Digital News Bytes February 2022
“Levelling up” – UK push for 5G/4G cell site access versus scaled-back gigabit broadband target? – Under its scheme to “level up” the UK, the DCMS plans to ease access to a range of smaller cell sites in England and Scotland, such as street lights, traffic lights and bus shelters, by exploring the use of digital asset management systems – simplifying bureaucratic time-consuming local authority procedures for access to publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure. If implemented, this would be a long-awaited boost for mobile coverage, particularly 5G rollout where such small sites are key, as well as improving 4G coverage. It would no doubt also help in meeting the Government’s gigabit broadband commitments across the UK – which it has been accused of watering down in the recent Levelling Up White Paper published earlier this month, scaling back from a November 2025 commitment of 85% coverage by 2025 to the “majority of the population”. The Government’s targets for the rollout of next generation networks are rightly ambitious, but clear transparent commitments are needed to ensure funding is allocated and available to deliver nationwide fast and reliable connectivity.
Spanish Government to target video games’ loot boxes as “gambling” – The Spanish Government is continuing its recent policy focus on gaming and gambling, and is now studying a draft bill that would consider loot boxes in video games a type of gambling activity – thereby, potentially restricting the gaming industry’s use of this successful monetisation strategy in games for children and teenagers. Although controversial, this approach is consistent with policy initiatives being undertaken by other countries around the world keen to tackle the measures to control the growing issue of gaming addiction and its impact on the mental health of children and teenagers in particular. Gaming developers targeting young users in Spain will therefore need to take steps to minimize the risk of compulsive behaviour and create strategies for responsible gaming in response to the ongoing increase in regulatory scrutiny.
IBM quantum computing focus on next gen battery management – Much has been said about how next generation technology quantum computing could change the world, and IBM is at the forefront of the drive to create and grow the quantum ecosystem – continuing with its programme of global collaborations to explore the many potential opportunities of the quantum industry for business and science applications. Following most recent tie-ups with the US, Germany, Japan and Korea, the IBM latest partnership venture is with Quebec in Canada, with a particular focus on battery management as industry innovations drive the next generation of batteries. Quantum batteries are expected to significantly improve energy capture and storage in renewable energy, as well as have other applications in quantum computers and miniature electronic devices, with the capability to harvest and store light energy simultaneously. But the quantum ecosystem and workforce will need to continue to grow at the same pace as innovation to ensure that quantum computing can indeed help solve classically unsolvable problems, enabling businesses to gain a competitive advantage.
“Levelling up” – UK push for 5G/4G cell site access versus scaled-back gigabit broadband target? – The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced a new £4million Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) scheme. This scheme forms part of the government’s wider “Levelling Up” agenda, and will fund a pilot project aimed at reducing the administrative “red tape” of local authorities for access to small publicly owned cell sites where telecom operators want to install 4G/5G equipment. Eight projects across England and Scotland will receive funding support to create digital asset management software systems, which will simplify the actions local authorities need to take when telecoms operators ask for access to publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure, such as traffic light, street lights and bus shelters. It can be difficult and time- consuming to acquire the information needed to verify if a structure is suitable for hosting network equipment – such as, its location, physical dimensions, proximity to the street or access to a power source – which is slowing down the pace of deployment, particularly 5G rollout where small sites are key.
The government hopes that investing in piloting the latest technology innovations in digital asset management platforms will enable local councils to more easily share data mobile companies need to accelerate their roll out plans. If successful, the pilot technology could then be rolled out to local authorities across the UK.
Whilst any potential boost to mobile coverage is welcome news as part of the government’s mission to level up access to fast and reliable connectivity, the government’s recent White Paper on Levelling Up seems to suggest a scaling back on levelling up in the context of nationwide gigabit broadband.
The White Paper refers to the Government plan for the UK to have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, alongside 5G coverage, for the “majority of the population” – however, back in November 2020, the Government pledged gigabit-capable broadband coverage of a “minimum of 85 per cent coverage” of the UK by 2025.
A transparent joined up strategy for UK-wide next generation mobile and fixed broadband networks is clearly needed to ensure that the government can meet its ambitious targets.
Spanish Government to target video games’ loot boxes as “gambling” – The Spanish Government is continuing its recent policy focus on gaming, and is now studying a draft bill that would consider video games loot boxes a type of gambling activity. Such regulation might limit the possibility of using this successful monetisation strategy on games for children and teenagers. This follows on closely from the Spanish Government proposed Safe Gambling Royal Decree, which, once enacted, will impose a duty of transparency and measures to avoid addiction to gambling.
In following this path, Spain would join other countries, such as Japan, Belgium, and Germany, which are imposing restrictions on this microtransaction mechanism. In addition to Spain, loot boxes are also under scrutiny in the US and the UK. Loot boxes, a relevant part of video games’ monetization strategies, consist of boxes or chests that a player may get by playing the game or buying them through microtransactions. After opening the digital box, the gamer would access tools or characters to improve the gaming experience. A recent Juniper Research report predicts that loot boxes revenue will reach U$ 20 billion in 2025.
The Spanish Government plans to limit their use in 2022 by considering loot boxes a gambling act under the Law of Gambling – Law 13/2011 and other regulatory strategies. The Spanish Ministry of Consumption, as other countries’ regulators, compares loot boxes to gambling because its content is unknown to the gamers until they buy it. Since many of these games target children, there is a growing concern that this monetisation strategy might incentivise addictive behaviour in young players.
In their defence, the gaming industry, fearing unfair competition from jurisdictions with more lenient regulation, claims that parents already have many instruments to avoid unwanted behaviours, such as parental control and information regarding the presence of ads and in-game purchases.
Nevertheless, gaming developers must remain aware of the need for transparency and due diligence on establishing monetisation strategies such as loot boxes and other in-game purchases. Design teams of games aiming at young users should now take steps to minimize the risk of compulsive behaviour and create strategies for responsible gaming in response to the ongoing increase in regulatory scrutiny.
IBM quantum computing focus on next gen battery management – IBM has been making headlines in quantum computing innovation for several years, particularly so most recently by entering into numerous collaborations around the world to grow the quantum ecosystem and workforce. Its latest collaboration is with the Government of Quebec in Canada, with a particular focus on battery management, a notoriously slow area for innovation.
Nations are in a race to develop quantum technology, which could fuel advances in artificial intelligence, materials and science. Quantum computers could operate millions of times faster than today’s advanced supercomputers. In brief, the technology is based on quantum bits, or qubits, that can be ‘superposed’ on each other, exponentially increasing the amount of information that can be processed. In particular, quantum batteries are expected to significantly improve energy capture and storage in renewable energy, as well as have other applications in quantum computers and miniature electronic devices, with the capability to harvest and store light energy simultaneously.
However, as IBM are only too aware, the quantum ecosystem and workforce needs to continue to grow at the same pace as innovation to ensure that quantum computing can indeed help solve classically unsolvable problems that businesses face.