Orange have just signed an agreement with BT which sees BT Wholesale providing fixed landline services to Orange customers, now making Orange a full triple-play provider, whilst setting the stage for the mobile network operator to become a quad-player, once their IPTV platform is finalised.
Previously, Orange customers could enjoy inclusive landline minutes on certain packages, but these calls were routed through the Orange Livebox, and were therefore technically VoIP calls. Now customers will be able to keep their existing BT number without having to undergo any lengthy porting procedures, making switching to Orange a whole lot easier.
Announcing the deal, Asif Aziz, director of home products for Orange, said: “It is our goal to provide mobile, broadband, fixed line and TV to every house in Britain.
“This is an important step in making that a reality by providing our customers with all of their communication needs from one supplier. The agreement enables us to provide our customers with all their home services in one bill.”
What difference this makes to current Orange pricing structures remains to be seen.
Posted by Tom on September 28th 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Orange Broadband
Carphone Warehouse, the mobile retailer giant which owns both the TalkTalk and AOL ISPs ascended to the ranks of the FTSE 100 – the top 100 list of the fattest cats listed on the London Stock Exchange – last week.
Despite this, a recent moneysupermarket.com survey shows that whilst the average waiting time for migrating customers to get set up with new connections has improved, some people are still being made to wait a number of weeks without any phone or broadband services, with TalkTalk being one of the baddest apples in a barrel of bad apples.
Customers switching to Talk Talk should expect to wait for approximately five weeks, according to this survey, with around 13 per cent of customers having to wait up to twice that amount – 10 weeks – to get their connection sorted.
Figures also showed that a mere 11 per cent of Sky customers get connected within the first week, somewhat embarrassing when compared with the 39 per cent of Virgin customers, although as Jason Lloyd, head of broadband at moneysupermarket.com says, “It seems logical that Virgin Media and BT are good at connecting their customers quickly because they have their own infrastructure and engineers in place.”
Carphone Warehouse, along with Be Broadband owners O2 got dibs on the UK rights to sell the hotly anticipated iPhone, which is due for release on the 9th of November.
Posted by Tom on September 27th 2007 in AOL, Be Broadband, Broadband, BT Broadband, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Virgin Media
O2, who have repeatedly put the brakes on their official entry into the mixed communications market, are rumoured to limit the availability of services once they do.
For the areas not in reach of the Be LLU footprint – which currently covers over half of the UK population – a wholesale agreement has been signed with BT to enable further coverage, but the service is not expected to be available to everyone.
O2 have been debating over how exactly they will market the service – they are anxious about not having the majority of their customers connected through BT Wholesale, which will would eat into their profits – an article in the Guardian last month stated that TalkTalk lose £5 a month on each customer connected through BT as opposed to their own unbundled network.
Be have currently unbundled in over 800 exchanges; it therefore looks likely that O2 will opt for a ‘softly softly’ approach, offering services through Be and through BT Wholesale in selected areas, and gradually expanding services through LLU Investment so that they do not end up in a similar situation.
Posted by Tom on September 24th 2007 in Be Broadband, Broadband, BT Broadband, O2 Broadband
The dream of a full fibre network for the UK has been given some official backing in the form of an announcement by Stephen Timms, Minister of State for Competitiveness and former E-Commerce Minister, who intends to meet with the ISP industry to discuss how the UK’s broadband infrastructure can be overhauled for the new millennium.
In his first main speech after being appointed Minister for Competitiveness, Mr Timms said:
“When I became E-Commerce minister five years ago, the UK was neck and neck with Croatia on broadband availability and use… We fixed that problem and put Britain in a leading position… Other countries are [now] starting to invest in new, fibre-based infrastructure[s], delivering considerably higher bandwidth than is available in the UK today… It is essential that the UK undertakes timely deployment of technology – we can’t lag behind.”
Extra bandwidth is sorely needed if services such as IPTV are really expected to take off in the UK. Recently, BT and Tiscali have expressed concern over the BBC’s decision to allow HD content to be made available for downloading and viewing through their iPlayer service.
HD generally chokes bandwidth across a traditional copperwire line, which presents a unique problem; the BBC’s public service remit states that content should be available to all licence fee payers at any time – if access to content is provided to the detriment of other services that people are paying for, in this broadband, then something has to be done to prevent this.
Ofcom is apparently keen to allow for funding to be set aside for a full fibre rollout, so long as the big boys of the UK broadband league are up for investing as well. BT Openreach’s chief executive, Steve Robertson is in agreement, saying that BT intend to invest in fibre to the home (FttH) so long as the competition is.
“The government has said there is going to be a major acceleration in housebuilding and, for Openreach, putting fibre into the ground is just as easy as putting copper into the ground… However, that does not help end users at all unless service providers – BT Retail, Carphone, Sky, Tiscali etc – come and play too and develop products.”
Countries which enjoy fast 100Mbps broadband speeds such as Germany, South Korea and Japan have seen investment of public funds into infrastructure which has seen residents and businesses alike benefit from faster connections and greater consumer choice. It has been noted that because the UK population density is nowhere near as compact as it is in Japan, mass fibre rollout is harder to achieve – indeed there are still many areas of London that today have not been set up with cable connections, and remote rural addresses still have to pay an arm and a leg just to get a phoneline connected.
“Putting fibre in the ground is as easy as copper”
Having said that, Robertson asserts “that putting fibre into the ground is just as easy as putting copper into the ground,” and so the roll out should not be any more or less logistically demanding than the current 21CN rollout is at the moment. The main stumbling block is money, and getting everyone involved to bring some cash to the table if we are to see any radical changes over the next few years.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group, an independent government advisor, has warned that the UK economy risks stagnation – the BSG has said that by 2012, British internet connections will need to be 10 times the speed of their current average 2 to 8Mbps. 2012 is the year when the analogue TV signal will be powered down to make way for full digital TV – as TV content can be delivered via fibre, the two markets are inextricably tied, earmarking 2012 as the future Year Zero of British telecommunications.
This is really encouraging news, as the implications of a having a national fibre network means that homes can be efficiently provided with a whole range of services and content through one port, which will change the face of markets forever. We’re seeing the beginning of this change happening already, with the rise of triple play providers including BT, Tiscali, Virgin and Sky, and now with Orange planning on releasing an IPTV service too.
Bandwidth heavy services such as the aforementioned delivery of HD programming over an IP will become more commonplace, as will VoIP services like Skype. The transfer of audio and video content will naturally be much faster and easier, and available to more people. To paraphrase somebody else’s marketing phrase, the future of broadband in the UK is definitely bright.
Posted by Tom on September 21st 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Next Gen Broadband, Sky Broadband, Tiscali, Virgin Media
UK Online have recently unveiled their Small Business Broadband package for, erm, small businesses who want a cost-effective net connection. The target market for UK Online’s Small Business Broadband service is represented on their website – a flower seller, chef and a book store owner, all pose for the camera looking content with their internet services.
Business outfits within benefit from a standard up to 8Mbps download speeds and 768Kpbs uploads, unlimited downloads, a static IP, 100MB of webspace, plus 20 email accounts, all for just under £20 a month for clients within the former Easynet LLU group, which, since Sky‘s buyout means practically everyone.
It is expected that the ADSL2+ ISP, who offer up to 22Mbps home broadband services, will unveil business broadband for larger companies who will want access to faster speeds – Be Broadband Pro currently furnishes business clients with up to 24Mbps downloads for £40 a month.
Posted by Tom on September 18th 2007 in Be Broadband, Broadband, Sky Broadband, UK Online
Tiscali and Setanta Sports have sealed a deal which will see the Irish broadcasters’ Setanta Sports Pack be made available on the Tiscali TV package for £9.99 a month.
Setanta have aggressively marketed themselves against Sky, who they compete with for coveted coverage of UK Premier League football – undoubtedly the trump card in the Sky arsenal. Setanta have also been closely working with bitter Sky rivals Virgin Media, and have gone so far as to forge a partnership for their own sports news channel.
Tiscali on the other hand have been working closely with Sky, and have successfully worked out a deal which sees the ‘missing channels’ – including Sky Sports News – returning to a non-satellite platform.
Tiscali have also recently extended the availability of their TV service, pitting themselves against Virgin Media on all fronts bar mobile phones – currently, Tiscali have the capacity to service 10 million UK homes with DTT and on-demand IPTV.
Setanta channels are now available practically everywhere, on Freeview, Sky, BT Vision and Virgin Media – Orange have recently unveiled plans for IPTV, with their ad campaign suggesting that sports coverage will be on offer. Presumably, we can see Setanta cropping up on Orange’s TV platform in the future.
Posted by Tom on September 17th 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Orange Broadband, Sky Broadband, Tiscali
Kingston Communications, the UK’s sole remaining municipally owned telco has comes under fire from Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire Diana Wallis for putting a stranglehold on the local broadband market.
Kingston Communications, recently rebranded as KCOM, are noted for their signature cream phone boxes, and is the sole supplier of phone and broadband services in the Hull area.
In a story run in the Independent last week, Wallis was quoted saying that “Businesses [in Hull] are effectively held to ransom, as there is only one supplier. That does not send out the right message to businesses looking to set up in the Hull area. Everybody is proud of their history and the cream-coloured phone boxes, but now it has got to the stage where people want choice and better service.”
A KCOM spokesperson responded last week saying that “We are obliged by Ofcom to make wholesale internet products available to ISPs that wish to provide broadband services in this area via our network […] The broadband market in Hull is open to any ISP who wishes to offer services here. Whether or not they do so is purely a commercial decision for them based on their view of the attractiveness of the market.”
Hull is the only area of the UK not serviced by BT phonelines, and herein lies the problem. The shape and size of the copper wires used in the Hull area is different to that which is used by BT, therefore any operator wishing to open up on the area is going to have to invest in an entirely new set of equipment; fibre-optic cable was never unbundled in Hull, so not even Virgin can set up shop.
It is this ‘Greek Fire’ approach which has seen KCOM remain the sole provider within Hull for years, despite the rest of the UK enjoying what the Independent calls “some of the lowest broadband prices in Europe,” with residents having to pay £16.99 a month for up to 8Mbps broadband with a meagre 2GB cap – you can get more for less throughout the UK, including, funnily enough, Eclipse Internet (owned and run by KCOM) who offer the same up to 8Mbps speed with an unspecified monthly limit from £14.99 a month.
Posted by Tom on September 17th 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Eclipse Internet, Virgin Media
Orange have certainly kept this one quiet. The mobile network and ISP is planning to launch their own broadband-cum-Freeview IPTV hybrid a la BT Vision, Tiscali TV and a million others.
There are few concrete details on the exact nature of the service, other than that a set-top box with PVR-enhancements and a seven-day catch-up service on all the channels is expected to be included.
Tim Pearson, director of digital TV at Orange, had this to say: “Orange’s digital TV service will allow viewers to get more from their TV by putting them in control of the best quality entertainment and enabling them to watch what they want, when they want, how they want.”
We also presume that, like BT Vision, an Orange Broadband connection plus the Orange Livebox will be required to make use of the service and enable the on-demand ‘what they want, when they want’ side of things.
Other recent developments in the converged broadband/TV/phone universe include the imminent arrival of Virgin Media’s much-talked about Virgin 1 channel, and Sky‘s stand-alone broadband package, currently entitled Sky Picnic Broadband.
Posted by Tom on September 11th 2007 in Broadband, BT Broadband, Orange Broadband, Sky Broadband, Tiscali, Virgin Media
A report published by the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA) shows that close to 3 million local loops have been successfully unbundled since the program began way back in 2000.
Many of BT‘s ISP rivals, particularly Sky and Tiscali have taken advantage of LLU, with the former offering free broadband to phone customers, and the latter offering inclusive line rental. Carphone Warehouse, who own and run TalkTalk, purchased AOL UK last October, which, at the time, made it the 3rd largest LLU operator in the country.
Whilst the figures are encouraging, the report also suggests that between 20 and 30 percent of unbundled and rented lines fail and require extensive repairs and maintenance costs.
It is estimated that it costs an ISP something in the region of £35,000 to install phone equipment in a single exchange – if this is the case, then since the Easynet buyout, Sky have invested in a figure close to £6million in LLU – factoring in the above figure plus a percentage to count for repair costs.
Posted by Tom on September 11th 2007 in AOL, Broadband, BT Broadband, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, Tiscali
AOL have just launched a new offer following in the wake of the upgrade from their old Silver package to the new AOL Broadband Wireless service. Customers who sign up to the new AOL Broadband Wireless Plus package for 24 months not only get an up to 8Mbps connection with a 40GB monthly usage limit , they also qualify for a free Dell™ Inspiron™ Notebook.
The inclusive Notebook, which comes with 1GB of memory and comes fully set up for wireless internet access, can be upgraded with extra hard drive space for an additional one-off fee of £49.99 and a faster processor for an extra £149.99.
This deal is a great value entry package for new surfers who want a cost-effective solution to getting online for the first time. Customers must sign up for a minimum of 2 years with AOL to qualify for the free laptop.
AOL are also planning further LLU rollouts – they have currently unbundled in roughly 65% of BT exchanges throughout the UK, and aim to increase this over the following months.
Posted by Tom on September 6th 2007 in AOL, Broadband
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