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O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge

No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms

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Both Vodafone and O2 are claiming to be the best mobile phone network for people, particularly government people, who are worried about security.

O2 is crowing about achieving the secure and government-approved network certification known as CAS(T), which stands for CESG Assured Service (Telecommunications), O2 being the first mobile operator to do so.

Meanwhile, Vodafone UK has become the first telecommunications provider and the first multi-national organisation to have been awarded the government’s new enhanced cyber security accreditation, Cyber Essentials Plus.

CESG (Communications-Electronics Security Group) is the Information Security arm of GCHQ, and the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance within the UK. It serves as the definitive voice on the technical aspects of Information Security within Government.

The press release from Vodafone says: “In achieving the new accreditation Vodafone UK’s customer and internal information and IT systems were tested by auditors for compliance to the new standard, and had to reach a 100% pass rate.”

To reinforce the case for the contender in the red corner, Voda rolled out Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, to say: “Organisations need to take cyber security seriously, so it’s reassuring that Vodafone UK has taken the lead to become the first telecommunications provider in the UK to have achieved the Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.”

Off the back of the GESG accreditation, O2 has rolled out a new tenner-a-month tariff for government and charity types. The No.10 tariff (PDF) is a two-year 4G contract for both voice and data devices. The contract comes with either a Nokia 635 or Samsung Galaxy S3mini. Voice users get unlimited minutes and 1GB of data, while data users get 5GB and no voice.

At the end of the two years, O2 will unlock the phone and it becomes the property of the organisation, but users can bail out mid-term by returning the device. The phone number belongs to the public authority, not O2 or the individual user. The tariff must be bought through the Public Sector Network scheme.

Billy D’Arcy, MD of Public Sector Business at O2, commented:

“We recognise the increasing pressure on the Public and Third sectors to save money and increase productivity, and the No.10 proposition has been built to respond to these exact two things. By giving public sector workers access to the latest digital technology, we can ensure that citizens are being served by the Government in the best possible way. For example, by giving doctors the technology to deliver remote diagnoses to patients or by delivering vital information to citizens through new channels, such as mobile apps.”

Selling security works well for mobe networks, which can offer something that over-the-top players cannot. Indeed, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao took to the stage at Mobile World Congress last year to talk about working with BAE Systems Detica on just this.

After all, the government wouldn't want people eavesdropping on private conversations - that's their job. ®

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