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EE will bring back European roaming charges next year
by Paul Hill
The mobile carrier EE is set to bring back roaming charges for customers visiting Europe from January 2022, according to a BBC News report. The new £2 a day charge will allow customers to use their allowances in 47 European countries from January 2022 but it will only apply to customers joining or upgrading from July 7, 2021.
The European Union decided to scrap roaming charges several years ago. From 2017, mobile networks in EU countries have not been allowed to charge customers for using their device while roaming. Since Brexit, however, mobile networks in the UK have been able to go back on this decision but EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone all said they had no plans to reintroduce roaming charges as recently as January 2021.
According to the report, EE wants to use the money it raises from roaming charges to support investment in its UK-based customer services and its overall network. Interestingly, EE is one of the companies that will now have to remove Huawei hardware from its network due to a government decision. Mobile operators did warn that this would see costs go up for customers, so this could be the implementation.
There will be an exception to the new rule for EE customers who are travelling to the Republic of Ireland, where the fees won’t be charged. For those travelling to the other 47 countries, customers will be able to buy 30-day passes to continue using their normal tariff while abroad. The cost of the passes will vary depending on the tariff you’re on.
UK government teams up with social media in vaccine drive
by Paul Hill
The UK government has announced that it’s working with Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok, and YouTube to encourage young people to get their coronavirus vaccines. It comes after the government opened up vaccines to all people over the age of 18. Earlier this month, the government announced a similar arrangement with dating app firms that are also popular with younger people.
As part of the initiative, Snapchat users can currently use NHS stickers and a filter to encourage their friends and family to get the vaccine. Later in the month, an augmented reality lens that reads “I’ve had my vaccine” will be available for users in the UK to use on their accounts.
Snapchat will also host questions and answers about the virus and has also expanded its ‘Here For You’ feature which helps people access NHS resources about COVID-19, ensuring they get reliable information.
For its part, Reddit has been hosting Ask Me Anything sessions with various experts including Dr Amalina Bakri. Reddit said it will continue to host these question and answer sessions over the coming weeks to ensure people have access to factual and reliable information from a range of experts.
TikTok has added NHS ‘I’ve had my COVID vaccine’ stickers to its library which users can share to encourage vaccine take-up. It’s also working with a group of scientists called Team Halo which is producing entertaining and shareable videos about vaccines.
YouTube is running a video campaign called ‘Let’s Not Go Back’ to encourage 18 to 34-year-olds to get their vaccine. It attempts to remind the audience of the importance of being vaccinated using the medium of personal experiences for the last year of lockdown in an attempt to make a connection with viewers. This campaign is running on YouTube, billboards, bus stops, and social media. The government says these ads have served over 400 billion impressions worldwide.
If you’re yet to make an appointment to receive your vaccine, head over to the NHS’ website now to book. The second dose of the vaccine will be administered 8 to 12 weeks after you receive your first dose.
Remittance company, Wise, set to go public with direct listing
by Paul Hill
The financial services and remittance company, Wise (formerly TransferWise) has announced that it will go public via a direct listing, according to a report from CNBC. Once the paperwork has gone through, the firm will be listed on the London Stock Exchange through a direct listing – rather than an initial public offering (IPO).
The reason given by the company for doing a direct listing rather than an IPO is that it doesn’t want to raise capital for its operations. Through a direct listing, Wise will not need to find underwriters nor will it need to issue new shares. According to CNBC, the fact that Wise will be listed on the London Stock Exchange rather than the New York Stock Exchange is good for Britain which is trying to get more tech firms listed on its exchange.
Speaking during a conference call, Kristo Kaarmann, CEO and co-founder of Wise, said:
In addition to the direct listing, Wise has been emailing customers to ask whether they’d like to join its OneWise shareholder programme. Those that participate would be able to receive bonus shares worth up to £100 after 12 months to further increase future returns.
Once the firm is listed, it should be quite popular among investors as it has been profitable since 2017. In the 2021 fiscal year, it reported profits of £30.9 million and revenues of £421 million. The year before, profits came in at £15 million and revenues were at £302.6 million which shows the company has been growing well.
Wise offers very low fees on its remittance services making it very competitive. While not yet achieving these levels, Wise’s low transfer fees are a step towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 10.c which states ‘By 2030, reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent’.
UK government urged to subsidise broadband for those on low-incomes
by Paul Hill
The UK government has been urged to offer vouchers to low-income homes to encourage more people to begin using ultra-fast gigabit broadband, according to BBC News. The advice was delivered as part of a report compiled by the Gigabit Take-up Advisory Group (GigaTAG). The report also called on employers to offer staff discounts on the service, especially now that more people are working from home.
In the GigaTAG report, the authors said that a number of barriers prevent low-income households from connecting to gigabit internet. It said:
Responding to the report, Digital Infrastructure minister Matt Warman said that he would be considering the recommendations of the report. He said that the government wants to make sure everyone can benefit from these fast speeds, no matter their background.
As things stand, gigabit seems a little bit futuristic to most people given that in the UK it is only available in a quarter of UK homes and there’s currently not a lot of need for such high speeds. When we fast forward to 2025, however, when augmented and virtual reality will be more widespread, people will need higher speeds than are currently available so it’s important that the government establishes how it plans to ensure everyone has access.
The GigaTAG group was formed at the request of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Its membership includes Which?, Confederation of British Industry, Federation of Small Businesses, Ofcom, Broadband Stakeholder Group, Internet Service Providers’ Association, Be the Business, DCMS, and Good Things Foundation.
UK MPs ask Biden to drop Assange charges during G7 trip
by Paul Hill
Members of Parliament (MPs) from several UK parties have asked President Biden to drop the charges against Julian Assange which have caused him to be holed up in various locations over the last decade. The request was made in the form of a letter and signed by 24 MPs from the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Green Party, and the Scottish National Party. The official Wikileaks account on Twitter posted the letter in full.
In the letter, the MPs said that it was hypocritical of Western governments to call for greater press freedom around the world, while at the same time holding Julian Assange who worked with The Guardian and New York Times newspapers to publish leaked U.S. government documents that Wikileaks had been provided with.
In the letter, the MPs write:
In 2019, the U.S. government unsealed an indictment against Julian Assange which said he was charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. He is currently being held at Belmarsh Prison in London and last year was denied bail after citing the coronavirus as District Judge Vanessa Baraitser believed he could break the bail conditions.