Mobiles & Broadband

Last updated: November 2013


Mobile Phones & Broadband


Since our last report in 2010, ethical options are now beginning to emerge for phones, networks and broadband. For instance, the Fairphone is now offering a practical and commercial challenge to the unethical hegemony in the mobile phone handset market; while the Phone Co-op and others are now giving consumers a more ethical option for their mobile phone network and broadband provider.

Image of mobile phone

We do, however, offer a word of caution as we see which networks these new providers are using or 'piggybacking' on.


Environmental changes

Outside the niche ethical companies other changes are afoot. In the mobile phone market, thanks to the efforts of campaign groups such as Enough, there has been some steps forward in the sourcing of conflict minerals.

New research shows that armed Congolese militias are receiving 35% less funds from mining projects. The Dodd-Frank Act, which came into effect earlier this year, has helped hugely in this area, although there is still much to be done.

However environmental concerns, from recycling to the use of hazardous substances, still loom large, not to mention the potential effects on human health.

Tough competition

The last time we covered mobile phones Nokia was still king and the Apple iPhone was relatively new. However the market is moving along apace. According to market analysts Mintel, “The smartphone market has grown faster than any other consumer technology in recent history, with penetration almost doubling between 2010 and 2012.”

Perhaps surprisingly, it is Samsung and not Apple that leads the smartphone market, and Nokia has seen its market share fall to such an extent that it’s now the subject of a take-over bid from Microsoft.

Smartphones now already account for 58% of the mobile phone market but not everyone will be getting the latest Apple offering. Sarah Irving gives us a personal account of why she’s avoiding the latest trend. Joanna Long gives a run down on how corporates are using technology to track us and sell us advertising. However not all activists are pessimistic and many are embracing the new technology. Tanya O’Carroll from Amnesty International gives us a glimpse into a brighter future where 3G has reached new areas of the globe and is being used in the fight for human rights.

When it comes to broadband, BT is the dominant force, holding a market share of over 30%. This is hardly surprising as it swallows up government subsidies (to the tune of £1.2billion) and uses them to pay for the rights to premier league football and other sporting events.[3] Shaun Fensom sheds more light on the impact of BT’s state-funded projects to supposedly supply rural areas with broadband.


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