scene before they get to hospital. Even reducing the time we take to get to our patients by 10 seconds could, in some instances, mean the difference between life and death.” 
 
Gerry McQuade, Chief Marketing Officer at EE, said: “This is a fantastic example of how 4G and mobile technology is helping organisations to improve performance, even in the most critical applications such as emergency services and healthcare. In the hands of the brilliant London’s Air Ambulance team, the speed and reliability of EE’s 4G network combined with a bespoke application by EE Customised Apps partner Mubaloo, is creating crucial efficiencies that are actually helping to save lives.”
 
Sarah Weller, Managing Director London, Mubaloo said: “London’s Air Ambulance is a truly mobile operation, providing mobile care and assistance to those most in need. Like many organisations, there are operations and processes that are unique to London’s Air Ambulance. With 4G helping to improve the speed of third party apps, it was clear that taking a custom approach would deliver further benefits. EE’s 4G network means the app has a reliable, direct data connection to ensure it is always updated with the right information. The app has led to improvements across London Air Ambulance’s critical processes, with the time savings being passed to the people who need it the most, the patients.”
 
EE and Mubaloo have developed the app for London’s Air Ambulance by studying and understanding  the dispatch process in detail, including reviewing how data from 999 calls is processed, the on board requirements of the helicopter response team and the navigation challenges the London’s Air Ambulance road response teams face.  
 
The app is the first of its kind in the world and further cements the reputation of London’s Air Ambulance as a leader at the forefront of innovation in pre-hospital medicine. The app is an example of EE Customised Apps in which EE and mobile app partner Mubaloo build bespoke, intuitive apps that integrate with businesses’ existing systems to improve efficiencies and business performance.
 
London’s Air Ambulance has been serving the capital for 26 years and has treated over 32,000 critically ill patients.  The charity has only one emergency medical helicopter and is currently fundraising for a vital second helicopter.  Donate and watch your helicopter being built at http://www.yourhelicopter.london/ or Text HELICOPTER to 70800 to donate £5 now.


Lenovo offers tool to remove hidden adware ‘Superfish’

Chinese computer maker Lenovo is offering customers a tool to help them remove pre-installed software that experts warned was a security risk.
 
Chinese computer maker Lenovo is offering customers a tool to help them remove pre-installed software that experts warned was a security risk.
 
The Superfish adware program – which offered shopping tips – was shipped on some of the company’s notebook devices. Lenovo said on Thursday it had disabled it because of customer complaints. But a later statement said the company was also aware of a security risks about the software, and the company was “focused on fixing it”.
 
“We apologise for causing these concerns among our users – we are learning from this experience and will use it to improve what we do and how we do it in the future,” the company said.
 
Lenovo said it had acted “swiftly and decisively” and that users could download a patch to remove Superfish.
 
Superfish was designed to help users find products by visually analysing images on the web to find the cheapest ones. Users had initially complained about intrusive pop-up ads appearing on their browsers. Computer experts later warned that the software was potentially compromising their security.
 
Superfish appears to work by substituting its own security key for the encryption certificates used by many websites. This would allow it – or anyone who hacked Superfish – to collect data over secure web connections.

Google faces Russia Android probe after Yandex protest

peoples phone android in box

Google faces the prospect of a fresh competition investigation after Russia’s biggest search engine filed a complaint with the authorities.
 
Yandex alleges that its rival has an unfair advantage because it insists device-makers set Google as the default search setting if they want to pre-install its Play store.
 
Google Play is promoted as the safest and best-stocked marketplace for apps and other media for Android devices. Google has yet to respond.
 
The US company has yet to see the complaint filed with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). However, Google may try to defend itself by noting that manufacturers are free to install rival services if they choose not to pre-load its other software.
 
It is also likely to argue that customers can carry out searches via other software – including Yandex’s search app – after buying an Android handset or tablet.
 
In the past, Microsoft and others have made similar complaints about Android to the European Commission, claiming that the operating system acts as a Trojan horse for Google’s services. Last year, the commission said it would “probably” launch a formal investigation into the claims if it did not get an “adequate” response from Google.
 
EU anti-trust watchdogs are already carrying out a separate investigation into Google’s search and advertising business. Yandex said that it had decided to act after three electronics comapnies – Prestigio, Fly and Explay – contacted it between last November and last month to say they were “no longer able” to pre-install Yandex’s services on their Android devices because of Google’s restrictions.
 

It said these included a take-it-or-leave-it rule, under which the manufacturers were forced to choose between installing the complete set of Google Mobile Services apps – including Google Play, Gmail, YouTube, Google Translate and Google Drive – and setting Google as the automatic search service, or opting out altogether.
 
The Moscow-based company added that Google was “increasingly” prohibiting device-makers from pre-installing competitors’ services. A spokesman for Yandex acknowledged that it was possible for customers to subsequently download its own app. But he noted that, unlike in Apple’s iOS operating system, users could not later reset the default search service from being Google in their settings menu.
 
The spokesman said that Yandex’s share of searches carried out via Android devices in Russia had fallen – down from 52% in February last year to 44% now – despite rising on iOS over the same period. “We believe that device manufacturers should have a choice as to which search provider to set as the default or which services to have preinstalled on the device,” added Yandex’s PR director, Ochir Mandzhikov. “This is why we are talking about the need to unbundle Google’s Android operating system from Google Search and its other end-user services.”
 
Regulators at the FAS said they intended to respond to Yandex’s complaint within a month. “After the review, a decision will be made on launching a case or rejection,” they said in a statement.

Vodafone one of 13 telcos still charging for mobile calls to 1800 numbers

Millions of Australians are still being billed for calls to 1800 numbers after a group of 12 companies, including the telecommunications giant Vodafone, missed the 1 January cut-off to make mobile calls to those numbers free.

 
Millions of Australians are still being billed for calls to 1800 numbers after a group of 12 companies, including the telecommunications giant Vodafone, missed the 1 January cut-off to make mobile calls to those numbers free.
 
The industry set its own deadline to implement the changes in July 2014. Many essential service providers, including Centrelink, Medicare, the Domestic Violence Crisis Line and drug, alcohol and mental health support services, use 1800 numbers to encourage callers to contact them for free.
 
Chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Teresa Corbin, said it was unfair some Australians were still paying for mobile calls to 1800 numbers.
 
“Recent statistics show that consumers are increasingly reliant on mobile phones for communicating,” she said. “Now that mobiles are the dominant form of communication we’re just asking that these free calls be extended to mobile.”
 
The network said some customers with Vodafone were being charged 98c a minute for calls to a 1800 number, plus an extra 40c connection fee. This means a two-minute call would cost $2.36.
 
Vodafone had an estimated 5.2m mobile phone customers in July 2014, accounting for 17% of the mobile phone market in Australia.
 
Executive director of Financial Counselling Australia, Fiona Guthrie, said it was hugely worrying that some Australians cannot afford to ring for help. “The cost of calling a 1800 number from a mobile is really prohibitive for many low-income consumers,” Guthrie said.
 
At June 2014, Australia had 31m mobile voice and data services operating. There are about 115,000 1800 numbers.
 
 

Dixons Carphone looking to launch its own network

There are a lot of changes taking place in the world of mobile networks at the moment; Hutchison Whampoa (Three Mobile UK) buying O2, Sky signing a MVNO deal with O2 and EE being bought by BT.
 
There are a lot of changes taking place in the world of mobile networks at the moment; Hutchison Whampoa (Three Mobile UK) buying O2, Sky signing a MVNO deal with O2 and EE being bought by BT.
 
According to an article by the Financial Times, Dixons Carphone are looking to launch a network in association with Three Mobile UK and the new network will apparently build on the group’s existing relationship with Three.
 
The new service is due to launch in spring and is designed to let users change certain aspects of their contract without the need to wait for renewal. This means that customers will no longer need to wait until the two year term is up on their contract before being able to adapt their tariff.
 
It is apparent that Dixons Carphone is ‘future proofing’, by managing their own mobile virtual network they can ensure that they don’t decline and go the same way that Phones4U went.

EE commits to £1.5BN network investment plan

peoples phone ee shop logo

EE is today committing to invest £1.5 billion between now and 2017 as part of a new manifesto “Signalling the Future”, designed to tackle the UK’s changing digital infrastructure needs, and lay the foundations for the UK to be a global leader. In this second phase of its network strategy, EE will focus on extending its number one rated 4G network to more than 99% of the population and 90% of the UK’s geography.
 
EE CEO Olaf Swantee said: “Stage one of our Network strategy saw us overhaul UK mobile networks, launching 4G and changing the way people and businesses use their smart devices. This revolution of the mobile landscape has made the UK a leader in global communications once again.
 
“Today we’re announcing the next stage with a commitment to, once again, radically improve mobile coverage, this time with a strong focus on rural UK, all while continuing to increase speeds and capacity with deeper coverage in more cities.
 
“Smart devices are playing an ever-increasing part in our customers’ lives in every part of the UK. With the £1.5bn investment plan, and our unceasing desire to continually improve the breadth and performance of our network, we are at the forefront of the new mobile era that is changing customers lives every day.”
 
As part of its Network Coverage Manifesto, EE is committing to: Voice and 4G data coverage across 90% of the UK’s geography. Using Micro Network technology to make phone calls and mobile data available in 1,500 communities that are not currently connected by either reliable mobile or high speed broadband. Mobile voice coverage of more than 90% of the UK’s 245,000 miles of roads by 2017, up from the current coverage of around 82%, focusing on motorways first, then A and B roads, as well as specific 4G expansion to cover the country’s busiest train routes. Deployment of low frequency 800MHz spectrum across the EE rural network to expand the EE’s reach by more than 1,500 square miles – an area bigger than the Lake District and Peak District National Parks combined. A call completion rate of 99.6% as the network carries more than 150 million calls per day. Introduction of 4G Voice – or VoLTE – to enable phone calls over 4G data services to thousands of homes and businesses that have never been covered by EE before.
 
WiFi Calling enabled on a range of iOS, Microsoft Windows and Android devices to enable mobile calls and texts for every home, office and recreational venue with broadband from 2Mbps. Double speed 4G to 90% of the UK population, enabling data speeds up to 60Mbps to smartphones and tablets. 4G+ to twenty of the UK’s busiest cities, doubling capacity for every user and enabling 150Mbps speeds to customers with the latest devices
A foundation for technology and research leadership to position EE and the UK as global leaders in the 5G future.
 
EE Principal Network Architect, Professor Andy Sutton, said: “We’ve invested in 4G and taken the UK back to a position of leadership in mobile, and now we’re investing in 5G so that we can define the next step, and keep both us and the UK mobile industry one step ahead. Working closely with academic institutions such as the 5GIC at the University of Surrey and the EU’s Horizon 2020 ‘TWEETHER’ project at Lancaster University on technologies that are truly ground-breaking, EE will continue to change the way people think of what’s possible with mobile. We will continue to evolve new 4G technologies, as they lay the perfect foundation for being a global leader in 5G.”
 
In reports from Ofcom, EE has recently been named as best for rural phone call quality and reliability, and best for 4G and 3G speeds and coverage. In a recent National Report from RootMetrics, with more than one millions samples taken and 24,000 miles driven, EE was ranked as the UK’s number one network, including being number one for call and data.
 
The “Signalling the Future” manifesto also outlines policy priorities for the next government to help accelerate the rollout of digital infrastructure in the UK.


Android adware ‘infects millions’ of phones and tablets

peoples phone android in box display case

Android users are being warned that several popular apps that were on the official Google Play store appear to have contained hidden code that made malicious ads pop up.
 
Security firm Avast said that one of the apps involved – a free version of the card game Durak – had been downloaded up to 10 million times, according to Google Play’s own counter.
 
Google has now blocked access.
 
But one expert noted that the problem might be less widespread than feared. Avast said that it first became aware of the issue after a member of the public contacted it after carrying out his own investigation into how his Nexus 5 smartphone had come to be infected with malicious code.
 
The “adware” was causing spurious pop-up messages to appear that had been made to look like system notifications. These told him his phone was running “slow” and that he needed to install new software to fix the problem. If he followed the on-screen prompts he was then directed to download other apps, only some of which were legitimate.
 
“You get re-directed to harmful threats on fake pages, like dubious app stores and apps that attempt to send premium SMS behind your back or to apps that simply collect too much of your data for comfort while offering you no additional value,” wrote Avast’s malware analyst Filip Chytry.T

he original apps were said to have held off showing the pop-ups until seven or more days after being installed, which the analyst suggested was intended to mask the fact that they were responsible.
 

“Most people won’t be able to find the source of the problem and will face fake ads each time they unlock their device,” he wrote. “I believe that most people will trust that there is a problem that can be solved with one of the app’s advertised ‘solutions’ and will follow the recommended steps, which may lead to an investment into unwanted apps from untrusted sources.”
 
In addition to the Durak card game, other apps alleged to be involved include: A Russian language IQ test, which Google Play indicates had been downloaded up to five million times; A Russian history educational tool, which Google Play indicates had been downloaded up to 50,000 times.
 
A search for other apps made by the same developers revealed dozens more apps, including video games, a psychology guide, wedding planning software and cookery tips – all of which have now been blocked. The publishers involved have not replied to requests for comment.
 

A spokesman for Google said: “We’re just confirming that all of the apps in the report have been suspended and nothing more.”
Although Google Play’s own site indicated the software had been downloaded many millions of times, one security researcher was cautious about the figures. “I would take the numbers with a pinch of salt because one thing that malware authors might do is deliberately up the amount of downloads in order to make an app appear more popular than it really is,” said Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London’s information security research group. “Google does scan for malware that it knows about and it also has some more advanced techniques to detect malicious behaviour. But these don’t work 100% of the time and some apps do slip through the checks – and there is a continual cat and mouse game of people looking for malware and the authors trying to bypass the checks.”
 

Although Avast is using the publicity it has generated to promote its own security software, Dr Murdoch noted that it too would fail to identify all new types of malware. One alternative, he said, was to check reviews. Several people who had downloaded the Durak card game had posted warnings on Google Play as far back as November 2013, that they suspected it was forcing pop-up ads to appear.
 
“But that’s still not going to catch everything,” Dr Murdoch added. “Phone users ultimately have to trust the operating system vendor – whether that’s Google or Apple [or someone else] to protect them.”