EE to Improve 4G and Relocate Customer Services

EE to Improve 4G and Relocate Customer Services
Mobile phone operator EE is aiming to bring 4G to 95% of the UK landmass by 2020 as well as relocating its customer services to the UK and Ireland. In 2015, the firm was fined £1m ($1.4m) by communications watchdog Ofcom over customer service failings.

EE_4G_citiesThe network will also switch on high-speed 4G in the Shetland Islands and the Isles of Scilly this week.

Chief Executive Marc Allera told the BBC customers expected to be able to access the internet wherever they were. Currently, 4G coverage is measured as a percentage of the population rather than geographically. That means mobile networks typically focus on areas where lots of people live rather than extending geographical reach of their services.

“The Isles of Scilly have 2,000 residents but 200,000 visitors,” said Mr Allera. “Increasingly, the expectations from customers are that they can get access to the internet wherever they go.”

BT-owned EE’s ambitions for 4G go beyond the government’s target for operators, which is to provide voice and text coverage to only 90% of UK landmass by the end of 2017.

“I don’t believe as an industry we should say a beach is covered unless it has 4G coverage,” said Mr Allera.

This demand for 4G may help mobile networks tackle public opposition to infrastructure such as transmitter masts required to enable it, he added.

“The barriers we need to overcome are around how fast and easy we can get access to these sites [where the masts can be built], and also how we ensure we don’t have landlords who can charge ransom rates which make it prohibitive for us to put in a solution,” he said. “We’re working on those reforms but we can’t do this by ourselves.” EE is working with the government to tackle the issue, Mr Allera said.

Ovum analyst Matthew Howett said reforms were “vital” for the success of the strategy. “Unless the government takes a lead on ensuring fair and reasonable access and site rentals, EE’s hopes for 95% coverage will be fraught with difficulty,” he said.

EE said it also aimed to bring all its customer services operations back to the UK and Ireland from overseas by the end of 2016.

“It’s a big investment,” said Marc Allera. “People look at off-shoring as reducing costs but when you look at the added cost of unhappy customers… actually this isn’t going to be an enormous incremental cost.”

He declined to say whether customers would face price rises as a result but said that the competitiveness of the market would “ensure we focus on value for money”.

Flu Jabs are More Effective in the Morning

Flu Jabs are More Effective in the Morning
Morning flu jabs provoke a stronger immune response than those given in the afternoon, a study shows. The trial at 24 doctors’ practices found people vaccinated before lunch produced the most defensive antibodies.

The University of Birmingham team suggested immunising people in tune with the body’s natural rhythm could be a cheap way to save lives. Experts said the study may mark the dawn of making use of “the body clock in the clinic”. Our internal clock alters our alertness, mood, physical strength and even the risk of a heart attack in a daily rhythm, and our immune system also waxes and wanes through the day.

The trial looked at 276 healthy people, aged over 65, getting the flu jab before the 2011, 2012 and 2013 flu seasons. They were vaccinated either in a morning session (09:00 to 11:00) or an afternoon appointment (13:00 to 17:00).

I think it’s fantastic, the idea of an intervention this easy to do and free is unheard of in terms of trying to change NHS practice
Dr Anna Phillips, University of Birmingham. One month later, patients vaccinated in the morning had produced significantly more antibodies against two of the three flu strains in the jab.

Similar antibody levels were produced for the third strain, the results in the journal Vaccine showed.

Dr Anna Phillips, one of the researchers from the University of Birmingham, said the results were meaningful and doctors should “definitely” think about performing flu jabs in the morning. She told the BBC News website: “A lot of surgeries just try and fit in vaccination anyway so it’s not going to risk any patient, it’s not going to cost anything and even if we’re wrong you’ve nothing to lose by doing this.

It is not clear exactly what the critical difference between the morning and afternoon immune system is. Levels of immune messengers called cytokines, the stress hormone cortisol and sex hormones – all of which affect the immune system – fluctuate in a daily rhythm. And individual white blood cells also have their own internal clocks that alter their activity too.

Andrew Loudon and David Ray, a pair of body clock professors at the University of Manchester, told the BBC News website: “This may be the dawn of the body clock in the clinic.

“This is a most interesting study, and is among the first to show how the body clock can be used to make healthcare interventions more effective. There have been major advances in understanding how the body clock can regulate immunity in laboratory animals, but very little of that exciting science has led to changes in healthcare. This study shows that a simple intervention, giving the same vaccine at a different time of day, can result in a major gain in effectiveness.”

However, other vaccines stimulate the immune system in different ways so it is too simple to conclude that all immunisation should take place before lunch. There have been some suggestions that hepatitis B vaccination may be more effective in the afternoon. But the concept of timing medicine to the body clock – the field of chronotherapy – is powerful and is also showing promise in treating cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Frank Field Warns Labour of EU Vote ‘Danger’

Frank Field Warns Labour of EU Vote ‘Danger’
Labour risks losing “a swathe” of voters to UKIP by campaigning to remain in the EU, one of its MPs is to warn. Frank Field, who is backing the Leave campaign, will say the 23 June poll poses “an untold danger” for his party’s prospects of power. The vast majority of Labour MPs back EU membership.

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Meanwhile former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson will tell union members that EU membership is “vital” for workers’ rights.

Mr Field, the MP for Birkenhead and a former welfare minister, is expected to warn in a speech that the referendum could be “the second-longest suicide note in Labour’s history” – behind the manifesto that preceded its 1983 general election drubbing.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has expressed Eurosceptic views in the past, recently made his first major speech of the referendum campaign setting out a “socialist” vision for Britain in Europe. He said there was “nothing half-hearted” about Labour’s campaign and said he would continue to make the case for membership in the run-up to polling day.

But Mr Field will say: “The last thing Jeremy needs to do is to undermine further the traditional Labour vote, much of which wishes to leave the European Union. For the party leader more actively to campaign for the Remain campaign will push even more Labour voters into the arms of UKIP.”

Mr Field, who campaigns for “balanced migration”, will criticise an “open-door policy” which he says pushes down wages and puts a strain on public services. Ahead of the speech, Mr Field said Labour MPs’ overwhelming support for staying in the EU was “very unrepresentative” of the views of many of the party’s activists in the country at large.

“While the polls show a majority of Labour¬† voters support staying in Europe, about 40% do not and the number of MPs who represent that view are a mere handful,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today. “It is our job to make a good case for leaving Europe so these voters feel that at last their views are being represented in the debate.”

The Leave campaign has targeted migration this week with interventions from Michael Gove and Boris Johnson as it attempted to regain the initiative following warnings about the economic effect of a vote to leave.

Alan Johnson, who is leading his party’s Remain campaign, will claim a vote to stay in the EU would be as important as the election of Labour’s reforming government in 1945, which led to the creation of the NHS and expanded welfare.

“From nurses and builders to railway workers, steel workers, postal workers and shop workers, trade unions will be campaigning for a Britain that remains in Europe,” he will tell the Usdaw union’s conference. The rights of working people are protected by our EU membership, and Labour and our union movement are united in campaigning for Britain to remain in Europe.”

Elsewhere in the EU debate, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published what it said was a “reliable, unbiased analysis” of the issues involved. The cross-party committee, which was divided on whether to back EU membership, said it had chosen not to endorse either side. Instead it urged voters to consider the UK’s trading relationship with the rest of the EU and the rest of the world, its “international representation and reputation” and how the EU and its policies might develop in the future.

Committee chairman Crispin Blunt said: “The referendum offers the British people a once-in-a-generation opportunity to chart a course for the UK’s role in the world. “Voters should consider not only the short-term consequences of staying or leaving but the long-term opportunities and challenges.”