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September 29, 2011

European broadband speed monitoring project to start

A study into broadband performance across Europe is to take place with the results used to hopefully boost broadband in the future.

The project which is to be done by SamKnows on which are the same company who Ofcom used when doing similar tests across the UK will require around 10,000 volunteers and is being done on behalf of the European Commission.

Each of the selected volunteers will receive a “Whitebox” device which will show reports to the consumers and also back to the researcher about their broadband performance and ISP.

Alex Salter, the CEO of SamKnows, said:

“We are working to provide ISPs, regulators and, most importantly, consumers with the information they need to push for improved broadband services.”

“The people who volunteer to take part will not only get access to our technology for free, but will be champions for better broadband across Europe as they help us to develop a picture of connectivity across Europe.”

The Whitebox works by running  simulations and automated tests on the broadband line when it is not in use to gauge different aspects from it, such as speeds and performance.

Countries that are to be tested across Europe are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

For anyone wanting to sign up to apply for a free “Whitebox” and be a part of the study should do so at www.samknows.eu

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September 26, 2011

Changes to Broadband Speed claims in advertising expected

Broadband companies will only be allowed to advertise broadband speed claims if at least 10% of their customers can actually receive these broadband speeds according to a leaked report from the ASA.

The Independent newspaper has reportedly seen the leaked ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) report that is due to be released later this week, however PC Pro magazine have been told by an ASA spokesman that there are some inaccuracies in what the Independent have reported, but they were not able to confirm the specific points.

Along with the requirement for advertised headlined broadband speeds to match those that at least 10% of customers could actually receive are also the requirement that the speed range that 20-80% of customers could receive to also be published along with it.

Virgin Media are not impressed that the requirement is only applicable to broadband delivered by copper wire and not fibre optic cable like they use themselves which do not have the slow down in speeds really compared to that via standard copper broadband lines.

Ofcom will be pleased that some action is being taken, back in July they released figures that showed the average advertised broadband speed was 15Mb, while the actual average broadband speed achieved by customers was in fact 6.8Mb and this highlighted the great difference between advertised and actual broadband speeds and how it can be confusing for consumers.
Consumers often run a broadband speed test and find the broadband speed they are receiving is no way near to the broadband speed the thought they were signing up for.

What the leaked report apparently doesn’t go on to mention is anything about the advertising of “unlimited” broadband with fair use policies, another confusing factor that consumers face when signing up for broadband deals.

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September 23, 2011

TalkTalk top landline & broadband complaints chart again

TalkTalk has once again topped the “most complained about landline and broadband” charts according to complaints to Ofcom.

The report is based on all complaints made by consumers to Ofcom between April and June 2011 and requires providers to have at leats a 4% market share and who generate at least 30 complaints in a month.
This means that the report cover 89% of the fixed telephone and fixed broadband and mobile markets to compare.

Although TalkTalk have once again topped the charts by quite a margin there does looks like this last quarter they have been working hard on improvements as the complaint figures are coming down compared to the previous 2 quarters before that.

On the landline side of things, TalkTalk received 0.8 complaints per 1,000 customers (down from 1.12 per 1,000 the previous quarter), compared to just 0.15 complaints per 1,000 customers for Virgin Media who were least complained about.

ofcom telecom complaints q2 2011 TalkTalk top landline & broadband complaints chart again

The same with the fixed broadband, TalkTalk topped the chart again with 0.58 complaints per 1,000 customers (down from 0.81 per 1,000 last quarter) with Virgin Media again receiving just 0.15 complaints per 1,000 customers for their fibre broadband services.

ofcom broadband complaints q2 2011 TalkTalk top landline & broadband complaints chart againA great deal of TalkTalk complaints stemmed from when they bought Tiscali and continued to bill 62,000 customers who had cancelled their service yet were still charged.

TalkTalk responded to the results by saying:

It’s encouraging that Ofcom’s data demonstrates that, following the Tiscali integration, the service we offer our customers has significantly improved in the last quarter, with the number of complaints as a percentage of customers dropping by over 50%. We’re simplifying our business for the benefit of our customers and calls to our customer services teams are down 40% from this time last year.

We’re also connecting new customers much more quickly and efficiently. Last year it took an average of 23 days, today a customer will be connected in 14 days” (which is the minimum allowed due to the cooling-off period).

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September 22, 2011

BT refute the list of slowest streets for broadband

uSwitch yesterday published what they believed are the 50 slowest broadband streets in the UK but today BT has countered this by saying that the results are based on false data.

In uSwitches report they said that the street of Mount Pleasant in the Suffolk town of Halesworth had the slowest broadband of any street in the whole country with an average broadband speed of 0.128Mb. However, BT have countered this claim by saying that their data indicates that the street has speeds of 7.5Mb and that Mount Pleasant was very close to the local telephone exchange meaning it very unlikely that it would get such slow broadband speeds, plus the street has access to fibre broadband too!

The top 2 streets for the slowest broadband on the list are both actually connected up to fibre broadband.

A BT spokesperson said:

It appears that the data in this survey is out of date. Fibre broadband is now available for a number of the streets identified.

We wouldn’t disagree with uSwitch that there are a number of slow spots in the UK, and that needs addressing, but it would seem they haven’t managed to identify them correctly here.

BT said that 7 of the 50 streets identified in the list have access to fibre broadband.
However, just because they have access to fibre broadband does not mean that residents on the streets are signed up to it and that the results in uSwitch’s report are based on actual broadband speed tests that are carried out by consumers. A minimum of 10 speed tests per post code had to have been done before they were considered to be included in the report.

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September 16, 2011

Fibre broadband & mobile broadband roll-out is too slow

Fibre optic broadband and mobile broadband networks is taking too long according to the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt believes that the UK is in danger of falling behind the rest of Europe by taking too long to get things sorted. He liked the problems to how we dealth with our railways by saying:

“We need to ensure we do not make the same mistake in broadband that we made in railways – building our high-speed network 45 years after the French and 62 years after the Japanese.

PIA (physical infrastructure access) has to be sorted out – and quickly – in a way that allows fair competition with different providers able to invest in our broadband infrastructure.”

The price that BT wants to charge rivals for access to their underground ducts and telephone poles so that they can install or lay their own fibre network are due this month, but it is likely to be a case that the prices will be disputed by BT’s rivals as too high which will then again delay the process of more fibre being laid in the UK. This could then delay the process by up to a year before Ofcom comes in with making a decision.

Currently we have Fujitsu looking to create a £2bn fibre network across the UK but they are after £500m of funds from the government that have been put aside to help roll-out next generation broadband to rural areas.

Along with his thoughts on fixed line fibre broadband Mr Hunt also said how he wanted the mobile phone operators to work together and put aside any competitive differences with the forthcoming 4G spectrum auction so as to not have that delayed any further.
Mobile data is increasing at an astonishing rate and so the 4G network capacity is in great need, it is predicted that by 2015 the volume of mobile data is set to increase 26-fold!
Currently Vodafone and O2 have space spectrum while Three and Everything Everywhere (Orange & T-Mobile are jointly owned) are in desperate need for extra capacity.

Mr Hunt said:

Sweden completed their auction in 2009, Germany last year, Italy is doing theirs this week and France will finish theirs this year.

Mobile phone operators must put aside competitive differences and work together in their common and our national interest to make this happen.

 

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September 12, 2011

BT trying to create “fibre monopoly” according to TalkTalk boss

BT are trying to create a fibre monopoly according to the commercial boss of TalkTalk.

David Goldie has claimed that BT is trying to regain “the monopoly position that it lost many years ago” and fears that Britain will be left with a second class infrastructure that falls behind that of other developed nations.

BT are investing £2.5 billion in their fibre network (BT Infinity) which will cover two thirds of the UK by 2015. Most of those connected to it will be via FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) which means that from the streetside cabinet the standard copper wires are used for the rest of the distance to the house. Only around 4 million homes will be connected with full fibre broadband (FTTH) Fibre To The Home which can offer even faster speeds.

BT are bidding for £360m worth of government subsidy to help get fibre into rural areas, however the Japanese electronic giant Fujitsu are also after this money and some more so that they can bring their 1Gbit fibre technology to around 5 million homes in rural Britain over the next 5 years. Fujitsu are after £500m to help fund their £2bn project that has already had promises from Virgin Media & TalkTalk to be customers of the network should Fujitsu manage to get the money to do it as it will help create a competitor edge to BT.

Fujitsu however need BT to lower the prices for access and rent of their telephone ducts and poles so that they can install their own fibre. It is thought that Fujitsu want BT to half it’s prices but this could prove a sticking point.

Goldie also said:

Right now BT knows what its costs are but nobody else does. I look at it from the point of view of the taxpayer and the market and none of them is well served by having a bidding process that favours one party.

BT’s is a mother knows best approach. I don’t think they are building the right infrastructure for Britain.

The Chief Executive of BT Openreach, Olivia Garfield, said:

BT has provided reciprocal wholesale access to its fibre network from the outset. This allows other operators to piggyback off our investment, while encouraging competition and the take-up of fibre services to thrive. We’ve also volunteered to provide additional forms of wholesale access via our ducts and poles. We expect to announce revised pricing for such access shortly.

Looking at the issue from BT’s side they will argue that they are already investing £2.5bn into rolling out fibre across the country and also need to make a return on their investment.
It is likely that Ofcom will be the ones who have to come in to help make agreement on both sides.

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- Filed under: Fibre broadband
- Tags: BT fibre monopoly, Fibre broadband
Author: Mark @ 12:40 pm

September 9, 2011

Virgin Media twice as fast as national average broadband speed

The average broadband speed in the UK for August was 8.06Mb with average upload speeds at 1.21Mb according to the broadband speed test results from the broadband.co.uk website.

Unsurprisingly heading the field is Virgin Media with their cable broadband network which provided and average broadband speed of over double the national average at 16.97Mb, they also showed the highest upload speeds too, again over double the national average at 2.48Mb.

Taking second place was Eclipse who posted an average broadband speed of 7.15Mb, just ahead of BT who’s average was 6.99Mb.
With Virgin Media & BT broadband both battling fiercely to sign up as many customers to their fibre broadband networks it will be pleasing for Virgin Media to see that currently their average broadband speed is almost 10Mb faster than that BT customers receive.

The speed test study looks at the largest UK broadband providers to work out what their average broadband speed test is. The following is the list of average broadband speed test results.

Virgin Media: 16.97Mb
Eclipse Internet: 7.15Mb
BT Broadband: 6.99Mb
Be & O2 Broadband*: 5.57Mb
Plusnet: 4.99Mb
TalkTalk: 4.93Mb
Sky Broadband: 4.76Mb
Orange Broadband: 3.78Mb
AOL Broadband: 3.08Mb

* Be & O2 use the same network as Be are owned by O2.

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September 6, 2011

Virgin Media provide mobile backhaul for Orange, T-Mobile & Three

Virgin Media is to provide faster mobile broadband and more bandwidth for mobile broadband provided by Orange, T-Mobile & Three in a £100m 8 year deal announced yesterday.

The deal between Virgin Media Business and Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL) will provide the UK’s first synchronous Ethernet mobile backhaul service which will mean customers who are with the previously mentioned mobile broadband providers will get access to faster mobile data with greater capacity.

MBNL is made up of Everything Everywhere (which itself was created when T-Mobile & Orange joined back in 2007) and Three Mobile UK and it is a 50/50 split between them.

As part of the £100m deal, Virgin Media will set up 14 regional aggregation networks which will be used to connect the base stations located around the country to Virgin’s fibre services.

Virgin’s network will offer good foundations for the roll-out of 4G and LTE services with it’s synchronous Gigabit Ethernet service and it will be able to future proof itself going forward as it will be able to scale up it’s offering as and when demand requires it to.

Neil Berkett, Virgin Media’s Chief Executive, said:

“Being connected all the time to social networks, the internet and their favourite apps is very much a basic expectation which operators need to deliver on. Investing now means they’ll be able to deal with the escalating data demands of today and tomorrow.”

Previously BT was the main mobile backhaul provider and it will come as a huge blow to them that 3 of the UK’s largest mobile broadband brands will now be using Virgin Media’s fibre network as apposed to their own.

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September 1, 2011

UK to use “White Space” TV spectrum for rural broadband

The UK is to be the first country in Europe to use “White Space” technology in the TV spectrum to deliver broadband to rural areas after Ofcom gave it the go-ahead.

How the “White Space” technology works is by searching for the “gaps” in the airwaves that have been reserved for use for TV broadcasting, the “gaps” are known as “White Spaces”. These White Spaces are then able to be used to transmit wireless signals which is where they can come in well for rural broadband.

The wireless signals to be used in the White Space of the spectrum will be able to travel greater distances but will work in a similar way to a standard WiFi connection.

Ed Richards. the Ofcom Chief Executive, said:

At an early stage Ofcom identified the potential of White Spaces, which are currently lying vacant all around us.

Within Europe, we have been leading the way to try to harness this capacity without causing harmful interference to existing users of the spectrum.

The solution we have devised creates the opportunity to maximise the efficient use of spectrum and open the door to the development of a new and exciting range of consumer and business applications.

Ofcom state the following new applications that could follow by using this new technology:

Enhanced Wi-Fi: The majority of current Wi-Fi devices operate in spectrum at 2.4GHz. White Spaces could provide new capacity, while boosting the range of devices, potentially enabling Wi-Fi networks that stretch across towns and cities. This is thanks to the lower frequency of TV White Spaces (typically between 470 and 790MHz).

Rural broadband: White Spaces could be used to provide rural locations with broadband services. In practice, this could be achieved by building a network of transmitters that use White Spaces to link remote houses and villages to larger towns that are already connected to the internet. Trials are currently being undertaken by industry to test this on the island of Bute, Scotland.

Machine-to-Machine Communications: A relatively new area of innovation called Machine-to-Machine Communications allows information to be exchanged between devices. Many experts believe that in the coming years billions of devices will be able to connect wirelessly and via the internet for a range of applications. White spaces could be used to wirelessly transmit this information, using its additional range to reach deep inside buildings. This could be especially useful for wirelessly measuring utility meters in consumers’ homes – just one of a wide number of potential applications. Other examples include using White Spaces to keep an inventory of stock owned by a business, or making it easier for scientists to conduct research by automating the measurement of different readings.

It is expected that the White Space technology will launch in the UK in 2013 and it won’t be under licence.

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