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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 20/07/18

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We’ve picked out the most important mobile, broadband, and energy news stories from the last week for you: 

Government Warns of Potential Security Risks from Chinese Phone Manufacturer Huawei 

The Government’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) has warned that telecoms companies that use equipment supplied by Chinese firm Huawei may be at risk due to flaws in the company’s manufacturing process.

In response to the concerns raised by HCSEC, a spokesman from Huawei said “We are grateful for this feedback and are committed to addressing these issues. Cyber-security remains Huawei’s top priority, and we will continue to actively improve our engineering processes and risk management systems.”

The HCSEC’s mandate is to ensure that Chinese products used in British infrastructure do not pose any risks to national security. The report is the latest in a series of other reports released over the past several years that raise similar security concerns about Chinese products.

In 2013, the Intelligence and Security Committee raised concerns about BT Openreach making use of equipment from Huawei. BT Openreach still uses equipment supplied by Huawei. Additionally, just a few months ago, the National Cyber Security Centre issued warnings that products supplied by the Chinese firm ZTE potentially threatened the national security of the UK.

BT, who also make use of tech from ZTE, responded to the Government’s evaluations by saying that they have “a robust testing regime in place to ensure that the equipment from all suppliers used in our network remains secure.”

Sky Mobile Customers Will be Able to Profit From Unused Mobile Data

Sky Mobile upgraded their Piggybank reward scheme this month, allowing customers to trade any unused data for savings on a range of products.

Previously the Sky Piggybank allowed customers to roll-over their unused data each month. They could then use it any time that they needed to over the next three years. However, some customers have been accruing such large amounts of unused rolled-over data that Sky has taken the initiative and offered customers a new way of using it.

The new Piggybank rewards scheme allows customers to trade up to £50 of their unused data for money off any new accessories or devices purchased via the Sky website or app. Alternatively Sky will also offer its customers the chance to trade this data for unique monthly rewards.

Director of Sky Mobile Sophia Ahmad said that “when we launched Sky Mobile, we wanted to offer the best possible deal to our customers. Automatically saving their unused data with Roll was a big part of this. Our customers have saved over £50 million worth of data so far, which would have been lost with other networks. Now we’re improving Roll even more with Piggybank Rewards – turning customer’s unused data into savings on new phones, tablets and accessories.”

Switches to Small Energy Firms Skyrocket

Figures compiled by Energy UK showed that last month a record number of customers switched to a smaller energy supplier outside of the Big Six. In June 481,677 customers switched to a new energy supplier, with just under half of that number changing to a smaller company.

Whilst many have hailed the increasing move away from the dominance of the Big Six energy companies, some have cautioned against customers entrusting themselves to the smaller, lesser known suppliers. Proponents of such switching say that it keeps the market healthy, encouraging more competition, driving down costs for all consumers.

However, detractors point out that customers with a smaller supplier could be at risk if their supplier goes bankrupt. Since 2008, three smaller energy firms have entered administration. In such circumstances though, Ofgem has measures in place to safeguard customers. Customers whose supplier has gone bust will automatically be transferred to a new supplier, thereby ensuring that still have an energy supply.

The only drawback to Ofgem’s measures is that customers may find themselves on a more expensive tariff with their new supplier than they were on before. However, they can still just switch to a cheaper one any time, and so this should not put peopleoff from finding a potentially cheaper deal with a smaller energy supplier.

EDF Fined For Missing Smart Meter Installation Targets

EDF Energy has been punished by the government for failing to meet targets set for smart meter installations. As a result of meeting its 2017 targets a month late, in January this year, the firm will pay a £350,000 fine.

The Government’s plan is to have large energy suppliers (those with more than 250,000 customers) offer and provide a smart meter to any of their customers who want one by 2020. As a result of this initiative, companies have set their own internal goals for smart meter installations, as monitored by the energy watchdog, Ofgem.

EDF’s fine will go towards Ofgem’s consumer redress fund, which is designed to assist vulnerable customers.

Jim Poole, EDF’s director of customer operations said that the company was “working hard to meet its smart meter programme objectives” and were “disappointed we were three weeks late in reaching our 2017 target.” He added that EDF has “recovered the shortfall quickly in 2018 and are on target for this year.”

To date, the scheme has seen every supplier instal a total greater than 11 million smart meters in homes and businesses across the country.

Virgin Media Broadband Customers Will Now Receive Real Time Updates on Engineers

Virgin Media has announced a new system which will allow customers to track the company’s engineers if they have an appointment scheduled. The company said that they hope this will reduce customer frustration based on unknown wait times for technicians, and cut the number of missed appointments by 10%.

The service has been developed with the location sharing company Glympse. It will look familiar to those accustomed to using ride sharing apps such as Uber, or those who have used the parcel tracking services of most delivery companies.

Upon booking an appointment with a Virgin Media technician, customers will be sent a link to the service. There, the tracker will display a live map which displays the estimated time of arrival of the technician (factoring in traffic conditions as well), along with the name of the engineer. The system will also send customers a handy reminder of their scheduled appointment the day before.

The new system is scheduled to be made available to Virgin Media customers across the country sometime over the coming autumn.