What are the implications of Apple’s successful patent litigation for Android?

Finally the mobile telephony wrangle over the iPhone/Smartphone patent has been resolved in favour of Apple. Naturally Samsung intends to contest the jury’s verdict, and will launch an appeal immediately. Google’s take on the legal issue, however, is interesting.  Google has said that it does not want the ruling in the Apple-Samsung patent lawsuit to be a catalyst which will “limit” consumers’ access to Android devices in the future. Google’s comments come after a US jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple over $1billion (£664m) last Friday after ruling it had infringed several of the iPhone maker’s software and design innovations.

There has been wide speculation that the news which wasn’t altogether unexpected might encourage handset makers to install the rival Windows Phone system. However, Google is confident that this will not be the case. In a statement issued last Friday the search giant stated:

“The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office. The mobile industry is moving fast and all players – including newcomers – are building upon ideas that have been around for decades. We continue to work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don’t want anything to limit that.”

Apple has indicated that it will seek sales bans on eight of the phones at the heart of the lawsuit at a hearing on 20 September: the models include the Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S2 AT&T model, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S2 T-Mobile model, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G, Galaxy S Showcase, Droid Charge and Galaxy Prevail. However, the list will not include Samsung’s current flagship handset, the Galaxy S3, which was not involved in the original case. Never the less industry experts believe that Apple is intent on turning the screw following the success of the patent litigation, and may now also try to use the verdict to halt sales of other Android-based models it believes infringe its patents. Apple continues to be involved in lawsuits against two other Android-handset makers: Motorola – which is owned by Google – and HTC.

The same experts believe that this could work to rival Microsoft’s advantage. In the patents court case Apple revealed it had licensed some of its technologies to Microsoft. Its lawyers also showed pictures of Nokia’s Lumia – which runs Windows Phone 7 – as an example of a handset that looked distinctive from its own.

One analyst said that the US ruling presented Microsoft with an opportunity to convince others to put their weight behind the next version of its mobile system. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the tech consultancy Enderle Group, told the BBC:

“I think this will force a reset on Android products as they are re-engineered to get around Apple’s patents. [It should also] provide a stronger opportunity for both of Microsoft’s new platforms – Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – because they come with indemnification against Apple, suddenly making them far safer.”

Dell, HTC, Samsung, LG and ZTE have already created Windows Phone 7 devices, but only Nokia has concentrated its efforts on the system. It is believed other manufacturers will weigh up the strength of Android’s popularity before making a move.

According to data released by analysts at IDC, Android accounted for 68.1 percent of the global smartphone market between April and June: Apple’s iOS accounted for 16.9 percent and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile 5.4 percent. The data was based on shipments rather than sales.

It is believed that if Apple’s patents are upheld in any Samsung appeal, Google might be forced to recode Android to ensure there was no potential infringement: alternatively handset makers could seek to pay their rival a licence fee. The other alternative is that Apple could ultimately seek a patent cross-licensing deal with Google despite its late chief executive Steve Jobs’ vow to “destroy Android”. This latent hostility dates back to when Google filed its first lawsuit against Apple after taking over Motorola. It alleged seven patent infringements, one of which involves the technology used in the iPhone’s Siri voice-activated search tool. Were Google to succeed it could call for an import ban on Apple’s iOS products, potentially forcing its rival into a deal.

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Ofcom gives Orange the green light to launch an early 4G service on its existing bandwidth

Is Ofcom’s decision to give the Everything Everywhere network the go-ahead to launch its 4G service on its existing spectrum good news for businesses and consumers, or bad news for its fellow network competitors? Well, depending on who you speak to, the answer seems to be both. Ofcom and Everything Everywhere believe that the launch of the new service on 11 September, 2012, is generally good news for the country, and especially good news for business: Vodaphone and O2 are less enthusiastic and believe that the deal is not only unfair on the rest of the competition but will exclude the majority of mobile phone from the latest digital services.

The decision by the Telecoms regulator means that from 11 September Everything Everywhere, the owner of the Orange and T-Mobile networks, will be allowed to use its existing bandwidth to launch fourth-generation (4G) mobile services. The unexpected decision means that 4G, which allows much faster downloads, will launch in the UK earlier than previously planned. Ofcom claims the move will deliver “significant benefits” to consumers, ad that these benefits will outweigh any competition concerns. Rival service providers O2 and Vodaphone have expressed both surprise at the speed of the decision and disappointment at the lack of consultation. It is believed that other providers will only be able to compete when Ofcom starts to auction off 4the fourth generation bandwidth at some point next year.

Next year’s bandwidth auction will offer the equivalent of three-quarters of the mobile spectrum currently in use – some 80 percent more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000. Ofcom wants to see at least four wholesalers of 4G mobile services, so that consumers will benefit from better services at lower prices. The auction will sell chunks of radio spectrum to support 4G, which will allow users to download data such as music and videos at much faster speeds.

Although the regulator maintains that the timing of the decision is a commercial matter for Everything Everywhere, it argues that any delay to the decision would only have a detrimental effect on consumers. The company claims the decision is “great news for the UK”. A spokesperson for the company told the BBC:

“4G will drive investment, employment and innovation and we look forward to making it available later this year, delivering superfast mobile broadband to the UK.”

Vodaphone and O2 naturally think otherwise. The former is shocked, whilst the latter is said to be bitterly disappointed with the decision. Speaking to a BBC correspondent, a spokesperson for O2 claimed:
“We are hugely disappointed with today’s announcement, which will mean the majority of customers will be excluded from the first wave of digital service.”

Vodafone was even more forthright in its criticism of Ofcom:

“The regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market.”

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Texting is now officially more popular than mobile or landline calling claims Ofcom

There has been a suggestion for some time that texting was the most popular means of communication for people and businesses, but that feeling has until recently been based purely on anecdotal evidence. However, Ofcom, the UK telecom regulator, has now officially confirmed that this popular hunch is in fact correct. People and businesses do prefer to text rather than call. It’s no surprise that texting is far more popular than calling from a landline, but what might come as something of a shock is that it is also far more popular than mobile calling too. Ofcom noted that the texting trend shows no signs of slowing down, and that mobile calls have fallen by 1 percent over the last 6 months whilst landline calls have dropped by as much as ten percent.

Ofcom claims the change is due mainly to the growth in the ownership of smartphones. The preference for texting is unsurprisingly most obvious amongst the 16 to 24 year age group, but there is also evidence that businesses are increasingly turning to texting because it is viewed as more responsive and convenient. However, the sting in the tail for many people is that they often have to pay a higher price for this convenience, as their texting allowance is bundled in with their call and download allowances. Ofcom has therefore stressed that it is important for smartphone users to ensure they are on the right contract.

Ofcom claimed earlier this year that it believes mobile phone users could be wasting as much as £5 billion needlessly every year, simply because they are on the wrong tariff. The reason for such unnecessary wastage is laid firmly at the door of the complexity of mobile contracts: according to the regulator there are too many operators and too many contract types, meaning there are hundreds of thousands of different deals on offer, many of which are inappropriate for the user’s needs. Moreover the Bill Monitor group claims that it is far easier to be on the wrong mobile contract than it is to be on the right one.

So, how can Think7 help you and your business get greater value for money from your mobile contract?

Billmonitor.com has created an online application which lets users analyse their mobile habits and preferences and determine whether they are getting value for money from the services they subscribe to. It will then analyse all the contract deals in the market to match the user to exactly the right contract so they paid no more than they need to. Billmonitor.com claims that if the right contract is found, then the UK average monthly bill would drop from £36.59 to £24.26: for the 76 percent of people they it claims are currently on the wrong contract, this would equate to a saving of at least £194.71 per person per year on average. Imagine then how much it could potentially save businesses?

Think 7 always like to stay one step ahead of the communications game. We recognise good ideas and follow best practice. That’s why we now offer this service for all our customers, on top of our other mobile telephony optimisation services. We want to help all our customers to choose the right deal and get the best value for money.

Think 7 mobile telephony services

  • All networks provided
  • Flexible airtime agreements
  • All major phone brands supplied
  • Mid- -term contract reviews

Should you require any further information on the services we offer, please feel free to call us on 08448 870270, or complete the online enquiry. We look forward to speaking to you and discussing ways we can help you save money and take your business’ communication technology to the next level.

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Reach is more important than speed in connected broadband-Britain claim Peers

The government’s broadband strategy has received criticism from some quarters; however, the latest sniping remarks from a House of Lords committee will hurt more than most. The communications committee stated in its latest report that the focus of the government’s strategy is flawed and that unless prompt action is taken it risks leaving many rural communities and businesses isolated. The committee warned that the overwhelming focus on speed over reach of service will damage communities in the longer term. However, it also accepted that the broadband issue in general needed to be addressed urgently, as the UK could miss out if high speed internet services were not treated as a key national asset.

The issue of addressing this digital divide is one which has troubled the government over the last few years. Digital minister, Ed Vaizey, has insisted that a considerable amount of money has already been spent on extending broadband to rural areas, and is still insistent that the UK will have the best high speed broadband service in Europe by 2015. However, the committee remains far from convinced, and insists that the current strategy poses “a very real risk that some people and businesses will be left behind, and that inadequate access to the internet and all its benefits is actually afflicting their daily lives”.

“The delivery of certain speeds should not be the guiding principle; what is important is the long term assurance that as new internet applications emerge, everyone will be able to benefit, from inhabitants of inner cities to the remotest areas of the UK.”

The report calls for broadband to be treated as part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, and for the creation of a network of fibre-optic hubs, which would get fast broadband to local communities and businesses when they wanted it. Conservative peer Lord Inglewood, who chairs the House of Lords Communications Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a broadband strategy would focus on speed in an “ideal world”.

However, he added, this is not an ideal world at the moment: money is tight for some and different people have different requirement for speeds: “what we need is a system that enables people to get what they want and pay accordingly.”

Liv Garfield, chief executive of BT Open Reach, was however surprised that the report was so critical. She also told the Today programme:

“If you look at it across Europe, we have fantastic coverage, we are the most competitive market and we’re seen by many other countries as being the people to follow in terms of broadband access.”

In this year’s Budget, the government confirmed that 10 cities would become “super-connected” as part of a £100 million investment announced in the Autumn Statement 2011. It also stated that it would provide an additional £50 million to fund a second wave of 10 smaller cities. Ministers are confident that the investments in cities will provide ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and high-speed wireless broadband for three million residents by 2015.

Mr Vaizey told the BBC that the whole country should have access to a good standard of broadband by 2015:

“There is a very competitive marketplace in terms of laying fibre to people’s homes in two thirds of the country,”

he said, however “government intervention is needed for the rest of the country. There is absolutely no point having superfast broadband coming past your door if you cannot afford it. We do want competition on price and we have very low prices.”

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Ofcom reveals 4G bandwidth auction plans – finally

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has finally revealed plans for the auctioning off of the fourth generation bandwidth (4G) for mobile phone services. Although the announcement was greeted with some small sense of enthusiasm, it has to be said that it’s been a long time coming. There has been repeated criticism from telecommunications companies and businesses that Ofcom has been too slow getting its act in order, and that while it dithered in setting up the auction, our European counterparts have been forging ahead and creaming off a large slice of the new market. Ofcom, by contrast has blamed external factors like internal telecom litigation for the delay, and is at pains to point out that the roll out of the 4G service will still in line with its previous timetable.

The sales process for the auction will start later this year, but it is believed that bidding will not actually begin until early 2013. The regulator maintains that consumers will start to see the service rolled out between late 2013 and early 2014. The auction will offer the equivalent of three-quarters of the mobile spectrum currently in use – some 80 percent more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000.

However, Ofcom has also stipulated that it wants to see greater competition in the market which will drive lower prices. To that end it has suggested a new market entrant, Hutchinson 3G as a potential new operator, although this is not as yet set in stone. There are currently only 3 major players in the market: Everything Everywhere, (the merged operator of Orange and T-Mobile) Vodafone and Telefónica, which owns O2. A spokesperson for Ofcom told the BBC:
“In the interests of competition, Ofcom has decided to reserve a minimum amount of spectrum in the auction for a fourth operator. This could be either Hutchinson 3G or a new entrant altogether.”

During the auction period Ofcom will sell chunks of the radio spectrum to support future 4G mobile services: these will allow users to download data like music and video at considerably faster speeds. However, although the infrastructure is in place to use these services sooner, the regulator has insisted that the spectrum to support 4G services will not be made available until the latter end of 2013. Ofcom believes its plans should see mobile broadband rolled out to at least 98 percent of people in rural areas across the UK by 2014.

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Deciphering unified communications: business benefits in simple terms

If you cast a glance round many offices these days, you’re still likely to see colleagues making calls from their desks using their mobile phones. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a minor problem in this age of unified communication, yet, according to a Mitel survey, 48 percent of people are still doing this regardless of the cost incurred. Is there a good reason why people continue to do this when it is so expensive? Well, actually there is. People love their mobiles, and appreciate their benefits. People are no longer satisfied with just calling a customer or another colleague: they now want to text and email people too. With a modern smartphone they can do all of these things and still call a person from their contact’s page. Mobile phones are smarter and quicker to use. However, there is still one problem: they are not cheap.

The aim of unified communications or UC is to make desktop calls as quick, intuitive and easy to handle as those from smartphones. However, the one critical difference is that UC calls are more powerful and cheaper. In short, they are just more cost-effective.  Unified communications brings together phone calls, voicemail, instant messaging, video and, most importantly of all, contacts into a single, easy to use and effective communication system. UC effectively frees up members of staff to concentrate on their jobs and focus on the people they want to get hold of, rather than concerning themselves with the complexities of how they get hold of these people.

A UC system is intuitive and has an in-built ability to be able to deal with what is termed as ‘presence’: in plain terms what this means is availability. Using a UC system staff can easily track a colleague’s availability and see how they would prefer to be contacted. They can view all of this from a screen contact list, then phone, instant message or video call as appropriate with a simple click of a mouse or the push of a button. Most UC systems are designed around the concept of reducing the difficulties involved in contacting someone. They make it easier to get hold of other people, but ensure that the other person is contacted in a way of their choosing. If you’re in the middle of taking an important meeting or are writing an important document, you don’t want to be disturbed by the phone ringing constantly. It’s far more preferable to be able to receive emails, voice mails or instant messages, so you carry on dealing with more pressing matters.  UC systems can save time too. You can instantly see a colleague’s availability on screen, and won’t therefore have to waste time calling if you know they’re not available. Continue reading

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Are VoIP and teleworking about to change the way Britain does business?

Will unified communication technology and voice over IP be about to change the way Britain does business in 2012? Well, according to a recent survey by the CBI the answer is undoubtedly yes. According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) half of businesses in London will have no choice other than to promote homeworking among their employees if they wish to remain productive during the Olympic Games.

The CBI study has revealed that key strategic worries, like potential problems with transport and logistics, have forced many enterprises to change the way they operate and has prompted these businesses to permit their employees to work from home during the event. Many businesses believe that if they can reduce travelling times for their employees during the busiest periods, then there is every likelihood that their employees will be able to continue working efficiently.

However, support for teleworking and the use of communication technologies like VOIP is not universal. Although 50 percent of respondents said they would be encouraging home working, 57 percent merely stated that they will be adapting their business hours to avoid any issues and problems that will be created by the large influx of people into the capital for the Games, which gets underway with the opening ceremony on July 27th. On a lighter note the CBI also found that
46 percent of companies will be happy to give staff time off so they can attend events, in order to keep employees happy and motivated during what is expected to be a particularly taxing time. Continue reading

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4G service will revolutionise mobile communications, but it will come at a price claims the head of Freeview

4G has been the talk of the communications and technology sector for months now, and its launch has been hugely anticipated. Ofcom had previously suggested that the launch of the next generation 4G would probably not be rolled out until somewhere around the end of 2013 and summer 2014, following the planned auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies. These included parts of the spectrum historically used by analogue TV, which is being switched off as part of the switch to digital services. However, the head of Freeview, IIse Howling, has now warned that 4G will come as soon as the end of 2012 and it will come with a price: next generation mobile services have the potential to cause interference issues for up to two million UK households. Ms Howling has called upon the government to make sure there are sufficient funds to deal with any potential problems.

Spectrum freed up by the switch over to digital TV is highly sought after by mobile operators, principally because it offers in-building coverage and promises to speed up services significantly. However, because the 4G spectrum will sit next to that used by the free-to-air digital platform Freeview, there could be a problem. Currently 24 million households in the UK watch TV via Freeview. Of these around half use Freeview as their sole TV platform, according to the firm. According to Ofcom up to 3% of viewers, approximately 760,000 people, watching digital terrestrial television via a Freeview box might see interference if no action is taken, it warned. Homes within two kilometres (1.24 miles) of a 4G base station are likely to experience interference and, for some, there will also be a loss of channels.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced contingency plans for those affected by interference. Filters will be fitted to some houses, while those worst affected will need to be transferred to other platforms, such as satellite and cable. The costs for this will be paid by the mobile operators who take over the spectrum. However, Ms Howling maintains that the government has seriously underestimated the amount of money needed to fix the problem: “it has set aside £180million – but we think it will actually cost £400m,” she said. What’s more, Ms Howling believes that the solution will not be sufficient in many cases. For some houses, fitting the filter will be relatively easy and can be done by the householder, but for the majority – 83% – an aerial installer will need to complete the installation, and no funding has been set aside for this.

Ofcom is so concerned about the potential problem that it is starting a research programme to find out how to help people affected when the future mobile technology is switched on. In a bid to limit how many people suffer from poor picture quality, Ofcom has proposed running an education campaign to alert viewers about the possibility of interference. Companies who buy a licence for part of the 800MHz spectrum will be expected to contribute to the costs of the education programme.

For the vast majority of affected viewers, filters will strip out the interfering signals. However, said Ofcom, in 0.1% of cases, filters will not help and it is considering how best to handle those instances. Some viewers may have to find alternative ways to watch digital TV.

A consultation exercise which will consider ways to tackle the interference issue is being started at Ofcom and will run until 11 August.

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Are all broadband connections equal, or are some more equal than others?

What does the term broadband mean to the average person? Do we simply use the term to refer to any generic internet connection, or are talking specifically about high-speed or superfast broadband? Well, the problem is the majority of people are unsure: broadband unfortunately can mean many things to many people. Originally the term referred to any connection with internet access speeds in excess of 56k – in other words better than a dial-up connection. Unfortunately things change. We now have a range of broadband speeds in the UK that vary widely from 1Mbps to 100Mbps, and unfortunately they’re all lumped together under the term broadband. So, we thought we’d take a brief look at the state of broadband in the UK and try to draw some clear distinctions between the various services available.

Broadband: 500kbps to 8Mbps

Broadband which delivers service in this sort of range usually covers typical ADSL connections, and delivers speeds anywhere between 500 kbps and 8Mbps. According to Ofcom the UK average connection speed is 5.3Mbps for downloads and 400kbps for uploads. This is the type of broadband speed range available to most people who are on an unbundled BT exchange that hasn’t been upgraded to ADSL2+. Virgin’s10Mbps broadband service also falls into this category, but it is to be discontinued this year as the provider switches to a minimum 30Mbps standard service across its network.

Fast or faster broadband: up-to-20/24Mbps

This ‘up to 20Mbps’ or ‘up to 24Mbps’ is the type of service that is delivered by most ADSL2+ exchanges and most unbundled exchanges. None the less, the name doesn’t always necessarily paint a wholly accurate picture: the average speed for ‘faster’ broadband connections is 7Mbps, and the average maximum speed is 7.6Mbps. So essentially it’s not really that much faster than the average for ADSL lines. Upstream speeds deliver on average 800kpbs, and are often sacrificed for better download speeds.

Superfast broadband: more-than-24Mbps

Broadband delivering internet access speeds above 24Mbps are generally referred to as superfast connections, and are usually delivered by either a cable connection or fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). Effectively it’s a general term that can mean speeds of anything from 30Mbps to 80Mbps, but the technology used means that it is capable of delivering more than 90 percent of the time. BT’s standard fibre-optic connection on Infinity is up-to-76Mbps; with Sky, TalkTalk and others offering a two-tier choice of up-to-40Mbps or up-to-80Mbps.

Upstream speeds are also significantly better than faster broadband, with BT now settling on up-to-9.5Mbps and the other providers likely to offer both 2.5Mbps and 9.5Mbps options.

FTTC relies on a customer’s proximity to a street-side exchange cabinet to get the headline speed. The problem is as BT extends its FTTC network to more homes, the overall performance FTTC connections is likely to be dragged down as the average distance of homes from the cabinets rises. However, this is unlikely to cause speeds to significantly reduce from the headline speed as it did with the extravagant claims for ADSL2+.

Virgin’s network is en route to becoming entirely ‘superfast’ as it goes through a speed-doubling programme in 2012 that sets a minimum speed of 30Mbps, with a higher tier at 60Mbps, with uploads at 3Mbps and 6Mbps.
Ultrafast broadband: over 100Mbps

According to Ofcom, this is the new category for 100Mbps broadband which is delivered either by fibre-to-the-home (FTTP) or cable. Some lucky customers may already have access to such speeds if they live close enough to the street-side exchange cabinet, but for the majority ultrafast is only currently available to a small number who are able to get fibre-to-the-home or premises (FTTH or FTTP).

BT’s FTTP network is expected to cover 10 million addresses by the end of 2012, and around 18 million by 2014. However, other broadband providers are also building FTTP networks in rural areas and new developments that bypass BT’s network entirely. It’s being upgraded from 100bps to 300Mbps by Spring 2013, although it should be noted that installation can be very expensive.

Ultra-fast should also be available to potentially 7 million homes and businesses using Virgin’s cable network, which is now capable of delivering 100Mbps wherever it goes. The Virgin media ‘speed doubling’ campaign will accelerate this to 120Mbps across the network by early 2013.

Beyond ultra-fast broadband

Many large businesses have direct internet connections using Ethernet or other technologies that provide hundreds of Megabits or even Gigabits of capacity, but you would be very lucky to see such services advertised, and they’re well beyond the reach of most of us.

Marketers within the industry are always looking for ways to push the boundaries, and are currently grasping for terms that would adequately describe incredibly quick broadband access speeds. At the moment they seem bereft of any clear ideas about names, but things change quickly in this sector. So what sort of speeds could broadband eventually reach? Well, Virgin has tested its network at speeds up to 1.5Gbps, but the consensus on this within the industry is that this is more of a gimmick than a serious suggestion – well, at the moment at least. Such claims will certainly kick sand in the eyes of competitors like BT, but that’s probably the point. Most industry experts do agree however that we’re unlikely to see such high speeds rolled out to customers in the near future.

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Cumbria rejects the joint BT

Many critics of the government’s tendering system to provide high speed broadband for remote rural areas have argued for some time now that the process was uncompetitive and that major companies like BT and Fujitsu had counties like Cumbria in the bag with respect to the counties BDUK project. Those suspicions were, however, finally dispelled earlier this week when Cumbria County Council rejected the advances of the two major telecommunications companies because of fears over the amount of funding from the bidders and the perceived inability to hit the 90 percent target of 25 Mbps superfast broadband access for homes and businesses in the county by 2015.  The bids were subsequently rejected on the grounds that they did not adequately meet the tender requirements of the council’s contract. Continue reading

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