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Broadband, Mobile & Energy News: Weekly Roundup 29/06/18


 We’ve compiled the most important mobile, energy, and broadband stories from the last week here for you to take a look at:

£1.3bn Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project thrown out

The Government has rejected plans to build the world’s first renewable energy tidal power lagoon in Swansea Bay. The developers, Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) have claimed that the lagoon would offer cheaper energy than alternative sources, such as nuclear power. However, the government has rejected the £1.3bn project on the grounds that it would not be cost effective.

Greg Clark, the Business and Energy Secretary, said "securing our energy needs into the future has to be done seriously and, when much cheaper alternatives exist, no individual project, and no particular technology, can proceed at any price."

The Welsh government had committed £200m to the project, and the move to scrap it has been met with wide condemnation from Welsh politicians – including some from the Conservative party. The Government maintains that this was the right decision, as based on its cost analysis, the lagoon would increase energy bills for the average British household by £700 by 2050.

TLP have argued that the costs would be half of that, however. TLP’s chief executive, Mark Shorrock said that this was partly down to the project being a world first, which would “kick start an industry", driving down costs in the long run.

However, the government has faced criticism for the high price of the energy produced by the Hinckley Point nuclear power station. They have committed to taking the burden away from bill payers, and their decision has been made on the basis of their lack of confidence in TLP to deliver the low prices they are looking for.

Facebook's Drone Broadband Project Shut Down

Facebook has announced its intent to step back from Project Aquila – a project pursuing the delivery of broadband using high-altitude unmanned aircraft (HAPS). The company has been investigating the technology, as part of their stated goal “to help connect the 4 billion people who still do not have access to the Internet.”

In a statement released by Facebook, the company announced its reasoning. They explained that as “leading companies in the aerospace industry start investing in this technology too — including the design and construction of new high-altitude aircraft […] we’ve decided not to design or build our own aircraft any longer, and to close our facility in Bridgwater.”

The statement went on to say that “going forward, we’ll continue to work with partners like Airbus on HAPS connectivity generally, and on the other technologies needed to make this system work, like flight control computers and high-density batteries.”

It seems that Facebook is still committed to the project in some form, although they may now be prioritising allocating their resources to more traditional means of broadband delivery, rather than bearing the cost of developing the new technologies required for HAPS broadband themselves.

Tutela Rankings put Vodafone and EE at the Top of the Charts for 4G Mobile Speeds

Tutela, who provide crowd-sourced insights into the mobile broadband industry, have produced a study comparing the performance of various mobile networks. The survey, covering May of 2018, ranked EE as the UK’s top mobile provider, having the fastest upload and download speeds, and the lowest latency. Vodafone ranked second in all the metrics behind EE. Keeping to its namesake, the study also revealed that Three is the best network for delivering 3G, although it is well behind the leaders in delivering modern 4G.

EE has invested more heavily than its rivals in 4G technology and infrastructure, and this is clearly paying off. The network was able to produce average download speeds of 22.7 Mbps, and upload speeds of 10.1 Mbps. Vodafone was not far behind, with average download and upload speeds of 17.7 and 8.7 Mbps respectively. All of the networks had very similar latency times, with EE just edging the top spot by 1 ms with an average latency of 32 ms, over Vodafone’s 33 ms. O2 and Three both came bottom of the 4G rankings, with EE’s performance being almost twice as good as Three’s.

This is partly due to Three’s heavy investment in 3G technology when it first became available. As the study shows, their 3G network is the best around, however, this has come at the expense of their more modern 4G. Additionally Three offers affordably unlimited data plans, which may take up capacity on their networks, leading to slow downs, but are attractive to consumers who don’t want to worry about going over data limits each month.

BT Hike Broadband and Phone Prices

BT has announced that their prices will be increasing for the second time in 12 months. In November last year, the ISP announced that they were putting up the costs of their broadband packages. Now BT has announced increases to the costs of their services which were unaffected by the first increase – primarily the costs of line rental, various TV packages, and their other internet packages which weren’t covered in the last increase.

A statement from BT announcing the changes told customers: “We’re changing some of our landline, broadband, TV and Sport prices on 16 September 2018. We’ll be writing to you between June and August to let you know about the price changes, with a clear breakdown of how each of your products will be affected.

If you only take landline services from us and already have our Line Only Discount, this will not change. Check out Reduced rental for landline only customers for more information. We know that no-one likes price changes, but this allows us to upgrade our services and give you more. Every customer will see improvements to their products and services alongside these changes.”

BT justified the increase by saying they would be using the additional funds from the price increases to improve the services they provided for customers. Additionally, they are also being forced to comply to new rules and regulation, such as automated emailing systems for their customers, all of which costs money to implement, and their customers tend to foot the bill for such costs.

Amazon Prime is Now Available on TV for BT Customers

As of this week, BT will start offering Amazon Prime on their set top boxes. BT customers who subscribe to Amazon Prime will be able to access the video streaming service alongside the other apps that BT offers, such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.

In order to access the service, however, you will still require a subscription to Amazon Prime. This will add an extra £7.99 to your monthly bill, or alternatively, £79 for a yearly subscription. You can subscribe directly to Amazon Prime through BT, who will simply add the additional cost of the service to your bill.

Amazon and BT have worked out a deal to share the rights to the Premier League matches that both have bought, making this especially relevant to football fans. From the 2019-2020 season onwards, Amazon have acquired the rights to broadcast live some Premier League matches. BT customers subscribed to BT sport will be allowed to watch the games Amazon will have the rights to, regardless of whether or not they have purchased the full Amazon package.

Tony Singh, of BT’s Consumer division hailed the move, saying it would allow BT customers to watch “all the sport – in one place and on one bill”.

This move is the next step towards customers having only one bill for an increasing number of entertainment services. It follows the recent partnerships that Netflix has established with both Virgin Media and Sky.