Super expensive phones – and super cheap phones, BT’s trials, and Vodafone’s broadband, the decisions that Ofcom bottled and impact of free EU roaming – we asked independent telecoms expert Dave Millett of Equinox to take a look back at the telecoms developments of 2017:
Well, it saw the launch of the first £1,000 phone with iPhone X. That was a landmark event and a long way from the return of the much-loved Nokia 3310 – priced at around £50. Compared to the iPhone it is almost a disposable item – we have disposable cameras, are phones next?
Unfortunately, the year has not seen any improvement in the Government’s approach to addressing the shortfalls in the UK’s telecoms infrastructure. There was a small glimmer in the past few weeks with the announcement from Vodafone that it will start to roll out its own fibre network in conjunction with City Fibre. We will have to wait until 2020 to see if it has an impact. Let’s hope it is delivered equally to solve the issues of rural areas and those of businesses in city centres and on business parks that lack fibre broadband.
BT announced some trials of Fibre To The Premise (FTTP) technology. Yet one has to ask why trials are necessary when Latvia already has 45 per cent coverage of its country with the technology and South Korea 85 per cent? We have yet to get above 2 per cent. Could it be BT wants to sweat its copper assets even longer?
Ofcom continued its tradition of bottling decisions that would benefit consumers and businesses. It appears inclined to let Openreach remain joined at the hip to BT rather than forcing full separation. It then compounds the issue by appearing to favour BT in sorting out the mess of fibre broadband shortages, rather than opening up the market.
Ofcom also reduced the levels of proposed compensation for missed appointments and delays in fixing faults. It didn’t even amount to a slap on the wrists. The compensation needs to be at a level that acts as a real incentive to improve services.
Roaming charges in Europe came to an end this year, which is positive news. Yet it remains a disgrace that we cannot roam for free in the UK. This would help reduce the not-spots we all face when travelling the country. Another example of the Government and Ofcom not standing up to the networks.
Mobile data traffic continues to grow as the number of texts declines. Also the percentage of people not using their mobiles for voice conversation over the mobile networks is rising dramatically. The growth of communication apps such as Facetime and Whatsapps are drawing users away from the traditional networks.
Similarly, businesses are giving up traditional lines for SIP and VoIP at a fast rate. Almost 1 in 6 business phones is connected to VoIP now. Traditional premise-based vendors, such as Avaya and Mitel, are promoting their cloud-based solutions equally, if not more than, the premise option. But claims that the landline is dead are certainly premature. Some suppliers are using the end story to scare companies to change out earlier than necessary.
Microsoft gave up its attempts to become a major player in the mobile space, which in some ways is a shame as I think there is a need for a third option apart from Apple and Android. Many new handsets were launched with varying degrees of success. Google’s Pixel phone had reported issues of screen burning in. Much was made of Apple’s facial recognition yet imagine if you are mugged for your phone – much easier for thief to unlock it by holding it up to you. Prices seem to rise faster than the growth in new features. This is reflected by an increase in people opting for SIM only deals, which are being more heavily promoted by the networks than before.
The UK remains in the slow lane when it comes to technology. Not much has changed in the last 12 months. Continued uncertainty over Brexit remains the biggest greater concern – overshadowing some of the telecoms issues. However, we need to address the issue of poor telecoms infrastructure in the UK if we are to compete on a world stage after Brexit. Waiting until we leave will be too late. On the positive side, individual companies continue to show the ability to innovate despite our infrastructure continuing to slip behind.
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