The best contact centre headsets – and how to get the bargains

Contact centre headsets are big business. The various and complex designs out there mean that it’s now possible to fish out the perfect model for a very happy workplace – but the downside is a big one – there are simply too many to choose from.

It’s not all about being picky – a badly designed or unsuitable contact centre headset can go a long way in creating a bad working environment, and in an environment where there can be a high turnover in staff, it’s good business to ensure they are happy. Happy staff, happy customers, after all.

Things are changing at such a speed that it’s hard to keep up with what is out there. So as we reach the end of 2016, we’ve decided to do some research to provide you with the best, most efficient, most cost effective and most up-to-date contact centre headsets which are currently dominating the market.

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Here’s what our experts found for the best contact centre headsets of 2016:

The Jabra Evolve range

Jabra Evolve 20
Jabra Evolve 30
Jabra Evolve 40
Jabra Evolve 65
Jabra Evolve 80

Plantronics Voyager Legend

Plantronics_Voyager_Legend

Plantronics contact centre headsets set the bar high and are known as the kings of their product. The Plantronics Voyager Legend has excellent hands-free voice command, noise cancellation, audio streaming and various other features which lead them to being on of the most popular orders at PMC Telecom.

A PCmag review describes it as “a refinement and evolution of an award-winning design that just works.” – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

 

 

 

 

Sennheiser CC550

Sennheiser_cc550TheSennheiser CC 550 is specifically made as a contact centre headset and is renowned for being useful.  This headset is quite well known for being comfortable, with extra-large ear caps and leatherette comfort pads.

Its ultra-noise cancellation feature and boom microphone blocks out the vast majority of noise.

Sennheiser is a reliable brand that we recommend for contact centres, and this model probably tops the others for the above purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

Plantronics HW261N 

Plantronics_HW261NPlantronics have had their headsets in every NASA space mission ever carried out, we’d like to give them the respect they deserve, whcih puts them right up there with winning headset producers. As for contact centre headsets, well frankly, they win at those too. The Plantronics HW261N is a very popular model due to its unrivaled resilience and longevity. They are often bough in large bulk from PMC Telecom from companies who say they swear by them. There must be a good reason for this.

 

 

 

 

The Plantronics HW251N 

Plantronics_HW251N

Very much the sibling of the above mentioned headset, the HW251N is an equally efficient and perhaps more popular headset here at PMC.

Not only does it have the much-loved noise cancellation microphone, it is also loved because it actively cuts out background noise whilst being adaptable to various communication platforms.

This is certainly a popular order for contact centres nationwide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plantronics CS540

Plantronics_CS540

The Plantronics CS540 DECT headset is top of the range when it comes to sound quality, comfort, battery life, value for money, design and range.

We’ve had a look at the most common FAQs that customers are asking after they’ve purchased the headset in order to help you make the most of your headset system. We liked this one so much, that we made an entire guide on how how make the most of it in your contact centre.

 

 

 

 

Jabra UC Voice 150 Duo On-Ear Headset

jabra_uc_voice_optThis is a corded headset which has proved popular for call centres because of it’s business-friendly design. The Jabra UC Voice 150  was specifically designed to master one-to-one communication in a busy environment and has fantastic noise cancellation technology. With its wideband audio to go with it, it achieves a very good level of clarity. This duo headset has a well-liked design with is suitable for light, daily use. Employees and customers enjoy a clearer conversation, with the headset’s noise-cancelling microphone and wideband audio that optimises the employee’s voice and transmits it with clarity. Also, Jabra are among the kings with it comes to business-use headsets. We both like and trust them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BT H51 Wireless Headset

BT_H51

The BT H51 Wireless Headset is considered a low priced headset for the quality and efficiency that you get .

It’s rich in features (making it adaptable and suitable for a range of offices and workplaces – especially contact centres).

The one thing that tends to attract people to this particular headset is its particular focus on comfort-ability. It has a quirky and comfortable over-the-ear design which can’t get in the way, fall off, or cling to much to your ear.

 

 

 

 

 

Sennheiser Century SC660

Sennheiser_cc550The Sennheiser Century SC660 USB CTRL for soft phones is designed to manage calls seamlessly through the call control unit, the SC 660 USB CTRL delivers great functionality and convenience when connected to a softphone.

The call control unit is strong and compact with a unique magnetic holder for one-touch use. Call control unit allows for easy answer/ end a call, volume up/ down, microphone mute and redial last outgoing call.

As a contact centre headset, it is certainly within the top buys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jabra BIZ 1900

Jabra-Biz-2300-headsetThe Jabra BIZ 1900 headset  is designed as a cost-efficient option for contact centres  of all sizes. It is a flexible option that will suit your IT environment and the needs of your users, with both mono and duo options and a USB connector version.

You get a more professional call centre environment, as the noise-cancelling microphone ensures that each call is clear and understandable. This particular headset is a WiFi and DECT compatible device with the high quality noise cancellation that you would expect from Jabra. The acoustic shock protection software and quick disconnect plug add to the attractive features and we think it’s no surprise that the Jabra Biz 1900 ends up being a popular choice.

 

 

 

 

Jabra Biz 2300 headset

Jabra_Biz_1900

Jabra Biz 2300 QD Duo Office Headset for contact centers blends a light-weight yet durable construction with an unobtrusive, professional Scandinavian design aesthetic.

Jabra Biz 2300 QD Duo Office Headset works hard, looks great and is designed for easy daily handling. It is a headset built to be comfortable all day long. This is certainly another Jabra winner and makes a decent contact centre headset, in our opinion, not least because of the  HD voice and wideband features and noise cancellation software.

It is a headset built to be comfortable all day long. This is certainly another Jabra winner and makes a decent contact centre headset, in our opinion, not least because of the  HD voice and wideband features and noise cancellation software.

 

 

Plantronics Audio 648

Plantronics_Audio_648

This model is sporting its own design which can be a little bit like Marmite for users. It can be loved or not so loved, but if it works for you, it works very well indeed.

The behind-the-neck design lets it sit comfortably in a way you don’t get with a lot of headsets – though it does make it a stylish choice.

It’s one of the cheaper headsets around and does the job nicely – certainly a good choice for buying in bulk.

 

and the best of the rest…..

 

 

 

JPL 501 monaural noise cancelling office headset

At the lower end of the price range, this monaural headset is very popular among customers since it provides such good value for money.

The sound quality is excellent with noise cancelling features that are particularly important on monaural sets.

The design may not be as sleek as the more expensive headsets but its modesty is exactly why we have placed it in our top 10.

 

Plantronics Savi W440

Another innovator in style, the Plantronics Savi W440 offers a lightweight headset with one touch controls and multi person conferencing. The Plantronics Savi is pretty expensive coming in at £150, however the high quality noise cancelling features and the cutting edge ergonomic design make this headset one that is going to stick around for a while. – perfect for your employees on the go.

Jabra Motion Office

It’s easy to be distracted by the impressive design of the Jabra Motion Office headset but it’s sleek style is not all that’s on offer.

Boasting numerous mobile features such as a vast range (100m) and hands free voice commands as well as its own control centre and 8 hour battery life.

The dual microphones come with a noise filter and separate noise cancelling software ensuring the best audio quality.

Sennheiser D10 Headset

This DECT compatible Sennheiser headset has a full day battery life and is very easy to install with multi person conferencing made easy through docking each headset to the same base station

As with many Sennheiser models it comes with enhanced Voice Clarity, ActiveGard® audio shock protection and noise cancelling technology.

Sennheiser SC630

This Sennheiser headset is in our top list due to its ultra noise cancelling mic, ActiveGard® acoustic shock protection and Sennheiser HD voice clarity all of which provide an excellent audio service for both the user and the customer.

The headset is extremely lightweight with a large ear cushion for ultimate comfort and protection.

Businesses warned to prepare for the new £1 coin

The new £1 coin is coin is coming. It’s been dubbed as the “most secure coin in the world” by The Treasury – and with its 12-sided, distinctive shape, it does make it pretty difficult to fake. We’ve all been lumbered with a dodgy £1 coin at one time or another, so the introduction of a fancy new one is getting a good reception.

Payphone

But it comes at a price for payphone businesses who are being warned they have to adapt their equipment in time for the coin’s arrival in 2017.

Failure to do so is basically breaking the law, so there’s not really any room for negotiation. All machines accepting cash, whether it’s in exchange for a rail ticket or a chocolate bar, will have to be updated.

There is going to be a six-month transitional period where businesses will be able to accept both the new and the old coins, but it will later be phased out leaving anyone who hasn’t complied breaking the law.

The Royal Mint has warned businesses they now need to begin training their staff and adapting their equipment in order to deal with the new coin.

Vending machines, payphones, car parking machines, fruit machines, supermarket trolleys, launderette washing machines, and even your lockers at the gym are going to have to be updated or even replaced to comply with the new coin, which could run up an expensive bill for businesses and councils.

In a statement, Adam Lawrence, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint, said: “We are hugely proud of the new 12-sided £1 coin, which has been designed using cutting edge technology at our South Wales site.

“We would encourage business owners to visit the website as soon as possible, to find out how the new £1 coin could affect their business and what steps they need to take to prepare for the launch of the coin in March 2017.”

There’s been the expected lashback of course, but for the majority of us the changeover next March will be a novelty soon forgotten. That is – unless you are a business owner or work in the vending industdry – then it’s a serious matter.

In case you weren’t aware, there are two broad types of coin-operated machine. Virtually all modern ones use electronic sensors to “validate” a coin with as many as a hundred different checks, including speed past the sensor, diameter and metal content. Depending on the machine, some coins may then be passed to a change hopper, which could struggle with the new pound. Otherwise the job is essentially just a software update, installed in person by an engineer much like the ones we have at PMC Telecom.
Why the new coin is more secure

  • 12-sided – its distinctive shape means it stands out by sight and by touch
  • Bimetallic – The outer ring is gold coloured (nickel-brass) and the inner ring is silver coloured (nickel-plated alloy).
  • Latent image – it has an image like a hologram that changes from a ‘£’ symbol to the number ‘1’ when the coin is seen from different angles.
  • Micro-lettering – around the rim on the heads side of the coin tiny lettering reads: ONE POUND. On the tails side you can find the year the coin was produced
  • Milled edges – it has grooves on alternate sides.
  • Hidden high security feature – an additional security feature is built into the coin to protect it from counterfeiting but details have not been revealed.

PMC Telecom has an Early Bird half price offer where it will cost your business very little to be compliant. We are offering an exclusive package where we will arrange to collect your payphone free of charge, a certified engineer will upgrade the hardware to accept the new £1 coin and ship the unit back to you free of charge (UK Mainland Only).
• Free collection
• Free delivery
• Certified engineers
• Hardware upgrade
• 12 month warranty on work carried out

new1coin

IoT To Overtake Mobile By 2018

According to a Mobility Report conducted by Ericsson, Internet of Things devices will overtake mobile phones as the “largest category of connected device by 2018”.

iot

This may seem unsurprising to those who are aware that the category of Internet of Things devices ranges from cars, electronics, machines, utility metres, health devices and the like. Combined, these products are set to heavily outweigh standalone mobile phones in the next few years.

There are currently 4.6 billion cellular and non-cellular Internet of Things connected devices which, although is growing rapidly, doesn’t come close to the 10 billion mobile phone devices, laptops, tablets and fixed phones that we currently use. The report predicts that in less than 2 years the number of Internet of Things devices will rise rapidly to 16 billion with mobile phone devices steadily rising from 10 to around 11 billion; the amount of smartphones used, however, is set to double. This rise in IoT connected devices is set to be the highest within Western Europe and Asia with many IoT products already being manufactured in those parts of the world and a 400% rise forecast for 2021.

Rima Qureshi, Chief Strategy Officer at Ericsson, explained that:

“IoT is now accelerating as device costs fall and innovative applications emerge. From 2020, commercial deployment of 5G networks will provide additional capabilities that are critical for IoT, such as network slicing and the capacity to connect exponentially more devices than is possible today.”

The report also found that smartphone subscriptions are expected to grow from 3.4 billion to 6.3 billion by 2021, overtaking the amount of basic mobile phones in use. To many, that comes as no surprise since almost 80% of all mobile phones sold in the first quarter of 2016 and continues to rise.

Another observation is that VR and wearables are predicted to be extremely popular, utilising technology widely available, such as consoles & smartphones, with the addition of the massive leaps in 360 camera cost/performance, look at what you can get today with some of the best 360 cameras – then imagine where we will be 5 years from now.

Another unsurprising prediction is the rise in the amount of mobile data we use. From just 2015 to 2016 the amount of data used grew by 60% as more of our lives are run online and more data is shared. Ericsson predict that by the year 2021 the amount of data we use will grow by up to 12 times with almost 90% of mobile data traffic coming from smartphones.

The BT Expansion Continues

BT, the largest telecoms company in the United Kingdom, is continuing its expansion with the roll-out of new pay monthly mobile services.

bt

The service will offer customers smartphones from Apple, Samsung and other leading mobile phone brands. This may seem confusing to some since BT recently purchased the mobile phone network EE for £12.5bn. However, BT is simply expanding its already ironclad stronghold on the British telecommunications market by offering these pay monthly tariffs for a little as £20 a month.

This new launch may anger those who are already concerned that BT hold a monopoly on the UK telecoms market with 121 Members of Parliament criticising the amount of taxpayer money spent ensuring that BT remains on top. Back in February there were calls for BT to be forced to split from Openreach to allow other networks to provide cheaper and more competitive services for their customers. Sky accused BT of underinvestment in fibre optic broadband leaving their competitors unable to provide adequate services reliant on BT’s network of cables. Some even went as far as describing BT’s reign as a “digital apartheid”. Ofcom, the independent regulator, reviewed the situation and decided, much to the disappointment of Sky, TalkTalk and other service providers, that BT could remain with Openreach.

Since then, BT have released these pay monthly contracts alongside their SIM-only offers which start from £5 a month. Since pay monthly contracts are continuing to rise, and discounts offered to existing customers, this move may turn out to be very successful for BT as they retain their current customers and entice new ones to join.

BT added that the next stage in this expansion of its mobile network would be pushed by a, “nationwide advertising campaign on television, radio, billboards and social media”. It’s clear that a lot of money is being pumped into this new mobile network contract service in the hope that BT can keep up with its rivals such as 02 and Vodafone who already dominate the mobile market.

Some are left wondering what this new service will mean for the EE brand with suggestions that it will simply fall away under the BT Group umbrella. What’s certain is that BT is now no longer the main player in just traditional telecoms; with the power behind the BT brand they’re expanding into the field of mobile at full force.

Facebook To Revolutionise Telecoms With 5G Network

TIP

Facebook have teamed up with telecoms giants Intel, Nokia, EE, Nexius and plenty more to bring a faster and more connected network to users around the world in the form of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).

Based on The Open Compute Project, a Facebook model used previously for its data centre, the team of telecoms heavyweights want to create an open source platform designed to bring 5G to all with telecommunication utilising cloud technology.

“Every day, more people and devices around the world are coming online, and it’s becoming easier to share data-intensive experiences like video and virtual reality” – Jay Parikh, Facebook’s global head of engineering.

This new network, using cloud technology, comes at a time where telecoms providers are under pressure to provide a more high quality service for paying customers. When the majority of users can send data for free using cloud based services such as WhatsApp or Messenger (both owned by Facebook) why would they opt to pay their phone network per SMS they send?

Traditional telecoms networks are complex and often combine a collection of equipment that is difficult to transfer over to the cloud in order to upgrade to a more flexible and effective service. Facebook plans for their TIP network to be simple from the offset with software co-created by Intel, SK Telecom, Deutsche Telekom and other companies at the top of the food chain. The network, once in full swing, will lower costs not only via software but because of the new hardware replacing the current expensive equipment with more cost effective and efficient models.

“We believe that the exponential growth of internet traffic requires new approaches, also on networking equipment like routers and switches. The Open Compute Project has proven that open specifications for hardware, combined with an active community, can have a drastic impact on efficiency and cost – TIP will trigger the same for all areas of the network ” – Axel Clauberg, Deutsche Telekom.

As the UK is still reeling over Ofcom’s decision to leave BT in charge of Openreach, Facebook are additionally planning to work with EE to pilot 4G coverage as a solution to the slow broadband experienced by rural areas.

The TIP network will be completely open source meaning that any wireless network carrier will be able to utilise it; this alone will help to vastly improve the global wireless network that most of us use in our daily lives. The first pilot version of TIP has officially launched in the Philippines with more tests to be carried out throughout this year.

This entirely new network has the potential to change the face of global telecommunications however it will require a lot of work from the already established brands if they wish to jump on the bandwagon. Facebook already heavily dominate the new wave of cloud based communication and with so many companies already on board (Nokia, EE etc) it may be time for the other telecommunications companies to start thinking about the future too.

BT not forced to split as the north still suffers from slow speeds.

internetspeed

We recently posted about the broadband speeds in the UK and whether or not BT was doing enough to increase speeds for all. Now, according to data by City Metric, the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ still has some of the slowest internet speeds in the country with Sheffield only reaching speeds of 15.4Mbps compared with 20.4Mbps in London.

“‘Northern Powerhouse’ still has some of the slowest internet speeds in the country”.

Cities in the middle and south of the county mostly run on fibre optic cables, as opposed to phone cables, meaning superfast broadband for Southerners. Major northern cities aside, the issue is that the quality of broadband provided isn’t as high in the northern areas of the country compared to the Midlands and the south. Known as the ‘last mile’ the networks provided by BT are strongest in the south and become weaker towards the north where rival companies such as TalkTalk, Vodafone and Sky pay to use the network. The dip in quality is due to the fact that BT invest in places that will make them the most money; our capital being the obvious place to start.

Ofcom’s long awaited review

As Ofcom’s review of BT is released, Jeremy Darroch, Chief Executive of Sky, criticised BT for not investing enough money in fibre optic broadband. Darroch explained to The Times that because BT owns Openreach, the one national broadband network in the UK, it has the ability to determine how fast it will be. Because BT faces such small competition it can choose to invest, or not, in whatever it wishes with little risk on their profits, “safe in the knowledge that it will keep its captive customers”.

Sky, along with a number of other big names, have been backing calls for BT to separate from Openreach in the past few months in order to widen the market and help deliver speeds of 1Gbps that the UK requires in order to keep up with the rest of the world.

“Underinvestment by BT leaves their competitors unable to provide adequate services”

BT claims to be the only telecoms provider with the ability to manage the vast network efficiently and suggested that Sky and TalkTalk ought to be thankful for the service it provides to them instead of complaining that they’re receiving BT’s ‘sloppy seconds’. BT’s competitors, however, insist that Openreach provides poor service due to underinvestment by BT leaving them with less chance to provide a fast service and make a profit.

2H

Ofcom have now officially reviewed the current monopoly BT has on the UK’s broadband network and decided that, much to the disappointment of Sky and TalkTalk, BT isn’t required to split from Openreach. However, due to BT’s refusal to invest in a fibre optic network, Ofcom wants Openreach to open up its telegraph poles and tunnels allowing competitors to upgrade the network themselves. Though it seems that BT have been dealt with too lightly, they may still be forced to split from Openreach in the future if they fail to create a more independent and fair network for its competitors. Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, explained that these new proposals would lead to a “fundamental reform” of the entire telecoms market.

Undoubtedly, everyone other than BT will be disappointed with Ofcom’s decision. Tim Farron, Lib Dem leader, said that Ofcom had “bottled it” and missed an opportunity to separate Openreach from BT and create a fairer market. After months of protests by its rivals, BT have too campaigned for the continued ownership of Openreach by promising £1bn of extra investment in superfast broadband.

Ofcom are a powerful independent organisation but their recommendations are exactly that: recommendations. Though their reviews and suggestions come heavily weighted with power they carry no legal requirement. So though it may seem that they have missed a huge opportunity, and they may well have, it does not mean that BT would have actually split from Openreach had that been the suggestion by Ofcom. BT’s PR manager already has plenty to deal with, so perhaps they would have indeed done the right thing, though they wouldn’t have been legally obliged to.

For now the monopoly remains however BT and Openreach will be under more scrutiny than ever in their supposed provision of superfast broadband for all.

Do you think that BT would have split from Openreach had Ofcom had suggested it in its review?

Talk Like A Boss Without Breaking The Bank

There are basic must have features that every office manager ought to have in mind when choosing a new headset for their phone system. Namely: sound quality, comfort, range, battery life and cost. The Plantronics CS540 DECT headset manages to include all of the above features whilst maintaining a sleek and slick design that would look great in any office.

Of course sound quality is the most important feature of any headset; ensuring that calls are of the highest audio quality when staff are communicating with each other as well as with customers is vital. The CS540 uses DECT technology to eliminate interference from WiFi networks as well as CAT-iq technology for advanced high definition voice quality. As with the majority of Plantronics headsets the CS540 comes with a noise-cancelling microphone and enhanced digital signal processing to provide a natural sound whilst reducing background noise. In short: the sound quality is of the highest standard.

Plantronics_CS540

Comfort is a feature that is often labelled as trivial in the same category as design – in other words if it looks and feels nice then it’s a bonus, not a necessity. However, when people are wearing headsets for up to 8 hours a day then it is the duty of the office manager to provide comfortable hardware for their team. Pep talks and meetings may be good for office morale but the best way to ensure productivity among members of staff is to make sure that everyone is happy and comfortable. The Plantronics CS540 is super-lightweight (22g) and comes with patented SoundGuard software protecting users against sound levels above 118 decibels as well as a number of comfort-tested wearing options.

“We upgraded our office headsets to the Plantronics CS540 model and the change in office dynamic has been instantly noticeable. Our team is more mobile, more productive and more comfortable than before.”

Using a headset is a guaranteed method of increasing productivity within the workplace with handsfree calls allowing users to multitask; the Plantronics CS540 has a wireless range of up to 120 metres with an electronic hookswitch cable to remotely answer and end calls. As well as enabling staff to be more mobile whilst on a call, the device also has the ability to connect up to four headsets on a single conference call. The battery life lasts up to 7 hours with software that automatically shifts to low power when the device is running low; all CS500 series headsets come with a standard charging base which charges the device whenever it isn’t being used.

One of the main issues office managers face when choosing headsets is the cost involved, particularly when buying in bulk. Obviously if you spend as little as possible then you’re going to end up with a device that offers basic features, functionality and comfort but that does not mean to say that you have to splash out huge amounts of money for high end headsets. We sell the Plantronics CS540 headset brand new at £125 with A-Grade models available from £99.96 and discount when bought in bulk.

You can purchase the Plantronics CS540 here.

UK To Speed Up In Broadband Race

The United Kingdom draws in millions of visitors and tourists each year who come to see everything from Buckingham Palace to the Scottish Highlands; making it one of the busiest and most popular countries in the world. The amount of mobile data usage throughout the major UK cities is over 90 terabytes a day yet London still ranks lower than cities such as Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, New York and Berlin for broadband speed.

“The UK really needs to up its game, our company recruits Java, PHP & Web experts – very heavy internet users, and our group sees internet speed as a stumbling block in large parts of the UK – we do not see that in other countries” – John Fisher, from Pearson Frank

In an attempt to boost 4G coverage and mobile broadband speeds Vodafone is seeking to increase the number of antennas in our capital which currently amounts to 2.5 antennas per kilometre. To put that into context, major European cities ahead of us in terms of broadband speed have around 6 or 7 antennas per kilometre.

One person who may be disappointed with these figures is Prime Minister David Cameron who last year promised fast and affordable broadband for all by the year 2020 prioritising it as a basic right on the same level as having access to water and electricity.

General mobile data usage has grown enormously in recent years with the rise of 4G data and major phone companies offering impressive new internet speeds. Though broadband speeds in the UK keep getting faster they still fall short in comparison to a lot of other countries across the world.

The UK has always been a major player on the world stage, therefore it is embarrassing for our Capital to have slower broadband speeds than places like Chattanooga and Bucharest. We need London and the rest of the UK to be up there with other big names such as Tokyo, Seoul and Zurich.

Unsurprisingly, Londoners are the UK’s largest consumers of mobile data, according to a statement from Vodafone’s chief technology officer, with data usage the equivalent of 23 million songs being streamed each day. Vodafone is now asking local councils to allow more antennas to be installed on rooftops to create a faster network that will be able to compete with the other major cities around the globe.

Though major cities are currently enjoying fast and affordable internet speeds, the rural parts of the UK are being left behind with nearly half of rural households unable to receive speeds above 10Mbit/s and one in five unable to receive speeds of 5Mbit/s. Obviously rural areas are more sparsely populated than urban areas meaning that coverage suffers as a consequence; outdoor coverage in the city is as high as 99% which drops significantly to 72% in the countryside. Though lagging behind, coverage of fast broadband in rural areas has increased from 22% to 37% from 2014 to 2015.

The chart below from Ofcom’s 2015 Connected Nations Report shows the percentage of premises unable to receive fast download speeds. From looking at the chart it is obvious that rural areas have significantly less access to fast broadband speeds than urban areas.

With this report comes controversy with some calling for the end of BT’s stronghold over the cable networks. Research commissioned by the former Cabinet minister Grant Shapps, backed by a further 121 Member’s of Parliament, blasts BT for ignoring rural communities and criticises the amount of taxpayer money being wasted with little results to show for it adding that, “If Openreach can’t deliver it’s time for the regulator to step in and find another way”. Sarah Lee, from the Countryside Alliance, even went as far as describing the current situation as a “digital apartheid”.

According to the report, residents of rural areas may have to wait up to three years until they can gain access to broadband speeds that the rest of the country currently uses; though it may be a long wait it is still within the time limit set by David Cameron. However, Hubert Da Costa, Vice President at Cradlepoint, explains that, though optimistic, it simply isn’t possible to get a wired network to everyone in the UK particularly in locations with geographical challenges.

He suggests that in order to supply connectivity for all we should be looking at wireless alternatives for locations that simply cannot be reached with wired broadband:

“This isn’t a government or consumer issue, this is simply a fact. Which is why we are seeing businesses setting up 4G Internet connectivity for either their primary networks or for network resiliency. Of course, connectivity is important, and it’s great that the government believes in ‘connectivity for all’ however behind the desire, there has to be a workable solution.”

Of course, though we should welcome Vodafone’s drive for faster internet, it’s important to note that the UK has vastly improved in comparison to previous years. The chart below shows the improvement of superfast broadband coverage throughout the UK from 2014 and 2015 as well as average download speeds.

Strong progress has been made but many are still affected by slow broadband speeds both personally and professionally. Daniel Latto, a business coach from Leeds, often travels around the world for work and found that broadband speeds in the UK are not up to scratch in comparison with other countries:

“I run webinars for my clients and I find I can’t run them in the UK as the broadband speed is around 2MB. I would understand if I lived in the country but Horsforth is a bustling suburb of Leeds.”

Daniel finds that he can now only run webinars from his home in Spain, rather than from his home in Leeds which has affected his business considerably: “My broadband is much faster even in Spain, in a small town near the coast.” Daniel is understandably irritated at the situation and strongly agrees with the research commissioned by Grant Shapps MP regarding the disbandment of BT whom he describes as holding him ransom due to their monopoly of broadband services.

It’s clear that improvements still need to be made for the UK to be able to compete with the likes of China and the USA however the fact is that 83% of the country now has access to superfast broadband coverage, up 8% from 2014, bringing David Cameron’s ‘fast broadband for all by 2020’ pledge closer to a reality.

WhatsApp Boost Security With End-to-End Encryption

WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging service, has been making a few major changes recently. Among other details, the service is now completely free with rumours of a video calling feature in the pipeline.

For now, WhatsApp may be introducing end-to-end encryption alerts to make conversations more private and secure for customers. WhatsApp already use encryption software by default but this new update, a more secure version of the encryption software, will allow users to actively see when their messages and calls are being encrypted.

With end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp telephone calls and messages are protected by preventing third parties reading any private data. Users will have the option to turn on or off encryption alerts, in the same way you can turn on or off your ‘last seen’ timestamp, meaning that concerned users can choose whether or not to message those who don’t have end-to-end encryption enabled.

Purchased by Facebook in 2015 for $19 billion, WhatsApp have also promised to entirely scrap annual subscription fees for all global users. On top of that, it has also been revealed that they will not be selling any advertising space to third party companies.

Instead, according to a recent official blogpost, WhatsApp are exploring new capacities of communication to improve andexpand upon. This includes messaging local or international companies and organisations instead of calling up a traditional helpline; for example, messaging your bank regarding a transaction or an airline regarding an upcoming flight.

The new encryption updates could come with some controversy with David Cameron threatening to ban apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat for its default encryption software under new counter-terrorism surveillance plans.

Should end-to-end encryption be a given?

Privacy groups are notably outraged at the possibly of the government banning end-to-end encryption arguing that private messaging is part of our human rights. However, it’s important to note that the security services must have a warrant before reading any encrypted messages; the issue Mr Cameron has is that even with a warrant security services struggle to access the data.

Whether end-to-end encryption should be a default feature in all our messaging services is still up for debate, however, with so many messaging platforms available, a lot of us still remain unaware of how secure or unsecure our data is.

Which UK city has the fastest broadband speeds?

 

Last year David Cameron promised fast broadband for every person in the UK by 2020 prioritising fast and affordable broadband as a legal right in the modern world.

Broadband alone is no longer enough to keep up with the pace and amount of usage people now consume. With more people than ever streaming television, online gaming and downloading music and film, superfast broadband is required and has now become the norm with 83% of UK premises using it in 2015, up from 75% in 2014.  

To answer the question, ‘Which UK city has the fastest broadband?’, you first have to break down the question into specifics such as download speed and area coverage. The fastest broadband in the UK at the moment is superfast broadband which offers speeds up to 300Mbps. Therefore, to find out where the fastest broadband in the UK is you need to look at which city has the most coverage of superfast broadband.

In Ofcom’s 2015 Connected Nations Report the UK cities with the fastest broadband speeds in terms of area coverage are listed.

Luton, Belfast and Portsmouth come up top with an average of 97% area coverage of superfast broadband. Brighton, Plymouth and Lincolnshire follow suit with 95% area coverage. On the other end of the spectrum were cities such as Kent, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.   

Surprisingly, a lot of the UK’s major cities, including London, are not at the top of the list for broadband coverage. Phone giant Vodafone blames the lack of broadband coverage in London to the minimal number of antennas around the city, currently around 2.5 antennas per kilometre, which is around a third less than that of other major cities around Europe who have an average of 7 antennas per kilometre.

Mr Cameron has four years left to ensure that every home in the UK has access to affordable superfast broadband. However, Ofcom raise some doubts as to whether his goal is achievable. The independent communications regulator claim that over 2 million city homes and almost 50% of homes in rural areas are still using broadband with speeds of only 10Mbps.