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ITProPortal Weekend Roundup 20-05-12

Welcome to the third outing of our weekend column, which rounds up what the editors of ITProPortal believe are the choice news stories of the week - with our own take or analysis on these topics.

This week, it's the Mobile Phone Editor's chance to take over the roundup duties and with an obvious slant towards his area of expertise.

Over last weekend, news reached us that mobile roaming costs are to get cheaper. This will be primarily for those travelling outside of their home country and using their mobile phones or similar devices, within the EU.

This all came off the back of a European Union's mobile roaming regulation, that comes into effect, on the 1st of July. The price cap will be at 29 cents per minute to make a call; 8 cents per minute to receive a call; 9 cents to send a text message and 70 cents per Megabyte - with a reporting saving of "at least" €200 (£160) for a week's vacation, compared to what is now in operation.

The news itself is a boon for those travelling abroad and are worried about running up costs on their mobile phones; but no news came from the operators, until midweek.

Telefónica launched a European data tariff, which gives mobile phone owners 25MB of high-speed mobile data - for just 2 euros (£1.99). For the UK, the means that O2 customers will be the first to benefit from the cuts, across all 27 European Union states.

This figure is far below the price cap brought in by the governing body and couldn't come at a better time, as the holiday season is almost upon us and people are already looking toward their two-week vacation.

We expect to hear more from other UK mobile phone network operators soon, before the start of July. Now, the only question is: what to spend that extra, now saved, money upon?

In the UK, we think of 4G mobile phone network speeds as being fast; faster than what we currently have in place. These are believed to be close to Virgin Media to BT Infinity broadband speeds and nowhere near to what we can achieve on our mobile phones now, for surfing the web.

In America, thought to be the land of the 4G LTE super fast mobile network and with handset speeds close to that of BT and Virgin, a question was asked to the President of industry body 4G: what 4G actually means to them, in terms of hard numbers.

President Chris Pearson responded with: "At 4G Americas, our typical line is HSPA+ 21 and above."

This is far from what we expect 4G to be in the UK, where O2 defines 3.5G as HSPA+ and nothing else. It has even come to light, that some carriers in the US have branded HSPA 14.4 devices as 4G.

I doubt we would stand for that, seeing as we're ever hopeful that 4G will deliver better mobile surfing speeds on this island of ours and that it will even reach rural areas that fast home broadband can't, and deliver high-speed downloading.

"[Consumers] don't really care. All they want is a mobile broadband experience", added Pearson. We believe this has elements of truth to it, but it will undoubtedly lead to confusion over the definition. Let's just hope that all of this will be much clearer in the UK, when it comes time to adopt the standard.

Finally, an interesting gem came from this week from Google, who is changing its Android strategy and is planning on selling its Nexus phones directly to customers - rather than relying on retailers and network operators, such as Vodafone.

This wasn't the eyebrow raising news, but it was backed by another jewel of information: Google is looking to work with five separate manufacturers, to produce these ‘Nexus' devices.

In the past, Google has only chosen to work with one, at any one time; Samsung, for the last two Nexus handsets: the 2011 Galaxy Nexus and the late 2010, Nexus S. Prior to this, HTC, for the early 2010 Nexus One and as far back as 2008, for the Dream, or G1.

These devices are always the first to showcase the very latest version of Android, as they are released on the Nexus products first and before it is seen on any other phones.

With Google expanding its partners for Nexus mobile phones, there could be a lot more choice on offer in designs, and more importantly, various price brackets - to suit all wallets and purses. This is opposed to only top-tier phones that will initially arrive with the latest version of Android.

I hope that the next Google phone and tablet OS, ‘Jelly Bean' 5.0, will be that very platform to see this venture and the departure for the search engine giant.

Rob Kerr is a journalist with more than 14 years experience of news, reviews and feature writing on titles such as Wired, PC Magazine, The Register, The Inquirer, Pocket-Lint, Mobile Industry Review, Know Your Mobile and The Gadget Show. The mobile phone world is his real passion and forte, having owned a handset as far back as 1994 where he has seen them grow from just a business tool to a necessity in everyone’s everyday life.