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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 07/09/18


Here's a selection of the week's top mobile, broadband, and energy news stories:

Holiday Snaps Easier to Upload on the Beach Rather Than at Home, Says Report

A scathing report by fibre optic network company Cityfibre has claimed that the UK’s broadband service is slower than on “the beach in your favourite holiday resort”. According to the report, the clear majority of holiday destinations in Europe had better coverage than British towns – only Italy and Greece were found overall to have worse a worse service, out of the top 10 European destinations.  The study found that 78% of UK customers feel frustrated by slow connections, including 87% of young people.

Cityfibre has recently argued that the fibre optic market deserves more investment from the Government, both local and national, in order to provide better internet service to wider areas.

The report was, however, critiqued by analysts, who pointed out a number of flaws. For example, the data used by Cityfibre summarised download speeds – whereas pictures are uploaded to the internet, which generally doesn’t need as strong a connection, especially to social media sites such as Facebook that downgrade quality for easier uploading. Additionally, that beaches generally aren’t supplied with fibre optics – you’re more likely to have WiFi or mobile coverage than fixed terminals.

Internet Analysis Via Game Platform Steam

SamKnows, an internet quality analysis firm, has conducted a study in UK internet speeds via an unusual medium – downloading games.  By virtue of being both a large download package and more relatable to the general populace than raw numbers, the study demonstrated that the major national Internet Service Providers (ISPs) all actually provided similar speeds.  The analysis used Steam, the platform owned by the games company Valve that hosts games downloads, as well as acting as an online shop and social media hub – without the need for a physical disk.

Apart from Virgin Media, which significantly outperformed other providers, major firms such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone provided similar figures.  Virgin’s download speed, over 120 Megabits per second (Mbps), far outstripped the 30-45Mbps of the other four providers.  SamKnows’ conclusion was that by far the most important factor in determining internet speed was not the ISP, but local variations in speed, mostly through the infrastructure of the local region.

Energy Price Cap Confirmed to Start this December

Energy regulator Ofgem’s price cap, proposed earlier this year, has been confirmed to be put in place from December 2018, running for five years to 2023.  Ofgem has also announced the exact value, with household energy bills now capped at £1,136 per annum of ‘typical usage’.  The cap is designed to help consumers having difficulty affording gas and electricity, and to stop loyal customers being ‘exploited’ by the major providers.  Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan explained: “Once the price cap is in place, all households in Great Britain covered by the cap will be protected from being overcharged for their energy.”

Ofgem has projected that the average household will save £75 per year, with the most expensive provider – Scottish Power – being required to cut their tariffs by up to £121.  A ‘typical’ customer, according to the regulator, uses around 3,199 kWH of electricity and 12,000 kWH of gas in a year.

Mobile Operators Say Councils Should Help Coverage

Mobile UK, the trade association for the country’s mobile networks, has published a new report on network coverage that claims that local councils should be doing more to help major firms install the infrastructure required to extend good mobile service.

According to the communications regulator Ofcom, 92% of UK properties are in serviceable areas for calls, whether for 2G, 3G, or 4G.  88% receive mobile data coverage (3G or 4G) provided by one of the UK’s operators – Three UK, Vodafone, O2, or EE.  4G coverage, currently the fastest mobile data speed commercially available in the country, is significantly lower, at 57%.  EE alone, however, is up to 90% coverage for its 4G network.

The government has encouraged local authorities to work with providers to increase coverage, especially in more rural areas deemed ‘commercially unviable’, a sentiment shared by the providers themselves.  Gareth Elliott, head of Policy and Comms at Mobile UK, representing such firms, said: “Building Mobile Britain relies on strong partnerships and local Government has a vital role to play in delivering this goal.  Our report, Councils and Connectivity, outlines how proactive local government leadership, planning and the sharing of ideas can enable and unlock opportunities to achieving a world-class connected economy.”

Energy-Considerate Brexit is Required, says UK and European Firms

Business leaders on both sides of the Channel have asked politicians thrashing out the Brexit deal to factor in climate change and energy efficiency, citing the dual concerns of hampering environmentalism and driving up energy bills.

An alliance of UK and EU businesses has written an open letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU, and Prime Minister Theresa May, calling for a deal that would prevent drastic rises in energy bills, protect supply lines, and continue progress on climate change.  They have also asked that technology such as offshore wind, electric vehicles and new energy storage methods are protected and invested in.  Furthermore, firms have requested that the UK stays a signatory to European and Worldwide environmental treaties, notably the Paris Agreement and the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), which allows countries to ‘buy’ carbon emissions off each other.

The signatories, including major firms from both the energy and supply sectors, such as EDF and Unilever, has also called for EU regulations on supply networks and financial trading to be retained post-Brexit, along with European research grants and cross-Channel infrastructure and energy grants.