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Ofcom says recent changes to mobile and broadband services are saving people millions
by Paul Hill
The UK’s digital regulator, Ofcom, has announced that changes it introduced last year to mobile and broadband to protect customers are helping people to save millions of pounds. Last year, the regulator introduced new rules that alerted customers that they were nearing the end of a contract and helped protect vulnerable customers from out-of-contract charges; now, these alterations seem to be paying off.
Ofcom found that 62% of broadband customers who were coming to the end of their contract signed a new deal with their current provider or switched to a new one when their existing deal ended, this is up from 47% of customers in 2019. The increase is likely due to the fact that customers are made aware of their contract status so they can take action, whereas, in the past, it might have slipped by without them noticing.
Ofcom also found that broadband customers who were out of contract fell from 40% in 2019 to 35% in 2020. Being out of contract can mean paying £5.10 more per month so the prompts about the contract coming to an end are useful for those who want to save that bit of money each month.
As for vulnerable broadband customers, Ofcom revealed that those out-of-contract pay £2.30 per month more than the average which is still a reduction from 2019 when the figure stood at £4.40 per month.
Finally, Ofcom said that it had noticed an increase in the number of mobile customers that took action to secure a new deal. The figure rose from 70% in 2019 to 76% in 2020. This could have to do with the action Ofcom took in late 2020 to ban networks from selling locked phones, making it easier to switch.
Apple's self-driving car plans are accelerated by former Tesla Autopilot software executive
by Moshe Jacobs
Apple has acquired former Tesla Autopilot software executive employee Christopher Moore, as reported by Bloomberg. Christopher Moore's onboarding is the latest in Apple's efforts to accelerate its self-driving car plans.
The hiring of Christopher Moore presents an interesting dynamic to Apple's self-driving car project. Moore has, in the past, refuted arguably unrealistic statements made by Tesla's CEO Elon Musk in regards to the proficiency of Autopilot performance being able to reach Level 5 autonomy within a couple of years.
Christopher Moore is said to report to Stuart Bowers, yet another employee who formerly worked at Tesla and was picked up by Apple.
In the past 5 years, Apple has been, not-so-secretively, working on an electric self-driving vehicle codenamed Project Titan. While it seems that Apple's exact goals are unknown with what it hopes to achieve, as can be evidenced by the constant rotation of management as well as its shift in plans from building a vehicle to compiling autonomous driving software and back again to building a vehicle, the Apple Car project is seemingly still accelerating forward. In regards to its self-driving software, Apple is said to be implementing LiDAR scanners and video cameras for awareness of the surrounding environment.
Whatever transpires from Project Titan, whether solely autonomous software or a full-fledged self-driving vehicle, it will sure to be just another notch on Apple's belt.
By Jay Bonggolto
Huawei to launch HarmonyOS and new devices on June 2
by Jay Bonggolto
Huawei unveiled HarmonyOS in 2019, its homegrown operating system designed to run on various smart devices including smartphones, wearables, wireless earbuds, laptops, tablets, and self-driving cars. A year later, the company announced a version of the OS specifically built for smartphones, dubbed HarmonyOS 2.0, though it was not meant for release until sometime in 2021.
Today, the Chinese phone maker posted a new video online teasing the upcoming launch of HarmonyOS and other products on June 2. The teaser was shared on Twitter.
It's not clear whether the event will be China-only or worldwide, but it's expected to mark a new milestone in Huawei's efforts to cut its reliance on Android after U.S. sanctions prevented Google from providing support to its mobile devices. Huawei didn't say as well whether it's launching a new smartphone in June, apart from indicating that it would unveil new products in addition to HarmonyOS.
Huawei positions the new operating system as a key step in addressing the impact of U.S. sanctions that adversely affected its business worldwide. Aside from the Google ban, Huawei's access to critical U.S. technology that's necessary to manufacture its own Kirin processor was blocked.
The company's solution is to focus on its software ecosystem. Huawei's founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, most recently called on employees to "dare to lead the world" in software in a move to counter the impact of U.S. sanctions, according to an internal memo. He said transitioning to software and services will give the company "greater independence and autonomy" as these are beyond the reach of U.S. control.
UK turning to legislation to get rid of mobile not-spots
by Paul Hill
The UK government has announced that it will propose law changes in an effort to boost mobile connectivity in rural areas to help those who live, work, and travel in those places. Under the legislation, mobile carriers will be allowed to make new and existing masts up to five metres taller and two metres wider to boost their range, it also allows operators to attach equipment that lets them be shared more easily.
The government believes that the change will encourage mobile carriers to improve their existing masts rather than build new ones. The increased size would still allow them to reach a similar number of users as building new masts, enabling innovations such as remote healthcare, self-driving vehicles, and smart home devices.
The legislation will give protection to protected areas such as national parks, the Broads, conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and world heritage sites but will allow for masts on buildings to be placed nearer to highways to boost coverage.
Commenting on the new legislation, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
While the new legislation will loosen restrictions, the government said that local authorities would still need to give their approval for masts and will have a say on where they’re placed and their appearance. The new plans will first go to consultation until 14 June 2021 to get feedback before starting the process of becoming law.
Xiaomi to begin making electric vehicles, says report
by Paul Hill
Reuters has reported that Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker, will begin building electric vehicles at Great Wall Motors' factory. In response to the report, Xiaomi said it wasn’t going to provide comments and Great Wall said, in an exchange filing on Friday, that it hadn’t discussed this with Xiaomi.
The information that Xiaomi will be using Great Wall’s factory came from three people who have direct knowledge of the matter who spoke to Reuters. Two of the sources said that the vehicles produced at the factory will carry Xiaomi’s branding and that they will be aimed at a mass market. To help speed things along, Great Wall Motors will provide Xiaomi with engineering consultancy. The third source said they believe that the partnership could be announced next week.
With technology companies getting closer and closer to the vehicle industry bringing entertainment systems and helping to boost automation it’s not very surprising to hear that Xiaomi is also looking to get into cars. This won’t be the company’s first foray into vehicles either as it already sells several electric scooters.
Following Reuter’s report, Xiaomi’s shares increased by 6.3% and Great Wall’s Hong Kong stock rose by 10.4% and its Shanghai shares grew by the maximum 10% daily limit. This indicates that investors believe the rumours are true but we will just have to wait a little longer to see whether they’re confirmed.