Liberty Global says it remains confident of deal
The highly-anticipated merger between Virgin Media and O2 is still on course to be completed ths year, the former’s parent company has declared.
Mike Fries, CEO of Virgin Media owner Liberty Global, assured investors that the merger, which would bring together two of the UK’s biggest networking firms, is still set to go through during the middle of 2021.
The merger would create what Fries called a “fixed-mobile” champion for millions of users across the UK, but still needs to pass approval from the UK Commissions and Markets Authority (CMA).
Cybercriminals continue to target enterprise VPN users
The rapid shift to remote working during the pandemic has exposed the hidden vulnerabilities found in enterprise VPN services according to a new report from Zscaler published in collaboration with the Cybersecurity Insiders.
The Zscaler 2021 VPN Risk Report includes findings from a global survey of more than 350 cybersecurity professionals on the current state of remote access environments, the rise in VPN vulnerabilities and the role zero-trust security models play in providing access to enterprise applications.
For the last three decades, VPNs have been deployed as a means to provide remote users with access to resources on corporate networks. However, increased demand for remote work solutions, a shift to the cloud and advancements in digital transformation have highlighted the increased incompatibility between VPNs and true zero-trust security architectures.
In a recent interview BT CEO Philip Jansen offered some insights into his thinking about the near-term strategy for the UK telecoms group.
Talking to The Mail, Jansen (pictured) expressed interest in the potential offered by the digital healthcare sector for companies like his. In an apparent bid to give its headline-writers something juicy to work with, the piece talks about taking Apple and Google, but Jansen seems more focused on public sector opportunities, especially the NHS.
“What we need to do is find a way where there is accelerated take-up of some of these technologies to get the benefits that are so obviously there,” said Jansen. The Covid pandemic has pushed healthcare infrastructure to the top of the political agenda and the UK has taken the opportunity to demonstrate, once more, that it’s rubbish at the technological side of it.
So there’s clearly room for improvement and, with its clear ties to the UK public sector, BT is in as good a position as any company to help with that. It’s already involved in a trial using smart bracelets that track a person’s movements an d activities in order to alert remoter carers. You would think BT’s main contributions would be in the areas of connectivity and IoT, but maybe Jansen fancies a go at the hardware too.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs continues its work to help government departments clean up their IT supply chains by creating a ‘cloud sustainability’ workstream
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is leading a project to ensure sustainability considerations are factored into the UK government’s cloud strategy, Computer Weekly has learned.
The work includes the creation of a “cloud sustainability” workstream that will be tasked with creating a standard that government departments and private sector firms can use to improve the environmental friendliness of their IT supply chains.
The project supports a joint effort by the Crown Commercial Service and the Government Digital Service to accelerate the adoption of cloud services in the public sector through the One Government Cloud Strategy.
ServerDomes is a cutting-edge facility that relies on its unique shape for energy efficiency.
Take a stroll through the Oregon Health and Science University west campus in Beaverton and you’ll come across an unusual structure. It may look more like it belongs on a farm than a college campus but, inside, thousands of computer servers are busy handling workloads for the university.
The first ServerDomes facility was built in 2014 for OHSU to supplement the school’s main data center in downtown Portland. It was designed as a geodesic dome for maximum space with minimal building materials. “Everything about this design has nothing to do with the looks; every element has to do with efficiency and sustainability,” ServerDomes CEO Alan Resnik told CNET.
FinOps practitioners need more support
Ofcom has today opened a further consultation on their plan to force all communications providers – seemingly including broadband ISPs that may not even provide phone services – to offer a “free” 24/7 emergency video relay service in order to help users of British Sign Language (BSL) to talk with the emergency services.
The changes, which were understandably designed to ensure that disabled people (particularly deaf users) can access the communications services they need in an emergency (i.e. the principle that disabled people should have equivalent access to emergency communications), were first proposed back in 2019 and they’ve since been developed through an earlier consultation.
Systems like this work by making it possible for deaf users to make a video call, via a connected device, to an interpreter in a call centre. The interpreter translates what the deaf user is signing into spoken English for the emergency services to hear, and signs what the emergency services are saying to the deaf end-user.
The agreement ensuring data flows continue will be reviewed every four years and may be subject to legal challenges
The European Union (EU) is set to allow data to flow freely from its territories to the UK after finding that it has comparable data protection laws in place.
This decision, which has been drafted by the European Commission, should be approved imminently, according to the Financial Times (FT), and will prove a huge relief for businesses nervous about the potential disruption to data flows.
Withdrawal from the EU threatened to block data flows from the EU to the UK, because the UK would’ve been relegated to ‘third country’ status. Only a formal adequacy agreement – guaranteeing the UK’s regulations were in keeping with the EU’s – could restore flows.
Liberty Global’s name suggests a free or freedom-loving internationalist, but it seems increasingly ironic. The corporate progeny of US billionaire John Malone – the “cable cowboy” chairman whose US landholdings seem bigger than Liberty Global’s footprint – today’s company is restricted to a handful of European markets where its debt shackles make the region’s coronavirus-hobbled governments look thrifty and unburdened. Its net debt of about $28 billion is almost twice Liberty’s stock market value and five times what it makes each year in basic earnings.
Investors have been able to overlook all this in the low-interest-rate era of fiscal irresponsibility. Last March, Liberty traded at just $15.80 per share after the world’s first brush with COVID-19 left markets winded. On February 12, it closed at $25.08. A turnaround in the UK – where Virgin Media added 41,700 subscribers in the last three months of 2020, after losing 9,400 in the same period of 2019 – has cheered up analysts. Regulatory approval of a merger with O2, a mobile operator owned by Spain’s Telefónica, would make Virgin look even stronger in a market that generates 55% of Liberty’s total revenues.
TalkTalk Business has investigated the impact of the mass shift to hybrid working and how to maintain staff well-being in a new Homeworker Whitepaper.
The report showed customers understand the advantages of investing in business-grade home broadband. Seven in ten of those surveyed mentioned better upload speeds, greater productivity, and business grade support as key benefits.
Richard Thompson, managing director, wholesale at TalkTalk Business, explained, “As UK business and their employees embrace the ‘new-normal’ of hybrid working, our mission to deliver full fibre has never felt more urgent. Our partners are in a great position to shape and leverage this homeworking opportunity and help their customers with connectivity and staff well-being, and we’re excited to be able to help support this.”
The development of HS2 in the West Midlands will turbocharge the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as it brings forward 175,000 new jobs and generates some £20bn investment.
High speed rail will also accelerate the progress towards a zero carbon West Midlands by 2041, set out in the #WM2041 strategy, in part through creating capacity on the existing rail network for improvements to local passenger and freight services.
These are just some of the benefits to businesses, people and places laid out in the ‘Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy 2021: The Defining Decade – The Midlands high speed path to recovery’ that has been published.
It describes how the West Midlands will be transformed in the next decade, highlighting that by 2030, the region will have two new world class, high speed rail stations, which will be accessible by two million people.
The report also looks at the investment opportunities its arrival unlocks, which will result in more than 175,000 new jobs, £20bn additional economic output and a comprehensive public transport system that encourages sustainable travel.
As well as setting out how authorities and organisations are working together to make the most of the project, the document also looks at progress made over the six years since the publication of the original HS2 Growth Strategy.
The region is seeing unprecedented investment in its transport network, including the four Metro tram line extensions currently under construction and new commercial and housing developments planned around the Curzon Street and Interchange stations.
Due to the progress of the project, the jobs and investment totals have been revised upwards for the refreshed strategy.
Commenting, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street said: “While the HS2 train may not be here for a few years yet, we are already seeing exactly how major infrastructure investment accelerates regional growth.
A new study by tax relief consultancy Catax, which analysed the latest data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), has reported that business investment in the UK telecoms sector has fallen for a fifth consecutive quarter and plummeted by 9.2% in Q3 2020 alone.
Business investment in the industry declined £355m between Q2 and Q3 2020, sinking to £3.5bn as the global pandemic continued to hamper economic activity. This represents a 41.8% (£2.5bn) year-on-year fall from just over £6bn in Q3 2019, which is said to be significantly worse than the performance of UK industry as a whole.
By comparison, total UK business investment across all sectors recorded an annual fall of 19.2% in Q3 last year. However, quarterly UK GDP grew by 15.5% in Q3, although this pace of growth did slow later in the year, with only a 1% rise recorded for Q4. The result was that over 2020 as a whole, UK GDP shrank by 9.9% – the worst performance since modern records began.
The winners of the annual Uswitch.com Awards 2021 have today been unveiled, which among other categories saw UK ISP Plusnet scoop the win for “Broadband Provider of the Year“, while Virgin Media once again grabbed the “Fastest Broadband Provider” crown and BT were named best “TV Provider of the Year.” Read on for the full list.
As usual the comparison site appears to have selected its winners via a combination of methods. Most of the awards were decided based on a survey of 17,256 UK consumers (conducted between 29th October and 9th November 202), while several other categories were chosen by a panel of judges from the fields of consumer affairs, personal finance and technology.
Sadly, smaller broadband ISPs were alas almost nowhere to be seen in the awards selection, which is why Virgin Media ended up being named as the fastest provider despite being unable to match the symmetrical Gigabit speeds of many alternative networks, or even the multi-gigabit speeds of Zzoomm and CommunityFibre. On the other hand, Virgin are certainly the fastest national or widely available provider (coverage is key), for now.
This is the second offering Dell Technologies has launched through its cloud console
Dell Technologies Cloud Platform (DTCP) is aiming to offers its customers the capacity to scale up or down their IT infrastructures with its newly-launched private cloud platform.
Released through the firm’s flagship Cloud Console, this private cloud service offers a scalable way for customers to build their cloud without deploying an additional layer of VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) software stack.
CF is a hybrid cloud platform built on a single architecture that serves as a foundational layer for managing virtual machines (VMs) and orchestrating containers. Dell’s launch, however, would allow customers to bypass the need to deploy this architecture and build their own on-prem private cloud, the company says.
This is the second product that Dell has launched as part of its Project Apex cloud pursuit. Project Apex is an initiative the company launched in October 2020 to consolidate its ‘as a service’ cloud offerings – with its Cloud Console hub sitting at the heart of this strategy.
The Cloud Console serves as a provisioning and management platform for cloud and ‘as a service’ products, with Dell hoping that customers can use it to deploy workloads, manage resources and keep eye on costs through a simple interface.
DTCP Private Cloud is packaged with the same features that come with Dell’s existing hybrid cloud offering, with the firm also introducing instance-based offerings for DTCP Hybrid Cloud late last year.
These can be ordered in a self-service manner in quantities of 25, 50, 100, 200 and 500, and can be deployed in customers’ data centres within two weeks and scaled up in roughly five days. They can be combined to run a larger quantity of instances of the same type, or customers can mix and match multiple workloads within the same product.
While the firm’s hybrid cloud service is available for $47 per instance per month, Dell is making its private cloud offering available for $14 per instance per month.
65% of surveyed employees feel no pressure to return to the workplace when restrictions are lifted
Microsoft research has revealed that almost 20% of UK employees don’t want to back into the workplace when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Over 4,000 UK office workers took part in Microsoft’s ‘Work Smarter to Live Better’ survey, conducted in partnership with professional body CIPD, and their responses suggest that hybrid working strategies are here to stay.
While the country is still under lockdown and many businesses have been forced into hybrid working strategies, 65% of respondents suggested their organisation had stepped up and supported their workforces. What’s more, the majority (63%) of respondents from businesses with more ‘formal’ remote working policies said they felt no pressure to return to the office, even if guidelines allowed it.
The research has come at a crucial juncture of the UK’s third lockdown as the government is set to announce plans to lift the restrictions in the coming weeks. It is expected that schools might be reopened in March, with businesses potentially allowed to bring people back into the workplace in April.
With social distancing measures set to stay in place, it is likely that businesses will continue to allow working from home or a mixture of in-office a remote working.
A number of tech firms have recently ‘tested’ hybrid models and some, including Microsoft itself, have suggested that prolonged remote working isn’t healthy or good for business. According to the company’s survey, however, many employees (56%) reported they were happier working from home. The improvements the shift has brought to home life seems to be the biggest reason, with 55% enjoying more time with family during lunch hours.
The trade-off, it seems, is that the workday seems to be longer, with one in three (30%) respondents working beyond their shift. Employees have also said they miss meeting their colleagues in person, with 65% saying it’s what they miss most about the office.
As the UK and the rest of the world moves towards a ‘new normal’, the use of hybrid working may evolve and a ‘remote-only’ strategy isn’t likely to be used as a long term strategy.
“This is not home-working in normal times – much of this experience has been enforced home working and many people have been dealing with a range of additional pressures and anxieties,” said Ben Willmott, head of public policy at CIPD.
“It is, therefore, crucial that line managers ensure people are not over-working and provide flexibility and support to anyone struggling with any aspect of working from home.”
As the UK’s largest public procurement organisation, we are committed to helping our customers across all parts of the public sector deliver maximum value for money for the taxpayer.
We use our national buying power and extensive depth and breadth of procurement expertise to develop market leading commercial solutions for the procurement of common goods and services that ensure value for customers of all sizes. These solutions help our customers focus more of their precious time and resources on delivering their key priorities.
We also know that for many of our customers across the public sector, maximising value means both saving money and securing social value. We are committed to ensuring that we can help them to achieve this at all stages of the procurement process.
Despite the UK’s exit from the European Union, Leeds and German city Dortmund are committing to strengthening relations with each other and have re-signed their memorandum of understanding to work on and share valuable insights around issues like climate change, economic development and health and wellbeing.
The two cities have been partners for 52 years and with the UK now out of the EU, the cities wanted to reaffirm their ongoing and successful partnership by pledging to continue to work together across social, educational, cultural and economic exchange and to increase the prosperity of the cities of Leeds and Dortmund, as well as their residents.
By committing to their continued relationship, the local authorities in both the UK and Germany can benefit from shared learning, advice and best practice from one another, particularly at a time of great change in the UK-European relationship.
The road to autonomous networks is chock full of AI, ML and closed-loop automation for service providers.
While closed-loop automation within service providers’ networks has been ongoing for years now, 5G, multi-cloud, and edge compute use cases require deeper visibility into networks and services. Closed-loop automation takes human error—and in some cases, jobs—out of the equation by eliminating manual tasks and processes while also proactively fixing network issues.
On Friday, Juniper announced its Paragon Automation platform, which it said is a modular portfolio of cloud-native applications that can enable closed-loop automation. Unlike some vendor’s automation solutions, Juniper said Paragon was build from the ground up for 5G and multi-cloud environments.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published a draft set of rules on the future use of digital identities.
It has opened up the UK digital identities and trust framework – set up as an alpha prototype for testing in public and private services – for consultation until 11 March, saying it is aimed at making it easier for people to verify their identities using technology.
The move has been accompanied by the Government Digital Service (GDS) publishing a collection of policy papers on using attributes within the trust framework.
The steps come as the government is winding down its support for the GOV.UK Verify identity assurance mechanism for public services, take-up of which has been generally disappointing despite the surge in sign-ups connected with the increased demand for universal credit support caused by the pandemic lockdown.
In the foreword to the framework, Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman says DCMS is not aiming to produce any solutions but that the framework provides rules on which others can do so.
A new YouGov survey of 4,328 British adults, which was commissioned by mobile operator O2, has found that 36% of Brits currently working from home (1,351 of the respondents) are regularly switching to mobile broadband (4G / 5G data) to stay online and 61% say it’s made the working experience better.
The aforementioned results are said to reflect those who are working from home and have “experienced issues with their broadband router,” which meant they ended up connecting to mobile data instead as a backup (an example of casual network resilience in modern domestic connectivity). Sadly, the survey doesn’t examine what kind of “issues” have caused this (e.g. slow ISP speeds, local network congestion, poor WiFi etc.) and thus it lacks some context.
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed today that councils across England will have access to £51.3 billion next year.
This represents a £2.3 billion increase on this year, including access to an extra £1 billion for social care to help support vulnerable adults and children.
The funding package gives councils the resources they need to continue to deliver services and support their communities during the pandemic, while protecting council taxpayers from excessive increases.
It will also enable councils to play a crucial role in the nation’s recovery in helping schools and local businesses to reopen safely and support the most vulnerable.
Final allocations for the £670 million fund to enable councils to continue reducing council tax bills for those least able to pay have also been confirmed, which will help households impacted financially by the pandemic.
This is above the usual council tax support available for councils each year.
Regulatory changes and open-source platforms are addressing long-standing concerns about costs and complexity
Vendor lock-in is a much-discussed concern when it comes to cloud. After operating on-prem for years, with the freedom to change just about any part of their environment, many companies are wary of handing everything over to a single supplier. But those fears might be overblown, especially in a world moving towards multi-cloud and open source.
In the ‘Multi-cloud: are we nearly there yet?’ panel at Computing’s Deskflix conference this week, panellists said that lock-in is an issue for many companies, but predicted that the situation would soon resolve itself.
Although the cloud is inherently flexible, switching providers can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. There are many considerations to take into account, like data egress charges and interoperability between providers’ cloud apps. However, Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK – an organisation dedicated to supporting open-source technologies in the UK – said, “Standards and interoperability are coming. Changing providers looks expensive to companies, but regulators are driving us down the route of having something that isn’t vendor-specific.”
Virgin Media makes investment in future workforce
Virgin Media is to hire 400 new graduates, interns, and apprentices in 2021 as it continues its network upgrade and expansion programme.
The announcement coincides with National Apprenticeship Week, with the company promising that successful applications will benefit from a structured development programme to build the skills and knowledge to support their career.
Virgin Media has hired 494 such recruits in the past two years and its 2021 intake is a 163% increase from 2020.
Oracle has expanded its hybrid cloud portfolio with a new offering called Oracle Roving Edge Infrastructure that allows organizations to run cloud workloads from anywhere.
The tech giant’s new offering brings core infrastructure services to the edge through ruggedized, portable and scalable server nodes called Roving Edge Devices (REDs). By using Oracle Roving Edge Infrastructure, organizations can run their cloud workloads from anywhere in the world including the back of a plane, a polar observatory or even an oil tanker in the mid-Atlantic.
The new service is part of Oracle’s hybrid cloud portfolio which provides customers with more flexibility and control over their cloud deployments to help cut costs.
There is apparently a trust problem around digital identities and no wonder, with talk of vaccine passports being required for previously unrestricted activities.
To address it the UK government today published its draft rules of engagement regarding the future use of digital identities. The big idea is to make it quicker and easier for people to verify themselves using modern technology. In other words create digital ID documents that are just as trusted as analogue ones such as passports and birth certificates.
On a lot if levels this is a great idea. We can already pay for things, store tickets and do banking on our phones, so why shouldn’t they be trusted for all other types of identification? If done properly a digital identity would be completely trusted and by the only form of ID you need. This is described as a ‘trust framework’ in the government policy paper.
“Establishing trust online is absolutely essential if we are to unleash the future potential of our digital economy,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman. “Today we are publishing draft rules of the road to guide organisations using new digital identity technology and we want industry, civil society groups and the public to make their voices heard. Our aim is to help people confidently verify themselves while safeguarding their privacy so we can build back better and fairer from the pandemic.”