Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 03/12/18

Here’s a roundup of last week’s key mobile, broadband, and energy news:

Ofcom to Enforce Price Cap on Calls to 118 Numbers

As of April 2019, Ofcom will impose a price cap on call charges to 118 numbers. Since 2012, these costs have reportedly become extortionate, reaching as high as £20 per 90-second phone call. The new regulation will cap the price at £3.65 per 90 seconds.

Due to the rise in the use of AI voice assistants and the internet, the number of calls made to 118 numbers has fallen from 7.14 million in 2014 to 1.95 million in 2017, equivalent to a 38% decrease every year. However, there are still over 1 million calls made to directory enquiry numbers every year and the majority of callers are over the age of 65. Of those who call, one quarter do not have access to the internet and three quarters are unaware of the cost. It also means that almost one in ten struggle with “affordability issues as a result”, forcing them to cut their spending on other expenses or even delay or default on the bill payment.

Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Policy, said: “We’re taking action to protect callers by capping 118 prices. This will significantly cut the cost of many calls, and bring them back to 2012 levels.”

European Commission announces plans to become ‘climate neutral’ by 2050

The European Commission has established plans to “become the first major economy to be climate neutral” by 2050. In order to accomplish this objective, joint action is required in seven areas: energy efficiency; clean, safe and connected mobility; deployment of renewables; competitive industry and circular economy; infrastructure and interconnections; bioenergy and natural carbon sinks; and carbon capture and storage “to address the remaining emissions”.

Climate neutrality is achieved when “emissions are balanced by reducing them and compensating those that cannot be avoided” via initiatives like tree planting or storing emissions underground. This plan has been labelled a “strategic vision” rather than a legislative proposal.

Public surveys found that 93% of Europeans believe climate change is caused by human activity and 85% wanted more to be done to reduce the human impact on the climate. Thus the Commission has said that it is following a “strong mandate” from the public.

Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy said: “Going climate neutral is necessary, possible and in Europe’s interest. It is necessary to meet the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. It is possible with current technologies and those close to deployment. And it is in Europe’s interest to stop spending on fossil fuel imports and invest in meaningful improvements to the daily lives of all Europeans.”

Ericsson report reveals smartphones will use 21GB of data each month by 2024

Ericsson’s newest biannual mobility report has found that by 2024 there will be 8.9 billion active mobile subscriptions, a 1 billion increase from today’s level. By the same date, the average monthly amount of mobile data traffic used by smartphone users will increase from 5.6GB to 21GB. It was also revealed that 2019 will be the year in which 5G technology “finally takes off”. However, it should be noted that it will still be limited to UK and EU commercial deployments.

It has been found that video traffic accounts for 64% of all data consumption, and this is expected to grow by 35% every year through 2024. There is also the prediction that social networking traffic will rise substantially, by about 24% every year.

While some mobile subscriptions use 3G networks, the bulk rely on 4G networks for data. However, the arrival of 5G will inevitably have a large impact on data consumption.

Three UK increases data roaming allowance to 19GB for travellers in the EU

Three UK has announced that it will be increasing its roaming data allowance from 15GB to 19GB after 28 December 2018.

In a text message to the company’s customers, the mobile operator revealed it was “upping the amount of data you can enjoy in Go Roam Europe destinations at no extra charge”. Those using a pay-as-you-go service will also see an increase in their data allowance from 12GB to 15GB.

When customers go over the allowed data, they are charged 0.5p per MB. However, certain destinations, including Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Norway, and Switzerland, have a lower charge of 0.41p per MB.

When in Go Roam Around the World locations, customers will not be able to use their phone as a WIFI personal hotspot, unless a Data Passport has been purchased. However, this restriction could potentially be removed in the near future for EU specific travellers.

Three UK has also said that it will raise its worldwide data cap to £43.97, an increase of £1.48. This charge “reflects the maximum amount of money you pay for data above your standard rate”.

An independent panel and Ofgem will examine energy network firms business plans

An independent panel will be inspecting business plans developed by energy suppliers for the “next price control from 2021”.

Energy network companies charge their customers around £250 each year to cover the costs of investing in, operating and maintaining their grids. The next price controls could save consumers roughly £15 to £25 a year, equalling a total of more than £5 billion.

A panel of energy firms, led by Roger Witcomb, who previously led the Competition and Market Authority’s investigation into the energy market, will look into “how consumers’ needs and views are being considered”. An independent report will then supply Ofgem with its view on the energy firms’ plans. After which, Ofgem will hold open hearings in the spring of 2020 in order for the firms to be questioned on any areas of dispute.

Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem’s Executive Director for Systems and networks, said: “Consumers deserve robust and cost-effective business plans from energy network companies. The advice of the challenge panel will help us assess whether the plans deliver the services that customers expect from the networks in the next decade.”

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