Friday, 31 July 2009

UK's national ID card unveiled

Home Secretary Alan Johnson unveils the new national ID cardHome Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the new national identity card. Ministers plan to launch the £30 biometric ID card nationwide in 2011 or 2012 - but it will not be compulsory. As former-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had confirmed back in May, the card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester region from the end of this year. However, they will not be compulsory for pilots and airside workers at Manchester and London City airports, as it had been previously hoped that an 18 month ID card trial would take place at the airports.

Are you confused what information an ID card will hold? View this guide to find out. The ID cards themselves will look like this:

What the new ID cards will look like
Speaking at St Pancras Station in central London, Mr Johnson said the card would provide people with a 'safe and secure' way of proving their identity. He hopes that the card will help combat identity fraud, enable the holder to travel to Europe without their passports and remove the hassle of using bank statements or gas bills to show who you are, he said. Below is a news broadcast of Mr Johnson talking about the ID cards.

However, various politicians and groups have spoken out against the ID cards:

  • Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: “The scheme will cost hundreds of million pounds more, even if the cards are voluntary. It is time this scheme was completely scrapped. ”

  • Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of campaign group NO2ID said: “This so-called voluntary scheme means a lifetime of fees and penalties and once you are on the database you never get off.”

  • Chris Huhne of the Liberal Democrats said: "A designer piece of plastic is not going to combat identity fraud, crime or terrorism. This intrusive scheme should be scrapped immediately."

What do the people of Greater Manchester think about the ID cards? Below is a news broadcast featuring the views of local residents.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ofcom reveals that UK broadband rates are 'not up to speed'

Ofcom has today published the results of their research into fixed-line broadband speeds in the UK. Speed has become more significant as people increasingly use the internet for bandwidth-hungry applications such as downloading video and audio. The research involved over 60 million separate service performance tests being carried out in over 1600 homes between November 2008 and April 2009.

The research found that nearly 20% of UK broadband customers who have an 8Mbps connection receive less than 2Mbps on average. Similarly, less than 9% received more than 6Mbps. The report did show though that the average internet connection speed across the UK had increased from 3.6Mbps in January to 4.1Mbps. This news will interest Lord Carter and the government’s plans for “All British Homes to Have Broadband by 2012”, with the government wanting British households on at least 2Mbs speed broadband by 2012. Below you can listen to Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards talking about the report:

You can view the full report here. In summary the report found that:

  • The average broadband speed in the UK in April 2009 was 4.1 megabits per second (Mbit/s). This compares to an average 'up to' headline speed of 7.1 Mbit/s.
  • The actual speeds received varied widely. Fewer than one in ten (9 per cent) of the sample on 8Mbit/s headline packages received actual average speeds of over 6Mbit/s and around one in five (19 per cent) received, on average, less than 2Mbit/s.
  • Those living in urban areas received significantly faster speeds than those living in rural areas. The average speed delivered to urban consumers was 4.6Mbit/s, compared to an average of 3.3Mbit/s delivered to rural consumers.
  • Consumers with all ISPs experienced a slowdown in actual speeds during peak evening hours (8-10pm), with speeds in this period around 20 per cent slower than over a 24-hour period.

It's not just which provider you're with - or what deal you've signed up to - which can affect the speed of your connection. If you get your broadband via a phone line, then something as simple as how far you live from your local telephone exchange or a missing filter can affect the speed of your connection.

Ofcom have released the following video guide on how to improve your broadband speed:

Plum Communications provide a range of Broadband Internet Services, most popular are the ADSL services which have a different higher download speed to the upload speed. These start with standard ADSL (up to 2Mb), rate adaptive ADSL (up to 8Mb) and fast rate adaptive ADSL 2+ (up to 24Mb). Distance from the exchange, line quality, interference or a missing filter will reduce the speed available. A line check can be carried out for any proposed connection to determine the potential speed of the line.

The ADSL type of connection meets most needs as in general customers will download more than they upload, however some customers will have special requirements, for instance remote hosting of services and files, back up routines, camera access, gaming, streaming and in these cases a higher upload speed is required. This can be provided economically by bonding multiple ADSL circuits together.

Alternatively SDSL connections are available with higher upload speeds and where guaranteed bandwidth with Service Level Agreement is required we provide direct internet connections and leased lines. For advice on the most appropriate method of connection for your business contact Plum Communications on 0161 622 3500.

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Friday, 24 July 2009

0871, 0872 and 0873 Regulatory Change

From 1st August 2009 0871, 0872 and 0873 numbers will be reclassified by Ofcom as Premium Rate Services and will be subject to PhonepayPlus regulation. All 0871, 0872, 0873 and 09 numbers costing above 5ppm will be subject to PhonepayPlus’ Code of Practice.

How the code will apply to 087 services is set out in the Statement of Application to be found here:

The Code of Practice can be viewed here:

If you have any of these numbers and need guidance on how the changes will affect you or if you are considering ceasing a number and having an alternative prefix please contact your account manager at Plum Communications. Should you have any numbers with another provider you may wish to consider transferring them to Plum Communications.

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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Changes to our social networking websites

We have added some new links to our various social networking pages, in order to make things a bit easier for our customers. From our blog (Plum Blog) you can view the latest updates from our Twitter (@plumcomtwit) and Facebook pages, as well as viewing our LinkedIn profile. Additionally, you can view the latest blog entries and Twitter updates through the ‘Notes’ and ‘Twitter’ tabs on our Facebook page.

If you use any social networking sites already please feel free to visit our pages and follow us. If you currently don’t use any social networking sites, now could be the time to introduce yourselves to them.

Click on the images below to view the different pages:

Plum Communications Limited on FacebookPlum Communications Limited (@plumcomtwit) on Twitter

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Make calls to the Moon for free during July

Call UK landline numbers for less than 1p per minute with Plum CommunicationsTo celebrate the first Moon Landing on 21 July 1969 Plum Communications are offering all customers free calls to the Moon throughout July 2009. This offer applies to calls to Moon landlines only, not to mobile or ISDN lines. Roamed calls made from the Moon surface will be the same rate as calls in the UK throughout this period. We feel that this offer will benefit our customers who have business or leisure interests in this area.

Keeping with the theme we nominate our Top Three Ring Tones:
The Moon is Mine – Fairground Attraction
Fly Me to The Moon – Marvyn Gaye
Blue Moon - Mud

If you are not visiting the moon this year or have no one to call there, fear not as you can still benefit from low cost calls every day with Plum Communications. Dial to any UK landline at anytime for less than 1p per minute (plus VAT).

Watch the first moon landing here

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Plum Communications helps John Cox to save £300 on mobile phone bill

Plum Communications recently received the following email from one of our customers, John Cox of Its Property Services Ltd, who was thanking Plum for their “honest advice” regarding his mobile voice and data usage.


Thanks for the advice about Orange and data usage - spoke to them and £300 refunded and perhaps more £ on the way - really appreciate your honest advice and will be in touch when contract expires so I can check what is best to do.

John Cox
Its Property Services Ltd
Do you want to save money on your mobile voice and data bill too? Feel free to contact Plum for advice and a free bill analysis on 0161 622 3500 or email

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Monday, 13 July 2009

Bus services finalised for Oldham Loop Line closure

With the train lines in Oldham set to close at the start of October in preparation for the new trams, the GMPTE have finalised a special package of enhanced bus services, in order to cater for passengers who would normally be travelling to and from Oldham on these trains. The changes will provide a mixture of express and high frequency services that reflect the types of journeys currently made on the Loop Line. In addition, GMPTE has modified its subsidised services to support these changes to ensure that an appropriate level of service is provided. Transport bosses used the results of two surveys detailing the journeys that passengers are currently making to create the new timetables, which will be in place for 2 ½ years.

Commuters can look forward to up to 18 buses an hour between Oldham and Manchester and a doubling of the number of buses that will link Milnrow, Newhey and Shaw with Manchester, including a faster service at peak periods that will also serve Buckstones. A new link is also being provided to Rochdale railway station from Shaw, Newhey and Milnrow, as rail services will be running as normal between Manchester, Rochdale and Leeds. Normal bus fares will apply on all the services, including special value tickets.

Over the summer, public information events will be held, and leaflets and timetables will be widely available. Information will also be sent to local businesses and employers, as well as to community centres and libraries. For more information you can visit GMPTE or view the changes to the bus services below.

Changes to services:

Service 20 (renumbered X82) (Milnrow/Buckstones/Shaw/Manchester) will have some extra peak hour journeys added giving a semi-express journey into Manchester.

Service 24 (Rochdale/Royton/Chadderton/Manchester) will operate every 30 minutes (instead of every 15 as at present) to accommodate increased frequencies on other services.

Services 181 and 182 (Manchester/Chadderton/Shaw/Rochdale) will double in frequency to every 15 minutes and will operate every half hour via Rochdale Rail Station; the Bluebird service twice per hour will also continue.

Service 159 (Oldham/Chadderton/Woodhouses/Failsworth/New Moston/Middleton): hourly daytime service re-timed to improve links from Failsworth and New Moston with Moston Rail Station.

Service 419 (Ashton/Chadderton/Werneth/Mills Hill/Middleton): half-hourly daytime service re-timed to improve links from Werneth and Chadderton to Mills Hill Rail Station, where a number of passengers may choose to travel from once the line is closed.

Service 408 (Stalybridge/Oldham/Shaw/Buckstones): the hourly evening and Sunday service will be timed to co-ordinate as closely as possible with the main bus service at Shaw.

Also available: Services 58 and 59 (Rochdale/Rushcroft/Shaw/Oldham/Mills Hill Station/Middleton/Manchester) which operate every seven to eight minutes between Shaw and Middleton, and every 15 minutes on other sections of route.

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

New 111 non-emergency healthcare phone number

People could soon be able to call a single memorable number when they need medical help and advice. Ofcom has today published its proposals for a new single memorable phone number for the Department of Health, 111, to make it easier for patients to access non-emergency healthcare in their local area.

The Department of Health intends to introduce the service in England which will provide advice and information to the public when they need medical help urgently but the situation is not life-threatening. The price of calls will be determined by the Department of Health through negotiations with communications providers, and the consultation sets out a range of pricing option. These include making calls free to the caller, 10p per call, 3p per minute or charged at local or national rates.

999 and 112 will continue to be the numbers to call in an emergency. The Department of Health intends to pilot the number in certain parts of the country from spring 2010 and expects to roll out the service across England following these pilots. Health authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales may consider whether to introduce the 111 service following the outcome of the pilots in England.
To view more information regarding this proposal, please click here.

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Interest rates held at 0.5% for a 4th month

The Bank of England has announced that interest rates are to be kept at 0.5% for the time being, only the 4th month that the rate hasn’t changed since last September. This stall in changing the interest rates highlights how highly the Bank of England is prioritising its attempts to encourage banks to start lending again, therefore boosting credit and raising the ‘nominal spending’ (the cash value of spending) in the economy. The Bank of England has not injected any fresh money into the economy this month as part of its quantitative easing process, as it wants to allow itself to pause and assess economic data to measure how successful the quantitative easing is going.

Ilona Krohn, principal economic advisor at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, has supported the decision to hold interest rates: “The decision to hold interest rates was widely expected. The pros and cons of quantitative easing are still a major topic of debate among world economists. For the time being, it is important that the Bank of England maintains a transparent and consistent policy in order to restore confidence in the financial system and assist businesses with their forward planning."

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Ofcom publishes UK maps of 3G coverage for the first time

Ofcom has for the first time published UK maps of 3G coverage. 3G (or third generation) services allow people to connect to the web via a mobile network, either directly through a mobile phone or by plugging a USB modem (or 'dongle') into their PC or laptop. Millions have signed up for mobile broadband deals over the last few years, with over two million new connections between February 2008 and February 2009 alone. Ofcom hope that they can assist the Government on its proposals to make more hotspots available for mobile broadband, as well as the work to improve 3G coverage on key transport routes.

Ofcom’s findings have shown that some areas, particularly in rural areas, are still failing to get any coverage, or notspots (a play on words of hotspots). Ofcom also investigated mobile broadband speeds, which vary tremendously in different areas and at different times of day. To view the 3G map visit the Ofcom website here and a snapshot view of the map below:

3G mobile broadband coverage map

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Update on the changes to 0870 numbers as of 1st August 2009

Since we last posted a blog entry about Ofcom’s new regulation for 0870 numbers, we have received some more information regarding pricing and the various options available to 0870 number owners come 1st August 2009. We recently sent out an information sheet regarding the changes to our customers, below is an extract from that sheet, which can be viewed in full at


Following a review by Ofcom the charging method for 0870 numbers will change from 1st August 2009. From that date there will be a charge made on the person calling a 0870 number (Origination) and another charge raised on the person receiving the call (Termination).

Origination - The cost of calling 0870 numbers is likely to fall although this is not compulsorily on providers and at the time of writing very few carriers have published their rates. From 1st August 2009 Plum will charge 2p per minute for calls made to 0870 numbers from fixed landlines.

Termination - From 1st August 2009 Plum customers will be charged 2p per minute for incoming calls on their 0870 numbers.

NOTE - Plum will no longer refer to 0870 calls as National Rate and will not include 0870 calls in any bundled minutes or packages billed by Plum.

What options are available?

There are 4 options available:

1. Leave the 0870 number live and accept the new charges. The service will continue as normal and routing will not be affected. (This is the default option which will be taken if no other option is specified).

2. Cease the 0870 number. There will be no charge for ceasing a 0870 number. Callers will receive unobtainable tone or network message advising that the number is not in service. The number would be available for another subscriber to use if the number were ceased.

3. Play answer message on the 0870 number and advise caller of an alternative number to call. No charge for set up, calls would be charged at 2p per minute.

4. Play an introductory message at the start of each call advising that the number will change and then connect the call as per existing routing. No charge for set up, calls would be charged at 2p per minute.

In conjunction with any of the above it is possible to migrate to a new number prefix e.g 03, 0800, 0844, 0845 or 0871 or local prefix. No cost for set up. New number prefixes can be run in parallel to ensure business continuity.

Default Option:
In the absence of any instructions from you the number holder we will apply option 1 - Leave the 0870 number live and accept the new charges. The service will continue as normal and routing will not be affected. Charges will be applied to the customer's invoice.

Where the customer does not have an active account or an account is unpaid and we cannot establish contact with the account holder we will cease the 0870 number. Callers will receive unobtainable tone or network message advising that the number is not in service. The number would be available for another subscriber to use if the number were ceased.

The Plum Inbound Portal allows numbers to be managed and call routing changed. The Plum Inbound Portal costs £10 per month irrespective of the number of lines controlled by the portal. For more information you can view a factsheet at, call Plum on 0161 622 2500 or send an email to

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries regarding this new legislation OR would like to discuss the available options for your current 0870 number.

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Friday, 3 July 2009

Nominet’s Best Practice Challenge 2009 awards

The Best Practice Challenge 2009 awards took place last night at the Banqueting House, Westminster, London. The Best Practice Challenge is an annual competition, ran by Nominet (a partner of Plum Communications) that recognises those organisations, groups or individuals who have embraced the challenge of making the Internet a secure, open, accessible or diverse experience for all.

A well-known panel of judges, led by Rt Hon Alun Michael MP assessed the entries, looking for innovative initiatives that successfully addressed the key Internet Governance Forum (IGF) themes: security, access, diversity and openness. Amongst the winning organisations were charities, trade bodies and public sector departments.

This year’s winners showcased a variety of world-class projects from, a small organization that has created a free software tool to help the visually impaired get easy access to the Internet, to the British Library, which has developed an interactive online tour that is central to its exhibition about individual freedom in the UK. Plum Communications would like to congratulate all the winners on their success.

You can read more information about the winners and runners up in this winners brochure. Here is a list of the winners below:

Best Development Project: provides an online community for secondary schools that enables pupils and teachers from around the world to work on education projects.

Best Security Initiative: Business Crime Reduction Centre
Business Crime Reduction Centre has implemented a broad range of e-security initiatives and provides practical advice to small to medium enterprises.

Raising Industry Standards: Internet Service Providers' Association
Internet Service Providers' Association has raised the standards of the ISP industry by promoting competition, better self-regulation and tackling issues of concern to the public.

Personal Safety Online: Childnet International - KidSmart
Childnet International’s KIDSMART web site offers a wide range of interactive activities for young people to educate themselves about online safety issues.

Internet For All: develops free software tools to enable the visually impaired to benefit from computer technology.

Open Internet: British Library
British Library created an online interactive tour for people to enjoy a virtual experience of its 2009 exhibition 'Taking Liberties: The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights.'

Special Award: Get Safe Online
Get Safe Online campaigns to educate, inform and raise awareness of Internet security issues amongst consumers and businesses. The judges praised its good interagency relationship with the private sector.

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Plum Communications create pages on social networking websites

We are currently watching and testing out Facebook and other social networking sites carefully, as they would seem to offer a low cost form of marketing, an alternative method of communicating with current customers and networking, and significant potential for highly targeted advertising for SMEs. Consequently, you can now follow and communicate with Plum through various social network websites. Plum has created pages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in addition to the existing blog on Blogger. If you use any social networking sites already please feel free to visit our pages and follow us, and we will return the favour. If you currently don’t use any social networking sites, now could be the time to introduce yourselves to them.

Click on the images below to view the different pages:

Plum Communications Limited on FacebookPlum Communications Limited on Twitter

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Plum Communications staff give blood again

After what has seemed a very fast 18 weeks since they last gave blood in February, three staff members of Plum Communications gave blood again yesterday at Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham Town Centre on behalf of the National Blood Service. Suzanne Cain, Plum’s Customer Services manager, has been donating blood for 13 years, while Peter Savic (Managing Director) and Rhodri Lloyd (Marketing Manager) were making their 2nd donation. Thankfully everything went smoothly and all 3 are pleased to have made their donation for such a worthy cause. In at least 16 weeks time they will be able to make another donation. For those interested in giving blood themselves, you can find more information and book an appointment on the National Blood Service website.

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Mobile phones are now cheaper to use abroad

Following the announcement that the European Parliament had approved such legislation in April, it will now be cheaper, as of today, to use your mobile phone abroad. The cost of sending a text message from Europe back to Britain has been slashed from 28 euro cents down to 11 euro cents (approx. 10p) per text message, the first time that text charges have been capped. In addition, mobile phone operators will have to provide clearer information on the cost of surfing the internet and downloading data when abroad. Data roaming and call costs will also be going down. From next year mobile phone users will receive a reminder when they have spent 50 Euros - currently £45 – whilst using these services abroad. Mobile phone operators will now also have to charge for calls by the second after the first half minute, rather than by rounding up to the nearest minute. Below is a list of the new reduced charges:

  • Text message - 11 euro cents (10p)
  • Data downloads - 1 euro per megabyte
  • Voice calls - 43 cents per minute (outgoing); 19 cents (receiving)
NOTE - price caps do not include VAT

If you would like some advice on using your mobile phone abroad, whether it be for sending texts, making calls or downloading data abroad, do not hesitate to call Plum on 0161 6223500.

Ofcom have put a pdf guide and a video together highlighting some key issues you should consider when using your mobile abroad

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