a week in wireless

A lack of bright ideas

The UK is a nation from where great innovators such as Isaac Newton, Isambard Brunel, John Logie Baird, Alexander Graham Bell, James Dyson and Tim Berners-Lee have all hailed. Yet despite even the inventor of the World Wide Web coming from these shores, the UK is a nation at risk of being left behind in today’s digital age.

A warning came from Chinese infrastructure vendor Huawei this week, which despite having just pledged to pump a massive £1.3bn into the UK to increase broadband speeds, said that rather than stimulating the economy, faster broadband speeds could actually result in more jobs being outsourced abroad.

In the vendor’s report, Superfast Britain, Huawei quoted Raul Katz, director at US research institute the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information: “Now that a connection is very fast, a games developer might say that it will develop its video games in Asia. Jobs will be created in Asia, but leaked from Britain.”

If the UK is not careful, this £1.3bn may turn out to be not much more than a giant coupon redeemable only in Asia; giving the UK the resources  it needs to buy better services from China and other countries in the region.

“What the UK needs is people who understand digital marketing, how to do e-commerce, who understand big data and analytics, and all the things that can be done on the web,” Boston Consultancy Group’s David Dean said in Huawei’s report.

Ofcom’s Steve Unger added: “If we want to build the next Google, what we need are people with a profound understanding of the mathematics that underpin , so we need a technologically capable workforce.”

The Informer agrees; a few more James Dysons please Britain – and, while we’re at it, if we could have a few less Simon Cowells and Piers Morgans too, that would be great.

For all the focus on innovation, it appeared this week that Telefonica O2 is running short of inspiration, reverting to operator type by hiking its roaming charges. Its bright idea to counteract the impact of roaming caps being implemented by the EU is increase roaming charges for its customers when they travel outside of the EU. In some cases international call charges to the firm’s end users will more than double by the end of November.

O2 protested its innocence and claimed that although it is – for the first time in five years – increasing the roaming costs for customers when outside of the EU, at a time when roaming costs within the EU are being forced down by regulation – it’s all entirely coincidental.

Project Oscar – the m-commerce joint venture between the UK’s mobile operators – except 3UK, which was left of the guest list – now has a new name: Weve. It’s the perfect name for the modern digital venture in that it doesn’t really mean anything but looks slightly like one or two other, actual words. The firm announced this week that it is going down the outsourcing route to grow quickly. The JV will outsource HR, payroll and recruitment functions to HR outsourcing specialist plusHR.

Sticking with financial services, Google has improved the integration of its mobile wallet application with online retailers in a bid to stimulate more transactions. From this week, on sites that accept Google Wallet, users will no longer need to enter their credit or debit card number, billing address or other payment information as the data is already stored in the secure application. To date, Google Wallet has only been able to carry out transactions in physical stores equipped with an NFC terminal, limiting its uptake.

“Typically, on mobile websites, you need to key in 17-20 fields of information on a small screen while having to click and scroll through multiple pages to provide shipping and billing information. It’s no wonder up to 97 per cent of mobile shoppers abandon their mobile shopping carts,” the firm said.

There was also a rumour circulating this week that Google is in the process of finalising a physical payment card that syncs with any account connected to Google Wallet. Peer to peer payments and public transport ticketing are also thought to be in the works as Google goes up against the likes of PayPal and Square.

Google also unveiled its latest additions to the Nexus family this week: three devices in three sizes, ready to go toe-to-toe with Apple over the Christmas period. The Nexus 4, 7, and 10 all run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, with the aim of giving a consistent user experience across all models.

Korean vendor LG built the 4.7″ smartphone Nexus 4; a, the Nexus 7 was built by Asus, and Samsung built the Nexus 10 tablet.  Google surprised the industry by launching the Nexus 4 without support for LTE. Instead customers will have to make do with HSPA+.

The launch event, due to be held in New York, was cancelled in the wake of hurricane Sandy. The 900 mile tropical storm caused devastation across the US East coast this week, but out of disaster came unity, as operators AT&T and T-Mobile USA pulled together to help their customers. They allowed subscribers heavily impacted by the hurricane to roam across one another’s networks where capacity was available, in order to ensure they could stay in touch.

The winds of change were blowing through Apple HQ, meanwhile, as the firm reported this week that it will be undertaking a major executive reshuffle. The top brass appear to have decided that the company needs fresh impetus and new direction, perhaps reflecting on problems with key product developments like Maps and Siri.

Scott Forstall, one of the original architects of the Mac OS X operating system and head of the team responsible for the software platform at the heart of the iconic iPhone device, will leave the firm next year, along with John Browett, head of retail, after just five months in the role.

Famed designer Jony Ive, who was responsible for everything from the iMac to the iPhone and iPad design is now going “to provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his role as the leader of Industrial Design.” Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, will take on the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps, placing all online services in one group along with iTunes, the App Store, the iBookstore and iCloud.

Apple may well have kickstarted the mobile data revolution, but let’s not forget what phones were invented for: Voice. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association reported this week that 51 mobile networks in 38 countries have now launched HD voice services. That’s a 60 per cent increase year on year, the organisation said.

Alan Hadden, head of the GSA called on smarpthone vendors to make all products adaptive multi-rate Wideband-compatible in a bid to stimulate uptake still further. The organisation said that HD voice leads to more and longer calls among users and is highly valued by subscribers with access to it.

In other operator-centric service news, MetroPCS has become the first US network to offer Rich Communications Services (RCS) on its LTE network. RCS is designed to offer enhanced features such as chat, messaging and content sharing directly via the network, rather than through third party offerings. MetroPCS is using the official GSMA Joyn brand to offer services such as Contacts Presence, Calendar Sync, Contact Availability, Status Sync and social network integration. Other features include enhanced instant messaging, group chat, and the ability to share content with other users directly over the network, while on a call.

“We believe RCS is a tremendous differentiator among prepaid and post-paid competitors alike and recognise that achieving interoperability across US 4G LTE networks is the next key step to paving the way for more innovative services and capabilities in the future,” said Roger Linquist, CEO and chairman of MetroPCS,” in a statement.

Over in Croatia, Vipnet – the subsidiary of Telekom Austria, announced that it had won 20MHz of the country’s 800MHz frequency spectrum for a total of HRK150m ($26m). Croatian regulator HAKOM requires operators using 800MHz LTE-FDD frequencies to achieve coverage of at least 50 per cent of Croatia within five years.

Vodafone has launched a trial LTE service in Romania, meanwhile, with commercial launch of the service expected in 2013.

T-Systems, the IT and telecommunication services arm of Deutsche Telekom is building a datacentre the size of 30 football pitches in order to help satisfy Germany’s high demand for cloud services. Those Germans must really love their cloud services. T-Systems will begin operations from Germany’s largest datacentre – an eye-watering 150,000m2 building – in 2014.

And that’s about the size of it for this week.

Take care,

The Informer


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