Wednesday, 27 August 2014

End To UK Mobile Phone Blackspots

For a small island, we have a lot of blackspots when it comes to mobile signal. It's not limited to rural areas either, you'll find these small dead zones in and around our major cities, too. This could soon become a thing of the past though, thanks to a new plan allowing networks to be shared.

Ministers want to make it possible for users to automatically switch to other networks when they lose signal from their current provider. A kind of 'national roaming' if you will. If it goes ahead will be the first scheme of its kind anywhere in the world.

Operators have previously opposed the plans citing that it reduces incentive for them to put masts in areas with low population. Culture secretary, Sajid Javid has countered this by offering to charge reduced fees for a range of radio frequencies, in return helping to pay for shared networks.

David Cameron has been pushing for increased coverage in reception for rural areas for quite some time. The matter was raised again this year after the PM reportedly lost signal in Norfolk on a number of occasions.

Some networks already have mast sharing arrangements, and there is no reason to doubt the technical feasibility of expanding such operations.

Sources from within Whitehall concede, though, "Why should an operator that has invested a significant amount in providing great coverage in a particular area be forced to share that with a competitor who may come in and offer a cheaper deal? That's the sort of question that needs to be worked through."

One insider at a major mobile phone company warns that national roaming "would be a disaster for consumers", and has been rejected in other countries with good reason. "Rural Britain could be pushed back into a pre-digital dark age as no mobile company would be incentivised to invest in the latest mobile broadband communications. It would take years to work through the regulatory and legal processes as well as adding a layer of red tape for councils."

Another source said "This is bad for customers, bad for the country as a whole and bad for the industry. This may sound easy to do but it effectively builds a network that is designed to drop calls."

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport said "The government has made it clear that it wants to ensure the UK has world class mobile phone coverage as part of our investment in an infrastructure for the long term economic plan. We are investing up to £150 million to improve mobile phone coverage in areas where there is currently no coverage from any of the mobile network operators. Of course we want to look at what can be done in areas with poor coverage."

Despite concerns of call dropping, and causing a 'race to exit' situation, whereby companies would close masts that could be served by another carrier, Mr Javid remains committed to the plans.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Google Glass Prototype To Be Made Available In Britain

Glass, the controversial high tech glasses that caused a stir last year in the US will be arriving on British shores it has been revealed.

The new gadget, a cross between a pair of spectacles and a smartphone, will go on sale at £1,000. The device is described by Google as "a wearable computing device designed to make it easier to bring people the technology they need without distracting them from the world around them."

Glass users have the ability to search online, read messages and perform other commands using a tiny screen that appears in the corner of the wearer's right eye. The device is operated using a mixture of voice commands, eye movement and touching the frame of the glasses.

Initially a few thousand people will be able to road test an early version of Glass. Google will gather information from these early adopters to iron out bugs and flaws in the device before it goes on sale.

Head of Google Glass, Ivy Ross said "We want it to get it better before it goes on sale to a wider audience." He added, most current users are using Glass to record videos and take pictures and get directions through the map feature.

Many are excited about the potential of Google Glass, but we have already seen fierce opposition to the technology. The term "Glassholes" has appeared in the US to describe users of the device who user it in an intrusive, obnoxious or creepy fashion. There have been several cases where people have been told to leave restaurants and other social environments for using the device inappropriately. Others have banned wearing of the Glass outright.

Earlier in the year a ticket was issued to a motorist in California for wearing Google Glass while driving. The case was later dismissed.

Google have released an etiquette guide for users, offering advice such as "standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people is not going to win you any friends". Whether people in the UK will have the same reaction we have seen across the pond is yet to be seen.

Glass will be available in a number of framing options, and can be test driven at Google's new £1 billion UK headquarters near King's Cross, London.