Telecoms Regulator Ofcom Raises £2.34bn

Ofcom Raises £2.34bn in 4G Auction
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has raised £2.34bn from its auction of 4G mobile spectrum, less than expected. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had forecast that the auction would raise £3.5bn for the Treasury. The winning bidders are Everything Everywhere; Hutchison 3G UK; Niche Spectrum Ventures, a BT subsidiary; Telefonica (O2); and Vodafone. 4G mobile broadband should provide smartphone and tablet computer users with superfast download speeds.

The auction netted far less than the £22bn raised from the 3G auction in 2000.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, told the BBC that the figure was lower because “we are in very, very different times”, but he insisted that maximising the size of the auction was not the objective it was set by the government. What we were trying to do was ensure that a valuable economic resource was brought into productive commercial use,” he said.

Responding to the announcement, a Treasury spokesperson said: “The £3.5bn number at Autumn Statement 2012 was certified by the independent OBR and based on external expert independent analysis based on similar auctions, including the last 3G one. The final auction revenue will be accounted for at Budget in the usual way.”

The OBR in its turn said it had described the £3.5bn “Government’s estimate” as “an area of particular uncertainty” in its December 2012 forecast.

Iain Duncan Smith says the 4G auction shortfall will not affect government programmes but Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “This is yet another blow to George Osborne’s failing economic plan. It shows how foolish and short-termist the chancellor was to bank this cash in the Autumn Statement to make his borrowing figures look less bad. “He couldn’t bring himself to admit that borrowing was up so far this year, but his trickery has now badly backfired.” Even senior Tories took the opportunity to criticise Chancellor George Osborne’s figures.

John Redwood, MP, said: “The figure for the 4G auction was optimistic, just like most of the numbers in George Osborne’s strategy. This is a dent, but there are far bigger dents in the public finances.”

Ofcom says 4G will provide £20bn of benefits for UK consumers over the next 10 years. But the culture secretary, Maria Miller, is even more bullish, saying: “Spectrum use is worth more than £50bn to the UK economy and 4G mobile broadband is a key part of our digital growth strategy, so I am delighted the auction has been completed.”

The regulator auctioned the spectrum in two bands, 800MHz and 2.6GHz, equivalent to two-thirds of the radio frequencies currently used by wireless devices, such as tablet computers, smartphones and laptops. This “will allow 4G networks to achieve widespread coverage as well as offering capacity to cope with significant demand in urban centres”, said Mr Richards. “4G coverage will extend far beyond that of existing 3G services, covering 98% of the UK population indoors – and even more when outdoors – which is good news for parts of the country currently underserved by mobile broadband”, he said.

Vodafone bid £791m, the most of all the bidders, for fives chunks of spectrum. Mobile operator EE, the T-Mobile and Orange joint venture, was the first to launch a 4G service in late 2012, but has struggled to attract users, leading it to cut its prices in January.

IT Staff Shortages & Risk of Cyber Crime

IT Staff Shortages Raise Cyber Crime Risk
IT Staff Shortages Raise Cyber Crime RiskMore psychologists, law enforcers and technical staff are needed to fill a cyber security skills gap, a Government watchdog says. The number of IT and cyber security professionals in the UK has not increased in line with the growth of the internet and it could take two decades to fill the gap, the NAO said.

Government, education and business representatives have told the NAO the country lacks technical skills and the current pipeline of graduates will not meet demand. The cost of cyber crime to Britain is currently thought to be up to £27bn a year.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “The threat to cyber security is persistent and continually evolving.Business, government and the public must constantly be alert to the level of risk if they are to succeed in detecting and resisting the threat of cyber attack.”

The Government’s strategy has already started to deliver benefits, the NAO said, with the Serious Organised Crime Agency catching more than 2.3 million compromised debit or credit cards since 2011, preventing a potential loss of more than £500m. But, the watchdog warned, ministers must address the country’s current and future cyber security skills gap, which includes a need for psychologists and law enforcers, as well as technical staff.

Education officials interviewed by the NAO said it could take up to 20 years to address the skills gap at all levels of education. The report on the NAO’s review of the strategy for cyber security said: “Interviews with government, academia and business representatives confirmed that the UK lacks technical skills and that the current pipeline of graduates and practitioners would not meet demand.

“A number of government departments commented that the UK depended on a small number of highly skilled people to participate in developing international technical standards. Interviewees were concerned about a lack of promotion of science and technology subjects at school resulting in the reported lower uptake of computer science and technology courses by UK students.”

A shortage of IT and computer science experts has been raised before by ministers, while attracting and retaining talent is also a concern. In 2012, the Intelligence and Security Committee highlighted GCHQ’s inability to retain internet specialists in the face of competition from the private sector.

North East High Speed Broadband Expansion

North East UK High Speed Broadband Expansion Announced
Business leaders welcome high-speed broadband expansion announcement with thousands of homes and businesses across the North-East set to benefit from the latest expansion of the high-speed broadband network in a move business leaders hope could boost the region’s economy.

Up to 58,000 homes in the Tees Valley and about 14,000 properties in County Durham are the latest to be included in BT’s £2.5bn roll-out of fibre broadband across the UK. The towns chosen for the upgrade -Darlington, Redcar and Norton, near Billingham, in the Tees Valley, and Barnard Castle, Beamish and Easington in County Durham will be upgraded by spring next year.

BT claims that the fibre technology raises download speeds from an average nine megabites per second (Mpbs) up to 330Mbps, the fastest speed recorded so far. The announcement has been welcomed by council leaders and economic groups, which hope the improved connection to the world wide web will boost existing businesses and encourage others to set up in the area.

Facebook Sued Over ‘Like’ Button Patent

Facebook Sued Over ‘Like’ Button Patent
Facebook is being sued over claims its ‘like’ button infringes technology patented by a Dutch computer programmer 15 years ago. Rembrandt Social Media says the social networking site “bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation” to a concept invented by Joannes (Jos) van der Meer before his death in 2004.

As well as the like or ‘share’ button, it claims Mr van der Meer came up with the idea for a ‘wall’, ‘timeline’ and ‘news feed’ – three features that are central to Facebook. Defence lawyer Tom Melsheimer said: “We believe Rembrandt’s patents represent an important foundation of social media as we know it, and we expect a judge and jury to reach the same conclusion based on the evidence.”

The suit for unspecified damages claims Facebook’s infringement of two related patents filed by Mr van der Meer, who is described as “a pioneer in the development of user-friendly web-based technologies”, in 1998. One patent “claimed a novel technology that gave ordinary people… the ability to create and use what Van der Meer called a personal diary,” court papers said.

Mr van der Meer set up a company called Aduna to commercialise his inventions, registered the surfbook.com website, and launched a pilot system, but died in 2004.

The inventor’s family, including his widow, enlisted the help of Rembrandt, which says it works to help inventors and patent owners enforce their fights against companies that use their inventions without paying for them. The suit notes that one of Facebook’s own patents cited one of the Dutchman’s patents and so the company was aware of the infringement. “Although Mark Zuckerberg did not start what became Facebook until 2003, it bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal web page diary that van der Meer had invented years earlier,” court documents said.

Facebook has been targeted by a swathe of lawsuits for alleged intellectual property infringement, but few have been successful.

Business Optimism at an All Time Low

Business Optimism at an All Time Low
An index which predicts British business optimism has fallen to its lowest level since the it began 21 years ago, prompting fears of a ‘triple-dip’ recession occurring. BDO’s Optimism Index, which predicts business performance two quarters ahead, fell to 88.9 in January from a reading of 90.3 in December. It is the eighth consecutive month that the index has remained below 95.0, the mark which indicates growth.

This suggests the economy will struggle to grow in the first quarter of 2013, following the recently announced negative growth in the final three months of 2012. As a result, there is an increased risk of a triple-dip recession taking hold.

Meanwhile the report’s Output Index, which predicts short-run turnover expectations, also supports this, falling from 93.1 to 92.3 last month, further away from the 95.0 mark indicating growth.

BDO LLP partner Peter Hemington said: “In spite of a strengthening labour market, business confidence continues to weaken, and improved hiring intentions are not translating into growth plans. It seems the damaging effects on businesses of five years’ zigzagging economic growth has left them wary of making concrete plans for expansion and resigned to the ‘new normal’ of economic stagnation.”

However it’s complementary Employment Index rose to 95.1 in January from 93.0 in December, taking the index above the 95.0 mark that indicates employment growth.

Last Friday the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, along with KPMG, released a report revealing a salary spike trend based on employers struggling to find enough qualified staff.

The BDO index has also showed hopeful signs amongst the UK’s manufacturing sector of possible recovery. But the report’s author warned that coalition policy needs to drive greater economic expansion. Mr Hemington said: “To end this cycle, it is imperative that the Government implements plans to expedite growth.  Without growth incentives, we will continue to see UK businesses reluctant to invest and expand, which poses a grave threat to the UK’s economic recovery.”

Welcome to the UK Business Blog

Welcome to the UK Business Blog
This new business blog will be used by the business community in the North East of the UK and beyond to promote and inform the wider Internet community of product developments and services they have to offer. Why do we believe this is important? In the current business recession any means of promotion that may help a UK based business is surely a good thing.

These company updates will be supplemented by general business news and information. We will scour the web and news sources to look to provide the reader with some of the most up to date news available for the business world.

Business blogs can help provide a small business with the opportunity to share expertise and knowledge with a larger, in many cases, world-wide audience. This offers an opportunity to connect with this wider audience and helps promote a company’s profile, product or service range and much more.

We would also hope that the blog will help the listed businesses achieve improved search engine success. The search market has become the Holy Grail of Internet advertising and continues to grow faster than our expectations. If your business does not rank in the top 20 spots on the major search engines, you might as well be in the millionth ranking spot. However, techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO) can increase search engine rankings.

As we have already stated, this business blog will be used to help the business community in the North East of the UK to hopefully, expand and consolidate their market place.  Assuming the blog articles are well written, readers will have access to high quality information and much more.