November 9, 2007 7:41 AM PST

O2: British businesses may block iPhone usage

The director in charge of the iPhone for O2 has warned that employers may not let their workers use Apple's hotly anticipated handset as a business device.

Speaking to ZDNet UK ahead of Friday's U.K. launch of the iPhone, Steve Alder said workers looking to use an iPhone within a corporate environment might come up against resistance from their internal procurement teams because the device is available only with a consumer service contract.

O2 has what Alder described as a "multiyear" exclusivity deal with Apple for U.K. users, though the operator refuses to divulge the exact length of the deal or the percentage of revenue going to Apple.

"We do want to keep it clear that this is a consumer launch on a consumer tariff," Alder said. "Our advice is: if you're in business, it's probably best to check the policy within your company because it may not be possible to transfer your number from your business contract to the iPhone."

However, Alder said that if a business customer requested it, O2 would transfer the number. "There are people in business attracted by the iPhone," he added.

Asked for his opinion on the announcement that Google and dozens of other companies would be working toward a rival cellular platform, the Linux-based Android, Alder said he would welcome any initiative to improve customers' mobile Web-surfing experience. "If Google can do for mobiles what it has done for the Internet, that has to be a good thing," he said.

The iPhone has been criticized for the fact that it runs on a mobile-data technology called EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Environment), rather than on the faster 3G standard. Alder claimed on Friday that the vast majority of O2's customers were still using GPRS--General Packet Radio Service, a slower alternative to 3G--and that "3G offers lots of benefits for the future, but not the mass market at the moment."

O2, like all the other U.K. operators, has spent billions of dollars on its 3G network over the last half a decade.

O2's EDGE network will cover only 30 percent to 40 percent of the U.K. population by the end of this year, so when the iPhone is used in other areas, coverage will fall back to GPRS.

An alternative for users is Wi-Fi: O2 has a deal with hot-spot aggregator The Cloud for connectivity. Alder claimed that Wi-Fi coverage is now ubiquitous enough to provide connectivity to users unable to get a satisfactory experience on the cellular network.

"We want to be very open with people. If they ring up our customer service team, they can inquire, for their local area, what the EDGE coverage is," Alder said. "But 30 percent of homes have Wi-Fi. Work has Wi-Fi. Two out of three so-called Internet experiences are going to be over Wi-Fi because people know where those hot spots are."

Alder added that he is happy with Apple's decision to lock phones onto one network in each country. Apple issues regular firmware updates to the handsets to gradually roll out new functionality and patch previous attempts to decouple the handset from its designated network.

The first iPhones in the United Kingdom will carry version 1.12 of the device's firmware, which will nullify the so-called "jailbreak" method that has been used by individuals wanting to use U.S. iPhones outside of the States.

"Apple is clearly on top of those issues," Alder said. "But we would ask: why do people want to unlock their iPhones? We are offering a very good package with unlimited data and visual voice mail. If you choose to unlock it, you are not going to get those benefits."

Although the iPhone is targeted at consumers, it is expected that many of the devices will find their way into businesses, as workers bring their personal handsets to work. The security implications of this are yet to be felt, though some have claimed that Google's plans for Android may provide greater security.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
O2 Plc., EDGE, GPRS, Apple iPhone, handset

9 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Same headline, different country.
British businesses, like their American cousins, may well decide
to block use of the iPhone within their company. But these
policies will probably last about as long as they did in the US.

In other words, as soon as one high ranking executive in the
company brings in his iPhone and tells IT to set it up, the
floodgates will be open.

In our case, we "decided" to support the iPhone two days after
its introduction - when our President walked in with one.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which just goes to show...
that IT drones in general have a bias against anything Apple.
They were assimilated into the Borg collective years ago.
Remember the IT big shot at the hotshot university who
immediately blamed the iPhone for bringing down the campus
wireless network? Remember how he had to run and hide a
couple of days later when it was discovered it was a
configuration problem in his wireless network and not the
iPhone? Oooops.

Controlling or limiting technology may be a noble goal for a
corporation but, just as with DRM on music files, it's a futile goal
nonetheless.
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Link Flag
Misleading headline!
This is about a service contract issue. "Block" is not the right word. A better headline would have been: "Businesses may be reluctant to enter into service contracts for iPhone"
Posted by proadventurer (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Steve Adler
Steve Adler is an idiot. This pretty much sums it up.
Posted by sapporobaby (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No way!!
Steve Adler an idiot?!

I hear he's AMAZING!!!
Posted by Ronald66796 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Once again arrogance comes to the forefront
Adler, "I can't imagine why anyone would want to unlock their iPhone." I am probably hoping against hope that Adler is just naive and uninformed, not arrogant. Why are there over 1/4 million unlocked iPhone users is a much better question. Taking what could be an excellent device and concept and slaving it to a mediocre network and experience and calling it grand is, at best, delusional. I will bet that in 3 months time there will another 1/4 million unlocked phones running through the EU. What of France's law requiring that no device can be locked in their fair country? How long before the EU homologates standards and no phone can be locked? On 29.10.2007, the US state of California ruled against a prime US carrier, Sprint/Nextel, that locking phones is prohibitive in their state and carriers will have to supply device portability along with number portability. (Exclusive technologies notwithstanding.) At best Adler and O2's position is laughable. I can't wait for reality to set in. Reality does seem to have a way of curing ignorance and killing stupidity.
Posted by Grumpyz77 (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good point
Nice Grumpyz. Right on the money. I currently live in Finland
where it is illegal to have a phone with a subscription based
contract an NO 3G. I wonder how Apple will get around this. I
think they are being greedy now and some people are stupid
enough to pay in 2007 for 2003 technology. Remove the iPhone
UI and you have a very old phone.

Mix that with the pathetic comments Adler, and you have a sad
sack of crap.
Posted by sapporobaby (60 comments )
Link Flag
Locked iPhones are Good for Users!
Until the iPhone, mobile service providers FULLY controlled the service
experience and the handset features and options that were made
available to users. The service providers actually mandated that certain
handset features had to be DISABLED or REMOVED from handsets, before
the provider would consider selling that specific handset on its network.

Users NEVER had full control, nor availability, of all of the features that a
handset was capable of bringing to the market, because the service
providers prohibited handset features that competed with the service
providers' network offerings.

Apple was able to convince a service provider (AT&T) to sell the iPhone
with ALL of Apple's handset features and options, on the condItion that
the service provider (AT&T) be given exclusive, contractually binding
iPhones, locked to the provider's (AT&T) network.

THIS is what enabled Apple to make an end-run around the U.S. market
oligarchy of Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T. The lure of high-data
revenue from the locked iPhone is what convinced AT&T to break from
the oligarchy and bring the iPhone with full web access to its network.

Remember, AT&T does NOT receive any revenue when the iPhone is used
on a home router to access the internet. In this case, the user is accessing
the web, and making phone calls, without any charge. Previously, almost
all other handsets required the user to access the provider's mobile
network to access the web. And, even then, the web access was to what is
called the "mobile web," which is not the TRUE web that is now available
with the iPhone.

The LOCKED iPhone actually FREEs the user to have more access to
information than than before. After all, previous to the iPhone, a user
could only change the network provider. The user could NOT get more
features nor service options, because the service providers would NOT
permit the features to be available on the handsets that the provider
authorized to be sold for use its network.
Posted by Oh Blah Dee Blah Dah (8 comments )
Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.