The Digital Economy Bill gets FAST approval

The controversial Digital Economy Bill (DEB) which was passed by the House of Lords this week. ISPs and other technology organisations have been saying that further investigation is required and the Bill should not be rushed through Parliament as there are various cost implications which would mean pricing increases for consumers.

BIS estimate that implementing the DEB will cost around £35m and £30m pa JUST in letter writing (to implement the 3 strike rule). The Government is under heavy pressure from licensing authorities and the traditional recording industry.

Now FAST (the Federation Against Software Theft) has joined the foray, but in supporting the DEB saying “Delaying the legislation unnecessarily in the Commons will not help".

The DEB needs further discussions and should not be rapidly passed into law.


Microsoft follows in Apple's footsteps

At the recent MIX10 event in Vegas Microsoft put some more flesh on the bones of the Windows Phone 7 operating system and they're moving towards a closed application approach like Apple.

All applications will have to be sold from the Microsoft Marketplace store which wont be pleasant for existing stores like Handango. MS are also restricting 3rd party apps from full multi-tasking and they cant use MicroSD or other storage.

As well as the new sleek interface, MS will support Silverlight and their XNA runtime environment. There's also a new Microsoft Location Service which introduces a unified interface for getting location information (i.e. from WiFi, GPS, CellID etc) and Microsoft Notification Service for 'pushing' info to applications that aren't running.

Microsoft are releasing free tools for developers (Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone), a plug-in for Visual Studio 2010 RC and Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview.

In some ways it's a backwards step, but Microsoft has seen the way the Apple app store has worked and having a single store allows greater control of the apps and where people can find them.

Ofcom bares its teeth at Telcos

Ofcom will tomorrow (18th march 2010) introduce new rules to stop Telecoms companies mis-selling landline services to consumers. Companies that fail to comply with the new rules (General Condition 24 of the Communications Act) will faces fines of up to 10% of their turnover.

The new rules will: -

* prohibit telecoms providers from engaging in misleading and inappropriate sales and marketing activity and slamming (switching a customer to another provider without their knowledge).

* require telecoms companies to keep better records of their sales and marketing activities.

* confirm the type and level of information that needs to be made available to new customers both at the point of sale and after the sale has been concluded (but before the service has actually been transferred). This includes providing important information about the key terms and conditions of the service, including contractual liabilities and cancellation rights.

* introduce new rules to make clear when providers are allowed to cancel orders placed by other providers. Cancelling orders for purposes other than those expressly specified by the regulations will be prohibited.

Ofcom received up to 750 complaints per month (some where companies had blatantly lied about who they were) with the last year and fined 2 companies the maximum of 10% of turnover under the old regulations.

Though Ofcom has the power to act, it only does so on complaint and unfortunately many consumers don't know how to or care about complaining.

Full details


2.6GHz spectrum Auction on again?

ZDnet has reported that the Government has sent proposals for 800MHz, 2.6GHz and 2G/3G bands to Ofcom, which could mean Ofcom holding an auction for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands later this year.

There has been controversy with various particulars of these spectrum auction with initially T-Mobile taking Ofcom to court saying the 2.6GHz band (which was reserved as an IMT-2000 i.e. 3G band in case the new 3G entrant failed) could not be allocated until 2G refarming had been sorted out. Currently the 2G bands are exclusively reserved for 2G use, naturally the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) want to re-use 2G bands for 3G services. However refarming was fraught with further complications as Vodafone and O2 have 900MHz spectrum while T-Mobile and Orange have 1800MHz (1.8GHz) and 900MHz propagates better than 1.8GHz.

Things were further muddied when T-Mobile and Orange announced their merger (which has since been approved) as the combined company would have more than the maximum allowable spectrum.

Things have also simplified as the maximum spectrum a MNO can have has been increased from 2 x 60MHz to 2 x 90MHz, 2G spectrum will be allowed to be used for 3/4G services and licenses will become indefinite and tradable (the 2G licenses are currently set at 15 years). Also the 800MHz license will be awarded to 2 licensees, but they will have to give guarantees of 99% population coverage which should stimulate rural broadband.

Though 800MHz is optimal spectrum (it has extremely good propagation characteristics (and penetrates building well), BT are still thought to have an extreme interest in the 2.6GHz spectrum as this will allow them to offer WiMAX (or other wireless broadband) in rural areas and 3G services in urban locations.

Though the landscape is looking more positive, there may still be legal action from the MNOs as has occurred in other countries.


Channel 5 loses HD mulitplex

In 2009 Ofcom provisionally reserved capacity (a slot) on Mulitplex B for Channel 5 to broadcast HD content. This was on proviso that they resolved certain issues.

Channel 5 have not resolved those issues and therefore lost the right to the slot. The only other applicants for the slot (Channel 4 and S4C) have not been able to guarantee that they will be able to launch an HD channel in the required timescales.

As the other user in the band was the BBC, they will now have complete access to Multiplex B and will consider their options on how to best use the capacity and launch an HD channel. The capacity was due to revert to the BBC Trust in 2012, so they now have the ability to move the services forwards by 2 years.

Ofcom will give the Commercial Public Service Broadcasters another opportunity to apply launch HD services in 2012 next year.