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Footy fans can rejoice on Sunday as EE zero-rates mobile data
by Paul Hill
One of the UK’s big four mobile networks, EE, has announced that it will be zero-rating data across its mobile network on Sunday to ensure that more footy fans can tune into the big game between England and Italy in the Euro 2020 final. BT Mobile customers will also be able to benefit from the offer as it is owned by EE. The free data will be available between 6 p.m. and midnight ensuring you can watch pre- and post-game footage as well as the match.
According to EE, recent football matches as part of Euro 2020 have been causing traffic surges on EE’s mobile network. Sunday represents the first time England’s men’s team has reached the final of a major football tournament in 55 years so it expects to see huge demands on its network again.
Commenting on EE’s plans to zero-rate data, Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Group, said:
EE reassures us that customers who have already run out of their monthly data allowance will also be eligible to take advantage of the free data so they don’t miss the game.
Google and Apple block NHS COVID-19 app update over privacy issues
by Paul Hill
Sky News has reported that the NHS COVID-19 app has seen an update delayed by Google and Apple over privacy issues. The update would have allowed users to upload a list of the venues they had checked into if they tested positive for COVID-19 but this form of location tracking is prohibited by the two firms who worked together to build the exposure notification system.
Following the delay to the update, the Department for Health and Social Care, which runs the app, said:
The NHS COVID-19 app in question is for use by people in England and Wales – other areas of the UK use their own contact tracing apps but are still compatible with the version used in England and Wales. The NHS COVID-19 app was plagued by setbacks and didn’t actually launch until mid-September. Initially, the government was trying to build an app with a centralised model which would have given it more control over the app's functions but it faced several issues particularly on iOS.
Using the decentralised model, the app can talk to coronavirus apps from other countries but the developers have to work within the bounds set out by Google and Apple that require certain levels of privacy requirements to be met.
The ability to check in with QR codes has been available on the app since its launch but users would only be notified if local authorities flagged a hotspot to the database to alert users. According to the BBC, this feature was rarely used because local authorities were confused about what they were supposed to do. Had today’s update gone through, users may have seen more notifications to self-isolate causing a reduction in the spread of the disease.
RootMetrics says EE is the mobile carrier to beat in the UK
by Paul Hill
EE has announced that it came top in terms of overall performance in RootMetrics’ latest report. The report authors described EE as the “operator to beat, with fast speeds … and impressive 5G results.” In Metropolitan areas, including suburbs, EE got a RootScore of 100 while Vodafone, O2 and Three scored 48, 23 and 15 respectively.
EE was named the best carrier across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, offering the fastest speeds and the most reliable connection. Of the operators that were looked at, EE was the only carrier whose 5G median download speeds went above 100 Mbps in all the test cities. The company also topped the list when aggregate median download speeds across the whole of the UK were looked at; EE’s download speed was 43 Mbps, Vodafone scored 21.1 Mbps, Three got 13.9 Mbps and O2 came last with a median download speed of 12.9 Mbps.
Commenting on the findings, CEO of BT’s Consumer business Marc Allera said:
It should be noted that a lot of the data in the report is aggregated on a country-wide level. You may not recognise EE as the best provider if their infrastructure is poor in your area. RootMetrics said its data is based on 644,546 tests performed in 750 places around the country including in 16 metro areas.
NHS COVID-19 app removes possible exposure notifications
by Paul Hill
The NHS COVID-19 app has been upgraded to include a new version of the Google and Apple API. Among the new improvements are more accurate distance measurements and the removal of confusing exposure notifications.
With the updated API, time data is taken into consideration and signal strength data has been improved. By considering these bits of information as two devices pinging each other, the app will be able to make a better estimate of how close to the other person you are. This update will reduce the chance that you’re told to isolate if you were considered low risk.
Another change is the scrapping of possible exposure and near-miss notifications. These were being sent out by Google and Apple rather than the NHS COVID-19 app and caused a lot of confusion among users who were not sure what to do upon receiving the notification. The app was updated a few weeks ago to send a second notification explaining not to isolate but now they’ve been scrapped altogether and the app will tell users directly if they should isolate.
The app uses a risk scoring algorithm to decide whether people should isolate, by taking into account things like the distance between two devices and how long they have been near each other. With the new update, this has been tweaked according to a new statistical algorithm so that more people will be asked to self-isolate. It said that by lowering the threshold at which people have to isolate, the country has a better chance at reducing the R rate and breaking the chain of transmission.
Millions of people have downloaded the app so far but a few people using iOS devices have complained that they cannot upgrade to the required version of iOS to use the app for some reason or other. If you have an iOS device that should be capable of running the app but need to update iOS first, follow Apple’s helpful guide which explains how to update over-the-air or via a computer.
UK's numerous contact tracing apps to become interoperable
by Paul Hill
With the constituent parts of the United Kingdom having their own autonomy when it comes to their coronavirus response, they’ve each developed their own contact tracing apps. From today, users of the Scottish, Northern Irish, and Jersey contact tracing apps will get notifications if they crossed paths with someone on a different contact tracing app who laters tests positive for coronavirus.
To make this work, developers had to incorporate a federated server where positive test results can be stored and then the participating apps can query the server for matches. The app used in England and Wales, as well as the one being used in Gibraltar, will join the federation in early November.
Commenting on this development, a Department of Health spokesperson said:
According to the BBC, the Irish software company NearForm developed contact tracing apps for Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. The Northern Ireland app already works with the app in Ireland but there’s no interoperability between Ireland’s app and those used in Scotland, England, and Wales, although, this could change in the future.
The work that’s going on across the UK to get the apps speaking to one another opens up possibilities for different nations around the world to add interoperability into their apps but with work on vaccines marching ahead, we may never see that happen.
Source: BBC News