Business mobile connectivity

Train wifi too congested but 4G fine

Just a 4G quickie. Catching a busy commuter time train back nowf and couldn’t even get a sniff of a connection on the on board wifi. Almost certainly a good thing – if it can’t hook up using DHCP then there are so many people trying to access it that the performance will be so bad as to effectively be unusable.

4g broadband Business mobile connectivity voip

4G as fixed broadband replacement? – successful case study

4g broadband can be used as a replacement for a fixed broadband service

Blog reader Mitch left a comment about how he now uses VoIP over a 4G line that has replaced his fixed broadband connection.  His broadband had always been rubbish and 4G is now giving him speeds as fast as fibre broadband. I asked if he would be willing to tell the story. It makes for a very interesting read that many will be able to identify with. It may also give hope to those folk in the “final third” who are the 2nd class citizens of the UK when it comes to connectivity.

4g Business Cloud mobile connectivity

4G remains impressive

Using up the last of the battery on this Chromebook from my garret at a Travelodge in London. I’m hanging off the Huaweii MiFi with a 4G sim. I’m sure I’ve said it before but I have to say it again the experience is terrific. Seriously useful for business. Pages load up almost instantly. It’s as if I was using my home WiFi and my FTTC line. Fair play:)

4g Business chromebook mobile connectivity

54 minutes 315 Megabytes 4G conference call using Google+ Hangout

sweyn hunterGoogle Hangout for 54 minutes using Samsung Chromebook and EE4G Huaweii MiFi clocks up 315Megabytes.

Just had a very pleasant 54 minutes video call with Sweyn Hunter using Google+ Hangout. My Huaweii 4G MiFi (courtesy of EE) tells me that it used approximately 315MB of bandwidth – probably slightly less as I did some emails before hand.

At Sweyn’s end he had “good old fashioned BT ADSL” with maybe 512k uplink speed. He lives in Orkney. The video quality was great though it did freeze two or three times in the 54 minutes. The only slight issue was an element of half duplex/one way speech in that if he was speaking and I tried to speak at the same time. I quickly got used to that and it didn’t detract  from the quality of the conversation.

Also 54 minutes was a long hangout for what was just a casual chat – I’ve never met Sweyn but converse with him from time to time on Twitter – @sweynh – I’m sure he won’t mind me telling everyone. The point being that if we were comfortable having a 54 minute video conversation the quality must have been good – otherwise we would have cut it short.

Sweyn is an interesting bloke I’m sure he won’t mind me saying – you should follow him. He is organising an Island Govcamp in Orkney next year on 6th and 7th September.

Might try a hangout using O2 and Vodafone sims in my various phones next time. It will be interesting to see if personal video calling is going to at last get mainstream with 4G. Bandwidth cost is still going to be an issue. You can work out for yourselves how quickly you will eat up your own data bundle.

4g Business mobile connectivity

4G better than hotel WiFi – official

Sat in my garrett at the Cromwell Hotel in London getting ready to to a 5.30 meeting. There is great 4G coverage here from O2, Vodafone and EE. The hotel WiFi is totally pants. It’s so slow it won’t even connect.

During my 4G test trips I already concluded that it is better to use 4G than the WiFi of a pub or cafe. I can tell you after my scientific survey (sample size one)  that this is also the case in hotels.

It’s such a pleasure to have the connectivity on the move. This post is coming from my Samsung Chromebook hooked up to the Huaweii MiFi loaned to me my EE. On the train on the way down I also used the MiFi – it was tucked in my coat pocket so to all intents and purposes the Chromebook was “just accessing the internet directly”.

Now all I need to do is to figure out how to convert Microsoft presentations to Google format (see previous post).

Pics below are screenshot of speedtest on O2 4G on Samsung Galaxy S4 plus screenshot of “error” message when it failed to connect to Cromwell Hotel WiFi.

wifi connection at Cromwell Hotel O2 4G connection in London
It’s offical, at this Best Western Hotel, 4G is best 🙂

4g broadband Business mobile connectivity net neutrality

4G adoption in UK businesses

4g for business offers backup facility for superfast broadband

Why should business use 4G?

Yesterday I sat on a panel discussing 4G at the Convergence Summit South trade show in Sandown Park. The audience was largely resellers of communications services. What you would traditionally call a PBX reseller.

In terms of expectations of what 4G would do for this channel it would appear that it was very much a case of wait and see. There are some sceptics who go as far as to that “4G is just a faster version of 3G and won’t really have any specific applications and uses”.

Well I think they are wrong. 4G may well be “just a faster bearer” but it is going to open up opportunities in the communications market that weren’t there before.

For example Timico does a lot of good business selling 3G cellular back up solutions for broadband lines used to carry credit card transactional data. This type of application doesn’t need the bandwidth capabilities that 4G can offer (although 4G’s faster ping times could have a role to play here).

This type of back up application is not used nearly as much to back up ADSL lines to offices. 3G just isn’t good enough for this other than as a very basic means of accessing the internet. If you rely on your broadband for VoIP then it ain’t going to be any use over 3G, as much as anything because half the networks block VoIP (note to self to do net neutrality update post).

Now something is happening in the communications market in the UK and that is FTTC, Fibre to the Cabinet, fibre broadband, call it what you will. The superior speeds of FTTC make a huge difference to how businesses and indeed consumers use the internet. They are starting to make use of online resources like they have never before.

Witness the aggressive promotion of the Samsung Chromebook. Not only did I get 100GB of free Drive storage (ok only for two years by which time Google hopes I’m hooked enough to buy more) but I also get a free Galaxy phone. When I got my Samsung Galaxy S4 they gave me two years of free 50GB Dropbox which I am very much starting to use.

All this is driving the market towards using more and more of the cloud.

Now businesses when they start to rely more on cloud services are not going to be happy if their internet connection goes down. These things do happen, regularly.

With an increasing availability of 4G it is going to be a no-brainer for  business to have a 4G backup for its FTTC connection. The speeds, assuming you can get coverage, are pretty much identical. In fact 4G is likely to give a better uplink speed than FTTC.

4G networks do not (currently) block VoIP applications such as Skype and have latencies that are going to be able to support other real time applications. I can’t see 4G replacing FTTC in a business connection because of the cost of bandwith.

This may not apply for certain demographics in the consumer market. The only reason we have a phone line in our house is because it supports our data connection. The only people that phone it are scammers from Indian call centres and anti social pariahs trying to sell me PPI miss-selling compensation.

For a single person leaving home, saving on the cost of a phone line and broadband might well be enough to offset the additional bandwidth costs of a 4G subscription. I digress.

The upshot is that I think that the combination of FTTC and 4G is going to be a real driver for sales of mobile subscriptions and that the resellers sat in that room listening to the panel discussion should all be thinking of how they can add mobile into their portfolio. If you like think of it in terms of increasing ARPU for broadband sales.

On a similar but different note I met with EE last week for a chinwag on life, the universe and 4G. I had been pretty critical about the EE efforts to sell 4G (see post here). However soon after I wrote that post their subscriber uptake rocketed and I think they may well have now reached a million subs.

It would seem that this increase in interest is due to a combination of market reach (ie more people can now get 4G), growing awareness due to the continued marketing effort and more people coming up to contract renewal. The entry of the O2 and Vodafone into the market will also help by creating even more market awareness.

This same dynamic is going to happen in the business comms market. There will come a time where 4G is generally available, more or less, to all businesses and they will start to use it.

Obvious really. Ciao.

PS if you want to talk more about this drop me a line.

PPS I was driving past Coventry earlier this week and noticed an O2 4G signal on my phone. Hey Coventry, it’s on it’s way to you next 🙂

Business internet mobile connectivity Net

Trains to get faster internet connectivity #networkrail

Internet access on trains to be upgraded by 2014

My auntie told me today that the rail network is upgrading its wireless internet access or at least it will have done by 2019. I’ve mentioned the rubbish connectivity on trains more than once – here and here for example. I’m a bit of an expert because I spend so much time on the train between the office in Newark and London.

Apparently we are going to get 50Megs which is a big uplift on the pathetic 2 Meg we have to share out amongst the whole train today.

The BBC news item tells us that apparently “A new fibre optic network should be capable of handling up to 192,000 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) of data once the upgrade is complete in June 2014.” Pretty advanced stuff a 192Terabit per second network (no quibbling over definitions of what is a Terabit please).  I wonder which router they are going to use? Perhaps someone from Network Rail could get in touch and I’ll do a blog post on the subject.

Internet access on trains. Can’t wait. Ciao bebe.

4g Engineer mobile connectivity

Mobile data usage growth when using 4G networks

EE4GMet with EE last week. Discovered that in the early days of their 4G network rollout a significant chunk of the bandwidth usage was people doing speed tests. Bit like me. I’ve racked up around 6GB between O2 and Vodafone and more when taking into consideration the Huaweii MiFi with the EE SIM.

A pal of mine told me that last week he had already used up his 8GB bundle for September and had to buy more. He hadn’t been doing 4G testing but had been watching movies. It’s the shape of things to come. I’ll see if I can find some bandwidth usage trend stats for 4G and maybe we can extrapolate to see how much data we are going to be using in say 2 years time. Problem is there isn’t enough data specifically on 4G yet.

One interesting aspect of the meeting with EE was that they have no plans to introduce unlimited packages on 4G. Like it or not this is the only sensible approach in the near term when network capacity is still fairly expensive.

It’s too early to tell which of the operators is going to have the best 4G network.

4g Engineer mobile connectivity olympics

4G speed test results in London – comparison of O2, EE and Vodafone

4G4G test results in London – comparison of O2, EE and Vodafone on a road trip.

Competition in 4G has been a long time coming. It’s almost a year since EE launched their service and we now have the Vodafone and O2 4G networks running, at least in London. When I took part in the O2 4G trials in 2013 the results were spectacular (43Mbps in the Devonshire Arms pub off Oxford Street) if confined to a few places – O2 used 25 cell sites for these trials. The results were great partly because I doubt that there were that many people using the network given that we all had dongles and not phones. You had to have your laptop out which aside from my coverage experiment conducted from the top deck of a moving number 25 bus meant that you had to be in a static location.

Now I have three networks to play with: EE, Vodafone and O2. It would be natural to expect that having had longer to roll out their network the EE coverage would be better. However with more subscribers using the EE service would their speeds be as good as the relatively empty networks of the new kids on the block?

The 4G test tools to hand were a Samsung GalaxyS4 running O2, a Nokia Lumia 920 on Vodafone and a Huawei 4G Mobile WiFi E5776 (MiFi) loaned to be my EE. The tests were conducted over two separate trips and on each occasion I had a Twitter pal along for the ride: @flosoft and @UKTamo. We also used @UKTamo’s SGS3 LTE running on EE.

In one sense because I was using four different devices the test conditions were not going to survive academic scrutiny. However having to go to the effort of swapping SIMs every time I wanted to run a test just so that I could do like for like testing wasn’t going to be practical. What you get here therefore is a mix of experiences with some real results mixed with subjectivity. It should provide a feel for the 4G experience in London.

4G speed testing at McDonalds KingsX We started off in McDonalds in Kings Cross. Day one was not an unbridled success as for much of the day the only network I had working was EE.  Having only just provisioned them, the new 4G SIMs on the other two took a while to kick in. Before realising this I thought that maybe the S4 and Lumia 920 needed a firmware upgrade. @flosoft averaged around 5Mbps using the McDonalds WiFi to download the software for the Samsung whereas I was getting double that using the EE 4G MiFi for the Nokia. Nokia took well over half an hour to perform the actual upgrade after downloading the software but it had still finished the job before the WiFi based software download for the Samsung had ended, let alone start the installation.

This became a theme. During lunch at the Nag’s Head in Covent Garden hanging off the EE4G Huawei MiFi was a better experience than using the pub’s WiFi. This is despite the fact that my Galaxy S4 is set to backup media to Google+ when connected via WiFi. Because of this any speed testing and usage on the MiFi will have been degraded because of the background uploading yet the experience was still good. It suggests to me that as 4G becomes more ubiquitous, cost of data aside, public venues will need to upgrade their broadband service if they want people to continue their WiFi rather than a cellular service.

As an aside during the 2012 Olympics I spent a lot of time testing mobile connectivity in London and found that when walking around the cellular networks were far more useful than the hundreds of thousands of WiFi hotspots in town.

Will 4G render public WiFi networks obsolete I wonder?

Roaming around central London saw very variable results with all three networks working on 4G. Handsets would switch between 3G and 4G by just turning a corner and 4G performance when in a low signal strength area felt not to be as good as 3G in the same circumstance. In theory 4G should be no different to 3G in this respect – maybe it just needs a bit more playing with.

4G speed testing on a number 73 busSat on the Number 73 bus between Kings Cross and Oxford Circus the EE network had more consistent 4G coverage than Vodafone – see the video. EE averaged 18Mbps on this route with only a couple of results dropping below 10Mbps to 5Mbps and 8Mbps.

Following on from the Nags Head lunch experience indoor coverage seemed better than I had been expecting. When my Vodafone 4G kicked in I managed to get 65.85Mbps at the back vodafone 4G speed test resultsof the Pop Up Brittain shop on Piccadilly. We saw 48.62Mbps down and 43.31Mbps upload with EE in a 2nd Floor Office in Castle Lane near Victoria which was the best combined performance. I was getting around 10Mbps down with both O2 and Vodafone at this location.EE 4G speed test results 48Mbps castle lane London

Vodafone and O2 are sharing cell sites so where you got 4G with one you would naturally expect the other to be present. This was by and large the case though sometimes one network would have better performance than the other at these locations which might be explained by traffic volumes.

We used for the testing and when comparing different networks it was important to be using the same server. For EE performance at one location rose dramatically when we switched away from the Yoda in Covent GardenVodafone London speedtest server – no dirty work on the go here I’m sure:). It was also funny that when I stood next to Yoda between Covent Garden Station and the Piazza I got a very poor Vodafone signal – the force was obviously elsewhere unless he wasn’t the real Yoda (Vodafone uses Yoda from the Star Wars movies for advertising purposes).

The fastest download seen was 73Mbps on O2 at South Kensington tube station. Sat at the Champagne Bar in Paddington I was regularly getting 58Mbps on Vodafone – indoors again (video here). The EE MiFi in this environment didn’t perform so well. Indoors in Paddington Station might be a poor EE coverage area but my guess is that there were too many WiFi enabled devices in the area and the MiFi struggled with the noise.

Overall I didn’t see quite the same peak speeds on EE compared with O2 and Vodafone. The fact that there are far more people on the EE network would explain this. As you might expect EE did seem to have better overall coverage, though this coverage was far from ubiquitous. There seemed to be pretty good 4G from all three networks in the main tourist and commuter hotspots – Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus (video here) and major train stations for example.

One additional data point is that I had to plug both the Nokia and Samsung phones in to charge by around 2pm after a day’s testing. I was carrying two Powergen Mobile Juice Pack 6000s especially for this purpose. Whether that tells you anything about battery life when using 4G I’m not sure considering I was hammering the phones. It probably does.

Overall it’s exciting to see three networks up and running now albeit only in London. It won’t be long before competition sees coverage improve everywhere – although it isn’t advertised I could get 4G from all three networks on the platform at Slough Railway Station.

Even the slower 4G speeds were pretty fast compared to 3G. I have to believe that with 4G the mobile networks have finally moved into the 21st century.

4G is definitely going to drive usage. I used almost 2GBytes in two days of testing with O2 – I’m on an 8GB package. I suspect the real issue is how quickly the networks will want to drive usage/fill their capacity. They will be able to control this with pricing. However although the mobile operators are desperate to move away from selling on price I can’t see them being able to do so long term. The market will have its way…

More speed test screenshots here from O2, Vodafone and EE. Thanks to @flosoft and to @UKTamo for their able assistance especially for the photos and screenshots of the test results. Thanks to EE for the loan of the Huawei MiFi – it’s a great piece of kit. I was hoping to be able to publish a comprehensive database of the tests but unfortunately the app only kept a certain number of results and the Windows 8 Phone version didn’t even seem to allow you to export the data. Ah well.

Other 4G posts:

4G as a fixed broadband replacement service here.

EE 4G mobile broadband roadmap here.

Google Hangouts over 4G here.

End User mobile connectivity wearable

Le Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch est arrivee

It’s 07.11. I’m on a train again, headed to London again. I’m wearing shorts. It’s going to be 30 degrees Centigrade. In front of me is a copy of The Times. I very rarely read “the paper” these days. Only when it’s shoved in front of me as a freebie.

The headlines in the paper say “Obama calls on the world to fight Syria ‘barbarism’”. I’m sure you will have noticed that the news rarely covers good news. Only when “our Andy” wins a major or when there is a royal baby (etc). We also get an occasional “hottest summer since 1976”. Not very often, any of them.

Yesterday we also heard about Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch. I don’t wear a watch. Not since my early twenties. They always used to break or go wrong on me and even in those days there was usually a clock somewhere that you could see to tell the time – PC or car dash.

The last time I owned a watch was when I was on my way to visit a customer in Stanmore. I was in a company pool car and blow me down if the clock on the dashboard was broken. It must have been an old car – I worked for Marconi Electronic Devices. Don’t know if that says anything.

No problem I said to myself. I’ll turn the radio on and keep time that way. Now the meeting was at 10.30 and at 10am they started an hour long programme so I wouldn’t know the time at the half hour. Hmm.  I wanted to be punctual but did not have the resources to make it so other than maybe being sat in reception for too long.

No problemo. I’ll stop at a passing garage and by a cheapo watch. Unfortunately the cheapest watch was about £15. I’d been expecting a sub fiver piece of junk that I could ditch when I’d finished the meeting. A £15 piece of junk (as it turned out to be) was a different thing. In those days you could buy a pint for 50 pence. That watch represented 30 pints!

I bought the watch and made it to the meeting on time. Two weeks later the watch stopped working/broke/something like that. It got thrown away and I have never worn a watch since.

This is a long way of saying that I am unlikely to wear the Samsung Galaxy Gear. The question I suppose is whether such devices will take off. My bet is that they will, despite me not wearing one (:) ). I ask myself will people look a little daft holding a watch up to their ear? Will they be self-conscious doing it? Is that any different to holding a phone to your ear?

Maybe of you have the watch bit on the inside of your wrist then it will be exactly the same gesture. It will look as if you are just scratching your head when actually you are on the phone. Could work though not for me as I don’t want anything on my wrist. Maybe a watch pinned to my lapel would do the job – bit like a nurse’s watch. It would get around the problem of not wanting something on my wrist.

However how would I make a phone call? I could use my phone I suppose or have the lapel device on in speaker mode with perhaps only a low range so that only I could hear it. Probably won’t work that last bit.

There must be a market for a device that stops people being buried in their small screen all the time. Something that is always there and noticeable without staring at your hand.

Musings over. If you already wear a watch then you might find the Samsung Galaxy Gear ok. It’s another drop of tech news on the unstoppable tide.

It’s now 7.49 and the train has stopped at Newark Northgate. All is quiet and I’m on the way to London, wearing shorts. You will have to wait a day or two to find out why. Catch ya later.

PS don’t ask me why I wrote the title in French. It has no bearing to the rest of the post and just came out that way. Ohohiho!

Business mobile connectivity phones

I see Microsoft are going to buy the Nokia handset business

I found out about 5am this morning via Twitter (under the bedsheets!). Between 5am and the time I got up, around 7.30ish is was being retweeted by all and sundry and Rory CJ was talking about it on the BBC Radio4 Today programme.

By the time I left for work I felt it was old news and had already been done to death. The line of discussion was “Will Stephen Elop be the next Microsoft CEO?” Tbh that isn’t really news and the BBC was certainly unable to do any more than anyone else which was just pure speculation.

Whether Microsoft makes a go of the handset business is neither here nor there in my mind. I’m not really bothered. I’d say it will take them years to catch up with Apple and Samsung/Google if  they can do it at all.

What I think is worth a moment of reflection is the passing of Nokia as a mobile handset vendor. The brand must now inevitably fade away. In my business life I have had very few different vendors’ models of mobile phone (though that is starting to change with what feels to be an unsustainable pace of new product intros) and for most of that time my phone was a Nokia.

Nokia represented quality and had the best User Interface.  Although  I still own a Nokia, a Lumia 920 handset it is very much my secondary phone. I don’t like the UI or the weight of it. I only got it to try out Windows8. The last Nokia phone I can claim to have been happy with was the N97, a while ago now, it seems.

There are always examples around of major multinational companies with big market leads that fail to move with the times. Microsoft is in one of those periods now of trying to reinvent itself. It isn’t there yet.

In the meantime Nokia has failed to keep up and is now going through the mobile phone equivalent of the death roll. Stand back and watch from a safe distance.  RIP the Nokia mobile phone.

Apps Engineer mobile connectivity olympics

Funky Cisco stadium WiFi technology at The Barclay Centre

Cisco engineer & pal Stuart Clark sent me this link to a really cool stadium WiFi network deployment at The Barclay Centre. You will all of course know that the Barclay Centre is home to the Brooklyn Nets basketball team (c’mon now – don’t tell me you’ve never heard of ’em).

The Cisco Connected Stadium WiFi Solution (for once they have a product name that tells it like it is) enables stadia to allow “visitors to keep up with box scores and player stats in real time. And for patrons who hate those long lines at half time, concessions can be ordered with the swipe of a finger from any seat in the house.” as the blurb puts it. All this from your phone.

I like this. Stadium technology is not straight forward as you will recall from the stuff  I wrote about preparations for the Olympics, ahem sorry London 2012 Olympics. The Cisco spiel uses lots of good phrases such as

  • 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks to the core or distribution switches
  • Access switches that have 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE) as minimum or 802.3at PoE+ ports
    (recommended) for powering access points
  • radio resource management
  • self healing, self optimising wireless networks

I can’t find any data that tells me how to go about designing a network for, say Wembley or Twickenham which would have a lot more punters sat in their seats than a basketball arena. I presume it is doable.

What I really like is the fact that the accompanying app allows you to order hot dogs etc from your seat. I can see huge benefits should they ever implement this at Sincil Bank, the home of my local side Lincoln City (up the Imps). The queue for burgers and pies at half time is massive-ish and it often takes the whole of the half time break for you to get served.

I can see problems though. At Sincil Bank you can sit anywhere in the stand your ticket is valid for, unless that specific seat is reserved by a season ticket holder (so most of them are free). The person delivering the hot dog/pie/burger/chips would have to wander around the stand looking for you, probably shouting your name and trying to make him or herself heard over the din of the tannoy announcing the winner of the raffle. The hot dog/pie/burger/chips could well have gone cold in the meantime.

I’m sure there must be a solution for this – it’s probably in a Cisco Application Note somewhere.

As I write I can think of lots of useful addons to the app, assuming they aren’t already featured. Sports such as snooker and tennis will have their own plugins – after all you can’t expect your order of champagne, strawberries and cream to be delivered to Centre court at Wimbledon whilst the game is in play. The same applies for snooker – you’d have to wait for the bit in between frames or when the players nip out for a toilet break which happens on an ad-hoc basis so the delivery scheduling would have to be able to accommodate this – easy small deliveries in between frames, larger more complicated ones during comfort breaks.

Anyway you get the drift. I can even envisage social media hookups so that fans can comment on the game in real time from within the app. I’d better stop. Got stuff to do. Ciao…

Business mobile connectivity

Competitive mobile advertising – 3

On the tube heading to a LONAP board meeting.  This ad stared me in the face & had to take a snap with my trusty sgs4.

It reinforces the head start that EE have in the 4G game. Really wondering what niche 3 will find. Obv here they are pushing unlimited data but that is an expensive feature to lead with.

Only a short post. Ciao.


Business mobile connectivity

Garage forecourts – oh how they suffer without adequate connectivity

What can you write about a garage forecourt? They aren’t particularly attractive places, stuck as they usually are, at the side of busy main roads with lots of cars rushing by. Their canopies can be useful for keeping you dry when filling up in the winter though look out if it is windy and the rain gets horizontal.

Inside the goods in the shop are expensive but I guess that is how most of the profits are made and I don’t really begrudge them that. Occasionally I will buy a lottery ticket though I seldom have even a single number come up. It’s a mug’s game. Some people pin their hopes on winning. You see them buying ten quids worth in one go. One ticket/ten tickets. it makes no difference.

Usually these days a garage is the only place  where you can buy coal or logs. These items take up a fair bit of space which garages normally have going spare.  It’s a lot cheaper to go to the coal merchant but that does require foresight and planning. I could also get it delivered but that would require a coal bunker which we ain’t got.

Garages these days can be a source of excellent coffee. Coffee Nation guarantees a good cuppa at just the right temperature to drink straight away. I normally have to let my tea cool down a bit if I’m making it myself. I would think the temperature bit from machine made coffee comes from a paranoia about being sued by people scalded by carelessness with their hot drink. An American export.

You might be wondering where all this is going. It’s reasonable. To wonder. But I haven’t finished rambling yet.

Garages often have carwashes attached to the side of them, usually just after the place you pull in for air and water. It’s been some years since I used one of these carwashes. I use a hand carwash staffed by hard working Eastern Europeans. They do  a much better job that is worth paying the little bit extra that it costs.

And finally our first child was born on a Boxing Day. The following day the only place open that could sell me flowers was a garage. They were starting to show their age but the woman in the garage picked out the best from the whole shop and made me a beautiful bouquet for very little money.

The attached PDF forecourt magazine is a page out of this month’s edition of Forecourt Trader. I have a very eclectic taste in reading material. Have a read. It’s all about problems garages face when their phone lines go down. Timico has lots of customers in the garage forecourt game (I’m talking hundreds if not thousands of retails sites). The broadband service that runs over the copper phone line is crucial to retail businesses because it carries their credit card transaction data. When the broadband goes down the garage is going to have big problems, as the article shows.

Our retail customers can get around this with a mobile backup solution. It’s called Mobile Access Management and runs over 3G within the same secure MPLS environment as the fixed line connection. If you own retail sites where the broadband line is mission critical you should be talking to us.

Read the Murco case study here.

Business mobile connectivity UC

Working from home

It can be a joy to work at home. The sun filters through the canopy of sycamore trees that line the garden above the beech hedge. A gentle breeze occasionally nudges the conservatory doors, opened wide to take advantage of the absolute delight that is the peak of the British spring. Fresh garden smells mingle with happy birdsong.

It is natural on a day like this to want to work in comfortable clothing and my rugby shorts and very old Mitel VoIP tshirt fit the bill. Wouldn’t fit in with the office but that is ok. I’m at home this morning.

I’m off after lunch to Laandan to the Global Telecoms Business Awards where we are finalists with Genband in the Innovation category. It’s all about mobility. I have my Timico mobile VoIP client running on my Samsung Galaxy S4 on one side of the desk and a high quality business handset one the other. It is plugged in to one of the two Cat5 ports in the conservatory. I have Cat5 in all the rooms downstairs though I rarely use them other than to plug in a phone.

homework setupWhen my phone rings I normally answer the desktop handset. However the beauty of having the mobile client is that I can wander off to make a cup of tea in the kitchen and if the phone rings I answer it on the mobile instead of having to rush back to the conservatory.

I also use the mobile client when I’m out and about. It genuinely is useful, especially when I’m roaming overseas. The hotel (garret – cat swinging will cause injury to both parties) I’m staying at in town has free wifi. I’ll be able to use my work extension there and I’m pretty sure that the Park Lane Hotel where the bash is tonight also has free wifi though I doubt I will be able to hear the phone ring amongst all the noise of champagne cork popping and celebrations. You know what it’s like.

That’s all for now. Gotta go. Things to do & penguin suit to dig out.

4g Business mobile connectivity ofcom

Analysis of who bought what in the Ofcom 4G spectrum auction #O2 #BT #merger

google_campus_thumbThe 4G spectrum auction results were announced back in February. Five telcos won spectrum: Telefonica O2, Vodafone, EE, 3 and BT. MLL Telecom and HKT (UK) Company lost out. Before looking at the merits of each deal it is worth understanding the pros and cons of each spectrum band.

Two bands were up for grabs: 800MHz and 2,600MHz or 2.6GHz. 60MHz was available in the 800MHz band and 185MHz in the 2.6GHz band. There was therefore more capacity available and in bigger blocks at the higher frequency than in the lower. The data throughput that can be achieved in a mobile network is proportional to the amount of spectrum you can throw at it.

The higher frequencies are potentially more valuable from a network capacity perspective than the lower. Where there is a 35MHz block available you can also decide whether to use the whole block to offer a faster service to fewer people or to divide it into smaller packages and serve more subscribers with lower speeds. 45Mbps versus 15Mbs say (my guess).

The downside for the higher speed spectrum is that it has poorer in building penetration and a lower  reach and is therefore not as useful for providing a fixed line broadband replacement service as the lower 800MHz band.

One lot in the 800MHz band was designated by Ofcom as being saddled with a coverage obligation with a requirement to reach 98% of the population with a 2Mbps service by 2017.

Before rural dwellers get excited it is worth noting that the coverage obligation states that “a minimum download speed of 2Mbps should be available with 90% confidence in 98% of houses (residential properties) covered by the mobile broadband service when the network is lightly loaded. Lightly loaded is defined by Ofcom as a “single user demanding service within the serving cell, and the surrounding cells of the network are loaded to a light level (by which we mean the common channels only are transmitting at 22% of the maximum cell power)”.

In my mind that means that 2Mbps is the absolute maximum anyone will get under the coverage obligation. If this was introduced to support the government’s 2Mbps for all pledge then look out for weasel words galore when that number is not achieved by “the end of this parliament”.

Next let’s look at who bought what.

Winning bidder Spectrum won Base price
Everything Everywhere Ltd 2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz and
2 x 35 MHz of 2.6 GHz
Hutchison 3G UK Ltd 2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz £225,000,000
Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd (a subsidiary of BT Group plc) 2 x 15 MHz of 2.6 GHz and
1 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)
Telefónica UK Ltd 2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz
(coverage obligation lot)
Vodafone Ltd 2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz,
2 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz and
1 x 25 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)
Total £2,341,113,000



At £790 million Vodafone spent the most dosh in the auction and came away with the best spread of spectrum with 20MHz of the 800MHZ and 65MHz of the 2.6GHz spectra. Basically roughly a third of what was available. This should give them the most optimal flexibility to provide a mix of in town and rural services. Vodafone, which is sharing infrastructure with O2 under a venture known as Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd has like O2 stated a goal of hitting the 98% population coverage before 2016.


The next biggest spender at £589 million was EE bringing it 70MHz of the 2.6GHz spectrum and the “minimum buy” of 10MHz from the 800MHz band. EE is already offering 4G services in the 1.800MHz band so whilst its 800MHz holding may be a little light the company still has a good spread of spectrum.

EEs head start in this game also adds an additional competitive dimension to the whole business.


The O2 spectrum allocation is an interesting one. Paying £550 million for the 20MHz coverage obligation lot in the 800MHz spectrum it has paid more for this band than either EE or 3 if we use the reserve price of £225 million paid by 3 as a benchmark. It isn’t as simple as that but without spending days analysing the finer points of the auction it serves a purpose as a rough guide.

O2 is obliged to cover 98% of subscribers by 2017. In my mind this is something they will have been wanting to achieve in any case so the “obligation” is unlikely to be a particular burden. The relatively high cost of the spectrum combined with what I imagine to be a higher cost of serving rural districts might raise an eyebrow but I am not party to O2’s infrastructure cost model and plan.

What is potentially more likely to be an issue for O2 is the absence of a holding in the 2.6GHz band. O2 may be pinning its hopes on being given future permission to use its 2,100 MHz spectrum holding or there may be a clue in the recent announcement that BT will be working with O2 to provide the backbone network for O2s 4G services. Having the high capacity backbone is fine but not particularly necessary if you don’t have the spectrum capacity to drive traffic.

Hutchinson 3G UK Ltd

There isn’t that much to say about 3 really. The company was guaranteed some spectrum in the Ofcom process. It paid the reserve price of £225 million for the smallest allocation of all the networks. 3 is currently by far the smallest mobile operator in the UK ignoring the fact that BT seems likely to re-enter the market and one wonders what the long term plans are likely to be. Will they change their name to 4? 🙂


BT’s acquisition of 2.6GHz spectrum at £186 million represented by far the lowest cost per meg and so on that basis the incumbent fixed line operator seems to have got the best value out of the auction.

However the obvious spectrum for BT to have gone for would have been in the 800MHz range, assuming its intention is to use 4G to improve its broadband penetration to rural areas. This would be consistent with BT’s increasingly monopolistic position in the “final third” of the country as seems to be suggested in the awarding of Government BDUK contracts.

I don’t have any insight into their plans but when people look back with the benefit of hindsight at some event or other they often say “of course it was obvious”.

If we look at the BT and O2 positions in respect of spectrum it would seem obvious that both parties should share their respective spectra. I wouldn’t rule out some kind of re-convergence of the twain/merger bearing in mind that BT sold off O2 at some stage in the medium term past.

O2 has just offloaded its fixed broadband business to Sky. BT is getting back into mobile. O2 owner Telefonica is a Spanish company and therefore likely to be suffering from the woes of the Spanish economy. BT could buy O2! Pure speculation but makes sense to me.

That’s it as far as an analysis of who bought what in the 4G spectrum auction. A bit overdue but sometimes these things benefit from digesting the information for a little while before rushing to gain first mover/publisher advantage in the SEO stakes. In the meantime developments have allowed me to add an additional dimension to the analysis.

I doubt we will have to wait much long to find out where this whole space is going. You can read up about my thoughts on time to market here.

28/9/13 update – comparison of O2, EE and Vodafone 4G networks in London

4g Business mobile connectivity ofcom

The 4G race to market in the UK – the heavy rollers are in town and the stakes are high

EE4GIt’s the middle of May. The 4G auctions were in February. We are all waiting with bated breath for announcements of service rollouts. Last time I looked was when I was preparing for my 4G talks at Convergence Summit North. The word on the web was “summer”. No specifics. In fact the O2 website said summer but I’m not sure that Vodafone even said that.

Now I’m writing a 4G update for Comms Business and thought I’d take another look. O2 has removed the reference to a summer availability but has not offered an alternative. I suspect that this means Christmas which is the big payout time for mobile networks. The Vodafone website just says “later this year”.

I guess this isn’t likely to come as a surprise. A 4G network rollout will be a lot of work and cost a lot of money so I guess there is a scenario that O2 and Voda will be pacing their investment.

There is a race on here though. I hear EE already have around 330,000 subscribers and say they are targeting 1 million by the end of the year. If O2 and Voda don’t get their act together that will mean EE will be ahead of them to the tune of 1 million customers, higher spending customers, by the year end.

Personally I don’t think 330,000 is a particularly good result for EE considering they have had the market to themselves for over six months even though their ARPUs might be good. Also the EE marketing appears to me to be less than optimal.  I recently spoke to an EE reseller who said that the product strategy wasn’t particularly joined up. The company apparently sells to consumers through EE, small businesses through Orange and larger businesses through TMobile1 with three different hardware portfolios and different sets of pricing.  If I were EE that is one thing I’d be looking to sort out.

In fairness EE will have the same coverage rollout issues as being faced by the other mobile operators so there will only have been a limited segment of the market available to them in that first six months. Word is that EE will have reached 80 towns by the end of June. By the end of April that number was 62 covering 50% of the population.

According to the Ofcom Communications Market Report 2012 in 2011 there were 82 million mobile connections. Assuming the number is still the same today that would suggest that around 0.8% of the available market (330k/41m) is on EE 4G after 6 months. I guess the next six months are going to be crucial in the race. EE will have had a year’s head start on the others, assuming my Christmas guess is right. If they can sort out the marketing then if I were EE I’d be disappointed with only a million subs by the end of the year.

If I were O2 and Vodafone I’d be stepping up the pace of their own 4G rollout. The two operators are jointly building out the network, ultimately to 18,500 cell sites and according to the Vodafone blog splitting the work 50/50. It would be interesting to see how their respective rollouts are doing. Who is going to get there first in the partnership? If they are doing half the work each presumably they will be announcing the service at the same time. The timing of these announcements is therefore likely to be quite critical. Get there first and presumably get the marketing advantage. Get there second and you can tailor your own pricing and packaging competitively knowing what the other guy is offering. Get there at the same time and risk accusations of a cartel.

Whatever happens it looks like I will have to wait until Christmas before I get a 4G connection – my phone is with O2 and my laptop with Vodafone. At least I’ll know what to put in my letter to Santa.

1It may be the other way round re TMob & Orange marketing.

28/9/13 update – comparison of O2, EE and Vodafone 4G networks in London

Apps End User mobile connectivity peering phones

Google Now wow

googlenowGoodness gracious me it’s the 12th of April already. We are nearly a third of the way through the year #wosthatallabout? Fortunately the worst bit is over, weatherwise, supposedly. Those that have survived the winter are clearing out their nests in anticipation of a new season of renewal and growth etc etc etc.

Today I have a bunch of conference calls and am working from my home office. Looking out onto my back garden the birds are gathering new nesting materials. Nice.

I just popped down to the station to pick up a bunch of train tickets bought in advance to get the best deal (coz I’m tight) and noticed something eerie on my phone. Google Now not only told me the weather at Lincoln train station but also at Schipol Airport and in Hamburg.

googlenowI can already hear the “so what”s and the “get to the point”s. The fact is I am traveling to Hamburg tomorrow via Amsterdam Schipol for the 22nd Euro IX Forum. It’s in my calendar. Google Now saw this and told me what it thought I wanted to know.

Well it is absolutely right. I did want to know the weather at my destination because I have been wondering what to wear. Those who know me will realise that this is somewhat unusual for me but we have been suffering from “brass monkeys” weather and how am I to know that it isn’t just the retribution of a merciless god on a heathen population. The same powerful being might have had a different attitude towards the Germans who have been very generously propping up the Euro for a substantial chunk of mainland Europe, as well as the occasional paradise isle. No point in me turning up in Germany in my thermals if shorts would be more suitable.

As it happens it looks like the weather is going to be the same in Hamburg as it is in Lincoln Station so the Germans must also have done something wrong. Hah!

So for me Google Now, right now is looking quite useful. I like the way that it tells me how long it would take me to drive home from wherever I am at any particular time in the same way that in the morning it tells me how long my drive to work is going to be. It also seems to vary its output based on traffic conditions.

It’s pretty cool. At this point in time I’m not worrying about the fact that it knows quite a bit about me though that is something I will have to keep an eye on. The fact that I can switch Google Now off doesn’t make much difference here because probably all that is doing is switching off the display mechanism and not the actual gathering of the data itself. I dunno.

Anyway I’ll keep you posted on my progress in Hamburg. Look out for a post on the world’s biggest model railway. Oh and there’s Euro-IX of course. A gathering of the world’s finest internet exchanges which I will be attending as a director of LONAP. I will report back.

Ciao baby.

Business mobile connectivity phones

year on year blog stats show huge growth in mobile users

Interesting to see how readership of this blog has changed year on year.

In March 12012 only 12% of visits came from mobile devices. By March 2013 the figure was 35.5%. The number of visitors to the blog has also grown by 88% year on year (March 2012 – March 20131) so the actual real terms increase in readers accessing via a mobile device has increased by 458%.

I note that in 2012 the iPad was the most popular device followed by the iPhone and the SGS2. In 2013 this has changed to iPhone/iPad/SGS3 though there are so many variants of Samsung phones in use that if you add them all up the numbers for Android are roughly the same as for iOS.

There were very few visits from the Nokia Lumia series and none from the Blackberry Z10.

1 year on year for the full year numbers to the end of March have grown from 110k to 220k visits fwiw. It is only a small property as blogs go.

End User mobile connectivity online safety

Unwanted text messages from dodgy outfits

Just had two text messages in this morning. One made me smile. It was from Premier Inn (yes I no longer suffer Travelodge) reminding me of my booking and booking reference number. I thought that was good. “Like”.

The other was from an extremely dodgy looking outfit saying “Government Legislation allows any unaffordable debts to be legally written off. Reply Y for a callback or click and use our quick enquiry form”. The number was 07767169003.

Following the link takes you to a really dodgy looking site telling you nothing about who you are talking to. This really annoyed me – the opposite effect of the sms from the Premier Inn.

We the people really do need to get to grips with this.  In fact that statement about Government Legislation must surely be erring on the side of illegal. I think I will explore it and find out more.

End User mobile connectivity phones

Samsung Galaxy S4 launch – exclusive

Apparently today’s the day. The Samsung Galaxy S4 launch. A quick Google for “galaxy s4 release date” produces about 29,400,000 results. Lots of people writing stuff, trying to get on the bandwagon, attract traffic to their site. Dirty attention seekers! Bet they carry advertising :).

Regular readers will know I am a Samsung Galaxy S3 fan. It is a good phone. I have been trying out the Nokia Lumia 920 but it doesn’t really cut it. It isn’t that it is a bad phone. It’s just that its User Interface isn’t as good as the Galaxy.

My concern, and this isn’t particularly a big deal, is that the Galaxy S4 will just be an increment on the S3 in the same way that the iPhone 5 is just a small evolution from the iPhone 4. We will find out soon enough.

These gadgets are getting so good that we expect each new one to be a huge leap forward from the previous. One wonders1 how much further evolution there is in the smart phone.

That’s all. Just on my way to the Information Commissioner’s Office Technology Reference Panel meeting at the British Computer Society.

No such thing as a free launch.


1 I don’t really – just thought I’d say that.

Apps Engineer mobile apps mobile connectivity

AA wots goin on ere then? On Board Diagnostics – OBD

AA vanIOBD system used by the AA had occasion to call the AA this morning. I was out at the crack of before dawn to take in my usual swim on the way to work when knock me down with a thirty pound sledgehammer the car wouldn’t start. Never had a problem before but hey, stuff happens…

I called the AA at 7.40 am and was promised a van in my front drive at 8.40. Ok cool. I had my usual Weetabix with banana and before I knew it an sms came in on my Samsung Galaxy S3 telling me the AA man would arrive at 08.10. Very good. Impressivo.

OBD connectionFollowing breakfast I moved into the front room to keep an eye out for the van and at just before 08.40 it drove past. I must get the house number on the gatepost fixed. Walking out to the drive I saw the van drive past the other way – I definitely must get that number fixed !:)

At the third pass I flagged the van down and it pulled into the drive. Yay.

Fortunately the car didn’t start as soon as the AA man tried it. I had this irrational worry that once he got there there wouldn’t be anythingOBD crypton AA wrong with it. Out came his diagnostic kit and he set to work. Now this is really the point of this post. The AA man plugged a connector into a socket just below the steering column that I didn’t know was there, got his ruggedized tablet out and ran some tests.

Trying the engine again the car started straight away! Blimey!!

The AA man (I should have asked his name – it may be on the docket which is in the car but I can’t be bothered to go out and get it) showed me that there were no error codes and thatOBD toughbook basically there was nothing wrong with the car/engine. He suspects it was a low fuel pressure or at least a temperamental fuel pressure sensor. If the on board computer doesn’t think there is enough fuel pressure it won’t let the car start. The car deciding to start was nothing to do with the plugging in of the OBD kit. It is now ok again.

The worry of course is that this might happen again. I didn’t want to keep thrashing the battery to start the car in case it ran it flat (fwiw) and itwon’t really be any different another time though there is a scenario where if the car isn’t going to start it doesn’t matter what the state of the battery is..

The information obtainable via the OBD interface was impressive. I could in real time see the changes to the fuel pressure as I pressed my foot on the accelerator. I’m sure there must be a market for an application that streams data from the engine management system to a cloud based data base that would allow me to observe the trends related to what is happening with my car engine. It might help me to spot problems before they happen and mean I’m less likely to miss my swim in the morning.

This is a machine to machine big data job with a mobile data SIM connected to the engine management system. It would be very simple to add a tracking function to this as well.

This may be available but I’ve not seen it. Car tracking systems seem to be more about recovering stolen vehicles and spying on your truck drivers to make sure they aren’t slacking than anything related to anticipating problems with the car. In itself this is fine but more could be done.

You could use the same SIM for in car internet browsing whilst on the go. Not for the driver but maybe for the kids use with an iPad to keep them entertained on a journey.

Anyway that’s my threppence halfpennyworth. The car is fine now Praise Be!

Engineer mobile connectivity voip voip hardware

Timico mobile VoIP app now available on Apple App Store

I started to look at mobile VoIP clients a good 8 or 9 years ago. At the time the handsets were near enough useless – battery life was rubbish and the processors lacked the oomph to properly run a SIP user agent.

The advent of the modern day smart phone has changed all this, together with years of development effort put in to improve the soft clients themselves.

Now, most of us have a VoIP client on our phone – almost certainly Skype, maybe 3CX, Bria or Eyebeam. I stopped counting the number of low cost VoIP calling services that you might use as the target for the mobile VoIP client.

Many desktop VoIP clients are not supported on mobile. So if you use MSN or Facebook or Google+ or Lync even their mobile clients almost certainly do not support voice but are just used for presence and Instant Messaging.

The dwindling list of vendors of Unified Comms equipment offer their own mobile VoIP clients, which necessarily have better functionality than those I’ve just mentioned from the major platforms. Ask Avaya or Mitel about it and they will proudly show off their solution. These vendor specific solutions usually use a third party soft client tailored to their specific need. Bria from Counterpath is one and MobileMax is another.

I am very proud to announce that Timico has introduced its own mobile VoIP client . There are some clear differentiators from the generic soft phones mentioned earlier and used with hosted solutions.

First of all the user’s account is tied to the employer’s VoIP subscription, so the desktop extension and DDI is the same as the mobile. The user interface is also similar to that of the soft client running on the desktop and is controlled using the same familiar portal. Mobile users can not only speak and do video calls with other users of the network, but are able the see the availability of others

There is more to the technology that goes in to making a successful mobile VoIP client than is at first apparent. A little technology primer might serve a useful purpose here. When you speak into a telephone you are using an analogue broadcast service, i.e. your voice. In order to get to the telephone at the far end this analogue signal is converted into data packets (i.e. digitised) and then transmitted using computer networking technology, in our case Internet Protocol and the layers of networking technologies that come under its umbrella.

The sent packets have to traverse a number of hurdles in the guise of different networks and routers before arriving at their intended destination (next door, Australia – anywhere connected to the internet). Voice is very time sensitive. You really notice the difference if there is a delay between the person at the other end speaking and you hearing it, and vice versa. Slow or poor quality hops in the network can affect the quality of the user experience.

Use of mobile networks for VoIP transmission comes with its own specific issues. 3G is a notoriously latency ridden data service and a number of mobile operators actually block VoIP services (although they are far from transparent in their approach to this). It is too early to assess the practical usability of 4G because there is only one service provider in the market and that network will be only lightly used. The issue of cost of bandwidth over a mobile carrier network has also historically made VoIP impracticable in many cases.

WiFi is the sensible alternative. Although even WiFi comes with its own issues with Ethernet style best efforts transmission. Packets that collide with other packets don’t arrive at their destination. The busier the local WiFi network, the more likely you are to suffer from poor quality voice.

In practical terms this is likely to mean if you are sitting in an office with many hot desks where WiFi is the principal means of connecting to corporate resources, then that network is likely to become congested. This congestion may not be particularly noticeable to laptop users just doing emails or general web use.

A congested WiFi network that is ok for most uses might not be good for VoIP. In an office environment this can be engineered around, by creating more cells/hotspots each with fewer users. At home there is far less likely to be a problem although VoIP packets in this scenario are more likely to be using the open internet for transmission.

A VoIP phone is actually a computer that looks like a phone. Fortunately the lost packet compensation and packet processing techniques used in modern mobile VoIP clients (smart phones/computers) are able to overcome many “noisy” environmental scenarios, or at least go a long way towards mitigating their effects.

Timico’s announcement today comes after some time working with partners (Genband) to develop the soft-client. The app is available on the Apple App Store  to existing (and new!) Timico VoIP customers and is a piece of cake to install – use of our Mobile Endpoint Provisioning (MEP) portal means all the user has to do is enter a username and password and they are up and running.

The MEP is worth further mention. With the MEP comes the ability to change mobile client settings on-the-fly which provides the Timico operations team with a critical tool for managing your mobile VoIP solution in near real time. There are over 200+ settings that the MEP controls, including default codec selection, NAT traversal settings and the keep-alive timer value.

There are often deployments where we might initially need to make adjustments to these settings to suit the environment in which you use the service. We can do this transparently and without requiring interaction with the end-users.

Another feature to our service that is designed to provide the optimum user experience is our Client QOS notification. The mobile client analyses the RTCP statistics in real time. Should these stats fall below predefined thresholds then the user will receive a notification informing them of ‘network quality issues’.

I’ve been around polling some of the early users and got the following comments:

  • “I’ve ditched my deskphone and now just use the iPhone app”
  • “Connects very quickly”
  •  “I was sat in Starbucks in Canada and used it to call the office”

I’m sure that I will have previously mentioned that last year we won the ITSPA Award for the best Enterprise Unified Comms service. This mobile client adds nicely to that existing feature-rich service set. It’s going to be a terrific tool for people who need to make calls out of the office but don’t want to pay extortionate roaming charges or use their own phones.

Because the VoIP service is tied to their company’s business account then all calls just appear on the standard monthly bill. Calls to other internal VoIP users are of course free.

So there we have it. The mobile VoIP client has finally come into the world of reliable, serious business strength communications. If you want to try the service check it out here .  Press release yurr1.

1 note South Walian accent

4g Business mobile connectivity ofcom

4G spectrum auctions – bidders include BT

Trefor DaviesOfcom has announced the bidders in the 4G spectrum auctions. There are seven in total. Thought about bidding myself but I didn’t really have a firm plan of what to do with it if we managed to secure the spectrum.

The bidders include all the ones you would have expected – EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 in their various official corporate guises. Also PCCW who already offer a limited 4G fixed line replacement service in the UK. Then we have a company called MLL Telecom which has existing mobile spectrum licenses and provides managed networks  in the UK.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, otherwise known as BT. This business was only registered in June of this year and has already had two name changes: initially BT Facilities Services Limited (until sept 2012) and then BT Ninety-Two Limited (changed only last month).

I don’t have any inside track here – BT is being very tight lipped regarding their plans – but if I were a betting man I’d say this was another step on the road to BT becoming a fully fledged mobile network operator, again.

At some stage after divesting itself of Cellnet BT realised it needed to be in mobile and so is now an MVNO, partnering with Vodafone.  Buying 4G spectrum would be a natural step forward here.

Modern 4G kit is very flexible and can carry multiple operators networks – both in the modem and in VLANs applied to the various backhaul circuits. BT, with its own spectrum would be able to easily launch 4G services piggy backing on someone else’s existing infrastructure and the company has good relationships with both Voda (through the MVNO) and EE from its work in the Cornwall superfast broadband project.  Indeed the company won an award earlier this year for demonstrating the solution that could be used in a country wide 4G rollout.

It would be a big move for BT, upping its mobile ante, especially as the incumbent mobile operators are fighting a headwind of revenue erosion, but converged networks are the way forward and for a company of BT’s size it has to have a mobile play.

That’s my bet and I’m sticking with it. We will find out soon enough.

Engineer mobile connectivity

Train WiFi – the unexpurgated truth (as far as I can see it)

test data for WiFi versus O2 cellular on Eastcoast trains - click for full size imageThe only sensible way to travel to central London is by train. Whilst it isn’t cheap it is fast and has the benefit of allowing you to usefully use the time doing work and of course tweeting and writing blog posts.

I was tweeting away during one such trip and one of my pals, @HmmmUK, suggested I write a post on the connectivity on board the train. This is that post (said in a dramatic booming sort of voice).

Finding out all about the service was easy. Icomera, the company that provides it, proudly boasts about it on their website. I had thought it was satellite based but surprisingly it is based on a combination of satellite and 3G.

The connectivity is based on the good old “Moovbox M800” which you may not have known “provides a central network connection moovbox m800 - it's a cool name - thanks to Icomera for the picfor all the real-time communication needs of urban and suburban rail systems…

…combining up to eight cellular WAN radios with an aggregated downlink speed up to 28Mbps (in our dreams). The Moovbox will automatically change between network types including HSPA, 3G UMTS, EDGE and GPRS to deliver the best connection possible depending on network availability. The M800 can also be configured with a DVB-S satellite module for connectivity in areas where terrestrial networks and unavailable. Each cellular radio supports two SIMs allowing it to switch between different cellular providers and thus the best available network. Where a track-side or depot Wi-Fi network is present the Moovbox will use this as a preferred backhaul alternative at speeds up to 54Mbps.”

Icomera is a Swedish company which explains why I’ve occasionally had Swedish language adverts pushed to me when using the service. The ground station is in Sweden with a Swedish IP address.

To make this post a little more interesting I decided to test the on board WiFi against the O2 sim in my phone. I did this on a 2 hour 20 minute journey between Lincoln and London Kings Cross (the train was late – it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours 5 mins 🙂 ). After Newark I did continuous testing using on both laptop WiFi and phone sim.

Although I tried to start each test at the same time in reality one normally took longer than the other so the finishing times do not coincide. I managed 88 cellular tests but only 55 using the WiFi which suggests that the WiFi tests took longer to perform.

This is borne out from the average results which were better for O2 than for the WiFi.

Average Download Speed bps Average Upload Speed bps Average Latencys ms
O2 mobile data 2002 872 203
On train WiFi 985 618 231

The recording process was not perfect. We have to remember that I was hurtling through the English autumnal countryside at 125mph for much of the time (must have been less than that seeing the train was late) and there were times when the speed test stalled due to no connectivity and continued when it picked up a signal once again.

It felt like it did this more often for the O2 sim which you could understand losing connectivity in parts of the countryside whereas the satellite should have had a continuous connection. That said the fact that I was able to perform more speed tests with the former is telling. Of course it may have been down to more people on the train using the WiFi than their cellular connection but I can only report my own experiences. The numbers speak for themselves.

Cellular WiFi
Fastest Download (bps) 6176 3930
Fastest Upload (bps) 3233 1580

Although I do use the on train WiFi I have on occasion resorted to the cellular connection in my laptop (O2 in phone, Vodafone in laptop) and whilst this test used O2 not Voda I suspect what it is telling me is that it makes more sense not to bother with the onboard WiFi and just stick to the mobile networks.

It also makes me wonder what sort of cellular connectivity they have on the Moovbox M800. I guess must have a lot of people hooked to it on that train!?  They must use some sims because the latency seems low for a satellite only connection. In fact thinking about it I wonder if they used a satellite at all on my trip?

Icomera looks like it has established a nice little niche in transport based connectivity but I suspect that passenger expectations in the UK have overtaken what Eastcoast is providing.

That’s all for now – click on the header image for a full size graphical representation of the test results. You will see that there are many more “good” results for the cellular connection than the WiFi. Also it’s no surprise that the best cellular readings come when the train is in or near a station.

broadband End User mobile connectivity

When did you last phone “home”?

Landline use in decline

Landline use seems to be in decline. When I got into the office this morning I called home. I’d lost a tie and thought I might have dropped it on our drive.

When I want to call someone my usual way is to go to the logs on my phone and click on the relevant number/name. As often as not the person I want to talk to is high up on the list of recent calls – wife, kids, stockbroker, shrink (etc).

I called my wife’s mobile. She didn’t answer. So I called “Home”. I had to scroll a very long way down the list of logs to find Home. In fact I last called Home at 20.08 on the 1st November. 70 calls or text messages down the list. Anne answered the Home phone and you will be happy to know that she found the tie, a very smart blue bow tie, and has it safe in the house.My point is that we are using our landline less and less. Typically for calls to grandparents. I’ve even taken to answering the home phone by saying “Newport Arch Chinese Restaurant” as quite often its a scammer on the other end of the line.

Everyone in our house has a mobile phone. All the adults are on all you can eat plans and it makes no different whether we use the fixed or mobile phone. Nobody rings me on the Home phone. The kids rarely use their phone for voice calls. They either text their friends or they use it to access the internet for Facebook Messaging. The youngest often goes online on the XBox if he needs to chat to a friend!

I’d like to bet that for a large proportion of the population the landline number is hardly used at all and is effectively only there because you need a landline to get Broadband.

There have occasionally been calls for BT (Openreach) to provide data only lines, known as “naked DSL” without the costs and overhead of the voice service. BT has always pushed back on this, saying there is no demand and that the costs would not be greatly reduced.

It would be interesting to see how many households don’t use their landline at all. My bet is that millions of us would put our hands up and voluntarily relinquish possession of our old fashioned phone. It might be worth having the debate…

4g Business mobile connectivity

4G cost an issue?

4G EE LTEI note the Beeb is reporting today that people are saying the cost of signing up to an EE 4G plan is too high.

There are always going to be whingers. Either people will like the pricing or they won’t. It’s a straight business decision on the part of EE. Network operators are under constant margin pressure because they have chopped their pricing too much in the past. 4G represents an opportunity to build value into their businesses.

My biggest concern is how successful they will be in adding additional margin generating services to their portfolios. If you look at the EE pricing then everyone gets unlimited voice and texts and they are just offering variable charging based on data consumption. On its own this isn’t enough but I’m not sure I see networks successfully adding other services that people are willing to pay for.


4g End User mobile connectivity phones

iPhone5 – why would you want to buy it? #4G #LTE

The iPhone5 est arrive. This year has seen a long list of major events come and go. Now it’s the turn of the iPhone5. Ordinarily this would do nothing for me. From what I can see the spec, in the main, is no better than the Samsung GalaxyS3. I’m not a zombie fanboi, activated by keywords in Apple marketing material, programmed to obey unquestioningly, asking only how much money to profer on the altar of the fruit.

The one feature that the iPhone5 has that makes me think about getting it is support for 1,800MHz. This is a massive coup for EE (eh?). We don’t have a real list of LTE alternative handsets yet. All the main manufacturers are on the list. I don’t want two S3s (my current phone is an S3 on O2) and I don’t see a compelling enough reason to go Lumia.

My attitude to Lumia might change when Windows8 is properly launched but for the moment it aint. So it looks like iPhone5 then.

I’m not totally convinced. Do I really want to toss my principles aside for the sake of using a LTE service that won’t work in my home town using a handset that won’t roam on any other network?

Business mobile connectivity

iPad tracked whilst on TNT overnight delivery

tracking photo of iPad loaded onto lorry at the TNT depotWill Curtis is a hard working boy. He is to be found out and about around the country installing, fixing, advising, surveying and performing other general communications industry related engineering tasks.

Last night, somewhere in deepest Britain, he pitched up at  a specialist purveyor of overnight succour, a little home from home for the next three days. Blow me down, settling into a small lime juice in the bar, the lad realised that he had left his iPad at home.

Now Will uses some work applications on his iPad. The iPad also uses a secure Timico SIM to connect to our corporate network. He called Fiona in the office and arranged for it to be delivered overnight to his hotel.

When it was shipped the iPad had GPS enabled and Will was able to track its physical progress using his iPhone and the “Find my iPhone ” app. The photos show the progress this morning from the TNT depot to the hotel. V cool if you ask me.

Imagine the relief on Will’s face when he   turned up in the hotel reception to greet the courier and pick up his parcel.

In fact Will would have been able to time his breakfast (All Bran with fruit and semi-skimmed milk) knowing the exact location of the delivery van. On the screen of his phone he could watch the ipad “drive” into the car park and, I imagine, dab his lips with his (crisp white) napkin rising from the table only as the courier was getting out of the vehicle.

As the parcel was coming up the steps to the hotel front entrance Will nodded his thanks to the waitress and strode purposefully to reception.

Damned efficient. More pics below

End User mobile connectivity phones

Monthly mobile data usage August using Samsung Galaxy S3

August mobile data usage using Samsung Galaxy S3It’s been a busy month on the mobile internet usage, what with the Olympics and being on holiday. So far this month, and it is pretty much over, I have consumed just shy of 20GB of internet bandwidth using my Samsung Galaxy S3. That’s 2.40GB of 3G/mobile data and 17.13GB using WiFi.

My hard drive tells me I have taken 9.38GB of photos and videos and I’m sure there are a few sound files on top of that though they won’t contribute much towards the total.

The first screenshot shows the applications that were the heaviest mobile data users.

Note that Gallery is the number one user by far. I like the way that Android pulls down albums from my online Google+ store but clearly there is a price to pay for this with the data usage.

At number two Tweetdeck comes as no surprise and I’m thinking OS Services must mean operating system upgrades and / or general system management though I’m not totally sure about this. I’d normally save any major OS upgrades for WiFi.

During the month I did a lot of speed testing which shows up in the stats as that app came in fourth.August WiFi data usage from Samsung Galaxy S3

Straight internet access/web browsing was only the 6th most popular activity! In total 56 apps used the mobile data connection to some extent in August!

The next screenshot is of the WiFi usage from the phone.

Obviously it was used a lot more when in range of WiFi.

You can see that the amount of photographs taken is reflected in the usage of Google+.

I also took advantage whenever I had good WiFi, as I did in a number of places around London, to upload videos to YouTube. This way I could easily embed a video in a blog post at a later date whilst on the hoof.

In all 55 apps used the wifi connection in August.

The next screenshot is somewhat revealing and in some respects tells me I need to get a life.

I spent nearly 26 hours in the month using Tweetdeck wtf?! That’s almost an hour a day.

time spent using data connectivity in August

16 and a half hours using chrome. Interesting to note that the times spent on specific applications haven’t resulted in those apps beign the heaviest users of mobile data. Shows how light Twitter traffic in particular is.

Then it was nearly 14 hours using TouchWiz which is the Samsung user interface. All that time spent prodding the phone. I’ don’t know how much time is allocated per prod but this seems to be a lot.

Maps I can understand – that four hours is probably a couple of car journeys.

I’m not sure I know what to do with all this information but it is certainly food for thought.

You can see from the pics that the app I used to gather all this data is My Data Manager. It’s great. Go get it and let me know about your own usage.