Archive for March, 2012

You call that 4G? This is 4G… – Apple offers refunds to peeved Australian iPad buyers

It seems that the confusion over the new iPads LTE compatibility that I discussed on its release day has peeved some Australians so much, that Apple is offering refunds to anyone who felt they were misled into buying a ‘4g iPad.

In fact, the Australian competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), will actually be filing an application with the country’s Federal Court to seek, ““injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected”.

Wow, those are some seriously peeved consumers.

So who is at fault? Apple is perfectly entitled to call the iPad with LTE the 4G iPad, but it’s clear that it needed to do a better job in communicating the small print that not all 4G is created equal. As it says on the iPad features page, “4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the US, and on Bell, Rogers and Telus networks in Canada.” The problem is that it’s in tiny writing down at the bottom that I imagine would be hard to spot even on the ‘resolutionary’ new iPad display.

It’s clearly even more of an issue in Australia at down under they have an actual commercial LTE network deployment from Telstra. However, this uses 1800MHz for its LTE, which is not supported by the iPad 4G, which operates on 700MHz and 2100MHZ LTE network only. It’s not hard then to imagine that many punters would have bought one specifically for its 4G compatibility, only to be disappointed when they realised they’d been ‘had’.

Apple would have done well to have made that clearer and to talk up its actually quite impressive 3G capabilities more. After all, the chipset inside supports HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA, which can reach some pretty impressive theoretical top speeds. HSPA+ is currently being rolled out across the UK by all the networks and though is somewhat patchwork at the moment by the end of the year is should be much more widespread so if you’ve bought an iPad 4g and are feeling glum about the lack of LTE, the don’t – you’ll still, to some extent, ‘get the benefit’ as my Grandma used to say.

As we in the industry know, these technologies are technically evolutions of 3G, but that hasn’t stopped them being marketed by AT&T and T-Mobile in the US at 4G. Then again everything is 4G in the US, LTE, DS-HSPA, HSPA+, WiMAX, and two cans and on some rural networks, two cans and a piece of string. (That is an actual FACT).

That said, if anyone does feel strongly about it in the UK, they can direct their ire at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Not that I’m stirring or anything.

Tilak Tejaswini, the global head of carrier services for Telstra International Singapore will be speaking at the LTE Asia summit in September, though if you can’t wait till then, the iPad 4G topic is sure to crop up at the LTE World Summit, taking place in May in sunny Barcelona.

Wishing on an LTE star: LTE in the UK finally on its way

ImageFor a couple of years, any mention of holiday in the LTE blogger’s house brings the same question from the kids: “are we going to Disneyland?” So far, their hopes have been dashed and they have had to instead listen to their friends having all the fun. Once again, this year we’re not going to Disneyland. Actually, we’re going to Norfolk. No, it’s not the same.

It’s a little like LTE in the UK (bear with me on this). Do we have LTE yet, some ask? No, we don’t, and we’ve had to look on enviously as those in the US, and some places such as Sweden, Norway and Germany, have had faster data available to them. It certainly came as a shock to those who didn’t realise that the new iPad’s 4G LTE was not and would never be, compatible in the UK.

Excitingly though, things could be very different by the end of the year. I predict an LTE iPhone, and Android alternatives too, and networks to run them on too.

The signs are good. We’ve got the auctions set up for early next year with spectrum in the 800MHZ and 2.6GHz frequency ranges up for grabs. But what’s this? Everything Everywhere, the UK joint venture between Orange (France Telecom) and T-Mobile UK (T-Mobile), has some spare 1800MHz spectrum lying around? And it wants to use this for a live, actual, real-life network in the UK by the end of 2012? OK. I’ll have some of that.

Exciting as that is, just today I talked to UK Broadband CTO Philip Marnick who told me that come September, the UK subsidiary of Hong Kong’s PCCW plans to have the first commercial network in the country live by September 2012. Admittedly its LTE coverage will be limited to small areas of South London, and a trial area in Reading, but it’s still pretty exciting. LTE in the UK is starting to actually happen.

In addition, this week France Telecom said that it was committed to bringing LTE to ten countries across Europe by 2015 (including its commitment in the UK under the Everything Everywhere brand). That means that by the time we actually do get to Disneyland Paris, they’ll be LTE there too. Double win.

As far as the Everything Everywhere announcement goes it has so far met with the UK regulator Ofcom’s approval, much to the consternation of the other networks, who argue that it goes against Ofcoms’s stated aim of promoting fair UK LTE competition by letting one of them go first. You can understand their viewpoint, but what could spur competition more than the other networks knowing they need to get their LTE houses in order as quickly as possible in order to get themselves competitive?

It might not be in their interest but I think it could be for the UK consumer. The punter gets a national LTE option early, and prices can come down quickly as soon as other others get in the game.

When that happens we’ll no longer be lumbered with the frankly Mickey Mouse 3G networks we rather goofily think of now as mobile broadband and instead be quickly transported to the magic kingdom of LTE.

Philip Marnick from UK Broadband will be speaking at the LTE World Summit is taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Click here to register your interest.

iOS 5.1 magically boosts AT&T iPhones to 4G

ImageiPhone users on AT&T that have upgraded to the iOS5.1 release will be delighted to note that the network icon at the top of the screen will now display ‘4G’ rather than ‘3G’, when it suitable coverage. Just like that. As upgrades go, that’s quite impressive. Yes, with a simple software upgrade, Apple has managed to upgrade the innards of every AT&T iPhone so that it now supports ‘true’ 4G speeds, which are 45,683 faster than standard 3G. Honest guvnor.

Of course, it’s not actually Apple’s fault, It’s AT&Ts, who clearly have told Apple that it wants everyone to think that its entire network is 4G, even though on an iPhone the fastest network it can connect to is HSDPA 14.4. So more FauxG that 4G.

As most will know, it all stems from the ITU’s capitulation last year in allowing anyone that has a network that offers, “a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed,” to call it a 4G network. When you consider that initial 3G networks offered data speeds of 384Kbps, that’s not saying much. The original requirement for 4G from the ITU was networks that could deliver 1GB/sec when stationary and 100Mb/s on the move. That’s not possible from LTE – that’s LTE Advanced, which is still a while away from commerical deployment anywhere in the world. 

But fret not. We have iOS 5.1, and AT&T. So that’s all right then. 

 

 

What’s the LTE frequency Mavis?

So the Apple hoopla is now over and, well, OK, it’s not over at all, but now that the new iPad has finally been unveiled the agonising pent up expectation has been dealt with and we can start to get on with our lives.

Looking at the specs, a few things of note occur. The HD display was, of course what this release was all about in the main, and it does sound like an amazing achievement. More resolution than a Full HD TV in a small 9.7in space will make for incredibly sharp, vibrant and clear images. Eventually it will Make Things Better, as web site designers, photographers and app designers realise they need to improve the visual quality of everything they do for fear of the new iPad display laying bare their flaws.

The next issue is the name. It appears to be officially called, ‘the new iPad’. Really? Facepalm.

The first iPad was called the iPad. The second iPad was called the iPad 2. So naturally the third is called… the new iPad. This sort of thing makes me a bit cross. Could we not just avoid confusion and called it the iPad 3? Would iPad HD have been too terrible? (Update: @ianbetteridge points out that it’s actually just called: iPad. Still, point stands.)

One tech journo wag on Twitter wrote, “I’ve given it some thought and I refuse to call it “New iPad”. No. I’d rather call it Glen, Tina or Gregg Jevins.” I’d be included to agree, though I’m leaning towards Mavis. Mavis it is then.

Another thing Mavis doesn’t have is the Senseg textured feel tech that some tech journos were getting very lathered up about yesterday. And because it’s not there we shall not speak of it again.

We also get a much improved 5-megapixel camera with 1080p recording, which is nice. This no doubt – will be putting further strain on network if pictures and videos are sent uncompressed.

Which brings us to LTE. Yesterday I said that the iPad, sorry, Mavis, might come out in two flavours – one regular 3G and one LTE enabled one for North America. I was wrong, amazingly. In fact, there’s one world LTE enabled Mavis, though outside of the US in terms of LTE, it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot.

This is because it’s only compatible with both the 700MHz bands used in the US by AT&T and Verizon. It also has LTE 2100, which is Big in Japan, and Nigeria. Great.

This means that when LTE networks become widespread in Europe, this iPad will simply not work with them. Europe is in the main going to use three main frequencies for LTE: – 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz, so it will require a new chipset that supports those for European users to get LTE Mavis joy. It works the other way too – US users coming here will have to drop down to 3G. In the promotional video for Mavis, Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering says that it “works with more mobile bands than every mobile device ever.” Assuming this is true, it’s impressive but Apple needs to up the count even further for the next one. Not that it will be so terrible having to drop down to 3G, as the Mavis now supports HSPA+ and DC-HSPA (21Mbps and 42Mbps respectively and these are theoretical maximums; also known as ‘in your dreams’.

On an iPad, sorry Mavis, it’s less of an issue as wi-fi only tablets version tend to be popular, and that might be the safest route for now, and you can always tether to a mifi or smartphone.

The question then is if a newer LTE chipset will be ready by the time the iPhone 5 launches. If not, it will be more of an issue, as then Europe would effectively be stuck without LTE until the iPhone 6! I know, it barely bares thinking about.

(Picture is ‘borrowed’ from Nate Lanxon’s spiffing hands-on preview at Wired.co.uk.

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For more LTE terminal device discussions be sure to book your place at the LTE World Summit taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. 

LTE iPad a ‘touchy’ subject

It’s a common bugbear for some tech journalist  that in the lead up to an Apple product launch, other tech titles do almost nothing other than feed the Apple trolls. That being said I thought I’d allow myself one single Apple post just in case you’re not aware what’s happening tonight . (If that’s you – how is that rock you’ve been living under?)

Tonight will see Apple launch the third iteration of its iPad tablet computer. First announced in January 2010 the iPad is now Apple’s second largest generator of income, second only to the iPhone and ahead of the Mac. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple sold 40.5 million iPads in the calendar year 2011, driving revenue of nearly $25 billion. For a device that many analysts feared would flop, these figures are astounding.

As ever, the techosphere has been buzzing with guesses of what upgrades Apple will be including in the new machine, and trying to glean hints from the image in the invite that Apple sent round to those attending. The main new feature will undoubtedly be an upgrading high resolution display. The expectation is that it will offer double the resolution of the first two iPads, taking it from 1,024 x 768 to 2048 x 1536. This is much greater than almost all standard computer displays, which is remarkable for a 9.7in screen. This means that text, web sites and images will look even more crisp and clearer than ever before . The downside is that all iPad apps will have to be rewritten for the new high res display, or just run in double-up x2 mode, as standard iPhone apps can do when they run on the iPad. Unfortunately, this is a rather ugly mode, but a period of pain as Apps are gradually upgraded will be worth enduring to enjoy the quality on offer.

"And touch", eh. Is that a clue?

All this means that the name  is up for debate? Will it be iPad 3, iPad HD, or even, as would be quite apt, iPad touch – mirroring the iPod touch that it already offers. I kind of like the symmetry.

To power the demands of the new display the new iPad will need a faster processor, and there’s debate as to whether this will be new quad-core A6, and updated dual-core A5X, or lots of fast pedalling tiny squirrels. We’re hoping for the latter.

The second rumoured change is the introduction of real ‘touch’ feedback. The clue is in the ‘And touch’ part of the invite. Apple chooses its words carefully, and likes to hint at its launch news in the invites. The rumour is that it will use a technology called ‘Senseg, that will bring real-feel textures to the iPad (as the Guardian explains here) – so an image of say a corrugated surface will feel rough, and a soft surface will feel soft. The tech sounds pretty sci-fi, but it would be very Apple to pull it off. Senseg was showing off its tech as Mobile World Congress but after announcing in January that it was working with ‘a Californian tablet maker’, it’s gone all shy and won’t confirm anything.

The third rumour is that the iPad will introduce an integrated LTE chipset for the first time in its connected version. If it does this it will be forced to move away from the single worlds chipset it currently offers on the iPhone 4S, as the 700MHz LTE on AT&T and Verizon are not compatible. What’s more, when LTE arrives in Europe it will have to support 800, 2.6GHz and probably 1800MHz too. What Apple need is once LTE chipset to rule them all.

What’s clear is that LTE is third fiddle on the rumour mill, possibly even behind the hope that Apple might offer the fondleslab in colours other than black and white. For the UK and LTE in the iPad is naturally something of an irrelevance, (unless you live in Southwark), but for those in the rest of the world outside of the US that does have LTE it could be frustrating not to have access to a feature that those in the US do. That said, this is what mifi devices were made for – and you get to buy the cheaper wifi only iPad at the same time. Job done.

Mobile World Congress 2012: A Gallery of Delights

MWC: FDD vs TDD. Who wins? There’s only one way to find out. Fight!

MWC 2012. A bit crazy.

So that was the week that was. I managed to make it to Mobile World Congress this week for the first time, and though I was only able to do so for a little over one day it was a pretty interesting experience.

If you’ve ever been to any kind of large industry trade show you’ll know that they can be pretty intense affairs. MWC though has to be on another level – it’s nuts and probably only outdone by CES – but then that’s in Las Vegas so there you go.

Everyone who is everyone is there at MWC, so much so that to really make a statement, you have to not be there – but be big enough for people to notice. So that’s Apple then.

In terms of LTE MWC afforded me the opportunity to actually pick up and hold my first LTE enabled phone: and would you believe it, they feel much the same as 3G phones. That said the phone in question was the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is about the size of a small Galaxy, so well named in that regard.

LTE wise one of the most interesting things I heard was a comparison between the performance of FDD LTE and TD-LTE (Frequency Division Duplex vs Time-Divison). This was conducted in the field by 3 Sweden, which has just launched its LTE service. Jorgen Askeroth, CTO of 3 Sweden said that as a company they had no religious bias towards one technology or another, it was more a case of spectrum availability. It just wanted to offer the best service to its customers – which is refreshing to hear. But some operators might be ‘afraid’ of bidding for the more affordable and more widely available TDD spectrum, when it fact it would be a great choice, as Sweden UK’s testing proves.

Askeroth said that every site had both LTE and TD and has separate antennas for LTE on order to maintain a good 3G experience for its customers. In its comparison tests, FDD was better in 28 locations but TDD was better in 20 locations. Latency in particular was comparable. When you take into account the fact that TD-LTE spectrum used was 20MHz compared to 40MHz for the FDD, Askeroth said that there was no doubt that, as often assumed but not often proven, TDD offers much greater spectrum efficiency than FDD. Askeroth was happy to state that with an equal amount of spectrum to throw at it, TDD would be “materially better”.

In the same session, the rather quirky chief strategist of Dutch operator KPN, Erik Hooving stepped up to say that LTE was being marketed entirely wrong – starting with the name as it was entirely meaningless to most consumers. However, his argument would be negated by the fact that in reality LTE will simply be sold at ‘4G’, which is a clear enough message for most. Hooving admitted that in Holland, KPN’s HSPA network would be sufficient to deliver what its customers actually needed in terms of bandwidth, but said that it was important to get on the LTE bus now, simply to be ready. His key message to operators – don’t build for coverage – build for capacity. There’s little point having 99 per cent coverage is 99 per cent of the time no one can adequately use the network.

It’s a good point, and one I hope to hear more of at the LTE World Summit in May.

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