Skype Offers Unlimited Monthly Call Packages

Mobile, Technology No Comments »

The internet based instant messaging service Skype has launched a series of unlimited calling plans that will allow users to call landline numbers throughout the UK for as little as £2.25 a month.

Under the plans released today customers of the Skype service will able to make unlimited calls to a predetermined country of their choice for the fee of £2.25. The package can also be expanded to include calls to 20 European countries for £3.99 a month, or to 24 countries worldwide which will include US mobiles for £7.99 a month.

These call packages are also free from lengthy contracts, although customers who do decide to sign up for an annual subscription could say another third on the aforementioned prices.

As has been highlighted with broadband providers recently in the news, unlimited rarely means unlimited, and the deals are subject to a fair usage policy implemented by Skype which restricts the user to 10,000 minutes a month. Those 10,000 minutes however calculate to around 5 and a half hours each day!

In the calling plans that are being offered by Skype, all UK based landlines that start in 01 or 02 are included in the deal and places Skype as a direct competitor to BT as well as other established mobile networks that offer bundles of free calls for a monthly subscription fee.

“This move is a natural step for Skype. Skype was founded on the principle of making free voice and video calls available to people all around the world. And now we’re making it even easier for the Skype community to call their friends and family who are not yet on Skype.” – Skype’s vice president and general manager of telecoms Stefan Oberg.

Some analysts have seen the move as a clear indication of the companies eagerness to derive more regular income through monthly subscriptions after Ebay admitted to paying too much for the company in 2005 when it shelled out $4.3billion to buy Skype.

N-Gage to Re-Launch Internet Service Platform

Gaming, Mobile, The Interwebs No Comments »

Mobile phone giant Nokia has launched its revamped internet service platform know as N-Gage, which enables holders of the higher end handsets to download videogames directly to their mobile phones.

N-Gage’s growing library of games will be accessible as users download software that connects their phone to their internet platform. With 30 games expected to be available by mid-2008, it marks one of the biggest moves by a mobile handset manufacturer to get into the content market.

“The games, the devices, and the community are all here for you to finally get your teeth into. The Forums are back up and the new N-Gage application is here”. – Nokia said on the N-Gage blog.

Currently the service is only available on the N81, N81 8GB, N82, N96 and N95 8GB, but Nokia is also planning to launch N-Gage for other phone models, including the N73, N93 and N93i.

According to Nokia there is a keen interest in gaming on mobile phones.

“People have been put off mobile gaming because there is nowhere to try games, gaming experiences have been poor, and the games are difficult to use, but all these problems have been solved with the new platform” – said Nokia’s Christopher Joyau

Officially the site is not being launched until April 7th, when select Nokia mobile holders will be able access the site and choose between six games. From then onwards two to three new games a week will be added to the platform.

The release date has already been pushed back twice, originally targeted for a 2007 launch, and after the initial launch of the service in 2003 which bombed, Nokia are hoping for big things.

Game publishers including Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Glu Mobile, have signed agreements to get their games on to the N-Gage service. In the UK, launch titles include Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Hooked On: Creatures of the deep, Brain Challenge and System Rush: Evolution. Many of the games are free to try and, in the UK, cost between £6 to £8 for a full copy.

Nokia made 40% of handsets sold in the last quarter of 2007.

Telecoms Regulator Clamps Down on Cash Back Mobile Deals

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It seems that in relation to a post back in December on The Shelf titled ‘Using Mobile Phone Contracts To Your Advantage’, telecoms regulator Ofcom are due to take increased action on mobile phone retailers offering cash back deals, after increased numbers of complaints have proved a voluntary code of practice that was put in place has failed to work.

Ofcom stated that complaints have risen from 460 to 700 complaints a month since the voluntary code of practice was put in place in the summer of 2007. In moves aimed at protecting consumers, Ofcom have now stated that tough action will be taken against mobile phone operators who fail to pay cash back that was offered when the contract was first taken out.

A general condition has now been proposed that will mean it is the network operator’s duty to “to ensure that the terms and conditions of cash back deals offered by their retailers are fair.” If operators fail to do this it could result in firms being fined as much as 10% of there turnover, a move that surprisingly some mobile operators have welcomed.

“We think Ofcom should be tough on offenders but not burdensome on those that are trading responsibly,” – O2 spokeswoman Emma Hart.

Operators are also responsible for carrying out due diligence and a number of checks in respect of their retailers.

In the voluntary code of practice that has seemed to have failed, there was a list of banned sales and marketing tactics, which were later agreed to by Britain’s biggest mobile phone companies. One technique that was featured on the list was the provision of inaccurate information to shoppers when purchasing mobile phone contracts.

“Strong competition is no excuse for marketing malpractice,” – Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

iPlayer Launched on iPhone and iPod Touch

Mobile, Technology, TV & Film 1 Comment »

Following a post on The Shelf about the BBC’s new free on demand TV service being delivered through iPlayer in January, the BBC has today announced that a version of its iPlayer on demand service will be available for both the Apple iPhone and iPod touch.

Marking the first time the BBC’s on demand service will be available of portable media devices, the iPhone and iPod touch will stream shows from the iPlayer website over wi-fi networks.

“We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available.” – Anthony Rose wrote on the BBC blog

Currently the iPlayer software is available in two versions, one which will download content from the BBC archive to a Windows PC, the other a streaming service available to all users over the internet.

The iPlayer version used for both the iPhone and iPod touch will allow streaming over a wi-fi connection, however the EDGE mobile network that the iPhone utilises is to slow to support a video streaming service.

Wi-fi firm The Cloud has recently secured a contract to provide all the BBC’s online services for free in 7,500 wi-fi hotspots across the country.

Orange and T-Mobile Launch Mobile TV Service

Mobile, Technology No Comments »

Plans of a joint pilot project between mobile operators Orange and T-Mobile have been announced that will provide a multi-channel TV service to mobile users in the west London area in late 2008.

The pilot service will be broadcast using NextWave Wireless UMTS MBMS based TDtv solution, meaning a mobile handset with TDtv technology will be required. Equipped handsets will be able to receive up to 24 channels of high resolution TV as well as 10 digital radio stations.

The pilot scheme will demonstrate how the cost of providing high quality mass market mobile TV and multimedia broadcast services can be significantly when mobile operators share widely-available unpaired 3G spectrum and a standards-based TDtv broadcast network.

Such unpaired 3G spectrums are available in over 50 other countries, and so will demonstrate an innovative model that can be easily replicated. It also hopes to prove there is a demand from mobile customers for such services.

The channels that are expected to be included in the line up are thought to include the most popular broadcast channels in the UK.

Orange and T-Mobile are two of the operators that currently have mobile TV offerings in the UK, but that is currently restricted to low resolution streamed content.

“The results from the technical trial of TDtv in Bristol last year were extremely encouraging, and this joint pilot of the service in London is an excellent opportunity for us to properly explore the great potential available to our customers from the technology,” said Orange’s product and innovation director, Paul Jevons, on Tuesday.

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