Wednesday, December 31, 2008

China - 3G licences!

China approves 3G licences

CHINA'S Cabinet said on Wednesday it has approved licenses for next-generation mobile phone services in a long-delayed step that is expected to trigger billions of dollars in equipment sales.

China is one of the last major markets to roll out third-generation, or 3G, services and the step comes at a critical time for global equipment suppliers as demand elsewhere weakens amid economic turmoil.

The government will issue licenses for two global 3G standards and a homegrown Chinese standard, the Cabinet said on its website.

The country's industry minister said in mid-December that Chinese carriers are expected to spend 280 billion yuan (S$58.8 billion) on base stations, switching gear, transmission networks and other infrastructure.

It is unclear, however, how much of that will go to global suppliers and how much to China's fledgling producers.

Wednesday's announcement did not say which companies would receive licenses. But state media said earlier that China Mobile., the dominant carrier, would be assigned the Chinese-developed TD-SCDMA standard. The global standards WCDMA and CDMA-2000 are to go to China Unicom and China Telecom, respectively.

The introduction of 3G is expected to trigger a new burst of revenue for the industry as companies develop video, web browsing and other services supported by the technology.

Beijing repeatedly postponed issuing licenses while it tried to develop its own standard to compete with the global systems.

China - 3G

China Telecom to become first operator to provide nationwide 3G services

China Telecom has started to upgrade its 2G CDMA2000 1x network in 342 cities to the 3G CDMA2000 1x EV-DO standard and plans to complete the project by the second quarter of 2009, which will make the operator the first to offer nationwide 3G services, a China Telecom official told Interfax on Dec. 26.

"In all cities, download speeds will be elevated to CDMA2000 1x EV-DO with downlink speeds of up to 1 megabit per second (Mbps), while over 80 major cities will be upgraded to support downlink speeds of up to 3 Mbps. Cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan have already begun upgrade work. The upgrade can be done by software, with no equipment replacement needed," the official from China Telecom's network planning department, who asked not to be identified, said.

According to the official, China Telecom plans to invest RMB 80 billion ($11.7 billion) in its CDMA network over the next three years, including the RMB 27.9 billion ($4.1 billion) the company will expend in purchases from its first CDMA network equipment tender held in July. ZTE, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Nortel and Samsung all won shares in the tender.
"Nationwide coverage for the 2G CDMA2000 1x network has been achieved. The current network can carry 70 million CDMA users. However, our goal is to have 100 million CDMA users by the end of 2009, which is why we have begun a nationwide capacity and speed upgrade. When complete, China Telecom will have the capability to provide nationwide 3G services," the official said.

If 3G services are launched soon after the upgrade is completed, it will make China Telecom the first Chinese operator to provide 3G services. China Mobile announced on Aug. 27, 2008 that it will not be able to provide commercial 3G services in the first 28 cities in which it has established TD-SCDMA trial networks before the end of June 2009, while Chang Xiaobing, CEO and chairman of the board of directors of China Unicom, said on Aug. 25, 2008 that China Unicom hoped to provide 3G services in the third quarter of 2009.

"Having launched our "Esurfing" CDMA brand nationally, our focus for 2009 will be on mobile Internet and FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) services. We will soon allocate our budget for promoting 3G to consumers," the official said.

On Dec. 12, 2008, Li Yizhong, Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced that 3G licenses will be issued around the beginning of 2009.

China - CMBB

Two Companies OKed to Launch CMMB-based 3G Mobile Phones

Two Chinese mobile phone makers have gained licenses from the Chinese regulators to launch two models of 3G mobile phones based on the country's homebrewed China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB) standard, disclosed sources familiar with the matter on December 28.

In detail, Hisense Group is authorized to launch Hisense TM86 and its peer Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. is licensed to roll out Coolpad 6168V, according to one source, noting that both models are based on the nation's homemade TD-SCDMA technology.

The move signals that more and more CMMB-enabled mobile phones will come into the market in line with the nationwide deployment of the CMMB networks.

The country is scheduled to build up the CMMB networks in more than 100 cities ahead of 2009, and kick off commercial operation of the networks as earliest as the second half of 2009, said an official for the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

Zimbabwe - charging in foreign currency

Zim telecoms to charge in forex

Zimbabwe’s telecommunication operators have been given regulatory approval to charge for all their products and services in foreign currency, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.

The newspaper cited industry players as saying that companies in the telecommunications sector had sought the approval in order to stay afloat - as service providers had to run operations funded almost entirely in foreign currency while still earning local currency.

Econet Wireless, the country’s largest mobile service provider, would immediately start charging for all services and products, including airtime and SIM cards, in foreign currency.

According to Econet, 95 percent of the cost of bringing service to its customers was in foreign currency.

However, because of tariffs charged in local currency, the company, along with other telecommunications operators, was increasingly unable to invest in the maintenance of its infrastructure, or to meet other costs critical to the efficient running of the network, the newspaper reported.

South Korea - pumping up the sector

South Korea boosts telecom sector with a US$5.4 billion budget

South Korea plans to spend 6.88 trillion won (US$5.4 billion) in 2009 to help spur the country's telecommunications sector. The country’s regulator, Korea Communications Commission (KCC) indicated it will spend 56 percent of the budget in the January-June period geared towards helping service providers develop next generation telecom services and to buy new equipment.

In recent policy decisions, the KCC demonstrated its flexibility to loosen software requirements for imported handsets used domestically. It reversed an earlier ruling rescinding the requirement for locally developed software, known as Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability (WIPI), to be incorporated into such devices. This is a significant step in opening up the local market from April 2009 to international brands such as Google’s Android phone, Apple’s iPhone and other smart phones. The regulator has already made an exception for Blackberry devices for SK Telecom to introduce them in December.

Another major policy announcement involves a decision to allow companies to offer mobile services over the wireless Internet using the Wireless Broadband (WiBro)-based platform. WiBro is Korea's home-grown third generation communication technology which has been adopted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It paves the way for unfettered communication for users on-the-move and is understood to be a Korean version of WiMAX, a similar standard developed by Intel. Korean developers say both standards will be fully interoperable by the end of 2008.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

UK - mobile broadband and social networking

3G Mobile Broadband and Mobile Social Networking is Booming

Orange unveiled its fourth Digital Media Index, a detailed report offering an insight into customer consumption of digital media.

The latest findings reveal a marked increase in mobile data usage, which has almost doubled in the last quarter. This increase follows improvements to devices designed to access mobile data – from USB dongles to more advanced mobile handsets, all matched with new price plans specifically created to increase mobile internet relevancy to consumers. At the same time, the evolution of social networking to the mobile platform, combined with more effective promotion of on portal content and services, means consumers are now accessing the content they want, quicker and easier than ever before.

Key findings from the summer/autumn report include:

* Dongle subscriptions surge - an increase of 2,139% since January
* 3G customers soar by 86% - with 1.3 million customers added
* Mobile search increases by 30% - while local search increases by 100%
* Social networking takes off - with over 166 million page impressions on average per month
* Music downloads increase by 10% - with September specifically seeing a record 300,000 full tracks downloaded

Figures are in comparison to the third Orange Digital Media Index which covered the three month period from November 07 – January 08

Paul Jevons, Director of Products, Portals and Services for Orange, said: “This latest report reflects a transition in mobile similar to what is taking place on the web – mobile is no longer simply a channel for brands to deliver packaged content in a manner of their choosing. Instead the mobile phone has become a truly interactive channel that fosters the formation of communities through social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo. It also delivers content that is personally tailored to the individual so customers can access the services they want how and when they want them.”

USA - images of pre-paid mobile

The mythology of prepaid wireless

Only 16% of Americans use prepaid wireless phones today — a figure much lower than that of other developed countries, according to a new study by the New Millennium Research Council. What's even more striking is that the NMRC estimates that 30% of Americans, including 25 million adults, would save money using a prepaid plan rather than staying on a postpaid contract, but they don't switch. Why? NMRC says there are several myths about prepaid that steer consumers away from such value-focused plans. While carriers don't perpetuate these myths, they don't have much incentive to discourage them, as contract customers are much more valuable to them than prepaid customers. A survey conducted for the NMRC by Opinion Research Center found that:

of Americans feel they are always under contract and therefore cannot switch to a prepaid plan without being penalized.

believe that prepaid is only for people who rarely, if ever, use their cell phones.

agree while 44% disagree with the statement that a postpaid customer always will pay less than a prepaid customer.

believe that prepaid phones are available in “very basic models.”

Australia - the future of Telstra

Broadband plan could force Telstra split

The largest Australian telephone company, Telstra, could be split up if the government goes through with a threat to bypass the company in building a $6.9 billion national broadband network.

Telstra has been shut out of the planning and if the project is granted to a rival, it could see its network arm forcibly separated to provide a platform for the network.

Analysts say uncertainty over the ability of Telstra's rivals to build a network spanning Australia's vast distances and inhospitable terrain and reaching the government target of 98 percent of the population means units of Telstra must be involved.

"This requires parts of Telstra's network, and if they're not prepared to provide it willingly, then it will have to be legislated," said Luke Sinclair, an investment manager at Karara Capital.

Australia has slower and more expensive Internet than many other developed countries, and the government has pledged 4.7 billion Australian dollars, or $3.2 billion, to help build a national broadband network, with the successful bidder expected to provide approximately the same amount.

But the project has been beset by political wrangling, descending into a confrontation between the government and Telstra, which dominates the market and infrastructure.

A government panel reviewing proposals for the network Dec. 18 dumped Telstra's plan because it did not include smaller businesses, while accepting five other bids.

"This decision reveals fundamentally a growing level of frustration from the government with Telstra's very public demands and ultimatum for regulatory concessions," a JPMorgan analyst, Laurent Horrut, said in a note to clients.

Telstra had sought assurances from the government that it would not be forcibly broken up. The government responded by saying the network could be built without Telstra.

Telstra could still be selected, however, if the minister for broadband, Stephen Conroy, who will make the final decision, decides to ignore the panel's recommendation.

Of the five other bidders who registered interest, Telstra's main rival, Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications and backed by a consortium of smaller players known as Terria, is seen as the most likely candidate.

While doubts persist about whether anyone but Telstra can muster the estimated 5 billion dollars needed on top of the government's contribution, a joint venture could be the solution.

"Even if you have one leading tenderer, let's say Terria, it would be possible for them to work with other players to get it built," said Paul Budde, an independent telecommunications analyst.

Alternatively, the government may adjust how much it is willing to contribute to the project to support a less capable bidder, said Sinclair of Karara Capital.

Besides the Optus-Terria consortium, the other bidders include Axia Netmedia of Canada and a local consortium, Acacia. TransACT and the Tasmanian government have submitted plans only for their state, not national plans.

The credit rating agencies - Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's - maintained their Telstra ratings despite the government decision, with all three saying it was too soon to say what the effect would be on the company if it was left out. That is partly because the process could become mired in legal challenges, resulting in delays. Telstra has called the decision to exclude it from the bidding "legally questionable" and has reserved the right to challenge it.

Telstra shares, which fell almost a fifth to an 11-year low after the decision, have recovered some ground after the company said its earnings outlook would not be affected.

India - Reliance - GSM

RCom launches nationwide GSM services

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications announced on Tuesday the rollout of GSM mobile services, which will be available in 11,000 towns countrywide.

Announcing the rollout, Anil Ambani told reporters that the company has invested over Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) in the project, which was completed six months ahead of schedule.

Reliance Communications mobile users will now have a choice of both CDMA and GSM services, Ambani said, adding, "the project was completed within 15 months", six months ahead of schedule.

Internet security - hacked

Researchers Hack Internet Security Infrastructure

An international team of computer security researchers demonstrated today a key weakness in the Internet infrastructure that could let hackers launch virtually undetectable attacks aimed at intercepting secured online communications when consumers visit bank and e-commerce Web sites.

Academic and private security and cryptography experts from the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States said they have found a way to mimic the digital identity and authority assigned to RapidSSL, a company, that helps Internet users correctly distinguish legitimate Web sites from counterfeit or hostile sites.

RapidSSL is one of dozens of companies, trusted by makers of Internet browsers, to act as so-called "certificate authorities," or CAs for short. CAs issue digital security credentials designed to uniquely identity Web sites. In the process of issuing a certificate, for example, CAs are required to conduct basic background checks to ensure that the applicant has a legitimate claim to the Web site name listed in the requested certificate.

E-commerce and banking sites use these certificates in combination with secure sockets layer (SSL) technology, an encryption scheme designed to ensure that sensitive data transmitted between the site and visiting Web browsers is scrambled and cannot be read by potential eavesdroppers. For example, when Internet users visit a Web site that begins with https://, a small padlock symbol appears in the user's Web browser window indicating a secure connection that's using an SSL certificate issued by one of the approved CAs.

The problem, the researchers realized, is that RapidSSL and a few other CAs still sign their digital certificates using a cryptographic method, called MD5, that suffers from known weaknesses. Combining recent and new research about ways to exploit those weaknesses with a homegrown, massive array of number-crunching machines (which included networking together about 200 PlayStation 3 gaming consoles), the team was able to reproduce a virtual clone of the digital signature RapidSSL uses to sign SSL certificates.

Armed with those credentials, an attacker who had seized control over a large network, for example, could intercept all requests for users trying to visit a specific e-commerce or banking Web site. The attacker could then redirect the user to a counterfeit version of the site designed to steal the user's credentials. All the while, the user may never know the difference, because the attacker would have presented the victim's Web browser with an SSL certificate, which was signed by an approved CA.

"Signing certs with MD5 in 2008 is negligent," said Jacob Appelbaum, one of the team members and a researcher with the Tor Project, a free online anonymity technology. "The problem is that we trust these CA companies, and maybe we shouldn't."

Two members of the research team demonstrated the exploit live today before hundreds of attendees at the 25th Chaos Communications Congress, a security convention held annually in Berlin.

Appelbaum, perhaps best know for his leading role on recent research into so-called "cold boot" attacks, techniques that can break some of the most widely used forms of computer data encryption, said the group took precautions to ensure that its work could not be copied, at least not immediately.

"A highly skilled researcher and programmer who has been working in this area before might duplicate our work in a month," Appelbaum said. "Starting from scratch without prior understanding of the techniques used will be far more challenging and might take a particularly dedicated and smart individual three or more months."

The team also does not plan to release all of the details about the improved methods (ppt) it used to duplicate the CA for several months. They also have intentionally hobbled the usefulness of the rogue CA they created by outfitting it with an expiration date that has already passed. In order to actively participate in today's live demonstration, conference attendees were asked to set their system clocks back to August 2004.

Appelbaum said the team's research shows that the reliability of the modern CA system, as with most security systems, is only as strong as its weakest link. Web browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox are automatically configured to accept any certificates signed by an approved CA. As a result, an attacker using the team's method could create a counterfeit certificate for virtually any Web site -- regardless of the strength of the cryptography used by the signing CA -- as long as the browser implicitly trusts certificates issued by at least one CA that uses the vulnerable encryption scheme.

Tim Callan, vice president of marketing at Verisign, said the company -- which recently acquired Geo-Trust, RapidSSL's parent firm -- learned from Microsoft last week that the research was going to be presented. However, Callan said Microsoft was briefed under a non-disclosure agreement with the researchers and so was prohibited from passing along any significant details of the research.

"We are not in a position right now where we can tell you whether this attack works and whether it's something to be concerned about or not, because nobody has shared detailed information with us," Callan said.

Callan said Verisign has been phasing out MD5 in favor of more secure signing algorithms amongst its CA properties for the past couple of years, and expects to finish the process in January 2009.

"If it turns out that some clever security researchers have come up with an attack that would further weaken MD5, we may take an even more aggressive stance" in shifting to more complex encryption algorithms, Callan said.

Appelbaum said that his group's attorneys advised against giving Verisign advance notice, citing the possibility that the company could convince a judge that it was in the best interests of public safety to prevent the researchers from publicly presenting their findings.

"Our lawyers advised us that telling the CA about this increases the chances of us getting into serious legal trouble that may ultimately prevent us from speaking about it," Appelbaum said.

Gene Spafford, a professor of computer science at Purdue University, said he was not privy to the details of the research, but that a cyber criminal in control of a rogue CA could conduct very effective phishing attacks, scams that use e-mail to lure people into giving away personal and financial data at fake bank and e-commerce sites.

"If I as an attacker can either recreate someone else's certificate with a valid signature by pointing to my fake domain, or if I am able to alter certificates on-the-fly in some way, that gives me a real advantage for conducting a number of spoofing attacks, and makes phishing much more possible and believable," Spafford said.

Others in the computer security community, however, do not see this as a crucial threat.

Bruce Schneier, a noted cryptography expert and security gadfly, praised the researchers for their work, but said the average Internet user is no less secure because of their findings.

"Don't get me wrong: This is really good research, and it's a nice demonstration of fundamental flaw, but I don't see this as changing much," Schneier said. "Ask yourself this: When was the last time you checked the validity of a [SSL certificate]? The reality is that good SSL certificates do not improve security at all, because nobody bothers to check them. I mean, I'm a security guy, and I don't do it."

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hosting a contest to find a set of solid replacements for the current crop of certificate encryption options widely used today.

Schneier said researchers would continue to pick apart new encryption and hashing schemes. In fact, NIST announced on its Web site that three of the 51 teams have already acknowledged significant weaknesses in their proposed schemes, after having holes poked in their methods by competing teams.

"The CA system is broken, but it works because broken systems tend to be better for society, which needs fluidity in the face of complicated social constructs," Schneier said. "Systems that are broken but work are very common in the real world: Front door locks are surprisingly pickable. Think of faxed signatures, for example. It's a ridiculous form of authentication, yet people trust these documents all the time for very important stuff."

Apple - iPhone on sale in Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart to start selling iPhones on Sunday

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday it will start selling Apple Inc's iPhone on Sunday, but the popular cell phones that can surf the web will not be priced as low as some anticipated.

Wal-Mart plans to sell the black 8-gigabyte iPhone 3G model, which also holds about 2,000 songs, for $197. The 16-gigabyte model, in black or white, will be priced at $297. All of the phones require a new two-year service agreement from AT&T Inc or a qualified upgrade, Wal-Mart said.

The move gives Apple the chance to reach millions of Wal-Mart shoppers who may not be as familiar with the company's products.

Wal-Mart typically appeals to a lower-income group of shoppers than those who buy Apple's Macintosh computers, iPods and iPhones, which are typically more expensive that other PCs and music players. But the world's largest retailer has also lured new customers seeking low prices in a recession.

Wal-Mart used discounts to draw in millions of cash-strapped shoppers during the holiday season. It was among the first to advertise its deals this fall, including hot electronics such as flat-screen televisions.

Numerous websites had previously speculated that Apple would offer a 4-gigabyte model of the iPhone for $99 at Wal-Mart stores. But the phones being sold at Wal-Mart are the same ones already on the market, for about $2 below the prices offered at other locations.

AT&T, the exclusive U.S. wireless service provider for iPhone, currently sells the cheapest version for $199 for a model with 8 gigabytes of storage, and $299 for the 16-gigabyte version. AT&T declined to comment.


Wal-Mart was one of few U.S. retailers whose sales fared well in the weeks after U.S. Thanksgiving and it is trying to keep shoppers coming back to its stores after Christmas. It ran a commercial on Friday morning showing a mother taking her son to Wal-Mart to spend the gift card he got for the holiday.

While the commercial did not refer to iPhones, it did show the pair heading into the electronics section of a Wal-Mart store.

Wal-Mart's move may put pressure on Best Buy Co Inc, the largest consumer electronics retailer. Until now, Best Buy had been the only retailer besides Apple's own stores and AT&T stores selling the iPhone.

Best Buy currently the 8-gigabyte iPhone on sale for $189.99 and the 16-gigabyte version for $289.99, each priced $10 less than their usual price at Best Buy.

Wal-Mart also said its stores could match local competitors' advertised prices during a promotional period.

The phones will be available in nearly 2,500 stores beginning Sunday, December 28.

Apple posted a stronger-than-expected 26 percent rise in fiscal fourth-quarter profit in October, spurred by strong sales of the faster, next-generation iPhones. Apple sold 6.89 million iPhones during the quarter, which ended on September 27.

Shares of Apple rose 81 cents to $85.85 in morning trading, while Wal-Mart rose 2 cents to $55.46. Best Buy was flat at $26.70.

France - 3G and FTTH

Le président de l'Arcep plaide pour l'entrée de Free et Numericable sur le mobile

Réglementation - Paul Champsaur, dont le mandat à la présidence de l’Arcep arrive à échéance, donne son avis dans un entretien aux Echos sur les dossiers qui attendent son successeur en 2009 : la quatrième licence mobile 3G et la fibre optique.

Après six ans à la présidence de l'Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (l'Arcep), Paul Champsaur arrive à la fin de son mandat. Il sera remplacé début janvier par le conseiller d'Etat Jean-Claude Mallet. Dans une interview aux Echos publiée le 24 décembre, Paul Champsaur analyse les enjeux des dossiers qu'il laisse à son successeur.

Paul Champsaur, président de l'ArcepConcernant notamment le dossier de l'attribution de la quatrième licence de téléphonie mobile 3G, il se déclare « favorable » à une procédure d'attribution où une partie des fréquences serait réservée à un nouvel entrant, conformément d'ailleurs à un avis rendu par l'Arcep en septembre dernier. Rappelons qu'un nouvel appel d'offres - après l'échec de celui lancé en 2007 - doit être lancé au premier trimestre 2009.

« La France est le seul grand pays européen où il n'y a que trois opérateurs mobiles. Il faut faire tomber les barrières à l'entrée dans le mobile, comme on a pu le faire dans le fixe, explique le futur ex-président de l'Arcep aux Echos. Bouygues Telecom vient d'entrer sur le marché du haut débit fixe. Il faut que l'inverse soit possible. Free et Numericable doivent être présents dans le mobile pour pouvoir faire des offres convergentes. Car, à l'avenir, la concurrence se fera entre opérateurs intégrés fixe-mobile.

Egaliser les conditions de concurrence entre opérateurs fixes et mobiles

C'est pourquoi, selon Paul Champsaur, l'objectif de la quatrième licence mobile n'est pas l'entrée d'un quatrième opérateur « pur » mobile, mais « l'égalisation des conditions de concurrence entre opérateurs fixes et mobiles dans un contexte de convergence et donc la survie à terme des acteurs fixes. »

Concernant l'autre dossier épineux de 2009, celui du déploiement de la fibre optique dans les immeubles, Paul Champsaur défend de nouveau la solution prônée par Iliad-Free, à savoir une solution de déploiement multifibres : « A priori, l'idée de placer plusieurs fibres dans un immeuble pour que chaque opérateur ait directement accès au client final semble être une solution de compromis. Elle donne le maximum de liberté à tout le monde pour un surcoût qui apparaît limité. »

Quant à sa vie après l'Arcep, Paul Champsaur indique que le gouvernement lui a confié la présidence d'une commission sur les tarifs de l'électricité. Il va par ailleurs présider une haute autorité de la statistique, qui sera indépendante et au-dessus de structures comme l'Insee.

Outre son président, un autre membre du collège de l'Arcep a vu son mandat arriver à échéance en cette fin d'année 2008 : Gabrielle Gauthey, qui va rejoindre en 2009 Alcatel-Lucent au poste de directrice des relations institutionnelles. Son successeur a été nommé le 24 décembre par le président de l'Assemblée nationale. Il s'agit de Daniel-Georges Courtois, conseiller régional d'Ile-de-France, conseiller de Paris et chargé de mission auprès du Premier ministre François Fillon depuis mai 2007.

China - 3G

China Mobile Leases TD-SCDMA Network From Parent

China Mobile signed a contract with parent company China Mobile Communications Corporation (CMCC) on December 29 to lease CMCC's TD-SCDMA network for one year in return for fees not to exceed RMB 1 billion. CMCC began constructing the TD-SCDMA trial network in early 2007.

India - 3G

3G auctions postponed to Jan 30; bidders await clarity on charges

The department of telecommunications (DoT) has put off the 3G auctions by a fortnight, thanks to the poor response of foreign operators and uncertainty over the 2% administrative charge on bidders, on which the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) has to take a decision. The auction, earlier scheduled for January 16, may now take place on January 30. A DoT official told FE that the auction had been postponed on the request of prospective bidders for more time. Fe was the first to report in its October 27 edition that the auctions would be postponed as international telecom companies would find it hard to raise funds amid the financial crisis. A source told FE that the auctions could be postponed beyond January because, in all likelihood, the CCEA would constitute a sub-committee to examine the issue of 2% administrative charges on the highest bid amount on a recurring basis. The same was proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) but was rejected by the Telecom Commission, the apex policy-making body of DoT. A cautious communications and IT minister A Raja, however, wants CCEA to vet the proposal this time, as he has been under fire for tweaking Trai proposals. However, officials said CCEA would not like to hurry through the proposal since the Trai has done an elaborate exercise and specifically cautioned that the recommendation should be accepted in its entirety, and not cherry-picked. In all probability, CCEA might reduce the charge from 2% to 1% rather than scrapping it altogether , an official said. The pre-bid conference, held on December 23, was skipped by almost all major international players, since it is pointless to join the bids till all contours of the policy are in place. The other uncertainty that has made 3G auctions unattractive for new, foreign players is the government s flip-flop over 2G spectrum allocation to them. The earlier official stand was that 2G spectrum could not be guaranteed for all players, though they would be free to offer all forms of service. But as a last-ditch attempt to sweeten the offer, on December 23, member, finance of the Telecom Commission, announced that all players would be granted 2G spectrum once the needs of the incumbents are met. In this scenario, new players would rather wait than take the plunge. The government had initially estimated to garner around Rs 40,000 crore from 3G auctions, which would have helped it to bridge the fiscal deficit. However, after the global meltdown, the estimate was lowered to around Rs 30,000 crore.

China - Mobile Internet

Mobile Internet, new growth engine of China's mobile communications

Mobile Internet has becomes a new growth engine for China's mobile communications, said Xi Guohua, vice-minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Xi made the remark at the 2nd Internet and Mobile Marketing Summit 2008.

According to Xi, the ministry will formulate policies concerning industry, technology and services to strengthen policy directing, management and standardization of mobile Internet and next-generation networks (NGNs), creating a favorable market environment.

China is gearing up to issue its long-awaited 3G licenses in short time. This will accelerate the development of mobile Internet.

Statistics show that in the first half of this year, 73.05 million Chinese people had access to mobile phone Internet, accounting for 28.9 percent of the total Internet users.

USA - declining landlines

More Americans cutting the landline cord
see also CDC survey details

More Americans are ditching traditional landlines in favor of cell phone services, according to the results of a federal survey released Wednesday.

More than one in six American households, or 17.5 percent, depended solely on cell phones for their telephone communications during the first half of 2008, up from 13.6 percent a full year earlier, according to survey results released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 13.3 percent of American households reportedly received all or almost all of their calls on cell phones despite having a landline telephone in their home.

The group relying most on cell-only service was unrelated adults living as roommates (63 percent), followed by adults aged 25-29 years (35.7 percent), and renters (33.6 percent).

Men (18 percent) were more likely than women (14.4 percent) to be living in households with only cell service, while adults living in poverty (26 percent) and adults living near poverty (22.6 percent) were more likely than adults with higher incomes (14.2 percent) to be living in households with only cell phones.

However, the survey also found that cell-only households were more likely to contain binge drinkers (37.7 percent) than those having landline phones (17.2 percent).

The findings mirror those released by Nielsen Mobile in September that found more than 20 million households in America, or about 17 percent, had dumped their landline service for cell phones. And the trend is expected to continue as more Americans feel the squeeze from the weakening economy. Many see traditional phone service, which averages about $40 a month, as a household expense that can be cut, especially since more than 85 percent of the U.S. population own a cell phone.

Macedonia - UMTS

T-Mobile Makedonija wins UMTS (3G) license

The Macedonian Agency for Electronic Communication granted a UMTS license to T-Mobile Makedonija AD Skopje on December 17, 2008, Magyar Telekom announced on the website of the Budapest Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

T-Mobile Makedonija AD Skopje, the leading mobile operator in Macedonia, is a fully owned subsidiary of Magyar Telekom's Macedonian unit Maktel (Makedonski Telekom AD).

The agency granted T-Mobile Makedonija AD Skopje the right to use the Macedonian UMTS frequency blocks for a period of ten years for a one-off license fee of EUR 10m, which was paid in December 2008.

The obligations of the license include launching of the service within six months, reaching 50pc population coverage within one year and 80pc population coverage within three years from the date on which the license was granted.

T-Mobile Makedonija had a market share of 58.5pc on September 30, 2008, down from 63.2pc a year earlier, Magyar Telekom said in its Q1-Q3 report. Subscriber numbers rose 22.1pc in a year to 1.301m, and 25.5pc of them were contracted clients. Monthly turnover per subscriber rose 10.5pc from a year earlier to 95 minutes in September, and monthly revenue per subscriber fell 15.9pc to HUF 2,600.

(HUF 100 = EUR 0.3794)

South Korea - Voice over WiMAX

Watchdog allows mobile phone service over wireless Internet

The nation's telecommunications regulator decided Wednesday to allow companies to provide mobile phone service using a homegrown wireless Internet technology known as WiBro.

WiBro, one of the world's major third-generation (3G) wireless Internet standards, is an improved version of WiMax, which enables broadband-like Web connectivity even when a user is in motion. WiMax refers to a wireless Internet technology developed by Intel Corp.

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The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said that it made the decision in order to enable handset users to make calls at cheaper rates and to promote the use of WiBro, which will in turn help lay the groundwork for its inroads into overseas markets.

WiBro is currently used only in Internet connections on laptop computers and other mobile devices.
KT Corp., South Korea's largest fixed-line telephone operator and sole WiBro provider, has already announced its intention to enter the new market. It launched the world's first WiBro service in 2006.

Industry watchers said several others are expected to follow suit.
The KCC expects WiBro mobile phone service to begin around the end of 2009, given the time needed to make preparations.

The launch of WiBro-based mobile services is expected to stiffen competition in the country's near-saturated mobile phone industry, which is divided between three companies -- SK Telecom Co., KTF Co. and LG Telecom Inc.

The three companies already have their own 3G mobile services.
South Korea had 45.04 million mobile service users out of a population of 49 million as of July.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Autralia - filtering the Internet

Uproar in Australia over plan to block Web sites

A proposed Internet filter dubbed the "Great Aussie Firewall" is promising to make Australia one of the strictest Internet regulators among democratic countries.

Consumers, civil-rights activists, engineers, Internet providers and politicians from opposition parties are among the critics of a mandatory Internet filter that would block at least 1,300 Web sites prohibited by the government — mostly child pornography, excessive violence, instructions in crime or drug use and advocacy of terrorism.

Hundreds protested in state capitals earlier this month.

"This is obviously censorship," said Justin Pearson Smith, 29, organizer of protests in Melbourne and an officer of one of a dozen Facebook groups against the filter.

The list of prohibited sites, which the government isn't making public, is arbitrary and not subject to legal scrutiny, Smith said, leaving it to the government or lawmakers to pursue their own online agendas.

"I think the money would be better spent in investing in law enforcement and targeting producers of child porn," he said.

Internet providers say a filter could slow browsing speeds, and many question whether it would achieve its intended goals. Illegal material such as child pornography is often traded on peer-to-peer networks or chats, which would not be covered by the filter.

"People don't openly post child porn, the same way you can't walk into a store in Sydney and buy a machine gun," said Geordie Guy, spokesman for Electronic Frontiers Australia, an Internet advocacy organization. "A filter of this nature only blocks material on public Web sites. But illicit material ... is traded on the black market, through secret channels."

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy proposed the filter earlier this year, following up on a promise of the year-old Labor Party government to make the Internet cleaner and safer.

"This is not an argument about free speech," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We have laws about the sort of material that is acceptable across all mediums and the Internet is no different. Currently, some material is banned and we are simply seeking to use technology to ensure those bans are working."

Jim Wallace, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, welcomed the proposed filter as "an important safeguard for families worried about their children inadvertently coming across this material on the Net."

Conroy's office said a peer-to-peer filter could be considered. Most of today's filters are unable to do that, though companies are developing the technology.

The plan, which would have to be approved by Parliament, has two tiers. A mandatory filter would block sites on an existing blacklist determined by the Australian Communications Media Authority. An optional filter would block adult content.

The latter could use keywords to determine which sites to block, a technology that critics say is problematic.

"Filtering technology is not capable of realizing that when we say breasts we're talking about breast cancer, or when we type in sex we may be looking for sexual education," Guy said. "The filter will accidentally block things it's not meant to block."

A laboratory test of six filters for the Australian Communications Media Authority found they missed 3 percent to 12 percent of material they should have barred and wrongly blocked access to 1 percent to 8 percent of Web sites. The most accurate filters slowed browsing speeds up to 86 percent.

The government has invited Internet providers to participate in a live test expected to be completed by the end of June.

The country's largest Internet provider, Telstra BigPond, has declined, but others will take part. Provider iiNet signed on to prove the filter won't work. Managing director Michael Malone said he would collect data to show the government "how stupid it is."

The government has allocated 45 million Australian dollars ($30.7 million) for the filter, the largest part of a four-year, AU$128.5 million ($89 million) cybersafety plan, which also includes funding for investigating online child abuse, education and research.

One of the world's largest child-advocacy groups questions such an allocation of money.

"The filter may not be able to in fact protect children from the core elements of the Internet that they are actually experiencing danger in," said Holly Doel-Mackaway, an adviser with Save the Children. "The filter should be one small part of an overall comprehensive program to educate children and families about using the Internet."

Australia's proposal is less severe than controls in Egypt and Iran, where bloggers have been imprisoned; in North Korea, where there is virtually no Internet access; or in China, which has a pervasive filtering system.

Internet providers in the West have blocked content at times. In early December, several British providers blocked a Wikipedia entry about heavy metal band Scorpion. The entry included its 1976 "Virgin Killer" album cover, which has an image of a naked underage girl. The Internet Watch Foundation warned providers the image might be illegal.

Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom have filters, but they are voluntary.

In the United States, Pennsylvania briefly imposed requirements for service providers to block child-pornography sites, but a federal court struck down the law because the filters also blocked legitimate sites.

In Australia, a political party named the Australian Sex Party was launched last month in large part to fight the filter, which it believes could block legal pornography, sex education, abortion information and off-color language.

But ethics professor Clive Hamilton, in a column on the popular Australian Web site, scoffed at what he called "Net libertarians," who believe freedom of speech is more important than limiting what children can access online.

"The Internet has dramatically changed what children can see," said the professor at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, noting that "a few extra clicks of a mouse" could open sites with photos or videos of extreme or violent sex. "Opponents of ISP filters simply refuse to acknowledge or trivialize the extent of the social problem."

Mobile - handset slowdown

Mobile phone market poised for slowdown in 2009, says IDC

According to IDC, total mobile phone volumes will be 1.9% lower in 2009 than 2008 levels, the first downturn in annual shipment volumes since 2001 when shipments declined 2.3%. Over the past several years, the mobile phone market has enjoyed double-digit annual growth due to an increased emphasis on emerging markets. However, emerging market growth has been steadily slowing as these markets mature. IDC estimates worldwide growth in 2008 to be only 7.1%.

Most handset players, including component suppliers, handset makers and operators, have indicated that they expect an on year shipment decrease in 2009 due to the flagging global economy.

"Nokia's announcement was the first sign of troubles to come," said Ryan Reith, senior analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Tracker. "However, the real concerns set in with announcements from the chipset vendors who supply the industry. Qualcomm, Texas Instruments (TI), and MediaTek are among some of the suppliers announcing reductions in manufacturing for the upcoming year. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the markets will fare and inventory levels will be more of a focus point then ever before."

By 2010, the worldwide mobile phone market will show signs of improvement as economic recovery plans will have taken effect, while the pace will be slower compared to the strong double-digit growth experienced in the years prior to the decline, said IDC.

On the other hand, IDC expects smartphones to grow 8.9% worldwide in 2009. This contrasts sharply against the negative growth expected for the entire mobile phone market. Beyond 2009, growth will return to double-digit territory, faster than the overall mobile phone market.

As prices have come down in recent quarters, smartphones have become competitive alternatives to traditional mobile phones. Continued high demand and lower prices will keep this category growing, even as the overall market struggles, said IDC.

IDC: US and worldwide mobile phone shipments growth (Y/Y)

Device type USA Worldwide
2008 2009 2010 2008 2009 2010
Smartphone 75.7% 3.1% 28.2% 26.9% 8.9% 24.0%
mobile phone (9.8%) (11.6%) (8.8%) 4.6% (3.5%) 5.0%
Total market (0.3%) (8.7%) (0.7%) 7.1% (1.9%) 7.7%

Silicon Valley and the credit crunch

Silicon Valley Produces Record Low IPO This Year

Silicon Valley, the center of the world's information technology industry, is in a slump so bad it produced just one listed firm this year. According to the San Jose Mercury News, security firm ArcSight was the only Silicon Valley-based company that made a successful initial public stock offering (IPO) this year. Silicon Valley had produced an average of 28 IPOs every year since 1985.

IPO is Silicon Valley's economic outlook index. It helped produce countless number of major IT firms, such as Netscape in 1995, Google in 2004, and IT solution firm VM Ware in 2007. In 1999, Silicon Valley produced 84 IPOs, when the venture boom reached its peak. This year's dismal offering reflects the seriousness of the global economic crisis.

Mobile - the role of smartphones

Smartphones drive mobile markets

There is no doubt that 2008 was the year of the smartphone.

The last 12 months has seen the launch of iconic devices such as the iPhone 3G, Google G1, Blackberry Storm and Nokia N97.

It also saw the emergence of the electronic ecosystems needed to get the most out of such handsets.

But all is not rosy in the smartphone garden. The popularity of these devices has brought to light several problems that look set to become acute in 2009

Sunday, December 28, 2008

France - fibre optic - the role of communities

Gabrielle Gauthey, Arcep : «L'intervention des collectivités dans le déploiement de la fibre optique est indispensable»

Analyse - Depuis 2004, les collectivités territoriales peuvent établir et exploiter des réseaux télécoms. Gabrielle Gauthey, membre du collège de l’Arcep, détaille les impacts de ces réseaux d’initiative publique en termes de couverture du territoire et de développement de la concurrence. - A la demande du Parlement, l'Arcep a dressé un bilan (*) des réseaux d'initiative publique déployés par les collectivités locales. Combien de ces réseaux dénombre-t-on aujourd'hui en France ?

Gabrielle Gauthey - Il existe actuellement 88 projets de réseaux haut débit de collectivités locales en France, ou réseaux d'initiative publique (RIP), dont 56 sont opérationnels. Ces projets représentent un total de 1,4 milliard d'euros dont 50 % d'investissements privés et 50 % d'investissements publics.

France - fibre optique

Fibre optique : Éric Besson lance un comité de pilotage pour débloquer le dossier

Technologie - Devant le blocage de la situation, le secrétaire d'État à l'Économie numérique reprend le dossier en main : il convoque les opérateurs pour fixer les règles de mutualisation et piloter des expérimentations.

Orange, SFR, Numericable et Free ont accepté de participer à un comité de pilotage du très haut débit placé sous l'égide de l'Arcep (*). Il se réunira le 16 décembre en présence d'Éric Besson, le secrétaire d'État au développement de l'économie numérique, selon une information des Echos.

Objectif : « Fixer les règles de mutualisation de la fibre optique, claires et efficaces pour éviter des zones de duplication des réseaux », selon la lettre envoyée par Éric Besson aux opérateurs. Dans le détail, il s'agit de déterminer quelle infrastructure de déploiement dans les colonnes montantes des immeubles est la plus appropriée : la solution monofibre - une seule fibre est posée pour chaque client, le partage des infrastructures se fait au pied des immeubles ou dans la rue ; ou la solution multifibre - une fibre pour chaque opérateur.

Mobile - growth of web use

Mobile Web use hits an upward curve at last

Data traffic to mobile phones soars over last year's statistics

Data traffic to mobile phones jumped 463 percent in November compared to the same month last year, according to the latest State of the Mobile Web report from Opera Software.

Page views were up by 303 percent over the year, the company said. The statistics measure Web usage via Opera Mini, a widely installed browser which uses Internet-hosted servers to pre-process Web data before it is downloaded to the phone.

Opera's records of page views and data consumed suggest that mobile Web use turned the corner around the end of 2007 and is now on an exponential curve upward.

In particular, it has jumped in North America, with the United States now in the top three of Opera Mini-using countries. However, while in every European country -- and in Mexico -- it is Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets that dominate, the U.S. and Canadian lists are topped by BlackBerrys. Nowhere in Europe does a BlackBerry even get into Opera's top 10.

People are using more data in more locations and now expect a broadband experience on their phone, said Jon von Tetzchner, Opera's CEO. "More people viewing more pages on mobile phones is the clear trend," he said. "The mobile Web is growing around the world, even in countries where broadband penetration is high. In fact, it is growing because consumers are used to having ubiquitous access to the Web and expect to have it wherever they are."

He added: "But the real promise of the mobile Web is in connecting those who do not have broadband. The next billion people will use the Web first on their mobile phones. Once that happens we will finally both unleash the vast potential and realize the greatest benefit of the mobile Web."

USA - on domain names

US questions net overhaul plans

Icann oversees much of the basic functionality of the net

Plans to offer hundreds of new web addresses as alternatives to .com have been criticised by the US government.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees net addresses has floated plans for the radical change to the existing system.

But the US Commerce department has questioned both the benefits and the costs of such a scheme.

Officials have also raised concerns about whether the plans will destabilise the current system.

Iran - third mobile licence

Etisalat named as Iranian mobile licence 'winner'

Iran is believed to have awarded its third non-government mobile phone licence to Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat). The Etisalat consortium, made up of Emirates Telecoms and Iranian Tamin Telecom, put in the highest bid and Iranian news agency Fars said it had won the contract. Omantel were among the other bidders for the licence. An official announcement on the winning bid is expected soon.

Lebanon - delay

Lebanon puts telcos on hold

Lebanon has postponed the privatisation of two state-owned mobile phone companies, Alpha and MTC Touch, because of global market conditions, Reuters has reported. The privatisation was set to be conducted via sales of majority stakes in each of the firms and an initial public offering.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Telstra - excluded from national broadband scheme

Telstra excluded from Australia broadband scheme

Telstra, Australia’s dominant telecommunications group, on Monday reacted with fury after the country’s government excluded it from a plan to build a A$10bn ($6.7bn) nationwide high-speed internet network.

The group was disqualified from the national broadband network (NBN) proposal after the government said it had not included a plan on involving small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Telstra’s exclusion strengthens the chances that the Optus-Terria consortium, which includes Singapore Telecommunications’ Australian unit, will win the NBN contract.

Other bidders include Canada-based Axia NetMedia and Acacia, a locally-based consortium that includes Solomon Lew, the fashion chain businessman and former chairman of food retailer Coles.

Donald McGauchie, Telstra chairman, said the group had “fully complied” with the government’s requirements and a “peripheral” issue had been used to exclude it from the process.

“The Commonwealth could hardly have dreamed up a more trivial reason to exclude Telstra from the NBN,” Mr McGauchie said. “This is a process that seemingly excludes bidders on such trivial and legally questionable technicalities but doesn’t take any action on material issues such as financing and having the technical capability to build the network.”

Analysts said the government’s decision was a blow to Telstra although it was possible the telecoms group could re-enter the NBN plan at a later date.

The telecoms group declined to comment on whether it would mount a legal challenge to the government’s decision and rejected suggestions the board and management had disagreed over submitting a bid. Telstra shares dropped 48 cents, or 11.6 per cent, to A$3.65.

Telstra said it had provided an SME plan to the government in early December. The deadline for bids was November 26.

“Telstra is the only company to have submitted a proposal with a real financial commitment of A$5bn. And Telstra is the only company with the existing network, technical know-how, world-leading vendor, skilled workforce, established wholesale systems and proven track record of building world class networks,” Mr McGauchie said.

The government has promised to make available A$4.7bn in funds to assist the winning bidder build the NBN, which is likely to cost A$10bn or more.

Telstra had earlier threatened not to submit a bid unless the government clarified its position on whether it could force a break-up of the former state-owned group’s operations.

However, the government refused to cave into Telstra’s requests.

Stephen Conroy, minister for broadband technology and the digital economy, said Telstra had failed to comply with one of the five mandatory requirements.

“It would be unfair to the other bidders for us to, after the bids had closed, to re-open them to re-admit one of the bidders who had failed to supply all the information, “ Mr Conroy told reporters in Canberra.

Kevin Rudd, the Labour leader who replaced John Howard as prime minister in 2007, campaigned on a promise to deliver a NBN.

TransAct and the Tasmanian government have also made regional bids to take part in the NBN.

France - cancellation of exclusivity of Apple iPhone

French watchdog cancels iPhone contract

France’s competition authority on Wednesday cancelled with immediate effect Orange’s exclusive contract to provide Apple’s latest iPhone to French consumers.

The Competition Council ruling is the first time an exclusive iPhone sales agreement has been struck down in Europe and is bound to raise the prospect of legal challenges in the other countries where Apple has exclusive deals: Germany, the UK and the US.

However, the council said its decision was partly shaped by specific concerns about the French mobile market, which it believes is less competitive than others. These concerns led it to the conclusion that Orange’s five-year monopoly on selling the iPhone 3G was, as one official put it, “way too long”.

All existing and future exclusive sales agreements between Apple and Orange must also expire after a maximum of three months, the council said.

The decision is a blow for Orange, the brand name of France Telecom, the former monopoly operator, which had regarded the iPhone as a valuable asset for conquering a larger slice of the market.

Orange has sold 450,000 iPhone 3G handsets and 150,000 models of an earlier version. Half of these sales were to customers who had switched from rival operators.

Orange said it would appeal against a “serious” ruling that “cast great doubt over the economics of the market”.

The three-month limit on exclusivity would not allow it to justify the investments needed to upgrade the network to support mobile internet.

However, while the council said that exclusive sales agreements could be justified to help finance investments in new product or service launches, Orange could not justify a period as long as five years.

The council estimated that Orange’s sales of the iPhone 3G amounted to €222m ($320m) from its launch on July 18 to the end of September.

But it said that only €16.5m of investments by Orange could be attributed directly to the iPhone’s launch.

The ruling is a victory for Bouygues Telecom, France’s third largest operator, which lodged a complaint in September against the sales agreement between Orange and Apple.

Bouygues had argued that “smartphones” like the iPhone were now driving the growth of the mobile market and that Apple’s deal in France excluded other operators from that growth.

The ruling means that iPhones sold in France can no longer be “locked” to the Orange network.

The Competition Council also concluded that an exclusive sales agreement was against consumer interests because competition between operators was likely to encourage them to provide bigger subsidies for handsets.

Vodafone last year tried and failed to break an exclusive sales agreement in Germany between Apple and T-Mobile, owned by Deutsche Telekom.

Pew Internet - future of the Internet

The Future of the Internet III

A survey of internet leaders, activists and analysts shows they expect major tech advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, artificial and virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet itself improves.

They disagree about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives.

Here are the key findings on the survey of experts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that asked respondents to assess predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020:

The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020.

The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but that will not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.
Voice recognition and touch user-interfaces with the internet will be more prevalent and accepted by 2020.

Those working to enforce intellectual property law and copyright protection will remain in a continuing arms race, with the crackers who will find ways to copy and share content without payment.

The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who is connected, and the results will be mixed in their impact on basic social relations.

Next-generation engineering of the network to improve the current internet architecture is more likely than an effort to rebuild the architecture from scratch

Telcos - credit crunch

Fears for the future as phone companies run out of credit

Even big phone companies are struggling to raise money, and that means investment in innovation is likely to fall

Nortel Networks, the Canadian telecom equipment company that was once among the darlings of the digital technology world, slipped closer to outright bankruptcy last week, its market capitalisation down from a peak of $250 billion to a puny $250 million. Alcatel-Lucent is also in trouble, and even next-generation equipment companies like Ciena are predicting slow sales.

Some of this simply has to do with a long-standing shift in the telecom business as internet-based technology supplants traditional circuit-switched telephone systems. Nortel made its big mark back in the 1980s when it led the move to digital telephone network switches. But with the growth of landlines stagnant at best and more and more telecom traffic of all kinds flowing over the internet, there simply isn’t any demand for old-style $50 million telco switching systems.

But there is something else going on too, something much more ominous for the telecom and internet industries: the credit crunch is shutting down the borrowing that network operators depend upon to invest in their networks.

During the dot-com bust of 2000-01, telecom was among the last pillars to fall, but it fell hard indeed. In the late 1990s, a rush of investment led to excess capacity in many long-haul fibre networks in particular, and bubble-driven fraud at companies like WorldCom and Qwest didn’t help either.

The end result, though, was a lot of infrastructure, even if the companies that built it never reaped the benefits. Indeed, heavy investment in broadband networks during the dot-com years did much to pave the way for the Web 2.0 internet renaissance; online video, and all manner of always-on services that we’ve come to take for granted, simply didn’t exist in the 1990s because lots of people still relied on dial-up.

Now, though, there is a very real risk that reduced investment in telecom networks will depress demand for new products and services. Here in Missoula, Montana, for example, the AT&T-affiliated network that supports the Apple iPhone has very poor service. Apple won’t be selling many iPhones in Missoula until that issue is fixed, and that will take money.

While DSL and cable modem services are fairly ubiquitous these days, the definition of what constitutes true “broadband” is shifting, and it will take continued investment to keep pace. In both fibre-based broadband services, where phone companies are pushing into on-demand video to compete with cable, and in wireless services, where true broadband is only just emerging, a lot more money still needs to be spent.

Phone companies like Verizon, AT&T and BT traditionally have had no trouble selling bonds to raise money for capital investment; their prodigious cash-flow from subscription services made it some of the safest corporate debt around. But in an era when no loan is considered safe, even the telcos and their rivals face, at a minimum, sky-high interest rates if they want to borrow.

At the very least, a telecom investment drought is likely to reduce the possibility of robust competition in broadband services, which today exists in some places but not in others. Even in the best of times, strategies such as Verizon’s fibre-to-the-home service for video are risky, and if money is too expensive or unavailable those investments will not happen. The same is true on the wireless side.

It remains to be seen how substantially the recession will impact consumer spending on telecom devices and services in the short term; certainly there will be some effects, though at least a basic mobile phone is a necessity these days, and subscriber growth continues in the developing world. Entertainment-oriented services for their part have traditionally been fairly recession-resistant.

If telecom companies reduce infrastructure investment because they anticipate reduced demand, that’s a normal business cycle taking its course. But if some of the world’s largest and most stable companies can’t invest because they can’t borrow, that’s a different kind of problem, and one we can only hope will be fixed in a hurry.

UK - Sky abdons plan to buy Tiscali

Sky Abandons Plans To Buy Tiscali

Sky has apparently abandonned plans to purchase its Italian rival Tiscali for around £450 million as it plans to close the gap between itself and the other two ISPs ahead of it, Virgin Media and BT.

The Guardian reported that Tiscali has been asking for £600 million for its UK business and is not prepared to hold out discussions for less.

Sky had been expecting to go ahead with the acquisition to reach around 3.6 million subscribers and compete with the two other broadband giants, Virgin Media and BT.

Tiscali has been on sale since May 2008 and Carphone Warehouse, BSkyB and Vodafone were amongst the potential suitors for the business although only BSkyB was left in the race.

Some might say that Tiscali is exhibiting clear signs of greediness - the Pound Sterling dropped 15 percent against the Euros in the last six months alone (Tiscali is based in Italy) and the company, initially valued at £1.3 billion, is now thought to be only worth a third of that figure.

Tiscali hasn't been doing too well having lost 37,000 customers from June to September and any potential bidder will have to solve the complex issue of integrating the various acquisitions that Tiscali completed over the years (Pipex, Freedom2surf, Homechoice).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UK - the slow growth of the Internet

Internet connectivity

Nearly nineteen out of twenty connections to the Internet are via broadband.

In September 2008, broadband connections accounted for 94.1 per cent of all Internet connections, up from 92.8 per cent in June 2008. This is according to the latest update from the survey of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Despite continuing increases in broadband connections, an 18.6 per cent decrease in dial-up resulted in a 0.4 per cent fall in the index of all connections between June and September 2008, to 118.4.

Mobile - carrier ENUM

GSMA delivers industry first in Carrier ENUM Initiative

Pilot programme achieves successful traffic exchange PathFinder™ brand name announced First certified vendors appointed

November 17th 2008, Macau: The GSM Association (GSMA), the global trade association for the mobile industry, and NeuStar (NYSE: NSR) a provider of clearinghouse and directory services to the global communications and Internet industry, today announced the successful completion of the pilot of their Carrier ENUM service. The service, recently branded ‘PathFinder’™, is now generally available to mobile and fixed network operators, carriers and related service providers.

Supported by Bharti,, mobilkom austria, SMART, Telekom Austria, Telecom Italia and Telenor, the PathFinder service pilot achieved an industry first by successfully exchanging international packet voice and MMS traffic enabled via a global, fully-interoperable deployment of Carrier ENUM, validating ENUM as an effective solution to IP-based routing and interconnection. The service automatically translates a phone number into an IP-based address, making it simple and transparent for users to initiate a wide range of IP-based communications via their existing phone numbers and handset address books.

"We found this trial tremendously useful in familiarising ourselves with the practicalities involved in using ENUM. Cooperation between operators is crucial in establishing how to make the telephone number a universal means to link up with IP-based applications. A simple, standardised process will benefit everyone," said Napoleon L. Nazareno, President and CEO of Smart Communications, Inc. (SMART) and GSMA board member.

By providing mobile and fixed-line operators with a single routing mechanism, PathFinder simplifies and reduces the cost of delivery of a wide range of IP-based services to end-users. It will serve as a central ‘directory’ for all operators, and enables them to rapidly launch new IP services including packet voice, Instant Messaging (IM), MMS, email, and video, by facilitating the linking of an IP address to a phone number for mobile devices, fixed-line phones and IP devices.

"The successful testing of ENUM on Telekom Austria’s next generation environment demonstrates yet again that the infrastructure is ready for commercial customer pilots. With the ongoing improvement in capabilities of our global GRX/IPX platform, recently enhanced by the Carrier ENUM functionality, we are able to provide best-in-class interworking solutions for mobile network operators," commented Boris Nemsic, CEO of Telekom Austria Group and GSMA board member.

Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer of the GSMA added: "PathFinder will accelerate the rollout of innovative IP-based services that will be the key to ensuring profitability in tomorrow’s industry. PathFinder provides a one-stop solution for operators to overcome the complexity of delivering IP-based services to communications devices. Furthermore, it helps mobile operators to cut costs and leverage their greatest asset: subscriber phone numbers."

GSMA and NeuStar also announced that Acme Packet and iXLink, a business unit of Telarix, have become the first vendors to successfully complete the PathFinder vendor certification programme, launched as part of the GSMA Industry Partner Programme earlier this year. The Partner Programme initiative is designed to foster working relationships with companies offering products and services complimentary to the PathFinder service, and provides certification of technology vendors, ensuring that PathFinder interoperability testing is available industry-wide.

Mobile - growth in the Persian Gulf

Middle East mobile subscription rates set to hit 15 percent growth in 2009

The Middle East region represents one of the world’s fastest growing mobile subscription markets with a 47% year-over-year increase in 2008, even as the world economy struggles and slows, according to figures from Informa Telecoms & Media at this year’s GSM 3G Middle East Conference in Dubai.

Globally, subscription growth of 11.7% is still expected for 2009, driven by increasingly mobile and growing populations, but the economies of Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East will be the engine for this growth, with a regional forecast of more than 15% subscription growth for the next year. In contrast, growth of just below 5% is expected in Western Europe and 5.6% in North America in 2009.

Mobile penetration in Arab countries reached 56% at end of the second half of 2008, although this figure is much higher across GCC markets, with the more mature markets expected to see a surge in wireless broadband usage as operators look to develop their networks and drive an increase in data traffic levels in 2009. Some of the most dynamic economies in the Gulf are already seeing a surge in the use of Wi-max and broadband technology.

The new data was unveiled by Abdulaziz Fakhroo, chairman of GSM Arab World, the regional representative body of the wireless industry representing mobile operators in 22 Arab countries and 199 million customers, as part of his welcoming address entitled “GSM/3G Status and Future Opportunities in Arab Countries.”

“The region is still seeing growth rates in mobile subscriber numbers that are higher than the economies of Europe and the Americas, and this lead seems set to widen in 2009. With each new generation of broadband technology, the nations of the Arab world are enjoying an increasing range of social and economic benefits that are enabling people to benefit from the good times and be resilient in the more challenging ones,” said Engineer Fakhroo.

Fakhroo, who is Divisional Manager, Wireless Networks, at Qtel, commented on the current status of 3G technology and the future opportunities to be found in Arab countries. Key trends emerging in the market include a shift from voice to increased data usage; increases in customer-driven content, products and services; and a striking decrease in the “digital divide” in the Arab world.

In particular, he noted that – in spite of the slowing economies – mobile broadband technologies are likely to increase in importance in 2009, because of the benefits delivered for the knowledge economies of nations, which are becoming more valuable as commodity prices fall.

Fakhroo noted that regionally, Arab countries have been able to realize significant value by supporting the growth of their knowledge economies.

Now in its 13th year, the GSM 3G Middle East Conference is the Middle East's leading communications conference and exhibition. The conference brings together 2,500 telecom decision makers from across the whole communications value chain - mobile and fixed line operators, internet service providers, regulators, investors, telecoms solution vendors, content providers and more, 160 exhibitors and 65 expert speakers for agenda setting and strategic debate.

Fakhroo concluded: “I am delighted to represent Qtel at this prestigious and important conference, especially since Qtel was the first telecom operator to bring 2G services to the Middle East in 1994. This year's theme, “Towards a Broadband World” is highly appropriate. The conference’s appeal is now truly global as the telecom companies of the Middle East expand beyond the region and into new emerging markets.”

Mobile broadband - growth

Mobile broadband uptake soars

Even as some operators debate whether to raise mobile broadband prices to boost revenues, a new report has found that attractive service bundles are driving mobile broadband adoption.

One of the bedrocks of the mobile computing revolution, mobile broadband, according to the report by the Tariff Consultancy, is prospering due mainly to the growing number of flat-rate packages and the increasing value of the service offered.

Among the main findings from the survey of users in 33 European countries is the fast that mobile broadband flat rate bundles are now the norm across the continent and are the most common form of price package.

Pricing in 2008 has fallen by an average of 4% across all countries when compared with the previous year even though the average flat rate package bundle provided has doubled over the last 12 months to almost 4GB. Specifically for the UK, average mobile broadband prices have fallen by 35% in the last year.

The most common monthly user allowances on offer across Europe are 5GB and 10GB, closely followed by 1GB and 500MB allowances. Additionally, there are at least 20 mobile operators across all countries which are now offering an “unlimited” user allowance for their Mobile Broadband service

Four-fifths of mobile broadband operators in Europe charge on a per mega byte out of monthly allowance – for national traffic - with charges ranging up to 3.27 Euro per MB although typical rates are between 10 and 20 Euro cents.

Commenting on the research findings, Tariff Consultancy Ltd Managing Director Margrit Sessions said, “Although mobile broadband pricing has continued to decline overall, the most striking feature has been the continued increase in monthly user allowances which have more than doubled in the course of a year.”

Tariff Consultancy predicts that with more mobile operators deploying HSDPA networks, theoretically supporting download speeds of up to 7.2 mbs [Mbps], the increase in flat rate packages is likely to continue. Yet this will only take place if operators take steps to ensure that mobile computing users enjoy both value and quality services.

“Mobile operators have to ensure that they provision the network capacity to meet the demand that flat rate pricing will create and also safeguard against over-selling their service,” Sessions added.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Citrix on Apple iPhone

Citrix to extend desktop virtualization to the iPhone

Citrix plans to deliver desktop virtualization to the iPhone and other mobile devices next year, a company official said Wednesday.

Users of both PCs and Macs will be able to access the same desktop session on their iPhones as they would on their desktop computers, and move seamlessly between the two, says John Humphreys, senior director of product marketing for Citrix.

The capability will be part of Citrix App Receiver and become available in 2009, he said. The product is a software client that would be installed on both a user's computer and mobile phone, and work in conjunction either with Citrix's desktop virtualization software or its XenApp Windows application delivery system. IPhone users would log on to a central server in order to access their desktops and applications.

Humphreys referenced Gartner research that says half of business travelers will not take traditional laptops on the road with them by the end of 2010.

While desktop virtualization has been around several years, Humphreys says Citrix believes it is ready to gain widespread adoption.

"The industry has talked about it for years," Humphreys said. "The question is what's different this time around."

Advances in the software are now allowing delivery of full-featured, customizable desktop images at lower prices than regular PCs, and with equivalent performance, he said.

South Korea - opening the market for handsets

Korean Cellphone Market Opens Up to Foreign Handsets

Adopting Wireless Internet Platform for Interoperability, which has prevented many foreign cellphone makers from selling their products in the Korean market, will no longer be mandatory, starting April 2009. As a result, global bestsellers, such as Apple's iPhone of the U.S. and RIM's BlackBerry of Canada, and Nokia's budget phones of Finland, will likely hit the Korean market.
WIPI is a Korean mobile device platform for wireless internet content, including games. To advance into the Korean market, foreign cellphone makers are required to support WIPI, whose standard is different from international platforms, in their handsets. They have criticized the requirement, citing the small size of the Korean market and high development costs.

In a session on Wednesday, the Korea Communications Commission decided to lift the requirement, while saying it will no longer be mandatory for domestic mobile phone service providers to adopt WIPI from April 2009.

Since April 2005, the government has made it mandatory to include WIPI, which was set by the Telecommunications Technology Association. The commission said, "When the WIPI requirement was first set, the government intended to protect and foster the domestic software industry related to wireless internet by using WIPI. But the latest global market trend is a universal mobile operating system, focusing on smartphones."

The mobile industry predicts that foreign products will hit the domestic market, which is led by Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, in earnest next spring.

North Korea - GSM

Orascom to offer mobile services in N. Korea

Orascom Telecom, the biggest mobile-phone company in the Middle East, will begin offering mobile-phone services in North Korea starting next week, becoming the first foreign telecommunications company to invest in the Stalinist state, Bloomberg has reported. The Egyptian phone company estimates it will spend $400m on a cellular license and investment over three years. Orascom won the license Jan 31 and will have exclusive rights in North Korea for four years.

Greenpeace - assesses electronics manufacturers

Greenpeace Releases Tenth Guide to Greener Electronics

It’s time once again for the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, and the results are sobering. Despite plentiful attempts at greenwashing, most electronics companies are not making the changes necessary to significantly cut carbon emissions.

American companies Motorola, Microsoft, Dell, and Apple are faring the worst, with no plans to cut global warming pollution and no targets or timelines for CO2 reduction.

Of all the companies surveyed, only Fujitsu, Philips, and Sharp support the cuts in pollution levels necessary to reach a 2020 target of cutting emissions by 30 percent in industrial countries. Additionally, only HP and Philips have committed to substantial cuts in their own emissions.

The electronics companies also had low scores in the usage of renewable energy, with only Nokia achieving the 25 percent clean power mark.

So while surveyed companies have made strides in reducing toxic chemicals in their products— all Apple products will be free of PVC and brominated flame retardants by the end of 2008—there is still much progress to be made in the electronics industry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Europe - mobile television

Commission issues guidelines to get Mobile TV on Europeans' mobile phones

The European Commission has today taken a decisive step towards the promotion of competitive Mobile TV services in the EU. It has published a set of guidelines for the authorisation of Mobile TV to accelerate roll-out of the service across Europe. Mobile TV revenues worldwide are expected to reach more than €7.8 billion in 2013. The commercial services launched before summer 2008 in some European countries show that there is an increasing consumer demand: in the Netherlands alone, 10 000 users had already subscribed to the service at the beginning of autumn. Authorisations from Member States for Mobile TV services are needed before any commercial launches by operators. Along with the addition of the DVB-H standard to the EU list of official standards in March 2008, these guidelines underline the Commission's strong commitment to the promotion of new services for European consumers.
China Telecom To Receive 50% Stake In China Satcom

China Satellite Communications plans to transfer 50.02% of its stake, or 200 million shares, in China Satcom Guomai Communications to China Telecom. An application for the transfer will be submitted to the State Council in the last ten days of December.

Rumors in March said China Satcom's satellite network would be transferred to satellite company China DBSAT and its ground network would go to China Telecom.

Social advertising - an oxymoron?

Is Social Advertising an Oxymoron?

So, what if social media and advertising just don’t mix? There’s mounting evidence to suggest just that — only this time the backlash isn’t from users, it’s from advertisers themselves.

In a recent online survey of brand managers, more than half of those responding declared themselves not interested in social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. The poll, conducted in late October by GfK Roper for Epsilon, a leading marketing consultancy, found that only 35 percent of the marketers surveyed had any interest in using such sites. Blogs drew an almost equally tepid response.

Another study, this one by the research firm IDC, suggested their lack of enthusiasm might be well-placed. More and more users are spending more and more time on social networking sites, but the study found they aren't very responsive to ads there: Clickthrough rates were reported to be far lower than at other sites. On the web in general, nearly 80 percent of users clicked on at least one ad in the past year; on social networking sites, fewer than 60 percent did so.

Ted McConnell, head of interactive marketing and innovation at Procter & Gamble, isn't surprised. Speaking at a digital marketing conference in Cincinnati, P&G’s hometown, McConnell asked, “What in heaven's name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?”

McConnell’s problem is not just with Facebook and its ilk but with the whole idea of tying advertising to consumer-generated content. “Who said this is media?” he demanded. “Consumers weren’t trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody…. We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it.”

That’s one way of looking at it. Not surprisingly, Tim Kendall, Facebook’s director of monetization — a daunting title, under the circumstances — has another.

Europe - business use of ICTs

Use of Information and Communication Technologies: Almost two thirds of enterprises in the EU27 had a website in 2008 ; Broadband access increasing

In the EU27, 93% of enterprises of ten or more persons employed had access to the internet in January 2008, the same as in January 2007, and 81% of enterprises had a broadband internet connection, up from 77% in January 2007. On average in the EU27, 64% of enterprises had a website in January 2008, compared with 63% in January 2007. These data come from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, and form part of the results of a community survey conducted at the beginning of 2008 on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in enterprises in the EU27 Member States, Iceland and Norway. Besides the indicators presented, the survey also covers e-commerce, e-government and e-business indicators.

Europe - emergency services

European emergency number 112 now works in all EU Member States

People can now reach emergency services from anywhere in the EU, simply by dialling 112, the single European emergency number. Now that 112 can be called from any phone in Bulgaria, it has achieved complete availability just before the Christmas period when thousands of people travel between EU Member States to visit family, hit the slopes or look for winter sun. It also crowns the combined efforts of the European Commission and EU Member States to make 112 fully available everywhere so that Europeans will always have a lifeline in the EU.

Friday, December 12, 2008

EU - cybercrime

EU to search out cyber criminals

Remote searches of suspect computers will form part of an EU plan to tackle hi-tech crime.

The five-year action plan will take steps to combat the growth in cyber theft and the machines used to spread spam and other malicious programs.

It will also encourage better sharing of data among European police forces to track down and prosecute criminals.

Europol will co-ordinate the investigative work and also issue alerts about cyber crime sprees.

Data share

The five-year plan won the backing of the EU ministers at a meeting which also granted 300,000 euros (£250,000) to Europol to create the system to pool crime reports and issue alerts about emerging threats.

The ministerial meeting also backed the anti-cyber crime strategy that will see the creation of cross-border investigation teams and sanction the use of virtual patrols to police some areas of the net.

Other "practical measures" include encouraging better sharing of information between police forces in member nations and private companies on investigative methods and trends.

In particular the strategy aims to tackle the trade in images of children being sexually abused. In a statement outlining the strategy the EU claimed "half of all internet crime involves the production, distribution and sale of child pornography".

Forces will also take part in "remote searches" and patrol online to track down criminals. The EU said controls were in place to ensure that data protection laws were not breached as this information was gathered and shared.

"The strategy encourages the much needed operational cooperation and information exchange between the Member States," said EC vice-president Jacques Barrot in a statement.

"If the strategy is to make the fight against cyber crime more efficient, all stakeholders have to be fully committed to its implementation," he added.

unequal access to the internet and the information society

Watchdog report tackles the issue of unequal access to the internet and the information society in 2008
see also GISWatch 2008

How do we ensure access to the internet is a human right enjoyed by everyone?

This is one of the critical questions asked by an annual publication that highlights the importance of people’s access to information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure – and where and how countries are getting it right or wrong, and what can be done about it.

Global Information Society Watch 2008, published in print and online by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the Third World Institute, and Dutch development organisation Hivos, collects the perspectives of ICT academics, analysts, activists and civil society organisations from across the globe in over 50 reports.

“[Access to infrastructure] is beginning to be considered of less importance by some development funders and practitioners, including civil society and communication and information activists,” argue the publishers in the book preface.

“One of the consequences of this is the development of a conventional wisdom that leaves the domain of infrastructure development to the market; to operators and investors that do not always see the broader social value of communications in society, to governments that lack capacity and often clear strategy, and to international institutions that tend to approach it in a limited and ‘technocratic’ way.”

Internet – the petrol of the new global economy

Several thematic reports in GISWatch 2008 tackle burning issues facing access to infrastructure, and related concerns. For instance, analyst Peter Lange lays out the pros and cons in a lucid discussion on net neutrality called “The end of the internet as we know it?” while Sunil Abraham, from the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, makes the bold observation that most computer users today remain “digitally colonised” due to our unquestioning use of proprietary -usually Microsoft-produced- software. Russell Southwood asserts that bandwidth, like oil, is a crucial resource in the 21st Century, in his discussion on accessing content, and Daniel Pimienta, from the Networks and Development Foundation, points out that as the world wide web grows exponentially, search engines are losing their capacity to index it.

Ben Akoh, from the Open Society Initiative of Western Africa, uncomplicates the sometimes tangled issues that lie behind the equitable management of spectrum, in the process observing that:

“[In] the African context the mobile phone capitalises on the innate orality of African culture and society, perhaps explaining its rapid uptake. But, in the modern setting, it is an orality that has turned in on itself, because the cost of communication may have also eaten into the disposable income of the individual.”

How global institutions, such as the United Nations and International Telecommunication Union are treating access issues are laid out by ICT for development analyst David Souter. The publication also offers another take on indicators, where authors Mike Jensen and Amy Mahan confront the fact that global consensus has not been reached on how to measure the information society in a way that results in reasonable comparisons between countries.

Reports from almost forty countries

Thirty-eight country reports have been written by authors from countries as diverse as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Switzerland and Kazakhstan. At the same time, six regional overviews contextualise the country reports, and cover North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the countries that constituted the former Soviet Union, South-East Asia and the Pacific.

According to APC, Hivos and ITeM, GISWatch is both a publication and a process: it aims to build networking and advocacy capacity among civil society organisations who work for a just and inclusive information society. This is reflected in the growing number of participating organisations writing country reports – sixteen more than last year, the first year that GISWatch appeared. By doing this they hope GISWatch will impact on policy development processes in countries, regions, and at a global level.