Monday, December 31, 2007

Slovak - Monopolist fined

Slovak Telekom Fined Again

Telecommunications operator Slovak Telekom (ST) is to pay a fine of Sk525.8 million (€15.64 million) for abusing its dominant position in the market, reports Hospodarske Noviny daily.

According to the Antimonopoly Bureau (PMU), which has levied the penalty, the company harmed its competitors by squeezing margins, as in 2005 and 2006 ST charged Sk1 (€0.03) for 30-minute calls in its network and provided some calls free of charge.

The Office said that alternative, small-scale operators were unable to offer prices comparable to those of ST, given their obligation to pay ST charges for connection in ST's network.

Slovak Telekom said that it would appeal against the ruling. According to the company, it's facing an inappropriate pressure from PMU. In addition, it's the Telecommunications Office that is to supervise over fairness of practices employed by competing companies, reads a statement issued by the company.

[Slovak Telekom has made a successful appeal against previous two fines which were imposed on it in October 2006 and September 2007, as the court later overturned the regulatory office's decisions and cancelled the penalties.]

Japan - FTTH

Japan: 10.52 Million FTTH Customers Versus 13.48 million DSL customers (and dropping)

Japan continues to lose DSL subscribers as the nation embraces fiber-to-the-home connectivity. The nation's total number of fiber connections grew by 818,221 to 10.52 million, according to the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The total number of DSL subscriptions fell by 310,955 during the quarter to 13.48 million. There are 3.75 million cable broadband subscribers in Japan, and 27.76 million broadband subscribers total.

USA - levels of competition

Data on Local Telephone Competition

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released new data on local telephone service competition in the United States. Key findings as of December 2006 include: customers received telephone service from mobile phone companies (229.6 million subscribers), incumbent telephone companies (138.8 million), and competitive telephone companies (28.7 million).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

USA - searching for information

Information Searches That Solve Problems

There are several major findings in this report. One is this: For help with a variety of common problems, more people turn to the internet than consult experts or family members to provide information and resources.

Another key insight is that members of Gen Y are the leading users of libraries for help solving problems and in more general patronage.

In a national phone survey, respondents were asked whether they had encountered 10 possible problems in the previous two years, all of which had a potential connection to the government or government-provided information. Those who had dealt with the problems were asked where they went for help and the internet topped the list:

58% of those who had recently experienced one of those problems said they used the internet (at home, work, a public library or some other place) to get help.
53% said they turned to professionals such as doctors, lawyers or financial experts.
45% said they sought out friends and family members for advice and help.
36% said they consulted newspapers and magazines.
34% said they directly contacted a government office or agency.
16% said they consulted television and radio.
13% said they went to the public library.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hong Kong SAR - Mobile television

OFTA has published three reports:

Report of T-DMB Mobile TV Trial by Radio Television Hong Kong

Report of DVB-H Mobile TV Trial by PCCW-HKT Telephone Limited

Report of DVB-H Mobile TV Trial by Television Broadcasts Limited

Fiji - The Vodafone monopoly

Vodafone, State sign 15-year deal
From Fiji Sun

The Interim Government has proposed to issue leading mobile service provider Vodafone Fiji Limited a 15-year open facilities-based telecommunication licence with no establishment fee. This agreement is expected to be finalised during the signing of the deed settlement between Amalgamated Telecommunication Holdings, Telecom Fiji Limited, Fiji International Telecommunications Limited and Vodafone early next week.
Confidential documents representing an understanding between Vodafone and the Government concerning the consequences of the implementation of the deregulation of the telecommunication industry stated that the Government had agreed to issue the licence without an upfront or other establishment fee in relation to the issue of the licence.

In another term of settlement, the Government had agreed to issue Vodafone spectrum licences at no charge other than annual charges in relation to Telecommunications Authority of Fiji’s administration and management costs.

This proposal would also apply to other spectrum licence holders on a non-discriminatory basis that will provide for spectrum as follow:

-900Mz spectrum-
* 15MHz of 900 MHz spectrum (paired) for the period begging of the day the agreement is signed until December 31, 2009.
* 13MHz of 900MHz spectrum (paired) from the period beginning January 1, 2010 for so long its licence has not expired.

-2GHz spectrum
* 15 MHz of 3G/UMTS spectrum (paired) from the commencement date of this agreement for so long as the licence has not expired.

Microwave radio links
* Government shall ensure the spectrum to be used for the microwave facilities that is detailed in the letter from the ministry to Vodafone dated November 30 this year.
In terms of the introduction of facility based operators, the State will not allow new operator or licenses entitled to operate a mobile network to offer mobile services.

Vodafone will be the lone company that can offer commercial mobile services to the public until September next year.

The 15-year licence will allow Vodafone to establish it own international gateway and any related facilities.

This means that Vodafone could also purchase international gateway and any related facilities or to be able to purchase international services from any provider.
Government would also ensure that for so long as FINTEL provides prices approved by the commerce commission, all services provider in the telecommunication industry shall be bound to use FINTEL as the international service provider for the period of 18 months beginning from the date of the signing of the agreement.

Government shall also ensure that the Telecommunication Bill or Commerce (Amendment) Bill contains a provision that the following services may not be regulated for a period of no less than three years from the date of the signing of the agreement by all parties concerned.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Korea - knowledge economy

Korea's Transition to a Knowledge Economy

The Republic of Korea has been experiencing rapid, and more importantly, sustained economic growth since the 1960s. This has resulted in its real GDP per capita increasing rapidly enabling the once low-income country to join the ranks of high-income industrialized nations within a short time span of four and half decades. Moreover, the majority of this growth can be attributed to knowledge accumulation, rather than to the accumulation of traditional factors of production of capital and labor.

Korea had achieved this knowledge-based growth by investing heavily in education and training, boosting innovation through intensive research and development, developing a modern and accessible information infrastructure, all coupled with a stable economic and conducive institutional regime that enabled the knowledge-related investments to flourish. Due to this, Korea has ably made its transition to a knowledge economy, that is, an economy that uses knowledge as the key engine of growth. Its successful knowledge-based development experience offers many valuable lessons for developing economies.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

China - mobile broadband

China to develop next-generation broadband wireless mobile technology in 2008

(Xinhua) -- China would launch a special program to develop the technology for a "next-generation broadband wireless mobile communication network" in 2008, Wang Xudong, the minister of Information Industry, said on Thursday.

The next-generation technology would be in line with developing trends in information technology and would contribute to innovation and Chinese companies' global competitiveness, the minister said.

Additionally, the country would focus on research and development of other key technologies such as those for core electron devices, high-end general chips and ultra-large integrated circuits, he said.

On Wednesday, the State Council (cabinet) approved a plan to develop the next-generation network, which analysts said was related to the third generation (3G) services.

The country is expanding the TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) network tests to prepare for 3G services during the Beijing Olympics next year.

The TD-SCDMA is a homegrown 3G technology standard. The other two types of CDMA technologies are the U.S. standard, CDMA 2000, and the European WCDMA.

There was no timetable available yet for the issuance of 3G licenses, since relevant departments were still considering how the services would operate, but analysts said the homegrown standard was most likely to get the first license.

On the news of imminent 3G service, telecom shares surged, with China Unicom up by as much as 8.28 percent to 12.29 yuan (1.66 U.S. dollars) during Thursday's trading.

China has four major telecom operators -- China Telecom, China Netcom, China Mobile and China Unicom -- and each monopolizes one or two services.

In a recent report, China's top economic planner said that the country should reorganize the four operators to require them to offer "full-range" services. This means major communication businesses such as fixed lines, internet access and mobile communication services would no longer be monopolized by one or two operators.

The report said such a reorganization would create a "relatively fair" market environment and benefit consumers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

China - broadband in Shanghai

Shanghai clicks onto broadband in a big way

SHANGHAI leads all Chinese cities for computer connections - half of the city's families subscribe to broadband, China Telecom said yesterday.

Shanghai's broadband subscriber base has passed three million already, 15 times up from 2002, according to Shanghai Telecom, the city's largest fixed-line phone operator.

About 85 percent of Shanghai Telecom's broadband users are accessing the Internet at more than two MBPS (megabits per second) allowing them to use various online services from IPTV (Internet protocol TV), online games and film and music downloads.

And 80 percent of Shanghai Telecom's users have selected the more expensive four MBPS package.

The number of broadband users on China's mainland has already hit 122 million, the highest in the world, according to the Ministry of Information Industry.

"The efficiency and popularity of broadband ensures that people are using more online applications," said Hua Ruiqiang, Shanghai Telecom's senior manager.

Shanghai Telecom's IPTV subscriber base has passed 220,000, three times that of a year ago. The IPTV service allows users to surf online using television screens. The quality of IPTV video however is not as good as DVDs and so the platform does not appeal to everyone.

Shanghai Telecom is planning to upgrade the broadband network to 16 MBPS, a speed that supports high-definition video content, according to Hua.

Fixed line carriers, like China Telecom, are seeking opportunities like broadband and IPTV to boost revenue outside of telephones.

Last year, more than 30 percent of China Telecom's income came from non-phone services, up from 5.5 percent in 2002.

Shanghai Telecom charges families between 130 and 150 yuan (US$20.46) a month for broadband. The fixed line phone companies' traditional incomes have been hit by mobile carriers with their free incoming call services, says Norson Telecom Consulting, a Beijing-based IT consulting firm.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

China - Internet cafes

China market: Net cafes to generate revenue of over 500 billion yuan in 2008

Net cafes in China have generated total operating revenues of 450 billion yuan (US$60.8 billion) annually in recent years and the total revenues are expected to exceed 500 billion yuan next year due to the boost from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Taiwan-based Central News Agency (CNA) cited China-based Beijing Netmoviecafes as saying.

China is the largest market of net cafes around the world, with about 120,000 licensed net cafes and 60 million daily consumers.

Africa - A new satellite

New Satellite to Save $500 Million for Africa

Luanda, Dec 25 (Prensa Latina) The launching of the first pan-African telecommunications satellite system into orbit next week will allow Africa to annually save $500 million.

The director of the Regional African Satellite Communication Organization (RascomStar), Fraj Lamari, told an Angolan radio station that the African continent's first pan-African telecommunications satellite system is similar to the US Intelsat and the European Eutelsat.

The satellite system will 500 millions of dollars paid out annually to operators outside the continent, such as US Intelsat and the European Eutelsat, as transit charges for intra-African traffic.

The operator, Rascom, expect the system to provide a range of value-added services to all countries of Africa.

The services would, among others, include provision of telecommunications services in rural areas on a large scale at low costs by using appropriate technology.

China - largest broadband nation

China tops broadband users worldwide

The number of Chinese broadband users has hit 122 million, the highest in the world, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday, citing an official from the information industry authority.

Sixty percent of the netizens surfed on the Internet via broadband, said Jiang Yaoping, vice minister of the ministry of information industry, at a work conference of China Telecommunications Corporation on Saturday.

Last year, more than 30 percent of China Telecom's income came from non-phone services, rising from 5.5 percent in 2002, the report said.

One-third of the new broadband users are farmers, where the demand for the service is high, China Telecom officials said.

The increased user number boosted the non-voice income of fixed-phone carriers, accelerating the transformation of traditional phone carriers into comprehensive information service providers, the report said.

UK - High speed broadband

French company chosen to develop 50Mb broadband network

A French company has been chosen to provide a fibre broadband network to 600,000 homes in South Yorkshire, in a project that could precede a nationwide next generation fibre network.

Next generation broadband has been the talk of 2007, with Government ministers keen to keep up with neighbouring countries by developing ever faster broadband connections.

Now Thales, a French defence and engineering group has been chosen to oversee a project that will match the speeds of up to 50Mb currently on trial by Virgin Media.

The project will involve replacing the old copper wires used by ADSL providers with much faster fibre optic cable - currently deemed too expensive to do on a national basis.

HM Queen Elizabeth

The British Monarchy now has a channel on YouTube.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

USA - the regulation of indecency

A special issue of the Federal Communications Law Journal has been published addressing questions around the Expansion of Indecency Regulation

Friday, December 21, 2007

Europe - auditing investment in research

Information note by the European Court of Auditors: Evaluating the EU Research and Technological Development (RTD) framework programmes - could the Commission's approach be improved?

Text of the report

ECA/07/40, Luxembourg, 2007/12/29

Information note by the European Court of Auditors on Special Report No 9/2007 concerning "Evaluating the EU Research and Technological Development (RTD) framework programmes - could the Commission's approach be improved?"[1]

Research and technological development (RTD) is the main driver of scientific and technological progress and innovation. Being a major player in the field of research is important for the European Union and its Member States so that the high living standards of its citizens can be maintained or even further improved. The Treaty establishes the Communities’ role in supporting RTD, stating that "the Community shall have the objective of strengthening the scientific and technological bases of Community industry and encouraging it to become more competitive at international level, while promoting all the research activities deemed necessary".

Within the wide range of policies implemented in the European Union to strengthen innovation and competitiveness, the RTD framework programmes (FPs) are the most important financial instrument contributing to the Lisbon strategy and the Barcelona objective at the Community level. Through the FPs, the Community provides funding to researchers within the European Union, associated countries and beyond. Their budgets have increased significantly over the years, reaching 7 217 million euro per year under FP7 (2007 to 2013). In terms of budgetary appropriations, the FPs represent the largest area of direct centralised management within the Commission. They are implemented jointly by six Directorates-General, the so-called "research DGs".

The overall share of the FPs in total public RTD funding within the European Union and its Member States ranges between 4 % and 5 %. Nevertheless, its impact on what kind of research is carried out within Europe is significantly larger. This is because Community grants generally provide only part of the total funding for a project. In addition, when applying for funding, researchers need to demonstrate that their projects address the objectives specified in the calls for proposals. In this way, the FPs set incentives to orient RTD activities towards scientific and technological objectives agreed at the level of the European Union.

The Court's audit (which was carried out jointly with the EFTA Board of Auditors and the assistance of external experts) covered the evaluation and monitoring arrangements in place at the Commission since 1995 for the last three programming periods (FP4, FP5, FP6), and also gives an outlook for the current FP7 (2007 - 2013).

The audit addressed the basic question of whether the Commission's approach to assessing the results of the FPs was adequate. In this context, the Court checked whether the Commission met the legal requirements and ascertained whether its system for evaluation and monitoring met stakeholder expectations.

USA - illegal sanctions against Internet gambling

WTO issues arbitration report on gambling dispute

Scope of GATS commitments: The Appellate Body upheld, based on modified reasoning, the Panel's finding that the US GATS Schedule included specific commitments on gambling and betting services. Resorting to "document W/120" and the "1993 Scheduling Guidelines"3 as "supplementary means of interpretation" under Art. 32 of the VCLT, rather than context (Art. 31), the Appellate Body concluded that the entry, "other recreational services (except sporting)", in the US Schedule must be interpreted as including "gambling and betting services" within its scope.

GATS Art. XVI:1 and 2 (market access commitment): The Appellate Body upheld the Panel's finding that the United States acted inconsistently with Art. XVI:1 and 2, as the US federal laws at issue, by prohibiting the crossborder supply of gambling and betting services where specific commitments had been undertaken, amounted to a "zero quota" that fell within the scope of, and was prohibited by, Art. XVI:2(a) and (c). However, it reversed a similar finding by the Panel on state laws because it considered that Antigua and Barbuda ("Antigua") had failed to make a prima facie case with respect to these state laws.

GATS Art. XIV(a) (public morals defence): The Appellate Body upheld the Panel's finding that the US measures were designed "to protect public morals or to maintain public order" within the meaning of Article XIV(a), but reversed the Panel's finding that the United States had not shown that its measures were "necessary" to do so because the Panel had erred in considering consultations with Antigua to constitute a "reasonably available" alternative measure. The Appellate Body found that the measures were "necessary": The United States had made a prima facie case showing of "necessity" and Antigua had failed to identify any other alternative measures that might be "reasonably available". With respect to the Article XIV(c) defence, the Appellate Body reversed the Panel due to its erroneous "necessity" analysis and declined to make its own findings on the issue.

The Appellate Body modified the Panel's finding with respect to the chapeau of Article XIV. The Appellate Body reversed the Panel's finding that the measures did not meet the requirements of the chapeau because the United States had discriminated in the enforcement of those measures. However, the Appellate Body upheld the second ground upon which the Panel based its finding, namely that in the light of the Interstate Horseracing Act (which appeared to authorize domestic operators to engage in the remote supply of certain betting services), the United States had not demonstrated that its prohibitions on remote gambling applied to both foreign and domestic service suppliers, i.e. in a manner that did not constitute "arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination" within the meaning of the chapeau.
Expert think tank to consider the future of communications

An expert think tank looking at the opportunities and challenges posed by the merging of broadcasting and communications services will begin work early in the new year, Culture Secretary James Purnell and Business Secretary John Hutton announced today.

The Convergence Think Tank (CTT) will examine the implications of technological development for the media and communications industries, and the consequences for both markets and consumers.

It will have a key role in helping to shape future policy development in relation to these sectors, which include TV, radio, mobile and fixed telecoms and online services.

Kosovo - GSM

Telekom Slovenije Group launches GSM mobile network in Kosovo; Ipko Net has become iPKO

Priština, 14 December – More than half a year after being awarded the concession as the second mobile operator in Kosovo, the Telekom Slovenije Group consortium, of which the main backer is iPKO, including Telekom Slovenije and Mobitel, kept its promise and launched the network commercially. The Telekom Slovenije Group will install 144 base stations during the first launch phase, of which more than 40 are already operational. The equipment and the other telecommunications and routing systems for the network have been supplied by Ericsson Nikola Tesla. Including the concession fee, almost €100 million has so far been invested in the construction of the network, one-half of the total planned investment.

California - Broadband

CPUC promotes broadband service in unserved areas of California to bridge digital divide

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today allocated $100 million over two years to the new California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which will provide incentives to companies to bring broadband service to unserved and underserved areas of California, many of which are rural, remote, or socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

"Today's decision signals that this state is not content to sit around waiting for federal action to bring broadband to every part of our state," said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey. "We encourage every broadband provider in California to be a part of the solution for ending the digital divide in our state and participate in the CASF process."

"The CASF will focus on the unserved and underserved regions of California, enabling us to reach out to the state's low income rural communities," said CPUC Commissioner Dian M. Grueneich. "By leveraging the program with 60 percent or more matching funds, we will be able to provide more of these communities with 21st century broadband technology as well as 21st century opportunities."

Added CPUC Commissioner John Bohn, "This decision represents a critical element in the modernization of California's infrastructure by creating the capacity in the unserved sector to participate in the new California economy."

"Without a broadband pipe to provide access to the Internet, these unserved communities will become `digital have-nots'," said CPUC Commissioner Rachelle Chong, the assigned Commissioner of the proceeding. "Policymakers and corporate leaders across the nation have been talking about the importance of deploying broadband infrastructure for years, yet this critical infrastructure is not available throughout the state. It is time to stop talking and finish the job."

Among the findings of today's decision:

· Broadband infrastructure is critical to the economic health and welfare of the state and its citizens. Ubiquitous deployment of broadband holds tremendous opportunities for consumers, technology providers, and content providers, and is important to the continued health and economic development in California - home to the leading centers for entertainment and high technology.
· California Advanced Services Fund recipients will be subject to specific audit or related verification requirements to verify that funds are spent in accordance with CPUC requirements.

The California Advanced Services Fund will be a new universal service program, beginning on January 1, 2008. It is limited to $100 million over a two year period.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

China - rural broadband

Survey Report on Internet Development in Rural China 2007

For the last decade, Internet in China has experienced rapid development with the number of netizens increasing from 620,000 in 1997 to 162 million in June 2007, and its scope has increased by 260 times.

There is a remarkable issue of “Dual Structures”in China’s current development, which is reflected in various aspects between the East and West, the Urban and Rural, etc. the “Dual Structures” of Urban and Rural exist not only in the traditional areas of social, economic, and cultural life, but also in the area of Internet which was born a dozen years ago. The statistical survey for the gap in Internet development between urban and rural areas, however, is slightly weak until in late 2005 CNNIC Released the first data on the netizen scope of rural areas in China.

In June 2007, the netizen population of rural China reached 37.41 million and among the rural population of 737 million, the Internet penetration rate reached 5.1%; the netizen population in urban areas reached 125 million, with the penetration rate reaching 21.6%. While the netizen population in rural areas is only 30% of that in urban areas, the penetration ratio is slightly less than 1/4 (23.6%) that of in urban.

There is a large gap in the Internet development status between rural and urban areas while the gap in netizen population is gradually being bridged. The infrastructures related to rural Internet development are weak. By the end of 2006, the number of computers owned by the rural families was 2.7 per hundred families, far lower than the average of 47.2 per hundred families in urban areas. Compared to the number by the end of 2005, the number of computers owned by every hundred rural families increased by 0.6 while for urban families by 5.7, with the gap in Internet-related infrastructures still enlarging.

See also Statistical Reports on the Internet Development in China

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Japan - FTTH

FTTH Subscriptions Surpass 10 Million, Japan's MIC Announces

Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has announced the number of subscriptions to optical fiber-based FTTH (fiber to the home) Internet access service reached about 10.5 million as of the end of September 2007.

The MIC announced broadband subscriptions in Japan as of the end of September 2007 as well. The number of total subscriptions was 27.8 million, according to the MIC. This figure includes 10,518,659 subscriptions to FTTH, 13,794,314 subscriptions to DSL, 3,748,618 subscriptions to Internet access via cable TV and 12,451 subscriptions to fixed wireless access (FWA) services.

FTTH subscriptions grew by about 564,000 compared with those at the end of June 2007. The growth was, however, slower than before. If growth remains at the current rate, FTTH subscriptions are likely to just exceed 18 million at the end of 2010.

Meanwhile, DSL subscriptions declined about 310,000 compared with those at the end of June 2007. Subscriptions to FTTH and DSL services are expected to even out around the end of July 2008.

Southern Africa - Corruption

Corruption risk analysis in Southern Africa

Corruption is illegal everywhere in Africa, but still deeply woven into the fabric of every day life. Corruption in Africa causes and deepens poverty and its impact is felt most by the poor.

To assess the situation at the national level, Transparency International (TI) undertook National Integrity System (NIS) country studies in seven Southern African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Transparency International’s concept of the National Integrity System (NIS) consists of the key institutions, laws and practices that contribute to integrity, transparency and accountability in a society.

Key regional trends are summarised in a regional overview study. It is based upon the NIS country studies and other sources, such as media or research materials, particularly those published since the country studies were completed. The report specifically highlights areas of regional concern and particular regional frameworks for cooperation, such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Development Bank, and their relevance to the NIS in the region.

The cost of corruption in Africa

Corruption in Africa is costing the continent nearly US $150 billion a year, according to the African Union (AU).

Corruption creates barriers to democracy, hinders access to services, increases the cost of goods by as much as 20 percent, deters investment and holds back development. The African Union (AU) also estimates that resources diverted by corrupt acts and resources withheld or deterred due to the existence of corruption, are thought to represent as much as 25 percent of the continent’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Research findings by the African Development Bank indicate that corruption leads to a loss of approximately 50 percent of tax revenue, which in some instances is a greater amount than a country's total foreign debt.

What is more, the impact of corruption is felt most by the poor. Lower income households spend an average 2-3 percent of their income on bribes, while rich households spend considerably less: an average of 0.9 percent of their income.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Regulation and investment in telecommunications

Analysing the Relationship Between Regulation and Investment in the Telecom Sector

ESMT: Dr. Hans W. Friederiszick, Prof. Michał Grajek & Tseveen Gantumur

This expert report has been initiated and supported by Deutsche Telekom AG.

This report analyses the relationship between entry regulation and infrastructure investment in the telecommunication sector, contributing to the ongoing debate on how to reshape the regulatory framework for eCommunications. The empirical analysis is based on a comprehensive data set of investment data covering 180 fixed-line and mobile operators in 25 European countries over 10 years and employs a newly created indicator measuring regulatory intensity in the various countries.

Overall, the results of this report highlight the importance of using a robust empirical approach if econometric evidence is used for policy advice. Opposite to what is derived from simplified assessments we do not find any indications that entry regulation has a positive impact on investment. On the contrary and in line with the theoretical literature, in the fixed-line sector regulators are faced with an important trade-off, where we find a significant negative effect of entry regulation on the incentives of entrants to invest. Promoting market entry by means of regulated access might have the desired short-term effect of lower prices and more consumer surplus, but at the same time undermines the incentives of entrants to invest in their own infrastructure thereby compromising on the long-term goal to establish facilities-based competition.

Scandinavia - Network Readiness

Nordic Region Still Leads Network Readiness Index - but for How Long?
see also

A New Report, Sponsored by Cisco, Examines Data Behind Region's Success and Asks, 'How Long Will the Stars Keep Shining?'

LONDON, December 18, 2007 - A report based on research from the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, published today, highlights the continuing dominance of the Nordic region in measures of information technology readiness but also points to factors that could undermine this success. As competition becomes truly global, advanced economies realize that their success depends on the acquisition, building and sharing of knowledge. To accomplish this in a sustainable manner, a country must invest in educational systems, information networks, innovations and incentives that focus on developing a knowledge-based society.

One measure of a country's readiness to benefit from information and communications technology (ICT) has become accepted as the most authoritative indicator of progress in this area: the WEF-INSEAD Network Readiness Index, or NRI (). Since the index's inception in 2001, the top 10 positions have been dominated by the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden):

* There have always been at least four of the five Nordic nations in the top 10 and consistently three in the top five.
* Finland occupied the top spot in 2001 and has never been outside of the top five.
* Since 2002 Denmark has improved its ranking by at least one place every year, culminating this year with the No. 1 spot.

Cisco commissioned the report to investigate the secret of this success and to help define a route for other nations to improve their network readiness. The report re-examines the key data behind the rankings to uncover common approaches, critical success factors and potential best practices.

Key insights from the report include:

* The high quality of the Nordic ICT infrastructure, combined with positive political and regulatory frameworks, has been critical in maintaining the leadership of the Nordic nations in the NRI.
* The development of ICT skills among individuals, businesses and government organizations on a consistent basis has led to success, especially in Finland and Denmark.
* The increasing usage and acceptance of Internet-based and converged services is also a driver of high rankings for the Nordic nations in the NRI.

However, the report also examines some of the current and potential weaknesses that could lead to a slide down the ranking scale for the Nordic region. Other nations, including the United States, Singapore, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, are competing hard for the top rankings. Key advantages that these nations have over the Nordic region include:

* Simpler and more streamlined processes for starting and running businesses
* More openness to investment in and use of technology from overseas
* Lower communications costs (including broadband subscriptions)
* And, in Switzerland and Singapore in particular, higher-quality general and science-specific education

Commenting on the report, Niels Furu, vice president of the Nordic region at Cisco, said: "The continued high ranking of the Nordic nations in this authoritative index is remarkable, especially considering the highly competitive and fast-moving nature of today's global society. What we have found is that common best practices underpin this success and that other nations, and indeed organisations, can learn from and adopt them. There are also challenges that the Nordic region must face if it is to maintain its pre-eminence in this area, and these too serve as useful guides for other audiences seeking to emulate its progress. As globalisation moves on, all countries, regions and organisations will need to continually invest in the infrastructures, processes, skills and usage of information technology to build, share and benefit from their knowledge assets."

"While many countries around the world are competing to attract investment and talents, the Nordic countries have proved able to sustain successful knowledge-based strategies through a unique combination of largely self-generated IT infrastructure, human skills and technological innovation," said Bruno Lanvin, the main author of the report'. "Other advanced countries are catching up quickly. In the coming years, the weight of countries like India, with large cohorts of highly skilled engineers, will also start to be felt. To maintain their 'e-readiness advantage,' the Nordic countries will need to prove as imaginative and dynamic as they have been in the past. This will require increasing attention to existing strengths, including the quality of life in safe and environment-friendly societies, but also to possible new sources of creativity and initiatives: for example, from cities and other subnational components of civil society."

Gambling - WTO dispute

EU accepts US compensation deal in online gambling row

BRUSSELS (Thomson Financial) - The European Commission says it has accepted a US offer for trade compensation to make up for the losses incurred by EU firms as a result of US-imposed curbs on Internet gambling.

The 'compensation package' foresees US openings in other sectors as compensation for closing its gambling market to foreign firms.

'A bilateral agreement was signed in Geneva, which provides EU service suppliers with new trade opportunities in the US postal and courier, research and development, storage and warehouse sectors,' the commission said in a statement.

The case dates to 2005, when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that a US law allowing only domestic companies to provide online horse-race gambling services discriminated against foreign companies.

Washington announced in May it was retroactively excluding gambling services from market-opening commitments it made as part of a 1994 world trade deal -- a move that is possible under WTO rules providing other countries receive compensation.

The announcement kicked off compensation talks with the EU and other countries including Japan and India.

Europe - ICTs and growth

Information and Communication Technologies, Market Rigidities and Growth: Implications for EU Policies

Salvador Barrios & Jean-Claude Burgelman
EUR Number: 23027 EN

The renewed Lisbon strategy puts special emphasis on the potential role that Information and Communication Technologies can play in meeting the challenges of boosting growth, competitiveness and cohesion throughout the EU. There is also a general understanding among policy makers that investment of this kind and its related economic benefits can only materialize if labour, capital, product and service markets are flexible enough to facilitate ICT investment and the re-organisation of economic activities. This paper provides evidence of the influence of market rigidities on the propensity to invest in ICT and on the economic return of ICT investment in a number of EU countries, and in the US and Japan. We provide evidence that indicates that market rigidities deter ICT investment and lower the impact of ICT on GDP growth by considering a number of indicators reflecting barriers to business creation and the degree of market regulation in labour and capital markets. These results are invariant, even when other potential determinants of ICT investments and ICT contribution to GDP growth such as the degree of specialisation in ICT-producing industries, past ICT investment, business cycles conditions and a measure of trade openness are controlled for. The paper provides a number of policy implications, most notably, regarding the role played by structural reforms in promoting both ICT adoption and setting the best framework conditions for ICT impact on GDP growth. While the renewed EU Lisbon strategy of economic reforms is badly needed to increase EU growth potential, we show here that this strategy is also needed to promote technological change in the EU economy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Google - Spam

1 Billion Messages Not Served

Postini is a recent addition to Google that offers solutions that help enterprises make their existing email infrastructure more secure, compliant and productive. We process email for more than 35,000 businesses and 12 million end users, and block about 1 billion messages per day, which is a good sample size to report on global spam trends for businesses. In 2007, Postini data centers recorded the highest levels of spam and virus attacks in history. Much of this was fueled by an increase in the number of botnet computers being used to send spam. Botnets are networks of infected PCs, usually with broadband Internet connections that are co-opted by hackers and used to send spam and virus attacks. Often they are compromised without their owner's knowledge. We started to see these botnets kick in back in September of 2006. Since that time, spam volumes are up more than 163 percent. We saw a peak of activity in October 2007 where volume was a 263 percent increase from September 2006 and Postini blocked 47 billion spam messages, more than 320 Terabytes of spam (now that's a lot of spam). The average unprotected e-mail user would have received 32,000 spam messages in their in-boxes so far this year. Talk about lost productivity. In fact, Nucleus research estimates unchecked spam can cost a company up to $742 per user.

Indonesia - price fixing investigation

Indonesia probe hits telecom shrs, sale lifts Excelcom

Shares in Indonesia's No.3 mobile phone operator, PT Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk EXCL.JK, jumped by nearly a third on Wednesday after a Middle East firm bought a stake, but news of a new anti-trust probe in the sector sent other operators sliding.

Emirates Telecommunications (Etisalat) ETEL.AD said on Tuesday it would by a 16 percent stake in Excelcom from Indonesia's Rajawali Corp for $438 million, a hefty 56 percent premium over Excelcom's closing share price on Tuesday.

Analysts see plenty of scope for growth in Indonesia's telecoms market, where penetration lags many other markets, with just 75 million subscribers in a population of 226 million.

But shares in rival local telecom firms fell after the anti-trust agency, KPPU, said it had launched a probe into alleged price fixing of tariffs for short message services (SMS).

Mohammad Iqbal, chairman of KPPU, told Reuters that the probe into pricing of text messaging covered all operators.

"We have launched a preliminary investigation which could take 30 days. It has been going on for a week or so," Iqbal said.

John Teja, head of Sales at Ciptadana Securities, said the probe cast a new shadow over the sector following a ruling last month over alleged price fixing in mobile phone calls.

"These investigations from KPPU basically raise more concerns on the outlook of the sector. This just adds more negative sentiment to the industry," he said.

Shares in Indonesia's second-biggest mobile phone firm, PT Indosat Tbk ISAT.JK, FELL as much as 5 percent on the news, wiping out more than $260 million of its market capitalization.

Meanwhile, shares of state-owned PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk TLKM.JK (Telkom), which controls the top mobile phone firm, PT Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel), fell as much as 2.25 percent, erasing nearly $650 million of its market value.

Smaller players including Bakrie Telecom Tbk BTEL.JK dropped as much as 2.3 percent, while Mobile-8 Telecom Tbk FREN.JK fell 1.85 percent.


But shares in Excelcom, which is a 67 percent owned unit of Telecom Malaysia (TLMM.KL: Quote, Profile, Research), soared around 30 percent at one point and were quoted up 16.3 percent at 2,675 rupiah by 0547 GMT. The broader market .JKSE fell 0.9 percent.

Etisalat, the second-largest publicly traded Arab telecom firm with operations in 16 countries, said it wanted to gain exposure to the fast-growing telecoms market in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country.

Rajawali said it received 3,592 rupiah a share for the stake, compared to a closing price of 2,300 rupiah on Tuesday.

Darjoto Setyawan, managing director of Rajawali Corp, told Reuters the firm would reinvest the sale proceeds in sectors such as plantations, national resources, property and cement.

Rajawali, founder of Excelcom, last year bought around a 25 percent stake in Indonesia's top cement maker, PT Semen Gresik Tbk SMGR.JK, after selling its controlling stake in Excelcom.

Excelcom is targeting up to 14 million mobile phone users in Indonesia by the end of the year, up from 10.5 million at the end of July, its president said in September.

The company had 13 million subscribers and a market share of 14 percent at the end of September, Etisalat said.


The latest anti-trust investigation follows a ruling last month over alleged price fixing in mobile phone calls by the country's two biggest mobile phone operators. Telkomsel was ordered to lower its tariffs by at least 15 percent.

Indonesia also ordered the Singapore government's investment arm Temasek TEM.UL, which through its units has stakes in Telkomsel and in Indosat, to sell its stake in one of the two firms within two years.

Temasek, which was also fined for a breach of competition law, has said it will fight the ruling.

Belgium - open access to VDSL

Belgacom calls for a halt to discrimination in the broadband market

To offer its customers high-definition television (HDTV), Belgacom has invested several hundred million euro in a new VDSL network. However, based on a questionable interpretation of the regulatory framework, the BIPT wants to oblige Belgacom to open up this new network to its competitors. As long as the regulatory authorities have not conducted a proper analysis of the broadband markets, particularly in Flanders where Telenet is manifestly the dominating operator, Belgacom rejects this new obligation.

On 23 November, the BIPT conveyed to the European Commission its plans to open up Belgacom’s VDSL network to other operators. Based on an erroneous assessment of the balance of powers prevailing on the Belgian electronic communications market, the BIPT is now stepping up the regulatory pressure that is already burdening Belgacom, making its unfair treatment favoring Telenet even more blatant. A recommendation of the Competition Council in 2005 already warned the BIPT against penalizing Belgacom by imposing regulations on its new infrastructure investments.

To introduce competition in the digital television market, Belgacom started investing in optical fiber and VDSL technology in 2003. Belgacom wants to enable its television customers to benefit fully from this technology next year. Thanks to these investments made by Belgacom in its infrastructure (more than EUR 377 million since 2003), more than 60% of Belgian households will be able to enjoy HDTV in the spring of 2008. This network is a viable alternative to the cable TV operators’ near-monopoly of the television market.

Belgacom is now faced with the drastic projects of the BIPT, which involve making all Belgacom’s new infrastructure investments available to other operators who did not take on any industrial risks themselves. Yet the plans of the BIPT completely bypass the cable TV operators, despite the latter’s near-monopoly of television and their commanding 50% of the high-speed connection market in Flanders. If the BIPT follows through with these plans, they will create a paradoxical situation in which Belgacom, in a position to challenge the cable TV operators, would be hamstrung by additional constraints and robbed of its investments, while the cable TV operators would be free to develop their offers further, without any restrictions whatsoever.

To date, when ignoring the existence of cabled networks, the BIPT has invoked European legislation, which would not take into account the specific nature of the Belgian market. According to Belgacom, this interpretation is completely unfounded: newly applied European regulations have recently given national regulators sufficient leeway to take into account local specificities.

Belgacom can therefore not accept that a regulation that is unfair and incompatible with the new European context, forces it alone to bear all the economic and operational constraints of competition in the new broadband networks. Rapid and full development of these networks can only take place if these constraints are shared equally between Belgacom and the cable TV operators in a balanced manner.

Once again, Belgacom appeals to the BIPT to conduct a correct, balanced and serious analysis of the broadband market in Belgium, taking into account the European Commission’s new Recommendation, before deciding whether it is necessary to impose a regulation on Belgacom’s new infrastructures. In short, Belgacom is asking to be treated in the same way as cable TV operators.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

France - high speed broadband

Consultation sur des mesures législatives destinées à favoriser le déploiement du très haut débit dans les immeubles d’habitation

Les mesures législatives soumises à consultation ont pour objectif de faciliter l’équipement des logements neufs et existants en fibres optiques. Cinq mesures sont proposées :

a) une obligation de mutualisation des câbles installés par les opérateurs dans les immeubles, qui évitera de multiplier les interventions des opérateurs dans les immeubles et assurera une saine concurrence jusqu’aux logements.

b) une obligation de conclure des conventions entre propriétaires et opérateurs pour l’installation, la maintenance et l’exploitation des lignes et équipements ; les parties pourront recourir à une convention-type qui fixera de manière précise leurs droits et obligations respectifs ;

c) l’instauration d’un dispositif ouvrant la « faculté au très haut débit » dérivé du « droit à l’antenne ».

d) l’obligation de précâblage des immeubles neufs de logement collectif.

e) L’inscription de droit à l’ordre du jour de l’assemblée générale des copropriétaires de toute proposition commerciale d’un opérateur d’installer à ses frais des lignes à très haut débit.

Australia - Competition notices

Telstra snarls fibre-optic network

THE ACCC will scrap use of competition notices after its last notice, issued two years ago, was defeated in the Federal Court yesterday.

The rarely used notices were designed to help combat telco competition abuses by allowing the regulator to issue the notice before taking the matter formally to court.

While Telstra can take some comfort in the fact that the judicial process does indeed sometimes work in its favour, its head-in-the-sand attitude to the new fibre optic network is looking increasingly out of sync with the rest of the world.

Singapore this week was just the latest country to opt for not one, but two layers of separation of its proposed network when issuing guidelines on its present next generation network tender.

The Singapore statement comes just weeks after European regulators proposed much the same, some years after Britain has already proceeded to operational separation and after New Zealand has done likewise.

More to the point, Babcock&Brown, the owner of the Irish Telstra equivalent Eircom, is moving apace to create separate vehicles to spin off either its network business or service arm.

It is doing this to create shareholder value, which is what Telstra's Sol Trujillo claims to be on about while wrapping himself up in his monopolistic national flag.

The tender process itself also does throw new light on federal Digital Minister Stephen Conroy's ambitious timeline for his rollout.

Singapore started the tender process in December last year, selected a short list of 12 companies in March and plans to announce the winner in March next year with the building to start in the third quarter of next year.

The Australian Government has yet to unveil the task force that will write the tender to be issued next year with the aim of having the network construction started by year's end.

Most would consider that a stretch, with the exception being if Telstra wins the tender.

It is already well advanced on installing fibre to all big city exchanges and to many street corners, with the next step the so-called last mile to people's homes.

Telstra is back to its old games, which were invented in the days when its management was running a regional monopoly service around Denver, Colorado.

Singapore is a step ahead of Australia having a separately owned cable network controlled by Star Hub, the Singtel network and now a proposed fibre network.

The new rules apply just to the latter and will require a separately owned and operated network operator, a separate company to manage the traffic on the network and separate service providers.

As in Australia, the owner of one or more of these layers could well be Singtel (the Optus parent company) just as Telstra could end up owning the new Conroy network.

The cacophony coming from Telstra right now is conflicting, as in if you don't play by our rules we will just play in the unregulated mobile space and we are the only ones who can operate the network.

Put the noise to one side as the usual irrational positioning even before the rules of the game are known.

By definition, fibre-optic networks are built for open access, its just the terms that will be in question and it's too early for Telstra to try to change Conroy's job title to Minister for Telstra Litigation.

No right of challenge

THE reason why the ACCC has only issued two competition notices in the 4 1/2 years of Graeme Samuel's tender is they force him to go public with his argument by putting Telstra on notice that if it proceeds with the stated behaviour it will face potential penalties and action from rival parties.

Under the draft legislation to be released for public comment by new Competition Minister Chris Bowen, the ACCC will be able to seek interlocutory judgments against a company and continue issuing its high-powered discovery notices under section 155.

This applies to all companies, not just Telstra.

Korean Airlines is challenging the issuing of those notices against it in the airline cartel case, arguing the notices are invalid because the ACCC had already decided to take the action.

Under present law, once a court case starts no new notice can be issued and Korean would be creating a new law if it won its case.

But under Bowen's plans, no company will have the right of challenge.

European Broadband Users are Ready for a 'Connected Life'

90 per Cent of European Broadband Users are Ready for a 'Connected Life'

According to new research from the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), broadband users in Western Europe may be even more interested in living 'The Connected Life' than U.S. consumers, and many are willing to pay for the value a service like this can provide. Ninety-percent of European broadband users expressed an interest in a connected life service - anytime, anywhere access to all household digital media content - compared to only 77 per cent in the U.S. Furthermore, 42 per cent are willing to spend €3.5 euros per month to enable easy management of and access to their household digital content, yet they struggle to find the right innovative solution which is simple, quick to install and highly secure.

This view was part of the findings from the Cisco IBSG Connected Consumer study for Western Europe. To conduct the study, researchers selected a hypothetical service as part of a broader connected life service offering, and then canvassed the views of 1,500 broadband users across France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. The connected life service would enable the storage, management and use of all of a household's digital media and content via any device, and at anytime or place. The suggested household content includes TV, films, the household calendar and address book, digital photos, video clips and music.

Whilst the concept of ubiquitous connectivity has been discussed for more than a decade, the study shows that the cumulative impact of technology over this time has created a change in consumer behaviour that has primed the market for today. Not only do nearly 90 per cent of broadband consumers enjoy technology, investing in various devices such as mobile phones, personal computers and MP3 players, but 43 per cent credit this technology with giving them the freedom to live their life the way they want to, and 52 per cent believe technology helps them to be more productive and organised.

With the average respondent spending more than 4 hours each day on the go, away from work or home, the ability to communicate with others, enjoy digital entertainment, and access electronically stored information is highly valued. Collaboration anytime, anywhere is essential with 56 per cent of respondents indicating that they want to stay connected to family and friends at all times and 78 per cent of the respondents checking their e-mail wherever possible.

"It is clear that European consumers are changing the way they live and play. They are carrying laptops, PDAs and mobile phones as productivity tools and MP3 players for listening to music, whilst using wireless networks to stay connected," commented Simon Aspinall, Managing Director, Service Provider, Cisco IBSG. "Europeans are also adopting these advanced technologies and new media applications even faster than U.S. consumers. As Web 2.0 offers more open and collaborative technologies, the demand from European consumers for ground- breaking connected solutions has now reached a critical mass."

see also The Connected Life

Singapore - Next generation broadband network

Singapore’s Ultra-high Speed Digital Highway Ready by 2015

Next Generation National Broadband Network Will Spur Flourish of Services

Singapore today took a step closer towards having an open access Next Generation National Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN), which will offer pervasive ultra-high speed connectivity by 2015. The Request-For-Proposal (RFP) is now open to all interested parties to submit their bid to design, build and operate the passive infrastructure layer of the Next Gen NBN.

At a media briefing this evening for the RFP’s launch, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang said, “The Next Gen NBN will offer pervasive and competitively priced ultra high-speed broadband connectivity to business users at the workplace as well as to Singaporeans at home, schools and learning institutions and other premises.”

The Next Gen NBN is expected to be available nationwide by 2015, although consumers can begin to look forward to a range of new and exciting Next Gen Services such as high-definition video conferencing, telemedicine, Grid Computing-on-Demand, security and immersive learning applications on the Next Gen NBN from about 2010.

Today’s RFP has been formulated after an extensive year-long industry consultation and studies of deployments internationally. This RFP seeks proposals from industry to put in place the passive infrastructure of Next Gen NBN. Under this RFP, a Network Company, or NetCo, will be selected to design, build and operate this passive infrastructure that will carry the traffic for Next Generation Services. The deployment of active electronics such as switches and routers to manage the flow of traffic on the passive infrastructure will be done by what is called the Operating Company or OpCo, which will also be the entity that offers wholesale broadband access to downstream Retail Service Providers, or RSPs. The latter are the companies that provide Next Generation Services to end-users.

“A Next Generation Broadband Network will contribute to Singapore’s continued economic success. It is also critical for the Next Gen NBN to provide effective open access to downstream operators. This will create a more vibrant and competitive broadband market. As a policy, we have therefore decided to adopt separation between the different levels of the Next Gen NBN to achieve effective open access. The RFP to construct the network will therefore provide for structural separation of the passive network operator from the downstream operators. If necessary, the Government is also prepared to consider legislation to achieve such effective open access for downstream operators in the next generation broadband market,” said Dr Lee. “The Next Gen NBN tender will require that the appointed NetCo be structurally separated from downstream operators and vice versa to be consistent with the policy objective of effective open access. The successful bidder in the RFP would have met the requirements of effective open access.”

The Next Gen NBN will require the OpCo to be operationally separated between the Next Gen NBN OpCo and RSPs. Operational separation while less onerous than structural separation, requires the Next Gen NBN OpCo to maintain separated operations, branding, personnel and board of directors. The OpCo RFP tendering exercise is scheduled to be called in the second quarter of next year.

Under the terms of the Next Gen NBN NetCo RFP launched today, the Government is prepared to provide a grant of up to S$750 million for the project. The RFP, which is expected to close on 25 March 20081, will be evaluated based on four key criteria:

1. Attractiveness of business plan to industry
2. Quality of network infrastructure
3. Level of Government grant
4. Financial proposition and strength of bidder

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Amsterdam - Fibre network

European Commission concludes City of Amsterdam investment in fibre network is not state aid

The European Commission has approved the investment by the municipality of Amsterdam and other shareholders in a glass fibre telecommunications network in the Dutch city. After an in-depth investigation, launched in December 2006, the Commission concluded that the municipality participates in the project on the same terms as would a market investor. Therefore the Commission has concluded that no state aid is involved.

Europe - future of the Internet

European Commission - Internet and media

White paper on the Networked Media of the future, by Networked Media Task Force (NM-TF) that cmprises of three Networks of Excellence in the area of Networked Media funded under the EC Framework Programme 6, October 2007.

Report on User Centric Media - Future and Challenges in European Research, the cluster of EU projects on User Centric Media of the Information Society and Media Directorate General of the European Commission. The report encompasses the contributions from 11 European Research projects funded under the 6th EU Research and Development Framework Programme (for further information on the projects contributing to this report please refer to Annex III of the report).

The Advisory Group of the IST Program (ISTAG) has published a report on New Business Sectors in Information and Communication Technologies, The Content Sector as a case study

Monday, December 10, 2007

Algeria - FTTH

Algérie Télécom Becomes First Operator to Pioneer Fibre-to-the-Home Strategy

Algérie Télécom is the first African telecoms operator to put together a business strategy that includes Fibre-To-The-Home. Although the price of connecting households to fibre has dropped considerably elsewhere, it still remains an expensive way to provide a local connection. However, the prize it is seeking to create is a large user base for its forthcoming triple play offer. Russell Southwood looks at what it's up to.

The operator is deploying an FTTH network from French vendor Sagem Communication and on15 December it will be launching a triple play offer with voice, broadband Internet and television. The triple play service will initially be offered in Oran, Alger, Sétif and Constantine before being rolled nationally in 2008.

According to Malik Hachelef, the Manager overseeing the FTTH roll-out:"The service will consist of a modem that can connect to the fibre network that will give very high capacities allowing either triple or quadruple play."

Algérie Télécom has 500,000 ADSL lines in place and is on its way to 3 million lines by the end of 2009. According to CEO Slimane Kheiredine, a WiMAX service will fill in gaps in the company's service where it does not offer ADSL and allow it to consider new services such as IP-TV. The Algerian national operator is working with foreign partners like BT and Korea Telecom on developing new services and is also planning to launch digital terrestrial TV trials.

The drive to offer triple-play was triggered earlier in the year by a change in the French satellite Pay-TV market. Previously TPS and Canal Satellite could be received in Algeria using smart cards purchased in France by friends or relatives. But the merger between the two French platforms has created problems for Algerian viewers, as the unified platform uses a more secure encryption technology, eliminating the foreign smartcard option.

This turn of events has helped Saudi-owned ART, the only digital pay-TV operator that officially sells subscriptions in Algeria, which offers 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions for DZD 3,000 (Algerian Dinars, approximately US$ 42.00), DZD 5,000 (US$69) and DZD 9,000 (US$125). The only other option is satellite reception of the unencrypted French TV channels such as TF1, M6, France 2, France 5 and France 3.

FTTH is considered the most expensive way to connect users at the local loop but it does offer extremely high speeds, both up and down unlike DSL. The average price per household connected in the USA varies between an estimated US$750-1,000. Actual turn-out figures for one US scheme were between $809-3682, with an average of US$1171. What is extremely hard to estimate is how much lower these figures can be taken in a developing world context.

Algérie Télécom recently saw off SNO Lacom which retired hurt, saying that the incumbent had been given undue advantageous in the competition between the two companies. If Algérie Télécom succeeds with its current business strategy, it will have built itself an almost impregnable position in the market.

UK - review of the Telecoms Strategic Review

Impact of the Telecoms Strategic Review

This is the second report evaluating the impact of our Telecoms Strategic Review. The goal of the Telecoms Strategic Review was to promote the development of a communications market that produces lower prices and a choice of high quality and innovative services for both business and residential consumers. Delivering these benefits for consumers involves promoting sustainable competition, ensuring incentives for timely and efficient investment, and removing regulation which is no longer necessary.

USA - Court of Appeals - broadband regulation

United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia

Argued October 15, 2007 Decided December 7, 2007

No. 06-1111 Consolidated with 06-1113, 06-1115, 06-1167, 06-1200

Sprint Nextel Corp., petitioner
Federal Communications Commission and United States of America, respondents

Qwest Corporation, et al., intervenors


The court held that the tied vote (2:2) and the expiration of the period permitted by the Telecommunications Act, were not reviewable acts. The request by Verizon for regulatory forbearance was thus granted and valid. The effect of 47 U.S.C. § 160(c) was that no judicial review was available.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Europe - roaming - legal challenge

Mobile operators to challenge law

The UK's four leading mobile operators were given clearance yesterday to take a challenge over the EU roaming law to the European Court of Justice. 02, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile allege that Viviane Reding, European commissioner for telecoms, had no legal right to introduce the law, which forced the operators to cut the charges they impose on customers for calls outside their home countries. A London high court judge agreed to refer the issue to the European court of justice.

Australia - FTTN

Government committed to FTTN national network

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy today said that Labor is committed to building a national high-speed broadband fibre‑to‑the‑node network.

The new network will deliver minimum broadband speeds, 40 times faster than current speeds to 98 per cent of Australians.

The remaining two per cent of Australians will receive a standard of service that is as close as possible to that offered by the new network, and will be delivered by the best available wireless, microwave and satellite technologies.

“This new network will jump Australia into the 21st century,” said Senator Conroy.

“It will be open access, promote competition and put downward pressure on consumer prices.

“We will hold an open and transparent process to determine who will build the network with our ambition being to complete the process by the end of June next year.

“We expect that there will be much public commentary, jockeying and lobbying from parties as they work to convince the Government that they are best placed to build the new network and seek the terms that are most favourable to them,” said Senator Conroy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

UK - Broadband

Customer Satisfaction Levels Decrease as Service Call Wait Times Rise

LONDON: 6 December 2007 — Tiscali ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among eight of the leading broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK, with only 42 index points separating the highest-and lowest-scoring providers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 UK Broadband Internet Service Provider Satisfaction StudySM released today.

Despite lower costs and a quicker broadband service being offered by providers, the study, now in its third year, reveals a continued downturn in customer satisfaction levels. Satisfaction levels have fallen by 9 points to an average of 645 as many providers perform below average in customer service/technical support, and performance and reliability.

“The 2007 study finds that call waiting times continue to increase when customers contact their ISP, with customers now waiting an average of 17 minutes before initially speaking with a representative,” said Caspar Tearle, director of service industries research at J.D. Power and Associates. “Complaints to customer service departments have risen again in 2007, and now outnumber customer service-related questions for the first time (52% vs. 48%). With customers of most suppliers paying from their own pocket for these calls, these high levels of complaints come as no surprise.”

The study also finds that, on average, broadband customers are now spending less for service—£21.10 per month, down from £25.91 in 2006. In addition, the average broadband speed has increased nearly 40 percent to 4.87Mbps (up from 3.50 Mbps in 2006), with service disruptions increasing slightly (from 5.62 in 2006 to 5.91 in 2007).

The study examines seven factors that drive overall satisfaction with broadband Internet service providers. The importance weights reflect what is most relevant to ISP customers. The factors are: performance and reliability (24%), customer service/technical support (17%); cost (13%); image (12%); billing (12%); e-mail services (12%); and offerings and promotions (9%).

With an overall index score of 668 points on a 1,000-point scale, Tiscali moves from ranking third in 2006 to rank highest in 2007. It is the only provider to achieve a score significantly above the industry average and performs particularly well in the billing factor, increasing by 30 points since 2006. Virgin Media (660) follows Tiscali in the rankings, having acquired both Telewest and NTL. Sky (657)—included in the study for the first time—follows Virgin Media and performs particularly well in the image and offerings and promotions factors.

The study results include the following key patterns:

* More than two-thirds of respondents reported subscribing to services other than Internet service from their ISP, including home telephone, cable or satellite TV, or mobile phone. Among those customers currently not subscribing to any other services from their ISP, slightly fewer than one-half (46%) expressed an interest in doing bundling multiple services with the same provider.

* Nearly one-half of all users (49%) now have wireless networks at home (up from 35% in 2006). Despite this increase, the incidence of customers having a firewall on their computers is down from 89 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in 2007.

* More than three-fourths (77%) of respondents used an online search engine in the past 12 months, while more than two-thirds (70%) found maps/directions, conducted online banking (69%) or purchased products or services (69%).

The 2007 UK Broadband Internet Service Provider Study is based on responses from 1,683 Broadband ISP customers across the UK.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Egypt - Cairo Orange Laboratory

Creation of an Orange Lab in Egypt: memorandum of understanding signed with the Egyptian authorities

On December 4, 2007, Tarek Kamel, the Egyptian Communications and Information Minister and Didier Lombard, the France Telecom Group's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, were guests of honor at the ceremony to sign the memorandum of understanding, officially recognizing the creation of the new Orange Lab, which will be launched on January 3, 2008 in Cairo.

The creation of the Cairo Orange Lab will allow the France Telecom Group to expand its presence in Egypt, a country where France Telecom is already present since 1998 through Mobinil and Orange Business Servicers. France Télécom is the main shareholder of Mobinil, which is the first mobile operator in Egypt with 14 million customers. Orange Business Services, dedicated to communication services to multinational companies has 1500 engineers in Cairo and is serving approximately 150 multinational companies, as well as around 50 airlines. With the new Cairo Orange Lab, the Group has now 18 Orange Labs around the world.

The work carried out by Orange Lab Cairo will make it possible to further enhance the Group's range of innovative services, creating synergies with the local ecosystem and the global Orange Labs network. The main research and development work will focus on the following subjects:

* Development of global solutions for the Group
* Ergonomics for products and services on the multinational business market and the local retail market
* Voice services and content access in Arabic
* Financial services for the region's countries
* Research into local uses
* Network solutions set against specific economic and environmental constraints

In terms of the workforce, the Cairo Orange Lab will be made up of 50 members of staff, with over 90% Egyptians.
In order to integrate this new Orange Lab into the local ecosystem, the laboratories have been set up to the west of Cairo, in the "Smart Village" technology hub, which is home to various companies from the IT and telecoms sector as well as various public organizations (Telecommunications Ministry, National Telecommunications Institute, etc.).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mobile - content

Nokia predicts 25% of entertainment by 2012 will be created and consumed within peer communities
see also Entertainment Study - A Glimpse of the Next Episode

Nokia identifies Circular Entertainment as a coming trend as consumers get collaborative

Espoo, Finland -- Up to a quarter of the entertainment consumed by people in five years time will have been created, edited and shared within their peer circle rather than coming out of traditional media groups. This phenomenon, dubbed 'Circular Entertainment', has been identified by Nokia as a result of a global study into the future of entertainment.

"From our research we predict that up to a quarter of the entertainment being consumed in five years will be what we call 'Circular'. The trends we are seeing show us that people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up and pass it on within their peer groups - a form of collaborative social media," said Mark Selby, Vice President, Multimedia, Nokia.

Selby continues, "We think it will work something like this; someone shares video footage they shot on their mobile device from a night out with a friend, that friend takes that footage and adds an MP3 file - the soundtrack of the evening - then passes it to another friend. That friend edits the footage by adding some photographs and passes it on to another friend and so on. The content keeps circulating between friends, who may or may not be geographically close, and becomes part of the group's entertainment."

Monday, December 03, 2007

USA - pay-phones

AT&T to end dwindling pay phone business

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top U.S. phone company AT&T Inc (T.N) said on Monday it plans to end its dwindling pay phone business by the end of 2008, as more consumers use mobile phones.

The move affects AT&T pay phones in the company's previous 13-state service area, including California and Texas. BellSouth Corp, which AT&T acquired late last year, has already exited the pay phone business in its nine-state service area.

Pay phones in the United States have declined across the industry from about 2.6 million phones in 1998 to an estimated 1 million phones today, AT&T said.

The use of pay phones has been declining in much of the developed world due to the popularity of mobile phones. But some complain that ending pay phone service restricts low-income, low-credit consumers' access to communications.

AT&T has grown its profit in recent years, as strong sales from its mobile phone and Internet business make up for a fall in traditional phone use.

Europe - Broadband

Internet access and e-skills in the EU27 in 2007

More than 40% of households have broadband internet access
More than one individual in two use internet search engines

In the EU27, 54% of households had access to the internet during the first quarter of 2007, compared with 49% during the first quarter of 2006, and 42% had a broadband connection, compared with 30% in 2006. This data comes from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. This release presents only a small part of the results of a survey from 2007 on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) usage in households and by individuals in the EU27 Member States, Norway and Iceland. As well as internet use and broadband connections the survey also covers e-shopping, e-government and e-skills.

Household internet access ranged from 19% in Bulgaria to 83% in the Netherlands

In 2007, the highest proportions of households with internet access were recorded in the Netherlands (83%), Sweden (79%) and Denmark (78%). The lowest levels were registered in Bulgaria (19%), Romania (22%) and Greece (25%).

The proportion of households with a broadband connection in 2007 was also highest in the Netherlands (74%), Denmark (70%) and Sweden (67%).

A quarter of individuals chat online, 15% make phone calls over the internet

In the first quarter of 2007 individuals in the EU Member states were asked which internet related activities they had already carried out in order to measure their e-skills. In the EU27, 57% of individuals had used internet search engines. Half of them had sent e-mails with attachments, while 30% said they kept viruses and spyware off their computers. Slightly more than one quarter had downloaded and installed software from the internet. Around one quarter of individuals had taken part in chatrooms, newsgroups or online discussions, and 15% had used the internet to make phone calls. Peer to peer file sharing for exchange of movies and music had been used by 13%.

One tenth had created a web page.

The Member States most often reporting high proportions of individuals performing these different internet activities were Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Europe - VAT on telecommunications

Council approves new rules for VAT on services, requiring taxation in the country of the consumer with a one-stop system for tax payments

The Council today reached political agreement1 on two draft directives and a draft regulation aimed at changing the rules on value-added taxation (VAT) so as to ensure that VAT on services accrues to the country where consumption occurs, and to prevent distortions of competition between member states operating different VAT rates.

The new rules will require taxation for VAT on business-to-business supplies of services at the place where the customer is situated, and no longer at that where the supplier is located, as is currently the case.

For business-to-consumer supplies of services, the place of taxation will continue to be that where the supplier is established. However, in certain circumstances, the general rules for both businesses and consumers will not be applicable, and specified rules will apply to reflect the principle of taxation at the place of consumption. These exemptions concern in particular restaurant services, the hiring of means of transport, cultural, sporting, scientific and educational services, and business-to consumer supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services.

Convergence of mobile and banking

The Regulatory Implications of Mobile and Financial Services Convergence

Ivan Mortimer-Schutts

The long awaited integration of mobile telephone and retail financial services is beginning to emerge—in developing markets. To enhance the potential benefits from innovations in this domain, governments need to make complementary adjustments to domestic banking regulation and strengthen frameworks for international cooperation. In particular, as a highly regulated activity, deposit taking is insufficiently contestable for mobile operators to break into the market with enough independence from incumbent banks to stimulate valuable competition and innovation in payment networks. The success of mobile banking will also depend on the willingness and capacity of regulators to accommodate increasing international trade in retail financial services, new forms of distribution and customer due diligence rules that are more appropriate to less traditional markets. The paper provides an analysis of the relation between existing regulatory frameworks and the rise of mobile banking. And it outlines policy changes that governments should pursue in order to foster this form of innovation and target the benefits that it can bring, especially to consumers on the margins or excluded from modern financial services.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Australia - telecommunications portfolio

Senator Conroy's Expanded Portfolio Good for ICT

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) has welcomed Senator Stephen Conroy as the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, claiming that the expanded portfolio is a win for ICT sector.

AIIA CEO Sheryle Moon says that during his time as Shadow Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Conroy was a strong advocate of improved telecommunications infrastructure and the wider ICT industry in Australia.

Now that he has taken charge of a portfolio refocussed to include the digital economy, Moon says that it is important that the ICT industry is recognised at the level of policy and legislation for its wider contribution to Australia�s national interests.

The association supports the ALP�s plans for a national broadband infrastructure, saying that the parties pitch during the election was viable.

"The first order of the day for the new minister must be to provide Australia with a clear timetable for the rollout of a national broadband infrastructure," said Moon. "Australian business needs this information now if it is to compete successfully in a global marketplace."

While the association recognises that the government has presented good policies in other areas that will address pressures on the global competitiveness of the Australian ICT industry, it notes that what the industry requires is clear vision and consistent leadership across many areas of policy - including education, trade and the environment.

India - merger control - views from the USA

ABA Issues Warning on India's Merger Law

Lawyers group warned Indian government leaders the proposed notification requirements 'could be disastrous to Indian investment'

The most influential lawyers group in the U.S. warned senior officials in India that the country's new merger law could have a devastating effect on that country's economic surge.

Enforcing the new merger regime "may be so burdensome as to discourage competitive conduct and investment in India," the American Bar Association's Section of Antitrust wrote in letters delivered to Indian government leaders on Wednesday, Nov 28.

The ABA's antitrust branch often works with competition authorities around the globe, coaching them on the value of competitive markets while cautioning against pervasive regulation. They are often joined in their efforts to spread the news about competition law by American antitrust regulators, the International Bar Association and the International Competition Network, made up of private firm and government regulators around the world.

But this time, antitrust, business and international lawyers have united to send the unprecedented warning not just to mere competition authorities but to India's minister of finance, and minister of commerce and industry, and members of the India Investment Commission as well.

The goal in targeting such high-ranking officials was to "send a message that this law could be disastrous to Indian investment," said an international lawyer who asked not to be identified.

The strong words were also tempered with offers of further assistance in the murky waters of competition law.

The problem as the ABA sees it is that the proposed revisions to the county's competition law, for which the resulting could be implemented any day, would broaden the nation's premerger notification jurisdiction far beyond any particular transaction's ability to affect the Indian economy.

The new law requires companies with as little as $126 million of assets in India, even if they are only subsidiary operations, to notify officials there of any acquisition from around the globe. Reporting the merger plans and waiting 210 days before completing the deal would be required even if the target is not located in India and doesn't do any business there.

The ABA complained that India's requirements are out of step with international efforts to promote generally accepted antitrust principles that nations would adhere to. Ideally, the ABA notes, most countries require a nexus between the country and the mergers it reviews, because the goal is to make sure that competition within a country is not harmed by any given merger.

India's demanding proposed notification requirement, the ABA said, could make it harder for merging parties to coordinate multiple notifications across different jurisdictions, an issue that is increasingly important as deals reflect ongoing globalization.

The roughly seven-month mandatory waiting period is also cited as a major problem with the new law. In the U.S., there is a 30-day waiting period once parties have filed their merger plans with the government, and that period can be shortened if there are no competitive problems and the parties request an early termination.

The letter said ABA lawyers are "unaware of any other jurisdiction that prescribes such a lengthy waiting period for all transactions."

The ABA's letter went on to say: "The prospect of a seven-month waiting period applicable to all notifiable transactions will unduly delay and may deter many transactions, and will not further India's interests in economic development."

The lawyers urged regulators in India not to wait for legislative change, which is "lengthy and may not provide timely relief," but instead urged the government to implement rules as a stopgap measure.

Whether those rules and regulations will come out at the same time the new law is officially enacted is a big question, and U.S. officials, including Federal Trade Commission general counsel Bill Blumenthal, have already met with Indian officials to discuss the problems and ways to implement modifying regulations.

Indian regulators have said they agree the new law poses a threat to commerce in the country. But so far they have been unable to circumvent requirements of the new law, which was first introduced as an attempt to bring India's merger control regime in line with prevailing global trends but went in a different direction during the give and take in Parliament.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

OECD - Internet economy

The Internet economy: Towards a better future

Can you remember life before the Internet? Though quite a new technology, already a world without the web has become as unthinkable for many of us as a world without telephones. But what of the future? Can the benefits of this extraordinary technology be multiplied, and how can the thornier challenges be met?

The Future of the Internet Economy will be the subject of the first OECD ministerial meeting ever to be hosted in Asia. Taking place 17-18 June 2008 in Seoul, Korea (see below), it will examine the implications of the rapid growth in the use of the Internet for our economies and societies and the policies needed for continued growth.

How times have changed since the OECD convened its first-ever ministerial conference on e-commerce in Ottawa, Canada, in 1998. Then, the Internet was only just becoming mainstream, and that meeting tried to make sense of it all. Strategic direction was given to policies in many areas that still concern us today, such as access, privacy, taxation and consumer protection, directions that have been instrumental in nurturing online activity and helping to make it a part of our daily lives.

But a great deal of “Internet time” has passed since that Ottawa meeting. Back then, Google was a month old, and was still operating in a garage with just three employees. Amazon and eBay were fledgling ventures, but have since gone on to become successful mainstream companies. And in the last few years, new services, such as iTunes, Skype and YouTube, have become part of the daily vocabulary of millions of people around the world.

Underneath, the network’s infrastructure has also fundamentally transformed in the last decade. Dial-up Internet access has given way to always-on broadband technology.

USA - Verizon Wireless access conditions

Verizon Wireless To Introduce ‘Any Apps, Any Device’ Option For Customers In 2008

New Open Development Initiative Will Accelerate Innovation and Growth

BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Verizon Wireless today announced that it will provide customers the option to use, on its nationwide wireless network, wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the company. Verizon Wireless plans to have this new choice available to customers throughout the country by the end of 2008.

In early 2008, the company will publish the technical standards the development community will need to design products to interface with the Verizon Wireless network. Any device that meets the minimum technical standard will be activated on the network. Devices will be tested and approved in a $20 million state-of-the-art testing lab which received an additional investment this year to gear up for the anticipated new demand. Any application the customer chooses will be allowed on these devices.

This new option goes beyond just a change in the design, delivery, purchase, and provisioning of wireless devices and applications.

“This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices – one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and chief executive officer. “Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience.”

Verizon Wireless will continue to provide a full-service offering, from retail stores where customers can shop, to 24/7 customer service and technical support, to an easy-to-use handset interface and optimized software applications.

While most Verizon Wireless customers prefer the convenience of full service, the company is listening through today’s announcement to a small but growing number of customers who want another choice without full service.

Both full-service and “bring-your-own” customers will have the advantage of using America’s most reliable network.

Following publication of technical standards, Verizon Wireless will host a conference to explain the standards and get input from the development community on how to achieve the company’s goals for network performance while making it easy for them to deliver devices.

Verizon Wireless has a track record of listening to customers and transforming entrenched industry practices based on those customer needs. The company parted with the industry last year when it introduced pro-rated early termination fees, and in 2004 when it refused to participate in a wireless directory when customers said they didn’t want one. Verizon Wireless also broke with “wireless tradition” when it supported local number portability because customers wanted the freedom to take their number if they switched service providers. Such responsiveness to customers has earned Verizon Wireless the strongest brand reputation in the industry.