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* Posts by Michael Jennings

199 posts • joined 14 Aug 2008

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HOT AIR-FILLED Apple fanbois SHUNNED iPad 2 at Xmas

Michael Jennings

The iPad 2 is used by lots of corporate customers

There are lots of businesses using large fleets of iPad 2s for relatively simple tasks: at tills, as interactive guides to information, as electronic signs, and whatever. The hardware needs for such tasks are often low, and many such businesses have infrastructure set up to allow charging and software updating of their devices using Apple's old style hardware connector rather than the new Lightning connector. Apple continues to sell the iPad 2 to keep such customers happy. If you are a consumer, buying an iPad 2 makes no sense whatsoever, as it is ridiculously underpowered and overpriced for today's requirements. If you are a business who has hundreds or thousands of them, they are adequate for whatever task you are using them for them, and there are advantages of having common hardware for all the iPads you are using plus you don't want to upgrade your infrastructure, buying more iPad 2s might make sense.

Such customers aren't any more inclined to buy iPads at Christmas than at any other time of year, though, so the market share of the iPad 2 goes down at Christmas. Simple.

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Three offers free US roaming, confirms stealth 4G rollout

Michael Jennings

Re: Vodafone 4G

Three have a 2x10MHz chunk at 1800MHz, which becomes 2x15MHz in 2015 when EE are forced to divest a bit more spectrum. They also have 2x5MHz at 800MHz. O2 have only 2x10MHz at 800MHz. So although Three's spectrum holdings are not that huge, O2's are only half the size of Three's post 2015.

Vodafone have 2x10MHz at 800MHz and 2x20MHz at 2600MHz i.e. lots of spectrum

T-Mobile have 2x5MHz at 800MHz, 2x35MHz at 2600MHz and 2x50MHz (to be reduced to 2x45MHz in 2015) at 1800MHz i.e. lots and lots and lots of spectrum. (They do have to run a 2G network in that 1800MHz as well, but the can probably do that on 2x10MHz, so there is plenty of space left over that they are using and can use for 4G).

Plus there is 2x15MHz at 2600MHz that belongs to BT. It's quite possible O2 or Three will buy or licence that if they run into serious constraints.

Plus most of the operators have unpaired spectrum that could be used for TD-LTE in a pinch. (Some of this is from the 3G auction and some from the 4G auction). More of this might be auctioned, too. We will see how it plays out. My hunch is that O2 and Three will be able to find spectrum from somewhere when they need it.

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Michael Jennings

Re: What's to stop a US native using this?

If you look at Three's terms and conditions, it says that if you use nothing but the free roaming for an entire calendar month three times in a year, they will switch roaming off on your phone. This is clearly designed to prevent people from doing exactly what you are suggesting.

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Michael Jennings

Three are also doing the bulk of their 4G on the 1800MHz spectrum that EE were forced to divest when T-Mobile and Orange merged. This is a totally reasonable thing for them to be doing, but they got access to this spectrum three months later than Vodafone and O2 got access to the spectrum that they are using - the stuff that they bought in the auction in early 2013. This meant that Three were pretty much obliged launch their network three months later than the other two operators.

That said, Three were promising 4G December for all their London customers with a compatible handset, and they are now saying that only a small number are getting it in December and most people will have to wait until January or February. Looks like their network may have one or two teething problems. Again, there is nothing too surprising about this, but some of their customers are getting a little impatient now. The timing of the announcement about free roaming to the US was a nice piece of PR, as this seems to be a very popular announcement.

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Best budget Android smartphone there is? Must be the Moto G

Michael Jennings

With respect to the Amazon price, it might have been that Amazon themselves were out of stock and you were therefore seeing the price from a third party seller who had it in stock. Amazon themselves now seem to have it back in stock and are offering it for £135 as promised.

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Dear-ly beloved: Apple’s costly iPad Mini with Retina Display

Michael Jennings

Not really a fair comparison.

I don't think comparing the iPad mini with the Nexus 7 is terribly useful. Even though a 7.9 inch screen and a 7.0 inch screen sound similar in size, when you look at surface areas (taking into account that a screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio is smaller than a 4:3 screen with the same diagonal measurement), the area of the iPad mini's screen is 30.0 square inches, compared to 22.0 square inches for the Nexus 7. The iPad mini's screen is actually 36% bigger.

This actually is a good reason for many of us to buy an iPad mini rather than a Nexus 7. For me, 7 inch tablets like the Nexus 7 are too small, and the 8 inch size is much better. The Nexus 7 is a great device for the price, and if it works for you that's great, but there is actually a bit of a scarcity of high end Android tablets with screen sizes around that of the mini. Samsung makes a Galaxy Note 8 and a Galaxy Tab 8, but neither has anything like the screen resolution of the mini. (They are both 1280x800). I am sure the next generation of the Note 8 at least will have a high resolution screen, but for now we are waiting. A Nexus 8 would be nice, too, but once again, it does not presently exist.

In addition, those 8 inch Android tablets that do exist cost quite a bit more than the 7 inch tablets. The list price for the (lowish resolution) Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8 inch is £299 compared to £199 for the Galaxy Tab 3 7 inch. (Both products are selling at rather less than the list price, but 50% more for 8 inch seems to roughly hold). High resolution 8 inch Android tablets will come along, and will be cheaper than the iPad mini, but I doubt the price difference will be as dramatic as when you compare it to the Nexus 7 or other 7 inch tablets.

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Ofcom flogs ex-military 4G spectrum, but ONLY the iPhone 5 can use it

Michael Jennings

Re: iPhone 5? Nope.

Depends what you mean by "European bands". The TDD capable variants of the Samsung (and I think also LG) devices sold in Australia support the FD-LTE at 1800MHz and 2600MHz (bands used in much of the world, including Europe), but do not support the Europe only 800MHz digital dividend band. If sold in Europe, these devices would work on FD-LTE in areas with 1800MHz and 2600MHz coverage, but not in areas with 800MHz coverage only. The iPhone 5C and 5S are at present the only devices for which a variant exists that supports FD-LTE at 800MHz, 1800MHz, and 2600MHz, as well as FDD at 2300MHz. I can't imagine this is a problem. There will be many more devices that support all these bands available long before this spectrum is even auctioned.

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Custom ringback tones: Coming to your next contract mobe?

Michael Jennings

That precise problem of British people getting nervous at that long single foreign ringback tone that they hear when they call me when I am abroad is what I would like to get rid of. I don't necessarily want people knowing that I am abroad, so I would like the standard ringback tone. I fear that every foreign telco I roam to would have to know about my preference, though, so this might be somewhat harder than just changing the ringback tone that is send when someone calls me when I am in the UK.

I believe that the standard ringback tone in Macau used to be different to that in Hong Kong. This was a problem, given that Macau is the place that people in Hong Kong go for sinful activities. Men from Hong Kong did not necessarily want their wives to know when they were there, and the ringback tone was a dead giveaway. So it was changed to be the same as Hong Kong.

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Brit boson boffin Higgs bags Nobel with eponymous deiton

Michael Jennings

One should point out that Philip Anderson has won a Nobel Prize already for something else. While it is not unheard of for a second Nobel prize in the sciences to be awarded to the same person, it is very rare, and one thinks that the committee would be particularly unlikely to make such an award in a case where it was already fairly contentious as to who would be missing out.

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Michael Jennings

Re: These guys are old.

There have been cases where the Nobel committee have waited until after the person whose name was first on the paper (but everyone knows didn't really do the work) has died before awarding the prize. As the person with his name first in such cases has almost always managed it through having more seniority (a doctoral supervisor compared to a doctoral student, or a lab director compared to a researcher in the lab) and is therefore almost always older, this can be surprisingly effective.

There's no real question that Higgs and Englert deserve it here. The committee clearly decided not to try to choose one of the other three though.

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Michael Jennings

These guys are old.

This is all par for the course. It is unusual for there to not be more than three people involved in any major discovery. The Nobel committee almost always has to choose the most worthy winners from a group, and people with valid claims almost always lose out. The Nobel prizes in the sciences are very prestigious at least partly because the judges have almost always given them for the right discoveries over the last century or so. There's is always plenty of discussion as to whether they have given them to the right people though.

As for the theorists and not the experimentalists getting the prize, there is an unofficial rule that theorists do not get the prize until what they have predicted has been confirmed by experiment. At this time last year we were still waiting for results to be confirmed and published, so this year was realistically the first time Higgs and Englert could be honoured. As Englert is 80 and Higgs is 84 (and the prize is never awarded posthumously) there was a clear need to honour them as soon as possible. The experimentalists at CERN are all much younger, though, so there is plenty of time to honour them later. It might be that in a year or two there might be a better picture as to who exactly should be honoured. The same Nobel Prize could have been split between theorists and experimentalists, but this is a big enough discovery that there is much to be said for devoting two years' prizes to it.

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Tech specs wreck: Details of Google's Nexus 5 smartphone LEAKED over interwebs

Michael Jennings

I've seen things you people would not believe.

Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and Nexus 7. They are definitely taunting us.

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Apple blings up new iMac with latest Intel chips, next-gen Wi-Fi

Michael Jennings

Plenty still to announce.

New iPads, new MacBook Pros, new Mac mini, and the new Mac Pro will all likely be with us before the end of the year. That's plenty.

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Michael Jennings

Re: Did you really need to explain what an iMac is on a tech site?

Yes, I like the Mac mini, too. I don't want to have to buy a new screen every time I buy a new desktop.

I'd also like one with a core i7 and a powerful GPU, even if it meant the machine was a bit bigger. Apple doesn't do that though.

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Apple beckons fanbois back into its golden era... of, er, 2010

Michael Jennings

Possibly useful for the iPhone 3G though.

Also, the second generation iPod touch doesn't have any cameras. This would make running Instagram on it a touch sub-optimal, I would think.

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400 million Chinese people can't speak Chinese: Official

Michael Jennings

This map is enlightening.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_sinitic_languages-en.svg

the people in China who do not speak Mandarin, are the people in the southern coastal provinces. These places are where much of the recent economic growth has occurred. That is, the non-Mandarin speakers are the rich people. That is, the richer parts of China are also the parts of country that have the least in common with Beijing culturally. This is not necessarily a positive thing for Chinese stability. One thing that Beijing is attempting to do by pushing Mandarin is to assert its culture over that of its provinces. (Most of the time it will deny that these provinces have any culture at all).

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Google Nexus 7 2013: Fondledroids, THE 7-inch slab has arrived

Michael Jennings

Taking photographs on a tablet.

There is one thing that is good about using a tablet as a camera, which is the large screen of the tablet. Composition is much easier than on a phone sized screen, or on the postage stamp sized screens of many point and shoot cameras. This is particularly so on tablets with high resolution screens such as this one. Composition is still not as easy as on a camera with a proper viewfinder, but only a relatively small percentage of cameras in use these days have these any more. Because of this, I find photography to be easier on a tablet than on a phone or a digital compact. (Unfortunately, though, the cameras that manufacturers are putting in their high-end tablets are not as good as the ones they are putting on their high end tablets. The gap is closing, but it is still there).

Against this is the fact that some people are going to think you look like an idiot taking photographs with a tablet. Whether this bothers you is up to you.

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Finns, roamers, Nokia: So long, and thanks for all the phones

Michael Jennings

Ron Casey, an Australian radio announcer with a right wing / sports show, managed to get fired in about 1997 after making a racist anti-Japanese rant on air due to a local rugby league competition having been renamed the "Nokia Cup" for sponsorship reasons. It was really very funny.

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Apple throwing separate Chinese iPhone event

Michael Jennings

Re: Either the 5C or China Mobile agreement. Or both.

Given that the US uses different frequency bands to everywhere else, foreign variants aren't going to work very well in the US, particularly using 4G/LTE. (Chinese variants likely won't support LTE, as they don't have any LTE networks yet). For it to work properly in the US, Apple will have to release a US specific variant. (Asian/Middle Eastern variants should work OK in Europe, though). I think they probably will, but let's see.

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Michael Jennings

Apple's strategy for the last few years has been that they release one new high-end phone, and the previous models then become their mid-market models. (Apple don't do low end phones). When they introduced the iPhone to Verizon, they produced a CDMA compatible version of their current high end phone (then the iPhone 4), but did nothing for the earlier models, so Verizon offered a high-end model only at first. This did clearly cost them business - once new models had been released and the iPhone 4 became cheaper, the total share of iPhones at Verizon went up considerable.

For China, Apple clearly can't do it this way. China is much poorer than America, and many people who want an iPhone will not be able to afford the new high end model. Therefore, if Apple have done a deal with China Mobile, they will have to make TD-SCDMA iPhones available at multiple price-points and not just the high end. They could do this by releasing new, TD-SCDMA compatible variants of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 as well as the new iPhone 5S, but they could also simply produce a new mid-market model of iPhone.

My theory is that this is the story behind the iPhone 5C. Apple's motivation for producing it is the need for a mid market TD-SCDMA iPhone for China Mobile. It certainly won't be restricted to China Mobile, and we will see variants of it for other network standards as well. Although we have been hearing things like "The iPhone 5C is aimed principally at developing markets, but will also be sold in developed markets", I think it is likely to sell well everywhere. At least, it will if it is any good.

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Microsoft warns of post-April zero day hack bonanza on Windows XP

Michael Jennings

Re: Wait, hear that?

Apple has produced at least six good versions of OS-X in 12 years. They stopped selling the 12 year old version about 11 years ago. Microsoft has produced only one good version of Windows to follow XP in that time. Microsoft was still selling XP licences for new machines (netbooks only, but still new machines) as recently as October 2010, and some of them were still in the channel being sold new as recently as 2011. It's hardly surprising that some of them are still in use.

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You've got 600k+ customers on 4G... but look behind you, EE

Michael Jennings

Re: Battery drain

4G is more computationally intensive than 3G. The modulation and compression schemes used by 4G mean that bandwidth is used more efficiently than 3G, but they are themselves more complex and the price of that higher spectrum efficiency is more complex computation to turn your bitstream into something that can be transmitted over the air. That requires a more powerful CPU, which uses more power and hence you have worse battery life. The good news is that CPUs improve in power efficiency thanks to Moore's Law, so in a year or two 4G phones will have much better battery life. People may remember that this happened with 3G, too. The first 3G phones had horrible battery life, but this is not really a problem any more.

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Apple needs help: iWatch, 'Retina' iPad mini delayed until 2014?

Michael Jennings

The third generation iPad - the first with retina display - is too heavy. It's uncomfortable to hold for too long, and you are prone to drop it because it is heavy. Also, it is thicker than the previous generation, which is unusual for an Apple device. Also, the retina display sucks up far too much of the computational power of the thing, which is why it is not notably faster at doing anything than the previous generation. The revised fourth generation model that Apple released six months later fixed the second of these problems with a faster SoC, but the heaviness problem remains. Presumably the revised fifth generation model that we will see in two or three months will fix the size and weight issues, but big compromises were made for that retina display.

The whole reason why the iPad mini has been so successful is because it is so small and light compared to the big and heavy full size iPad. The last thing Apple wants to do is to lumber the mini with too much size and weight as they did the full sized iPad. Therefore, I have always been sceptical about seeing a retina mini this year. A second generation mini this year followed by a retina mini next year has been what I have been expecting all along.

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Fines 4 U: Mobe insurer cops £3m penalty for grumble dumping

Michael Jennings

It's always a scam

A basic rule is that if one is buying a product, one should never buy optional insurance from the same person who is selling you the product. This applies to mobile phone insurance, payment protection insurance, car rental excess insurance, extended warranties (just another form of insurance, really) and a whole pile of other things. At best the insurance will be overpriced, and at worst it will be overpriced and inadequate as insurance. That's not to say that you should not buy insurance, just that you should buy it directly from a financial institution or insurance broker.

Mobile phone retailers (including Phones 4 U) have been particularly bad in this regard. They are not as bad as they used to be - situations in which you are forced to take it out with "one month free" and have to do something in that month to cancel it seem to be rarer now. Regulators have been cracking down (as here). Good.

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Michael Dell: 'Cash in your shares, we are in a mess'

Michael Jennings

Oh, how the ghost of Steve Jobs is laughing.

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Apple to end support for original iPhone: report

Michael Jennings

Re: A few points

>The difference here is that Windows XP can still be installed on computers from 2001

>when it was released and they will receive updates from Microsoft right up until April 2014.

If you try installing Windows XP in a computer from 2001, you will find that once you install all the updates, the OS installation will demand more hard disk space and memory for itself than many computers in 2001 actually had. (If you try to install it with an SP3 installation CD, it may not even install for this reason). It's not that realistic to think that many PCs have been in use the full 12 and a half years of XP, or even close to it, at least not without significant hardware upgrades.

The long life of Windows XP occurred because Microsoft had great difficultly producing a successor to it. Windows XP Home was originally intended to reach end of life in 2006. However, this was extended a number of times, initially because a successor to XP was not even on the market in 2006.

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Michael Jennings

It's what the hardware can run.

The trouble with the iPhone 3G is that it had essentially the same internals as the original iPhone (apart from the 3G and GPS being added). This meant that the processor etc were fairly out of date even when it was released, which also meant that the hardware was too slow for many software updates. (It ran iOS 4.0-4.2 but terribly slowly and with many features disabled, which is presumably why Apple gave up on it at 4.3. This is the only time that Apple have discontinued support for a device at a point release of iOS rather than a major version.

The 3GS on the other hand was an upgrade to almost nothing but the internals. It received some criticism at the time for being a relatively minor upgrade. The 3GS is still running up to date software almost four years later, so the S version was clearly the one to get.

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BT and O2 ink deal to build mega 4G network

Michael Jennings

More importantly than that, perhaps, O2 bought very little spectrum in that recent auction, to the extent that I have been wondering how they would then manage to build a high enough capacity LTE network for their customer's needs. If this deal with BT allows O2 to use BT's 2.6GHz spectrum, O2 will have no longer have this problem.

As to why O2 didn't simply buy the spectrum in the auction, I have absolutely no idea. Is some sort of remerger between the two companies on the cards?

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T-Mobile UK punters break for freedom in inflation-busting bill row

Michael Jennings

Re: The Law of Contract in England and Wales

What T-Mobile should do here is revise the price increase in response to the revised inflation figure - that is retrospectively make the price increase 3.2% and adjust bills accordingly. Do that, and they are unequivocally complying with their own fine print. (As to whether the fine print itself is moral, legal, or justified, I will leave that discussion for some other time).

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T-mobile US in invisible handset handcuff contract smackdown

Michael Jennings

This is much better.

If you get a phone with a bundled handset in the UK, then it may cost £35 a month, compared to £15 a month for a similar contract SIM only. Obviously, that additional £20 is you paying off the cost of the phone.

However, after 24 (or 18, or whatever) months, the mobile network will continue charging you the full £35 a month every month until you tell them not to. If you ring them up and ask them to stop doing so, they are perfectly willing to (either by giving you a new handset to start paying off, or by cutting your monthly line rental if you don't want one), but you have to ask them. Lots of punters do not do this and end up paying vastly more to the mobile networks than they need to because they don't realise this.

This T-Mobile deal in the US explicitly separates the two things. You pay a monthly line rental, which potentially goes on forever, and you explicitly pay off the cost of the handset. After the 24 months, your monthly payment goes down to the line rental payment only. This is much clearer and much fairer on people who don't understand how the system works and just want to pay the bill that comes every month without talking to the customer retentions department. T-Mobile should be praised for it.

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EE extends network: Soon, 1 million users will pay us for 4G

Michael Jennings

Slot size

EE have 2x60Mhz at 1800MHz, which will dropp to 2x50MHz in September and then 2x45MHz in 2015 when Three gets the spectrum that EE were obliged to sell in return for T-Mobile and Orange being allowed to merge. As Bill Ray says, there is plenty of room for a 2x20MHz wide slot for LTE in there. T-Mobile have also bought 2x35MHz at 2600MHz, so they can put another 2x20MHz slot in there (and then some) too. (I believe 2x20Mhz is presently the maximum slot size for LTE, although it is very flexible below that). EE can also manage a 2x5MHz slot at 800MHz.

Vodafone have bought 2x20MHz at 2600MHz, and I guess they will go for a 2x20MHz slot there, in addition to a 2x10MHz slot at 800MHz. That sounds sensible, too.

O2 on the other hand have nothing at 2600MHz, only about 2x5MHz (or just over that) at 1800MHz, and 2x10MHz at 800MHz. That doesn't seem a lot. They might be able to recycle some of their 900MHz GSM spectrum at some point, but that is not contiguous and at least some of it is needed for 2G, plus there is not a lot of hardware support right now.

Three have that 2x10MHz (that becomes 2x15MHz in 2015) at 1800MHz from September, and also 2x5MHz at 800MHz.

So Three and O2 will not be able to do that wide slot thing that EE are now doing. I wonder if they will suffer because of this, and if so how much they will suffer.

(There's also the possibility that some 2100MHz 3G spectrum might get recycled at some point. The trouble is that it is full of 3G right now, the spectrum bands still aren't all that wide (2x10MHz for O2, 2x15MHz for Vodafone, and 2x20MHz for EE) and "European" variants of phones don't tend to support this band for LTE at present. (Japanese and Korean variants do, however). We may well get rather unequal performance from different networks for reasons of their spectrum holdings.

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Not got 4G? There's a reason we aren't called 'Four', sniffs Three

Michael Jennings

Re: TV is in the way

There are a fair chunk of phones that do support LTE in 2.1GHz, as this is being used for LTE in both Japan and South Korea. Not all phones aimed at Europe support it, but some do (including the iPhone 5, the Sony Xperia Z and a few others).

Three only got 2x5MHz at 800MHz in the recent auction, but they also recently bought 2x15MHz at 1800Mz from EE, who were required to sell it as a condition of the merger between T-Mobile and Orange. However, Three are not allowed to use any of this until September 2013, which means that they will launch their LTE network a bit late. Come September though and they will have enough spectrum.

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Review: HTC One

Michael Jennings

Is the reviewed HTC One LTE capable, and if so, which 3G and LTE bands does it support? I think the answer to this question matters quite a bit, as most people who buy the phone are going to keep if for something on the order of two years, and all the UK networks will be offering LTE within six months.

Most manufacturers high end phones last year were sold in the UK in both 3G only variants, and also 4G variants that also supported LTE. (Some of the 4G variants support fewer 3G bands than the 3G only version of the same phone). This year, my assumption is that manufacturers are mostly going to be selling the 4G variants of their high end phones in the UK. Confirmation that this is so for the HTC One would be a useful thing to get from a review.

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Ten ten-inch tablets

Michael Jennings

Where is the cellular version of the Nexus 10?

>The only serious fly in this otherwise fragrant ointment [Nexus 10] is the lack of a Micro SD slot.

The other problem with it is that it is WiFi only, and there is no 3G or 4G version even as an option. Google have this right with the Nexus 7 - you have the choice there, although there is no LTE yet - but for some reason not with the Nexus 10.

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Intel's Centrino notebook platform is 10 years old

Michael Jennings

Of course, whether a laptop was "Centrino" branded was not the point.

To put the "Centrino" branding on a laptop, it had to have a Pentium M processor, the Intel 855 Chipset that went with it, and a WiFi card using an Intel chipset. The Pentium M really was the goods - vastly better than anything else available for laptops at the time. One of the various variants of the 855 chipset was compulsory if you had a Pentium M. However, there were lots of alternatives for the WiFi card, many of which were as good or better than the Intel ones. So there were plenty of other Pentium M laptops which were just as good, but not Centrino branded. I think one reason that the brand faded before Intel withdrew it was that people realised this.

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DOJ gives T-Mobile - MetroPCS merger the nod

Michael Jennings

Re: "If its not that great, why did they try to buy it?"

And to be fair, one of the two main points of the T-Mobile / MetroPCS merger is exactly the same. They have LTE already on the right frequencies for T-Mobile, and they also have 1900MHz spectrum on which T-Mobile can improve their existing 3G and (if they want) 2G networks. The merged network should be pretty decent. (The other main point was that a bigger customer base than either of these players have individually is a good thing).

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4G in the UK? Why the smart money still says 'Meh'

Michael Jennings

Re: Pricing, Pricing, Pricing

Part of that is due to the fact that their present network is at 2.1GHz, which is high frequency and does not carry as far as do lower frequency signals. After the recent auction they do now have spectrum at 800MHz that does not have this problem, and their LTE network should therefore have better coverage than their present 3G network. We will of course see what actually happens, but there is at least a good technical reason why things should improve.

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Michael Jennings

Re: Pricing, Pricing, Pricing

Three offer inexpensive tariffs with unlimited data now, and they have said that people will be able to use LTE with their existing tariffs when they offer it. That all sounds good to me.

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Michael Jennings

Almost nobody is saying "I want 4G and I am willing to pay more than I am paying now for it". Almost everybody is using steadily increasing amounts of data, applications that work better with higher speed connections, and therefore gradually need speed improvements. With that comes an expectation that data will work everywhere, so better coverage of data services is needed to.

LTE is vital to deliver these things in medium term. (LTE on 800MHz is vitally important for the better coverage issue). Networks who try to sell LTE as a product in itself at much higher prices than 3G (I am looking at you, EE) are not going to succeed. Networks who try to sell it at a premium to corporate customers and provide a high quality network (Vodafone) are likely to find slightly less resistance, but still need to answer the question "What is it for"? Networks that just advertise their "fast network", state that LTE is included on the tariff, and provide this every increasing speed of service to their customers (Three) may do well of it. (I will not even try to figure out what O2's strategy is. I am not sure even they know).

My phone is presently a SIM only deal on Three. I am perfectly happy with the HTC One S I have at the moment, but for my next phone, I will probably stick with that contract and buy an LTE capable phone up front, if it doesn't cost too much and I hear the battery life is not too dismal. There is a fair chance that I might need to upgrade from my present 1Gb a month data allowance to a deal with an unlimited allowance, so they might get a few quid out of me that way. Or perhaps I will get a contract with fewer talk minutes, and the cost will stay about the same. I don't ever seem to go near my current allowance.

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Just what does BT have planned for its 4G licence: We drill into UK LTE

Michael Jennings

Re: Have Offcom moved the goalposts

LTE900 is one of those things that theoretically exists, but which has been implemented in few places, if anywhere. The 900MHz band isn't very wide compared to some of the others, and is already full of 2G and 3G services. Networks put 3G in it because there was no other sub-1GHz band in Europe to put it in at the time. Now that the 800MHz band is available instead, that is where they are putting the sub-1GHz LTE.

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Mobe networks bag UK 4G for a steal - £1bn shy of Osborne's £3.5bn

Michael Jennings

Re: Ha, ha!

The don't have all that much of it, though. Something like 2x7.5MHz at 900MHz (being used by 2G), a tiny allocation at 1800MHz (being used by 2G), and 2x10MHz at 2.1GHZ (being used by 3G). There is no obvious place in their spectrum holdings to put LTE that isn't both an uncommon place to put it in Europe (900MHz LTE does exist in theory, but I can't think of any actual network being built that uses it. 2.1GHz LTE exists in Korea and Japan, but "European" handset variants generally don't support it) and already being used anyway.

O2 have the smallest total spectrum holdings of any of the four operators after today - much less than Vodafone and EE, and significantly less even than Three, who only have 3G and 4G networks to support, rather than the three generations supported by O2.

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Michael Jennings

Re: Coverage obligation chunk worth more than expected

LTE supports scalable carrier bandwidths up to 20MHz in size. Performance is best if you have 2x20MHz to use, but generally, wider contiguous chunks of spectrum are better than narrower chunks, or the same amount of spectrum made up of non-contiguous chunks. (If you look at all the trading of spectrum that has been going on in the US, a lot of it is about trading non-contiguous spectrum allocations in order to get wider ones). It was clear from what they were saying that Vodafone wanted one of the 2x10MHz allocations at 800MHz, and that they were willing to pay over the odds for it. That they wanted 2x20MHz at 2.6GHz for maximum performance in cities is not surprising either. It's pretty clear though that Vodafone's engineers told the management to get the widest possible allocation that they could at 800MHz and to get the maximum 2x20MHz that can be used by an LTE carrier at 2.6GHz, and they did.

I am not sure how wide the carriers EE are using at 1800MHz are, but they certainly have enough spectrum to use 2x20MHz at some point if they want to. Plus they now have the ability to do the same thing at 2.6GHz if they want to at some point in the future.

Three have presumably decided that using 1800MHz is preferable to 2.6GHz for a variety of reasons, and that 2x15MHz there (along with support from 2x5MHz at 800MHz) will do. They are likely right, but I thought they might buy some spectrum at 2.6GHz as well to be on the safe side. They didn't, but they likely have enough.

I am very surprised that O2 only bought 2x10MHz though. Certainly they win the "Network most likely to have capacity constraints" title.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. In 3G, all five (and then four) networks had fairly similar spectrum allocations to work with. For 4G, there are now vast differences.

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Michael Jennings

Re: Ha, ha!

You need maybe 2x15MHz of paired spectrum to build an FDD LTE network. 2x20MHz perhaps to be comfortable. Three and EE already had enough spectrum at 1800MHz even before the auction, so they could have even sat the whole thing out if prices got ridiculous. (Although, as one piece of spectrum was reserved for Three, they were immune from this anyway).

However, up for auction was 2x100MHz of paired spectrum. This was at least 2x60MHz more than was actually needed. Therefore, nobody paid much more than the reserve price. Blind Freddie could have predicted that.

The one thing in this that surprises me is that O2 only bought 2x10MHz. Are they sure that is enough? Also interesting is that the operator with the least need for more spectrum (EE) bought the most. I am guessing this is mainly just "It was cheap, and better safe than sorry".

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EE's revenues dip, but smartphones lure in 200k new contracts

Michael Jennings

Also weird with other retailers.

Part of that answer is that Orange were owned by France Telecom and T-Mobile was owned by Deutsche Telecom. While the formation of EE was supposedly a "merger of equals" in fact the French were dominant, and there are various clauses in which the French can buy the Germans out later in the merger agreement. Plus, French management (or at least management from France Telecom - Olaf Swantee is a Dutchman) was put in place. France Telecom believed that their brand (Orange) had a better reputation for quality than T-Mobile, and so tried to position Orange as the premium brand and T-Mobile as the value brand. Thus Orange has at some points been more expensive than T-Mobile, although I don't think they are doing this so much now.

Even weirder than this is the relationship with some of the independent retailers. Last year I wanted an HTC One S, and Phones 4 U were offering them online on Orange free upfront on £15.50 a month. I rang Orange to ask if they could match that directly, and they were unable to. Given that connecting a customer directly is much cheaper to them than offering the same deal via an independent retailer that they have to pay a sizeable commission to, that they wouldn't was just weird.

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Michael Jennings

Re: EE still in a mess

To be fair, this isn't a new thing, particularly not with T-Mobile and Orange. Call them at the end of the contract and you can be offered all kinds of things that aren't advertised anywhere, so all sorts of non-standard things exist in their computers.

If their systems are messed up and they are putting people on the non-standard things accidentally rather than deliberately, that's not good for them, but it doesn't greatly surprise me either.

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UK 4G auction kicks off in total silence

Michael Jennings

Re: Oranges are not the only fruit.

Mobile companies move the prices of their tariffs up and down all the time, and yes, you are stuck with what they were offering when you agreed to it for a reasonable period of time, yes.

Generally, though, they will allow you to switch from an old tariff to a current one of similar monthly cost. So if you have signed up for £36 a month, you are stuck with t£36 a month. However, you likely can get whatever data allowance is being offered to new customers for £36 a month rather than what you agreed to when you signed up. This is likely an improvement.

(Also, most carriers will allow you to switch to a lower tariff after 18 months of a 24 month contract. This isn't likely to help anyone on EE until May 2014 though).

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Facebook continues to CONQUER THE WORLD

Michael Jennings

Korea?

The 2009 map shows South Korea in Blue (Facebook dominent) and the 2012 map shows it red (QZone dominant). This is the only territory on the map that I can see that has moved away from Facebook in that time. It's a large, rich, and culturally sophisticated country, too. Has South Korea really moved to a Chinese controlled social network in the last three years? I wouldn't have thought this likely.

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Ofcom looks at contract opt-outs as users rage over price hikes

Michael Jennings

Re: Operators should be able to fix contract rates by appropriate finance

This is true, but fixed rate financing is on average more expensive than variable rate financing. A fixed rate loan is a variable rate loan plus a hedge against changes in interest rates, and that hedge costs money. It's cheaper to take out variable rate financing. If you can then pass that variable rate onto the customers through these sorts of price changes, you have essentially managed to receive the hedge for free, as the risk has been assumed by your customers. This is why the networks like to do it this way.

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Michael Jennings

New customers have choice

The trouble is that the networks have very little pricing power with respect to new customers, because there is a lot of competition and a customer can almost always get a cheaper deal somewhere else. Similarly, although a network is free to increase the price for customers who are out of contract and still paying (and I have no problem with this) they once again have very little pricing power for customers who are price sensitive. (Ring up your network, ask for a PAC code, and see how low they will go with the offers to try to prevent you from leaving). The only customers they do have pricing power over are the ones on fixed term contracts who cannot leave, assuming the regulator agrees that they can't leave. So they push it as far as they can.

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Michael Jennings

Fewer subsidised handsets, I'd guess.

You can get yourself a shorter contract (12 months for the best deals, but once month also) by simply going SIM only. If you do, the operators have only promised you the fixed price for a shorter period of time and are so less inclined to put the price up mid contract (plus there is no expensive handset to be paid off from the monthly payments, and issues like the highly inflation sensitive implied interest rate on the time payments for this don't come up) and the customer can go and find a better deal from another network much sooner if he doesn't like what he is being offered. So these sorts of problems are much less serious with SIM only / short contracts than with subsidised handsets / long contracts. If Ofcom enforces fixed prices as suggested here, it is likely to become more financially attractive to go SIM only rather than get a longer contract with a subsidised handset than it is now. Particularly if things like a Nexus 4 for £239 stay around (and stocks are large enough to be able to actually make it possible to buy one).

The downside is of course that you have to pay the cost of the handset up front. Not everyone wants to or can do this. Going forward, though, those who don't are gong to increasingly pay more in total than those who do, I suspect.

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