I’ve been getting updates re the O2 4G rollout schedule.
29th August – London, Leeds, Bradford
27th September – Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Coventry
17th October – Liverpool
24th October- Glasgow
31st October – Manchester
19th November – Newcastle, Edinburgh, Huddersfield and Wetherby
I’m not sure how the logic works for this rollout. I can understand how networks go for the big metropolitan areas first to get the biggest bang for their early buck. How did Huddersfield and Wetherby slipped into this list? Either there is a little dice rolling going on or someone accidentally pushed the wrong button. Maybe some Telefonica director has a holiday home in Huddersfield? Plausible. Don’t diss the thought 🙂
I look forward to seeing my home town Lincoln on the list. It is very close to being announced by EE – there is a 4G signal in the city. I happen to know that one cell site is already up and running with two more in the pipeline. Watch this space.
Check out the O2 and Vodafone 4G test trip in London here.
Google 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.
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.
It’s offical, at this Best Western Hotel, 4G is best 🙂
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 🙂
It’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.
I’d like you to hold out an arm at full stretch with your little finger sticking out. Left or right arm – it doesn’t matter which. In the mid 80s I went to see Bruce Springsteen at Roundhay Park in Leeds. There was an enormous queue of cars coming off the M1 to get there and we eventually had to abandon ours in a side street and walk the rest of the way. When we got to the park it was packed and we were so far from the stage that Bruce was half the height of the fingernail that you see before you, assuming you followed instructions 🙂
Last night at the Rolling Stones concert at the O2 was a different story. Thanks to the generosity of O2 we had great tickets – maybe two cricket pitch lengths from the front of the catwalk. Mick Jagger was two or three times the size of that fingernail.
You’ll all have read or heard the reviews already so there’s no need for me to go in to detail. I will say that Mick’s voice was incredible showing no signs of age. Although most of the band looked pretty shrivelled the quality of the entertainment was top notch and we got to see Bill Wyman, Mick Turner and Jeff Beck join them at various stages of the evening.
The O2 as a venue has to be the best place I’ve been to see a concert. The sound quality is great and it is really easy to pop to the bar to bring drinks back to your seats. We had access to the O2 lounge which meant we could check our coats in and grab a couple of cocktails before the band came on stage. The lounge also has a lift that takes you up to just behind where your seats are. Life is made easy.
The only disappointment of the night was that they didn’t play “Satisfaction”. Apparently they were running late and hit the hard stop time of 23.00hrs. They were on stage for nigh on 2hours and 30 mins which is good going at the age of seventy.
After the gig we hit the O2 lounge again and just managed to catch the last westbound tube at 23.45. Would have been a bit of a problem had we missed that. There is no way we could have caught a cab with that many people there.
The short tube ride into town was a story in itself. We were crammed in like vacuum packed sardines – not the ordinary tinned variety swimming in tomato sauce. I wanted to take a photo but my phone had run out of juice so a friendly Dutchman named Robert Jan Pabon did the honours and then emailed it to me. The power of communication. Robert was there with his wife Katja. Lovely couple. We got very close, on the tube – there was no choice :). Thanks for the pic Robert. Have a safe trip back to Holland.
The guy in the photo is Dan Cunliffe from O2. Top bloke. You have to hand it to O2. They know how to do business.
It strikes me as I write that the world has changed massively since the Stones started their careers. At the time there would have been no Personal Computers – we are talking almost back to the days of Colossus at Bletchley Park. No mobile phones, no internet. Even the TV probably had only two or three channels (all you need) and was in black and white. All they really had was sex and drugs and rock and roll. Ahh the good old days…
I’ll leave you with the observation that it’s been a weekend of gigs – the Rolling Stones last night preceded by Bellowhead at the Engine Shed in Lincoln on Friday. Bellowhead were fantastic and I urge you to go and see them. I bought their LP – my first vinyl purchase for perhaps 25 years. Apparently it’s coming back into fashion. Get with it you lot.
Thanks again to O2 for a terrific Sunday evening out. Quality.
You will no doubt remember the case of evil villain ACS Law where consumers were bullied into stumping up cash with the threat of being taken to court for online copyright infringement. Victims often had no idea of the legality of what ACS Law was doing or where the burden of proof lay and often found it easier to just pay up rather than fight their case in court.
The spectre of ACS Law has been released from its high security bottle, has morphed into a new disguise and is once more on the prowl for hapless victims. The name of this new ghoul is Golden Eye. Just hearing that name should make you shudder.
Golden Eye are trying, through the courts, to compel Telefonica UK to release personal information about O2 customers so that they can spam them with speculative claims about copyright infringement and perhaps grab a quick settlement fee. Golden Eye are not the copyright owners, but rather hold an ‘enforcement-only’ license with no specific mandate from the 12 other porn studios who they act for.
The Open Rights Group is trying to intervene on behalf of O2 customers. This isn’t about stopping copyright owners pursuing their legal rights although in my mind it is not easy to provide a high enough standard of evidence to prove guilt here. It’s about privacy. The case is currently at the appeal stage because the judge initially did not sanction the handing over of some of the data saying:
“that would be tantamount to the court sanctioning the sale of the intended Defendants’ privacy and data protection rights to the highest bidder. Accordingly, in my judgment, to make such an order would not proportionately and fairly balance the interests of the Other Claimants with the Intended Defendents’ interests.”
Golden Eye apparently takes around 75% of the revenues collected.
There is more detail on the ORG website. I guess the real point of this post is to encourage you you help ORG with their legal costs in pursuing this case by making a donation. In particular if you are an ISP it is in your interest to stop this kind of company coming along and worrying your customers on a speculative basis.
I have made a donation on behalf of Timico and encourage you to follow suit. There is a “donate” button on the ORG site and I repeat the link here.
The 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 for 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 speedtest.net 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
On train WiFi
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.
Fastest Download (bps)
Fastest Upload (bps)
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.
EE is doing a good job at building up market expectation. Today the mobile network operator launched its pricing plans, available from the end of this month.
Consumers can have unlimited calls and texts with 500MB of data for £36. Remembering that I used 60MB of data in one minute on the O2 LTE trials I suspect that not many people will stay on this plan. The options are:
I assume that this comes with a phone though it isn’t clear. Their site suggests you can get the Nokia Lumia 920, 820, Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE and Note 2 LTE, HTC One XL and the iPhone5 plus a few other also rans (sorry).
If you use up your data allowance you won’t be able to access the internet until you buy a data add-on (ok). It isn’t entirely clear but it looks like the cost of a data add on is £6 for 500MB or £15 for 2GB so it makes sense to get your plan right in the first place.
I note there is a roaming package for £5 a month though this doesn’t seem to apply to data which in my mind is what I am most likely to use when roaming – checking restaurants, bars, local attractions (library locations etc).
The speeds are quoted at 8 – 12Mps on average.
It also looks as if they will not be blocking VoIP
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?
The Ofcom decision to allow Everything Everywhere to launch an LTE (4G) service on its existing 1,800MHz spectrum has resulted in lots of press coverage this week (here’s me in the the Telegraph) and complaints from the other operators who have to wait for the auctions in the new year.
I can see both sides of the argument and like it or not I agree with the Ofcom decision to let them get on with the launch. We have to get these services out there so we can all start using them. I expect there to be no further delays in the auction process after this.
The big question in my mind is what the LTE packages are going to look like. I could be wrong but I sense that EE is not going to launch very fast services because speed uses up more of the spectrum. My bet is that the services will be perhaps 10 or 15Mbps using smaller chunks of spectrum and not the whizz bang speeds the technoogy can actually achieve.
10 – 15Mbps is still a lot faster than what we have already and allows the operator to offer faster services downstream without having to change its infrastructure. EE could alternatively offer the faster services at launch but at a premium. When it comes to it we don’t actually need 40Mbps (say) on our phones. What we will notice is the faster response rate at 10 – 15Mbps than we currently get.
Offering a speed that is not orders of magnitude faster than the existing services will also help prevent network congestion although the EE infrastructure has had a huge capacity upgrade in readiness for the launch.
The other interesting thing to look out for will be the pricing or more specifically how much data usage you will get for your money. Also which handsets will be supported?
Not long to wait now. Although Timico is an O2 and Vodafone house I will be getting myself an EE 4G SIM to play with.
I was back in my London pied a terre garret last week – the Kings Cross Traveloge (header photo is view from my room lifted from their promotional literature). I was heading out to dinner for the evening but hooked up to the O2 LTE trial service to finish off some stuff.
I was getting 15Mbps down which was good. Seeing as I was going to be out all evening I decided to run a usage test based on 5 video streams. I loaded 3 iPlayer and 2 ITV streams (for a bit of variety – no other reason though I’d consider myself more of a BBC man than ITV – it’s Blue Peter versus Magpie for those of a certain age) and watched the usage grow.
The screenshot below is at the beginning. I’d been online for 39 mins and in that time downloaded 135MB.
In the wifi hotspot game first mover advantage is becoming critically important. Experience shows that landlords everywhere are initially happy to allow a network provider into their mall/stadium/building. Once in however they decide they don’t want the hassle of doing it again or don’t really like the infrastructure they are now stuck with but have to keep.
As a result there is a market for the first movers in reselling capacity or subletting space on their infrastructure. We are therefore seeing a land grab in places around the world where operators are snapping up as many sites as they can.
In London The Cloud is looking at 1 hotspot per 200 persons. Time Warner is putting 15,000 wifi access points in Los Angeles and PCCW have 10,000 hotspots in Hongkong where peak time traffic has 50% going over wifi instead of mobile networks. For PCCW in Hong Kong their resold wholesale wifi capacity is their single biggest revenue stream1.
Continuing with the day’s theme of the O2 LTE (4G) trials I found myself back in the Devonshire Arms with Cliff Saran of Computer Weekly. I’ll leave most of the story to Cliff and his column but I herewith provide you with the video footage of 4 more iPlayer streams – we could have streamed more but screen size becomes an issue.
At the Piazza in Covent Garden I uploaded a 298MB video in eight minutes at 9Mbps uplink speed.
In the Devonshire Arms I videoed the process of setting up the iPlayer streams and then uploaded that video again to YouTube so that we could compare performance with the Covent Garden upload.
In an idle moment last night whilst simultaneously watching the snooker and browsing Twitter I asked the important question of our time. Does anyone have a favourite agricultural equipment? This was totally random but it was amazing how many people responded – all blokes.
Rob immediately came back and said “David Brown tractor” as his dad used to build them. That’s cool especially as it turns out David Brown used to own Aston Martin (hence DB5) and Lagonda. I wonder how many gears that tractor has.
I thought plough had a certain earthiness to it. Note the video at the bottom of this post was taken in October 2010 just outside Lincoln (England) at the World Ploughing Championships. Check it out and note the O2 LTE upload medium.
Did you know1 that LTE was launched in the USA in December 2010 where a most aggressive competition between operators has been taking place, led by Verizon? In the USA LTE has high penetration across all devices, comes at no premium over 3G data services and LTE users typically use around 50% more data than 3G users.
LTE was also launched in Germany in December 2010 but has had a slow adoption rate with the initial focus being on fixed/mobile substitution. This I understand is in part due to regulations ensuring that owners of LTE bandwidth have to service “the final third” as part of their licensing arrangements. There isn’t much of a choice of devices on LTE in Germany.
South Korea was relatively late to the game here. They launched in July 2011 but had nationwide coverage by mid 2012 and has the highest penetration rate, focussed mainly on selling to consumers. LTE has brought innovative new services to the South Koreans eg richer high quality interactive maps.
Norralorrapeople know this. Brings the scheduling of 4G in the UK into perspective doesn’t it?
This chart is a few months old now but I haven’t had it all that long and is still interesting to take a look at (click either pic to enlarge).
It shows the growth in O2 3G data traffic between 2008 and 2011. See the spike when the iPad was introduced combined with the football world cup traffic (dunno why anyone bothers!).
I don’t have an up to date one which would probably be even more interesting but I suspect that is too close for commercial comfort.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be covering two main themes. These are the Olympics Games and 4G. They are different though to some extent the technical aspects are very similar. Both subjects are going to be in our consciousness quite considerably from here on.
I’m not going to be blogging or tweeting over the Easter Holidays so see you all back on the 16th April, thoroughly refreshed and ready for the sensory onslaught that will be the run-in to London2012.
PS Thanks to O2 for the chart – keep the info coming guys – everyone is interested 🙂
4G is like lightning, it’s an eye opener and seriously enhances the mobile data experience. This post talks about the truly exciting O2 4G trials in London and thinks about how the technology is going to change the mobile game.
Mobile data is already an important feature in the business communication landscape. As an ISP we see demand for it in the area of machine to machine, rapid site deployment, backup solutions for Disaster Recovery scenarios and of course straightforward internet browsing and email access from mobile devices.
The strategic importance of mobile data has even led Timico to invest in an Ethernet connection direct into the O2 network. We can now offer mobile MPLS solutions that sit within the same environment as existing fixed line MPLS networks – ideal for businesses that need security in both fixed and mobile networks.
Over the last year or two in the UK the focus in fixed line broadband has been on Fibre To The Cabinet, or in marketing jargon Fibre Broadband. With downlink speeds of “up to”40Mbps (to be upgraded to 80Mbps this coming April) the technology is revolutionising how people use their broadband connection. Add in the growth in high quality streaming video and gaming services and it is easy to see how the additional available bandwidth will be consumed.
Until very recently the mobile world, in the UK at least, has remained firmly in the domain of 3G – a technology that now seems relatively stone aged compared with Fibre Broadband. HSDPA makes the experience more bearable but it is still many Mega-bits apart from its fixed line counterpart.
The mobile companies are poised to change all this with LTE (Long Term Evolution) otherwise known as 4G. Trials are being conducted in a small number of locations in the UK. Timico is the first O2 Service Provider partner to be invited onto their London trials I am pleased to be able to report on my experiences.
This service is like lightning. It’s fast, speedy, call it what you like it’s a life changer. It’s been one of those projects that has been a pleasure to be involved in.
With only 25 masts around central London coverage is nowhere near what you would describe as ubiquitous but this is only a trial. When in a coverage area the speeds are great.
I started off in McDonalds at Kings Cross with a dongle fresh out of the box. After installation of the software, which was easy, the dongle performed an automatic firmware upgrade, also easy, using its own 4G connection.
At McDonalds I was getting over 13Mbps down and 540Kbps up which in my mind was a bit disappointing though I’m not sure it should have been. I have experimented with O2s 4G at their offices in Slough and seen much faster speeds both up and down than this. In fact this speed at McDonalds is faster than I get from my home ADSL2+ connection so I couldn’t grumble.
I knew I could do better than this. Roaming around town on the top deck of a number 25 bus I got 15.5Megs down and amazingly 25Megs up – near Wardour Street. The ping times for all these measurements were impressive.
In torrential rain I moved around on foot dipping into various places to check out the speeds and moving generally towards known good hotspots.
In the end I took shelter in a pub called the Devonshire Arms on Duke Street, just off Oxford Street. Sat in the window and sipping a cup of tea I hit the jackpot with 40Megs down and 23 Megs up. I did various tests including varying the browser – Chrome was much better than IE. I also did video calls with both Timico’s own VoIP service and Skype.
The screenshot on the right is of four iPlayer daytime TV streams. The things you have to do to get a blog post written!
The highest I have seen recorded is 97Megs in the O2 Arena itself. The 2,600 MHz LTE itself will go to 150Megs but the dongle tech doesn’t currently support this. We do have to remember this is very much a test rather than a production rollout so it isn’t going to be perfect but even considering this the experience has been great.
There were a few observations to be made out of this trial. The raw speed I saw with O2s 4G was terrific when in good coverage areas. The amount of data you can download in a very small amount of time is going to change the game. In upgrading the dongle firmware for example I used 50MB in around a minute. If you consider that until recently a typical “fair use” policy for an “unlimited” data package was 500MB then you can see that the model is going to have to change. The backhaul capacity that mobile operators are going to have to build in to their networks is going to have to see growth measured in orders of magnitude.
Spectrum allocation for 4G rollout is going to be very important. At 2,600MHz the bandwidth you can get is much higher than at 800MHz, say. However the in-building penetration at the higher speed is not as good so the overall network design represents an interesting (though not insurmountable I’m sure) challenge for engineers. This makes the forthcoming Ofcom spectrum auction important – there is a mix of spectra that is going to be optimum for commercial success.
As a side note it is going to be interesting to see how much the operators are prepared to pay for spectrum – they all think they overpaid for 3G but the demand has not been there for most of the time that 3G has been around. It is different this time and people are starting to get used to paying for the bandwidth they use.
From an end user perspective the ability to have genuinely fast internet access on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone is going to change their experience. Whilst WiFi is becoming more common, at least in pubs, coffee shops and other public places the need to authenticate is still a nuisance. Also not having to wait whilst a screen loads up on your mobile phone needs to become a human right!
It is certainly going to drive more business into the mobile environment. Timico, for example, gives all its salesforce an iPad so that they can demonstrate Timico applications and our customer portal on the fly at a customer’s premises. An iPad with 40Megs of bandwidth all of a sudden becomes a low cost endpoint for a telepresence HD conferencing system.
The gaming experience is going to be great1. Who knows what mobility combined with high speed internet will do for that industry, freed from the shackles of the lounge or the bedroom. City wide action games? Orienteering for the 21st century?
The use of mobile technology for backup purposes will also extend into many more areas of businesses. Typically 3G is used where only low bandwidth is required or where any bandwidth is better than no bandwidth. 4G becomes a viable solution for offices – even company HQs.
Of course with many more people on a production 4G network the average speeds available may well come down but LTE really is a game changer.
It’s nice to to be in a position of being able to play with these new toys but there is a very serious business side to this. As those of you who have met me recently will probably know I’ve been testing the technology for a few weeks now – Timico is the first O2 service Provider partner to be given access to their 4G network. It forms part of the long term mobile data strategy of our business and follows nicely on from the direct connection into the O2 network I referred to at the start of the post.
I should finish off with a big thank you to O2 for including me in the trials. It’s good to be able to work with such a progressive partner.
1 I’m not a gamer but one of my kids would spend his entire live tethered to the Xbox. I have heard the tinny VoIP it emits.
The smartphone revolution continues. Probably the biggest single game changer has been the incorporation of the digital camera. We all have memories of photos taken during major world events, the Arab spring, the London riots and no doubt the coming London Olympics.
Photos of the mundane can be just as interesting and unexpected. I offer here some shots from an average week at the Timico coal face. I’ve omitted some of the more exciting pics because wanted to give you a real feel for day to day work at a business ISP.
I’ve left out any shot containing the datacentre or the 24×7 NOC because these have so much coverage of late that I have a feeling people want to see other aspects of the job.
Also there is no point here in mentioning the fact that we won an ITSPA Award because I did that in this post and Vint Cerf is covered here.
So there you go. It isn’t a glamorous life but somebody has to tread that mill. The hotel, Stapleford Park, might want to get an expert in to sort out the damp that is clearly visible on that drum.
I don’t always get to stay at this type of hotel – sometimes they are fully booked and I end up staying at the Kings Cross Travelodge as I did last night. There is a story behind that which I will share with you next week1but you can picture the scene – living like a duke one day and being woken up by incessant noise of tube trains and the beep of reversing lorries the next. I’ll also be posting about some of the content of the #Timico2012 customer conference. V interesting stuff from Cisco, and O2 in particular.
I don’t normally jump on a bandwagon although sometimes working for an ISP I get wind of juicy bits of network issues such as an exchange catching fire and might try and get in before the bandwagon has started to roll.
On this occasion the bandwagon is trundling down the hill at pace carrying news that O2 is including people’s mobile phone numbers in header information provided to websites visited by mobile users.
This was discovered by Lewis Peckover who has created a web page that tells you that kind of info is being left by your browser when you visit a site.
I took a look myself and drew a blank as you can see below
As I gaze into my crystal ball the mists are swirling, swirling. Now they are disappearing. Ah, it is all clear. I can see blue skies. I can see people dancing, holding aloft their smartphones and tablets. Waving. Everyone is happy. Where is this mythical land where the rivers flow with champagne/beer/cappucino (delete as appropriate)?
It is here, where you and I live. In Blighty. Home.
I have just come back from O2’s offices in Slough where I had a play with 4G on a laptop. The jpg in the header photo shows the download and upload performance. The speed varies but does go as high as 80 – 85Megs down.
The laptop I was using only needed 7Megs worth of bandwidth for its day to day activities – email, streaming HD etc so there is plenty of headroom when considering personal use. It is easy however to imagine this service being used as a replacement for fixed line bandwidth where a family would certainly use up all the bandwidth available. Also who knows what bandwidth hungry applications are round the corner. They will come.
The demo is impressive. The photo inset was taken from my Samsung Galaxy 2 so isn’t a screenshot and the quality could be better. It doesn’t matter. I watched Frozen Planet streaming in HD on iPlayer – no buffering, perfect quality.
O2 has recently announced 4G trials in an area of London between Kings Cross and the City. I am taking part. Watch this space for up to the minute information on 4G.
Being a progressive high technology company we have a department that is dedicated to coming up with new acronyms. Ok that’s not an entirely fair description of the marketing department – engineering also does it 🙂
We have been upping the ante on mobile products in the last year or so. The mobile world is rapidly moving on from merely the selling of phones, minutes and handsets (plus BlackBerry of course which has been an added value sell for years).
Unless you have been in a cocoon for the last six months (and you might)
How does a business cope with the proliferation of personal mobile devices in the office? Not just mobiles, but laptops and tablet computers too? The problem is not new, but it is growing.
Not so long ago consumers would peer in through the smoked glass panoramic windows of business to admire and envy the tools that were available to those inside. Access to the internet was for most people above a certain age first experienced at work. Their first PC, first mobile phone, first email, first mobile email! The list is a long one.
Today’s workplace is totally different. Staff bring in the toys they use at home and often frown or laugh at their employer’s old fashioned proffering. IT departments now gaze back out through the self-same floor to ceiling windows with reverse envy and spend their time worrying about the security of their network.
A study of a small business
I recently did some work with a UK company on their communications and cloud strategy. The company provided 67 of their 115 employees with a mobile phone; 50 BlackBerrys and 17 mid-range Nokias.
30 staff also carried with them their own personal mobiles. Of the 30, eight people also received a company phone and actually used their own phones for business purposes in preference to those supplied by the employer. A further seven staff who were not given company mobiles used their own phones to pick up company email making a total of 15 out of 30 personal mobiles that were used for work purposes.
In Westminster yesterday BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones chaired a Net Neutrality debate on a motion entitled:
“That this House agrees that traffic management is essential for the running of modern networks and that improved and enforceable transparency and market competition will ensure that consumers are protected from potentially negative effects.”
In an initial vote 50% of those present were in favour of the motion with perhaps 10 – 15% against but there was a twist.
Once upon a time there were fixed line communications and mobile communications. Then the internet raised its hand and believers said Internet Protocol communications will rule, OK. This we all know and in the early days at least the fixed providers were shaking.
Nowadays IP is everywhere. We are bombarded every day with new websites, services and products promising to revolutionise our lives. So much so that I have actually pulled back a yard from experimenting with the latest and greatest. This is because if I let it happen I would spend all my time looking at new services, most of which will never see the light of a second round of funding. These days I let other people’s ideas take proper root before getting interested.
Notwithstanding all this there are some clear trends. Smart Phones and tablets are taking over our lives. I’m particularly surprised at the latter,
Met with O2 and BE today for a general chat about the BE broadband network. They are pushing a wholesale offering and are now one of only four Tier 1 broadband wholesalers in the UK – BT, TalkTalk and Cable and Wireless being the others. Reality is I don’t see C&W doing much so probably there are only really three of them.
Telefonica has been backing BE and making not insignificant investments in their network. Their current ADSL2+ offering is competitive. The longer term question for them is really the same as for TalkTalk and that is how to leverage a new (ish) high capacity backbone once ADSL2+ becomes old hat and the world has moved on to greater and faster connectivity.
O2 tell us this morning that a flood has taken out the Burne House Paddington telephone exchange in London – they have 115 cell sites down as a result. Apparently fire engines have been seen pumping water out.
Funnily enough The Register is reporting a similar story but this time the Paddington Exchange is down because of a fire!
I suppose they could both be right – pump in water to put out fire – pump water back out afterwards!
It ain’t April 1st until tomorrow so it must be true.
5pm Wednesday – latest news is that the exchange will be down until midday on 2nd April – you heard it first on trefor.net !
The question is being asked “what are ISPs doing about voice?” This is particularly relevant as the market consolidates and B2B ISPs not only seek economies of scale but additional sources of revenues.
Timico was founded as a fully converged ISP from the outset. Early on we had to decide whether to simply white label services from other ISPs and ITSPs or do “get into manufacturing” and do it all ourselves.
At the outset there were no real white label VoIP options. You had to do it yourself. However there were plenty of ISPs providing Virtual ISP services.
FMC is really the nirvana where all networks finally converge. We are already experiencing it with internet connectivity – I keep up to date with facebook, twitter (and, ahem, of course work and email) via the internet connection on my mobile phone. We use both WiFi and 3G/GPRS to do this and whilst service can be intermittent it does work and is reasonably ubiquitous.
Convergence of voice over fixed and mobile networks is really the final piece of the jigsaw. Since Timico started selling VoIP services around 5 years ago we have been looking at FMC solutions. These have all been based on WiFi for the mobile piece.
At the board room of the Performing Rights Society in London today the great and the good of the UK Music industry met with representatives from the mainstream ISP community for an open discussion on how to handle illegal P2P music downloading.
Organisations represented included UK Music, BAC&S, PPL, PRS, MMF, MPA, MU, MCPS, MPG, Timico, ISPA, O2, Orange, AOL, Yahoo, BT, GlobalMix, LINX, Playlouder and KCom. I’m sure I’ve missed some out and you will have to work out for yourselves what some of the acronyms stand for.
I was essentially there on behalf of the Internet Service Providers’ Association to represent the smaller ISP community who have been left out of the talks up until now. Whilst the “big six” largest ISPs probably represent over 90% of the market the other ISPs, of which there are easily in excess of 300, do represent a “significant other”.
As much as anything the meeting was a “getting to know each others’ perspective” session but a few points in particular stuck in my mind.
We were not allowed to discuss commercial issues and there was a lawyer sat in the corner who interrupted whenever the conversation moved towards this area – the concern being that nobody wanted the meeting to be seen as price fixing. I understand that any initiatives up until now have failed because the Music Industry can’t agree on prices that will allow ISPs to make money out of offering legal music download services.
It was suggested by yours truly that to make the whole business model work there needed to be a wholesale provider that would make it easier for smaller businesses to participate. This wholesale provider would have sorted out the rats nest of copyright and licensing issues. Some larger ISPs had 5 corporate lawyers in a department exclusively dedicated to this area. What hope the rest of us!
There is clearly some way to go to get to a working solution although there was general agreement around the table that everybody wanted to help.
ISPs present were asked whether P2P traffic caused problems for them on their network. I stated that typically B2B ISPs did not throttle P2P traffic and customers were provided with a high quality experierience for which they paid a premium.
In the consumer space customers seem not prepared to pay for quality and thus in order to try and preserve a reasonable experience for “ordinary” applications such as browsing and email it is often standard practice for ISPs to throttle P2P traffic. In fact in fairness some ISPs publish these policies on their website. This touched a nerve with one Tier 1 ISP who avoided the word throttling using, instead, “traffic management” as a less contentious phrase.