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By December 19, 2014EU

By the London technology team

Mobile firms signal better coverage after deal with Government

This week the Culture Secretary Sajid Javid MP announced a deal with mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas. The deal sees industry committing £5bn to build masts and guarantee mobile signal to 90% of mainland UK by 2017, though there is dispute over how much of this money is just planned investment dressed up as new spending. The deal will see not-spots reduce by two thirds. 

The issue reportedly came about after our chillaxing Prime Minister tried and failed to make some calls in rural Cornwall, presumably not appreciating that part of ‘getting away from it all’ means less mobile signal.  He pressured Javid to act on the issue, who talked tough but was unable to come up with workable solutions. His preferred idea of ‘national roaming’ went nowhere after operators pointed out the pitfalls of allowing others to piggy back on their expensive infrastructure investments and issues over security and future incentives to build out.

In terms of media coverage, this story highlights how national and trade press report tech issues. The national news reported the story as per the Government press release (see BBC News and the Daily Telegraph), but more sceptical coverage can be found in Mobile News, The Register and Total Telecom.

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Ofcom appoint Sharon White as new Ofcom Chief Executive

Ofcom appointed Sharon White as the new Chief Executive, replacing outgoing Chief Exec Ed Richards. White is a 25 year veteran of the civil service and is currently number two in the Treasury pecking order. It’s a tough job and she’ll have a much higher profile in her new role compared to that of a Whitehall mandarin.

White won’t have much settling in time either as she has to deal with the politically charged issues like Royal Mail’s Universal Service Obligation, competition in the broadband and pay-TV markets and selling Premier League rights.

Ofcom have one of the largest remits of any regulator; regulating spectrum, how you can sell a phone contract, the post office, radio licences, TV content, newspapers and everything in between.  Tech and media figures may disagree, but Ofcom is light-touch compared to international counterparts, working with industry rather than handing down diktats.

Politicians also like Ofcom, as giving them more powers is a way to show action on whatever problem is flavour of the month, but Ofcom also take flak from politicians as they oversee public service and election broadcasting; with all parties keen to claim foul play.

Unsurprisingly, as a key media regulator, the appointment was widely covered. It featured in The Daily Mail, BBC News, The Guardian and was predicted two weeks ago in the FT.

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Connected Cars: Driving cyber security concerns

Electric, driverless, connected cars promise much in terms of safety gains, emissions reductions and easing congestion, but the cyber security aspect is crucial.

Writing for tech radar, Will Richmond-Coggan (@Tech_Litig8or) considers connected cars to be “a cyber-security nightmare on wheels”. Richmond-Coggan warns of the plethora of dangers associated with a world of connected cars and in particular highlights the vulnerability of systems without firewalls between minor and primary systems within the vehicle, such as between an internet connected entertainment system and the car’s navigation or engine control unit.

As cars become more connected and autonomous, the burden of legislative focus will shift away from traditional highway rules and regulations and centre on data usage, cyber security regulations and user education/behaviour. For instance, the widespread take up of autonomous cars will likely end the requirement for speeding enforcement. As technology advances and such offences are effectively ‘designed out’, new challenges will emerge and those same authorities will likely turn their attention to cyber security enforcement and dealing with the consequences of cyber breaches.

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