22/12/2014

Ofcom consults on Public Sector Spectrum release

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published a statement on the release of Public Sector Spectrum release, specifically in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands concerning co-existance issues.

The two blocks of spectrum are currently held by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and it is reelasing the spectrum back to Ofcom for civilian use. The two blocks are: -

  • 40 MHz of spectrum within the 2.3 GHz band (2350-2390 MHz)
  • 150 MHz of spectrum within the 3.4 GHz band (3410-3480 MHz and 3500-3580 MHz)

Though likely to be offered on a technology neutral basis, it is expected that there will be high interest from mobile operators wishing to use the spectrum for high power 4G (LTE) services.

Ofcom has viewed the interference issues assuming the bands will be used for LTE.

The 2.3GHz band has potential to interfere with the adjacent 2.4GHz band (2400 to 2483.5 MHz) which is used by Bluetooth, WiFi and Zigbee. Though Ofcom has ascertained there is a slight risk (mainly to WiFi, just due to the number of WiFi access points in use), often interference issues can be minimised by moving equipment away from windows or near the outside of buildings. Moving WiFi to use the 5GHz band mean there is no interference at all.

The 2.3GHz band release will cause issues for Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) and will reduce the number of channels available. However PMSE is expected to move to the 7GHz band which will become the 'home' for PMSE services.

Current PMSE services can continue to operate in the 3.4GHz band, until such time that the 3.4GHz is actually deployed in specific areas.

Ofcom hopes to release the spectrum in 2015.

01/12/2014

Ofcom rates VoD services with BBFC

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published two statements relating to regulating/censoring VoD content in-line with it duties as a broadcast regulator.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) guidelines will be used for VoD content classification and any content that is R (or over) must now be behind a system that restricts access to the content. It also makes certain content illegal in any form.

Ofcom has published a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) that sets out how Ofcom will work with the Authority for TV On Demand (ATVOD) and the BBFC will work together to achieve the purpose and effect of the new legislation.

Also Ofcom has published an update (PDF) to the ATVOD Designation to incorporate the new requirements.

Ofcom moves into the 21st Century and will offer number allocation through a WEB FORM

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published a statement that from 8th December 2014 communications providers will have to apply for new number allocations through a web form on the Ofcom site.

The form will ask for details of the allocation use and communications providers that intend to use those numbers for Public Electronic Communications Network (PECN) and/or a Public Electronic Communications Service (PECS) will have to allocate those numbers within the 6 month period or Ofcom can withdraw them and take them back for re-allocation.

This should simplify the application process for most providers (the old system was paper based) and relates to number allocation within Section 58 of the Communication Act 2003 under General Condition 17.

Ofcom held a consultation about this a while back and the result of the respondents are included in the statement, several respondents have been redacted (probably as they didn't want their names known to incumbents).

24/11/2014

Ofcom clears the way for 700MHz broadband

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published a statement that will clear the 700MHz band (694 MHz - 790 MHz) for use by mobile broadband services (likely to be additional bands for LTE services).

It is expected that the auctioning of this band will raise significant revenue for the treasury as well as having a positive economic benefit by allowing mobile network operators (MNOs) access to increased spectrum allowing them to provide better data services. The 700MHz band has very good propagation properties (i.e. signals pass through walls etc well) which should improve mobile coverage in rural areas.

Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services will continue to operate in the 600MHz band, though multiplexes will use MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 technologies (any tuner that can decode Freeview HD will work with these technologies).

The main users affected by this will be Programming and Special Events (PMSE) radio microphones, who will have to move to other bands.

Whitespace technologies may also be affected, however these haven't really taken off in a big way and even Neul that has built equipment to utilise whitespace have recently concentrated on licensed spectrum (and have been purchased by Huawei).

This may seem daunting, but Ofcom is not proposing that these changes come into effect until 2020 (and maybe 2 years earlier in 2018), this is in-line with European harmonised spectrum strategy.

07/11/2014

Jawbone introduces Move and UP3

Jawbone the company that specialises in Bluetooth devices has launched two new activity trackers, the Move and the UP3.

The Move is a disk like (made out of anodised aluminium) and comes with a clip so you can attach it to your trousers, tie, bra or wherever you feel comfortable. It has a tri-axis accelerometer, 12 White LEDs, 1 Orange LED, and 1 Blue LED to indicate movement time, charge states, progress and current status. To be honest it seems very similar to the Misfit Shine. It uses a replaceable CR2032 battery which lasts up to 6 months. It only costs £39.99 which definitely puts it in the affordable bracket.

The UP3 on the other hand seems to be a vast improvement on the UP24 (and Jawbone known for being a Bluetooth company really shouldn't have released the original UP without Bluetooth support). It has a tri-axis accelerometer and uses bio-impedance to measure heart rate, respiration, Galvanic Skin Response (GSR). It also measures skin and ambient temperature. There are three single color LEDs: Blue for sleep, orange for activity, and white for notifications. It's also water resistant down to 10m (which means that it's suitable for swimming) and the rechargeable battery lasts about a week. It's £149.99 which isn't cheap, but the electronic sensors that measure your conditions are definitely better than the usual LED/pulse-rate detectors that most other devices use and can potentially allow the UP3 to do more accurate and advanced monitoring.

Though Fitbit dominate the tracker market (and though they are also launching new devices), the Move is a cheap and cheerful device for the low end market, while the UP3 has some nice advanced features and should give them a run for their money.

02/11/2014

The Kilogram moves from Platinum/Iridium to a Plank

In October the Kilogram turned 125 and the current International Prototype Kilogram based on a 4cm rod of Platinum and 10 Iridium is going to be phased out in favour of a new Kilogram based on a fundament constant of nature.

The IPK is based at the International Bureau of Weights in Sevres, France with 6 copies spread across the world, but time is having an effect and the weights do not agree with each other and the disagreements are increasing (each time measurements are taken the IPK has to be handled).

The new Kilogram will be based on the Plank, which will be measured using a watt balance (in a vacuum, developed by the National Physics Laboratory in Teddington) and is worked out by measuring how much current is required to move the balance, this will also mean redefinition of the ampere (which will be based on the charge carried by a single proton), but if gravity is known at the measuring point, it all works out from there.

This won't happen overnight and assuming all goes well the new standard will come into force (sic) in 2018.

13/09/2014

What's the big deal about an iPhone 6 and Apple Watch

Last week Apple announced the new iPhone 6 and 6 plus (the 6 being the updated version of the iPhone 5s with slightly larger dimensions and the 6 plus being a phablet with a true 1080 display). These will both be available on September the 19th, through carriers or an Apple Store.

Of course, the Apple Watch was also announced which caused swoons from legions of fanboys worldwide (not available until 2015 though). It's pretty, but no beauty, but does it really mater? Apple will still sell lots of them.

Let's start with the new iPhones, they have a new Apple A8 ARM CPU which can be twice as fast as the old A7X in the iPhone 5s and a new graphics chip (also faster). They also come with an updated M8 co-processor which as well as looking after things like the compass, gyroscope and accelerometer, now handles pressure as well. The older M7 off-loaded these functions, the M8 does the same. Allegedly it's a chip manufactured by NXP so probably a very low power 32bit ARM MCU which off-loads all the data collection from the actual sensor chips and then triggers the main (A8) CPU when it's got some usable data for it - it probably does a bit of data pre-processing too.

The M8 allows the phone to diligently collect movement data using very little power and applications can access the data as they need, the barometer adds the ability to track the height of the device (altitude), so can now measure the user's climbing stairs etc activity - Apple are doing their best to own the health market and it will make a big dent into applications when HealthKit hits iOS 8 allowing multiple health apps to aggregate their data into a central application. Why wear a Nike Fuelband, when your iPhone collects the same data, might as well take the data from the iPhone and send it back to Nike's Plus service (and Nike has recently got out of the tracker market, at least for separate wearables - maybe Tim Cooke [CEO of Apple] who sits on Nike's board gave them a heads-up).

Then there's the NFC stuff that's now in the iPhone, that will be used for Apple Pay. Apple has previously publicly rejected NFC completely saying the market wasn't ready and the NFC market was too fragmented, that's all about to change.

Then there's the Apple Watch, it's square, but Apple have done a fantastic job on the UI, it's nice now and can only improve. It too has a new chip (the S1), but there's not much detail on that yet.. It also has 'health' features and can track movement (independently from the phone), it's got LEDs and sensors on the base which can measure your pulse-rate (many read that to be heart rate, but it's not quite the same, pulse rate is just measuring the blood squirting through the veins - heart-rate generally means taking an ECG reading and measuring the number of beats per minute - that gets tricky and can mean FDA approval, which is a pain that Apple just may not want to go through YET). It has health apps built-in, though it will use the iPhone GPS to measure real distances moves etc.

Currently the LED/sensors just measure pulse-rate, but (probably very much like Withings did with the Pulse) they can also measure O2 concentration in the blood (pO2), then glucose/sugar levels and who knows what else, the technologies there, it just requires enabling bits of software.

The Apple Watch also has that nice little NFC subsystem in it, which will allow older iPhones (and iPads) to utilise Apple Pay (see what they did there!).

However, it's Apple Pay which is the real game changer. NFC on Android phones is fragmented, everyone has their own way of doing things. All the mobile carriers are trying to do mobile wallets, banks are trying to do mobile wallets, Apple is now doing a mobile payment system with agreement from the major card issuers (MasterCard, Visa, AMEX). Admittedly is US only at launch, but it will surely roll out to at least European countries reasonably rapidly. The US hasn't adopted Chip and Pin (C&P) yet, however stores are accepting NFC cards for small payments (NFC cards have a symbol on them, like a wireless signal radiating out). Apple now allows a user to store the card details (in a secure area) on the iPhone and uses that info to make an NFC transaction. It doesn't need all the card info, just enough to tell the merchant who the user is and that gets passed back to the card issuer, the transaction is done (all using secure tokes and secured on the phone using Touch-ID). Presumably Apple takes a small cut of the transaction from the card companies, but they get reduced fraud (mag stripes are easy to clone and until C&P is rolled out in the US, this is a MUCH more secure method). There's also only a single payment system that merchants have to worry about that uses their existing merchant accounts and systems. This will be HUGE for Apple.

That's just the beginning - take TfL's Oyster system in the UK, they're trying to get rid of dedicated Oyster cards and allowing users to use their normal (NFC) bank cards for pay-as-you-go journeys, this will eventually extend to all types of journeys (season tickets etc). Apple can now step in and support Oyster on the phone (and Apple Watch), no more searching for the right card that's registered for Oyster, dangle your watch near the reader.

Moving forwards, as the technology is adopted, Apple can start removing the need for the card companies themselves, it becomes the card issuer, it becomes the bank. The card companies are needed now, but for how long? The technology is there built into the iPhone and Watch. It links into your iTunes account and you have central control.

In the future, Apple produce an NFC reader in their desktop offerings (MacBooks, Airs, iMacs, Mac Pros) and e-commerce sites can access this, go to a site which is Apple Pay enabled, pay through your phone, the possibilities are endless - and the revenue streams to Apple with them.

The big losers? Well Pebble has just been blown out of the water, ok it's cheaper, but it's dumb compared to Apple's Watch. A lot of Android Wear watches are also likely to be hit hard, though some of them are prettier - at least now. Apple have built a watch eco-system - they currently support 3 watch designs and lots of different bracelets, they are all designed and made beautifully (even if the watch itself isn't the prettiest out there, it's a version 1). Now Apple work with the high-end watch designers - Apple Watch inside, designer watch outside. If Apple do this properly, they've corned the smart-watch market for a long time.

The BIGGEST losers though - eventually the card companies, Apple is disrupting them from the inside, much like it did with the music industry and is slowly doing to the film/video industry. The other major loser is COIN, such a good idea (though only for the US's antiquated mag stripe card system, it has a long way to go to support multiple C&P cards, if they ever get the technology and agreements to do so), it's business now looks very shaky indeed, killed by Apple before they've even got beta units out to people. Another loser is potentially POWA, they've got a great system for e-commerce sites so people can pay with their mobiles (and have just raised $200m), Apple Pay potentially kills their services too.

08/09/2014

Europa publish Radio Spectrum report on 700MHz spectrum

Pascal Lamy has presented his report to the European Commission on the future of the UKF (700MHz spectrum).

In summary the report proposes: -

The 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) is currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television broadcasts and Wireless microphones, this spectrum to be re-alloacted to wireless broadband by 2020 (with a +/- 2 year variance).

The spectrum below 700MHz (470-694 MHz) should be maintained for DTT broadcasts and should be given regulatory stability.

The Program Making and Special Events (PMSE) spectrum should be moved to the 800MHz band (823-832 MHz) and 1.8 GHz (1785-1805 MHz).

This will mean TV sets/etc will need a major retune in around 2018 to ensure reception and also new broadcast technologies (MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 - which is used by Freeview HD, but not all current sets/etc will support it).

It's likely PMSE will require new equipment (especially for radio microphones), but at least manufacturers have about 6 years to do this.

29/08/2014

Ofcom ups the power in the 1800MHz band

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has made a statement allowing 1800MHz licensees to increase the power from 62dBm to 65dBm.

The current licensees are 1800MHz (1805 - 1876.7 MHz) licensees are: -

  • Telef√≥nica: 1805.1 to 1810.9 MHz
  • Vodafone: 1810.9 to 1816.7 MHz
  • H3G: 1816.7 to 1826.7 MHz (plus 1826.7-1831.7 from October 2015)
  • EE: 1831.7 to 1876.7 MHz (plus 1826.7-1831.7 until September 2015)

The 1800 spectrum is used for downlink bandwidth and the operators use it for LTE services, though it could also be used for WiMAX.

This should allow for increased range of LTE services (i.e. mobiles from base stations).

28/08/2014

iStorage DatAshur Personal

iStorage have been making secure storage for a while, but mainly business devices. These tend to be made out of metal and have been relatively expensive. Now iStorage have come out with a "personal" version. It's made of plastic (the review unit was blue) and are significantly more cost-effective.

The DatAshur Personal comes in 3 versions 8GB, 16GB and 32GB. Each uses the AES-256 encryption standard to encrypt any data stored on the drive (well USB fob). They're not small at 83mm x 17.4mm x 8.6mm (including the end cap), but there's a 10 digit numeric keypad on the device (and a "lock" hey too). There's also two LEDs at the top of the device and a blue one under the lock key

The devices come with a default user PIN of 11223344 which is a special factory setting as it's not possible to set a normal PIN that has repeating or consecutive numbers. PINs must be between 7 and 15 digits long. Each key also has a standard 'phone' letter scheme so alphanumeric passwords can be emulated (so DATASHUR would be 32827487 - though the writing on the keys is quite small, it's probably easier to do the letter to numeric conversion on a phone).

The device actually can store two PINs, an ADMIN PIN and a USER PIN, by default only the USER PIN is enabled. This is actually a very useful feature for companies as the IT department can configure the ADMIN password (which the end-user has no knowledge of) and then issue it to an employee who sets their own USER PIN. If the employee then leaves, the device can be issued to a new employee with a new USER PIN. Obviously the ADMIN user can also see any data on the drive, which also means a USER shouldn't store any data they don't want their IT department to see on the drive too. An ADMIN user can also put the drive into read-only mode, so data can be read, but the drive can't be written to, useful for distributing company confidential information.

Though PINs can NEVER be retrieved from the DatAshur, an ADMIN user can reset a USER PIN (however not the other way around).

Once a correct PIN has been entered, the device will unlock and must be plugged into a USB port within 30 seconds or it will lock again. Once plugged in, it appears as a normal USB memory device.

That's where the security comes in, if a PIN is entered incorrectly 10 times, then the DatAshur will wipe the encryption keys which renders all data on the drive unreadable. This is also true for the file allocation table (or FAT). When in this mode a new PIN will have to be set-up, the drive connected to a USB port and then reformatted (in whichever mode is suitable for the operating system, could be FAT, FAT32 or NTFS) in order to be usable as a drive again.

The 8GB drive is available for @29.00, the 16GB drive costs £39.00 and the 32GB drives is £59.00 - though considerably more expensive (and a larger form factor) than competing USB drives, it should give the user (or IT department) peace of mind that if the drive is lost, the data is pretty secure (guessing a 15 digit password is likely to take more than 10 attempts). It can also be effective for allocating to users and then the IT department can also check what data the user is taking off-site. Suddenly the price doesn't seem so expensive.

17/07/2014

If you're a wondering nomad, you might like a NOMAD clip or card

NOMAD make USB cables, but cables with a difference, they're in the shape of a credit card or key fob. They also come in two varieties of each, micro-USB or Apple's Lightning connector.

Do you really need another USB adapter? Well the NOMAD devices (are they devices?) are really easy to carry around with you all the time, so you never have to be without a USB adapter.

The Card is just that, a credit card sized adapter with two bits that push out, one being the normal USB bit that plugs into a laptop or charger and the other bit is a micro-USB plug or Lightning plug. It's a bit thicker than a normal credit card, but not much and it will fit in a wallet credit card slot, Oysters holder, or jacket without much fuss.

The Clip is about the same length as a key and has a "loop" at the micro-USB/Lightning end. It does look a bit like a key when viewed at the right angle. This easily fits on a key ring and won't look out of place.

Both products are pretty durable, though if either was REALLY bent a lot, the plastic could become stressed, though it would require a LOT of effort.

Though they can both be ordered off the NOMAD site, they're now available on Amazon.

The Apple Lightning version of the Clipand Card and the the micro-USB versions Card and Clip, each cost £16.

That sounds quite a lot for what's basically a USB cable, but it's not much for being able to carry something around all the time, so being able to charge your phone or tablet wherever you are (ok you might not have a charger, but it's often easy to find a USB port somewhere, the issue being never having the right cable with you). The NOMAD solutions just fit the bill - well your wallet or key holder.

24/05/2014

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) comes in a box resembling an Apple Mac Mini and sliding off the top reveals the phone in all its glory. It's a well made phone and feels very solid in construction with an aluminium body and big screen (the phone is bigger than an iPhone), coming in at 160g the weight matches the solidness of the chassis. It's also 9.3mm thick which feels right (and not clunky).

The screen is very bright (Gorilla Glass form Corning) and it uses Super LCD technology supporting 1080 x 1920 (HD) pixels with a wide viewing angle it's 5 inches from corner to diagonal corner, it's possible to watch a movie on this and really appreciate the vibrant colours.

The M8 also supports the latest generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, the 801 with 4 cores (ARM) - though it's a 32bit CPU (Apple's new CPU is 64bit), though there's a lot of power and the phone doesn't feel underpowered in the slightest. The CPU also has on-board graphics, a DSP and support for the latest GPS technologies.

The battery is also 2600mAH which allows the phone to operate for a sensible amount of time before recharging (obviously dependant on application use, but it can last a full day on a full charge).

There's front and rear cameras and front facing HTC Boom speakers which don't sound too tinny.

The phone comes with Google's latest Android Operating System Kit Kat and some HTC application pre-bundled. HTC Blinkfeed is an app that manages all your social feeds (and email) in a single view, which is actually quite nice to use. there's also Sense TV which is a TV remote on steroids and works with both terrestrial TV channels and services like Sky and Virgin Media. There's also all the standard Google apps like Maps, Google Now and voice actions (like Apple's SIRI).

There's 8GB of internal memory which is enough to run quite a few apps, but there's also a MicroSD slot which can take a 128GB card which should support most people's app desires.

There's also NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz) and DLNA allowing wireless streaming to another DLNA device such as a TV.

The cameras should also be mentioned as HTC has done some magic with the rear camera (well it's actually two), the primary camera is an HTC UltraPixel™ camera, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3”, f/2.0, 28mm lens, HTC ImageChip 2. 1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video and the secondary camera is used to capture depth information. This allows a picture to be taken and the depth of field changed (so the foreground or background can be brought into focus).

The front camera is more 'normal' with a 5MP, BSI sensor, wide angle lens with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording. Gallery with UFocus™, Dimension Plus™, Seasons, Foregrounder, Image match.

The phone is really best of breed and it's one of the snappiest phones around, there's no lag and the screen really is fantastic.

O2 kindly lent the phone and it's on their O2 Refresh service which costs from £38 to £48 per month (with a zero upfront cost for the phone) or £13 to £28 per month paying the full £609.99 for the phone.

25/04/2014

The future of jewellery is 3D printing

This week Wonderluk, a new e-commerce site went live (well into beta) that sells 3D printed jewellery and accessories for the more avant-garde woman.

Though there's not a huge amount on the site on the moment (there are 17 items of jewellery and 3 iPhone cases), this is just the beginning. Currently all the designs come from Wonderluk themselves, though it could easily add 3rd party items and become a (the?) destination site for 3D fashion items.

3D printing has the power to revolutionise jewellery and accessories as designs can be conjured up mathematically that are almost impossible to imagine mentally and impossible to construct using normal jewellery fabrication methods. Mathematics is beautiful, nature uses it in everything (think of a sunflower head and the spiralling of the seeds). It will also open up the use of new materials which aren't currently used by jewellers.

All the designs are currently made out of nylon in various colours, but there's no reason in future metal or other sintered materials couldn't be used and in combinations (both in material and colour). Any piece on the site can be printed in various colours (white, black, caramel, indigo blue, ice blue, green, purple, pink, red, sunset orange and yellow).

Prices aren't cheap for what some may think of as something made of plastic, but then the pieces are exquisitely designed and made to a very high standard. If the site really takes off, volume effects will probably come in and costs may go down.

Though the site is squarely aimed at women, the iPhone cases would happily suit a Shoreditch hipster or even a geek who like tech and the thought that their phone is both protected, looks nice and comes from a 3D print.

03/04/2014

Microsoft gives Windows Phone away

Microsoft, who aren't known for giving away anything for free, have decided to drop licensing fees for Windows Phone 8 (for devices with displaces less than 9 inches). Though it only has about 3% of the phone market, that's still quite a big hit to cope with as current fees are around $5 - $15 per phone, though that's estimated to be less than $1bn per year.

Of course Microsoft do get a nice revenue stream from Android licensees as they still have to pay royalties to Microsoft for their mobile patents.

This might just tip the balance and get more handset manufacturers to switch to Windows Phone and though Microsoft won't get direct revenue for the OS, they will get revenue from the add-on services such as Office 365 which users are encouraged to sign-up to.

Ada Lovelace the future of schools

Ben Southworth has launched the website for the Ada Lovelace Academy which wants to train the next generation of entrepreneurs in Hackney, giving them the skills to succeed in the new digital age.

The Academy is looking for a home and will teach children aged 16 - 19, hopefully opening in 2015.

The skills on offer will be: -

  • Design & Digital Comms
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Latest Technologies
  • A sense of community
Ben has already been involved with education designing courses for both General Assembly and Decoded. He spent a year with Government being the Deputy CEO of TCIO (or as it known now as TechCityUK) and now is on several boards.

This is a great initiative and anyone wanting to help should contact Ben. It's also possible to donate on the site itself.

02/04/2014

Ofcom statement on utilising 870 to 876 MHz and 915 to 921 MHz for SRDs

Ofcom, the Super regulator, has made a statement allowing the use of short range devices to use the spectrum in 870 to 876 MHz and 915 to 921 MHz.

The spectrum will be made available in a license exempt manner and Ofcom expect to publish the technical requirements in April 2014, though there may be changes to allow higher power and duty cycles (suitable for use as network relay point for Internet of Things devices) which will be published later in the year which should allow implementation in Q4 2014.

The main objection seems to come fem the railway industry as these bands may interfere with proposed railway GSM systems (E-GSM-R) though they are not in use at this time. The UK met office also uses potentially conflicting frequencies for wind profiling radars. Ofcom will monitor the situation.

The full statement is on-line as a PDF

01/04/2014

Ofcom proposing upping power on 1800MHz bands

Ofcom, the Super regulator, who look after radio spectrum is proposing to allow increasing the transmit power on the 1800MHz PCN band. Ofcom varied the original licenses so the band could be used for UMTS, LTE and WiMAX services. The new variation would allow a 3dB to 65 dBm per carrier for 3G and 3dB to 65dBm on the 5MHz channels for LTE and WiMAX.

EE Limited (“EE”), Hutchison 3G UK Limited (“H3G”), Telefonica UK Limited (“Telefonica”) and Vodafone Limited (“Vodafone”) have all requested that their 1800 MHz licences be amended in this way.

Ofcom's preliminary verdict is to allow these variations, however the results of the consultation will be taken into consideration.

Any stakeholders may respond to the consultation on-line.

06/03/2014

Apple announces Carplay, but what's underneath the hood?

Apple wants to own the entertainment space, it first created the iPod with its companion iTunes which soon completely disrupted the music industry. With the advent of iPods and iPhones which could play video, Apple then went into the film distribution and rental business too.

Now it's the car industry that is getting the Apple makeover with a play (Carplay to be exact) to integrate your iPhone into your car experience which when you plug your iPhone in, will now support Apple services such as Maps (maybe you'll get to where you want, though Apple is improving Maps all the time), iTunes, messaging and other services. Everything can be voice controlled through Siri or the car's own voice recognition system.

Though Apple is meant to be announcing embedded iOS 7 for exactly these types of applications, it seems that Carplay actually uses Blackberry's QNX (Blackberry purchased QNX a while back and it's now the basis of BB10). QNX is a "micro" kernel realtime operating system and has been around for a long time and powers many ATMs and devices such as that. QNX also pushes their OS to auto manufacture to power their "infotainment" systems (formally known as ICE or In Car Entertainment) and it's exactly this use that powers Carplay.

The first cars to support Carplay will be Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, followed by BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover.

If Carplay gets widely deployed, it could be Blackberry's saving grace, though maybe Apple will just buy them.

13/02/2014

Ofcom makes Earth Stations on mobile platforms license exempt'ish

Ofcom, the Super regulator has decided to make the use of Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms (ESOMP) license except, but in conjunction with existing mobile licenses such as ship or aircraft radio licenses.

This should allow ships and aircraft to offer mobile broadband services with downlink speeds of around 50Mb/s from a single satellite, which would equate to about 10Mb/s to each passenger (multiple satellites can be used).

Ofcom is making available 4,128 MHz worth of spectrum in the following bands: 27.5 – 27.8185 GHz (transmit); 28.4545 – 28.8265 GHz (transmit); 29.4625 – 30 GHz (transmit); and 17.3 – 20.2 GHz (receive) which is a fair chunk of spectrum.

Ship's use should come into force this month and aviation, in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), by summer 2014.

The full statement is here.

Ofcom proposes to allow 3G and 4G on Aircraft

Ofcom, the Super regulator is proposing to allow the use of UMTS 2100 and LTE 1800 license free in aircraft. The use of 2G on the 1800MHz bands has been allowed since 2008. This is in-line with European spectrum frameworks.

This extends the harmonisation of mobile communications service on Aircraft (MCA) services to cover 3G technologies in 1920 -1980 MHz and 2110 - 2170 MHz (the "2100 MHz" frequency band) and 4G in 1710-1785 MHz and 1805 - 1880 MHz (the "1800 MHz" frequency band).

Though MCA services are not mandatory, more and more airlines are installing MCA services and they will be responsible for the installation and operation of such services and to ensure they don't interfere with ground based systems.

The consultation is available on-line and closes on 12 March 2014 and Ofcom is proposing to bring the regulations into force by May 2014.

HTC predicts the future of football

HTC the company that produces innovative mobile phones and Futurizon have produced "The Future of Football" report.

They have made some predictions (that may or not become actual reality).

Ones that are more realistic are: -

  • By 2020 footballs will have impact sensors and accelerometers embedded in the ball, as well as in the kit that players wear, which will allow precise measurements on how players are playing and what the ball is doing.
  • By 2014 players could have 'active skin' which could entail electronics printed on to the skin (or built into the materials of the clothing players wear) which can measure such things as blood chemistry and even link to their nervous system which will be linked to external monitoring system.

Some of the more "interesting" predictions are: -

  • By 2050 fans will be able to receive full sensory information so they will 'feel' like it's like to actually be playing on the pitch.
  • By 2060 Android (as in robotic humans, not the Google OS) players remotely controlled by fans.
They have also produced an infographic
about football.

By 2018 fans will be able to hold a small flexible card display displaying players and info about them as well as links to social networks etc.

Then by 2045, phones will have 3D holographic type displays which can display the action in realtime.

And (this is more realistic, though maybe not in insect form) there will be tiny drones giving access to views that aren't possible now.

Isn't the future going to be fun.

16/01/2014

Nominet "knee jerk" reaction to Lord Macdonald QC

Nominet are the domain registry for .uk (i.e. all domains ending in the UK suffix), which is a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) - as an aside it should really be .gb but companies such as Demon Internet broke that it in the early 90's.

Nominet have generally been very sensible in the past when it comes to domain registration policy and other matters relating to the UK domain space.

Now Lord Macdonald QC has published (PDF) a "Review of .uk Registration Policy" and made some recommendations which Nominet have now adopted.

The summary of the report is this: -

  • Nominet should remain an open registry. Amongst other reasons set out in the body of this Review, this is because the market in domain names requires a speedy and efficient registration process and because the screening technology currently available is blunt and incapable of judging context. In circumstances where Nominet registers between 150,000-200,000 new domain names every month, this inevitably means that any pre-registration scrutiny of applications will throw up unmanageable numbers of false positives, slowing down registrations to no purpose and to a point that is likely to become commercially unviable.
  • Nominet should consider instituting a system of post-registration screening, to be conducted within 48 hours of registration, for domain names that appear to signal sex crime content, or to amount in themselves to sex crimes. Where examples in this category are discovered, they should be reported to the police and suspended or de-registered. This process, in so far as it is designed to detect grave criminality, is plainly consistent with an open registration policy.
  • Nominet should restrict post registration scrutiny to domain names in the serious sex crime category. This is because the relevant screening terms for sex crime are highly specific and have a stronger chance of identifying true positives. Post-registration screening for other forms of criminality will inevitably rely on very general terms that are bound to throw up unmanageable numbers of false positives.
  • Nominet, which is a private company, should have no role in policing questions of taste or offensiveness on the Internet. It is not set up, trained or by culture competent to act as Internet censor, in contrast to identifying possible examples of criminality for onward reporting to the police. Furthermore, there are no objective, generally accepted standards of taste that could guide Nominet in undertaking such a role. This means that any decision- making on its part would risk uncertainty and inconsistency, which are highly undesirable ingredients where the restriction of free expression rights is concerned. Nominet would not have public confidence as censor, and it should not be expected to assume such a role in circumstances where government and police are content not to act.
  • Where domain names that are alleged to signal criminal content, or to amount to crimes in themselves, or to be attached to criminal content, are brought to Nominet’s attention, Nominet should, if it agrees that they might fall into any of those categories, refer these cases to the police for further action. In consultation with the police, this could include suspension or de-registration. It is only in these circumstances that Nominet, which is not a content provider, should involve itself in the examination of website content for any regulatory purpose.
  • Nominet should amend its terms and conditions to make it clear that any registration of a domain name that signals criminal content, or amounts in itself to a crime, will constitute a breach of Nominet’s terms of business, and is liable to be reported to the police and suspended or de-registered.

This all sounds very reasonable at face value, however this can lead to lots of ambiguities ... as Adrian Kennard points out in his well written blog piece ... so someone registering therapist.co.uk can fall foul of these recommendations as it may be interpreted as TheRapist.co.uk which is a sex crime.

A registrant could quite happily register murderwhoever.co.uk as this is NOT a sex crime.

It's also quite easy to circumvent as Nominet will only check the top level domain, so (again thanks to Mr Kennard) children.co.uk can be registered with no problem, and then the registrant can just use a sub-domain like f*ck.children.co.uk which Nominet have NO control over.

The law is an ass and this is a good example where it can rapidly lead to a horrible mess.