The Week in Broadband News

It’s been a busy week in the world of mobile and broadband. Here’s a quick rundown of the top stories in case you missed any of them.

EE to Begin Trialling 5G in London

EE has taken a stride towards their stated goal of being the UK’s first mobile network provider with a 5G network. The company has announced that they will carry out the first trial of the technology in the UK, beginning in October this year. The trial will take place in East London and will encompass 5 homes and 5 small businesses across St Paul’s, Old Street, City Road, Chiswell Street and Hoxton Square.

Marc Allera, Chief Executive of BT’s Consumer division, of which EE is a subsidiary, said “this live trial is a big step forward in making the benefits of 5G a reality for our customers, and in making sure that the UK is at the front of the pack for 5G technology. We’re focusing our resource and experience across EE and BT to ensure that we continue to lead the UK market with a mobile network that keeps giving our customers the best speeds and the best coverage.”

Digital Minister Margot James outlined the government’s ambitions to create a “world-leading digital economy that works for everyone”. She explained that the UK leading the way in 5G technology uptake was a crucial part of that plan.

She went on to add: “together with the government’s own test beds and trials programme, industry initiatives like this will help deliver the benefits of this new revolutionary technology to businesses and consumers across the UK.”

5G is the fifth generation of mobile technology networks and is theoretically capable of much higher speeds than the current fourth generation (4G). EE believes that they can provide download speeds of over 1Gb/s during the trial. This is roughly four times the speed of current 4G. EE is hopeful that the availability of future 5G infrastructure will pave the way for new developments in technologies like virtual and augmented realities, making the technology more widely accessible.

House of Lords Criticise ‘Unambitious’ Universal Service Obligation

Following the news earlier this year that Ofcom would be implementing the government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) plans by 2020, the USO itself has come under fire this week by the House of Lords.

The USO in its current format would grant all UK citizens the right to broadband with a minimum speed limit of 10Mb/s at an “affordable” rate. These plans were, however, widely criticised by peers, who called for the government to expand the bill.

Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Foster of Bath accused the government of a “lack of ambition” and went on to say that “By the government’s own admission, the USO is simply a safety net and frankly, not a very good one at that”. Echoing these sentiments, Labour Peer Lord Stevenson of Balmacara complained that the government had “come forward with the slowest of the available options” for USO.

Meanwhile, Conservative Peer Earl Cathcart pointed out that the broadband speeds near his Norfolk home were just 0.03Mbps. He used this as an example to question whether the government were capable of getting “the basics right” when it came to delivering “superfast broadband speeds”.

Labour Peer Lord Mendelsohn, who brought the bill before the Lords to be amended, called for the target speed to be set as high as 2Gb/s. He reasoned that the much higher target was necessary as Ofcom had reported that the 10Mb/s proposed would be insufficient by 2020.

Members of the House of Lords have voiced much opposition to the USO as it currently stands. As a result, they called upon the government to triple the speed limit of 10Mb/s laid out in the plans to 30Mb/s but were unsuccessful in achieving this.

Recent Study Predicts Broadband Investment Will Grow NI Economy by £1.2 billion

A recent study conducted by DotEcon and commissioned by BT has outlined predictions that recent investments into broadband infrastructure would generate £1.2 billion for Northern Ireland.

Last year, as part of the deal made with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to secure their support in Parliament, the government agreed to invest £75m for two years – totalling £150m – to build an ultrafast broadband network with of over 100Mb/s across NI.

DotEcon’s report outlines how this investment could benefit the local economy by 8 times the value of what was initially invested by 2033. The increased employment opportunities alone would supposedly provide six times the return on investment.

Mairead Meyer, the Managing Director of BT’s NI Network, said: “We welcome the proposed investment and expansion of fibre broadband across Northern Ireland… However, we wanted to investigate and share the economic impact such an investment would have, particularly within challenging, harder to reach rural areas across Northern Ireland. This report highlights the huge potential of an expansion of ultrafast fibre broadband in rural areas… enabling Northern Ireland to compete alongside the best fibre networks in Europe.”

NI already has the existing fibre optic cable infrastructure in place that will allow more homes and businesses to access ultrafast broadband in the future. BT plans to use the existing fibre optic network to provide 140,000 additional homes and businesses with ultrafast broadband by 2021.

ISPs Ordered to Block Websites Erroneously

Internet watchdog the Open Rights Group (ORG) has revealed the results of a survey that claims that 38% of websites that have been blocked because of court orders have been  blocked in error.

­­The courts have ordered ISPs like Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk, and BT to block websites that contravene copyright laws and thereby encourage or support internet piracy. The process of imposing such blocks is expensive for the ISPs and so far hundreds of websites have been blocked in this way.

The ORG’s Executive Director, Jim Killock, said: “It is not acceptable for a legal process to result in nearly 40% maladministration. These results show a great deal of carelessness. We expect ISPs and rights holders to examine our results and remove the errors we have found as swiftly as possible. We want ISPs to immediately release lists of previously blocked domains, so we can check blocks are being removed by everyone. Rights holders must make public exactly what is being blocked, so we can be ascertain how else these extremely wide legal powers are being applied.”

Part of the expense is in maintaining the flexibility of the blocks, which is required because ways in which the banned websites try to circumvent the blocks by using proxy servers, and alternative domains and IP addresses.

The errors in the blocks can arise through various factors. Blocked sites can move, shut down, or even share IP addresses with legitimate sites which are then also blocked themselves.

EE Announces June Price Cuts for New Customers

The Internet Service Provider EE has announced a host of price reductions in various packages available to new customers. New customers can take advantage of the opportunity to pick up a reduced price fixed line home broadband or phone line rental bundle from EE until the 25th of June, after which the prices will return to normal. The deals will last for 18 months, after which the regular tariff rates will apply.

EE’s bundles will provide their subscribers with various standard features. These include unlimited calls and no download limits on broadband. Additionally, the packages come with wireless routers and free setup where a phone line isn’t required ( if a phone line is required, a £30 surcharge is added). Furthermore, any customers with mobile phone contracts with EE will also receive an extra 5GB of data to use per month.

EE have sliced the prices on four different packages for the first 18 months, after which they will return to their original prices. These are:

  • The standard 10Mb/s Broadband, down to £19/month from £30
  • Their 36Mb/s Fibreoptic Broadband, down from £35 to £26/month
  • The 67Mb/s Fibreoptic Plus Broadband, £10 cheaper at £30 a month
  •  The 67Mb/s Fibreoptic Max Broadband, which includes both EE’s Call Plus and Anytime UK and International calls add-ons, for £42 a month, rising to £52.50 after 18 months

EE are also giving customers the option to bolt on EE TV services, or UK call packages onto any of the above options for £11.50/month and between £4 and £10/month respectively.

Compare EE’s best deals here