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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.
O2's 5G network now available in over 100 towns and cities
by Paul Hill
O2 has announced that following its most recent expansion, its 5G network is now available to customers in 108 towns and cities around the UK. O2’s announcement comes just a week after EE announced that it was running 5G in a total of 112 towns and cities.
According to O2, the 5G expansion means that customers in several locations including Milton Keynes, Ipswich, and Chelmsford can use 5G from today. O2 said has been working with its partners, Nokia and Ericsson, to deliver 5G to locations around the country.
Commenting on the expansion, Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer at O2, said:
According to the firm, with many people being forced to stay home due to the coronavirus, the need for 5G has never been so great. To prove its point, O2 said that it had to boost its mobile internet services in 91,000 postcodes as demand for connectivity increased. It saw data consumption across a number of cities jump up to 50% compared to the same time last year and last month it revealed that a fifth of UK businesses relied on mobile data to stay afloat during the pandemic.
If you're an O2 customer and want to check whether 5G is available in your area, just head over to O2's Coverage Checker and enter your postcode.
UK: Virgin Media starts Google Smart Home trial
by Paul Hill
Virgin Media has announced that customers will now be able to add Google Smart Home devices to their packages to make their home more connected. The firm said it will even send out engineers to ensure that smart home devices are set up and work seamlessly.
During the trial period, Virgin Media will offer three bundles that include products such as the Google Nest Hub, the Nest Hello Doorbell, and the Nest Cam. The new range of Smart Home bundles will be available for customers in Cardiff, Manchester, and Southampton during the trial period and customers there will be contacted by email explaining how to sign-up to the service.
The three bundles, which all include tech support, are:
Smart Home (£10/month on a 36 month contract or £20/month on an 18 month contract): Includes Nest Hello Doorbell and Nest Hub (7 inch screen) Smart Home Pro (£21/month on a 36 months contract or £42/month on an 18 month contract): Includes Nest Hello Doorbell, Nest Hub Max (10 inch screen, 6.5MP camera), Nest Indoor Cam and Nest Outdoor Cam Smart Home Pro Max (£28/month on a 36 months contract or £56/month on an 18 month contract): Includes Nest Hello Doorbell, Nest Hub Max (10 inch screen, 6.5MP camera), 2 x Nest Indoor Cam, 2 x Nest Outdoor Cam Commenting on the new offer, Annie Brooks, Executive Director of Product at Virgin Media, said:
In its announcement, Virgin Media did not provide any details on what will come after the trial but it’s likely that the firm will roll out the contracts to the rest of the country providing everything goes smoothly in the trial areas. The new offers, with their engineer installations, offer those less comfortable with technology a way to experience smart home products for the first time.
TIGA: UK's video games industry grew at its fastest rate
by Paul Hill
The Independent Games Developers Association (TIGA), a trade association representing the UK video games industry, has revealed that the UK video games development sector grew at its fastest rate since records began in 2007. The growth experienced by the industry means it is now contributing £2.2 billion to the UK's GDP, up from £1.8 billion last year.
In its upcoming annual report into the state of the UK video games industry, TIGA shows that the sector saw the fastest rate of growth of full-time and full-time equivalent creative staff at games studios with figures rising to 16,836 employees up from 14,353 the year before.
It also said that the total games development workforce, including contractors, grew from 16,532 to 18,279 which is a record high.
Discussing the findings, Jason Kingsley OBE, TIGA Chairman and CEO and Creative Director at Rebellion, said:
While the news is positive for the UK's economy, TIGA did warn that the sector still faces significant challenges especially when it comes to financing and access to highly-skilled workers. To address these issues, it said that the Video Games Tax Relief should be enhanced to encourage investment and that a Video Games Investment Fund should be introduced alongside a strengthened UK Games Fund to improve access to finance.
To ensure the sector has access to highly-skilled people TIGA said that industry-university links should be strengthened, skills and training should be improved, and UK games companies should be able to recruit skilled workers from the rest of the world.
UK: EE brings 5G connectivity to 12 more towns and cities
by Paul Hill
The mobile network operator, EE, has announced that 5G has been switched on in 12 more towns and cities around the UK. According to the firm, the expansion makes EE “the number one destination for those wanting to get the best smartphone experience.”
The new locations where 5G is available with EE are Aberdeen, Aldershot, Barrhead, Blackpool, Castleford, Crawley, Mirfield, Oxford, Porthcawl, Shipley, Stafford, and Warwick. EE first turned on 5G in May 2019 and has since launched the service in a total of 112 towns and cities around the country.
Commenting on today’s expansion, Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer business, said:
EE claims it has the best balance of network speed and coverage when compared to the UK’s other mobile networks. It cited independent tests from RootMetrics which ranked EE first. It should be noted, however, that other networks claim to be the best and cite a plethora of analyses.
While a lot of the country is still not covered by EE’s 5G, it is available in many of the country's population centres so most people should be able to use it when they go into town to do shopping or to socialise. In the less populated areas, there is widespread 4G coverage so good speeds are still available on EE’s network.