Tag: EE

EE to build drones and balloons for better reception

UK telco EE has unveiled plans to deliver mobile and wireless broadband connectivity to internet blackspots via drones and helium balloons.

The company noted that its ‘air mast’ solution will be able to bolster 4G data services in rural locations, at major events, or in areas where natural disasters, such as flooding, have damaged traditional infrastructure.

EE CEO Marc Allera said that customers would be able to request a balloon with a mobile signal to hover over a certain area, providing them with an ‘on demand’ data service.

Dubbed ‘Helikites’ the sites will include a base station and antennae tethered to helium balloons. EE hopes to launch the first Helikite balloons later this year.

Drone technology is also under development to support the Helikite solution, it will not be introduced for the next year or two.

“I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect. We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand”, said Allera.

The idea is that an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb,

“We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies,” he added.

The company also provided details on a fleet of rapid response vehicles (RRVs) which will be used to provide 4G connectivity to police, fire and ambulance services under a contract with the Emergency Services Network (ESN). At least to start with, Helikites are not expected to be used in the ESN programme.

EE is currently upgrading over 100 sites to 4G every week as part of its aim to reach 92 percent geographic coverage in the UK over the course of 2017. The company is also rolling out an additional 3,000 sites using low 800MHz spectrum to be able to reach further distances in rural areas and improve indoor coverage.

BT gets provisional nod to take over EE

Telephone BoxThe Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will not oppose BT’s proposed takeover of UK mobile company EE.

The deal, which will cost BT £12.5 billion will see it become a major contender in the mobile market again.

Competitors, including Vodafone, thought the acquisition would make BT too powerful.

The CMA, however, believes that there will be no real harm done to either ordinary people on the street or to the mobile industry.

Although the CMA has given provisional approval to the merger, competitors will have a further three months to make further objections before a final ruling comes in January next year.

If the deal does go through, the four biggest operators in the UK will be Vodafone, O2, Three and BT-EE.

Ofcom hits EE with £1 million fine

EE bull at Glastonbury 2015Telecoms regulator Ofcom said it has fined EE a million pounds because it hasn’t handled customer complaints properly.

Ofcom said that between July 2011 to April 2014, EE didn’t give some customers “accurate or adequate information” about their rights to participate in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process.

Independent regulators that provide ADR let people refer complaints that can’t be settled with a provider if discussions end in deadlock.

Comms companies that provide services to individuals or small businesses employing up to 10 people must be a member of one of the two bodies – the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and Ombudsman Services.

EE has to pay the million pounds within the next 20 days. The fine it levies then goes straight to the UK Treasury.

Ofcom said that EE has now changed its Customer Complaints Code to guide people that have a beef that can’t be resolved and has changed the information it provides on paper bills it sends out.

Telecom Italia becomes takeover target

riskThe former state monopoly Telecom Italia is becoming increasingly a tempting target for the latest wave of telco disintegration.

On the face of it the outfit has little to offer. Run in a typical Italian way, which involves a lot of shouting and nothing being done, the outfit desperately needs to invest in its aging infrastructure. But like most things Italian, it is flat broke.

However it has most of Italian telecommunications under its quasi-monopolistic belt and that is where it is a good deal for a company with the readies.

France’s Vivendi has been tipped as a likely buyer, although so far it has been talking about increasing its stake in the company. It is already Telecom Italia’s biggest investor with 14.9 percent.

CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine told daily Corriere della Sera it had raised its stake in Telecom Italia to just under 15 percent, replacing Telefonica as its biggest shareholder and gaining a foothold in a country it said had significant growth prospects.

Asked if the company would increase its stake further, De Puyfontaine told Corriere della Sera: “Time will tell, never say never.”

All this will be good news for Italian consumers who are likely to get a much better service if Telecom Italia is better invested and under new management.

Ofcom beats broadband providers up

Ofcom logoThe chief executive of Ofcom has told UK communications providers that they must try harder.

In a speech at a Which magazine conference, Sharon White said that while customer service levels are better, ordinary people are finding to it hard to change their providers and to cancel contracts.

People are also fed up with the kind of customer service they get, she said.

Customers ought to know what to expect from a service when they sign a contract.

White said: “When Ofcom was established, access to a reliable internet connection was a ‘nice to have’. Now it is essential to the functioning of the economy, to the way people work, and live their lives.”

She wants the industry to make things clearer when they’re advertising, make it easier for people to switch providers, better contracts, and better complaint handling.

Ofcom can punish companies if they behave badly.

She claimed that while Ofcom is a “light touch” regulator, but can intervene when necessary.

Ofcom has managed to sign up a code of practice with a number of providers including BT, EE, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

That means people can walk away from providers when speeds fall to unacceptable levels.

Government fast tracks EE, BT merger inquiry

CMA logoBT’s proposed acquisition of EE is currently under investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which started its phase 1 inquiry on May 18th last.

BT wants the CMA to “fast track” the phase 2 investigation and the authority has now agreed to its request.

The CMA said it must have evidence that the test to move to the second phase of the investigation.

And it has found that while the acquisition gives “a realistic prospect” of lessening of competition, it’s “appropriate” to go ahead with the “fast track” investigation of the merger.

The CMA said that worries about competition were raised but it felt that it was OK to press ahead with phase 2.

The second phase will be reviewed by independent panel members and the CMA said that third parties will have the chance to give their views on the merger.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s executive director of markets and mergers, said” BT and EE… supply important inputs at the wholesale level. We have found that there is a real risk that the merger could reduce their incentives to supply these inputs and that this could have a detrimental impact on the retail mobile market.”

Coscelli said both BT and EE recognise that there are complex matters in the proposed merger.

EE's 4G monopoly should have done better

Since telco merger EE – borne from T-Mobile and Orange – grabbed a headstart on 4G networks in the UK it has now reached the milestone of one million customers. But considering its position, it could have done even better.

EE launched its first 4G service in October 2012, followed by an aggressive rollout across the country. Now, the company’s network covers over 100 towns and cities, which EE claims are faster than similar networks in Europe, the USA, and Japan.

CEO Olaf Swantee said in a statement that EE’s entry into the 4G market was a booster shot for the British mobile sector.

“We set a new standard for UK mobile networks,” Swantee said. “We have seen one of the fastest adoption rates in the world”.

EE is no longer the only 4G provider in the UK as spectrum was opened up to Vodafone and O2, with Three to come this December.

Although EE claims its price point is competitive in the UK and abroad, many customers will still be priced out of the service – at least, to make the super fast network worth the extra spend.

For example, using EE’s online shop, a data plan with the Samsung Galaxy S4 costs £51 per month for 20GB of usage. More affordable plans include £26 per month for 500MB of data, £31 per month for 1GB of data, and £36 per month for 1.5GB of data. Even though customers can take advantage of the ultra fast network, just a couple of gigabytes of data will not be enough to justify the extra expense for many. Streaming may be super speedy, but the limit will run dry, quickly.

Despite this, EE commissioned research noted half of users are using fewer or no public wi-fi spots since upgrading to 4G, while a third stream more content over 4G than they did on 3G, including with TV and film services such as iPlayer and Netflix.

EE’s milestone, of course, must be put into context. Its massive head start kept it ahead of the pack because it was the only company offering actual LTE networks on LTE devices that customers wanted.

Ovum’s Steve Hartley, head of Industry, Communications & Broadband Practice, explained, speaking with TechEye:

“There was no competition,” Hartley said. “We’ve got a wealthy market, and we’ve got a market that is a very high user of mobile broadband, but at the same time 3G networks haven’t actually evolved quite as quickly as other markets around the world. The difference between a 4G and 3G experience is quite extreme, you’re going to notice, it’s a lot smoother and faster”.

With that “pent up demand,” Hartley said, if you are the only company able to serve it, naturally there is an advantage.

EE managed to efficiently and quickly put the necessary infrastructure in place to nail coverage. “They have deployed the network very quickly,” Hartley said, “certainly if you compare to other LTE launches around the world,” but the others have only just launched so EE will “continue that quasi-monopoly for a while yet”.

Crucially, EE was able to have the right handsets available at launch.

“One of the nuances in the EE statement, about being among the fastest uptake, you have to remember LTE have only really been available in something approaching volume this year and the end of last year,” Hartley said.

“Earlier LTE launches relied heavily on dongles and MiFi type devices, and of course that has a natural pull of potential customers, whereas with the other handsets, if you have mobile broadband on your handset, you’re a target for LTE”.

“Having that range of devices available at launch has really helped them. If you can imagine trying to launch without the iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S3, then the 4, the Blackberry Z10, you had these hero devices coming out at roughly the same time, and just so happened if you want them to work on LTE you could only go to one place”.

Considering EE’s near year long monopoly, the milestone could have been even better for the company, Hartley said.

“Given they had a monopoly they could have done even more,” he said. “You have all that coverage and devices people want – then you price things aggressively to encourage people onto LTE networks. Others launching could have found themselves two million behind or more. Since they launched, the premium has been too much. I’ve spoken about it to EE, and to Olaf, and we have a fundamental disagreement for the business case for LTE.

“For me it’s about transporting data efficiently. For Olaf, and understandably under pressure from shareholders, he thinks you charge a premium for LTE. As you can see, the two business models don’t marry too neatly”.

If a company with a monopoly charges a top premium, it actually slows down the adoption rate, and businesses want that adoption rate as high as possible, as quickly as possible.

“The one million mark being hit early is a nice landmark. But I did wish they had done even more, because they could have really shaken up the competition,” Hartley said. 

Ipsos denies selling PERSONAL EE user data to Met police

Ipsos Mori has denied that it offered to sell personally identifiable information from the call and text data of 27 million EE mobile network customers, but does not deny offering to sell anonymised information.

The research firm said it “absolutely refutes” accusations in the Sunday Times, which claimed that it had been offering EE call and text data to the police, as well as boasting that the data it had collated could be used to track individuals and their locations in and around 100 metres.

It is thought the police may have had an interest in the offer but backed out of the deal once it became public. The Metropolitan Police confirmed to the Sunday Times it had spoken with Ipsos Mori. 

Ipsos Mori did not deny it was offering information full stop, instead assuring EE customers that any data was thoroughly anonymised.

In a statement, Ipsos Mori said it “absolutely refuted the suggestion that it [was] offering access to individual personal data for sale”.

Instead it said its mobile analytics explored user volume, demographics and mobile web use from anonymised and aggregated groups of people.

“In conducting this research we only receive anonymised data without any personally identifiable information.

“We have taken every care to ensure it is being carried out in compliance with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements, including the Data Protection Act and Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations (both as amended),” it added.

As a result it said it could assure customers that it only received anonymised data without any personally identifiable information on any individual customers. The statement did not reveal exactly which demographics were up for sale.

“We do not have access to any names, personal address information, nor postcodes or phone numbers,” it said.

EE hopes to seduce customers with speedier 4G

Everything Everywhere is stepping up its 4G push by doubling connection speeds in ten cities. EE believes the added bandwidth will encourage more consumers to take the plunge and shift to 4G. 

It is also worth noting that EE will no longer be Britain’s only 4G provider as O2 and Vodafone are expected to roll out their 4G service in a matter of months. However, EE still feels in can get as many as one million 4G subscribers by year end. 

Although 4G is widely seen as the next big thing in mobile, European carriers failed to make it a big selling point unlike their counterparts in the US. Uptake has been relatively slow, prices remain inflated and consumers don’t appear to think 4G is worth the trouble or the price, at least not yet. 

Matthew Howett, telecoms regulation analyst at Ovum, believes things will change for the better. 

“While there may be few applications that need speeds of up to 130Mbps today, the point really is that there almost certainly will be in the future, and that by doubling the amount of spectrum set aside for the 4G deployment today, the network should have the capacity to support an increasing user base in the months to come without impacting on the customer experience,” he said.

“Not so long ago, it looked like Britain would be condemned to the slow lane for years to come. However in just 6 months, over half the UK has now been covered with 4G LTE with a rollout that’s continuing at pace.”

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com said it will be interesting to see how other providers will respond to EE’s speedier 4G, which is bound to serve as a differentiator once O2 and Vodafone enter the fray. 

“Now that it has raised the bar on speed, others will have to keep up or innovate in other areas – from pricing to services,” Doku said. “It is also entirely possible that more players in the ring will simply drive down cost – which is still a concern for many – and fuel a 4G price war.”

A 4G price war is just what many consumers have been waiting for ever since Ofcom auctioned off 4G bands earlier this year. Most people can’t justify the extra cash if their allowance ends after a little bit of HD streaming.

Ofcom reveals 4G spectrum bidders

Ofcom has announced the names of the seven operators that have been selected to bid for 4G spectrum.

The communications watchdog revealed that the companies selected to begin the auction process are Everything Everywhere, Telefónica (which owns O2), Vodafone, HKT (a subsidiary of PCCW) , Hutchison 3G (operator of the Three network), MLL Telecom,  and Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group).

The seven companies will start the bidding process in January 2013, with the winners tasked with boosting the spectrum available to customers by 75 percent.

Bidders will be informed if they have been awarded contracts to deliver the high speed mobile broadband in February, before rolling out services in June.

The seven operators will join the auction for spectrum at 800 MHz range, which will be used for widespread coverage having been freed up by the switch-off of analogue TV signals, and 2.6 GHz, which will provide high speed connections, particularly for urban areas.

“The 4G auction will be a competitive process that will dictate the shape of the UK mobile phone market for the next decade and beyond,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “New 4G services will stimulate investment, growth and innovation in the UK and deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of better, faster and more reliable mobile broadband connections.”

It is expected that the sale of spectrum will generate up to £3.5 billion, a figure which Chancellor George Osborne factored into his latest budget report.  A reserve price of £1.3 billion has been set by Ofcom.

It was also announced this week that the Ministry of Defence will begin selling of parts of its spectrum below the 3.5 GHz range next year, with the possibility of raising up to another £1 billion.