Virgin Media gives some smarts to wifi

Virgin Media has unveiled a new, ‘intelligent’, router which it claims will bring faster speeds to more areas of the home.

With the telco world becoming increasingly utilitised, and advertising authorities rightly cracking down on the ‘creative’ marketing claims, new ideas will certainly be needed to capture the attention of the increasingly demanding consumers. And in fairness to Virgin Media, this is not a bad attempt.

“Delivering ultrafast broadband to help make Britain faster is what we do best at Virgin Media but making sure this translates into reliable in-home connectivity is just as important,” said Richard Sinclair, Executive Director of Connectivity at Virgin Media

“Intelligent WiFi will allow our customers to make the most of their broadband while also helping to easily overcome any connectivity conundrums around the home. With families using more devices than ever before, it’s vital they can all be online whenever needed. Whether it’s streaming UHD movies on Netflix, playing the latest games online or video conferencing, Intelligent WiFi has your back.”

Starting with the intelligence side of the router, should the software work the way it’s supposed to, this could prove to be a very interesting addition. Firstly, Channel Optimisation allows the router to choose the least congested channel to decrease the likelihood of traffic jams. Secondly, a Band Steering feature allows devices to switch between 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency to optimise performance. Finally, Airtime Fairness suggests bandwidth will be allocated between devices depending on the demands of that device.

The term ‘intelligence’ is thrown around relatively flimsily nowadays, though should the performance of these features be at the desired level, this could prove to be a very useful product.

 

And while the ‘intelligence’ aspects are more likely to enthuse those consumers who are more geekily orientated, a new app to manage the wifi experience is answers a lot of the simple bugbears and first-world problems of connectivity.

One example is sharing wifi passwords. It might not seem like a revolutionary idea but being able to log into the app and simply send the wifi password to a friend or guest will save customers from the inevitable digging around behind the TV. This is not necessarily a feature which will win customers for Virgin Media, but enough of these little quirky features will improve the customer experience and loyalty.

Another area which the app addresses is ubiquitous connectivity. Being connectivity everywhere and all-the-time is a necessity nowadays, though consumers are becoming increasingly cash conscious. Through the app, Virgin Media customers can now connect to any Virgin Media wifi hotspots, of which there are 3.5 million around the UK.

Most importantly for Virgin Media, this take the brand outside of the customers home, and allows the company to support customers through the entire day. This is Virgin Media adding value into the customer’s lives, going beyond the assumed perimeters of a home broadband provider.

“UK consumers have an insatiable appetite for data across a wide range of devices that will continue to grow over time,” said Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight. “As well faster download speeds, consumers want a better and reliable connection in all parts of their home. This is starting to be a highly sought after service among users.”

BT has been playing in this market for some time, which offers Virgin Media a blueprint for success. Patchy performance and an irritating log-in process perhaps gave the BT wifi play a bad name, though progress has been made across the public wifi space in recent years. Hopefully Virgin Media will have learned these lessons.

With connectivity increasingly heading towards the dreaded limitations of utility, it is becoming increasingly important for telcos to prove they can add value to other aspects of the customers life. This is certainly an interesting play from Virgin Media and should the features work, Virgin Media goes some way in proving it is more than just a utility.

EE holds onto Opensignal MNO crown

EE has held onto its position as the best performing UK MNO according to the latest figures from Opensignal.

For 4G download performance, EE maintained its leadership position with average download speeds of 29 Mbps between June and August, while it also led in upload speed, latency and availability. This is not to say there weren’t improvements elsewhere, Vodafone grew its average 4G download to 21.9 Mbps, though Three’s dropped with the telco slipping down to third place in the performance rankings.

4G might not have been a fruitful playground for Three, but it did steal the top-spot for 3G speeds off EE. With average speeds of 7.8 Mbps it edged just ahead of EE at 7.2 Mbps, though this will come as little comfort as telcos increasingly look to re-farm 3G spectrum to bolster 4G performance.

Interestingly enough, O2 is still maintaining its position as the leading telco in terms of market share, despite a damning review of the telco from Opensignal. O2 sat in last place for all categories aside from latency (3G and 4G) and availability, where it was second behind EE. O2 might arguably have the weakest network in the UK, the power of promotions seems to counter this position. The Priority loyalty programme is perhaps proving its worth in gold here.

While many will preach the benefits of having the best network, these figures show it’s not always about being the fastest.

Opensignal Awards

Sony beats out Apple, Huawei and Samsung for battery performance

Research firm Strategy Analytics has completed a study which points towards Sony’s Xperia XZ2 as the best on the market for battery performance.

This is certainly a good footnote to acquire for Sony, though it should be worth noting the research was commissioned by the Japanese multinational. The objective of the research was to identify how long a devices battery would last when subjected to what would be considered normal usage across the day.

And the results are quite surprising.

Battery life table

What is slightly worrying is the amount of time before battery exhaustion. Your correspondent can’t remember ever getting these sorts of times before charges (unless you count the trusty Nokia 3310) which makes us wonder what is considered normal usage. This has certainly been exceeded at Telecoms.com.

The test was designed to measure the amount of time before the battery was fully drained. A ‘typical user scenario’ was identified and applied to each of the devices. The conditions included using the device for a period of approximately 16 hours over a 24 hour period, with various activities including calling, texting, web browsing, social media, games, camera, music and video. The batteries were also subject to the drain of common activities from the operating system and alerts, with display brightness on each device was set to 150 Nits and sound volumes set to maximum. Default settings were used for everything else. Each device was tested twice before the average time was calculated.

Interestingly enough, Sony hit the top of the tables while Apple and Huawei lagged a little bit behind. Unfortunately for many, the world’s most popular smartphone brand compared pretty woefully to first place. 26 hours is still a considerable amount of time, but losing out so badly to rivals will certainly worry Samsung executives.

In a world where smartphone launches are becoming very repetitive, battery performance is fast becoming a USP for the manufacturers. There is very little change year-on-year to these devices aside from incremental steps on specs, and battery life is one which has featured on and off. Unfortunately for the manufacturers there are few breakthroughs to shout about in this space.

Battery performance has been increasing gradually, but the processing capabilities and applications on new devices are far exceeding these steps forward. The development of the battery has been lagging behind the development of every other area and this problem will only be compounded as the digital economy becomes more prominent.

While this is certainly interesting information to know, we would be curious to hear if anyone has managed to get through the entire day without having to put their device on charge.

Apple faces US probe after phone slow downs

Apple has confirmed it has been contacted by US agencies over its admission it has been slowing down the performance of older devices.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has been contacted by the US Department of Justice and the SEC which are in the preliminary stages of investigating wrongdoing to any of the claims. This is very much a hushed investigation for the moment and it is not sure what sort of financial penalties, if any, the iLeader would face if found guilty.

It should also be noted that while Apple has confirmed it has been contacted by US agencies, it has not given any specifics. The US Department of Justice and the SEC have only been named by anonymous sources so far.

The question of whether Apple has been slowing down older devices is seemingly a moot point now, it did admit it after all, but what is less clear is whether these agencies believe such activities are justified. Apple might be able to squeeze out of this difficult corner should it be able to convince the unknown agency that the slowdown was for the benefit of user experience overall.

Over the Christmas period Apple came clean over the slow down. It was slowing down the performance of older device as a means of improving battery life and to avoid devices shutting down at random times. Such actions were only used to improve the experience of the device for the consumer and nothing to do with the fact that a clunky devices makes an expensive upgrade more of a necessity for the poor iCultists, who are constantly being bleed dry by the iBoss. Since Apple’s admission of the slow down, it has seemingly gone on the offensive.

“We did say what it was, but I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said to ABC in January. “And maybe we should have been clearer.”

The slow down wasn’t Apple’s fault, but the fault of the user for not paying attention to announcements made by the iMafioso in some obscure communications back-channel. And we thought it was Apple screwing the user, when it is the world screwing Apple.

Such headlines will not be welcomed by Apple executives who are already facing potential legal action in France and Italy for the planned obsolescence claims. Reports also state sales of the iPhone X were lower than expected, though details will be clearer during the company’s earnings call later this week. Although it is too early to tell, entering the smart speaker market late with a device which is amazingly more expensive than anything else on the market, might compound the misery for Apple.