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Your all-singing, all-dancing mobile

13 September 2012

The ubiquitous mobile phone gets much more powerful in terms of Internet connectivity, while experts believe it has a future role to play as a security and authentication device.

Mobile communications hit the headlines this week with the announcement (on Tuesday, September 11) of the first trial roll-out of 4G services by Everything Everywhere, a partnership of Orange and T-Mobile.

The 4G service has been a long time coming and has been beset by complex legal disputes involving other mobile service providers who claim Everything Everywhere has been given an unfair advantage. However, the concession was apparently granted because Everything Everywhere happened to have spare wireless spectrum; all providers will have the opportunity to bid for 4G spectrum next year, when Ofcom is at last able to auction it off.

Notwithstanding these legal wrangles, Everything Everywhere duly launched its new brand, 'EE', in London on Tuesday. EE is now the new name of the Everything Everywhere business and its network, and it currently offers the UK’s only 4G mobile service, which will sit alongside Orange and T-Mobile 2G and 3G mobile services.

EE CEO, Olaf Swantee says his company’s 4G services (which are claimed to offer Internet speeds typically five times faster than 3G) will become available for consumers and businesses over the coming weeks. However, four cities – London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham – were switched on at launch to enable engineers to begin live testing and systems integration, in readiness for the broader customer launch.

EE claims its 4G network will cover a third of the UK population in 2012 – over 20 million people – and customers of the EE brand will also have access to what the company claims is the largest 3G network in the UK outside of the 4G cities. Further towns, cities and rural areas are to follow, with the 2013 population coverage expected to reach 70%, with 98% covered by 2014.

The 2012 4G launch schedule will embrace 16 cities (London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton) by Christmas. In terms of hardware, the network is offering a range of devices, including the Samsung Galaxy SIII,  the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820, the HTC One X and the Huawei Ascend P1 LTE. In addition, EE will offer the Huawei E589 Mobile WiFi and E392 Mobile Broadband stick.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Consultants has offered a vision of the future of the smartphone, which Jon Edgcombe, leader of the company's application software technologies group believes has considerably more than simply communications and Internet connectivity to offer. He thinks we have barely scratched the surface of what smartphones, near field communication, and secure element technology can do for secure services.

Mobile wallets and ticketing are just the jumping-off point, he says, the short and long-range wireless capabilities of smartphones being ripe for exploitation in terms of secure applications; identity verification using face or voice biometrics, is just one example.

“We’re just at the point where the full potential of the technology for smartphones to be a central point in secure services is starting to be fulfilled," says Mr Edgcombe. "Although there are some technical challenges to overcome to get to this point, we firmly believe that smartphones will transform how consumers interact with a range of day-to-day secure items – not just your bank card and wallet but also your house and car keys, your travel tickets, loyalty schemes, healthcare devices, even corporate access and beyond.”

Mr Edgcombe concedes that the key limiting factor is access to the secure store of information on the device, and who controls this – the smartphone designer, the mobile network operator, a third-party ‘trusted service manager’ or the end user. This last approach – where the end user controls the secure element – is gaining support in some application areas, according to Cambridge Consultants.

The opportunity for secure data collection, processing and communication also opens up possibilities for authentication and track and trace to secure supply chains against counterfeit or diverted products and other illegal activities, says Mr Edgcombe. Indeed, later this month, Cambridge Consultants will be discussing the potential for smartphones to tackle fraud, counterfeiting and diversion of goods in seminars at two forthcoming events.

The first will be at the Middle East and African High Security Printing Conference (September 24-26, Dubai) and the second at the Global Forum on Pharmaceutical Anti-Counterfeiting and Diversion, (November 27-29, Washington DC). Both events are being organised by Reconnaissance International.

Les Hunt
Editor




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