Displaying items by tag: EE

Ofcom moves to ban sale of carrier-locked phones in the UK

Written on Wednesday, 28 October 2020 05:45

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has banned phone carriers from selling locked phones starting December 2021 in an effort to give people greater autonomy when it comes to switching between providers.

While operators such as Sky, Virgin, Three and O2 already sell unlocked phones, some of the UK’s other operators like Vodafone, Tesco and EE, still sell phones that need to be unlocked manually before users can switch to a different carrier.

According to Ofcom, the banning of this practice comes as a set of new measures are about to be launched. The telecoms watchdog found that more than a third of people in the UK who were against switching operators said that one of the contributing factors to their decision was that they were put off by having to go through the process of unlocking their phone. In the UK, unlocking a phone costs £10 and it can often lead to delays, loss of service or other issues.

Ofcom’s connectivity director, Selina Chadha, said, “We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort – and help them unlock better deals.”

In reference to this, Vodafone said that it was “ready to implement these changes when they come into force”. BT also said that it was willing to “work with Ofcom to comply with the guidelines”.

In an official statement by Ofcom, the regulator disclosed that it plans to also simplify the switching process for broadband customers.

“We’re also making it easier to switch between broadband networks. At the moment, customers switching between providers such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk on Openreach’s copper network can simply contact their new provider, who will manage the switch from there,” the statement read.

While the UK has moved to ban the sale of carrier-locked mobile phones, the US is on the other end of the spectrum; it is still quite a common practice in the US.

Published in Reports

UK telecommunication operators are pooling together in an effort to try and tackle the coverage issues afflicting rural areas.

Published in Telecom Operators

UK telecommunications incumbent EE has threatened Ofcom with legal action if it doesn’t reverse its decision to set a spectrum cap on forthcoming 4G and 5G auctions. EE has been backed by rivals O2 UK as the fallout from the decision shows no signs of abating.

The UK regulator announced in July that it intended to impose a cap of 340MHz on all operators for spectrum expected to be usable by 2020, which was proposed in an effort to reduce the share held by EE, which is the country’s largest asset holder, and its parent company BT.

At the time of Ofcom’s announcement, both 02 UK and 3 UK expressed that the measures proposed fell short in their expectations, whilst EE believed the strategy was ‘unnecessary’. In addition to this, it was disclosed earlier this month that 3 were preparing to initiate a legal challenge, stressing that the regulator had failed to address competition concerns raised by the operator.

3 UK has been a long-term critic of the division of spectrum in the UK, and has vehemently opposed the current policy approach in relation to spectrum allocation. It has previously threatened legal action if Ofcom refused to address the market dominance currently enjoyed by both BT and Vodafone with its auction rules.

Analysts have now predicted that with legal challenges now likely, the 4G and 5G auctions for spectrum which were due to take place at the end of 2017, it will now be delayed until the issues raised have been resolved either through dialogue between Ofcom and the operator or through the courts. EE accepted the regulators decision on 4G, but stressed it wanted to be able to participate in the auction for the most of up-to-date 5G spectrum.

A spokesman for EE said it was reluctant to take legal action, but feels it has no other option to do so, citing that it had an obligation to protect its customers’ mobile experience. The EE representative said, “In response to 3’s action, we have made the difficult decision to challenge the proposed structure of the next auction of mobile spectrum. We need to protect our customers’ mobile experience, and help build the platform for the UK to have the highest quality 5G networks.”

Reports in The Financial Times suggest that Ofcom have declared that any legal action will put the future of mobile data at risk – and issued a warning that it could potentially have a knock-on effect on the rollout of 5G services.

O2 CEO Mark Evans declared that legal action would inevitably delay the auction, and criticized the approach that has been taken.  The CEO said, “Legal action will inevitably cause delay to the auction and gives no thought to the impact and harm this will have to UK customers, companies and economic growth. This country desperately needs more mobile airwaves. It is possible to hold the 2.3GHz auction now and grant immediate access to the newly-available spectrum. Ofcom can and must act,” he added.

Published in Telecom Operators

Telecommunication operators Three and Vodafone are closing the gap on UK incumbent EE according to analysis conducted by Root-Metrics. The company carried out 646,230 tests across all of the United Kingdom. It assessed the operators in six categories, which ranged from reliability, speed, data, calls, texts and overall performance.

Whilst EE still came out on top as the strongest performer, it was highlighted that both Vodafone and Three had closed the gap considerably. EE was given four awards by Root-Score, while both Three and Vodafone received two awards each.

EE won the best overall category, and also emerged as frontrunners in speed and data. In addition to this, it shared joint-first with Vodafone for text messaging. Three won outright across the UK for its reliability, and shared joint-first with Vodafone for call performance. O2 came last in all categories apart from text quality, where it finished third.

However, this represents a significant and telling change across the telecommunications landscape, last year EE won all the awards on offer by Root-Score. The latest findings declared that whilst EE is the best-performing telco overall in the UK, Vodafone was No.1 in Northern Ireland, whilst Three dominated in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland was the only region were 02 performed well.

General Manager of Europe for Root-Metrics, Scott Stonham, suggests that “the report only serves to reiterate just how competitive the UK telecommunications sector is,” he said.

“These latest results have really shaken things up and show the increasing competitiveness in the UK, particularly over the last six months. EE continues to lead the way, but Three and Vodafone are close behind. What is clear is that each operator showed strong performance in at least one particular country, while nobody was able to sweep the board at the four nation’s level. UK consumers have strong mobile options depending on how and where they use their devices most.”

A Senior Research Director on telecoms at HIS Markit said it was imperative that operators needed to invest in radio spectrum in order to succeed. “To succeed, mobile operators must secure sufficient radio spectrum and invest in the necessary equipment, sites and operational teams to ensure consumers enjoy fast reliable mobile broadband. With new UK spectrum allocations soon to be auctioned in the run up to 5G, these performance results provide a snapshot on the competitive balance between the UK mobile operators now, and highlight which operators most need to acquire new spectrum capacity if they are to be a future mobile performance winner.”

Fogg also stressed that the results which come ahead of a spectrum auction in September, could radically alter the balance of spectrum holdings, which would allow operators with smaller holdings such as Three and O2 to compete in a more efficient manner. 02 CEO Mark Evans, has already declared that he wants to see the auction commence soon and that it was compete ‘fiercely’ for spectrum allocation.

Published in Telecom Operators

The UK’s telecom regulator Ofcom announced that later this year it will auction licenses to use 190 MHz of spectrum in two frequency bands, to increase the airwaves available for mobile devices by almost one third. Ofcom said it is helping meet strong demand by releasing extra spectrum, allowing mobile operators to increase their networks’ capacity.

However, UK operator Three publicly disapproved of Ofcom’s announcement in a statement, saying Ofcom’s proposal is “a kick in the teeth for all consumers and in particular for the near-200,000 people who signed up to the ‘Make the Air Fair’ campaign.”

Three launched the campaign in late 2016 calling on consumers to help it fight for a 30 percent spectrum cap before the spectrum auction. The campaign aimed to tackle rival operator BT/EE’s alleged “spectrum dominance”. BT/EE own more than 40 percent of the UK’s available spectrum, and Three has expressed concern that the upcoming auction will enable the two operators to gain more spectrum, thus increasing their dominance.

“By making decisions that increase the dominance of the largest operators, Ofcom is damaging competition, restricting choice and pushing prices up for the very consumers that it is meant to protect,” said Three’s statement. “The mobile market is imbalanced and failing customers. Ofcom has shown little interest in tackling the problem. We will consider our response as a matter of urgency.”

40 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 2.3GHz band by Ofcom. This band is already supported by mobile devices from manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung. These airwaves could be used immediately after release to provide extra capacity, meaning faster downloads and internet browsing for mobile users, according to Ofcom.

In addition, 150 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned in the 3.4GHz band. These airwaves are not compatible with most current mobile devices, but are expected to be usable by future phones and tablets. The 3.4GHz band has been identified as central to the rollout of 5G mobile across Europe.

Ofcom has expressed its intention to reduce BT/EE’s overall share of mobile spectrum by imposing two different restrictions on bidders: “These will limit the amount of spectrum operators can win in the 2.3GHz band; and place overall limits on the spectrum an operator can win across the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands in aggregate,” said the regulator in a statement.

Ofcom said it will place a cap of 255 MHz on the “immediately useable” spectrum that any one operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap means BT/EE will not be able to bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band. In addition, Ofcom will place a new, additional cap of 340 MHz on the overallamount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap amounts to 37 percent of all mobile spectrum expected to be useable in 2020, which includes not only the spectrum available in this auction but also the 700MHz band.

“Taken together, the effect of the caps will be to reduce BT/EE’s overall share of mobile spectrum; the company can win a maximum 85 MHz of new spectrum in the 3.4GHz band,” said Ofcom. “The overall cap also means that Vodafone could gain a maximum 160 MHz of spectrum across both the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.”

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “Spectrum is a vital resource that fuels the UK’s economy. We’ve designed this auction to ensure that people and businesses continue to benefit from strong competition for mobile services.”

Marnick added: “We want to see this spectrum in use as soon as possible. With smartphones and tablets using even more data, people need a choice of fast and reliable mobile networks. These new airwaves will support better services for mobile users, and allow operators to innovate and build for the future.”

Published in Telecom Operators

EE demonstrates fastest download speeds in UK with 4G+

Written on Sunday, 11 June 2017 10:10

EE, the UK’s largest mobile network operator and part of the BT Group, has switched on the next generation of its 4G+ network and demonstrated live download speeds of 429Mbps in Cardiff city centre using Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium, which launched on Friday 2 June.

The state of the art network capability has been switched on in Cardiff and the Tech City area of London. Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh city centers will have sites upgraded during 2017, and the capability will be built across central London. Peak speeds can be above 400Mbps with the right device, and customers connected to these sites should be able to consistently experience speeds above 50Mbps.

Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium is the UK’s first ‘Cat 16’ smartphone optimized for the EE network, and EE is the only mobile network upgrading its sites to be able to support the new device’s unique upload and download capabilities. All devices on the EE network will benefit from the additional capacity and technology that EE is building into its network.

“Sony has raised the bar in smartphone speeds, and we’re investing and innovating to match that and give our customers the fastest network speeds in the UK,” said Marc Allera, EE CEO. “What we’ve demonstrated live in Cardiff is more than ten times the average mobile download speed. We’re rolling out this new capability in Cardiff and London’s Tech City, and we’ll keep expanding to the busiest areas of the UK so that our customers always have a great connection to do the things they love.”

The sites that are capable of delivering these maximum speeds are equipped with 30MHz of 1800MHz spectrum, and 35MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum. The 1800MHz carriers are delivered using 4x4 MIMO, which sends and receives four signals instead of just two, making the spectrum up to twice as efficient. The sites also broadcast 4G using 256QAM, or Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, which increases the efficiency of the spectrum.

These two cutting edge technologies applied to EE’s 4G network help to further improve customer experience by increasing capacity, meaning faster speeds and a more reliable data experience.

Published in Telecom Operators

EE UK launches European roaming for all customers

Written on Thursday, 11 May 2017 13:34

As part of its mission to offer the best experience for UK mobile customers, UK operator EE, part of BT Group, is announcing that all existing pay monthly and pay as you go customers will soon enjoy roaming to 47 European destinations at no extra charge.

EE is also launching a new range of 4GEE Max plans, designed to offer the ultimate roaming experience for customers with more inclusive destinations worldwide than any other UK network.

From 15 June, all existing EE pay monthly and pay as you go customers will get inclusive roaming to 47 European destinations as part of their mobile, mobile broadband or tablet allowance.

Existing customers, whether in or outside of their contract period, will benefit from inclusive roaming at no extra cost and will receive an SMS to let them know of the changes to their plan, as well as a reminder when they switch their phone on abroad.

Customers that would like to benefit from inclusive roaming before June can sign up at any time to one of EE’s new plans without affecting their upgrade dates or length of contract.

EE is also introducing a new range of 4GEE Max plans on 10 May for new and upgrading customers. The new plans allow customers to use their UK call, text and data allowances across 52 destinations, more than any other network, including Europe as well as the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand – which covers over 80% of time EE customers spend overseas.

Now EE 4GEE Max customers can video call from LA, or live-stream Sydney Harbour in HD at no extra cost with their UK allowances. 4GEE Max customers also get access to our fastest available 4G speeds abroad with 125 EE partner networks.

4GEE Max plans also come with EE’s largest mobile data allowances as well as the UK’s fastest 4G speeds, 4G in more places across the UK than any other operator and inclusive access to the BT Sport app for the duration of the plan.

“Our customers want to be able to stay connected whether they’re travelling around the UK or abroad,” said EE CEO Marc Allera. “We go further to provide our customers with 4G in more places across the UK than any other operator, and we’re offering inclusive roaming in more destinations as well – so our customers can stay in touch whether they’re lying on a beach in the Mediterranean, checking out the latest restaurants in New York, or hiking in New Zealand.”

Published in Telecom Operators

UK telecommunications company EE Limited, which is a division of the BT Group has unveiled new ‘balloon drone technology’ which has been specifically designed to provide 4G connectivity in disaster hit areas and underserved parts of the UK.

EE, the largest mobile network operator in the UK that boasts over 30 million customers, is also the largest operator of 4G services in Europe. At an EE technology showcase the company expressed its desire to bring connectivity to rural parts of Britain –highlighting not only how important it is to bridge the connectivity gap – but how much of a challenge it will be.

EE CEO, Marc Allera, unveiled a patent pending helium balloon named ‘Helikite’ which comes equipped with mobile mini-sites that can provide 4G coverage where permanent sites have either been damaged or there is no 4G coverage.

The EE CEO said that whilst rural areas of the UK are less attractive because there are naturally less customers which will subsequently result in lower returns – he explained how the organization was ‘obsessed’ in addressing coverage gaps in the UK.

The charismatic CEO said, “We cover 75 per cent of the UK geography, and 15,000 of our 18,000 sites nationwide have been upgraded to 4G,” he said. “There are just 10 towns with a population of 10,000 people where we don’t cover with 90 per cent of our geographic coverage. But we are coming.”

EE’s CEO then spoke about the operator’s long-term plan in which it will provide ‘coverage on demand’ – disclosing details of EE’s plans to deploy a balloon solution within a rural environment this year which will use aerial solutions to provide additional coverage and capacity in three years.

He added, “Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionizing the way people connect. In the future, why couldn’t we offer what we’re calling ‘coverage on demand’ - what if an event organizer could request temporary EE capacity in rural parts of the UK?”

In relation to EE’s work in the UK’s new Emergency Services Network – EE said it would deploy a fleet of Rapid Response Vehicles in forthcoming weeks and months ahead in order to support the infrastructure. Allera refuted suggestions that EE were behind on the project and stated the EE ‘was on track’ with its obligations.

Published in Telecom Operators

Mobile consumers are missing out on faster mobile speeds by networks’ hoarding large amounts of the airwaves used to provide a mobile phone service, claims UK mobile operator Three. Together, EE (owned by BT) and Vodafone are sitting on a pool of unused airwaves, commonly known as spectrum, which if redistributed could as much as triple mobile data speeds for customers of other operators, says Three.

“The amount of unused spectrum they hold is greater than all the spectrum currently owned by Three or O2 standalone,” said Three in a release. “Putting the unused airwaves to use would mean more seamless video streaming, quicker uploads to Instagram and faster browsing on the internet,” the operator claims.

Spectrum is essential to the mobile industry and the single biggest factor in determining a network’s ability to deliver speeds, capacity and coverage that consumers want and businesses need.  Three is part of the ‘MakeTheAirFair campaign’, calling on telecoms regulator Ofcom to cap the amount of spectrum that a single company can own at 30%. This cap would ensure a fairer balance in spectrum allocation, improving services across the board.

Research was conducted by Three’s Network team which created a model based on EE and Vodafone’s unused spectrum to show what speed improvements could be gained by customers on the Three and O2 networks. Dave Dyson, Chief Executive at Three UK, said: “This research shines a light on how much quicker speeds could be for mobile consumers, if only the UK’s airwaves were shared more fairly.” 

Dyson added: “BT/EE and Vodafone are sitting on a vital and finite public resource that should be used to deliver a faster and more stable service for customers of all mobile networks. A 30% cap on useable spectrum will deliver the best outcome for mobile users in the UK.”

UK’s current spectrum shares: 

  •  BT/EE: 42%
  •  Vodafone: 29%
  •  Three: 15%
  •  O2: 14%
Published in Telecom Operators

A CEO of the UK’s largest mobile network operator has devised and unveiled a four-point plan to counteract what he describes as ‘incorrect expectations’ set by the UK mobile industry around coverage. EE, a division of the BT group - are not only the largest mobile network operator in the UK with around 28 million customers – but they are also the largest operator of 4G services in Europe.

However, EE CEO, Marc Allera has outlined his action plan, and has furthermore said the standard metric for gauging the quality of a mobile network through population coverage ultimately set the wrong expectations.

The charismatic CEO said: “Population coverage has always been the standard metric for gauging the quality of a mobile network, but we need to change this with a greater focus on geography. We have become a little lazy. Population coverage figures set the wrong expectations.”

“There is now an assumption from customers that 95 percent population coverage means ubiquitous coverage but it’s only equivalent to 54 percent geographic coverage. The mismatch is particularly significant when the industry is moving towards connected cars.”

He also raised serious concerns over a process whereby network quality is still judged on voice and SMS – when it’s clear the demand for usage has dramatically switched towards data. He revealed that he has written to UK regulator Ofcom in which he highlighted his concerns – but also submitted a four point proposal to address the issues at hand.

Allera said: “My four points are as follows, firstly we want the industry to stop talking about population coverage in isolation – it’s misleading.”

“Secondly, the operators want the industry to provide regular updates of coverage at local level not just national figures and of data speeds too not just voice and text.”

“Thirdly we want to make Ofcom the home of independent monitoring and an accepted authority on coverage – and finally, the industry needs to explain to users that not all devices are adjusted for all spectrum bands, which impacts user experience.”

EE prides itself on being the market leader on coverage, so industry support for such a plan would be very much to its benefit.

Currently (November 2016), EE offers 99 percent population coverage, which is equivalent to 75 percent geographic coverage. That’s an increase from 94 percent population coverage (and 54 percent geographic) in December 2015.

The operator’s goal is to hit 95 percent geographic coverage by 2020. It is testing drones, balloons and satellites as it looks at the most cost.

Published in Telecom Operators
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