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Should BT be split?

July 14, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Computers, Dr Search, internet, Search Clinic, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Ofcom has suggesting that its highly lucrative Openreach division could be sold off from BT.

Ofcom has suggesting that its highly lucrative Openreach division could be sold off from BTOpenreach is the “utility” bit of BT- which is the delivery mechanism for broadband to millions of customers.

Think Network Rail owning the railways bit of the train network, or National Grid owning the electricity grid which delivers power to our home.

Openreach is virtually a monopoly service, with Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin and others obliged to pay BT for access to the broadband “pipes”.

And as such it is heavily regulated already- although according to John Fingleton, the former head of the Office of Fair Trading- the “enormously profitable” Openreach would be likely to perform better as a standalone company.

Mr Fingleton argues that a separate Openreach would be likely to invest more in improving broadband connections.

As an example he cites Worldpay, a former division of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Worldpay operates a “plumbing business” for banks – providing payment services for card transactions and mobile phones.

Since RBS sold it, as a condition of the bank’s taxpayer bailout in 2008, its new private equity owners, Bain and Advent, have significantly increased investment.

Many believe that Openreach would travel the same route, and the amount invested in it as a standalone business would be more than the present £1 billion BT provides each year.

It could also mean accelerated investment in changing the network from the older copper network to “super-fast” fibre.

To enforce a sale, BT’s ownership of Openreach would probably need to be referred to the Competition and Markets Authority which has more muscle in this area than Ofcom.

Mr Fingleton agrees this is the best route to decide whether Openreach would be better out of BT’s hands.

Sky – of course a major competitor to BT – concurs, calling this morning for a referral to the CMA.

It says that BT’s performance on broadband delivery leaves a lot to be desired, and that under investment means that appointments to connect its customers to broadband are often missed and that faults regularly remain unfixed.

Sky and BT don’t like each other very much, particularly since the latter took a healthy portion of Sky’s lunch by piling into sports television and winning the rights to broadcast Premier League matches.

There are dark mutterings that BT uses the vast profits from Openreach to fund its incursion into television, a claim the company hotly denies.

BT insists that Openreach’s service has improved, with 2,500 engineers added in the last year and 700 more coming this year. It says it reaches or exceeds all of the 60 service targets set it by Ofcom.

And that it is only because of BT’s large and healthy balance sheet that so much investment has been made in upgrading the network to super-fast broadband.

What won’t be superfast is the Ofcom process. This is just the latest stage in a far wider review of the UK’s digital market which will take months to conclude and years to implement.

Smaller broadband companies are better

March 18, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Customer Service, Dr Search, internet, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Customers of smaller broadband companies are much happier than those of the big three BT, Sky and TalkTalk according to the consumer group, Which?

Smaller broadband companies are betterThe three largest providers received customer satisfaction scores below 50% in a survey.

Smaller broadband companies such as John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, Utility Warehouse and Zen Internet had customer satisfaction rates over 70%.

Which? is campaigning for greater clarity in the broadband speeds companies are allowed to advertise.

The consumer campaign group says most of the internet service providers in the survey received scores of three stars when people were asked to rate their broadband speed.

TalkTalk customers were least happy, giving their provider two stars for speed.

Which? is campaigning against rules which it says allow providers to advertise broadband speeds that only 10% of their customers actually receive.

Broadband companies should give customers the speed and service that they pay for, the consumer group Which? has said.

A survey carried out on its behalf claimed that 45% of customers suffer slow download speeds. Over half of those customers said they experienced slow speeds frequently or all the time.

Ofcom already has a voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds in place that it says ensures customers are protected.

Providers who have signed up to it must give customers a written estimate of their broadband speed at the start of a contract and must allow them to leave a contract without penalty if they receive speeds significantly below the estimate.

A mystery shopping exercise carried out by Ofcom revealed that the code was working effectively. However, there were areas where it could be improved and a revised code of practice would be published in the coming months.

Which? said in practice it supported the code but it was voluntary, not compulsory and providers needed to go further. Rather than providing an estimated speed range that a customer could expect to receive, providers should pinpoint a more accurate speed that customers can expect at their home address and provide this in writing.

This written confirmation should be accompanied by information explaining what consumers can do at different speeds – what they could download and how long it would take – and how to test their speed, Which? said.

According to the survey of 2,000 people, a quarter of those who had reported a loss in service said they had had to wait two days to get it fixed, with one in 10 waiting a week or more.

Twenty per cent said they had contacted their internet service provider at least three times when trying to resolve a problem with their broadband connection.

Which? is calling for broadband companies to fix connections as quickly as possible and refund customers for any loss of service.

TalkTalk most complained about telecommunications company

September 28, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Customer Service, internet, mobile phones, smart phones, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized, WiFi

TalkTalk remains the most complained about telecommunication landline and broadband provider- according to the official UK regulator Ofcom.TalkTalk most complained about telecommunications companyIt has topped the charts since Ofcom began publishing them in October 2010.

Complaints about its broadband service often related to line faults while landline quibbles focused on billing and customer service Ofcom found.

For mobiles, Ofcom received the most complaints about 3, while BT Vision was the most complained about pay-TV service.

The regulator said that generally complaints were falling, with all broadband and landline providers generating fewer issues between April and June 2012, compared to previous periods.

This is Ofcom’s sixth quarterly report on the state of complaints in the mobile, broadband and landline markets.

It aims to help consumers make informed choices when choosing new services.

During the second quarter of 2012, it received 0.53 complaints per 1,000 of TalkTalk’s customers.

TalkTalk was the only provider whose complaint levels were above average for landline services, although Ofcom pointed out that this quarter saw the fewest number of complaints since it had begun publishing the data.

In the same period, Virgin Media was the least complained about with 0.14 per 1,000 customers.

In broadband, TalkTalk generated 0.42 complaints per 1,000 customers, again above the industry average. BT Retail also had above average levels of complaints during the last quarter.

Despite TalkTalk topping the charts again, Ofcom said it was not planning to take any action at present. In the past TalkTalk has been fined £3 million for incorrectly billing customers for services they had not received.

It is also currently under investigation about the number of silent calls received by its customers.

Ofcom said it had seen a rise in complaints about this type of call – which occur when automatic dialer systems used by call centres make more calls than they have people to take them.

UK broadband expansion aided by planning permission rule changes

September 14, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Computers, Customer Service, internet, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

The government is changing planning permission rules to aid the quicker rollout of faster internet speeds across the UK.UK broadband expansion aided by planning permission rule changesThis includes permission for firms to install broadband cabinets and other related infrastructure on public land without local councils’ permission in England.

It is also consulting about ways to shorten the time it takes to agree approval for cables and cabinet installation on private land UK-wide.

The commitment includes £150 million to create 10 “super-connected” cities offering download speeds of at least 80Mbps (megabits per second) by 2015, and £530 million from the BBC licence fee to help boost speeds in the countryside.

The overall aim is to offer speeds of at least 24Mbps to more than 90% of the UK to become the “fastest in Europe” within three years.

At that speed it would take 15 minutes to download a 90-minute high definition programme.

The plans are designed to make it easier for BT and others to install their 4ft 7in tall dark green cabinets, and retrofit existing ones with new outer shells without running the risk that they will be opposed by the public.

The government said that English councils would only retain the right to object if plans affected a site of special scientific interest.

Internet providers have also been told that they will “face less cost and bureaucracy in laying cables in streets” in England and Wales once officials have found a way to simplify current permit schemes.

BT ran into problems earlier this year when London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea rejected 96 of its 108 applications for street cabinets needed to offer its fibre optic cabling service, leading to the plans being withdrawn.

BT Openreach cabinet BT said it typically took between 28 and 56 days to be granted council permission to install its cabinets.

UK 4G gets go ahead from Ofcom

August 24, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Customer Service, Dr Search, internet, Mobile Marketing, mobile phones, smart phones, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, WiFi

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has authorised Everything Everywhere- the company behind Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, to use its existing bandwidth to launch fourth generation (4G) mobile services.UK 4G gets go ahead from OfcomThe move means 4G, which allows much faster downloads, could launch in the UK earlier than previously planned.

Ofcom said the move would deliver “significant benefits” to consumers that outweigh any competition concerns.

But Vodafone and O2 expressed surprise and disappointment at the decision.

Ofcom plans to auction 4G bandwidth to other providers next year.

Everything Everywhere will be allowed to offer 4G services from 11 September.

But, as the regulator pointed out, the timing will be a commercial decision for the company itself. The operator has been trialling 4G services at a number of local businesses in Cumbria in the north of England since the end of June.

Ofcom said delaying the mobile operator from launching 4G would be “to the detriment of consumers”.

“4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK,” the company said.

The firm’s two main competitors in the UK mobile market were less than pleased with the ruling.

They claim that they are disadvantaged as only Everything’s spectrum can be reconfigured to handle 4G, while they will have to wait to buy spectrum at an auction next year.

“We are hugely disappointed with today’s announcement, which will mean the majority of customers will be excluded from the first wave of digital services,” said a spokesperson for O2.

Vodafone was more forthright, saying it was “shocked” at Ofcom’s decision.

“The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market,” a company spokesperson said.

Analysts said the two companies were right to be concerned, with the examples of other countries suggesting those network providers that got a head start on their rivals were often able to build successful 4G networks.

Everything Everywhere has also announced that it will sell some of its 4G spectrum to rival Three.

This was a condition of the European Commission allowing the 2010 merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK.

Three’s chief executive Dave Dyson said this deal would “more than double the capacity available to customers”.

As Everything is not obliged to make the spectrum available until September 2013, this deal will not give Three a head start in launching its own 4G services, however.

Ofcom has issued Everything Everywhere with licences to launch what are called Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services. This is one of a number of broadband technologies that allow the transfer of high-bandwidth data such as video streaming and mapping services.

Other mobile phone networks will be allowed to bid for 4G bandwidth early next year.

The auction will offer the equivalent of three-quarters of the mobile spectrum currently in use – some 80% more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000.

Ofcom wants to see at least four wholesalers of 4G mobile services, so that consumers will benefit from better services at lower prices.

The auction will sell chunks of radio spectrum to support 4G, which will allow users to download data such as music and videos at much faster speeds.

UK snoopers’ charter faces severe criticism

June 15, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Cyber Security, data security, Email, Gaming, internet, search engines, Skype, Tablets, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Civil liberty groups have voiced severe criticism over the newly published Data Communications bill aka snoopers’ charter. UK snoopers’ charter faces severe criticism   The controversial bill extends the type of data that Internet Service Providers must keep to include your emails, web browsing history and social media posts- including Skype.

The government claims that the legislation is need in the fight against criminals and terrorists.

However activists have dubbed it a snooper’s charter.

“This is all about giving the police unsupervised access to data. It is shocking for a government that opposed Labour’s plans on this to propose virtually the same thing,” said Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.

“It will cost billions of pounds and will end up only catching the stupid or the innocent. Terrorists will circumvent it.”

Dyenamic Solutions also points out the non UK organisations may not be compelled to store your data- thus not only driving a coach and horses through the intended effectiveness, but also forcing many UK ecommerce business abroad.

Publishing the bill, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Communications data saves lives. It is a vital tool for the police to catch criminals and to protect children.”

But Mr Killock argues that knowing where a citizen has been online is equally intrusive.

Drawing a parallel he said: “If I’m having an affair then who I’m talking to is just as revealing as what I say,” he said.

The bill – an update to the controversial RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) legislation – lays out new duties for the UK communications companies.

The new proposals would require ISPs to keep details of a much wider range of data including use of social network sites, webmail, voice calls over the internet, and gaming. Websites you visit will also be recorded.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association said that it would be lobbying MPs in the coming months.

“Ispa has concerns about the new powers to require network operators to capture and retain third party communications data,” said a spokesman.

“These concerns include the scope and proportionality, privacy and data protection implications and the technical feasibility.

“Whilst we appreciate that technological developments mean that government is looking again at its communications data capabilities, it is important that powers are clear and contain sufficient safeguards,” it added.

Please join the Snoopers Charter Petition– it takes just 2 minutes and could have a huge effect against this red tape- which the Financial Times estimates will cost us £2.8 billion over the next 10 years.

Hypocrite Cameron in data snooping U Turn

April 10, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Email, Facebook, mobile phones, Personal Security, smart phones, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

At the general election David Cameron promised to roll back the centralist nanny sate that labour created over their 13 years of misrule.Hypocrite Cameron in data snooping U TurnInstead last week he unveiled a set of proposals for snooping on not just your emails, social media accounts and your website browsing- but also your mobile phoning as well.

An extension of snooping that is currently outlawed by even the eurocrats.

When the Labour government mooted a similar idea the greater controversy hinged on the giant database it planned to create.

It may be proposed this time is that GCHQ has access to the data centres that ISPs already use.

ISPs are already required to keep data logs for 12 months under a 2009 EU directive.

Extending this responsibility to firms such as Facebook would not be a huge change or particularly onerous because it keeps everything anyway.

Facebook has declined to comment on current government proposals, saying it would rather wait until there was more detail of exactly what it wants to do.

But it has made no secret a security feature launched last year which allows all Facebook communications to be carried over a secure connection known as HTTPS, which could render government snooping plans useless.

The tool basically encrypts data. Currently it is an option that people have to sign up to but the firm hopes eventually to make it default.

However the biggest stumbling block is likely to be the cost.

When labour considered greater surveillance powers the Home Office estimated it would cost around £2 billion.

Even without a huge data centre costs are likely to run into millions, and in such cash-strapped times it may mean the idea is put to bed for another few years.

2010’s annual report from the UK’s interception of communications commissioner, published last June, revealed that the UK’s police, intelligence agencies and other public authorities submitted 552,550 requests for information about users’ data over the year.

Furthermore it noted that requests had risen by a rate of about 5% year-on-year since 2008.

Two thirds of the queries related to information about subscribers, which could be used to identify who owned a particular mobile phone.

But officials could also ask for a user’s incoming and outgoing call data, web activity logs and the contents of emails, faxes and web pages visited if the information was deemed to be in the interests of national security.

If ISPs do not already store the information, they can be forced to secretly fit surveillance equipment in specific cases.

A new law could extend officials’ reach further, but users should be under no illusion that much of their data use is already potentially available to prying eyes.

CES review- Smart TVs are primed for growth

January 20, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apps, Broadband, Browser, Customer Service, Ecommerce, internet, smart phones, Smart TV, Technology Companies, Televisions, Uncategorized

Smart TVs sets with the ability to stream online content, run apps and show television channels simultaneously dominated the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) exhibition.CES review- Smart TVs are primed for growthAt the end of 2011 there were 82 million connected TVs in homes worldwide according to research group Informa. By 2016 it forecasts that number will have ballooned to 892 million.

For years much of the tech industry has pursued a vision of the computer as the home’s digital hub. Owners used their PCs to copy photos off digital cameras, download music and movies and then transfer the material to other compatible devices.
Camera built into Samsung smart TV Samsung’s built-in camera allows its TV to recognise gestures and identify users

Advanced users might have connected their laptop to their TVs or streamed content to the sets wirelessly, but the televisions were at most at the end of a spur coming off the hub, rather than its heart.

The roll-out of cloud services allied to faster internet speeds now offers televisions the chance to usurp the PC’s place, and offers users further freedom from the confines of broadcasters’ schedules.

Samsung – the world’s best-selling TV-maker – has been at the forefront of efforts to deliver this vision.

One of the promotional videos it showed at this year’s event claimed watching television by appointment would become a foreign concept in the future, and its executives talk of the TV being the centre of the home.

Users are offered thousands of apps allowing them to use social networks, play video games, run educational software and follow exercise routines.

But smart TV makers recognise that people still want a sit back rather than lean forward experience most of the time.

Furthermore they acknowledge that increasing numbers of homes own other connected devices. So users may still find it preferable to tweet about a show via their tablet or smartphone rather than shrink the TV picture to pull up an app alongside.

However, manufacturers insist there are instances where it makes more sense to have everything on one screen.

While Samsung and Panasonic are developing their own system software, Google is taking a second crack at offering its own smart TV service.

At the show, LG and Vizio unveiled new sets with the search firm’s Android-based software built in. Sony also added the facility to two devices – a set-top box and a Blu-ray player.

The first version of Google TV launched in October 2010 to much fanfare, but proved a flop – enabled devices were criticised for being too expensive, and several TV networks blocked the US-only service from accessing their web content.

This time round a focus on apps may tempt content providers to co-operate, but for now it remains reliant on its own YouTube service as well as streams from Netflix, Amazon and several niche operations.

UK-based Canonical was punting a rival Linux-based Ubuntu operating system at the trade show. It says it offers a solution to clients who do not want to develop their own software and content deals, but feel uncomfortable linking up with Google.

Whichever operating system proves most popular, the internet poses a threat to the rest of the pay-TV market.

Furthermore, it says that recent developments have spurred pay-TV providers on to furnish its boxes with more material.

For now, the smart TV market looks fragmented from the point of view of content, and immature in terms of some of the technologies involved.

But as smart TVs become ever smarter, previous generations of unconnected sets may soon appear only slightly less antiquated than the black and white models of yesteryear.

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang resigns from its board

January 19, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Customer Service, Email, Pay Per Click, search engines, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized, Yahoo

Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo!, has resigned from its board of directors with immediate effect.Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang resigns from its boardJerry Yang founded the online company in 1995 with David Filo and was its chief executive from June 2007 until January 2009.

His resignation comes two weeks after the company hired former PayPal executive Scott Thomson to be its new chief executive.

Mr Yang annoyed some shareholders by turning down a £31 billion ($47.5 billion) takeover offer from Microsoft in 2008.

Since then the value has plummeted and the company’s current market value is only about £13 billion.

Mr Yang has also resigned from the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group and said in a statement: “The time has come for me to pursue other interests outside of Yahoo!”.

In addition to leaving the boards, Mr Yang is also giving up his title of “Chief Yahoo”. He also expressed support for the company’s current management.

“I am enthusiastic about the appointment of Scott Thompson as Chief Executive Officer and his ability, along with the entire Yahoo! leadership team, to guide Yahoo! into an exciting and successful future,” he said.

Some observers had seen Jerry Yang as an impediment to the sale or restructuring of the business as it provides a more objective and unemotional approach to the variuos strategic alternatives which are being considered as the company attempts to reinvent itself.

TalkTalk most complained about broadband ISP Ofcom finds

January 05, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Broadband, Customer Service, internet, mobile phones, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

TalkTalk remains the most complained about UK broadband service provider according to regulator Ofcom.TalkTalk most complained about broadband ISP Ofcom findsThe ISP has “topped” the list for four consecutive quarters, although it has been reducing the number of complaints over the past six months.

In the same period, Ofcom found that 3 was the most complained about mobile operator, driven by disputed charges and customer service issues.

Virgin Media also saw an increase in mobile complaints over the past year.

Ofcom bases its data on complaints sent to the regulator rather than to individual operators. In general, mobile services are less complained about than fixed line or broadband.

The regulator’s quarterly report aims to inform consumers as well as incentivise telecoms providers to improve their performance. Ofcom only monitors complaints against telecom providers with a market share of more than 4%.

Complaints about TalkTalk’s broadband service peaked for the first three months of 2011 with an average of 0.81 per 1,000 customers. This fell to 0.55 by the third quarter of 2011.

LANDLINE COMPLAINTS Q3 2011

  • TalkTalk – 0.77 complaints per 1,000 customers
  • BT Retail – 0.29
  • BSkyB – 0.28
  • Virgin Media – 0.19

A lot of the problems experienced by TalkTalk are blamed on billing errors following its amalgamation with Tiscali in 2009.

As a direct result of the 1,000 complaints it received last year, Ofcom fined TalkTalk and its Tiscali UK subsidiary £3 million  for incorrectly billing more than 65,000 customers for services they had not received.

It was the largest fine that the regulator has given to a telecoms firm.

TalkTalk has since paid more than £2.5 million in refunds and goodwill payments to affected customers. Last month it admitted that it had lost more than 43,000 customers as a result of customer service issues.

The ISP was also the most complained about provider when it came to landline services, with 0.77 complaints per 1,000 customers in the third quarter of 2011, again driven by billing and customer services issues.

MOBILE COMPLAINTS Q3 2011

  • Three – 0.14 complaints per 1,000 customers
  • Orange – 0.07
  • Virgin Mobile – 0.07
  • Vodafone – 0.07
  • T-Mobile – 0.06
  • O2 – 0.02

The least complained about provider for the fourth quarter in a row was Virgin Media with 0.19 complaints per 1,000 customers.

But in mobile, Virgin Media saw its complaints rise from 0.03 complaints per 1,000 customers from of 2010 to 0.07 by the third quarter of 2011.

It has some way to go to catch 3, which was the most complained about operator over all four quarters. Its complaints have been on the rise, up from 0.09 per 1,000 customers from October to December of 2010 to 0.14 by the third quarter of 2011.

O2 remained the least complained about mobile operator over the year.