Virgin Media customers left waiting longest on phone

Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile customers face the longest wait to speak to customer service operators by phone, the regulator Ofcom has found.

Virgin Media customers waited seven minutes and 40 seconds on average, while Virgin Mobile took six minutes and 44 seconds to answer calls in 2020.

EE had the shortest average wait time with one minute and 15 seconds, followed by TalkTalk.

Virgin Media said customer service was a “top priority”.

Overall, 52% of all UK broadband customers were happy with how their complaints were dealt with.

That compared with 57% of mobile users.

Virgin Media said it had been forced to change the set-up of its contact centres during the pandemic.

“We’re proud of how we rose to this challenge,” it said.

“However, we recognise there’s room for improvement, which is why we have already increased our investments in digital and customer service, including creating more than 1,000 customer care roles in the UK last year, and will be making further improvements later this year.”

Better deals
It is Ofcom’s fifth annual report exploring how well the major providers support customers and provide information about what they offer.

The regulator said while many companies were now offering better deals, customer service was still facing issues.

Other findings included:

Broadband and landline customers waited four minutes and nine seconds on average to speak to someone in 2020
Mobile customers waited two minutes and seven seconds
26% of broadband customers had “a reason to complain” about their provider or service
Only 3% of mobile customers were unhappy with their service
Most people were only without services for a maximum of two days due to faults
Soaring demand
Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s network and communications group director, said on the whole broadband and mobile companies had “adapted well” to soaring demand for connectivity during the pandemic.

“Some have struggled with customer service problems,” she added.

“We’re challenging them to act now, so the telecoms industry becomes the gold standard for customer service.”

Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which? said it was important for the sector to uphold the commitments they had made in 2019.

“In a time where being connected is more important than ever, providers need to take their commitments seriously and do more to meet consumers’ expectations – particularly on customer service, pricing and ease of changing contracts,” she said.


IBM 2nm chip breakthrough claims more power with less energy

IBM says it has made a significant breakthrough in computer processors by creating a 2nm chip in its test lab.

The process used to make computer chips is measured in nanometres (nm) – with a lower number usually signifying a leap forward.

IBM claims its test chip can improve performance by 45% over current 7nm commercially available products.

It is also more energy efficient – using 75% less energy to match current performance, IBM said.

It claims the tech could “quadruple” mobile phone battery life, and phones might only need to be charged every four days.

The computer chip industry used to use nanometres – one billionth of a metre – to measure the physical size of transistors. Today, a lower “nm” number is widely seen as a marketing term to describe new generations of the technology, leading to better performance and lower power.

IBM says its 2nm process can cram 50 billion transistors into “a chip the size of a fingernail” – up from 30 billion when it announced its 5nm breakthrough in 2017.

The end result should be another performance bump for computers in the coming years.

‘A breakthrough’
Current high-end desktop chips based on the 7nm process, such as AMD’s Ryzen processors, did not become widely available until 2019 – four years after IBM announced it had cracked the 7nm process.

But mainstream commercial chip-makers such as Intel and TSMC – which makes AMD processors – have already said they plan to build ultra-low nm chip plants in the next several years.

“This can be considered as a breakthrough,” said Peter Rudden, research director at market intelligence firm IDC.

“We have seen semiconductor manufacturers moving from 14nm to 10nm to 7nm, with 7nm being a real challenge for some,” he explained.

He said IBM’s new process could be used for AI uses that today need a second piece of tech – such as a powerful graphics card- to handle some tasks. The increased power efficiency could be useful in personal devices, while increased performance would benefit huge datacentres, he added.

“This also sends a message to the IT industry that IBM continues to be a hardware research powerhouse.”

Chip wars
IBM said the test chip for its 2nm process was built at its Albany research lab in the United States.

The news comes amid an international shortage of computer chips and a bid to shake up chip manufacturing to rely less on major foundries in China and Taiwan.

Car manufacturers have been forced to suspend production due to the lack of computer parts; smartphone makers have warned product releases could be affected; and high-end computer components such as graphics cards are difficult to find and selling for high prices.

Why iPhone 12 marks dawn of a new chip technology
How will ‘chipageddon’ affect you?
On Thursday, Nintendo joined the chorus of concerned companies, saying the chip shortage was affecting production of its hugely popular Nintendo Switch console.

The worldwide shortage led US President Joe Biden to convene a special industry summit on the shortage. In the UK, the government has intervened in the acquisition of chip designer Arm by tech giant Nvidia.

And Intel’s chief executive has announced a $20bn (£14.6bn) investment in two new plants in the US, telling the BBC that having 80% of the world chip supply in Asia is not a good idea.


Trump launches new ‘communications’ platform

Donald Trump has launched a new “communications” website, which says it will publish content “straight from the desk” of the former US president.

Mr Trump was banned by Twitter and suspended by Facebook and YouTube after the Capitol riots in January.

The former president has since been releasing statements by press release – which the new website will now host.

Users will be able to like posts – and also share them on Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“It is a blog,” Kara Swisher, technology columnist for the New York Times told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I was like ‘2002 is calling and it wants its blog back…’

“I don’t know what the overall plan is because he does have some very sharp digital advisers. It is just the beginning of his attempts to try to re-establish a louder ability to participate in digital media.”

Mr Trump’s senior adviser, Jason Miller, had previously said a new social media platform was to be launched. “This new platform is going to be big,” he said in March.

But Mr Miller tweeted on Tuesday that the new website was not the social media platform he had previously hyped.

“We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future,” he said.

The website is reportedly built by Campaign Nucleus, a digital services company created by Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Several posts on the site repeat debunked claims that last year’s presidential election was rigged.

The new site arrived just before a decision from Facebook’s Oversight Board on whether Facebook was right to ban Mr Trump.

The panel upheld the ban – but said Facebook must review whether it should be permanent, and apply consistent rules to all users. That could leave the door open to Mr Trump’s return to Facebook and Instagram in the future.

The former president used his new site to label Facebook – along with Twitter and Google – “a total disgrace”.

“Free speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the radical left lunatics are afraid of the truth,” he said.

“The people of our country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our electoral process.”

YouTube has said they will reactivate Mr Trump’s account when the threat of “real-world violence” reduces.

Twitter, where Mr Trump had 88 million followers, has banned him permanently.

A Twitter spokesperson told the BBC: “Generally, sharing content from the website referenced is permitted as long as the material does not otherwise violate the Twitter Rules”.