12:01 03 December 2012
The UK's broadband infrastructure is to get an overhaul, which is just as well with all the new tablets being released lately. That and more in this week's tech news round-up.
Go ahead for rural broadband project
The government's £530million plan to upgrade broadband in the UK, specifically in rural areas, will now go ahead, following approval from European officials.
Wales and Surrey are first in line to benefit from the project, which aims to improve broadband access in rural areas. Gloucestershire, Hereford, Cumbria and Rutland will follow.
The government aims make superfast broadband accessible to 90% of homes in the UK and at speeds of at least 2Mb to the remaining 10%. BT will be carrying out the majority of the upgrade work on behalf of councils around the country.
Wii U games console hits UK
Nintendo's Wii games console was a huge seller at Christmas when it launched in 2006, and the Japanese games company is hoping to recapture that success with the new Wii U console, released this week.
Just as the Wii took a different tack to Sony and Microsoft with its motion controls, the Wii U is offering a something different again in the form of a controller with a built in touchscreen. This means a dual-screen experience already pioneered on Nintendo's DS handheld console.
For around £259.99 you'll get an 8GB Wii U console and one gamepad controller. With a multi-core processor and HD graphics, Nintendo will almost be on a technical par with the current Playstation and Xbox, if only until Sony and Microsoft announce their new consoles.
As with the Wii console, additional controllers won't come cheap. The Wii U Pro controller will cost an additional £40, but you can use your old Wiimotes. Nintendo won't be selling additional touchscreen gamepads until there are titles which support more than one gamepad at a time.
Being Nintendo, you can of course expect fan-favourite titles such as Super Mario Bros, but also big third-party titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Assassin's Creed 3.
Wii U is released on November 30.
New eReader/tablet hybrid in town
Yet another eReader/tablet hybrid has entered the market just in time for Christmas.
American book shop Barnes & Noble has been selling the 'Nook' in the States for quite a while, but has now brought the seven-inch Nook HD and nine-inch Nook HD+ to our shores.
It's most comparable to Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, both in spec and price. The 8GB model, like the Kindle Fire HD, costs £159 and uses a version of Google's Android operating system at its core, albeit with Barnes & Noble's software plastered over the top, just as Amazon's Kindle Fire HD does with its own software.
The Nook HD focuses mainly on magazines, which apparently look great on its 1440 x 900px screen, but you can also download books, films and apps from the Nook store.
If you want the widest choice of apps you'd be better off going for the iPad mini (£269), followed closely by the also-Android-powered Nexus 7 (£159).
More free wifi on the Underground in 2013
Virgin Media has done a deal with several mobile networks to offer free wifi on the London Underground to their customers.
Virgin Media customers currently get this privilege, but Richard Branson's company (which uses T-Mobile's network for its services) is opening it up to other networks' customers.
This means Vodafone, EE, Orange and T-Mobile customers with a wifi-enabled smartphone will get free web access at Underground stations. Anyone else (Three, Tesco Mobile, etc) will be able to buy a day's access for £2.
There are currently 72 wifi-enabled Underground stations, but that number will be increasing to 120 next year.
EE launches SIM-only 4G tariffs
The UK's first 4G network EE has launched new SIM-only plans for customers who already have 4G-enabled devices and don't want to pay a premium on their monthly fee for a smartphone or tablet.
The cheapest SIM-only 4G tariff on offer costs £21 a month, making it £10 a month cheaper than the tariffs which come with a phone. Also, the SIM-only plans are available in 12-month contracts, whereas the with-phone tariffs are only available on two-year contracts.
For £21 you'll get a 500MB data allowance, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts. Over the course of the year the tariff will cost you £252, not including any extras you might opt for and the cost of a 4G-ready phone or tablet.
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