The con artists profiting from 5G conspiracy theories

When people are scared of something, there will always be a snake oil salesman on hand, and now there are products emerging to protect consumers from the dastardly 5G airwaves.

Despite there being mountains of evidence to the contrary, 5G conspiracy theories are continuing to influence behaviour today. According to Mobile UK, the association representing UK mobile operators, there have been 87 incidents of 4G/5G towers being vandalised, and more than 200 engineers who have been verbally or physically abused. This is the consequence.

And of course, when there is hysteria, confusion and fear, there will be the con artists who look to profit.

One company which has attracted attention this week is 5GBioShield. For a mere £283 you can purchase a USB stick with proprietary holographic nano-layer technology which will create a quantum biological shield around you and/or your home.

From the minds of Ilija Lakicevic and Jacques Bauer, two individuals who have not worked for reputable employers for years, the product supposedly works to balance the imbalanced electric oscillations arising from all electric fog induced by all devices. If that sounds remarkable, it might be a lot easier than some might have expected.

According to PenTestPartners, the product is nothing more than a standard 128GB USB memory stick with a sticker on it. Having broken down the product, there is literally nothing to distinguish it from a normal £5 memory stick, aside from a 1p sticker.

When asked by Telecoms.com, 5GBioShield did not respond to requests for additional information to support the claims such as research papers or a technology patent.

This is one company which has been attracting mainstream media attention, but anyone could do a quick Google and realise there are hundreds of companies out there looking to deceive the general public.

EMF Protection is one company which offers window protections, bed canopies and EMF radiation-protection paint. It is not entirely clear how the products actually work from consulting the website, and once again EMF Protection Founder Glynn Hughes responded but was less than forthcoming with an explanation. However, there is an explanation for the paint.

Through a combination of carbon fibre and graphite particles, the paint is 99.99% effective at not only blocking 5G, but also 2G, 3G, 4G and wifi. On top of all this protection, it is easy to apply, and is water based.

If you do have an interest in purchasing the paint, never forget, it must be earthed!

And there are hundreds of these con artists, relying on fancy words with no scientific substance out there.

EMF Home Harmony offers an EMF Protection Bracelet for £25 which looks exactly the same as every other rubber charity wrist band, but is powered by Orgone, a term coined by Wilhelm Reich for life force energy. DefenderShield provides shields and cases for devices to absorb and block EMF emissions.

A quick search on Amazon also brought up more than 2,000 results ranging from phone cases, diffusers to cleanse the air, immunity boosting pills and Electromagnetic Field Radiation Detector. There is no shortage of products to protect us from the dishonourable spectrum.

There are of course numerous reasons these products exist, and they still would without the conspiracy theories linking 5G spectrum to the creation and transmission of COVID-19, but this has heightened the issue.

But why do people believe in these products? One reason might simply be that the explanations are more accessible.

There is of course mountains of evidence to dispute the claims made by these companies, but it is often in the form of scientific papers or industry jargon, little of which is understood by the general public. The information being put forward by the con artists might be incorrect, but it is accessible; the general public can understand the language therefore it is embedded in the mind more successfully than the correct information.

Some in the industry are refusing to address these claims because of the absurdity. Yes, these conspiracy theories are ridiculous, but they are believed by at least a small proportion of society who are inflicting damage to infrastructure and engineers. The consequence is real, irrelevant as to whether the industry wants to address it or not.

So what should be done? The general public needs to be engaged, educated and taken on the same journey as those in the industry. And most importantly, the answers need to be explained in terms which are accessible.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Is the industry doing enough to combat the 5G conspiracy theories?

Loading ... Loading ...

Switzerland claims to be first to trial Apple and Google COVID-19 APIs

Two universities, the army and several hospitals in Switzerland have launched what is claimed to be the worlds’ first major trial for Google and Apple’s decentralised contact tracing APIs.

While many governments have opted against the advice of privacy and security experts, universities ETH Zurich and Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) will work with the army and several hospitals to trial Silicon Valley’s version of the contact tracing app.

“This is the first time that the operating system updates from Google and Apple enable its deployment and testing on such a large scale,” said Professor Edouard Bugnion, Vice-President for Information Systems at EPFL.

Should the app work as desired it would certainly be a cause for celebration for the many societies under strict lockdown protocols. It could also prove quite embarrassing for the government who elected for a centralised data model, contrary to expert advice, some of which are facing teething problems.

Several thousand Swiss citizens are now free to download the application, with the pilot set to last for a few weeks. The team is effectively waiting for legislation amendments before launching to the general public, though depending on the timeliness of politicians is similar to guessing the length of string.

This application is based on the Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP3T) design, geared towards protecting privacy. As it should be with every application, the Swiss app is built on and around the concept of maintaining and protecting privacy, not with privacy as an add-on when other criteria have been satisfied, like the UK-version has.

“Our goal is to offer a solution that can be adopted in Europe and around the world,” said Professor Carmela Troncoso, head of the Security & Privacy Engineering Laboratory at EPFL and the brain behind the DP3T protocol.

Operations for the application which are deemed essential but also sensitive from a privacy perspective will all be performed on the device. The application will log the unique identifier of any other device which has been in close proximity (less than two metres) for a sustained period (15 minutes). Should the individual test positive for the coronavirus, as GP will issue a single-use code to be entered into the app, which will alert any individuals who have been logged as a contact.

Although calls for a unified approach to creating contact tracing applications have largely been ignored by attention seeking politicians, the world should be watching this Swiss experiment very closely. The decentralised approach is one which is built with privacy in the foundations, and while it might not offer the flexibility some government data scientists are after, there is no need to make any compromises to privacy or security.

This should be taken as a lesson by politicians around the world; privacy and security should not be forgotten in the battle against COVID-19.

UK Cabinet Office, as well as DCMS and DoH, clueless about COVID app

Some might assume the strategy to combat COVID-19 is being devised on the hoof while patchy delivery suggests there is little communication between departments, and the cynics would be right!

After a week of bouncing from department to department and representatives being unable to offer any clear guidance or in-depth knowledge of the contact tracing application, Telecoms.com is becoming increasingly concerned about the Government strategy, as well as potential implications for privacy and security.

With the information which has been offered from Government representatives to date, it is clear few have any idea what is actually going on.

Last week, the Cabinet Office released new documents which detailed the UK Government strategy to exit the current societal lockdown. Featured in this broad document were 14 projects needed to ensure the country can exit the lockdown effectively, including the creation of a contact-tracing application to monitor the impact and potential spread of the virus.

The following extract is from the bottom of page 39, the section dealing with testing and tracing:

“Information collected through the Test and Trace programme, together with wider data from sources such as 111 online, will form part of a core national COVID-19 dataset. The creators of a number of independent apps and websites which have already launched to collect similar data have agreed to work openly with the NHS and have aligned their products and data as part of this central, national effort.”

Despite this document being published and distributed by the Cabinet Department, and featuring a foreword from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it was unknown who the ‘independent apps and websites’ are, when the trials of the COVID-19 tracing app on the Isle of Wight would be concluded or how many downloads were being targeted upon release.

Considering the importance of this document and the material in it, one would assume this information would be available, though we were referred to other Government departments, who have not been able to provide insight either.

This is not the first time we have been referred from a department which should have knowledge of the situation and to another. In recent weeks, prior to the beginning of the Isle of Wight trials, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) stated it was not involved at all with the development of the application, referring us to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), before being directed by representatives of DHSC to the NHS technology unit where communication went unanswered.

Despite the Cabinet Office, DCMS and DHSC presumably being critical Government departments in the development of a contact tracing app to combat COVID-19, there does not seem to be anyone in the know as to what is actually going on.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, the questions posed were not overly complex and should be simple to answer if the information is available, instead one department pointed us to another. Perhaps no-one wanted to muddy their hands with what is quickly turning into a debacle, or maybe no-one could actually answer these simple questions.

If there is little contribution from these departments on the development of the app, how can one ensure there are effective safeguards for cybersecurity or data privacy? The Government has gone against industry advice in pursing a centralised data model, but confidence in its ability to manage this process is increasingly thinning.

The NHS has somewhat of a checkered past when it comes to digital and data projects, and that is putting it politely. Some of these previous attempts to do digital in the NHS has been completely and utterly disastrous, accomplishing nothing, yet the NHS is seemingly blindly trusted as Government departments plead ignorance. The NHS flying solo will have some critics shifting in their seats very uncomfortably.

For the app to work as desired, 60% adoption is a number which has been floated by academia. This is going to be a big ask, therefore delivery will have to be close to perfection. One might hope that the relevant Government departments are a bit more informed moving forward considering the importance of this technology in aiding the UK’s recovery.

Will remote working trends endure beyond lockdown?

It is most likely anyone reading this article is doing so from the comfort of their own home, but the question is whether this has become the new norm is a digitally defined economy?

With many economies and sectors dependent on a fully functioning telecoms network and a healthy digital ecosystem, perhaps we should be wondering why the idea of remote working is not more common. Many companies would say they are forward-looking and innovative, but the vast majority were forced through a digital transformation programme by the COVID-19 pandemic, not their own choosing.

The issue with coerced evolution is that there is a temptation to return to the ways of old, heading back to stodgy offices as the unambitious, unimaginative and uninspiring crave the familiarity of the known. Managers might say ‘teams work better when we’re together’ or ‘we’re an industry where it doesn’t work’, but this is probably a cover. The fact that many businesses still function during lockdown shows this is not true.

The office will never become extinct and face-to-face meetings will always be a requirement, but not every day; such resistance is simply an admission of inability to adapt to a changing economy or evolving society. Said managers would probably have fit in very well at Blockbusters when Reed Hastings pitched Netflix.

There are of course some jobs where working from home is an impossibility, but the fact that the economy

Today’s working practice is an extreme. But one would hope organisations at least take some of today’s mobility and incorporate into tomorrow’s operations. Some will revert to the analogue era, convinced that ‘hot desking’ is progress, but hopefully the majority will evolve and learn from this period of rapid transformation.

Of course, what is worth noting is that some serious changes will have to be made to ensure operations are in a healthy and sustainable position. Some companies might be managing the strain of remote working well today, but who knows which straw might be the fatal one.

A recent survey from Cato Networks suggested 55% of respondents experienced an increase of 75%-100% in remote access usage, while 28% saw usage shoot up more than 200%. VPN’s might be the most common form of remote access technologies, but products are bought for a purpose; most will not be designed for the surge above normal requirements.

67% of the respondents to the survey said complaints had been lodged from remote users, where connection instability and slow application response are the leading problems. Cato suggests the VPN might be a choke point in operations as it uses public internet to backhaul traffic to a datacentre or up to the cloud. In short, there will have to be a rethink on how money is spent and on what.

“…on the front-end you’d be looking at redundant VPN servers, ideally in each region where remote users operate,” said Dave Greenfield, Technology Evangelist at Cato Networks.

“For security, you’ll need antimalware and URL filtering. For the backend, you’ll need to connect and secure your cloud applications and resources. This says nothing about any of the management or troubleshooting tools that might be needed to support remote users.”

This is a disruption to business operations, and whenever there is a disruption, there are those who prefer the quieter life of the status quo. Every organisation has individuals who would rather this stay the same and this is the risk today; how many organisations will return to the pre-COVID-19 way of working, rendering these enforced digital transformation projects temporary.

Wind River, a software provider for connected systems and another company hoping to benefit from the pandemic transformation, is suggesting COVID-19 has caused 90% of enterprises to undergo some change in business processes, with 90% of respondents suggesting there has been an impact on being able to meet customer demands. Again, this might force companies back to old ways as some people simply don’t like challenges.

Interestingly enough, the Wind River research also suggests that IT spend on cloud-based application development has and will increase by 35% because of the coronavirus-enforced periods of lockdown. This increases to 62% in China. This shift to cloud-based technologies and processes should theoretically enable mobility in the work and flexibility in working practises.

Ultimately, the issue with some of these survey’s is that decision makers are the respondents, many of whom will say the right things because they believe they are the right things to say. This does not mean they are empowered to make changes or even have the staying power to see through any form of evolution. Sometimes it is best to ask the foot soldiers, those who fight in the trenches each day, those who are slightly more immune to the politics of business and may well give a more straight forward answer.

When asking Telecoms.com readers whether they thought the flexible and remote working conditions would stay, the results are quite interesting.

  • 50% said they would have to check into the office once or twice a week but could work from home
  • 33% believed they would be given complete freedom to work as they please
  • 6% stated they would have to go into the office to do their job properly
  • 6% thought the management team is not convinced by the idea of working from home and the company would revert to old business practices
  • And the final 5% said they would have to go into the office, but others in the company would be allowed to work from home

Of course, the adaptability of employees and employers is one on element of the equation, there will have to be the communications infrastructure in place.

What will be encouraging for all involved is the resilience of networks as internet traffic surges. These networks have not been designed with the current working dynamic in mind, but performance has been maintained.

According to data from Netscout, internet traffic jumped between 25-35% on home broadband networks from mid-March, when most lockdown protocols were being enforced. What is worth noting is this is a global average, some markets have experienced much higher peaks, for example Italy and the UK. But most importantly, networks have not failed because of the increased strain.

Interestingly enough, speaking at a Time Higher Education conference this week, Muhammad Imran, a Professor of Communication Systems at the University of Glasgow, suggested the work from home trends could be aided by the embracement of smart cities initiatives.

The ‘Accessible City’ is an idea which can help people work remotely. Imran has questioned why people should have to move to work in some jobs, a factor which could lead to an offer falling through or being turned down. Not everyone can move for a job, and for some low-income families it could be a barrier to entry.

Remote and flexible working is not only an opportunity to increase employee welfare, but it could also democratize some careers, breaking down social barriers and opening up opportunities for those who would have previously been overlooked.

Another element to consider is whether people are actually better at their jobs when they work from home.

Research from Harvard Business School suggested a 4.4% increase in output from those who have been empowered to work from home, while software company Prodoscore has said productivity could go up by as much as 44%. Numerous research papers have pointed to remote working being a plus to employers, as well as a benefit to employees.

Despite this research, which has been around for years, most executives have resisted the temptation to evolve working practices, leaving the idea of remote and flexible working to be cultivated by others, most of the time digitally native organisations. Some companies, and people, are stuck in their ways and they will not be as attractive to potential employees as others.

Some will embrace the coerced digital transformation, and some might revert back the ways of old. It will be interesting to see which business leaders are stuck in a previous generation.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Can the sharing economy (ride-sharing, short-stay accommodation etc.) survive COVID-19?

Loading ... Loading ...

Lenovo earnings reveal the damage COVID-19 can inflict

With its main smartphone manufacturing sites situated in Wuhan, Lenovo has been hit hard by COVID-19, spoiling what would have otherwise been a very productive year.

Group revenues for Lenovo were down 1% to $50.7 billion, though it should be noted that revenues were down 10% year-on-year for the final three months, the period impacted by COVID-19. Across the first three quarters of 2019/20, the business was on the up as you can see below.

Financial performance of Lenovo 2019/20 (US Dollar ($), thousands)
Period Revenue Year-on-year Profit Year-on-year
Q4 10,579 (10%) 1,861 (2%)
Q3 14,103 0.5% 2,265 10.5%
Q2 13,522 1% 2,183 22%
Q1 12,512 5% 2,048 26%

Source: Lenovo Investor Relations

With the negatives of the final three months, growth figures were less than attractive, but without the impact of COVID-19 it has been a successful 12-month period.

“Amid one of the most significant periods of global change and transformation we have ever seen, Lenovo significantly transformed its business over the past year,” said Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo CEO.

“I am also unbelievably proud of how we continue to respond to the global pandemic, as both a business and a corporate citizen. While the world continues to face uncertain times, I’m confident Lenovo will leverage its operational excellence and global footprint to continue implementing our intelligent transformation strategy and fully grasp the opportunities our ‘new norm’ provides us.”

Many companies have complained about supply chain issues and disruption to manufacturing operations during this period, but few faced the same complications as Lenovo.

2019/20 had been targeted as a breakthrough year for Lenovo in the mobile segment. During the third quarter results, Lenovo’s mobile business unit boasted of five consecutive period of profitability growth, as well as outperforming the LATAM market on smartphone shipments by 19 points. LATAM is an area Lenovo, through the Motorola brand, has been very successful.

The final quarter put an end to this successful streak as Wuhan, the starting point of the COVID-19 pandemic, is home to Lenovo’s smartphone manufacturing facilities. This was the most heavily impacted segment of the Lenovo business, however its data centre business also declined on softer demand, however PC’s outperformed the market, IOT grew significantly and smart infrastructure grew 37% year-on-year as Network Function Virtualization started to generate revenue.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

How critical is mid-band spectrum in delivering 5G services?

Loading ... Loading ...

51% of IT pros disagree with Gov approach to COVID-19 app

With the UK’s COVID-19 tracing application being test on the Isle of Wight, only 24% of IT professionals believe the initiative will be successful.

Research from BCS, an association for IT professionals, suggests the Government is struggling to source support from the IT community. This is not to say the efforts will not be a success, but it is hardly a confidence boost.

“BCS is clear that if done ethically and competently a tracing app can make a huge contribution to stopping the spread of COVID-19; but a majority of our members don’t believe the current model will work and are worried about the reliance on a centralised database,” said Bill Mitchell, Director of Policy at BCS.

“Yet despite their doubts 42% would still install the app and 21% are undecided. It feels like there is a lot of goodwill out there to give a tracing app a chance – if it can be shown to work. That means if these concerns are fully addressed then maybe over 60% of the population will install a high-quality app. That’s the magic adoption figure we need for the app to have real impact on stopping COVID-19.”

According to the research, only 24% believe the application will succeed. 32% explicitly believe it will fail and the remainder are still undecided. Interestingly enough, 51% believe the Google/Apple approach, the decentralised model where data is stored on user devices, should have been taken forward by the Government.

This is an argument which will persist as long as the coronavirus does. Some countries have opted for the decentralised model, which is being championed by Silicon Valley, and others have gone for centralised. What is worth noting is there is a very valid argument for the centralised data approach.

“If you don’t have the data at the starting point of the tunnel, you are facing a challenge,” said Sebastien Ourselin, a professor from Kings College London, during an industry conference. “When you want to react quickly, access to the data is key.”

Ourselin’s argument is that a centralised data model means you have access to the data all the time and whenever you want. It means you can run different models and apply different conditions to forecasting models, which is a lot more difficult when you only have access to the insight not the raw data.

The issue with the Government decision for centralised data is one of credentials.

When asked what the IT pros were concerned about, and why they would not download the app, 69% said data security, 67% pointed to privacy, 59% worried it was a pointless exercise and 49% lacked trust in the Government.

The final concern is why some might suggest opting for the Google/Apple route would have been more successful. People don’t trust Governments, but the majority have already handed personal information over to Silicon Valley. There is a respect for the smarts and capabilities of these companies. The Government could have weaponised Silicon Valley’s credibility to drive user adoption of the application.

If the Government fails to convince the general public to adopt this app, it will not succeed as imagined. There will be a valid contribution, but for a material success 60% of the population will have to download the application. This is a tough ask, though the lessons learned from the Isle of Wight trials should provide some valuable insight.


Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

Who would you consider the King of Innovation in the telco industry currently?

Loading ... Loading ...

Telecom Italia wrestles with Europe’s biggest COVID-19 dent

Telecom Italia (TIM) has released its latest financial results, revealing painful battle scars as European nations continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

While it should come as little surprise when you look at which countries were most severely impacted by COVID-19, the figures have confirmed it. Telecom Italia is still profitable, which is often forgotten when companies miss expectations, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been very notable.

Total revenues for the three-month period to March 31 stood at €3.9 billion, down 11.3% year-on-year, while profits declined 10.8% year-on-year to €1.7 billion.

Financial results for European telcos through to March 31 (Euro (€), thousands)
Telco Revenue Year-on-year Profit Year-on-year
BT (£) 5,632 -4% 2,007 -2%
Telecom Italia 3,964 -11.3% 1,735 -10.8%
Orange 10,394 1% 2,602 0.5%
Telefonica 11,366 -5.1% 3,760 -11.8%
DT 19,943 2.3% 6,940 7.4%

Although it does look like business as usual at Deutsche Telekom, let’s not forget that as well as the country effectively combatting the coronavirus, the Group also contains T-Mobile US, which has been flying over the last few years. Total revenues in the US grew 0.3% to $11.1 billion over the quarter, while profits shot up 11.6% year-on-year to $3.6 billion.

What is worth noting is that it is not all bad news at Telecom Italia. This is a company which is under extraordinary pressure because of a truly unforeseeable event, but previous initiatives to create a healthier and more sustainable business are seemingly working. Improvement in cash generation (14% year-on-year increase) and debt reduction (down €923 million) have continued through the three-month period thanks to strategic initiatives launched in 2019. The underlying business model and strategy is still theoretically sound.

One of these projects, the network sharing agreement with INWIT and Vodafone, and subsequent sale of a stake in the towers joint venture, contributed €650 million to the debt reduction mission. Negotiations with KKR, for the sale of a minority share of the secondary fibre network, are continuing which will also reduce debt. It is not necessarily perfect scenario to be offloading assets, but needs must occasionally when pressure mounts on the spreadsheets.

It might be tempting to look at the surface figures, but it is always important to remember that COVID-19 is creating trading conditions no-one could foresee. TIM is still a business which is under threat from a highly competitive landscape in Italy, but the reaction from the team still looks competent.

Looking at the non-financial performance data, TIM Vision, the content platform saw a 20% increase in active users across the period, though mobile subscriptions dropped 579,000 year-on-year. IOT connections slightly compensated, but not enough. In fixed broadband, net customer losses across both consumer and wholesale totalled 233,000. It is clear the business is still adjusting to the new market dynamic with Iliad on the scene.

Segment Subscriptions Year-on-year
TIM Vision (TV) 1.85 million 21%
Mobile 20.42 million -2.8%
Fixed (retail) 8.98 million -1.5%
Fixed (wholesale) 8.01 million -0.6%

Apple opens stores with mandatory face masks and temperature checks

Gadget giant Apple is slowly looking to return to normal, but that term now requires major qualification.

Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail, wrote a blog designed to update its customers on the state of things regarding its stores. “As of today, nearly 100 of our stores globally have been able to open their doors to our customers again,” writes O’Brien. Around half of these are Chinese stores, which have been open for a while, since the country seemed to have got on top of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Apple tentatively starting the process of opening its stores in the US. O’Brien pointed people towards its store list, where you can see if one is open or not. It was clearly not designed for Journalists, however, as you have to click on each store before you can find out, which, frankly, we couldn’t be bothered to do. Apple has a total global store count of 510, so we’re still only looking at a small fraction of them.

The store experience won’t be quite as special as it used to be, however, as Apple is putting in place a bunch of special measures designed to mitigate the threat of catching the plague in its stores. “Face coverings will be required for all of our teams and customers, and we will provide them to customers who don’t bring their own,” writes O’Brien.

“Temperature checks will be conducted at the door, and posted health questions will screen for those with symptoms — like cough or fever — or who have had recent exposure to someone infected with COVID 19. Throughout the day, we’re conducting enhanced deep cleanings that place special emphasis on all surfaces, display products, and highly trafficked areas.”

Sounds like a laugh a minute, doesn’t it? Since Apple has had its delivery service up and running for a while and the look and feel of its products have barely changed for years, it’s not obvious what the great need is to risk life and limb for the chance to fondle some shiny things. But each to their own and it looks like Apple fetishists around the world will soon be able to get their fix once more, so long as they’re judged to be sufficiently untainted.

Orange starts reopening its shops in France

French operator Orange has already opened 30% of its shops and expects to have the rest up and running by the end of the month.

It looks like France is a fair bit further down the road to opening up than the UK, if Orange is anything to go by, but it’s also providing a taste of how society has been changed by the coronavirus pandemic. While it’s opening shops, Orange is also putting a number of measures into place to help people interact with it without leaving the house and to reduce congestion in its shops.

All its communications channels can now be used to access a new booking system that will allow them to reserve a time slot in their nearest shop, thus preventing queuing and unnecessary time spent generally milling about the place. Pretty much everything they might do in the shop can be done remotely these days, but some people like to look someone in the eye before they agree to anything.

On top of that, Orange shops will be littered with the kind of paraphernalia that would have, until recently, been indicative of extreme hypochondria. All the staff will be wearing masks, there will be hand sanitizer pumps everywhere and they will wipe down sales terminals after every use. On top of that there will be the customary floor signs urging social distancing.

While it’s great to see Orange France opening up again, a trip to the store seems like a massive drag under these circumstances. So long as everyone is required to walk around in hazmat suits, flinch from anyone within coughing distance and treat any object that doesn’t smell of surgical spirit with deep suspicion, many people will probably opt to stay in regardless.

Lockdown Britain sitting on top of 165 million gigabytes of unused data

Being cooped up inside for seven weeks straight has resulted in a treasure trove of unused mobile data, valued in the region of £165 million.

According to data from Uswitch.com, the average Brit is using 1.9 GB of data a month, compared to 2.4 GB in February, before the full impact of the COVID-19 lockdown set in. Thanks to customers being restricted to their homes, wifi routers and home fixed broadband networks are getting a workout, while the mobile networks are more relaxed.

Data usage for essential workers has increased by 11% when comparing the two period, but this does not compensate for the 21% drop-off from non-essential workers. The data is being paid for, but currently going unused.

“We have mobile deals set up to accommodate browsing on the go – but since so many of us are homebound and relying on Wi-Fi to stay connected, we’re simply not burning through our data allowances in the same way,” said Ru Bhihka of Uswitch.com.

“Many consumers would like to see this data rolled over to when they have more use for it, and it’s great to see some providers like Sky Mobile already doing that.”

What to consumers want to happen to leftover data?
Rolled over to next month 38%
Refunded 22%
Donated to essential workers 11%
Donated to charity 8%

Sky is one company which allows data to be rolled over to the next month, though this was a feature which was already in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Virgin Media is another which offers this feature, while others offer it on very specific deals. O2 allows customers to rollover data which is purchased as a bolt-on, while Vodafone offers the feature on its Big Value bundle for Pay as You Go customers.

Uswitch.com estimates unused data costs UK customers £50 million a year in overpayments, while the major providers still operate a ‘use it or lose it’ arrangement for the vast majority of products.

Overall, postpaid customers are most likely experiencing a net gain for the price of data when you consider trends and data bundles over prior years, but that will not stop some feeling cheated by the telcos today.

What should be worth noting is that there are numerous initiatives from the telcos to assist various segments of society through this period. Vodafone and EE, for instance, are offering free unlimited data upgrades for customers who are essential workers, while all fixed broadband companies have lifted data caps on services.