Monthly Archives: February 2012

Voice turns to Data

Have you noticed in the last year or so that you have been considering how you use your mobile device a little differently? The priority in your bundle used to be how many free minutes do I get? What is the calling rate between networks or to fixed lines? How many free texts do I get? etc.

Now we are starting to think a little more about how much data we are consuming on a monthly basis and what our priorities are. Consequently the operators are starting to do battle on the data limits, notably 3 who are offering unlimited downloads (read the small print re. fair usage) The fact is however, that although the networks have been striving for some time to get more data traffic and consequently revenues, essentially the networks of the last 10 – 15 years were designed primarily to support Voice. This is the case even with 3G. Data has been an add-on and always in contention with voice connections which have been the priority. After all, the money has been in voice and even now continues to be so.

This is causing the networks a quiet crisis as they struggle to keep pace with user demands and the rush of access products flooding the markets in both smart phones and dongles/routers. Within new LTE and 4G networks the intention is that all traffic will be carried as IP data. In this situation the payload can be voice, data, video, IM, whatever it will be handled within an ‘all IP’ connection driven infrastructure. When this becomes the case the way networks are billed with regard to Data will become ever more critical and even if traditional voice connections may well originate or terminate within traditional ‘non IP’ networks.

The considerable challenge of these new networks is the dynamic nature of the traffic. In the past capacity has been engineered on the basis of factored numbers of dedicated switched channels within an area or cell site. In the future it maybe more difficult to predict what sort of capacity is going to be needed at certain points when access devices can potentially run at high Mbit/s speeds and demand being non linear.

What remains to be seen is will the new networks deliver on their promises in terms of capacity and provide a sensible charging medium to reflect the value offered in an all IP data world?

Landline to Mobile Call Charges Slashed to 4.5 ppm

The cost of calling mobile phones is now only 4.5 ppm with Westlake Communications new low cost business telephone call plan.

Traditionally the cost of calling mobiles has always been high, but recent regulation has caused a big price drop for business users that want to reduce the cost of calling mobile phones.  Until recently the average cost to call a mobile phone was around 8 ppm, so this new price is almost 50% cheaper.

Companies that have wanted to reduce their landline to mobile call charges were forced to use a GSM Gateway which was a piece of hardware that could be connected to a business telephone system and used a mobile phone SIM card to enable calls to be made using more competitive mobile to mobile call tariffs.  Using a GSM gateway could reduce business calls to mobiles to around 4 ppm so this new low call charge to mobile phones of only 4.5ppm makes the use of a GSM Gateway obsolete for call cost reduction.

GSM gateways are still widely used as alternatives to telephone lines for remote or temporary offices and also to propvide convenient telephone connectivity for applications such as alarms (lift alarms, care alarms etc) or for connection to a stand alone telephone for expample as part of a taxi phone solution.

Call charges to mobile phones are set to drop even further over the next two years with calls as low as 2 ppm in 2014.

What will happen when Mobile Broadband is faster than Fixed Broadband?

What makes the UK Telecoms market different to other countries?

In the UK, particularly since deregulation got into full swing in the early 90’s the UK has been arguably one of the most vibrant and competitive telecoms markets in the world. The 90’s saw the arrival of the Cable companies primarily backed by US money and a serious ‘we are going to show you guys how to build a network buddy attitude!’ They came, they went. They spent a whole lot of money and they left what is now Virgin Media to pick up the pieces of confusion and debt. But, they did leave, I believe, one of the most advanced access networks in the world. One in fact that BT are still trying to emulate today with their ‘fibre to the curb’ roll out. Virgin Media have fibre to within 500M or less of the majority of urban houses in the UK. They also have 2 distinct networks, one offering Broadcast TV and the other Telephony. It doesn’t reach the rural areas as that proved too expensive to build in the early days when there were regulatory targets to meet. But it does mean that they can offer super fast, by today’s standards, broadband speeds and they are doing this today over their TV infrastructure with cable modems. It does also mean that they have choices in the future as to how they turn up the wick on their bandwidth delivery.

This all sounds great and if you compare the speed you can get on VM to the other UK broadband suppliers, it is, on average faster at around 12 – 14M. But, compare this to what you can get from an efficient HSPA service on Mobile Broadband. Where there is service and capacity you will see similar speeds of 12Mbit/s on your speed test! Personally I would not believe it until I saw it myself recently. This is the tip of the iceberg if you read what LTE and 4G services can deliver to even a moving point, let alone a fixed wireless point i.e. 500Mbit/s + . It makes the fixed network look quite lame. But all is not that simple – is it ever?! Right now, if you turned that speed onto your mobile network you would need to call your Bank Manager everyday to arrange an overdraft. There are considerable obstacles to overcome both technically and commercially to make these networks seriously competitive in the medium term but fasten your seatbelts as the fast ride into the competitive future is very close at hand and that can only be good for consumers!


GSM Desk Phone Sales Soar

Sales of GSM Desk Phones in the UK have risen dramitically over the last 12 months.  A GSM Desk Phone is a mobile phone in the form of a traditional desk phone.  This means you can have a mains powered phone on your desk with a SIM card inside and when you make calls the call goes over the mobile phone network.  This makes them ideal for temporary offices or sales offices where alot of calls are made to mobile phones and users want to save money on lanline to mobile calls by using the competitive cross network mobile phone tariffs offered by the mobile phone companies.

However, this basic use of GSM Desk Phones is not what has driven the demand for these devices.  The most common application for GSM Desk Phones is their use as a Taxi Phone.

Taxi companies can install a GSM Desk Phone as a Taxi Phone in a multitude of locations including pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, supermarkets, train stations, bus stations, colleges and universities.  In fact a GSM Taxi Phone can be installed anywhere there is a mains power supply, providing customers a convenient way of booking a taxi.

Some GSM Desk Phones have been tweaked to meet this growing demand for Taxi Phones and include features like Hot Dial that allows the taxi company to configure the phone to dial the Taxi Operator’s telephone number simply by lifting the handset.  A great example of this is the DPH500 Taxi Phone that includes the easy to use Hotdial feature, and also prevents other calls or SMS messages being used on the phone when it is in Hot Dial mode.

Taxi Phone – GSM Taxi Phone

Many Taxi companies and businesses that need customers to contact them from public locations such as retaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, railway stations, bus stations, airports, hospitals and hotels are taking advantage of GSM technology in the form of the GSM Taxi Phone.

This type of Taxi Phone uses a standard mobile phone SIM card to provide an easy way for customers to contact the taxi company and make a booking request.  Many GSM Desk Phone manufacturers have adapted their standard office GSM Desk Phones and made them wall mountable and included features like Hot Dial (a revised version of baby call) so that the user simply has to lift the handset and the taxi phone automatically dials the required number.  These developments, together with the low cost of these Taxi Phones (approx £60.00) and the low cost of GSM mobile phone SIM cards make this an ideal solution to replace expensive landline taxi phone solutions.

4G and TV

What has Digital TV got to do with 4G Mobile?

Well, it is in fact very closely linked and it’s critical that the Digital TV Switchover we are all hearing so much about these last years goes ahead completely in 2012. The Government and broadcasters have been working hard for the last 10 years on making sure we are all moved off the old analogue delivery method and onto Digital. Most people have a DigiBox or it built into our TV sets and the final furlong is in sight now.

But have you asked why? Sure, it seems obvious that the signal quality will be better with HD channels being broadcast and new transmission techniques and more channels on Freeview but there is much more to it than that.

The radio waves in the UK are very busy and have been for some time. We all watch TV, listen to the radio, use our Mobiles and use a host of other wireless devices from WiFi to remote keys for cars and doors. All of this needs to operate within a known frequency band whether it is a licensed or unlicensed frequency band. Be very afraid if you start to interfere with some other electrical function or critical service – you may have the RA (Radio Agency) to deal with! To do a serious explanation of UK frequency spectrum would take a PhD thesis but the critical factor in all of this movement from Analogue TV to Digital TV is to free up the airwaves to launch 4Generation Mobile Broadband services.

It now transpires that this will not be all smooth running and that there will be some interference at the cross over points in the frequencies, particularly around 800MHz. Practically this is going to mean that whoever wins the licenses to operate 4G services is going to have to find some solution to delivering the broadcast services free from interference. This might involve using filters; it might involve paying for a satellite or cable service to those homes affected.

But why would you do that when you are building a super fast mobile network capable of delivering rich media content particularly video? Surely the technology will allow for a facility to deliver to individual homes; after all it is designed to run up to 1GBit/s to a static location. What remains to be seen is will it be economical to do so if a large number of homes have to be guaranteed a broadcast service above and beyond the other mobile connections that will be demanding rich media services.

The long road from Analogue to 4G mobile

From then to now?

Many many years ago when the yuppie hoard roamed the western world there came a really useful form of communications in the form of a portable phone. Portable was the description but it was more akin to ‘luggable’ and came in the form of a small suitcase or brief case connected to a car battery or similar. At the time they were the rich business man’s toy and remained so for some time with the key advantage being that you could tell your wife that you were on the way home and to put the dinner on! How things have changed over the last 25 years!

Analogue technology was very quickly replaced by Digital at the beginning of the 90’s and GSM was born. This was a natural evolution from a specification that was developed in the Nordic countries called NMT (Nordic Mobile Telecommunications). It was such a good fit that it became the major template for the new standard although the operating frequencies necessarily had to change. Operating frequencies and their availability remains a major theme of all development discussion in this space to this day and is likely to always remain so. Incidentally, this left two major telecoms vendors in a remarkably good position to supply the world with mobile terminals and Nokia and Ericsson started to clean up with one company becoming almost preeminent for the whole of the 90’s and even into the 00’s. But, as Nokia now know, nothing can ever be taken for granted.

What grew up behind this development was a battle between Europe /Asia and the USA and Japan. The major market developed in Europe and Asia and the USA lagged behind. Japan managed to maintain a considerable growth and innovation with their standards approach but it had little to do with the rest of the world and just made it a difficult market to enter for western suppliers. This is a whole historical piece on its own but is really just an interesting subject conversation and considered opinions as to how this period became so complicated.

Things are much clearer now however, or are they? Now we are heading through the 3G period, with 2G almost forgotten, (although used by us all on a daily basis) and with many improvements being layered on top of the old standard. Now we see HSPA in its two main varieties HSDPA and HSUPA, the D and the U in both cases standing for Download and Upload. These services provide High Speed access to mobile at and around fixed broadband speeds where network is available.

We are now moving slowly towards 4G and LTE services and these are expected in the UK in 2013 if all goes to plan. Briefly, LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is a subset of the overall 4G standard. As usual, there are standards, and there are standards; which leaves some confusion. The major hardware vendors are all rushing to get their interpretation of the ‘standard’ out there and working to prove a point and accelerate growth. Certain parts of Scandinavia, USA and Arabia are already starting to offer trial services although the terminals are not in the mass market yet.  The consideration of these standards and services requires considerable explanation but for now, let’s have a look at the quantum jump in speeds we can expect in the future if all works out perfectly – which it won’t!



Data   speeds  –  LTE   Advanced

Peak Download 1 Gbit/s
Peak Upload 500 Mbit/s


Data   speeds  –  LTE


Peak Download 100 Mbit/s
Peak Upload 50 Mbit/s

GSM Doorbell

A new GSM Doorbell will call your mobile phone when the visitor presses the doorbell. The GSM Doorbell will also establish a video call so you can see who is calling.

The GSM Doorbell is just like a door phone but enables you to answer callers to your door from the convenience of your mobile phone or smart phone.

The GSM Doorbell uses a SIM card to provide low cost GSM connectivity and convenience for this low cost GSM doorphone solution.

4G Modem

The Option iCON 711 is the latest 4G Modem available in the UK.  The iCON711 is a HSPA+ Modem which means that it can work with the HSPA+ Networks in the UK to provide download speeds up to 21Mbps.

4G Modem

This 21Mbps Modem simply connects into the USB port of your Laptop or PC and provides high speed mobile broadband connectivity.  We tested the iCON711 4G Modem with the three network and got 11Mbps download speed which we were very impressed with.

You can also plug the iCON711 into a suitable 4G Router or Travel Router that has a USB slout for the connection of a 3G or 4G USB Modem to enable your HSPA+ Mobile Broadband Connection to be shared between multiple wired or wireless users.  By using the iCON711 4G Modem with a 4G router you can create a wireless hotspot and enjoy the benefits of 4G mobile broadband.

The iCON 711 USB 4G Modem also features a TS9 Antenna Connector which converts the TS9 connection to an SMA Antenna connection so you can connect a 4G Antenna to boost your 4G signal reception.

Option iCON 711 HSPA+ 21Mbps 4G Modem

The iCON 711 HSPA+ High Speed Mobile Broadband Modem is now available from stock in the UK from leading 4G Modem supplier Westlake Communications.

The iCON 711 4G Modem is a 4G USB Modem using the latest HSPA+ high speed mobile broadband technology to provide high speed downloads up to 21Mbps.

iCON 711 4G Modem

The iCON 711 4G Modem has a TS9 external antenna connection instead of the more common CRC9 antenna connection found on many other 3G and 4G Modems, but a TS9 antenna adapter is available to enable the iCON711 4G Modem to be used with an SMA antenna if required.