The BBC’s radio services are among the best in the world, from sports coverage to local affairs and detailed analysis of global events. When you’re travelling, whether for business or pleasure, being able to keep up with your favourite BBC radio drama, the rugby or local news can help you keep in touch with what’s going on back home. If TV is more your thing then check out our guide on How to watch UK TV abroad1. Fortunately, the BBC has a decades-long commitment to international broadcasting, and when internet radio came along, Britain’s national broadcaster chose to make all of its channels available around the globe as part of its mission to share the UK’s culture and views with the world. Bear in mind, though, that DAB radios, whether portable or installed in your car, won’t work overseas, as most other countries are both outside the range of the BBC’s digital transmitters and use different digital radio standards, such as DAB+. So you’re going to have to try something else.
The BBC’s iPlayer Radio2 internet radio service is definitely the way forward when it comes to international listening, whether you want to use a laptop, tablet or mobile phone, but mobile users are advised to download the app before leaving the UK.
The iPlayer Radio app for Android3, iOS4, Kindle5 and Windows Phone6 is in theory7 only available to download when you’re in the UK, but once you’ve installed it, it works almost everywhere in the world, for an unlimited period of time. In practice, we found that we were able to download the app from UK Play Store and App Store accounts over Wi-Fi without any trouble when overseas, but it’s best to install before you leave, just to be on the safe side and to save on any potential data costs. The official apps also make it easy to download BBC podcasts for future listening, which is helpful if you don’t want to use up too much of your mobile roaming data. Listening to a radio stream will use up roughly 60MB an hour, that’s not a huge amount for occasional use but it could quickly build up if you listen regularly on mobile data. When overseas the problem is far more serious, an hour of radio will cost you 3 based on the current EU-limited 5p for MB pricing, for more details read our EU roaming guide8. That lasts until June 2017 when roaming costs are abolished, though due to Brexit we’re not sure what will happen beyond that.
If you’re already overseas and unable to download the official apps for any reason, a range of alternatives are available if you wish to listen to UK radio stations, including UK Online Radio for Android9, which has a sleep timer and includes a wide range of BBC regional stations, and the appealingly simple British Radios10 app for iOS.
If you’re going to be using a laptop to listen, but don’t want to have to navigate around the BBC’s website, you can make your listening experience easier using the unofficial BBC Radio Tuner extension11 for Chrome, which allows you to flip between the BBC’s main radio channels via a simple selector that’s always available on Chrome’s toolbar.
This programme is unavailable
Occasionally, a BBC radio broadcast, whether live or on catch-up, will be replaced by a recorded message telling you that “due to rights restrictions this part of the programme is unavailable”. This most often applies to coverage of sports and other live events that the BBC only has the licence to broadcast within the UK. However, it’s possible to work around such restrictions using a VPN. As radio streams don’t hog bandwidth to the extent that streaming TV does, most free VPN services are perfectly adequate for virtually moving back to the UK to listen to a restricted programme. When you’re connected to a VPN, all your internet traffic is routed via a UK endpoint, so you appear to be within the UK as far as the sites and services you’re accessing are concerned. Steganos’ free, ad-supported OkayFreedom12 VPN service gives you 2GB of traffic every 30 days on its basic service and is one of our favourite options for accessing restricted BBC services when abroad using a Windows PC. Mac OS X users can use CyberGhost13‘s free tier, which doesn’t restrict your bandwidth but instead limits which of its end-points you’re allowed to connect to.
You’re listening to the BBC World Service
The World Service was the BBC’s original international broadcasting medium, beginning life in 1932 as an English-language service for the remnants of Britain’s empire, “men and women, so cut off by the snow, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them”. Within a decade, the service began adding languages and regions, and currently broadcasts to people around the world in 27 languages, with a broad range of programs including news, music, comedy and documentaries. You can tune into the BBC World Service in English on standard short-wave frequencies16 across much of the world, but broadcasts to Central Europe ended in 2008, and to the Eastern Mediterranean in 2015, due to budget cuts. European travellers can still access the World Service via internet radio17 and satellite18, while some long-wave and medium-wave broadcasts for other regions can be picked up19 in parts of Europe.
- ^ How to watch UK TV abroad (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
- ^ iPlayer Radio (www.bbc.co.uk)
- ^ Android (play.google.com)
- ^ iOS (itunes.apple.com)
- ^ Kindle (www.amazon.co.uk)
- ^ Windows Phone (www.microsoft.com)
- ^ in theory (iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk)
- ^ EU roaming guide (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
- ^ UK Online Radio for Android (play.google.com)
- ^ British Radios (itunes.apple.com)
- ^ BBC Radio Tuner extension (chrome.google.com)
- ^ OkayFreedom (www.okayfreedom.com)
- ^ CyberGhost (www.cyberghostvpn.com)
- ^ CyberGhost (play.google.com)
- ^ TunnelBear (itunes.apple.com)
- ^ standard short-wave frequencies (www.bbc.co.uk)
- ^ internet radio (www.bbc.co.uk)
- ^ satellite (www.bbc.co.uk)
- ^ can be picked up (www.bbc.co.uk)
43 years ago today, on April 3, 1973, a Motorola engineer named Martin Cooper made the first cell phone call. At the other end of the line from his 2.5 pound Motorola Dyna-Tac was Cooper’s chief rival, Joel S Engel, the head of Bell Labs. “Joel, this is Marty,” Cooper said, according to a 2013 interview with the BBC1. “I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.”
“Portable” is relative, of course. The Dyna-Tac was as big as it was heavy: 9 x 5 x 1.75 inches.
Packed inside of this shoebox were 30 circuit boards and a battery with about a half-hour of talk time that required 10 hours of recharging. It had no display, and offered only three features: talk, listen, dial. It was, in a word, dumb. But it worked. The Dyna-Tac had by then already gone through some FCC testing in Washington, DC, and, on the big day, Cooper was to demonstrate the phone to a press conference at the Manhattan Hilton. Motorola was at the time trying to convince the FCC to allocate more frequency bandwidth to companies trying to commercialize the nascent technology. Hence, the PR push.
Before heading upstairs to the conference, Cooper decided that he’d better make sure the damn thing worked first. “He picked up the two-pound Motorola handset called the Dyna-Tac and pushed the ‘off hook’ button,” a 2000 New York Times interview with Cooper recalls. “The phone came alive, connecting Mr. Cooper with the base station on the roof of the Burlington Consolidated Tower (now the Alliance Capital Building) and into the land-line system. To the bewilderment of some passers-by, he dialed the number and held the phone to his ear.”
By that time, the primitive idea of mobile telephone communications was actually quite old. AT&T had first commercialized a variation in the 1940s called Mobile Telephone Service2, which was based on VHF radio communications, the range of frequencies more commonly employed for two-way radio use and television and radio broadcasts. Only a small slice of VHF channels were available to the service and collisions between transmissions were a common and prohibitive occurrence.
MTS was essentially a form of two-way radio communication with an operator in the middle that bridged landline callers with mobile callers. A “call” would be announced not by a ring, but by the voice of an operator over the radio saying that they had a call for that specific user. Every user would hear every incoming call and the idea was that they just ignored the ones that weren’t for them. The hardware required for MTS also weighed about 80 pounds. Real portability would have to wait for the advent of cellular communications.
Here, users can be passed between base stations and frequencies can be continually reused. In addition to truly portable hardware, this means that users can reasonably move around from place to place with some guarantee of service. In the 2000 Times interview, Cooper offered a prediction: “Cellular was the forerunner to true wireless communications. And just as people got used to taking phones with them everywhere, the way people use the Internet is ultimately going to be wireless. With our technology, you will be able to open your notebook anywhere and log on to the Internet at a very high speed with relatively low cost.
At the moment, our story is about what a relatively small company is doing with high-tech stuff in Silicon Valley.”
”But when people get used to logging on anywhere,” he added, “well, that’s going to be a revolution.”
Unveiled back in March 2015 as part of the BBC s Make It Digital initiative, the Micro:bit marks the corporation s first foray into computing hardware since the much-loved BBC Micro in the 1980s. Unlike the BBC Micro, however, with its distinctive black-and-red mechanical keyboard, the Micro:bit is a tiny device designed to be used with existing computers.
With an array of built-in sensors and a 5×5 LED matrix display, it s designed to get kids thinking about physical computing and, following a redesign and some issues with the power circuitry, starting this month every Year 7 pupil in the UK is going to get one for free.
It would be easy to make a comparison between the Micro:bit and the Raspberry Pi, especially since the launch of the 4 Pi Zero. While both are low-cost devices designed for education, however, there s a definite difference: the Pi is a microcomputer, a modern incarnation of the BBC Micro of old, while the Micro:bit is a microcontroller.
The Micro:bit is powered by a Nordic Semi nRF51822 SoC processor, which bundles a Bluetooth LE radio with a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 CPU running at only 16MHz and with just 16KB of RAM. Interestingly, this isn t the fastest processor on the board. A second chip, a Kinetis microcontroller, has a 48MHz Cortex-M0+, which is only used as a bridge between the Micro:bit and a USB-connected computer.
The Micro:bit also includes a pair of onboard sensors in the form of a magnetic compass and an accelerometer, giving it basic positional and gesture-recognition capabilities. There s a pair of buttons, plus a reset button at the rear, a 3.3V battery connector, and the front is dominated by a 5×5 matrix of 25 red LEDs the only display available to the device.
Back when it was it was first announced, the BBC s device shared the same characterful layout as the CodeBug, the device that inspired it. Since its redesign, though, the Micro:bit has become much more businesslike. A tiny rectangle with rounded edges, the board measures not much more than a pair of SD card cases side by side.
The rear of the board, where the processors live, includes a silk-screen layer labelling most of its components. Oddly, though, the Kinetis microcontroller is left unlabelled. Flipping it over reveals the LED matrix and the Micro:bit s primary means of interacting with external hardware: a 25-pin edge-connector for general-purpose input/output (GPIO) operations.
Five of these pins are enlarged for use with crocodile clips or banana plugs, providing three input or output pins with analogue-to-digital conversion (ADC) and pulse-width modulation (PWM) support. This means they can do everything from reading data from moisture sensors to controlling a connected stepper motor or servo, along with a 3.3V and ground pin. The remaining 20 are slimmer, and designed for use with expansion boards such as the Kitronik Edge Connector Breakout Board.3
UK s NatWest bank has been drawing a lot of attention to itself in the past couple of days, after a radio reporter managed to hack into his colleague s bank account and steal some money, with nothing but her mobile phone. Of course, the entire hack was just a demonstration of how fraudsters usually do it, prompting the bank to issue a statement saying it will improve its security measures. A reporter on the BBC Radio Four You and Yours programme used his colleague Natalie Donovan s smartphone to do a password reset, ultimately getting access to her bank account.
We decided to investigate You and Yours producer Natalie Donovan. I was able to break to her account without knowing her banking customer number, PIN or any passwords, he said. That allowed me to transfer 1.50 to my own bank account, all because I had control of Natalie s mobile phone.
The bank soon responded: We take the security of your money seriously. The best way to protect yourself from fraud is to be in the know SIM swap is a genuine service which allows you to keep your existing phone number and change between different SIM sizes or phone providers.
This technique is becoming increasingly common for use by fraudsters and third parties. The ability to utilise your mobile phone number to receive and make calls, receive and send text messages as well as use any provisioned data allowance can be motivation for illicit SIM swap.
Fraudsters usually get into the victims bank accounts through stolen phones, so if your smartphone gets stolen, or you fear someone might have SIM-swapped you (if you can t dial or text for some strange reason), make sure to double-check.
Drivers who are caught using their mobile phones at the wheel could face fines of up to 150 and four penalty points if new government plans are approved. Proposals to bring in bigger punishments are part of the government s Road Safety Plan, and are targeted towards those drivers who repeatedly re-offend. Currently, the fine for using a mobile device while driving is 100 and three penalty points, which was increased from 60 in 2013. HGV drivers would face the harshest punishment, collecting six penalty points if they re caught using a mobile phone at the wheel. It s understood the larger increase for lorry drivers is designed to reflect how much more severe accidents involving HGVs can be.
Under the scheme, first-time offenders will still be offered an educational course rather than a fine. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said he wants to see using a phone while driving become a social taboo, like not wearing a seatbelt .
Using a mobile phone while driving is reckless and costs lives, he said. The message is clear: keep your hands on the wheel, not your phone. If you keep taking calls at the wheel you could end up being banned from the road. Figures from the Department for Transport show that there were 1775 road deaths on UK roads in 2014, a 4% rise on the previous year. The use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents in 2014.
President of the AA Edmund King said: This epidemic of hand-held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives and drivers have demanded action. Three quarters of drivers see others using mobile phones on some or most journeys, with one quarter seeing it on every journey according to our polls.
The majority of drivers will welcome these increased fines and penalty points, alongside driver improvement courses, to tackle those who use hand-held mobiles at the wheel.
A consultation on the new plans is due in 2016.