Ofcom has today published research on mobile phone call quality provided by network operators.
Improving mobile quality of service for consumers is a priority area for Ofcom. Today’s research is part of a plan to help support initiatives to improve mobile coverage in the UK, and provide consumers with quality information on mobile reception.
This information is important in helping consumers choose a mobile service that suits their needs. It also helps promote competition between mobile operators on service quality, to benefit consumers. Ofcom will continue to monitor and report on how service quality develops over time.
The report includes research on mobile phone call quality from the consumers’ perspective on mobile handsets; data supplied by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone on the performance of their networks; and consumer research on satisfaction with mobile networks.
Ofcom’s research found that while overall levels of consumer satisfaction with mobile networks are high (76%), this varies by location. Some 78% of people in urban areas were satisfied with their mobile network, compared to 67% in rural parts of the UK and 70% in remote areas.
Telemarketing Regulation: National and State Do Not Call Registries (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Today, it is axiomatic that telemarketers in the United States generally are not permitted to place outgoing telemarketing calls to phone numbers on the national do not call list, unless an exception applies. This was not always the case, however. The National Do Not Call Registry was implemented by Congress and by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to widespread frustration on the part of citizens with what was perceived to be abusive telemarketing practices. Particularly irritating and invasive were the numerous calls to residences on the part of telemarketers during dinner hours. In an attempt to address these complaints, Congress granted the FTC and the FCC the authority to regulate telemarketing practices. From these initial grants of regulatory authority grew the National Do Not Call Registry.
The development and implementation of the national do not call list was not straightforward. No single law creates the list. Instead, it developed from a combination of statutes and regulations over time, as Congress and the federal agencies tasked with the responsibility of regulating telemarketing developed strategies to better alleviate perceived consumer harm. This report will outline the laws underpinning the national do not call list; describe the regulations implementing the list; answer some of the most frequently asked questions related to the list; and discuss the possible penalties for violating the rules. The report will also briefly discuss some of the ways the various states have implemented their own do not call lists.
The Added Value of EU policy on Mobile telephone roaming charges
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service
International roaming allows a customer of a mobile network operator in one country to obtain telephone services – whether voice, SMS or data – from an operator in another country. The service provider ensures that the consumer remains connected to a mobile network abroad whilst using the same mobile phone handset – or a laptop/tablet in case of data roaming – and the same telephone number as at home.
In the era before the emergence of an EU-level policy to increase competition in telecommunications, the European market in this field was largely dominated by a limited number of traditional players, often public-sector monopolies, and was characterised by a marked lack of regulatory coherence between member states. Telephone networks across Europe were limited to national boundaries, preventing effective competition. The cost of telephone calls was generally high – and mobile-phone roaming charges were especially high, to a degree strikingly unjustified by the actual cost incurred by the service provider. Such charges were, on average, three times as high as those for domestic phone calls.
With the initial liberalisation of the European mobile telecommunications sector in 1998, EU action was taken to increase competition between operators and to promote adoption of common GSM and UMTS standards. A gradual fall in prices followed, and innovative new products and services began to appear. Almost a decade later, in 2007, the EU institutions introduced specific caps on mobile roaming charges for the first time, and since then – in 2009, 2012 and 2013 – they have adopted further revisions, with the aim of cutting such charges further. The EU roaming regime applies in the 28 member states of the Union, together with the three other countries within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Deploying 5G (Fifth Generation) Wireless Technology: Is the United States on Track?
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)
In 2018, when the XXIII Winter Olympic Games are to begin in PyeongChang, South Korea, the global competition for leadership of the mobile communications industry might be intensified by the introduction of a prototype 5G network. Commercial deployments of Fifth-Generation technologies by 2020 have been announced by wireless network officials in South Korea and Japan. In July 2014, Ericsson, a global leader in communications technology, demonstrated the speed of its 5G network design to customers NTT DOCOMO (Japan) and SK Telecom (South Korea). The technological advances of these early roll-outs might leapfrog the technologies used by U.S. networks, eroding what is widely perceived as an American competitive advantage in mobile communications.
New report on state of EU Telecommunications markets
Source: European Commission
Today the European Commission published a report on the telecommunications market and regulation in the EU. The report covers 2012 – 2013 years.
The main findings of the report:
- Industry revenues again declined in 2013 but investment is beginning to grow;
- Use of traditional telephony services is decreasing as internet (VoIP) services become increasingly popular;
- Data traffic is growing quickly;
- Mobile voice call and data prices are higher in the EU than in the US, while the usage of mobile is higher in the US, resulting in a higher ‘average revenue per user’ in the US.
- Only Denmark, Germany, Latvia and Malta met the 2012 target for the authorisation of the specific spectrum bands. 21 Member States did eventually meet the target in 2013, but the delay in assignment of the 800 MHz band has significantly slowed the roll-out of 4G mobile across the EU.
- The time needed to obtain permits to roll-out new networks ranges from a few days to years depending on where in the EU you are building the network. Most authorities still do not allow for electronic submission of requests.
UK consumers believe that they can’t do without the internet and mobile phones, new Ofcom research reveals
The study examined which communications services UK consumers consider ‘essential’ in their day to day lives and whether they are affordable, particularly for the most vulnerable in society.
This forms part of Ofcom’s on-going work to ensure consumers receive value for money from their communications services. Encouraging and promoting consumer participation in the communications markets is also a key priority for Ofcom.
There was broad consensus among consumers on what ‘essential’ means in relation to communications services.
People said the ability to contact the emergency services, keep in touch with family and friends, or access information, education and entertainment were among the key functions of essential services.
Overall, the study found that telephone services, in particular mobiles, and internet access were most essential to UK consumers. Some 61% of consumers rated voice services (mobile or landline) as essential, 59% considered mobile voice or text services as essential, while 57% regarded personal internet access as essential.
The research also revealed that certain services are considered essential by some, but less important by others, with age being a key factor. Landline telephone services are considered essential by people aged 75 and above (61%), compared to just 12% of 16-24 year olds. However, accessing the internet via a smartphone was considered essential to 53% of 16-24 year olds, but to no one aged 75 and above.
New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Small Business Administration: Office of Advocacy Needs to Improve Controls over Research, Regulatory, and Workforce Planning Activities. GAO-14-525, July 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664930.pdf
2. Managing for Results: Enhanced Goal Leader Accountability and Collaboration Could Further Improve Agency Performance. GAO-14-639, July 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664922.pdf
3. Telecommunications: FCC Should Improve the Accountability and Transparency of High-Cost Program Funding. GAO-14-587, July 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664940.pdf
1. Large Partnerships: Growing Population and Complexity Hinder Effective IRS Audits, by James R. White, director, strategic issues, before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-746T, July 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664918.pdf
The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The U.S. Secret Service has two missions—criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities have expanded since the inception of the Service from a small anticounterfeiting operation at the end of the Civil War, to now encompassing financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. Protection activities, which have expanded and evolved since the 1890s, include ensuring the safety and security of the President, Vice President, their families, and other identified individuals and locations.
Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, July–December 2013
Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, July–December 2013 (PDF)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics
Preliminary results from the July–December 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow. Two in every five American homes (41.0%) had only wireless telephones (also known as cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones) during the second half of 2013—an increase of 1.6 percentage points since the first half of 2013 and 2.8 percentage points since the second half of 2012. However, these increases are smaller than those observed in previous years. This report presents the most up-to-date estimates available from the federal government concerning the size and characteristics of these populations.
FTC Alleges T-Mobile Crammed Bogus Charges onto Customers’ Phone Bills
Source: Federal Trade Commission
In a complaint filed today, the Federal Trade Commission is charging mobile phone service provider T-Mobile USA, Inc., with making hundreds of millions of dollars by placing charges on mobile phone bills for purported “premium” SMS subscriptions that, in many cases, were bogus charges that were never authorized by its customers.
The FTC alleges that T-Mobile received anywhere from 35 to 40 percent of the total amount charged to consumers for subscriptions for content such as flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip that typically cost $9.99 per month. According to the FTC’s complaint, T-Mobile in some cases continued to bill its customers for these services offered by scammers years after becoming aware of signs that the charges were fraudulent.
In a process known as “third-party billing,” a phone company places charges on a consumer’s bill for services offered by another company, often receiving a substantial percentage of the amount charged. When the charges are placed on the bill without the consumer’s authorization, it is known as “cramming.”
The FTC’s complaint alleges that in some cases, T-Mobile was charging consumers for services that had refund rates of up to 40 percent in a single month. The FTC has alleged that because such a large number of people were seeking refunds, it was an obvious sign to T-Mobile that the charges were never authorized by its customers. As the complaint notes, the refund rate likely significantly understates the percentage of consumers who were crammed. The complaint also states that internal company documents show that T-Mobile had received a high number of consumer complaints at least as early as 2012.
The 2014 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey is based on interviews with 23,000 Internet consumers in 23 mature and growth markets around the world. The interviews covered a representative sample of the online population aged 14 and up, of which 54% were male and 46% female.
The survey covers a wide range of topics relevant for Communications, Media and Technology companies.
- Evolving media consumption
- The Internet of things
- Democratization of creation
- Constrained broadband
- Brand experience
- Brand growth
- Price and perceived value
- Propensity to pay for content
New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. DOD Financial Management: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Needs to Fully Implement Financial Improvements for Contract Pay. GAO-14-10, June 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664319.pdf
2. Telecommunications: USDA Should Evaluate the Performance of the Rural Broadband Loan Program. GAO-14-471,May 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663577.pdf
3. Medicaid: Financial Characteristics of Approved Applicants and Methods Used to Reduce Assets to Qualify for Nursing Home Coverage. GAO-14-473, May 22.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663416.pdf
4. Advanced Reactor Research: DOE Supports Multiple Technologies, but Actions Needed to Ensure a Prototype Is Built. GAO-14-545, June 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664297.pdf
5. VA Spina Bifida Program: Outreach to Key Stakeholders and Written Guidance for Claims Audit Follow-up Activities Needed. GAO-14-564, June 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664304.pdf
6. Debt Management: Floating Rate Notes Can Help Treasury Meet Borrowing Goals, but Additional Actions Are Needed to Help Manage Risk. GAO-14-535, June 16.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664107.pdf
Debt Management: Survey of Investors in Treasury Securities (GAO-14-562SP, June 16, 2014), an E-supplement to GAO-14-535. GAO-14-562SP, June 16.
How broadband coverage varies between cities
Some people living in urban areas are still putting up with very low broadband speeds, according to an Ofcom study that reveals a varying picture of coverage and take-up across major cities.
While lower broadband availability, take-up and speeds are commonly associated with rural areas – something Ofcom has researched before – the new study aimed to understand whether cities had similar problems.
The results show that superfast broadband coverage varies widely between major urban areas, with Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland the best performing city for superfast broadband availability at 99%.
Pathways Conjoint: A New Approach to Pricing Mobile
Source: Boston Consulting Group
With subscribers’ thirst for data seemingly insatiable, these should be heady times for mobile network operators. Spurred by smartphones, 4G networks, and bandwidth-intensive applications like video, global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index. And no slowdown is in sight: by 2018, traffic is expected to be nearly eleven times greater than in 2013. Yet many telcos are experiencing flat, and even declining, revenues.
To get an inkling of the source of the problem, one need only shop for a new mobile plan. In many cases, price is still centered around voice and messaging. But for telcos, these are declining assets, making up a diminishing share of network usage and contributing decreasing margins. Over-the-top (OTT) services offer free or inexpensive alternatives to traditional voice and messaging, and more and more consumers are using them. According to the market research firm Telegeography, Skype added 54 billion minutes of international voice traffic in 2013—50 percent more than the combined volume growth of every telco in the world.
Forward-thinking providers have gotten the message: pricing should be centered around data. This lets them monetize the extraordinary growth in that traffic and, crucially, make the economics of the business work. The growth in data requires huge investments in network capacity—investments that can pay off only when revenues are aligned with usage.
Free registration required to access report.
New advice for consumers on preventing nuisance calls
Consumers now have easier access to information about preventing and dealing with nuisance calls and messages, following the launch of new consumer guides from Ofcom.
The first guide is a short online educational video that offers tips and advice on nuisance calls. It is available with subtitles to help people with hearing impairments.
The second guide provides advice on preventing nuisance calls in an ‘Easy Read’ format, designed to be easily understood by people with learning disabilities.
Easy Read presents information clearly and simply, using pictures to support the meaning of the text. It can also be helpful for those with a limited knowledge of the English language.
The new guides are part of Ofcom’s work to help ensure consumer information about nuisance calls and messages is accessible to a wide audience. Recent Ofcom research revealed that a third (32%) of consumers were unsure of where to get advice on preventing nuisance calls.
NTIA Releases Interim Progress Report on Administration’s Plan to Free Up More Spectrum
Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration
NTIA today released the Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Obama Administration’s initiative to identify and make available 500 megahertz of federal and non-federal spectrum for commercial wireless broadband use by 2020. This report also includes a plan for federal agencies to conduct quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in 960 megahertz of additional spectrum, as directed in President Obama’s June 2013 Memorandum.
Exports and American Information and Communications Technology Companies and Workers (PDF)
Source: Technology CEO Council
The information and communications technology (ICT) industries are a vital part of the American economy, employing 4.2 million U.S. workers in 2012. Every sector of the economy relies on ICT hardware, software and services to some degree. In addition, over 70 percent of ICT spending occurs outside of the United States. Access to global markets enables American ICT companies to make substantial investments in research, capital spending, and worker training in the United States; increase productivity across sectors by developing innovative products and processes; and generate new ideas, firms, and jobs that maintain the pre-‐eminence of the U.S. ICT industries. Thus, growth of ICT exports is an essential element in the success of efforts to expand business opportunities for American workers and employers generally.
In 2012, U.S. ICT exports exceeded $270 billion, or more than $1 out of every $8 in total U.S. exports. They include $201 billion of domestically manufactured goods like Intel or Micron semiconductors; $72 billion of ICT services such as consulting services provided by companies like IBM and Xerox; data and computer processing services like those provided by EMC; and royalties collected by U.S. companies for software purchased by customers around the world.
This study explores the importance of ICT exports to states and congressional districts across the United States. All 50 states and 435 congressional districts – plus the District of Columbia – export ICT hardware, software and services. The foreign markets are many, and varied.
A New Business Cycle for Telcos; Time to Invest Again
Source: Boston Consulting Group
One thing is certain about telcos: they know how to hit a curveball. As the market unloaded on them—with declining revenues, increasing competition, and consumers demanding less expensive products—telcos sized up what they were facing and adjusted their stance. With little money for investment, they focused on cost reduction by aggressively—and successfully—lowering their IT expenses. That took some of the pressure off and helped move the business forward.
The 2013 survey of telco industry participants—conducted annually by BCG and ETIS, a membership-based organization that seeks to help telcos improve their business performance through shared discussion of IT practices—shows that telcos are again adjusting their stance with positive results. The survey of IT performance of European operators finds spending up for the first time in years. But more important, telcos are handling this sudden largesse in a way that wisely accounts for the realities—and risks—of the current market. Although conditions are starting to improve and promising signs are emerging, margins and average revenue per user are still down for many telcos. It makes sense that operators are not simply spending on IT but also focusing that spending on areas most relevant to creating innovative products and enhanced customer relationships.
Free registration required to access full report.
Expanding the Use of Telehealth: Promise and Potential Pitfalls
Source: RAND Corporation
Testimony presented before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health on May 1, 2014.