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Vodafone says it can't offer free access to BBC Bitesize
by Paul Hill
Vodafone has told BBC News that it will not offer free access to the BBC Bitesize educational materials as BT, EE and Plusnet did last week. The mobile carrier said that its technical team have assessed the possibility of zero-rating Bitesize but concluded that it's not possible to offer free access without giving users free access to the whole of the BBC website.
Explaining why it’s not possible for Vodafone to do, the firm’s general counsel and external affairs director Helen Lamprell said:
Lamprell also said that, by zero-rating Bitesize, it would give the site an advantage over other education websites and could go against the firm’s legal obligations to maintain net neutrality. While Ofcom is mandated with ensuring net neutrality, Vodafone probably would have been safe from ramifications given that the closing of schools is quite extraordinary. Instead of zero-rating Bitesize, Vodafone has offered 350,000 free SIM cards to disadvantaged children to get them online.
BT told BBC that zero-rating Bitesize alone is technically difficult and can be costly, however, it affirmed that it’s not impossible to do which contradicts what Vodafone has said today. EE will offer Bitesize for free by the end of the month and customers will not have to register to take advantage of the offer.
Source: BBC News
BT to zero-rate BBC Bitesize content to help with homeschooling
by Paul Hill
BT has announced that its customers will have unlimited access to BBC Bitesize content by the end of the month. The agreement between BT and the BBC will also extend to EE, BT Mobile, and Plusnet Mobile customers as these are all owned by BT.
By zero-rating BBC Bitesize, customers will be able to read, watch and interact with content without using up any of their data allowance; this will help parents who have been forced to home school their children due to the coronavirus pandemic to save money and get access to vital content. This is not the first time a mobile carrier has zero-rated essential resources, Three has also zero-rated NHS 101, NHS websites and video consultations.
Commenting on the arrangement, BBC Director General Tim Davie said:
To make access as easy as possible, the new zero-rating will automatically be applied to customers’ packages and no extra registration will be needed. The mobile carrier said that the scheme will come to an end as schools reopen across the country later in the year.
UK: 4.7m families struggled to pay telecom bills this year
by Paul Hill
New research from Ofcom shows that 4.7 million families struggled to pay their broadband and phone bills this year. The regulator said that BT, Virgin Media and KCOM all offer cheaper tariffs for those on lower incomes but that relatively few people had signed up.
Discussing the impact the coronavirus has had, Ofcom’s Networks and Communications Group Director Lindsey Fussell said:
Of the one in five households that struggle with their telecom bills, six per cent have a hard time paying for their fixed home broadband and five per cent find it difficult to keep up with their mobile bill. It said that one in ten households have cut back on the services they buy in order to meet costs but others have taken to reducing spend on food and clothes, cancelling a service, missing a payment, or changing their payment method.
The disconnections for non-payment fell during the first part of the lockdown but increased between June and September to levels higher than before the pandemic. Those falling behind on their payments have stayed the same between January and September at two per cent for broadband and 3 per cent for mobile.
If you struggle to pay your bills, BT, KCOM and Virgin Media all offer discounted broadband deals and 1PMobile, SMARTY Mobile, and ASDA Mobile all offer decent mobile packages at a low price point. The broadband packages for those on low incomes include:
Product Price Speed Data Eligibility BT Basic + Broadband £10.07 a month 10 Mbit/s Unlimited Means-tested benefits (zero earnings) Virgin Media Essential Broadband £15 a month 15 Mbit/s Unlimited Universal Credit KCOM Lightstream Flex £20 a month 30 Mbit/s Unlimited Means-tested benefits (zero earnings) Despite the offers for people on low incomes, Ofcom says that providers can still do more to help. It said that it wants to see all providers begin offering tariffs for those on low incomes and actively promote them so customers are aware they exist.
BT signs 5G deal to use Ericsson hardware in its network
by Paul Hill
BT has selected Ericsson as its 5G partner in London and other major UK cities. The move will allow BT to switch away from Huawei hardware which it has been ordered to stop using by the British government, citing security concerns.
Under the deal, Ericsson’s hardware will be used in major cities around the UK including London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and elsewhere, ultimately managing around 50% of BT’s total 5G traffic. Additionally, Ericsson will modernise BT’s 2G and 4G Radio Access Network (RAN) infrastructure which will make the customer experience better for those on BT or EE networks. As BT had already selected Ericsson for its 5G Core earlier in the year, Ericsson will now be its end-to-end 5G partner.
Commenting on the agreement, Philip Jansen, CEO of BT, said:
EE, which is owned by BT Group, announced earlier in the month that it would be expanding its 5G services to an additional 12 towns and cities around the country, bring the total to 112.
Ofcom will ban UK networks from selling locked phones
by João Carrasqueira
Ofcom, the communications regulator agency in the United Kingdom, has announced that mobile network companies will no longer be able to sell phones locked to their network. The change in rules will come into play starting in December of next year, and the goal is to make it easier for consumers to switch networks when they want to.
The agency says that, according to its research, over a third of people who don't switch networks blame locked phones for it. Additionally, nearly half of those that do unlock their phone run into problems, such as extended delays in getting unlock codes.
In addition to the ban, Ofcom mentioned some additional measures meant to protect customers when buying into a network. For example, customers will get a summary of the terms of the contract in writing before signing up, with information such as the contract length and price, plus broadband providers need to disclose the minimum speeds customers can expect from the service.
Additionally, the regulator wants to make it easier to switch between broadband providers. Currently, switching between providers that use the Openreach copper network, such as BT, Sky, and TalkTalk, is already simple, and customers can simply contact the new provider to handle the switch. The goal is for this to expand to other networks, including services from Virgin media, CityFibre, and more. However, clear measures in this regard haven't been announced yet.