Simon Rockman

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Mobile and Motoring Correspondent. The former editor of Amstrad User, Amiga Computing, Personal Computer World, What Mobile and a number of other blast-from-the-past titles, Simon has worked for Motorola, Sony Ericsson and the GSMA. He has great contacts in the mobile industry, where his specialities are phones for seniors and mobile payments. He also covers Bitcoin and 3D printing. Simon regularly reviews the latest and most interesting cars for The Register as the Vulture behind the wheel.
Siri logo

Hey, Apple! 1999 just called and it wants its voicemail avatar back

Siri will soon answer your phone calls, adding a functionality that Orange killed in 2005 when it shut down the still-lamented Wildfire service. It’s rumoured that Apple employees are testing a system which can transcribe voicemails. Believed to be called iCloud Voicemail, the service seems to be a mix of Wildfire and that …
Simon Rockman, 03 Aug 2015
Siemens GSM-R train cab radio. Pic: Joshua Brown

German railways upgrade their comms tech from 2G to 4G

German choo-choo chaps Deutsche Bahn are replacing their GSM-R communications technology and has commissioned a consortium of Siemens Convergence Creators and Huawei to sort out the migration of the system across northern Germany's railway lines. GSM-R is a technology which dates back around 15 years and provides both voice …
Simon Rockman, 03 Aug 2015

Jasper and Microsoft glue together connectivity and Azure

Cloud-based IoT player Jasper has announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft, which will see Jasper’s platform integrated with the tech giant's Azure cloud suite. "More than 2,000 enterprises across dozens of industries worldwide have selected the Jasper Platform to enable them to deliver IoT services that increase …
Simon Rockman, 03 Aug 2015
Wireless charging system gives 10kW with no RF

Magnet-wobble wireless charging system dishes out a respectable 10 kW

Canadian wireless power company Elix has announced a system which can generate and transfer 10 kW using magneto-dynamic coupling. It’s big, heavy and noisy, so is aimed at trucks and buses rather than small cars, and is certainly not suitable for desktop gadget charging. Elix claims its target markets are transportation, …
Simon Rockman, 31 Jul 2015
Telephone. Copyright: macinate

Lying to customers, Unicom? Cough up £200k, do not pass Go

It’s good to know that complaints to Ofcom produce action. A probe into broken promises and lies told by Unicom has seen the company fined £200,000 by the regulator. It wasn’t just customer complaints which led to the action. An Ofcom initiative looked into Unicom's terms and conditions – most notably, that unwitting customers …
Simon Rockman, 31 Jul 2015
shutterstock_170724905-Fibre

BT hands £129m back to UK.gov after beating rural broadband targets

Both BT and the Ministry of Fun – or the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, if you prefer – have spun BT’s toeing-the-line-of-a-contractual-obligation as unbridled generosity towards taxpayers. A statement from the Minister of Fun, John Whittingdale, said: It's fantastic to see that the rollout of superfast broadband is …
Simon Rockman, 30 Jul 2015
BT Openreach at work

Never mind falling revenues, BT watchers, look at the footy offering

BT had a mixed quarter, buoyed up mainly by TV subscriptions - and it has taken its results announcement as an opportunity to shore up its broadband position. Revenue to for the first quarter of financial year 2016, ending June 30th, at £4.28bn, down two per cent overall. There was a six per cent drop in revenue from Global …
Simon Rockman, 30 Jul 2015
A round camera which looks around

Mobiles? What are they? Nokia immerses itself in virtual reality cameras

Always looking for a new angle, Nokia has launched itself into the movie equipment business with a 360-degree camera called OZO, capturing stereoscopic 3D video through eight synchronised global shutter sensors as well as spatial audio through eight integrated microphones. Without naming names, Nokia said: “The video can be …
Simon Rockman, 29 Jul 2015
Ofcom has great power over mobiles

Ofcom wants to ease the pain of switching mobile networks. Good luck

UK regulator Ofcom has started a consultation aimed at consumers to find out how hard it is to switch mobile phone networks, and eventually put in place processes which reduce the pain of switching, while also eliminating “slamming” where a company fraudulently migrates a customer. The consultation is a follow-up to previous …
Simon Rockman, 29 Jul 2015
Indian mobile use

Indian mobe networks don’t want 700MHz – because they're too poor

While most telcos are baying for more radio spectrum to stuff with mobile internet broadband, the Indian operators are asking their government to hold off. They want the hold not just on the high-frequency 2.6GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum that will be useful for cities, but for the extra-valuable 700MHz spectrum that would give the …
Simon Rockman, 28 Jul 2015
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At last we know for sure. Blighty's 'best mobile network' is ...

The biannual survey of mobile networks conducted by RootMetrics has found that EE still leads the pack, and provides the best mobile phone coverage. RootMetrics' report said that “EE earned a clean sweep of all six UK RootScore awards including Overall Performance, Network Reliability, Network Speed, Mobile Internet, Call, and …
Simon Rockman, 28 Jul 2015
Bitcoin payphone

'Untraceable' VoIP caller ID-spoofing website accepts Bitcoin

A new VoIP service allows you to hide who you are by being web-based, having no registration checks, allowing you to spoof caller identity, and pay by Bitcoin. Bitphone calls itself the Bitcoin Payphone. As well as taking Bitcoin, the service accepts more than forty other altcoins. Users can pay with a Bitcoin transfer from a …
Simon Rockman, 28 Jul 2015
Ford's GT only has a V6

Ford's parallel PARCing: Motor giant tries to craft new tech just like Xerox

Ford is scared of the future. It has to figure out how to survive in a time when manually driving your car to work is as archaic as commuting by horse. The motor company is running research projects to look at how the future might be multi-modal, with car-share schemes, folding electric bikes, and self-driving cars. There is a …
Simon Rockman, 28 Jul 2015
Samsung monitor adds wireless charging

Samsung emits mobe charging monitor. For your 'active lifestyle'

Samsung's latest SE370 monitor will have a wireless charging pad built into its plinth. This aims to de-clutter office drones' desks, or at least provide more space for other forms of clutter. The pad uses the Qi wireless charging standard, and while Samsung swings both ways as a member of both the Wireless Power Consortium ( …
Simon Rockman, 27 Jul 2015
900cc Fiat 500 should be called the Fiat 900

2015 Fiat 500 fashionista, complete with facelift

VULTURE AT THE WHEEL It’s all about the engines. Fiat has added new Euro 6 compliant engines to its line-up and this is the excuse the company has employed to call the facelifted 500 “new”. It gets a bit of a nip and tuck in the form of a nose job. Lights slanted back a bit and LED running lights. Mani beam is still halogen or optionally Xenon, …
Simon Rockman, 18 Jul 2015
Rotten apple. Pic: Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-29447929/stock-photo-a-rotten-apple-on-a-white-background.html)

HSBC takes Twitter tongue-lashing over failure to offer Apple Pay

Apple Pay has upset a few people already. People who can’t get to work, people who’ve been charged twice, and people who bank with HSBC. HSBC has felt the wrath of Apple fanbois for failing to launch Apple Pay, with negative tweets about the bank outnumbering positive ones five to one on the day of launch. These are the …
Simon Rockman, 17 Jul 2015
india

Jolla announces home-grown Indian mobe-maker as first Sailfish licensee

As Jolla hinted earlier this month, it announced the first Sailfish licensee at Mobile World Congress Asia as being Intex. Intex is claimed by Jolla to be India’s second largest smartphone manufacturer, and manufactures in both India and China, and has a range of Android phones sold under the Aqua brand. The phone should …
Simon Rockman, 16 Jul 2015
angry_woman_mobile_cropped_648

Yep, world+dog's spies are in our network, says Vodafone as it bares all

Vodafone has updated its annual report on what it must do to comply with the law enforcement disclosures in the countries where it operates – and is considering more detailed disclosures. Most interestingly, it has looked at publishing how often a government has asked it to intercept calls and block or intercept data. This …
Simon Rockman, 16 Jul 2015
BT Openreach van

BT circles wagons round Openreach as Ofcom mulls forced split-up

BT has launched an offensive against moves to have its Openreach division completely hived off, with its view being that maintaining a near monopoly is the best thing for the country. Ofcom’s 2005 strategic review resulted in Openreach being repositioned to become a separate part of BT, but rivals have long been pushing for …
Simon Rockman, 16 Jul 2015
Mamod steam traction engine

Nokia Networks is going to make zer Vaterland's trains run on time

Nokia Networks is trumpeting an eight-year contract incorporating the sale of over 2,000 mobile base stations – and a GSM-R frequency band upgrade – to Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national railway company. The contract to supply the new Flexi base stations to the railway is a good win for Nokia, ousting Kapsch as the major …
Simon Rockman, 15 Jul 2015
Nissan Juke RS

Nissan Juke Nismo RS: Family hot-hatch SUV that looks a bit like Darth Vader's hat

Vulture at the Wheel A sporty SUV seems like an oxymoron, but from the moment you get into the Juke it feels like a great combination of two themes. Here is a practical car which punches above its weight in desirability. Crossovers are trendy. Nismo is Nissan’s sporty moniker, so this is a crossover which absorbs SUV, family car, and hot hatch, …
Simon Rockman, 11 Jul 2015
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Emergency-service comms omnishambles worsens as HP dives for the door

Things have gone from worse to even worse for the Government’s attempts to replace the ageing emergency-services network, as HP has withdrawn its bid. HP has followed Telefonica in deciding that the terms of the deal were too onerous and deciding it didn’t want to be part of Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme ( …
Simon Rockman, 10 Jul 2015
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Ericsson seeks cat-herding jacket, attempts EU 5G standardisation

Ericsson has taken on a new role as chief technology cat-herder, otherwise known as development coordinator of the EU’s new €8m METIS-II project, which will eventually recommend 5G specs. Funded by the EU, METIS (Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty Information Society) and now METIS II are …
Simon Rockman, 10 Jul 2015
Behring Strait. Pic: US government/NASA

China wants to build a 200km-long undersea tunnel to America

China likes trains. Its latest idea is to drive a railway route from Beijing to America via Russia, running under the Bering Strait to Alaska, Canada and America. The 8,000 mile route would need two undersea tunnels; one running from Russia to the Big Diomede Island, and one from Little Diomede Island to America – well, Alaska …
Simon Rockman, 10 Jul 2015
swiss_cheese_648

Vodafone tests Ericsson Radio Dots on corporate big cheeses

Vodafone is testing the Ericsson Radio Dot system as part of a push to improve in-building coverage. Aimed at big buildings with lots of mobile phone users, the technology uses CAT 5 Ethernet to connect small antennae throughout the premises, with the radio access network gubbins in a central location. Its proponents claim it …
Simon Rockman, 09 Jul 2015
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British Airways cracks open its API doors for developers

British Airways is giving developers tentative access to small amounts of its data, launching a scheme to open up some of its APIs. It’s very much a proof-of-concept situation, rather than a serious production effort, but a move forward none the less. The developer.ba.com site isn’t new – but until yesterday it was only …
Simon Rockman, 09 Jul 2015
The dns entry for Facebook says it's face:b00c

Facebook casts a hex with self-referential IPv6

Poll IPv6 addresses aren't really supposed to spell out domain names, but Facebook has adopted an IPv6 addy that includes the characters "faceb00c." A quick DNS lookup of facebook.com confirms this: the domain resolves to 2a03:2880:2130:cf05:face:b00c::1. Faceb00c. Get it? At The Reg's London office, we can’t agree on what we …
Simon Rockman, 08 Jul 2015
NHM Giant Clam

Samsung to launch a Snapdragon 808-based clamshell smartphone

We don’t get clamshell smartphones in the West, but China's love of keypads means that Samsung sells them over there - and the first Sammy to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor is just such a phone. Samsung_SM_G9198_clamshell The Samsung SM-G9198 The SM-G9198 has just got approval from China’s telecoms regulator, …
Simon Rockman, 08 Jul 2015
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Visa mobilises its money out of mobile money firm Monitise

Once a stock market darling, mobile money expert Monitise is to lose Visa Europe as a major shareholder. The finance multinational has announced that it will “reduce its shareholding over time”. Visa Europe has steadily bought into Monitise, spending £2.1m in August 2012 when shares were around 30p, £15.6m in August 2013 when …
Simon Rockman, 08 Jul 2015

#FishermenNeedTwitter: Vodafone extends 4G to the edge of Iceland

Vodafone Iceland is feeding 4G to the fishes and adding significant coverage for the maritime industry. Industry website Telecompaper reports that the network has just added the areas of Blönduós, Reyðarfjörður, and the town Hofn to the places which get 4G coverage. It's seemingly aimed at seafarers, particularly fishermen. …
Simon Rockman, 08 Jul 2015
shutterstock_225964027-pizz

The modest father of SMS, who had much to be modest about

Matti Makkonen died last week and was celebrated as the father of SMS. He’s been described as being too modest to acknowledge his involvement. It seems, however, that the story of how Short Messaging came to be is far more complicated than we originally thought, and the system has many fathers. In fact, not only did Makkonen …
Simon Rockman, 08 Jul 2015

Americans in Europe like using Wi-Fi calling, Ericsson discovers

Research from Ericsson shows that people like using Wi-Fi calling, the service which can act as a replacement for a mobile phone network. The big thing which differentiates Wi-Fi calling from other forms of VoIP is that it’s part of the IMS 3GPP standard. It doesn’t need any apps and ties in neatly to your phone number, …
Simon Rockman, 07 Jul 2015
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Jolla cuts hardware biz loose to concentrate on Sailfish licensing

Hardware and software outfit Jolla is to give up making hardware, with that part of the business set to be taken on by a new, yet-to-be-announced company, with Jolla then concentrating on its Sailfish OS. Juhani Lassila, head of communications at Jolla, said: “We are definitely confident in the [yet-to-exist] hardware company …
Simon Rockman, 07 Jul 2015
shutterstock_263560157-nfc

Apple fanbois to be empowered to bonk each other

Apple has filed a patent which uses NFC and Bluetooth to transfer funds when you bonk two iPhones together. The technology doesn’t use the NFC radio to transfer the funds: it’s done either over the air or by Bluetooth. The NFC is used to establish the veracity of the two ends and to encrypt the data using the secure element. …
Simon Rockman, 06 Jul 2015
Becks buys Sprint

David Beckham fakes bewilderment to flog mobiles to Yanks. Fakes?

Fashion model and former one-footed footie ace David Beckham walks into a phone shop and finds it all rather confusing, or so a new US television commercial for mobile operator Sprint would have us believe. While he quizzes AT&T, T-Mobile US and Verizon on their offers, he doesn’t ask the Sprint salesperson anything like as …
Simon Rockman, 03 Jul 2015
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung ousts Apple as top US smartmobe biz

In figures for the three months to the end of May, Kantar Worldpanel says that Samsung took a bite out of Apple's US market share to overtake the fruity firm. This is as much down to continued strong sales of the Galaxy S5 as to the introduction of the Galaxy S6. Carolina Milanesi, Chief of Research & Head of US Business, told …
Simon Rockman, 01 Jul 2015
You seen him? Hasidim

Orange hurls €90m at Israel's Partner to end political bunfight

Orange has been caught in a political storm after trying to stop Israeli mobile network Partner Communications from using its name. The company uses the brand because it received funding from, but was not owned by, Hutchison Whampoa, which launched the Orange brand in the UK several years ago. When Orange (then the UK's third- …
Simon Rockman, 01 Jul 2015

UH OH: Windows 10 will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends' friends

Updated A Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, smells like a security risk: it can share access to private Wi-Fi networks with the user's friends. higglty piggeltey that makes good sense Wi-Fi Sense has been on Windows Phone since 8.1 Those friends include their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, …
Simon Rockman, 30 Jun 2015
Image from Shutterstock 161369036

Ofcom: We need 5G spectrum planning for the future’s ultramobes

Despite the majority of Reg readers thinking that 5G can wait, there needs to be some planning as to how spectrum will be allocated if the same frequencies are to be made available globally. The need for international harmony on use of millimetre spectrum was the focus of a recent presentation by UK regulator Ofcom to the LTE …
Simon Rockman, 29 Jun 2015

Mobe encryption guru Charles Brookson picks up OBE from the Queen

Charles Brookson – the man behind the encryption algorithms in GSM mobile networks – has collected his OBE from the Queen. Brookson led the team that produced the A5/1, A5/3 and A5/2 algorithms used by countless mobes worldwide to encrypt calls from eavesdroppers. He recently stepped down from his role as chairman of the GSM …
Simon Rockman, 27 Jun 2015
Depth perception

Apple's iPhone 7 to come loaded with depth-sensing camera, supply chain spies claim

Reports coming out of Taiwan claim that the iPhone 7 will have dual rear-facing cameras. It's a move which would see Apple join the ranks of Dell, HTC, Huawei, and Samsung in adding depth-sensing technology to its mobes. A report in the Taiwanese Business Weekly claims Apple has been tinkering with dual-lens tech for three years …
Simon Rockman, 26 Jun 2015
Checking comms at supersonic speeds

Cambridge boffins: STOP the rush to 5G. We just don't need it

+Poll The headlong rush into 5G is an unnecessary technology treadmill, or so the great and the good of the wireless world have concluded. Cambridge Wireless, a network which brings together senior players in the mobile industry, may have moved its annual shindig from the esteemed university to London's Emirates Stadium, but it …
Simon Rockman, 26 Jun 2015
Supermarine Spitfire firing up. SAC Graham Taylor/Crown copyright

Vodafone splashes €2 BEEELLLION to kick German TV sideways

Germany's electricity, gas, telecoms, post and railway regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, has raised €5.08bn in its latest spectrum auction - including flogging the 700MHz frequencies currently in use by TV channels. The biggest purchaser was Vodafone, which splurged €2.1bn, with the auction going through 181 rounds and …
Simon Rockman, 23 Jun 2015
Virgin Tivo

Virgin Media starts its broadband-of-the-gaps fibre rollout

Virgin Media has started work connecting customers to the fibre broadband infill it announced in February. The £3bn programme significantly larger than anything planned by BT and represents a growing trend among companies to provide higher speed broadband than available with the UK incumbent. Virgin offers a 152Mbps service, …
Simon Rockman, 22 Jun 2015
india

Phone-home service Lebara launches prepaid TV offering

Low-cost mobile virtual network operator Lebara is following the non-virtual operators in a step towards quad-play with a TV offering — and for the moment at least skipping broadband and fixed. As with the existing phone service, Lebara Play will be prepaid, with customers topping up their allocation at a local corner shop. …
Simon Rockman, 22 Jun 2015
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Giganto French telco merger: Altice makes eyes at Bouygues

Despite Margrethe Vestager – the EU’s anti-trust supremo – railing against telco mergers earlier this month, French mega-company Altice has made a €10bn bid for the telco part of rival Bouygues. Altice has made the bid thorough Numericable-SFR, formed when Numerical bought the SFR network from Vivendi last year for €17bn. A …
Simon Rockman, 22 Jun 2015
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Post Office launches mobe service for aged greybeards

The Post Office has launched its own mobile phone service. The organisation plays hard on the value for money that its new pre-pay tariffs offer, but in practice the market is so competitive it’s hard to make that stand up. While the headline prices are cheaper, many rivals – notably Tesco Mobile – offer top-up bonuses, which …
Simon Rockman, 22 Jun 2015
top of the bt tower

Tower of BT Bubbly: Fancy nibbling atop a strategic data hub?

The rotating restaurant at the top of the BT Tower will open for two weeks this year to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The GPO Tower, as it was named many decades ago, used to be open to the public, with both a restaurant and a public viewing galley. A 1971 IRA bomb led to the closure of the gallery, with the restaurant closing …
Simon Rockman, 22 Jun 2015
The Alfa 4C needs a small number plate

Buy with your head, drive with your heart: Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe

Vulture at the Wheel The Alfa Romeo 4C is unusual. It’s not, like every other Alfa, “the make or break car for the company’s future” – a tag which has been attached to pretty much every new launch since the 75 in 1985. The 4C is truly head-turning If you buy a 4C, budget for a shorter number plate At £51,500, this is an out-and-out sports car. …
Simon Rockman, 21 Jun 2015
angry_woman_mobile_cropped_648

Vodafone hikes prices to 37.5p/min – and lets angry customers flee

Vodafone loves the price of 37.5p/minute. So much so that pretty much everything which is outside a standard bundle is going to cost exactly that. 37.5p is what Vodafone already charges for excess minutes over and above a subscriber's package. The move to introduce that rate for virtually any non-bundle activity sees some …
Simon Rockman, 16 Jun 2015