Sunday, September 30, 2007

Europe - ICT and productivity

Accounting for the Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Total Factor Productivity: Towards an Endogenous Growth Approach

Theo Dunnewijk, Huub Meijers, and Adriaan van Zon. Editor: Salvador Barrios
EUR Number: 22909 EN

Economists now broadly agree on the fact that technical progress and technology dissemination constitute the ultimate source of sustained economic growth. In particular, economic analysis in the context of the so-called endogenous-growth (often termed "new growth theories") approach has shifted towards elements such as human capital (education and training) and R&D which could be both used to increase knowledge accumulation and technical progress. This paper provides a review of the literature on the impact of ICT on Economic Growth and Productivity and provides elements of discussion for extending the neoclassical growth framework to incorporate elements of the endogenous growth theories in order to consider the impact of ICT diffusion on growth and productivity. This study provides an overview of the traditional growth accounting framework rooted on Sollow's contributions and its extension considering the cases where situations of under-investment in growth-promoting items such as R&D, can be detected. Similarly to the R&D case, the resulting aggregate use of ICT maybe too low for pushing productivity up in a given economy given that private agents may under-invest in ICT if the private economic returns from these investments are too low. The overall macroeconomic outcome may therefore result in a situation where the growth potential of ICT investment is far from being fully realised. This outcome in particular would allow explaining why still many EU countries are lagging behind in terms of ICT investment and ICT impact on economic growth, in particular compared to the US. This present study provides a number of theoretical caveats to understand the main issues at stake.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bahrain - Zain HQ

Zain to move HQ to Bahrain

In a setback to Kuwait's efforts to diversify its economy and attract foreign investors, the country's largest listed company, Zain, said it will be moving its international headquarters to Bahrain, reported Reuters. Analysts said the move by the mobile operator, whose biggest shareholder is the Kuwaiti government, showed that parliament and government need to work harder to attract foreign investment and open up the oil-dominated economy.

See also Zain

USA - transition to digital television

Digital television transition - Preliminary Information on Initial Consumer Education Efforts

Three private sector groups have asserted various estimates of the number of households that rely solely on over-the-air television. While one group estimates that 11 percent of households rely on over-the-air broadcasts, another group’s estimate is 16 percent of households, and a third group’s estimate is 20 percent of households. Further, private sector estimates claim an additional 5 percent to 27 percent of households that subscribe to cable or satellite television have at least one television set that receives an over-the-air signal. One group asserted that households that rely on over-the-air broadcasts are disproportionately comprised of older citizens than other households. Although it is unclear what percentage of households that rely exclusively on over-the-air broadcasts use analog rather than digital television sets, millions of those households potentially stand to be left without any television service unless they take action. To help the public understand the DTV transition and the various options they have, consumer education and awareness programs are underway and additional programs are being planned.

Despite the efforts currently underway and those being planned, difficulties remain in the implementation of consumer education programs. While private sector organizations are conducting outreach efforts, these actions are voluntary and therefore the government cannot be assured of the extent of private sector efforts. Strategic communications experts from industry, government, and academia identified potential challenges to a consumer education campaign, including (1) prioritizing limited resources to target the right audience for an adequate period of time, (2) educating consumers who do not necessarily need to take action, (3) reaching underserved populations, such as the elderly and disabled, and (4) aligning stakeholders to form a consistent, coordinated effort.

From United States Government Accountability Office

Monday, September 17, 2007

Europe - Competition law

EU court crushes Microsoft's antitrust appeal

Reuters - A European Union court upheld a landmark 2004 European Commission antitrust decision against Microsoft on Monday in a crucial victory for the European competition regulator over the U.S. software giant.

The court dismissed Microsoft's appeal on all substantive points, throwing a small bone to the U.S. company by reversing the Commission on the creation and funding of a monitoring trustee to ensure implementation of one of the remedies.

"The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the Commission's decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position," a court statement said.

The EU executive, which has wide-ranging antitrust and merger control powers, found in 2004 that Microsoft had used its 95 percent share of the market in personal computer operating systems to elbow aside and damage smaller rivals.

It ordered the company to sell a version of its ubiquitous Windows platform without its Windows Media Player application used to play video and music, and to share with rivals key information allowing their office servers to work smoothly with Windows.

The ruling of the CFI on facts is final, but matters of law may be appealed to the European Union's highest court, the European Court of Justice.

In a revealing detail, the court ordered Microsoft to pay most of the costs including some of its business rivals' which had supported the Commission's case.

By contrast, Microsoft's allies were forced to bear their own costs.

The ruling was made by the 13-judge Grand Chamber of the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, the first time such a matter has been broadcast on live television.

The court upheld a record 497 million euro ($689.9 million) fine imposed on Microsoft as part of the original decision.

The Commission had later said Microsoft failed to comply with its order on interoperability and fined the company an additional 280.5 million euros. It is considering a further fine for non-compliance.

From Reuters
see also Court of First Instance press release and judgement

Saturday, September 15, 2007

United Kingdom - those not interested in the Internet

BT set to study internet novices

BT is setting up an initiative to find out why some people resist using the internet.

The project will employ psychologists to closely study a small group of people to reveal what stops them joining the net-using majority.

Early research done for the project suggests that, for some, using the net is as stressful as a bungee jump.

Official statistics on UK net use suggest that 39% of households do not have web access.

Net losses

Dr David Lewis, the lead psychologist employed on the project, said that for many people the biggest barrier to getting online was mental as many of those avoiding the net lived in homes with a dedicated connection.

He said: "More often the barriers are internal, stemming from a fear of the technology."

"It will be interesting to see whether the trial will be enough to build the participants' online confidence, or whether more needs to be done in terms of support and guidance to help them to become tech savvy," he said.

By contrast to novices, many seasoned net users find the experience of going online very relaxing, said Dr Lewis.

The psychologists on the project will take readings of physiological changes reluctant net users undergo when they go online.

BT has chosen four subjects who will be studied closely as they are coached to use the net to find out why they fear using it.

To acquaint them with online life, the four subjects have been given a broadband link, a laptop, webcam and a digital camera. A two-month training plan has also been developed that will introduce them to what they can do on the net.

The participants will also be encouraged to record their experiences on video or in still images and comment on what they discover. Their videos and images will be shown on the "Journey to Inclusion" website documenting the project.

Gavin Patterson, a spokesman for BT said: "The gap between the competent internet user and those who have never been online has never been greater."

From BBC

Friday, September 14, 2007

China - Mobile handsets

Differentiation Strategy Determines Success in Chinese Mobile Phone Market, Says CCID

CCID Consulting has released an article discussing how brand concentration of mobile phones is improving, with success determined by a company's differentiation strategy.

CCID Consulting revealed in the first half of 2007 that domestic Chinese mobile phones featured a sales volume of 71.478 million sets and a sales revenue of Rmb84.58 billion, with a respective growth of 25.5% and 5.5% compared with the same period last year. The market scale expanded continuously and the average price of mobile phones dropped steadily. Foreign brands have driven up the sales efforts of low-end products and bundled mobile phones. Foreign brands have continued to cultivate the high-end product market. In the first half of 2007, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung accounted for a total market share of 61.4% with an increase of 8.9% compared with the same period of last year, and brand concentration rose steadily.

In today's fiercely competitive mobile phone industry, the differentiation strategy has major influences on brand development. Foreign brands such as Nokia and Motorola strive to occupy market share by improving the sales volume of low-end products. The data by CCID Consulting's Research Report on Mobile Phone Market in Jan-Jun, 2007 revealed that Nokia and Motorola occupied a share of 57% in the Rmb500-700 mobile phone market and 70% in the less-than-Rmb500 mobile phone market.

Second-line domestic brands have also adjusted their product orientation. According to different market features, they have worked out differentiation product R&D and sales strategies, driven up the mobile phone customization provided by operators, produced dual-G/dual-mode dual-standby mobile phones, stock mobile phones and navigation mobile phones. Through marketing channels, these companies have actively explored many modes such as TV-based direct selling, network-based direct selling, selling to high-end users and selling to specific areas and aimed to receive active market feedback.

As the data from CCID Consulting shows, compared with the same period last year, the sales value of Coolpad, HTWChina, K-TOUCH, Changhong, Huawei rose to a certain extent. Lenovo, the first domestic brand, made a solid achievement in sales in 2007 by adopting appropriate marketing strategies, executing strict quality control and process control in brand, product design, production and other processes, and forming its own unique product concept and design planning.

Domestic mobile phone brands shall follow the market and win customers by launching a series of brand popularity campaigns to interact and communicate with users. This will allow more users to better understand and know of enterprise products, which will in turn improve the novel and unique user experience in 3G, mobile phone TVs, smart mobile phones, and new technology and applications.

Domestic mobile brands will hopefully immerse themselves into the hotspots of the mobile phone industry to carve out a differentiation development road, building up their brand image by first developing mobile phone TVs, GPS and other integrated terminals, by developing high-end users for Chinese-specific handwriting mobile phones, and by cultivating rural users and developing farmer-specific low-end mobile phones.

Experience has shown that differentiation strategies are an effective way to develop enterprises.

Nikkei Electronics Asia

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

European Commission - Telefonica de Espana

Telefónica appeals against Brussels fine

Telefónica on Tuesday formally challenged a record €152m antitrust fine imposed on it by the European Commission, arguing that an investigation into its abusive practices in the Spanish broadband market had been technically and legally flawed.

Lawyers for the company on Tuesday filed an appeal with the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, two months after Brussels found Telefónica guilty of freezing out ADSL rivals. Telefónica says it was denied proper defence against the allegations, which, it argues, were based on misinformation.

Regulators charged that the company, among the world’s largest telecoms groups, had distorted competition in the lucrative broadband market by setting network access charges too close to its own retail prices to allow a profit margin.

This, in turn, had discouraged investment in the sector and undermined broadband growth in one of Spain’s largest economies, according to Nellie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner. The €152m fine was more than 10 times larger than those levied against Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom in similar cases, and aimed at dissuading further abuses by national incumbents.

Ms Kroes said she wanted to send “a strong signal to dominant undertakings in all sectors that could be tempted to engage in similar practices that I will not tolerate such behaviour”.

Telefónica on Tuesday appealed for the “annulment or reduction” of the fine, arguing that the Commission had “violated the principles of proportionality and of equal treatment” in setting it so high.

In its appeal against the original antitrust ruling, it claims that Brussels had overstepped its jurisdiction by “intervening” where Spain’s Telecoms Market Commission (CMT) had already adapted and enforced European Union rules aimed at ensuring fair competition. The CMT was forced to defend itself during the investigation, which called into question its own tariff-setting systems.

The Telefónica appeal also alleges “factual errors” in the definition of wholesale broadband markets in Spain, as well as mistakes in the calculation of pricing margins.

Monday, September 10, 2007

China - Mobile television

SMG lowers charges for mobile TV

Shanghai Media Group has announced it will lower the charges for the country's first mobile phone TV service starting from September 2, reported yesterday.

The monthly charge for the TV service in Shanghai will be decreased from 10 yuan (US$1.32) to 2 yuan (US$0.26), Shanghai Dragon New Media Co, the service operator and an affiliate to SMG, has said.

The company will also change the name of one of its services "Pursuing dreams on the sea" to "Shanghai Phenomenon" while it will offer mobile TV programs from SMG's Channel Young and Shanghai TV Station's News Channel, the report said.

From Jongo News
see also Shanghai Media Group

Sunday, September 09, 2007

MTC rebrands as Zain

MTC Group adopts a new name unifying its different brands

Manama, Bahrain – 08 September 2007: MTC Group, the leading telecommunications mobile provider in 21 countries across the Middle East and Africa, today announced it has re-branded to Zain which becomes the Group’s corporate master brand with immediate effect.

Four country operations in Kuwait and Bahrain, (both formerly MTC-Vodafone), Jordan (formerly Fastlink) and Sudan (formerly Mobitel) will immediately re-brand to Zain. The Group will commence operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the Zain brand in early 2008 after being awarded the third mobile telecommunications licence in July 2007.

Additionally, the Group’s successful operation in Iraq, mtc atheer, will also re-brand to Zain in the near future after recently winning an extended 15 year nationwide licence. All new or acquired operations run by the Group will be branded Zain.

Dr. Saad Al Barrak, Zain Group’s chief executive officer, said: “Zain will bring together all our operations under a single, strong and unique identity. We believe it is the optimal platform upon which we can build a global brand with the ultimate goal of better serving our customers. It will propel the Group towards becoming one of the top ten global mobile telecommunications companies in the next four years.”

Friday, September 07, 2007

Turkey - 3G auction

Turkey's top mobile phone operator Turkcell (NYSE:TKC) on Friday won a tender for the country's first third-generation phone licence with a bid of 321 mln eur (438.5 mln usd).

Turkcell was the only bidder in the televised tender held by the state regulatory body, the Telecommunications Board, for four different licences at four different frequencies that will allow operators to provide advanced services such as video telephony.

Turkcell made an initial bid of 311 mln eur, which it then increased by 10 mln eur to win the licence for the top frequency of 45 MHz.

With value added tax, the company will be paying the treasury some 510 mln usd, the Anatolia news agency said.

The deal is subject to approval by the Telecommunications Board.

Turkcell said in its bid that it would pay the price of the licence in cash if the deal is approved by the state.

'It would take us three to six months to introduce video telephony once we get the approval and make the necessary investments,' Turkcell CEO Sureyya Ciliv said after the tender.

The remaining three tenders for licences at lesser frequencies were cancelled due to a lack of bidders.

Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) and Avea, Turkey's second and third largest mobile phone operators, as well as the French operator Orange, were reported to have requested tender conditions, but none submitted a bid.

Both Vodafone and Avea have opposed the handing out of 3G licences by the Turkish state before number portability is allowed, on the grounds that such a move would only benefit Turkcell.

The Telecommunications Board issued a regulation earlier this year to allow subscribers to change operators without changing their numbers, but Turkcell opposed the regulation in court.

Turkcell, which controls about 60 percent of the Turkish market, said last month that it had posted a net profit of 274 mln usd in the second quarter of the year, increasing its consolidated revenues by 29 pct to 1.5 bln usd.

The company said it had also increased numbers of subscribers by 13 pct to reach 33.8 mln.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thalys - Wireless service on high speed trains

Thalys selects Nokia Siemens Networks, 21Net and Telenet to provide wireless broadband Internet access in trains

Finnish telecomms infrastructure company Nokia Siemens Networks said on Thursday (6 September) that the European high speed train operator Thalys has selected a consortium to provide wireless broadband Internet access to passengers travelling in Comfort 1 and Comfort 2 between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne, by 2008.

The consortium consists of Nokia Siemens Networks, 21Net, a European supplier of broadband Internet based on satellite connectivity, and the Belgian broadband cable operator Telenet. It will combine satellite, GPRS and UMTS technologies with wireless networks similar to WiFi hotspots to provide a continuous Internet connection on board trains travelling across the borders at the speed of 300km/h.

This will be the world's first international railway company to provide this service across European borders, the company added. The first Thalys trains equipped with the WiFi technology will run commercially from Autumn 2007.

In addition to Internet access, Thalys will also offer its passengers information on travel destinations and connecting trains as well as entertainment services.

Under the terms of a managed services contract, the consortium will supply and install the technology, provide ongoing network operation and take over the maintenance of the network components.

From M2 Communications Ltd

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

ITU - Regulatory trends

Next-generation networks set to transform communications

ITU issues guide for Regulators to foster investment and access

ITU has released a major publication, Trends in Telecommunication Reform: the Road to NGN. In its 8th edition, Trends reports on the evolution of circuit-switched telecommunication into "next-generation" networks, as operators around the world fight to remain competitive. The Report aims at enabling regulators and policy-makers in developing countries to better understand the changes transforming the ICT sector so they can evolve their policy and regulatory frameworks to leverage today’s technological and market developments.

Next-generation networks (NGN) herald the shift from a "one network, one service" approach, to the delivery of many services over a single network. Based on the Internet Protocol (IP), NGN migration builds on the expansion of broadband networks, the rise of Voice over IP (VoIP), fixed-mobile convergence and IP television (IPTV). These new networks are being developed using a number of technologies, including wireless and mobile, fibre and cable, or by upgrades to existing copper lines. While some operators are focused on upgrading their core — or transport — networks to NGN, others are tackling their access networks that reach the end user.

Fixed-line operators face increased competition from wireless telecommunication operators, providers of cable television networks and large Internet content providers with strong brands and deep pockets. The search for new revenue streams from the increasingly popular triple or quadruple play bundled package of IPTV, voice calls and ultra-high-speed broadband Internet access has accelerated the rolling out of fibre networks closer to homes and offices. In addition, operators increasingly seek to collect advertising revenue from the range of user-generated, social-networking and other content running on ever-higher speed broadband networks, dubbed "ultra broadband" or "broaderband" technology. At the same time, mobile operators are upgrading their networks to find new revenue streams fed by offers of seamless connectivity to bandwidth-intensive applications like mobile TV.

ICT sector in transition

The transitions underway are changing the way we communicate and the way in which the information and communication technology (ICT) sector conducts its business.

Developing countries seek to join the NGN bandwagon, motivated by the goal of making the Information Society a reality for their citizens and the concern about falling even deeper into the digital divide as developed countries roll out high-speed broadband networks. The bottom line for developing countries is not necessarily to adopt the same NGN experience as developed countries, but to harness the potential of new technologies to meet their ICT development goals.

The good news is that developing countries do not have to wait to meet their goals. Technological developments, such as broadband wireless access, are making ICT development a reality — provided their regulatory framework is designed to remove obstacles to innovation and investment.

Growth in the ICT sector has been nothing short of buoyant in the past year. By the end of 2006, there were a total of nearly 4 billion mobile and fixed line subscribers and over 1 billion Internet users worldwide. This included 1.27 billion fixed line subscribers and 2.68 billion mobile subscribers. These numbers are even more impressive when updated to include two of the fastest growing markets: China and India, which in the first quarter of 2007 had reported nearly 200 million more subscribers between them — 87 million in China, and about 110 million more in India. Some 61 per cent of the world’s mobile subscribers are in developing countries, fuelled by countries like Brazil, China, India and Russia. Mobile penetration rates in developing countries, excluding the least developed countries (LDCs), grew from 26 per cent in 2005 to nearly 34 per cent in 2006. While there is still considerable potential for Internet growth in developing countries, where the average level of Internet usage in 2006 was only 10 per cent, an increasing number of developing and emerging countries have joined the ranks of the list of top broadband subscribers (ranked by total number of subscribers rather than penetration rates), including Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Turkey.

But the least developed countries still lag behind. Only 22 out of 50 LDCs offered broadband service in 2006, and users in these countries often pay extortionate rates for relatively low-speed broadband.

New regulatory frameworks to the rescue

Policy-makers recognize the need to abandon regulatory practices designed for an earlier era — such as those based on providing only one service on a dedicated network — that can stifle innovation and investment and lead to arbitrage opportunities. It makes more sense to embrace new regulatory practices that are pro-growth and pro-end user. With a growing range of wireless technologies that offer ever-increasing broadband capabilities, many countries seek to upgrade their regulatory frameworks to match today’s technological developments. So while wealthier countries test the business case for NGN services like IPTV and mobile TV, developing countries can already exploit today’s technological developments, leapfrogging their way to meet the pent-up demand for communications services — both basic and advanced.

What about the needs of end-users? NGN is regarded as an effective tool to achieve the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), especially to provide universal access to ICT. By enabling new businesses to flourish in rural and urban areas in both developed and developing countries, NGN helps achieve the broader development goals, promising socio-economic growth, reducing poverty and integrating citizens into the global economy, while preserving and promoting local content and culture. Associated with Internet access at higher transmission speeds than ADSL, NGN will facilitate a full range of public services such as e-government and e-health. For this reason, government policy makers and regulators increasingly question not whether they should promote this relentless evolution, but rather how they can hasten it.

This year’s Trends in Telecommunication Reform contains ten chapters each addressing different NGN-related challenges and opportunities to enable regulators to harness the potential of NGN to build an Information Society for all. It includes an ICT market and regulatory overview to set the stage for the following chapters; an NGN overview, to introduce the more detailed discussion in the later chapters; an analysis of NGN technology in an effort to demystify the plethora of NGN terms under discussion; a look at fixed-mobile convergence as one of the trends leading to NGN deployments; interconnection and access in an NGN environment; international Internet interconnection, which will take on greater importance as networks become increasingly IP-based; universal access and NGN; Quality of Service (QoS), consumer protection and cybersecurity in an NGN environment; the enabling environment for NGN; a conclusion and a look ahead.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fiji - Price reductions

Commission announces further reduction in telecommunications prices

The Commerce Commission today released its second pricing determination (since the last determination issued in September 2005)for all telecommunications services including international, fixed line, mobile call charges and broadband charges.

The Commerce Commission made its determination on all telephone charges and authorised further reduction in all international calls from either mobile or fixed line, inter-region calls, mobile retail rates for both peak and off-peak and internet and broadband charges.

The first determination which was issued in September 2005 was for 15months and was to be reviewed in December 2006. However, after further consultation with the carriers and the Government, the review was deferred to allow for the promulgation of the Telecommunications Bill and the Commerce Amendment Bill. These two Bills were to be implemented from March 2007. However, in view of the 5th December events, the promulation of the Bills have been deferred and thus the review of the prices which commenced from March.

The new prices in this determination are to be effected from 1st October 2007 and applies to Telecom Fiji, FINTEL and Vodafone Fiji Limited.