Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BT - Wi-Fi roaming offer

BT offers alternative to hidden roaming charges for business travellers abroad

World’s first international Wi-Fi voucher avoids hidden costs

BT Openzone has paved the way for business travellers to avoid hidden voice and data roaming charges by launching the world’s first international Wi-Fi travel vouchers today – offering travellers cheaper and more predictable communications costs when abroad.

The announcement comes as BT strikes a new deal with high-speed internet provider, iBahn, adding an extra 1,200 hotels to the existing 9,600 hotels worldwide where BT Openzone customers can access Wi-Fi. The iBahn network goes live in November. The combined effect of both announcements means that travellers will be able to communicate around the world cheaply and conveniently with greater coverage than ever before.

The vouchers, the first of their kind, allow travellers to access data and make voice calls via thousands of hotspots globally. By using Wi-Fi, the vouchers allow travellers at participating hotspots to download data and make voice calls quicker and cheaper than via international roaming with GPRS, 3G and GSM 1. By paying a fixed voucher price, travellers can predict their communications spend when abroad and avoid hidden roaming charges. Travellers also benefit from paying the same price for Wi-Fi access no matter which participating country they visit.

The travel vouchers give travellers 500 minutes for £28 in the US and for £40 in Europe. This averages out at 5.6p a minute and 8p a minute respectively, which represents an even bigger saving for travellers than the 34p per minute price cap for mobile voice roaming imposed by the European Commission earlier this year. 2

Data downloads, which are not covered by the recent EC ruling, can often cost over £10 per megabyte when abroad. By using this voucher, this cost can be slashed to around 12p in the Americas and 16p in Europe. 3

Chris Bruce, General Manager of BT Openzone, said: “More than ever before the building blocks are in place to provide widespread coverage and cheaper calls for those who want to call home or access the internet when abroad using Wi-Fi. The international travel voucher makes business travel simple, convenient and hassle-free and our agreement with iBahn gives travellers even more opportunity to take advantage of it.”

“For too long, travellers have had no choice but to be forced onto high roaming charges when making calls outside the UK. Even customers who pick up their phone whilst abroad face huge hidden charges for receiving incoming calls. Thanks to the new voucher, travellers have a choice and can make cheap calls with a convenient voucher in a whole host of locations – on the internet there is no such thing as a charge for an incoming call.”

Two versions of the voucher are available. A European version – BT Openzone 500 Europe - covers France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark. For the Americas, BT Openzone Americas 500 covers the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina. These vouchers may also be used throughout the UK and Ireland. BT Openzone 500 Europe costs £40 and allows travellers 500 minutes of Wi-Fi within 14 days of first log-in. BT Openzone Americas 500 costs £28 and allows travellers 500 minutes of Wi-Fi within 7 days of first log-in. Because it is a voucher, there are no monthly subscription charges to pay.

Travellers can access Wi-Fi from hotel locations across the world, including the Hilton, Intercontinental, Marriott and Best Western hotel chains. The majority of Europe’s major airports are covered and there are thousands more hotspots open to voucher customers across Europe and the Americas.

All this means that a traveller, could for instance, buy a voucher in Heathrow, log in at the BA airport lounge, fly to Berlin and work in a Wi-Fi enabled cafe in the city before catching a train to Belgium and surfing the web in the station - all for the purchase of one travel voucher. Travellers who do not use up all their minutes whilst travelling will be able to use the voucher back in the UK or another trip within the expiry period.

With growing numbers of Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones and laptops now available, travellers are increasingly able to choose the most cost effective network when out on the move. Devices like the BT Fusion phone enable users to switch seamlessly to the most appropriate network be that GSM or Wi-Fi. And with more people making cheap or free calls over the Internet, voucher customers are well placed to take advantage of this with BT’s free to download product, Softphone.

USA - Do not track

Key Privacy Groups Propose Do Not Track List

CDT joined with a coalition of privacy advocates on Wednesday to recommend an ambitious set of proposals intended to give consumers greater control over their personal data and to offset the impact of pervasive behavioral tracking. Included in the recommendations is a call to create a national "Do Not Track List" that would provide consumers with a simple tool for opting out of behavioral tracking. CDT joined with Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Activism, Public Information Research, Privacy Journal, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and the World Privacy Forum in crafting the proposal, which is timed to coincide with the start Thursday of a two-day Federal Trade Commission workshop on behavioral targeting.

From Center for Democracy and Technology

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Afghan Wireless completes microwave ring

Afghan Wireless has announced the completion of a 2,500km STM1 microwave ring, which passes through 18 provinces. The new backbone connects cities including Mazar, Takhar, Badakshan, Kunduz, Kabul, Kandahar and Spinboldak. The ring extends west from Kandahar, passing through Hilmand, Nimroz and Farah to reach Herat. It also runs from Herat to Mazar via Badghees, Faryab and Jawjan provinces. In the East, the ring connects Kabul to Jalalabad and Turkham Border along with the Kunar Valley. It also connects Gardez and Khost in the South East of the country. Afghan Wireless claims to be the only telecoms company providing microwave connectivity to the Uzbekistan, Tajakistan and Pakistan borders. It also connects to the Iranian border in the west. Prior to the new network being lit, cities such as Herat were connected via VSAT connections.

see also Afghan Wireless

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nigeria - telephony

Nigeria: Telecoms Subscriber Base Hits 45.5 Million

This Day (Lagos)

The Nigerian telecoms market subscriber base has hit 45.5 million. The figure was recorded at the end of August, this year, as the telecoms industry heads for another major phase of its growth after the 2001 entry of mobile network operators triggered explosive service uptake in the sector.

According to the latest subscriber data obtained from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) by Technology Times, mobile operators still account for a huge chunk of the total subscriber base of 45,536,231 lines dominated by GSM operators with 43,066,679 subscribers as against fixed operators' 2,035,235 lines and CDMA operators' 434,317 lines.

Significantly, the regulators' latest statistics revealed a clear demarcation between 'active lines' and 'connected lines' in apparent response to mobile sector flaks that some players, in order to have competitive market edge, cite inactive lines as part of their overall subscriber base when making mandatory regulatory disclosure to NCC.

The figures also showed overall 'installed capacity' among fixed wired/wireless, GSM and Mobile CDMA operators reflecting the changes that have happened in the marketplace since last year when unified access service licence (UASL) was introduced to enable market players offer a bouquet of fixed, mobile, data and other services on the same technology platform.

Within the mobile space, GSM operators have the clear lead with 43,066,678 lines, while CDMA mobile operators recorded 43, 317 lines. On the other hand, fixed wired/wireless market segment records 2,035,235 lines to swell the nation's connected lines to 45,536,231 and teledensity to 26.47.

Within the period, overall installed capacity for all market segment peaked at 60,475,165 lines with GSM players leading with 57,608,525 lines followed by fixed line players with 2,331,640 lines and mobile CDMA services with 535,000 lines.

Significantly, the figures showed that Nigerian telecoms market has witnessed a phenomenon common to most telecoms market that have hitherto been faced by pent up demand: explosive uptake of mobile services followed by tapering growth in the market as the curve flattens.

In 2001, the year that three GSM operators, MTN Nigeria, Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Celtel Nigeria) and Mtel, went live with their service, the total subscriber base was 866,782 connected lines and teledensity was 0.73.

Of that number, the fixed line services, like NITEL and other PTOs like Multi-Links (now Multi-Links Telkom), Intercellular among others accounted for 600,321 while GSM operators had 266,461 lines.

If existing fixed line players have had it so good but recorded only over half a million lines prior to the entry of the GSM operators, the impact of the latter's entry was to be felt by year 2002 when total connected lines had nearly quadrupled to 2,271,050 lines and teledensity of 1.89.

GSM operators accounted for 1,569,050 lines from 266,461 lines the previous year. The fixed line market segment also accounted for 702,000 lines, a marginal increase over the previous year's 600,321 lines.

By the end of 2003 and with a few market landmarks like the entry of second national operator, Globacom Limited, that spun off its mobile business unit, Glo Mobile, to compete in the GSM space saw the introduction of per second billing and other market innovations like 'friends and family,' that were soon replicated by rival players, was beginning to change the market space.

Part of that change was the doubling of total connected in the country to 4,021, 9445 with GSM players then consolidating market lead with 3,149,472 lines and fixed line players accounting for 872,473 lines. Teledensity was pushed to 3.35 from the previous year's 1.89.

The consequences of 2003, the year that sector analysts perceived as setting off true competition in the mobile sector as the perceived 'duopoly' of MTN and Econet was broken by the more aggressive Glo mobile, was to manifest in 2004.

By end of 2004, growth in Nigeria's telecoms market has started arresting the attention of the international investment community as the large market size and explosive growth in mobile uptake saw total connected lines record over 50 per cent growth to peak at 10, 201, 209.

By this time, GSM operators had achieved a clear market lead with 9,174,209 lines against that of fixed line players' combined 1,027,519 lines more than doubling teledensity to 8.5.

Year-on-year growth was now sustained in the nation's telecoms sector by end of 2005 when total connected lines peaked at 19,810,258 lines and a nearly doubled teledensity of 15.72. By then, GSM players continued to assert their undisputable market lead with 18, 587,000 lines against the fixed lines sector's marginal growth to 1,027,519 lines.

By 2005, Nigeria had become Africa's telecoms market to watch sustaining its explosive growth by peaking total connected lines at 19,810,258 lines. Within the period, the GSM sector accounted for 18,587,000 lines while the fixed lines players recorded 1,223,258 lines to bring the nation's teledensity to 15.72.

Growth was sustained into 2006 when total connected lines became 34,010,174 and teledensity grew to 24.29. Out of that number, the GSM sector's connected line base was 32,322,202 as against that of fixed line players' 1,687,972 subscriber base.

By first quarter of 2007, total connected lines grew to 35, 938,180 lines with GSM players accounting for 34,240,613 lines against that of fixed wireless players' 1,697,567 lines growing teledensity to 25.67.

In the second quarter of 2007, total connected lines grew to 39,784,860 lines with the GSM sector accounting for 38,062,353 lines and fixed line base at 1,722,507 lines to bring teledensity to 28.42.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Virtual worlds

Virtual Worlds Moving towards the "Multiverse" Era — New Business Outlook Seen in "Second Life"

Since around the end of 2006, increased attention has been given to Second Life (an Internet-based service in the US). A three-dimensional (3D) space such as Second Life is called a "virtual world." In Second Life, users can interact and conduct economic activities such as creating and selling/purchasing objects in a way similar to that in the real world.

Unlike conventional websites, the virtual world enables users to experience a high sense of reality and share real-time experiences. Some companies have started to use virtual worlds for their businesses.

The number of Second Life users has been expanding rapidly. At the beginning of 2006, the number of users was 100,000 throughout the world, and exceeded 7.5 million by the end of June 2007. The total money supply based on virtual currency has also been increasing, creating a virtual economic bloc amounting to more than \1.1 billion.

In addition to Second Life, various other virtual worlds have been appearing on the Internet. We are nearing a new era that can be referred to as the "multiverse era" where Internet users can select multiple virtual worlds according to their specific needs.

The arrival of the multiverse era will accelerate the emergence of new technology and/or services, such as technology for communication between multiple virtual worlds and between virtual worlds and the real world as well as financial services to transfer virtual currencies among different virtual worlds.

With the expansion of virtual worlds, the lack of legal systems that are available in the real world will constitute a problem. The sound development of virtual worlds will require the establishment of legal systems appropriate for the multiverse era and the forming of agreements on various matters.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

South Africa - roaming

No international roaming in SA?

[ Johannesburg, 24 October 2007 ] - Changes to an already controversial law, pushed through the National Assembly by the justice department as a crime-fighting measure, may instead hinder global trade and wreck the tourism industry, say local mobile phone operators.

The providers have warned the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) – Parliament's upper chamber – that planned amendments to the Regulation of Interception of Communication and Provision of Communication-related Information Act (RICA), if enacted, result in the blanket switch-off of international roaming facilities to all foreign visitors.

Cell C, MTN and Vodacom said it would also leave them in breach of hundreds of interconnect agreements. These agreements allow South Africans to roam abroad and visitors to use their mobile phones while visiting our shores.

“SA should try to avoid being the one country in the world where roaming is not possible,” commented Nadia Bulbulia, head of Cell C's regulatory division.

However, the Department of Justice said the overall aim of the legislation, namely to fight crime, outweighs the objections. The department's chief director for legislation, Lawrence Bassett, told the NCOP's security and constitutional affairs standing committee that the issues had been aired before. Notwithstanding those comments, the National Assembly had resolved to pass the legislation, he noted.

According to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group's record of the proceedings, he added that if there were any loopholes, such as excluding foreign visitors from registration, it would render the legislation meaningless. “If there is a single loophole, we can just as well not have this legislation. There is no room for any gaps.”

State law advisor Ina Botha told the committee in turn that the RICA amendment would require South Africans to register cellphone and personal details on pain of imprisonment. There was no cogent reason why the same should not apply to visitors to the country, she said. “We want enough information timeously to prevent, detect and solve crime. We also want the information to be legitimate.”

Industry disagrees

Vodacom managing executive for regulatory affairs Pakamile Pongwana disagreed. He said apart from the negative impact the requirement would have on business, the provision was “physically and technically unsound” as it would require every visitor to register with all three operators.

In addition, no other country in the world requires registration of foreign cellphones.

MTN senior legal and regulatory advisor Louina Nunan said existing delays at airports were already causing visitors frustration and resentment. “If we were to delay them at the airport for another 15 or 30 minutes [for purposes of registering with local providers], how would that affect tourism and international business travellers?”

Bulbulia added that in implementation, laws had to be reasonable, practical and possible. She said the requirement puts SA in “uncharted territory”.

She told the committee Cell C alone had 394 agreements with other networks to allow roaming and that it was not technically possible to block or allow individual foreign numbers. A provision to force registration of individual roaming numbers would effectively mean there could be no roaming at all.

Pongwana said the revised Section 40(1) provided that the operators could not activate a SIM card, or activate a cellphone, unless details were registered.

However, roaming was a wholesale, not retail activity. “We don't sign roaming agreements with individual people. Roaming agreements are signed with other network operators and these agreements run into the hundreds for each operator.”

For visitors, this happened overseas and the facility automatically kicked in when they switched on their mobile phones on arrival.

Present global wholesale roaming agreements, as well as the nature of mobile phone technology, make it impossible in practice to grant one individual access to local networks, but block another. Either everyone can roam or no one. Since allowing unregistered visitors to roam on South African networks will attract criminal penalties, the operators would have to end international roaming.

Impractical implementation

Pongwana doubts that closing every loophole was ever possible. “We are not saying we will not implement the law,” he said. “I understand what the Department of Justice is trying to do. [But] closing every loophole must be practical, implimentable and must make good sense.”

Committee chairman Kgoshi Lameck Mokoena said the comments “make sense”. African National Congress committee member Letlhogile Moseki added the country was already under fire for the difficulties and costs of doing business and the amount of red tape.

Democratic Alliance NCOP member Wilhelm le Roux added: “The whole world has a problem with crime and terrorism, some countries even more so than us. How is it then that just we insist on this roaming registration? Is it then not true that the providers are saying that it is just not practical to do?”

Justice officials were not convinced, and said the mobile providers had failed to explain why visitors should be exempt from a requirement that applied to all residents.

See also PMG record

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Europe 2006 review - functional separation

ETNO and UNI Telecom, the global telecom union, jointly call for the Review to encourage investment and jobs

Brussels – In a joint statement to the EU policy makers published today, ETNO and UNI Europa Telecom, recall the key impact of the EU telecoms rules on investment in the sector and hence, on jobs.

“In line with the Jobs and Growth strategy, the review should focus on measures that will stimulate large-scale investments in new access networks and boost quality employment in the sector. Better regulation would be the kind that adequately protects citizen, consumer and user interests while, at the same time, reduces the regulatory burden on those markets that have reached competitive maturity”, says Neil Anderson, UNI Telecom.

“The deployment of next generation access networks is essential for Europe’s society and economy. The inclusion of such a far reaching remedy as functional separation would be detrimental to much needed investment in access networks and would not be the right answer to this challenge”, says Michael Bartholomew, ETNO Director.

UNI and ETNO acknowledge the intention of the European Commission to remove some markets (in particular retail) from the list of markets subject to ex ante regulation. Reducing regulatory burden on retail markets will boost competition and innovation for the benefit of consumers.

UNI and ETNO are, however, concerned that the debate on the Review focuses currently on how to favour short-term competition at the service level, where it is already thriving. The introduction of new far-reaching remedies may discourage risky investment by all players in new and alternative access infrastructure.

Recent external studies, published by ETNO and UNI, show that intense access regulation does not encourage an optimal environment for new infrastructure investment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Japan - competition

Revision to New Competition Promotion Program 2010 and Release of New Competition Promotion Program 2010 Progress Report

MIC released the New Competition Promotion Program 2010 on September 19, 2006 as a specific action plan to develop the environment for fair competition in the broadband market, and has since steadily promoted the program. Now that a year has passed since the program development, MIC compiled a program progress report in order to secure policy transparency and revised the program to respond appropriately to the rapid changes in the market environment.

In response to the "Agreement between the government and the ruling parties on regulatory frameworks for communications and broadcasting" (June 20, 2006), MIC developed the Process Program for the Reform of the Communications and Broadcasting Field (released on September 1, 2006). The program states that fair competition rules should be developed based on the final report from the Study Group on a Framework for Competition Rules to Address the Transition to IP-Based Networks (released on September 15, 2006) and be gradually implemented, starting from the rules that are decided.

MIC released the New Competition Promotion Program 2010 on September 19, 2006, as a roadmap for developing fair competition rules to be implemented in the telecommunications field by the early 2010s as well as a specific plan to implement the abovementioned process program.

MIC will continue to make proactive efforts for developing the sound competitive environment in the broadband market, based on the revised New Competition Promotion Program 2010.

Burma - Internet closure

Pulling the Plug: A Technical Review of the Internet Shutdown in Burma
see also full text of the report

ONI has released a bulletin on the recent demonstrations in Burma and the Burmese government’s shutdown of the Internet there. ONI conducted a technical analysis of the Internet’s uptime, documenting a complete shutdown in Burma, followed by intermittent periods of up-time throughout early October, with an apparent return to full connection on October 13 for one of the two ISPs and on October 16 for the other. This bulletin presents these results and investigates the impact that the use of communication technologies had on shaping these key events.

France - duct sharing

France Telecom offers to open its ducts to competitors to speed up optical fibre deployment

The Group has asked for reciprocal opening from owners of similar infrastructures

To ensure efficient and fair deployment of new optical fibre networks, France Telecom today announces its proposal to open its ducts to its competitors. The proposal has been officially made to ARCEP, the French Authority on Telecoms Regulation, as part of a public consultation ending in early October. The wholesale offer to use France Telecom ducts will be finalised by the end of 2007.

Access to existing civil engineering structures will include all information relevant to operators (maps, chamber locations, etc.), enabling them to install their own FTTH network by applying appropriate engineering rules. These rules will be designed to optimise the use of the ducts by managing the resources efficiently and avoiding saturation.

France Telecom has also asked ARCEP that the same principle of fair competition be applied to other owners of infrastructures needed to deploy optical fibre. This reciprocal opening will allow a fair and regulated framework to be defined based on the principle of non-discrimination between operators, while enabling the emergence of real platform competition and new user experiences.

The Group firmly believes that this step supports the European Commission and Regulatory authorities' plans to quickly enable fair infrastructure competition, for the benefit of the consumer.

Broadband already plays an important role in the lives of Europeans. Consumers benefit from an increasing range of voice, Internet and television offers. The traffic of digital information exchanged on electronic communication networks looks set to increase strongly over the years to come, with more and more images, better resolution, larger files and more exchanges of data. This trend has already been observed on the French market – one of the most innovative in the field. The deployment of FTTH technologies (fibre to the home) will be needed to respond to the huge demand for bandwidth.

This deployment will require wide and reciprocal access to civil engineering infrastructures so that all the market players can invest and make retail offers to customers under the same conditions. By infrastructure, we are not only referring to telecoms ducts, but also the various similar infrastructures such as those owned by cable operators and local authorities.

Monday, October 22, 2007

South Korea - IPR

WiBro Tech Leakers Sentenced to Prison

A court has delivered prison sentences to former researchers who tried to steal Korean-developed WiBro technology, the third-generation global standard wireless broadband technology.

The Seoul Central District Court said Sunday that it sentenced a former researcher from Korean IT company POSDATA to three years in prison for attempting to sell the company's core WiBro technology to a U.S. firm.

It also sentenced four other accomplices to 18 to 30 months in prison with a stay of execution for three to four years and 120-160 hours of public service.

The researchers were accused of stealing the technology through external hard drives and email from last September to March of this year and leaking it to a company they established in the U.S.

According to prosecutors, the leakers planned to headhunt some 30 researchers from POSDATA, offering high salaries and stock options as incentives, to complete the technology and then sell it to a U.S. communications company for W180 billion (US$1=W916).

Egypt - 3G

MobiNil awarded 3G concession

Egypt’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has awarded MobiNil a licence to offer 3G mobile services. The 15-year concession makes MobiNil the third 3G licensee in the country, following in the footsteps of Etisalat Misr and Vodafone Egypt. MobilNil will pay EGP3.34 billion (USD61.5 million) for the concession in addition to an annual 2.4% of its total annual 3G revenues. The licence allows MobiNil to deploy EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA and HSUPA technologies and to provide services that include visual communications, video-messaging, high-speed data transfer and internet, MMS services, mobile-TV.

From Telegeography

3G - WiBRO

WiBro Globally Recognized as 3G Communication Technology

South Korea's communication technology has gained international recognition, brightening the prospects for its commercialization at home and abroad. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has approved the nation's homegrown mobile Internet technology called WiBro as one of international third-generation (3G) telecommunication standards. The decision was made during the global tech policymaking body's Radio Communications Assembly in Geneva, Thursday.

WiBro, or wireless broadband Internet, has emerged as the sixth global standard for the 3G telecommunication general platform called IMT-2000. WiBro is better known as Mobile WiMax internationally. The international adoption of the technology proves that the nation has made a significant breakthrough in telecommunications. There is no doubt that South Korea has reaffirmed its reputation as a world IT powerhouse. We hope WiBro will have greater opportunity to make inroads into world markets by taking advantage of the ITU's action. It is high time for the government and mobile carriers to step up cooperation to foster WiBro as one of the nation's future growth engines.

We take pride in the fact that South Korea was the first country in the world to develop WiBro technology. The IT giant Samsung Electronics and KT Corp., the nation's fixed-line phone and Internet operator, developed the system in cooperation with the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the state-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI). WiBro is the result of the nation's technological prowess and its strenuous research and development efforts.

WiBro is a technology designed to enable users to log onto high-speed Internet connections even when on the move. The commercialization of the technology is still in its infancy. However, the ITU approval will help promote the use of the technology at home and abroad. WiBro will also have a competitive edge against other communication platforms, including CDMA-2000. And Korean firms can easily advance to the fourth-generation (4G) communications markets by making use of WiBro-related technology.

However, we cannot paint an all too rosy picture. In reality, the use of WiBro is in the doldrums even in South Korea. KT Corp. started commercial WiBro services in Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan areas last year. However, only 67,000 people have signed up for the mobile Internet service. This means its has failed to be a successful business.

Thus, the government, mobile carriers and IT companies will have to make further efforts to refine technology and promote the commercial use of its service. They must strengthen cooperation to make WiBro a success story for South Korean telecommunication technology. It is imperative for the nation to invest more in research and development and double its efforts to commercialize its new technologies.

From Korean Times

Sunday, October 21, 2007

USA - broadband

Broadband Regulation Needed to Improve Access

Competition may not fix problems with broadband speed and cost in the U.S., because of the high cost of entry into the market, the leader of a technology think tank said Friday.

Many policymakers in Washington, D.C., call for competition to cure issues with broadband value and build-out, but they don't recognize that the cost of building out competing networks may make broadband a natural monopoly or duopoly, said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

"It's a mistake for policymakers to assume that if they simply 'push the competition lever,' all the problems with broadband policy will be solved," wrote Atkinson, in an ITIF paper. "The bottom line is that if policymakers want to maximize not only societal welfare but also consumer welfare, they must balance the push for more competition with the need to maintain and create an efficient broadband industry structure."

Atkinson and some other speakers at an ITIF broadband policy forum argued that the U.S. may need more broadband regulations to achieve higher speeds and lower prices. Atkinson suggested a balance between competition and regulations that would mandate open pipes and create stronger enforcement of consumer protection and antitrust laws.

Not everyone agreed that more regulation was appropriate. The suggestion that broadband is a natural monopoly or duopoly "as an economist gives me the willies," said John Mayo, professor of economics, business and public policy at Georgetown University.

A government-supported monopoly in the traditional telephone market didn't work, Mayo said. He recalled an old Bell Atlantic billboard saying something to the effect of, "We don't sell you what you think you want; we sell you what we know you need."

Broadband is still a relatively new technology and the broadband business model is still evolving, Mayo said. The industry doesn't need government regulation while it's still developing.

Other speakers complained that U.S. residents get lower speeds for higher prices than many residents of Europe and the Far East. But Mayo noted that prices have been falling. "No matter how you measure it ... it's more affordable today than it's ever been," he said.

Speakers at the forum noted that broadband policy is becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. This month, Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, outlined a broadband policy that would include tax incentives for broadband carriers to move into rural and other underserved areas. Clinton also called for public and private partnerships to help roll out broadband and for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to develop better data about where broadband is available.

Several other candidates have talked about broadband as well, including Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani, noted Jonathan Sallet, a partner in the Washington communications firm, the Glover Park Group.

But many policymakers in Washington have recently taken a hands-off approach to broadband, thinking "let's create a neutral platform and just let stuff happen," added Steven Weber, a professor of political science at the University of California Berkeley. But just letting stuff happen isn't working to push broadband in many sectors, including health care, he said.

"I don't think that argument is completely adequate to most people," he said.

From PC World
see also ITIF Paper

Friday, October 19, 2007

Turkey - Telecom strike

Telecom infrastructure ‘inadequate for disasters’

A strike currently under way by Türk Telekom workers has shown that Turkey is unprepared for times of war or natural disaster in terms of providing uninterrupted telecommunications services, said Yusuf Ata Arıak, chairman of the Turkish Competitive Telco Operators Association (TELKODER).

The strike has made it certain that there is no alternative infrastructure to continue communications -- and this is only solvable through liberalization of the business, he claimed. Arıak further noted that if the strike continues another week, serious problems in home land lines will begin to appear.

At a press conference held in İstanbul yesterday together with the other TELKODER board members, Arıak recalled the breaking of communication and fiber optic cables during the earthquakes in İzmit in 1999 and in Algeria in 2003 and 2004. "All of Turkey's connections with the outside world were cut," Arıak said, underlining that this anomaly has been overcome by the satellite capacity of new operators in the business.

The strike has already begun to concern Türk Telekom subscribers. Many subscribers are calling Türk Telekom customer services to learn how much longer the strike will continue. On the other hand, some customers have opted to call the Turkish Telecommunication Workers' Union (Türkiye Haber-İş), which is the responsible for the strike. Subscribers ask questions which only the company itself can answer such as Will Türk Telekom send bills during the strike? Since there is no one keeping the accounts, will calls be free until the strike ends? Will you end the strike tomorrow, please?

From Today's Zaman

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Unified communications

Measuring the Pain: What is Fragmented Communications Costing the Enterprise?

This study has clearly captured the extent of the frustration felt by individuals, managers and teams, and quantified the extraneous costs leaking out of the enterprise as a result.

So where to go from here? This study validates, with convincing results, that the current communications status quo must be addressed, for companies that want to stay competitive and productive. The study clearly demonstrates that those in management roles are especially aware of the frustration and cost being tolerated by employees, yet few know how to change it. The significant financial cost of doing nothing is quantified and summarized on page 12.

The answer in large part is Unified Communications (UC). UC solutions aim to overcome communication obstacles and complexity to communication in the enterprise while optimizing the performance of communications-sensitive business processes. The implications of the study on competitive advantage are clear, and fortunately, there is a logical and actionable path to take. After reviewing the summary findings from our study,the final page of this report provides further guidance on Siemens’ industry-leading UC solution – OpenScape, designed to remove the costly communications guesswork, pain and expense endured by today’s global business community.

Unified Communication Strategies

UAE - Apple iPhone

Regulator Blocks Exclusivity Deal with U.A.E. Network Operators

The United Arab Emirates' Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has announced it will not allow Apple to establish any exclusive network services in the country for its new iPhone.

Significance: The ruling could prevent the phone from obtaining an official release in the federation. Apple's distribution deals set a precedent for a handset manufacturer to share subscription revenues with mobile operators directly. Apple has already obtained a two-year contract in place with the largest U.S. mobile group, AT&T, according to which it takes a share of revenues from sales of iPhone, as well as a regular monthly subscription fee for running servers for some value-added services, like visual voicemail. In the United Arab Emirates, iPhones, which have been unlocked using third-party software, are nevertheless being sold for as much as US$1,100 on the country's black market.

From PWC Communications Direct
see also TRA

VoIP and social networking

MySpace enhanced with Skype telephony

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - MySpace and Skype announced Tuesday they are meshing social networking with Internet telephony, creating the largest voice-connected online community on Earth.

The partnership comes as MySpace rival Facebook gains ground and Internet telephony pioneer Skype struggles for ways to profit from the technology.

Skype will craft its voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) into MySpace instant messaging software worldwide by December, letting website members easily call each other's computers free of charge.

MySpace says it has 110 million active monthly users and that 220 million people have Skype accounts.

Approximately 25 million MySpace members use its instant messaging service.

MySpace members will be able to link profiles, photos and animated online personae, referred to as "avatars," to the Skype feature.

"Internet calling is the natural next step for how our members communicate with each other," said MySpace chief executive Chris DeWolfe.

The MySpace IM with Skype service will be available to website members in all countries it serves, except Japan, China and Taiwan due to constraints from existing deals.

MySpace users will have the option of using for-fee premium Skype services such as call forwarding, voice mail, and calling from computers to landlines or mobile telephones.

"Wherever people are hanging out on the Internet they should be able to use Skype," Skype director of business development Scott Miller told AFP.

"MySpace is a great hangout so it is a great way to get Skype to people hanging out on MySpace."

Alliance talks date back to before California-based eBay bought Skype and New York-based News Corporation acquired MySpace, according to Smith.

Engineers from the companies began work on the project in July after "all the pieces came together," according to Kyle Brinkman, vice president of product development at MySpace.

"I think it shows our chops a little as far as technology, not to brag, which helps us with our foothold in Silicon Valley," Brinkman told AFP.

Los Angeles-based MySpace opened an office in San Francisco this week to tap into Silicon Valley engineering talent and creativity.

The Skype service built into MySpace will be a test, or beta, version. It will be part of instant messaging software downloaded by new users and be available as an upgrade to existing MySpace IM users.

"The partnership will create the world's largest VoIP community," Smith said.

"It is a natural fit. MySpace has been the place to communicate on Internet while Skype has been the way."

Despite its global popularity, Internet telephony has not become a gold mine for Skype.

Popular online auction firm eBay, which bought Skype two years ago for 2.6 billion dollars, attested to that fact early in October when it devalued the once-darling firm, knocking 1.43 billion dollars off its value.

Analysts interviewed by AFP wondered how Skype can convert its extraordinary global popularity into hard cash and corporate revenue.

Skype fans as far away as China download software that enables them to make telephone calls from one computer to another anywhere in the world for free.

A problem for the company has been that few of those fans use additional for-fee services.

People also prefer combination telephone, Internet, cable television deals offered by major telecommunications companies to relying on Internet telephony firms for long-distance calling, according to iSuppli analyst Steve Rego.

EBay's original plan was to integrate Skype into its online auctions so, for example, sellers and buyers could call each other instantly using their computers.

This course seems to have been abandoned by eBay.

Skype has heavyweight competition in the online telephony arena. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have woven VoIP calling into their online messaging services.

From Yahoo! news

USA - FCC wirelines order upheld

FCC's Wireline Broadband Order Upheld

A federal appeals court on Tuesday refused to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s 2005 ruling to deregulate high-speed Internet access service that phone companies offer to consumers. The ruling, handed down by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia, affirmed the regulatory status quo in which neither cable nor phone companies need to share their networks with companies that would also like to provide broadband access. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Time Warner Telecom, Inc. et al., v. FCC has denied a petition for review of the FCC's Wireline Broadband Order. FCC Chairman Martin responded saying, "I am pleased that the Court affirmed the FCC's decision to remove outdated, decades-old regulations from today's broadband services. By removing such regulations, the Commission encouraged broadband investment and fostered competition. As a result of the Commission's deregulatory policies, broadband adoption has increased and consumers have benefited in the form of lower prices and improved broadband service."

see also FCC statement

India - 3G

DoT defies TRAI, to open 3G for foreign players

NEW DELHI: Global telcos who have so far not entered the India telecom market can do so through the 3G route. The department of telecom (DoT) has decided that any player, including foreign operators, will be eligible to bid for third generation spectrum when these frequencies are auctioned by the government.

The DoT move marks a change from sector regulator TRAI's recommendation that only existing operators be allowed to bid for 3G spectrum during the auction. "We have decided to allow all players. All the new applicants and foreign firms can bid for 3G spectrum during the auction," telecom secretary Dinesh Mathur told mediapersons.

Mr Mathur's comments come even as cellular operators have threatened to go to court if the government were to allow foreign players (who are not present in India) to bid for 3G spectrum. At present, all telecom services in India are offered on 2G (second generation radio frequencies). Since 3G spectrum can be used both for voice and high-speed data applications, any new player who wins the bid for 3G spectrum can also enter the traditional voice and SMS market.

When asked if there could be any option other than an auction for allocation of 3G spectrum, Mr Mathur said that the DoT was also considering the standard allocation procedure. "This is the other option that is possible - we have worked out a criteria for this also," he said. However, DoT sources later confirmed that after examining both the auction and allocation methodologies, the department had already finalised its decision to go in for an auction.

Mr Mathur also said there was enough 3G spectrum to accommodate three to four operators. Rejecting TRAI's recommendations, the DoT is also learnt to have decided that one of the slots will be reserved for BSNL, sources added. This implies, if only four players can be accommodated, and one slot be reserved for PSU telcos, all existing operators and global giants will have to bid for just three slots.

Existing operators have warned the government against allowing foreign players to bid for 3G spectrum. In fact, Tata Teleservices, in its communication to DoT had alleged that the latter was 'completely disregarding the recommendations of telecom regulator TRAI for facilitating the progress of existing GSM and CDMA operators from 2G to 3G services'.

"The interests of existing telecom licence holders who have done so much to make India the fastest telecom market in the world must be protected and a level-playing field provided to them," the company had said. Endorsing Tatas stance, GSM-based operators too said that "the existing 2G players must have the first right to use 3G spectrum as and when it is made available for allotment".

"The existing licensees have the first right to use of 2.1GHz /3G spectrum as and when it is made available for allotment. TRAI, too, in its recommendations of September 2006 had stated that the priority for allocating scarce spectrum must first go to the existing licensees," Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said in the communication to DoT.

From Economic Times of India

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spain - mobile operator collusion inquiry

CECU valora positivamente la apertura de expediente a Movistar, Orange y Vodafone

La Confederación de Consumidores y Usuarios (CECU) quiere hacer una valoración positiva del expediente abierto esta tarde por la Comisión Nacional de Competencia a las tres operadoras ante la posibilidad de un pacto en la subida de tarifas.

CECU considera que el expediente abierto a las que son las principales operadoras de telefonía móvil de nuestro país es un paso importante para que la transparencia impere en el mercado y se aclare de forma definitiva si pudo existir algún tipo acuerdo en los incrementos de tarifas del pasado mes de marzo.

Asimismo, CECU pide a las autoridades que en estos casos se actúe con agilidad y rapidez, entrando de oficio sin necesidad de denuncias en situaciones en las que habitualmente están implicadas empresas de sectores liberalizados recientemente que pueden estar, en la práctica, actuando en forma de oligopolio.

From Confederación de Consumidores y Usuarios

Monday, October 15, 2007

Enterprise - Communications

Landmark Study Reveals Status Quo Could Conservatively Cost 1,000-Person Enterprises Nearly $13 Million Yearly in Avoidable Expenses and Lost Productivity

Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The largest-ever survey of enterprise and contact center employees and their workflows reveals the silent but staggering true costs of fragmented communications: Enterprises of 1,000 persons could lose nearly $13 million a year in lost productivity and avoidable expenses. That's just one of many startling results from a recent, landmark in-depth poll of 517 communications end-users across North America and Europe conducted by independent Insignia Research of Toronto, Canada and commissioned by Siemens Communications, Inc.

The survey report entitled "Measuring the Pain: What Is Fragmented Communication Costing Your Enterprise?" is the first to fully quantify the costs of the status quo -- including workflow disruptions, added costs and associated frustrations to enterprises lacking unified communications. It explores pain points at the individual, team and enterprise levels in terms of time and impact on serving customers as well as the frustration and anxiety to users and their teams. A solid majority of the respondents (62%) identified themselves as being in customer service and sales roles. The survey asked very specific questions about experiences with existing communication systems while involved in customer-facing and time-critical processes.

Highlights of the survey include:
-- Ninety-four percent of respondents reported waiting an average of 5.3 hours per week for information from others to complete tasks. In 1,000-employee enterprises, this can translate to more than $9 million yearly in lost productivity based on a $37 weighted hourly wage. Taking a process view of this nearly universal pain point, the negative impact of 5.3-hour delays in customer-facing activities has larger implications on customer sales, service and revenue realization.
-- Respondents reported an average productivity loss of 7.8 hours a month at offsite locations because they lack the communication tools they have in their main office. Nearly a full day each month is lost because they are not properly equipped with effective, remotely-accessible, collaborative communications systems. As workers continue to become increasingly mobile, the net effect of this may become more dramatic. Fully weighted, in a 1,000-person enterprise, these costs can exceed $3 million a year.
-- Enterprises are wasting at least $3,400 per person each year in unnecessary business travel expenses because of ineffective or non-existent collaboration with existing communications systems. Managers are forced to synchronize teams through expensive internal meetings requiring travel. In a 1,000-person enterprise, these costs can top $3.4 million a year.

"Never before has a study so clearly captured the extent of the frustration felt by individuals, managers and teams, and so completely quantified the extraneous costs leaking out of the enterprise as a result," said Jim Burton, principal of UC Strategies, a leading market research firm specializing in unified communications across the enterprise. "Aside from the hard costs uncovered in the survey, there are soft but very real costs in terms of customer responsiveness and satisfaction."

The solution, Burton said, is an enterprise-wide, unified communications platform like that reflected in the highly scalable Siemens Open Communications architecture. It is designed to unify enterprise communications, providing a rich user experience and fixed-mobile convenience anytime, anywhere.

According to Eve Aretakis, CEO, Siemens Communications, Inc., Siemens commissioned the independent survey to help its enterprise customers and the market realize the enormous costs of continuing the communications status quo in their businesses:

"To get the most conservative view, we asked the researchers to discount their soft-cost findings by 75 percent," she said. "Even then the soft costs work out to more than $8,400 per employee each year. Factoring in the hard dollars of travel and communication expenses, the data shows an annual impact approaching $13,000 per employee no matter what size the enterprise. With these findings, the potential return on an investment in unified communications becomes most compelling."

See also white paper on the research findings

UK - Enterprise mobility

Unnecessary mobile costs hit British businesses

British businesses may be leaking money through inefficient use of work mobile phones, according to a new survey from Inclarity, the hosted Voice over Internet (VoIP) provider. The research, conducted in September 2007 in conjunction with YouGov, polled 2,003 people across Britain and revealed that 31 per cent of employees who work in an office make work-related calls from their mobiles when in the office more than two or three times a week. Of those, 65 per cent make work-related calls from their mobile phones more than two times a day.

Inclarity commissioned the research just as fixed mobile convergence (FMC), which promises a single portable communications device that can work across fixed wireline and mobile wireless networks, is being evaluated by UK businesses. According to data from analyst iLocus, mobile operators in the UK stand to lose $1.3 billion a year by 2011 because of FMC.

The average monthly phone bill for a small business of 10 in the UK is £441.80 [source: JD Power and Associates]. Inclarity’s research therefore suggests that businesses are leaking money because employees are using their mobiles more and more frequently even whilst in range of a landline. The Inclarity survey in fact showed that 42 per cent of office workers would welcome having just one FMC device which would be designed to perform the functions of a desk work phone, home phone, mobile phone and PDA. The top three benefits of such a device according to the respondents were as follows:

- easy to pick up messages (47 per cent);
- enables me to work from home when I need to/want to (40%); and,
- having one phone number (35%).

Dave Millett, Operations Director, Inclarity, says: “FMC could save UK businesses a significant amount of money as well ensure better efficiency of staff. British businesses have been throwing money away through inappropriate use of mobiles, but next generation technology will enable workers to have just one FMC device allowing wireless connection to your mobile phone when you’re within the office/home and transferring to GSM when out of range – thus offering even further cost savings. The key to FMC deployment within businesses is that they use a tried and tested business-grade solution, rather than deploying Skype-like products and expecting it to be business ready.”

See also Inclarity

Saturday, October 13, 2007

China - numbers

China Unicom Sells Mobile Number For 480,000 Yuan

China Unicom subsidiary Beijing Unicom sold one of its new "156-" mobile phone numbers for 480,000 Yuan, reports Xiaoxiang Morning Post. The two-year contract includes monthly communication fees of 20,000 Yuan. The number is 15688888888. The buyer had to put down an initial payment of 240,000 Yuan for the number.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

France - 4th mobile licence

L'Arcep refuse d'attribuer la quatrième licence mobile 3G à Free

Le couperet est tombé pour Iliad : l'Arcep a rejeté la candidature de la maison mère de Free pour l'obtention de la quatrième licence mobile 3G. La société était la seule à avoir déposé un dossier auprès de l'autorité de régulation des télécoms. « Dans les conditions financières actuellement définies par la loi de finances, la candidature de la société Free Mobile, telle que présentée dans son dossier de candidature du 30 juillet 2007, ne respecte pas les critères de qualification et ne peut, par suite, qu'être rejetée », souligne l'Arcep dans son communiqué.

Le groupe Iliad espérait bénéficier de modalités financières attractives, principalement un paiement annuel échelonné de la partie fixe de la redevance, qui coûte 619 millions d'euros. Mais l'Arcep rappelle que la loi est claire : cette partie fixe doit « être versée au 30 septembre de l'année de délivrance de l'autorisation, ou lors de cette délivrance si celle-ci intervient postérieurement au 30 septembre ».

Iliad a aussitôt réagi. Dans un communiqué, le groupe « souhaite que les pouvoirs publics mettent en oeuvre les conditions permettant l'émergence d'un quatrième opérateur mobile. Dans ce cadre réaménagé, Iliad réaffirme son intérêt pour cette quatrième licence, sur un marché français caractérisé par un manque de concurrence. »

Skype - VoIP

Co-Founder of Skype Defends Its Value

In his first public remarks since quitting last week as chief executive of the Internet phone company Skype, Niklas Zennstrom said Tuesday that he had no regrets about his handling of the company but conceded that he might have tried to squeeze money out of it too quickly.

EBay, the online auction company that paid $2.6 billion for Skype in 2005, said last week that it would take a $1.43 billion charge for the service.

EBay has retained Mr. Zennstrom as Skype’s nonexecutive chairman. Michael van Swaaij, eBay’s chief strategy officer, will fill in as chief executive until a permanent successor is hired.

The write-down was widely seen as a concession that eBay had overpaid for Skype, but Mr. Zennstrom, a Swede who was a co-founder of the company in 2003, defended its value.

In the second quarter, revenue grew 100 percent from a year earlier, to $90 million, and the company recorded a profit in the first quarter, he said.

About 220 million people, most of them outside the United States, are registered with Skype, which uses the Internet to carry phone conversations between personal computers.

“It’s not like it’s been overtaken by Microsoft or Google or Yahoo,” Mr. Zennstrom said at a technology conference here. “Over the longer term, I think it’s going to turn out to be a good business.”

Revenue and earnings projections made by Skype executives before the sale to eBay turned out to be “a bit front-loaded,” he said.

“Sometimes I feel like we tried to monetize too rapidly,” Mr. Zennstrom said.

While he and his co-founder, Janus Friis, could have made more money if they had stayed on and hit undisclosed financial goals over the next two years, Mr. Zennstrom said it was his choice to leave now.

“I made a decision to phase myself out,” he added. “For me, that was always the intention. That was a very natural process. The question is, when do you do that? In this case, it was when the company is in a good position in the market and you feel confidence in your team.”

Mr. Zennstrom is focusing on his newest business, Joost, a broadband Internet television service. Joost opened its Web site to the public this week after an invitation-only trial period, although the software is still being tested.

From New York Times

USA - spectrum

AT&T buys high-speed wireless spectrum for $2.5 billion

AT&T buys all of Aloha Partners' spectrum in the highly coveted 700MHz band ideal for long-range broadband services

The Aloha Partners spectrum, purchased in auctions held by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in 2001 and 2003, is in the highly coveted 700MHz band, an area of the spectrum ideal for long-range broadband services, many experts say. The FCC is scheduled to auction another 62MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band in January.

Aloha was the largest buyer of 700MHz spectrum in those earlier auctions. The AT&T purchase covers all the 700MHz spectrum owned by Aloha, AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said.

The Aloha spectrum covers 196 million U.S. residents, including 72 of the 100 largest markets in the U.S., AT&T said.

AT&T will use the spectrum to meet "customer demand for mobile services, including voice, data, and video," Forrest Miller, the company's group president for corporate strategy and development, said in a statement.

AT&T will use the spectrum either for broadcast video or for two-way communications such as voice, data or multicast content, Coe said.

Coe declined to comment on how the Aloha purchase will affect AT&T's plans for the upcoming 700MHz auctions.

The FCC auctions next year are expected to raise more than $10 billion. The spectrum, called "beachfront property" by many observers, is ideal for long-range wireless telephone and broadband services, with signals that travel up to four times farther than in higher spectrum bands.

Aloha, based in Providence, Rhode Island, set up a subsidiary called HiWire in 2006 to deliver television programming to mobile devices.

The AT&T purchase is subject to government approvals. The company expects the deal to close in six to nine months.

From Infoworld

Monday, October 08, 2007

Vodafone - triple play in Italy and Spain

Vodafone agrees to acquire Tele2 Italy and Tele2 Spain for EUR775m

Mobile communications company Vodafone Group plc (Vodafone) (NYSE:VOD) has announced that it has agreed to acquire Tele2 Italia SpA (Tele2 Italy) and Tele2 Telecommunication Services SLU (Tele2 Spain) from Tele2 AB Group, for a cash consideration of EUR775m, on a debt free basis.

Tele2 Italy and Tele2 Spain provide nationwide fixed-line telecomms and broadband services. Tele2 Italy had over 2.6m customers, including more than 400,000 broadband customers, as of 30 June 2007, while Tele2 Spain had 550,000 customers, including over 240,000 broadband customers.

The acquisition will allow Vodafone to benefit from the broadband markets in Italy and Spain, with the capital expenditure requirements of Tele2 Italy and Tele2 Spain not expected to materially affect the company's ongoing capital intensity ratio in its Europe region.

According to Vodafone, the acquisition meets the company's stated financial investment criteria and is expected to be broadly neutral to adjusted earnings per share in the first full year following acquisition, excluding the impact of acquired intangible asset amortisation.

Vodafone claimed the transaction will generate significant time-to-market benefits in both countries, where broadband penetration is currently low, but is reportedly increasing quickly.

Published in Telecomworldwire.
M2 Communications Ltd

Saturday, October 06, 2007

United Arab Emirates

UAE keeps telecom sector closed

The UAE government has announced that it will not open up the country's telecommunications sector to foreign companies in the near future, reported Gulf News. The UAE's Minister of Government Sector Development Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri said the current number of companies is adequate, and tariffs will become competitive because etisalat no longer has a monopoly on phone and internet services.

One laptop per child

One Laptop Per Child offers give one, get one for $400

September 24, 2007 (IDG News Service) -- Some of the low-cost PCs designed by One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) for kids in the developing world will go to people in North America.

That's the result of a program the group plans to launch on Monday that will let U.S. and Canadian residents pay $400 for one laptop to keep and one to give to a child in a developing nation.

Initially, at least, purchasers won't be able to choose where the second laptop will go.

"The idea is to help feed programs in the least developed countries and broaden the community of engagement," said Walter Bender, president of software and content for OLPC. By putting the laptops in the hands of people in North America, the group hopes to persuade more people to contribute content or other developments to the project, he said.

The offer will start on Nov. 12 and run through Nov. 26. "We don't want to divert too much away from the developing world, so we'll do a short window," Bender said.

Mass production of the laptops is scheduled for October, with the first units landing in the hands of kids around the world in early November, he said. The initial run will generate 40,000 units and production will quickly double and triple that capacity to meet demand, he said.

The original plan for the OLPC project was to create a laptop that would cost less than $100, but more recently the price has been pegged closer to $190. The $400 deal for two laptops includes some padding for the cost of sending one of the laptops to a remote location, Bender said.

See also OPLC

Friday, October 05, 2007

Armani mobile phone

Samsung, Armani Team Up for Fashion Electronics

Samsung and Giorgio Armani unveiled the Armani phone (SGH-P520) at Armani's 2008 fashion show in Milan, Italy. The two companies announced on Thursday a partnership to develop a mobile phone and LCD TV.

Samsung Electronics, a world leader in digital technologies, has joined hands with Giorgio Armani, a world leader in luxury products. Samsung said on Thursday that it has partnered with Armani to develop fashion electronics, with Armani handling the design and Samsung the engineering.

A Samsung official said the companies will debut the Samsung-Armani mobile phone in November, and an LCD TV in January next year.

"This powerful partnership will match great design with leading technology to ensure performance is as impressive as appearance," said Yun Jong-yong, chief executive officer of Samsung.

The two companies unveiled a prototype of the phone at Armani's 2008 spring-summer fashion show in Milan, Italy on Monday. Just 10.5 mm slim, the device features a sleek touch screen that shows the Giorgio Amrani logo when it turns on and off.

A Samsung official said the prototype will be further developed and the final product released for sale in November.

See also Armani press release

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Europe - functional separation

ERG Opinions on Regulatory Principles of NGA and on Functional Separation

Today Roberto Viola, the Chairman of the ERG handed over the ERG Opinion on Regulatory Principles of NGA requested by Commissioner Viviane Reding in her letter dated 30 April 2007 in order to enable the Commission to draw upon the Opinion for the upcoming proposals on the Review of the ECNS Regulatory Framework.

The introduction of Next Generation Networks (NGN), leading to a multi-service network for audio (including voice), video (including TV) and data, as well as new plans and investment in next generation access (NGA) sets the communications sector on the verge of a new era.

Creating competitive markets for electronic communications services within and across Member States as well as incentivising efficient infrastructure investment, promoting innovation and thereby maximizing benefits for consumers constitute the main objectives of the Framework. Furthermore the balance between service and infrastructure competition (ladder of investment) taking into account the existence of other infrastructure (e.g. cable) needs to be considered in light of the dynamics caused by NGA roll-out.

As new plans and investments in NGA networks are gaining momentum in several Member States, the ERG considers that this is the correct moment to prospectively analyse the developments in this area. As long as competitive conditions have not changed the roll-out of NGAs does not provide an opportunity to roll back regulation on existing services. Also, given the pace of recent developments differing across and within Member States, regulators need rapidly to define common regulatory principles and set clear and detailed guidance in order to positively affect the competitive nature of the (access) markets and efficient investment in general.

In this document the impact of NGA deployment on the scope of regulation and the way in which regulatory principles may need to be adapted was analysed. The overall conclusion of the document is that the regulatory approach based on the existing ECNS Regulatory Framework can be considered fundamentally sound. Subject to adjustments the principles remain suitable and allow NRAs to deal with the regulatory challenges posed by the roll-out of NGA.

In parallel, an ERG Opinion on Functional Separation has also been delivered to the Commission. The Opinion follows and elaborates upon the proposals on Functional Separation submitted by the ERG to the Commission, as part of the consultation on the review of the Regulatory Framework launched in June 2006. The Opinion goes further by providing a definition of Functional Separation and a detailed description of its components; itargues that these components should be considered in a dynamic fashion.

In the Opinion the ERG states that the introduction of Functional Separation as an evidence-based remedy will improve the effectiveness of the existing framework.

Opinion provides an explanation of the supporting reasons to introduce Functional
Separation in the European regulatory framework: functional separation seeks to ensure full equivalence of access to key wholesale products, acting as a complementary remedy to traditional wholesale non-discrimination remedies.
The Opinion says that Functional Separation arrangements have to be flexible enough and periodically reviewed in light of technology and marked developments.

It is clarified that Functional Separation does not imply any legal break-up of the vertical integrated operator and that should not be confused with a “structural separation” option.

In line with the principle of proportionality, Functional Separation can be introduced by National Regulators only after a thorough cost-benefit analysis. National Regulators will need to base their decision on completed market reviews covering the full range of the wholesale markets; as in some cases, the strengthening of the non-discrimination obligation might be sufficient to address the competitive issues.

Finally, the degree and the design of separation proposed in national markets should be carefully tailored to national circumstances: Functional Separation will not be a “one size fits all” solution.

The Opinion reports also on the UK’s positive experience so far - highlighting the benefits for competitors and consumers, as well as on incentives to invest - and recalls the ongoing discussion taking place in other Member States (Sweden and Italy).

The ERG hopes that the two Opinions will prove useful for the Commission when drafting its legislative proposals.

see also ERG functional separation document

Mobile television

Mobile TV? No thanks, say Europeans

Reuters - Europeans' interest in watching mobile television is as tiny as cell phone screens, a new study showed on Monday, even though the industry has been buzzing about offering TV on handsets for years.

Mobile operators hope that mobile TV could encourage users to spend an extra 5 to 10 euros a month, compensating for declining revenues from voice calls, but mobile television and video downloads ranked close to the bottom of consumer interest in a Gartner study in Europe.

Only about 5 percent of Europeans expressed interest in watching television or video on their cellphones in the next 12 months, the study said. At the same time some 20 percent of Asians said they would watch TV on their phone screens.

"I think the main reason is the compromise you are making on the device you need to carry to watch TV -- either too big if you want a nice experience or too small and you do not have a good experience," said Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst.

Also lack of consensus on business models, variety of different technologies and shortage of airwaves has been hampering takeup of mobile TV.

Because spectrum availability is not a problem in many Asian countries, commercial DVB-H broadcasts have already started in India and Vietnam, with Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia also set to open networks this year.

In Europe, three countries have started commercial networks.

Research firm Informa has projected entertainment services -- games, music, TV, adult content and gambling -- would grow to $38 billion (18.8 billion pounds) by 2011 from around $18.8 billion in 2006.

Music has been the main driver for mobile entertainment so far, but players in the field have expected a boost from mobile television -- a conclusion thrown into doubt by the study.

From Reuters
see also Informa

Myanmar - reporting on the Internet

Internet blackout in Myanmar stalls citizen reporting

The loss of Internet access in Myanmar has slowed the tide of photos and videos shared with the rest of the world but people outside of the troubled country continue to use new media sites and other technologies to protest military activity in the Southeast Asia country.

Reporters without Borders and the Burma Media Association reported that the government cut off all Internet access in the country on Friday morning and they said that all Internet cafes in the country also have been closed. The Web site of the Myanmar Post & Telecommunications, the government-run telecommunications provider, appears to be down.

But Burmese and other interested people around the world continue to discuss the issue online and use the Internet to organize opposition to the military crackdown. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a Web site run from Norway, is posting reports of activities in the country. Ko Htike, who lives in London, had been posting notes and photographs from people in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), until the Internet connection went down.

Those sites have been crucial in the reporting of both the protests staged by monks in Myanmar and the reaction by the government which sent in the military to stop the protests. Reports of the number of dead range from ten to hundreds.

The Facebook group, "support the Monk's in Burma," currently has nearly 128,000 members, with new members joining rapidly. They're using the site to organize a day of protest around the world. The page also has hundreds of photographs attached, including many that appear to have been taken in Myanmar.

The combination of the broader penetration of Internet access and the availability of personal media, such as cameras and computers, is what has allowed the broad-based creation of news beyond the traditional news organizations, said Kirsten Foot, an associate professor at the University of Washington and the co-author of the book "Web Campaigns."

But the Internet is not the only technology that can help the outside world monitor what is happening in Myanmar. The Association for the Advancement of Science has already analyzed satellite images that, it says, document and corroborate accounts of specific instances of destruction of villages and of a growing military presence in specific areas and forced relocations in Myanmar from the middle of last year through early 2007. Since the recent military activity in the country, satellites have been deployed to collect new images of the country's urban areas, the AAAS said. Without Internet access to the country, the images could be crucial in understanding the level of military deployment there.

Still, it's unclear if the satellite images and the upswelling of protest and support online will have any influence on the Burmese government. But in a "twisted way," it might be good news that the Burmese government has cut off the Internet, said Foot. "If anything, it shows that the government in Burma is sensitive to international pressure and therefore they don't want what's happening to be seen internationally," she said.

From InfoWorld

USA - rule-making and leaking

Making (and Breaking) FCC Rules

The Government Accountability Office yesterday issued a report on the process by which the Federal Communications Commission gathers and releases information about important votes and other agency actions.

The GAO analyzed the FCC's rulemaking process in four cases between 2002 and 2006, dealing with amateur radio service, cable boxes, cellphone interference with public safety communications and competition in the local phone market. It found that some "stakeholders" in those cases had advance access to public information, giving them a competitive advantage.

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In response, an FCC spokesman said the agency has always promoted fair public participation in the rulemaking process and is "exploring ways in which we can make our processes even more open and transparent."

Excerpts from the report:

Several stakeholders told us that they learn which items FCC is about to vote on even though that information is not supposed to be released outside of FCC. FCC circulates information internally approximately 3 weeks before a public meeting to inform FCC staff of what is scheduled to be voted on at the public meeting. FCC rules prohibit the disclosure of this information to anyone outside of FCC. Specifically, the information is considered nonpublic information and cannot be released by any FCC employee without authorization from the FCC chairman. . . .

However, nine stakeholders -- both those involved in the case studies we reviewed and other stakeholders with whom we spoke who regularly participate in FCC rulemakings -- told us that they hear this information from both FCC bureau staff and commissioner staff. One stakeholder -- representing a large organization that is involved in numerous rulemakings -- told us that FCC staff call them and tell them what items are scheduled for a vote.

In contrast, a number of other stakeholders told us that they do not learn this information and do not know which items are scheduled for a vote. These stakeholders, who generally represent consumer and public-interest groups, told us they do not know when FCC is about to vote on a rulemaking or when it would be best to meet with FCC staff to make their arguments. In contrast, stakeholders who know which items have been scheduled for a vote know when to schedule a meeting with FCC commissioners and staff because they know when FCC is about to vote on a rulemaking.

FCC officials told us that, for stakeholders to successfully make their case before FCC "timing is everything." Specifically, if a stakeholder knows that a proposed rule has been scheduled for a vote and may be voted on in 3 weeks, that stakeholder can schedule a meeting with FCC officials before the rule is voted on. In contrast, a stakeholder who does not know that the rule is scheduled for a vote, may not learn that the rule will be voted on until the agenda is announced 1 week before the public meeting.

However, once the agenda has been announced, the Sunshine Period begins, and no one can lobby FCC officials about the proposed rule. As a result, the stakeholder who learns that a rule has been scheduled for a vote 3 weeks before the vote can have a distinct advantage over a stakeholder who learns about an upcoming vote through the public agenda. Our case study reviews and discussions with multiple stakeholders showed that some stakeholders know this nonpublic information and, as a result, these stakeholders have an advantage in the rulemaking process.