Sky And TalkTalk Team To Battle BT Broadband


While a quick response to their recent study will be what they would have wanted, British media regulators Ofcom might not have been as pleased on a first glance at the latest news of the broadband industry, after well-known providers Sky and TalkTalk are joining forces to create a broadband service that rival the market-leading prowess of… BT.

talktalk_in_the_skyWhile it is in fact Virgin Media who were the stand-out performers when it came to coverage for its subscribers (at nearly double the speeds of all other service providers including BT, Sky, and TalkTalk), it is in fact the coverage in quantity that BT hold that the new collaboration is seeking to challenge.

The two companies are noted as agreeing to pool together their resources in order to place infrastructure of their own in the form of fibre optic cabling across several UK cities, a move planned in order to end the the pair’s reliance BT’s ‘Openreach’ infrastructure.

Planning to debut the project in York (England) and two unconfirmed British cities in 2015, the initiative will take place in co-operation with 1gb/s fibre optic network providers CityFibre.

TalkTalk’s chief executive officer Dido Harding summarised: “This marks TalkTalk taking its first steps into investing in building infrastructure as part of our mission to make British homes and businesses better off.”

While the move is confirmed by Sky as one which should give both companies much higher speeds in their areas of direct coverage to broadband consumers, it has also been announced (fairly obviously) that the partnership starts and ends with planting the tubes, with all other aspects falling under the category of traditional business competition…

Ofcom Announce Average Rise In UK Broadband Speeds


While the absoloute peak of the industry is represented by huge numbers that for now will rarely be seen outside testing or well-established environments, the growth of broadband speeds around the world is heading up more steadily, but higher nonetheless.

ofcom_logoThis trend is prevalent in the UK region, according to a recent report, where media regulators Ofcom were pleased to announce an increase in ‘average broadband speeds’ by a total of 3mb/s across the last 6 months.

They noted that the nation-wide average for broadband speeds was now up to 17.8mb/s as of November 2013 when compared with a report from six months previously, and that an increase in speeds from 3.6mb/s has occurred in the space of 5 years since November 2008, a growth of 14.2mb/s.

Going further into the figures, Ofcom suggested that for fastest overall speeds, consumers would be best suited subscribing to Virgin Media, who offer their customers ‘the fastest broadband in Britain’, peaking at an average of between 113.2mb/s-116.7mb/s across a 24-hour period.

This is seen as being almost twice that of any other rivals, with providers such as BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, and TalkTalk all recording 24-hour average speeds in the range between 61.6mb/s-68mb/s on their ‘super-fast package’ options. While the average growth is naturally a good sign, Ofcom have implied that it is primarily in urban areas in which the developments have been of note, with claims that ‘more needs to be done’ in improving coverage for rural areas, which were accounted in November 2013 at a 11.3mb/s average.

How long it will take for that to happen depends on how well providers act on the current findings, but will the providers who are not Virgin Media be able to up their game in general with these statistics now present as potentially-jarring public knowledge?

Kansas City Given Second Trial For Google Fiber With Free Tablets

Would-be superfast internet users that missed out on the limited ‘Google Fiber’ trials in Kansas City (USA) in 2012 have been offered a reprieve, as the search engine giant open up their package to an additional select wave of applicants in the city as they further develop their testing process for the ambitious service.

google_fiber_conceptThe efforts from Google are ones which they will aim to increase their customer base in preparation for a possible ‘real’ launch, as they began their new customer recruitment drive yesterday (Wednesday 20 November) for people interested in joining up to the experimental internet/TV service.

It appears as though the move will for now be a limitless one despite the highly powerful 1GB/s speeds, allowing the people of Kansas City (in covered neighbourhoods) until 22 December to set up with Google Fiber under a service contract pre-agreement, which Google claim will be good for connections that begin in spring 2014, with further incentives including that only houses in ‘fibrehoods’ with enough people signed up will be able to acquire the service, and that pre-registering users may also be in line for a free Google Nexus 7 as a ‘Christmas gift’, depending on conditions.

It is believed by analyst that the change in structure to a more open offer by Google is one which has been made in attempt of claiming as much revenue as possibly from the Kansas City market in order to prove the fiber-optic investment worthwhile.

With service prices ranging from $25-120/month, Google will hope that their ‘fiberhoods’ are a good source of future income and the potential pinnacle of super-fast internet in America over future years, but will the next stage be successful enough to convince them to expand beyond a small selection of cities?

Sky Broadband Activate Shield For Online Content Parental Control

In a move which perhaps puts their online content on a similar level of priority to their TV output, UK satellite broadcasters Sky have revealed their latest update to the Sky Broadband platform, one which initiates a new set of ‘parental controls’ for restricting content and websites available to younger members of a household.

sky_broadband_shield_limitsThe new update, called ‘Sky Shield’, enables ‘account holders’ to set limited access to content under three different ‘certificated categories’ (‘under 13′ (PG), ’13+’ (13), and ‘adults only’ (18)). A fourth option for the service allows customers to ‘customise filters’ with a individual blocks on 10 different programming categories that relate to ‘adult content’ to enable triggers based on genre or the ‘offending feature’ involved, whilst also being able to manually create exceptions for specific content within a genre.

Lyssa McGowan, Sky Broadband‘s director, summarised: “Protecting customers from inappropriate content in the digital world is something Sky has always taken extremely seriously. Sky has already played a leading role in protecting Sky homes from inappropriate content, as we know that’s what our customers expect of Sky. Now we’re going one step further by offering our customers great new technology which means they can feel confident that all their devices in the home are protected. Sky Broadband Shield is a brilliantly simple tool that allows customers to easily choose how much of the internet to let into their homes.”

Set to appear as a default switch-on in 2014, users will be required to unset the Sky Broadband Shield once it is activated if not needed or wanted, under recent guidelines offered by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier in 2013. However, it will not be removed completely with the intent of malware protection being offered at even the most basic switched-off level, but for Sky customers will this enforced update be seen as a greater invasion of their privacy, or will the guideline-following initiative help online content and its users to avoid controversy?

Vodafone Announce New Zealand Broadband & TV Service

Vodafone, best known around the world as a mobile operating system based in England, are looking to build their profile to a similarly high status in another country, as they announced a move to introduce a ‘TV platform for ultra fast broadband’ as a challenger in New Zealand’s digital TV market.

vodafone_telstraclearIn an arrangement that will see them both work with and compete against market leaders Sky TV, Vodafone will be offering a new platform based around their property of TelstraClear, with a platform based around the ‘T Box’ created by the former Australian subsidiary that will offer TV services with ‘more advanced features than MySky’.

Despite the competitive nature of their sales pitch, though Vodafone will look to Sky TV for assistance in their venture, with the satellite TV specialists managing content on the new venture, which will see two packages of ‘unlimited broadband’ offered to consumers, with a combination of ‘Ultra Fast Broadband’ alongside either Sky or Freeview TV service, and access to ‘at least 20′ pay-per-view streaming movies in HD at any one time. Vodafone also note that home phone service deals can also be tied to the general telecommunications contract.

Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams said of the service, which will also include TVNZ, Maori TV, and MediaWorks in supplying content: “For some time now, industry watchers and commentators have been saying that content - movies and television - will be a key driver of fibre uptake. New Zealanders have been waiting for a compelling reason to switch to fibre and we believe Vodafone TV is just that. Already Vodafone’s own fibre network passes almost 200,000 homes in Wellington and Christchurch, delivering TV and ultra fast broadband capability. And soon, Vodafone customers in Auckland will be able to watch their favourite movies and TV shows – from a choice of up to 150 channels – with incredible picture quality and brilliant sound over their ultra fast broadband connection.”

Sky’s chief executive John Fellet was also positive knowing the stake his company had in the launch, adding: “I’m excited. Sky has long embraced the roll out of ultra fast broadband - it’s great to see Vodafone TV using the digital rights we’ve purchased. Kiwis now have even more choice when it comes to watching television.”

Planning for initial roll-out in select areas of major cities Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, Vodafone TV will plan expansions throughout New Zealand over the coming years, but will their broadband/TV streaming service be successful enough to warrant it? A press release regarding the announcement by Vodafone can be read below:

Vodafone Unveils Ultra Fast Broadband TV service

Vodafone today unveiled New Zealand’s first – and only – full TV service using the new ultra fast broadband network, giving Kiwis a real incentive to move to fibre.

In partnership with New Zealand’s national television networks – SKY, TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV– Vodafone TV gives customers a choice of Freeview|HD or SKY channels and 36 channels of pay per view movies, including recent releases, in crystal clear HD.

Matt Williams, Vodafone’s Consumer Director, says Vodafone TV represents the next generation of TV in New Zealand.

“For some time now, industry watchers and commentators have been saying that content – movies and television – will be a key driver of fibre uptake. New Zealanders have been waiting for a compelling reason to switch to fibre and we believe Vodafone TV is just that.

“Already Vodafone’s own fibre network passes almost 200,000 homes in Wellington and Christchurch, delivering TV and ultra fast broadband capability. And soon, Vodafone customers in Auckland will be able to watch their favourite movies and TV shows – from a choice of up to 150 channels – with incredible picture quality and brilliant sound over their ultra fast broadband connection.”

SKY Chief Executive John Fellet is enthusiastic about the launch.

“I’m excited. SKY has long embraced the roll out of ultra fast broadband – it’s great to see Vodafone TV using the digital rights we’ve purchased. Kiwis now have even more choice when it comes to watching television.”

Sam Irvine, General Manager at Freeview New Zealand, adds: “With this year’s digital switchover, it’s great that customers have another choice – Vodafone TV – to get access to the Freeview HD channels.”

Vodafone TV is available as part of Vodafone Red Home – a complete home communications package offering TV, superfast broadband and home calling options, all in one plan, with one bill.

Vodafone TV and Vodafone’s Ultra Fast Broadband plans will initially be available in parts of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Vodafone’s Ultra Fast Broadband plans are also available in Whangarei, Palmerston North and Dunedin. More areas will be announced soon.

The Vodafone TV Digital Recorder rental is free with new 80GB Ultra Fast plans and above, when you have the Vodafone TV with SKY option. For customers choosing the Freeview|HD option, it is free with the 250GB Ultra Fast plans.

Vodafone’s Ultra Fast plans are available from Friday 4 October – Vodafone TV is available in Auckland from 1 November.

For more information, visit www.vodafone.co.nz/redhome.”

Bruce Willis Sky Broadband Commercial Banned By ASA

Actor Bruce Willis may have a bit of history with Apple over their controversial methods of ‘content ownership’, but it has not deterred him from pursuing opportunities to promote companies with a similar business-based outlook for the right price.

bruce_willis_sky_demandmoreEarlier this year, Willis followed in the footsteps of the ‘face of EE’ Kevin Bacon by being a famed American actor starring in commercials for a telecommunications company in the UK. The advert that he featured in, where , has not exactly gone to plan for the satellite broadcasters a few months down the line, after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have intervened and banned the clip from TV on account of it being ‘misleading’.

The authority have declared that using small print to describe the details of their broadband pricing structure was not appropriate given the more noticeable discussion on-screen that may have misled consumers.

With the ‘Sky Broadband Unlimited’ service described in the advert as £7.50/month (and ‘less than half of BT’s standard price’), although the caption indicated that to receive this price requires Sky Talk & line rental, items which cost an additional £14.50 if not already subscribed.

While Sky maintained their defence that the advert had not been ‘confusing to the average viewer’ (and that their ‘Broadband Unlimited’ only requires line rental (with Sky Talk an ‘inclusive’ option)), the ASA took a different view, and claimed that using small print for a period of 15 seconds (and advertising a Sky TV service which the company later admitted was irrelevant to the broadband deal advertised) was not the correct way to handle the terms & conditions involved, recommending that a voiceover could have been the more useful option.

In a statement after enforcing the ban, the ASA explained: “[The advert was] clearly not directed at existing Sky customers [therefore more detail should have been issued]. [The small print] would by its nature be significantly less prominent than a claim made in a voice-over, and was therefore not an appropriate method of communicating material information relating to the £7.50 price claim.”

The advert that has caused this ‘controversy’ (said to have been triggered by just one viewer issuing a complaint) can be viewed below, but will it set a future precedent over how commercials are allowed to use captioning, resulting in everything being forced to use the none-too-pleasant ‘disclaimer voices’?