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Was there a catastrophic UK wide failure of Virgin Media on Wednesday?

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WhatsApp Now Has Live Location Sharing

The Internet is a wonderful place but as we see all too often on our forums, it is easy for people to assume that because of a local issue that this is affecting them and their neighbours that it must be affecting millions of others too. Social media is great for checking whether you were specially selected for a poor evening of TV streaming or gaming and invariably if you look at any of the broadband providers with over 1 million customers you will see problems with Wi-Fi, broadband being slow or other issues so is not always the best judge of a much wider issue. Therefore calling out providers for major outages is not an easy game and given some are suggesting that there was a failure across virtually all of the Virgin Media network on the 18th we thought we would share some of our speed test data on how they’ve performed in the last few weeks.

As you can see from the above plot for the last four weeks speeds did not massively drop on Wednesday 18th and the trends across time are actually pretty consistent. Of course if there was a total loss of service it is possible that the few Virgin Media customers left online could still get their usual speeds and while we have not shared that graph there was no sign of a noticeable proportion of customers dropping off the net with the test volume for the 18th being within 1 standard deviation of the average.

Of course what our data will not show is individual problems affecting just a handful of the many thousands of fibre nodes that Virgin Media has, so for those who have been having connection problems your problem is still real, but until we start to see a measurable dip in speeds we won’t be screaming UK wide or regional outage.

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WhatsApp Now Has Live Location Sharing

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WhatsApp Now Has Live Location Sharing

WhatsApp Now Has Live Location Sharing

Popular messaging platforms such as Facebook’s Messenger and Apple’s iMessage already offer a feature that allows their respective users to share location information to family or friends in real time. WhatsApp is now joining in on the party. The service is promising to soon make its new Live Location feature available to both its Android and iOS users.

It was back in February early this year when WhatsApp started testing the functionality. More than just a simple means for sharing a user’s location, the feature specifically allows a user to put a pin on the map to let others know his coordinates in real time, and at the same time, offer an option for letting other people continue to track the user for a specific period of time. The duration can range from 15 minutes to an hour and even 8 hours. Of course, the user can always decide to deactivate the real time location sharing, especially if he has reached his destination or when he no longer wants other people to know his exact whereabouts.

To start using WhatsApp’s new Live Location feature, a user needs only initiate a chat with the person or group that he would like to share his location information with. Then the user will simply select the new option labeled Share Live Location under Location when he taps the Attach button. After choosing how long the location sharing session will transpire, he can just hit Send to have his family or friends start tracking his real time location. When a group of people all share their location data to each other at the same time, they will all be displayed on the same map together with their real time location points. To know more about WhatsApp’s new Live Location feature, you can head on to the company’s official blog.

Introducing new features to its service should help generate some added momentum for WhatsApp, which has managed to breach the 1 billion mark in terms of the volume of active users on any given month more than a couple of months ago. Apart from reaching that mark, a quite impressive 76 percent of its monthly users also come back on a daily basis, sending over 55 billion text messages each day, plus 4.5 billion pictures, and about a billion video clips. Back in 2014 when it was acquired by social media giant Facebook, WhatsApp only had 450 million monthly users and 350 million daily users. 

 

Back to drawing board for Hyperoptic as circular banned

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FTTC speeds in Mid Devon in Q3 2017

Advertising has always been a battle for our attention span, which when picking up the post from your doormat is probably under a second, hence why you tend never see ‘this is a circular please recycle me responsibly’ emblazoned across the front of the numerous circulars you get.

Hyperoptic has had the ASA now ban a circular that has been delivered some 50,000 times after a complaint where the complaint was that the circular was not obviously a circular and looked like a communication from BT.

The circular (which if someone has a copy of we would be interested in seeing a copy with a view to sharing a copy) apparently was suggesting that the residents BT Contract was about to go up in price – therefore we presume the timing was around a set of BT price rises which does fit in with the complaint being received in February 2017. One problem is that BT use their own circulars so if the style is too similar people might be confused, but those are usually random pushing upgrades like BT TV and are never used to convey information about changes in your contract etc

The ASA concluded ‘Because we considered the marketing communication was not obviously identifiable as such, we concluded that the ad breached the Code‘ that it should not be shown again in its current form, with the presence of a Hyperoptic return address, logo and mock language  not being enough to mark the circular as advertising.

A circular, advertising broadband services, received in February 2017, stated in small print on the top-left of the front page “Sent by Hyperoptic Ltd. If undelivered, please return to [their address]”. The circular was addressed to “The Resident” and terms and conditions of the offer were listed in small print at the foot of the front page.

Text on the back page stated “Your BT CONTRACT is about to cost you even more …” and appeared to be in the form of a contract. At the top right of the page text stated “Your Scheme Reference Number: XXXXX Membership: XXXXXXXXXXX. A sub-heading stated “IMPORTANT: THE SERVICE AGREEMENT BETWEEN SERVICE PROVIDER AND CUSTOMER IS COMPROMISED ON FOLLOWING UNDERNEATH TERMS AND CONDITIONS; …”. An image overlaying the ‘contract’ stated “BREAK FREE & BEAT THE PRICE RISE”. Small print at the foot of the page stated “PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT GENUINE [sic] A BT CONTRACT, OBVIOUSLY.”

The back page opened out and the interior contained further information about the offer.

ASA Description of Circular

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Mid Devon officer claims heavily loaded cabinets only deliver a few megabits

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FTTC speeds in Mid Devon in Q3 2017

Cutting through the rhetoric and PR is never easy but sometimes statements are made where you feel you need to stand up and say it does not make sense and one comment from the Economic Development Officer in Mid Devon District Council about the performance of VDSL2 is one of those.

You tend to find you get the M5 corridor or major population hubs such as Crediton which are reasonably well serviced. That’s not to say they’re able to achieve high speeds as a result of that; it just means there’s fibre to the cabinets within those areas. They are heavily loaded with customers so whereas you could be getting several hundred megabits because they’re all using a single cabinet, they’re each achieving a couple of megabits per second for example, so you don’t get the wider benefit of that.

The service would be provided by linking the villages between the Link Road and the A377 as well as the Link Road between Crediton and Tiverton along the A3072m creating a ring to enable wider coverage.

Economic Development Officer at Mid Devon District Council, Chris Shears speaking to Devon Live

The statement is confusing because FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet – VDSL2) has a maximum retail speed of 76 Mbps with the physics of attenuation in copper being the largest factor in the speed people get, at a guess the ‘several hundred megabits’ part is referring to the Gigabit fibre backhaul from the cabinet but the ‘couple of a megabits per second’ is not something that we recognise as being normal for FTTC, assuming the comment is about congestion slowing down users at peak time. This is not to say that there might not be one cabinet somewhere in the UK where people are seeing a lot more than the usual 5 to 10% drop in peak time speeds but we do not know of a cabinet where speeds have dropped from maximum speeds to just a couple of meg. The reality of contention is that it is much more common in the backhaul arrangements from the handover exchanges that individual operators have control over and this is actually an all fibre part of the network and nothing to do with VDSL2.

FTTC speeds in Mid Devon in Q3 2017
FTTC speeds, median and mean during Q3 2017 within Mid Devon District Council
ADSL services are still more popular since upgrades are not automatic and ADSL was seen to record a median download speed of 5.5 Mbps in Q3 with the slowest 20% of results being under 1.7 Mbps.

The areas between Tiverton, Crediton and Chumleigh are largely a part of Mid Devon where the phase one BT contract has not delivered masses of new connectivity, but to start a Mid Devon funded Local Full Fibre Network Programme appears to be saying that they are not expecting to see Gigaclear or gain share from the original BT contract coming to the area. Then again knowing the way councillors across the UK have referred to broadband technology in the past our money is on this ‘ring’ actually referring to a rural based metro fibre network, rather than a systematic roll-out of Fibre to the Premises.

A number of villages are named, and its worth saying a few words on each:

  • Withleigh, Templeton, Cruwys Morchard, Puddington, Blackdog are all small villages and generally if broadband is available it is sub 2 Mbps
  • Pennymoor actually has native Openreach GEA-FTTP live in the village with up to 38 Mbps through to 330 Mbps options, and Gigabit once retailers start selling it. There are some outlying premises that don’t have access.
  • Morchard Bishop has VDSL2 in the centre but as one expects once you get 2 to 3 km away (e.g. EX17 4QE) it is of no benefit
  • Lapford is the largest area and 3 out of the four cabinets offer VDSL2 and cabinet 1 is apparently in the plans for enabling in the next 12 months. As with other cabinets the bulk of premises are within range for superfast or something better than ADSL, but cabinet 1 does have premises some 5 or 6 km away (e.g. EX17 4TH)

This picture of the larger population areas being served and the dispersed rural areas missing out was a common feature for the phase one projects, and was driven by several factors, contract deadlines to cover x,000 by a certain date, cost overruns to be bourn by the commercial partner, value for money tests. The later phase two projects have generally reached deeper into the rural areas and in Devon a feature of 2017 has been Openreach delivering FTTP in the closing phases of the phase one project. In four years Mid Devon has gone from 12% of premises with access to superfast broadband to 74.9% and there are an additional 14.3% with VDSL2 delivering 23.9 Mbps down to no benefit.

Individual councils of course need to fight the corner for their residents and businesses, but the unfortunate reality is that until 100% coverage at speeds that make people happy is reached we will have on-going issues and those missing out are becoming increasingly vocal. How local and national government manage this is probably the most important part of the next few years with regards to broadband as no-one will want to be in the final 2% that are abandoned to the Universal Service Obligation provisions.

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Plusnet Unlimited Fibre service from £22.99 a month for 18 months

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Qualcomm Achieves First Ever 5G Data Connection On Its 5G Modem Processor

The entry point to upgrading from ADSL services to a FTTC/VDSL2 service has just got a little cheaper. The latest offer that is running until the end of 24th October from Plusnet has its unlimited fibre service at £22.99 per month in low cost areas (when checking your speeds on Plusnet site the price is confirmed based on the area you are in). The contract term is 18 months and there is no £25 activation fee.

The service is an up to 38 Mbps download speed product with up to 1.9 Mbps upload speeds, faster is available if your line supports it but that costs from £29.99 per month (and has a £25 activation fee). If you are an existing Plusnet customer and Openreach GEA-FTTP has been rolled out to your area then you should be able to upgrade to FTTP but may need to chase Plusnet reps on their forums if the checker does not take the order online.

Plusnet still also offers the option of paying voice line rental component in an annual lump sum, which reduces the price a bit more, this is an option available during the sign-up process. The telephone service that is part of the price offer is a pay as you go service for phone calls, but does have free phone calls to other Plusnet customers, if you want a call bundle these can be added.

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Qualcomm Achieves First Ever 5G Data Connection On Its 5G Modem Processor

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Qualcomm Achieves First Ever 5G Data Connection On Its 5G Modem Processor

Qualcomm Achieves First Ever 5G Data Connection On Its 5G Modem Processor

Chip making giant Qualcomm has managed to perform a 5G data connection on a 5G modem chip set built specifically for mobile devices. As pointed out by Sherif Hanna, product management and product marketing for mobile at Qualcomm, this achievement is the first ever of its kind across the globe. 

To help accomplish this feat, Qualcomm also built millimeter wave antenna modules. For those not familiar with millimeter waves, just know that they normally do not behave the same as the usual airwaves commonly used in mobile networks. Qualcomm also made the clever decision to incorporate enhanced antenna components, with elements that include Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) and multiple antennas.

And because Qualcomm rendered the antenna modules in nickel size units, they can easily be utilized in smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. And as we have learned throughout the history of mobile devices, manufacturers will always find a way to make things even smaller and thinner eventually.

Engineers and industry watchers have previously thought that millimeter waves are better suited for fixed wireless as opposed to mobile devices. But Qualcomm has shown that millimeter waves can be used effectively in handsets as well, aside from just fixed wireless. The company has built quite a track record for proving everybody wrong. For instance about a couple of decades ago, just about everybody thought CDMA was not viable, but Qualcomm has since flipped the script on that line of thinking.

Qualcomm also took the opportunity to reveal that it has developed a 5G smartphone reference design. This can be used by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) if they want to text how a prototype 5G device can function in specific ways (for instance, how the device behaves in portrait or landscape mode; how the device switches seamlessly between 5G and LTE connections).

By the way, Qualcomm made full use of its own Snapdragon X50 5G modem processor in conducting its 5G trials in its lab located in the city of San Diego in California. The chip maker also managed to log gigabit download speeds with the use of multiple 100 MegaHertz 5G carriers and successfully demo a 28 GigaHertz data connection. For purposes of the test, the SDR050 millimeter wave RF transceiver integrated circuit, as well as Keysight Technologies’ 5G Protocol R&D Toolset and UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform were also used.

Commercial 5G is expected to become widely available starting on 2019.

 

The spread of broadband speeds across the UK in Q3 2017

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As every month passes faster broadband services varying from VDSL2 to full fibre are being rolled out across the UK and while no one minds if companies are spending their own money and no one is buying the faster services with the gap funded roll-outs and various voucher schemes that are using public money keeping an eye on the speeds across the UK is an important one. The Q3 analysis of speed tests for local authorities was published just after the end of Q3 on our statistics site but at that level a lot of the detail is lost and therefore we are publishing a summary for the average speeds per postcode area in Q3 2017.

(Blue area signifies no data)

The map showing the average mean download speeds is a nice see of green and perhaps the scale should be adjusted, as otherwise people viewing the map will get the idea that all is well, but if one looks at the same dataset but plotted using the median download speed you can see a distinct difference and areas like Central London don’t look as good. So is the mean map wrong? No, its just that those who have the option and are actually buying the fastest services available to them are skewing the mean.

The link between availability and average speeds is explored after we look at the fastest and slowest 30 postcode areas and with the upload speeds included the asymmetry of consumer broadband services is clearly illustrated.

Fastest 30 and slowest 30 postcode areas across the UK in Q3 2017 based on speed test results

(sorted by descending median download speed)

Postcode Area Download Speed Upload Speed
  Median Mean Median Mean
KT14 51.8 Mbps 55.6 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 6 Mbps
BT10 46.3 Mbps 55.6 Mbps 6 Mbps 7.2 Mbps
DN41 43.3 Mbps 39.6 Mbps 6.9 Mbps 9.5 Mbps
DE1 40.6 Mbps 45.7 Mbps 4.1 Mbps 7 Mbps
DN34 40 Mbps 55 Mbps 5.8 Mbps 6.8 Mbps
CA23 38.5 Mbps 34.6 Mbps 8.6 Mbps 7.7 Mbps
DN1 37.7 Mbps 50.3 Mbps 3.8 Mbps 5.5 Mbps
ML4 37.1 Mbps 45.7 Mbps 6 Mbps 8.1 Mbps
LS4 37 Mbps 35.5 Mbps 3 Mbps 3.9 Mbps
CB5 36.9 Mbps 46.5 Mbps 4.1 Mbps 5.5 Mbps
BN41 36.7 Mbps 37.9 Mbps 4.9 Mbps 6.9 Mbps
TS23 36.3 Mbps 42 Mbps 5.1 Mbps 5.3 Mbps
TF3 36.3 Mbps 43.2 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 8.3 Mbps
NE7 35.7 Mbps 43.2 Mbps 5.5 Mbps 6.6 Mbps
IG4 35.5 Mbps 43 Mbps 5.4 Mbps 6.4 Mbps
TF5 35.3 Mbps 42.3 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 6 Mbps
RM2 35.1 Mbps 42.4 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 13.2 Mbps
RG5 35.1 Mbps 53.3 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 6.5 Mbps
SM5 34.9 Mbps 41.5 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 5.4 Mbps
B16 34.8 Mbps 39.5 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 8.1 Mbps
CM18 34.7 Mbps 45.3 Mbps 5.1 Mbps 7.2 Mbps
TS16 34.6 Mbps 48.4 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 5.8 Mbps
TW14 34.4 Mbps 35 Mbps 5 Mbps 5.3 Mbps
BN42 34.3 Mbps 43.2 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 6.8 Mbps
RM5 34.3 Mbps 38.3 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 6.4 Mbps
LE11 34.2 Mbps 41.3 Mbps 4.9 Mbps 5.7 Mbps
WD5 34.2 Mbps 47.8 Mbps 5.3 Mbps 5.6 Mbps
PL3 34.2 Mbps 40.2 Mbps 4.6 Mbps 5.7 Mbps
SA2 34 Mbps 44.6 Mbps 5.1 Mbps 5.6 Mbps
L10 33.9 Mbps 45 Mbps 5.8 Mbps 6.5 Mbps
Skipping over 3,400 other areas to now showcase the slowest 30 areas
LA10 5.9 Mbps 15.1 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 10.9 Mbps
CA17 5.7 Mbps 15.9 Mbps 0.4 Mbps 2.9 Mbps
NG33 5.7 Mbps 17.4 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 4.4 Mbps
NR16 5.7 Mbps 14.4 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 2.6 Mbps
SA19 5.6 Mbps 11.1 Mbps 0.5 Mbps 2.7 Mbps
PO41 5.6 Mbps 10.5 Mbps 0.9 Mbps 2.5 Mbps
SY18 5.5 Mbps 11.1 Mbps 0.5 Mbps 1.7 Mbps
WR6 5.5 Mbps 13.3 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 2.8 Mbps
MK9 5.4 Mbps 23.1 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 9.6 Mbps
CA6 5.2 Mbps 12.5 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 2 Mbps
TD11 5.2 Mbps 10.7 Mbps 0.5 Mbps 2.1 Mbps
IV4 5.1 Mbps 12.1 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 2.8 Mbps
LL20 5 Mbps 12.2 Mbps 0.5 Mbps 1.7 Mbps
OX27 4.9 Mbps 16.9 Mbps 1.2 Mbps 3.8 Mbps
SA44 4.8 Mbps 11.4 Mbps 0.6 Mbps 2 Mbps
AB30 4.8 Mbps 9.9 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 1.8 Mbps
IV54 4.6 Mbps 9.3 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 1.2 Mbps
IV22 4.5 Mbps 8.1 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 1 Mbps
CA5 4.4 Mbps 13.8 Mbps 0.8 Mbps 2.6 Mbps
PA35 4.4 Mbps 12.3 Mbps 0.4 Mbps 1.5 Mbps
LL24 4.2 Mbps 11.3 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 2.4 Mbps
AB53 4.1 Mbps 10.4 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 2.1 Mbps
LL21 4 Mbps 12 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 2.1 Mbps
SA34 3.9 Mbps 9.8 Mbps 0.7 Mbps 1.8 Mbps
PH15 3.9 Mbps 8.4 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 1.3 Mbps
SA48 3.8 Mbps 15.5 Mbps 0.5 Mbps 2.5 Mbps
SA41 3.4 Mbps 19.7 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 5.4 Mbps
NE67 3.2 Mbps 9.1 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 1.7 Mbps
LD6 3 Mbps 6.1 Mbps 0.4 Mbps 0.9 Mbps
SA39 2.7 Mbps 11.5 Mbps 0.3 Mbps 1.6 Mbps

The range of speeds is very wide and the median speeds at the foot of the table look like ADSL speeds from a decade ago and that is perhaps no suprise when SA39 has no ultrafast coverage and only 54.7% of premises with access to a superfast option, some people are clearly buying and testing the superfast option as reflected in the mean figures, but while some people will be on the phone ordering better broadband options the minute a service is available, others take time to spot that a faster option is available and may be put off by some of the upgrade costs, though we should highlight that for people in rural areas on older up to 8 Mbps ADSL only services the monthly price of VDSL2 services can be less so don’t just rely on a quote from your existing provider. On some of the other slowest areas, LD6 47.2% superfast coverage, NE67 58.4%, SA41 59.9%, SA48 57.6%, PH15 21.8%.

A number of studies and spreadsheet re-ordering exercises in 2017 have published name and shame tables on broadband speeds, but none have published charts (that we know of) showing how the speeds observed from consumer speed tests correlates to the levels of superfast coverage and with our wealth of consumer speed test data and tracking the path to 95% superfast coverage and beyond that is pretty easy for us.

The chart conveys two messages that there is a link between superfast coverage and the median download, this is of course not rocket science but there are some areas such as PO41 with 83.6% superfast coverage recording median download speeds of just 5.6 Mbps suggesting that maybe the area has only just seen coverage increase significantly or take-up is lagging and if public money has been used to boost coverage increasing take-up is important as the higher the take-up the greater the gainshare money available to take coverage ever closer to 100%. The big cluster of postcode areas in 98% to 100% area is a reflection of the superfast roll-outs, and the broad spread of speeds down to the popularity of the ultrafast broadband options.

The chart of ultrafast coverage against download speeds has three main areas, those with no ultrafast broadband coverage on the 0% line with the spread showing the variations from take-up and observations, through to those areas with over 90% ultrafast availability which unsurprisingly are faster. The middle ground shows a slow but steady trend towards higher speeds, what is interesting is that the postcode areas with ultrafast coverage below the 10% mark tend to be those with Openreach GEA-FTTP coverage and one observation we will make is that two years ago it seemed as if more people were buying the faster 200 Mbps and 300 Mbps variants whereas in the last few months the number buying the fastest FTTP options has reduced, we suspect that poor visibility for these faster services on many comparison websites and pressures on utility spending for many, leading to people buying something sufficient for their needs, i.e. with full fibre if you buy a 38 Mbps or 50 Mbps product with distance having no impact you will be able to stream multiple HD streams (assuming the provider does not have massive congestion issues at peak time).

As for the list of over 3,400 postcode areas we have data for, the full list is not available but if you want to see some more information on your specific postcode you can search for your postcode code on our statistics site which updates coverage percentages weekly, area speeds every quarter and the 12 months of history for a postcode and its immediate area updates each month. For the local authority areas, the speed analysis is broken down by technology so you can see the relative speeds of ADSL, FTTC, cable and FTTH services in an area.

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How To Help Ensure 5G Networks Stay Fast? By Using Hovering Antennas.

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How To Help Ensure 5G Networks Stay Fast? By Using Hovering Antennas.

How To Help Ensure 5G Networks Stay Fast? By Using Hovering Antennas.

Needless to say, the population of mobile users is continuing to increase in major mobile markets across the globe, and that can only mean one thing — networks will soon find themselves having to shoulder the ever growing volume of traffic. And when 5G makes its commercial debut a couple of years from now (give or take), networks will probably not get any less crowded than they already are.

But apparently, a team of researchers hailing from the Electro Science Laboratory (ESL) of Ohio State University is proposing a somewhat curious idea — make the antenna “hover.” Specifically, what the research crew has done is come up with millimeter wave antenna arrays that are nearly separated completely from the substrate one traditionally mounts them on. 

By doing it this way, they can ensure that the substrate is not prone to weakening signals (like normal antennas are). On top of that, hovering antennas will be able to amplify signals, thanks to a new approach to the antenna’s physical design. With the help of the latest 3D printing methods, antennas can be rendered in lens structures that are capable of more efficiency and effectiveness in terms of transmitting and receiving signals from the antenna array.

Suffice it to say that this type of antenna technology is still in its infancy stage. Nobody has any clear idea yet with regards to when or if the hovering antennas will be introduced in the market. But there is no denying that it is an interesting idea, and one that would certainly help bring the full concept of the 5G era into life. 

As more and more mobile users utilize whatever connection is made available in the near future, networks will likely struggle, at least initially, to handle all that traffic volume. The quality of the network could suffer, and even connection speeds could be affected, especially in large metropolitan areas where there are more consumers, not to mention more business establishments and more homes. Sure, fiber optic lines are very effective in making sure towns and neighborhoods are given access to 5G networks, but fiber optics are often costly and even challenging to roll out fast. Hovering antennas, on the other hand, are easier and cheaper to deploy.

Most industry watchers believe that 5G networks will become a reality by 2019. And it appears that every player in the wireless, mobile, and tech industries are excited to see it happen. Various mobile operators have already started testing their respective 5G offerings, while tech companies are making strides of their own. Qualcomm, for instance, has already developed the Snapdragon X50 5G NR Modem, a processor specifically designed for 5G compatible mobile devices.

 

Big Four Carriers Now Working to Restore Connectivity in Puerto Rico

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Big Four Carriers Now Working to Restore Connectivity in Puerto Rico

Big Four Carriers Now Working to Restore Connectivity in Puerto Rico

In the last 24 hours or so, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approve several Special Temporary Authority (STA) applications from various mobile operators who want to immediately push through with efforts to restore wireless connection services in Puerto Rico. As of now, the country is still without much power or mobile connectivity about three weeks since Hurricane Maria had hit.

There were a total of fifteen STAs approved for Puerto Rico in the last couple of days alone, with another four issued to California. Last Thursday, eight STA applications were granted approval, and among them was an STA for allowing short term spectrum management to be initiated by major US mobile operator Verizon Wireless in collaboration with Puerto Rico Wireless. There were other STAs approved for efforts to help bring back mobile communications in Puerto Rico for two other national carriers, AT&T and Sprint, and another for PR Wireless. Earlier this week, Neville Ray, the chief technical officer of T-Mobile, had posted on social media that no less than 50 new volunteers from across America have set foot in Puerto Rico, in order to set up teams to help re-establish connectivity in the country.

As indicated on the FCC’s latest update regarding the situation in Puerto Rico, the Big Four carriers in the United States (namely Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) have opened up roaming in Puerto Rico so that they can provide the nation’s inhabitants with whatever mobile coverage is available. 

According to the FCC, a top priority for the mobile operators is to immediately start the recovery of cellular sites and deployment of temporary assets with the other wireless service providers in order to broaden coverage for all Puerto Rican users. So far, satellite cells on light trucks (COLTs) as well as terrestrial cells on wheels (COWs — also used in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey) have been rolled out. The latest updates reveal that around 60 percent (which is an improvement over the 54 percent estimated the day before) of the Puerto Rican population is being covered by the country’s mobile operators.

Earlier this week, the FCC has also approved an experimental license for an unorthodox solution to restoring connectivity in Puerto Rico. Having already granted its STA, Google’s Project Loon is now working to coordinate with a carrier partner in order to deploy cellular service in the country. Even social media giant Facebook is joining in the effort — it recently sent its own team to Puerto Rico in order to coordinate with nonprofit organization NetHope in re-establishing online connectivity.

 

More Than Half of ARKit-Ready App Downloads are Games

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More Than Half of ARKit-Ready App Downloads are Games

More Than Half of ARKit-Ready App Downloads are Games

According to a new report recently released by Sensor Tower, Apple’s ARKit has now been installed over 3 million times around the world by way of a host of mobile apps and games powered by the augmented reality (AR) platform. Of that 3 million downloads, it turns out that majority of them are games (53 percent).

This should not be that surprising — there is, after all, indisputable evidence that augmented reality can work well with mobile games. Perhaps the most perfect example is the ridiculous success of Pokemon Go last year. Ever since the game debuted in June of 2016, it has since demonstrated to the world that when used properly, augmented reality can attract lots and lots of users.

And it seems augmented reality will remain popular going forward. Based on Sensor Tower’s latest report, AR games make up the biggest category among ARKit powered apps, capturing a commanding a 35 percent share of the global ARKit downloads. After games, the next largest category is utilities, with 19 percent of all downloads. Completing the top five categories are entertainment (with 11 percent), education (7 percent), photo and video (6 percent), and lifestyle (5 percent).

Apart from downloads, ARKit-ready mobile games are also starting to earn money. Sensor Tower’s findings indicate that mobile games make up 82 percent of the total revenues generated so far. In terms of both the number of downloads and the amount of revenues generated, the top three free apps are AR Dragon, Zombie Gunship Revenant, and AR Sports Basketball. AR Dragon is gaining significant momentum, capturing a 20 percent share of the total number of downloads among the top three free apps.

Interestingly, there were a few notable free non-game ARKit powered apps that have managed to attract some attention. Chief among these is Homecraft, which is an app used for interior design (classified under the lifestyle category). Then there is AR MeasureKit, a measuring utility app, and Paint Space AR, an entertainment app.

Apple is not the only tech company exploring AR technology. As a matter of fact, rival Google also offers its own ARCore for Android users. But unlike the Android ecosystem, Apple has more control over its platform simply because it has fewer compatible devices to worry about. ARKit, after all, only works with Apple made handsets, and the company can pretty much achieve easier consistency with regards to the final product, as compared to Android which typically deals with lots of different mobile manufacturers.

 

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