Thursday, January 31, 2008

Netscape: The Browser That Started it All Dies a Quiet Death

It birthed the web as we know it. But tomorrow, February 1, marks the demise of Netscape Navigator, the first commercial web browser.

Navigator will continue to function should you happen to have a recent copy stashed away. But American Online, which has been Netscape’s guardian during its long, downward slide in popularity, will no longer support the browser and will stop releasing updates. Support for all versions of the software will be off-loaded to the Netscape community forum. will continue to live on as a web portal.

How did it come to this? In two words, Internet Explorer.

When Netscape arrived back in 1994, the screeching wail of the dial-up modem was not yet a household sound. But the browser changed that and ignited the growth of the internet by making it easy for anyone to use.

Then came Microsoft’s party-crashing Internet Explorer browser, which, rather infamously, was bundled with Windows. That bundling marked the beginning of the end for Netscape. In an effort to compete with Explorer, Netscape began to add new features at a rapid pace and quickly became, in the eyes of many, a bloated, overwrought piece of software.

Netscape released its browser’s source code and created the Mozilla project in 1998. AOL then acquired Netscape in 1999. Recognizing that Netscape got some things right and others wrong, Blake Ross and some of his developer friends branched off to create Firefox, which for all practical purposes is the current incarnation of Netscape.

Many believe the original Netscape died with the AOL purchase. Since then, the web browser scene has been rife with change — Mozilla gave way to the leaner, faster Firefox and Apple developed its own Safari browser — and Netscape’s browser has been rendered largely irrelevant. Indeed, as AOL's director of the Netscape brand Tom Drapeau points out, his team has failed to put a dent in IE’s dominance, and the latest release of the Netscape browser is simply “a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.”

Users feeling nostalgic for the days of old can install Netscape’s theme and extensions pack for Firefox.

Motorola - handset business

Motorola to Explore Structural and Strategic Realignment of its Businesses to Enhance Shareholder Value

Motorola, Inc. today announced it is exploring the structural and strategic realignment of its businesses to better equip its Mobile Devices business to recapture global market leadership and to enhance shareholder value. The company’s alternatives may include the separation of Mobile Devices from its other businesses in order to permit each business to grow and better serve its customers.

“All of our businesses have exceptional people, products and intellectual property and the ability to achieve category leadership in their markets,” said Greg Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are exploring ways in which our Mobile Devices Business can accelerate its recovery and retain and attract talent while enabling our shareholders to realize the value of this great franchise.”

The company does not intend to discuss developments with respect to the exploration of strategic alternatives unless or until its Board of Directors has approved a definitive transaction or the process is otherwise complete. There can be no assurance that any transaction will occur or, if one is undertaken, its terms or timing.

Europe - Parliament's review of EC regulatory proposals

Committee on Industry, Research and Energy - Meeting of 29 January 2007

9. Presentation on the Telecom Package
Presentation by the Commission

USA - mobile entertainment code of practice

MEF Develops Self-Regulation for P-TV Services in the US to Ensure Healthy Future of Interactive Television

The Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) today launched its US Participation TV (P-TV) Code of Practice at NATPE Mobile++ in Las Vegas following a series of industry-wide consultations and meetings.

P-TV services provide viewers the ability to interact with television shows – for example, where viewers are asked to text in votes or enter games using their mobile phones. There has been significant growth in P-TV services over the past 12 months in line with the global trend of consumers wanting to interact with their favorite TV programs. However, in certain countries around the world, especially in those more mature markets, P-TV services have been hit by a series of basic, procedural errors that have led to consumer harm and, arguably, a lack of trust in the broadcast channels, the wireless carriers and the TV shows themselves. For example, entries were being accepted for votes or competitions after the official closing time, primarily due to latency issues with capacity, and a lack of pricing transparency was leading to consumer confusion over the cost of services.

The Code is designed to prevent the sorts of issues that have occurred in other territories and safeguard the future of a nascent but already successful market in the US.

MEF’s Code provides a practical framework on issues such as the presentation of pricing information on TV, radio and in print to dealing with consumer queries, building viewer-friendly applications which are easy to use and putting in place mechanisms for refunds. The Code also makes reference to existing US legislation and the FCC “Truth-in-Billing” principles to improve consumers' understanding of their cell phone bills.

Since July 2007, MEF has held two public consultations and numerous meetings with industry companies covering all aspects of P-TV delivery and operation to sustain and grow the industry. MEF’s Code provides a practical framework on relevant issues such as pricing, refunds and procedural management. It also seeks to help brands and sponsors with assurances that consumer protection is of paramount importance as there are clear signs that this is an area which will attract substantial advertising and sponsorship revenues in the future.

Ted Cohen, MEF Americas Chairman, commented: “Interactivity with services is one of the most exciting developments for consumers and the industry. Today, millions of consumers interact with television shows using their mobile phone, fixed-line and internet. In the future consumers will be interacting with shows broadcast directly to their handsets. To ensure the successful and safe growth of the P-TV industry, it was vital that the industry came together and put in place self-regulatory measures. This is precisely what the MEF P-TV Code does.”

Edward Boddington, founder of Telescope, Inc., an early entrant in the US P-TV market, and Board member of MEF Americas, states: “The MEF Code addresses the need for practical guidance covering all parts of the mobile entertainment ecosystem. Shows continue to attract record numbers of mobile texts and calls, and regulating this huge marketing opportunity efficiently and transparently is vital to its ongoing success. The work MEF has been undertaking with the industry through open and transparent discussions is invaluable in providing the necessary safeguards for ensuring consumers are protected and that P-TV services continue to retain their trust.”

USA - broadband

Study: US broadband goal nearly reached
see also NTIA Networked Nation - broadband in America 2007

In 2004, President Bush pledged that all Americans should have affordable access to high-speed Internet service by 2007. A report to be released Thursday by the administration says it has succeeded — mostly.

"Networked Nation: Broadband in America" is an upbeat assessment of the administration's efforts to spur growth and competition in the high-speed Internet market. Critics said the report's conclusion is too rosy.

The report was prepared by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within the Commerce Department that acts as the president's principal adviser on telecommunications and information policy issues.

The report concludes that "a reasonable assessment of the available data indicates" that the objective of affordable access to broadband for all has been realized "to a very great degree."

Richard Russell, deputy director for technology in the executive office of the president, also answered the question in the affirmative, but with a caveat.

"The answer is by most metrics yes," he said. "However, there's still a lot more that needs to be done."

Broadband penetration has been a sore point for the government and industry as international surveys have shown that the United States, the birthplace of the Internet, lags behind other nations. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked the U.S. in 15th place for broadband lines per person in 2006, down from No. 4 in 2001.

The NTIA report drew its conclusion using data from the Federal Communications Commission and other sources. The FCC reported that more than 99 percent of all U.S. ZIP codes received broadband service from at least one provider by the end of 2006.

Critics say the FCC's data is misleading. A broadband provider has to serve only a single residence in a ZIP code for it to be counted. The agency has launched its own inquiry into how it can "develop a more accurate picture" of broadband deployment.

"More data is necessary," Meredith Attwell Baker, acting chief of NTIA, said in an interview. "We support the FCC's current efforts to produce better data."

A bill sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

The report paints a picture of a broadband environment that is becoming increasingly competitive, for which it credits the president's policies. Bush has promoted polices that created "an environment in which broadband innovation and competition can flourish," the report states.

Among them: a freeze on state and local taxes on Internet access; a policy of clearing airwaves for use by commercial providers of wireless broadband service; and continuing efforts to "clear away regulatory obstacles" that might thwart investment in new technologies.

"If you look at the administration policies from the beginning, there's been a comprehensive set of technology, regulatory and fiscal economic policies that have laid the foundation for the robust competitive environment that we are enjoying today," Baker said.

The FCC numbers indicate that the total number of broadband lines has grown from 6.8 million in December 2000 to 82.5 million in December 2006.

But defining broadband is a highly subjective exercise. The FCC defined it as 200 kilobits per second. That's about four times the speed of a good dial-up connection and barely fast enough to stream video.

"The notion that a 200-kilobit connection is broadband is itself ludicrous," said Derek Turner, research director for Free Press, a nonprofit public interest group that studies media and technology issues. Turner wrote a report critical of the FCC's data analysis.

Turner said there have been great strides in the growth of broadband, but said there is still a digital divide.

"In rich suburban areas they're getting broadband," he said. "But in many poor and many rural areas we're not seeing the same kind of competitive marketplace that President Bush outlined in his speech in 2004."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

North Korea - mobile telephony

Egyptian firm says it wins mobile phone licence in NKorea

An Egyptian firm says it has won the right to provide a mobile phone service in communist North Korea, a country which has strictly restricted such services to the general public.

Orascom Telecom, in a statement Wednesday on its website, said the licence was granted to its subsidiary CHEO Technology, which is 25 percent owned by the state-run Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation.

It said the terms allow it to offer services throughout the country over a 25-year period with an exclusivity period of four years.

"Orascom Telecom intends to invest up to 400 million dollars in network infrastructure and licence fee over the first three years in order to rapidly deploy a high quality network and offer voice, data and value-added services at accessible prices to the Korean people," it said.

Orascom said it intends to cover Pyongyang and most other major cities during the first year of operations in the country of 23 million.

The North Korea deal "is in line with our strategy to penetrate countries with high population and low penetration by providing the first mobile telephony services," said Naguib Sawiris, chairman and CEO.

The firm "has consistently proved its ability to successfully roll out mobile services into countries where no other operator has."

North Korea began a mobile phone service in November 2002. But in a change of heart 18 months later, it banned the service for ordinary citizens and began recalling handsets, according to media reports at the time.

There is still thought to be a mobile network in Pyongyang which is open for government officials. Most foreigners are not allowed to use mobile phones inside the country.

Orascom Telecom currently operates networks in Algeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Internet - traffic growth

Estimating the Exaflood - The Impact of Video and Rich Media on the Internet – A ‘zettabyte’ by 2015?

An upsurge of technological change and a rising tide of new forms of data are working a deep transformation of the Internet’s capabilities and uses. In this third phase of Net evolution, network architectures and commercial business plans reflect the dominance of rich video and media traffic.

From YouTube, IPTV, and high-definition images, to “cloud computing” and ubiquitous mobile cameras—to 3D games, virtual worlds, and photorealistic telepresence—the new wave is swelling into an exaflood of Internet and IP traffic. An exabyte is 10 to the 18th. We estimate that by 2015, U.S. IP traffic could reach an annual total of one zettabyte (1021 bytes), or one million million billion bytes.

We began using the term “exaflood” in 2001 to convey the vast gulf between the total traffic on the nation’s local area networks, then 15 exabytes a month, and the thousandfold smaller flows across the Internet. We predicted then that the deployment of broadband networks would bring exafloods of data to the Net.

Today it is happening. We estimate that in the U.S. by 2015:

* movie downloads and P2P file sharing could be 100 exabytes
* video calling and virtual windows could generate 400 exabytes
* “cloud” computing and remote backup could total 50 exabytes
* Internet video, gaming, and virtual worlds could produce 200 exabytes
* non-Internet “IPTV” could reach 100 exabytes, and possibly much more
* business IP traffic will generate some 100 exabytes
* other applications (phone, Web, e-mail, photos, music) could be 50 exabytes

The U.S. Internet of 2015 will be at least 50 times larger than it was in 2006. Internet growth at these levels will require a dramatic expansion of bandwidth, storage, and traffic management capabilities in core, edge, metro, and access networks. A recent Nemertes Research study estimates that these changes will entail a total new investment of some $137 billion in the worldwide Internet infrastructure by 2010. In the U.S., currently lagging Asia, the total new network investments will exceed $100 billion by 2012.

Technology remains the key engine of U.S. economic growth and its competitive edge. Policies that encourage investment and innovation in our digital and communications sectors should be among America’s highest national priorities.

Europe - protection of IPR

Community law does not require the Member States, in order to ensure the effective protection of copyright, to lay down an obligation to disclose personal data in the context of civil proceedings
see also judgement of the Court

There are several Community directives whose purpose is that the Member States should ensure, especially in the information society, effective protection of industrial property, in particular copyright. Such protection cannot, however, affect the requirements of the protection of personal data. The directives on the protection of personal data also allow the Member States to provide for exceptions to the obligation to guarantee the confidentiality of traffic data.

Promusicae is a Spanish non-profit-making organisation of producers and publishers of musical and audiovisual recordings. It applied to the Spanish courts for an order that Telefónica should disclose the identities and physical addresses of certain persons whom it provided with internet access services, whose IP address and date and time of connection were known. According to Promusicae, those persons were using the KaZaA file exchange program (peer-to-peer or P2P) and providing access in shared files of personal computers to phonograms in which members of Promusicae held the exploitation rights. It therefore sought disclosure of the above information in order to be able to bring civil proceedings against the persons concerned.

Telefónica argued that, under Spanish law, the communication of the data sought by Promusicae was authorised only in a criminal investigation or for the purpose of safeguarding public security and national defence.

The Spanish court asks the Court of Justice of the European Communities whether Community law requires the Member States to lay down, in order to ensure effective protection of copyright, an obligation to communicate personal data in the context of civil proceedings.

The Court of Justice notes that the exceptions permitted by the directives on the protection of personal data include the measures necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. As the directive on privacy and electronic communications does not specify the rights and freedoms concerned by that exception, it must be interpreted as expressing the Community legislature’s intention not to exclude from its scope the protection of the right to property or situations in which authors seek to obtain that protection in civil proceedings. It does not therefore preclude the possibility for the Member States of laying down an obligation to disclose personal data in the context of civil proceedings. However, it does not compel the Member States to lay down such an obligation.

As to the directives on intellectual property, the Court of Justice finds that they too do not require the Member States to lay down, in order to ensure effective protection of copyright, an obligation to communicate personal data in the context of civil proceedings.

That being so, the Court points out that the present reference for a preliminary ruling raises the question of the need to reconcile the requirements of the protection of different fundamental rights, namely the right to respect for private life on the one hand and the rights to protection of property and to an effective remedy on the other.

The Court concludes that the Member States must, when transposing the directives on intellectual property and the protection of personal data, rely on an interpretation of those directives which allows a fair balance to be struck between the various fundamental rights protected by the Community legal order. Further, when implementing the measures transposing those directives, the authorities and courts of the Member States must not only interpret their national law in a manner consistent with the directives but also make sure that they do not rely on an interpretation of them which would be in conflict with those fundamental rights or with the other general principles of Community law, such as the principle of proportionality.

Cisco - changes for a decade

Cisco CEO sees network upgrades lasting a decade

(Reuters) - John Chambers, chief executive of network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc, said on Tuesday service providers will continue to upgrade and build out their networks for a decade.

Chambers said every major service provider is in discussions over whether the next generation of networks will be based on Internet Protocol, comprising sharing of data, voice, video and wireless off common architectures and open standards.

"I see this generation of build-out going for a decade," he said. "Video loads are what is driving this and it isn't just video entertainment or You-Tube type activities or the ability to do very sophisticated video conferencing."

Chambers said that at Cisco, network loads are growing as much as 500 percent year-over-year to meet demand for next generation networks.

"As long as a country or geography has at least two or three major service providers who are moving at the same time you are going to see them continuing to build out networks," he said.

"We clearly bet on this, not in the last year or two. We bet going back six, seven years ago when we put almost 50 percent of our R&D investment in service providers," he added.

Cisco, the top provider of routers and switches that direct Internet traffic, has been one of the most active multi-national companies in Israel the past decade, buying nine technology firms for more than $1 billion.

"I'm going to continue to acquire companies here," he said, noting Cisco has bought more companies than in any other location other than the United States. "I think you are going to continue to see us being very proactive in this country. We see a lot of innovation occurring here across everything."

China Mobile - foreign acquisitions

China Mobile eyes more overseas acquisitions

China Mobile, the country's top wireless operator, said Tuesday it planned to take advantage of the global stock market downturn to acquire overseas telecom firms that have now become cheaper.

"(China Mobile) would like to acquire high-quality and profit-making telecommunications enterprises overseas," Lei Yu, a spokeswoman of China Mobile's Hong Kong-listed unit, told AFP.

She declined to provide any timetable for the expansion.

The official China Securities Journal reported Tuesday that the company was eyeing some relatively small telecom companies in other Asian markets as declining stock market had resulted in lower prices.

"With the market capitalisation of these firms dropping, we will have the chance to strike more deals," the report said, citing Wang Jianzhou, president of China Mobile Communications Corporation.

"We've been watching closely emerging markets," Wang said at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.

So far China Mobile has made only one overseas takeover, buying an 88.86-percent stake in Pakistan's fifth-largest mobile operator Paktel for 284 million dollars in January 2007.

Monday, January 28, 2008

India - virtual university

IITs to invest over Rs 1,500 crore to set up virtual varsity

The Indian Institutes of Technology are in talks with US-based Carnegie Mellon University to set up a Virtual IIT.

To be set up at a cost of over Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion) over the next three to four years, it will enable aspiring IITians and engineering students who could not make it to the premier engineering institutes of technology to bag an IIT-equivalent degree online.

Currently, a four-year Btech (IIT) tuition fee is around Rs 27,000 per year while that of a two-year MTech (IIT) is around Rs 5,000 per year. The Virtual IIT, on the other hand, will be online, and therefore cheaper. Details on charges for an online degree, forms submission, evaluation and exams are being worked out.

The IITs will study the Carnegie Mellon University's distance learning programme - Open Learning Initiative started in 2002 - which is considered one of the most successful so far.

"We are studying the models of western universities as we plan to have a full-fledged online degree-granting programme. A large number of private institutions do not have good teachers. We want to provide an online programme in which not only students but also professional engineers and faculty can benefit from the engineering courses delivered by IITs," said an IIT director.

The IITs plan to shortlist around 50 national-level engineering colleges to set up well-equipped laboratories where students taking online courses could go for practical sessions.

The IITs have already discussed this idea with some leading Indian IT companies that are willing to support this initiative.

To begin with, the online National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning course content that the IITs deliver currently on the website could become the base for Virtual IIT.

The IITs also plan to make the courses available on Google and You Tube. An online evaluation process could also be devised followed by certification for Virtual IIT courses.

NPTEL has registered about 770,000 visits since September 2006 and in a survey conducted by IIT Madras lasting eight to ten months when the IITs had login/register utility, about 180,000 accessed it more than a few times, 50 per cent of whom are employed after a degree, 40 per cent students and about 10 per cent teachers.

USA - software industry and the economy

Software & Information Industries Revealed as Increasingly Important Drivers of Jobs & Economic Growth
see also full text of the report.

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital information industry, today released a first-of-its-kind report that measures the substantial economic impact of the software and information (S&I) industries on the U.S. and global economies. The report, entitled “Software & Information: Driving the Global Knowledge Economy,” finds that these industries are among the fastest growing and most important for propelling continued economic growth — both in the U.S. and globally.

“This report shows the critical role that the software and information industries play in a vibrant and dynamic U.S. economy. It underscores the importance of continued U.S. investment in innovation and technology,” said Ken Wasch, SIIA President.

Europe - independence of regulators

EU to act vs. Poland and Luxembourg over telcos
see also official announcement

The European Commission is set to take Poland to the European Union's top court for not ensuring its national telecoms regulator is free of government pressure, an EU source said on Monday.

"Poland will be taken to the European Court of Justice over the lack of telecoms regulatory independence," the source said.

At the same time, Luxembourg will be sent an initial warning for not ensuring its domestic telecoms regulator is independent of the Grand Duchy's government, the source who is familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The EU's executive arm is due to sign off on the steps on Thursday as part of a monthly round of infringement proceedings against states that break the bloc's laws.

Under EU rules, national telecoms watchdogs must be independent of governments so they can enforce competition in their markets and face down pressure from powerful incumbents or former state-owned national monopoly operators.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Carrier Ethernet

Carrier Ethernet growth curve continues

The market for Ethernet services continues to grow, and in turn so does the market for Ethernet technology. Equipment vendors are adding more Ethernet functionality to their gear and advancing the capabilities of existing Ethernet technologies.

In September, chip-maker Lightstorm Networks unveiled what it called a carrier Ethernet switch-on-a-chip, promising to help accelerate cost declines in carrier Ethernet gear.

In the last two months of 2007, Hammerhead Systems and Nortel Networks both introduced new products that elevate one carrier Ethernet transport technology, provider backbone transport (PBT), from a point-to-point technology to a point-to-multipoint one as well. That step, meant to allow carriers to use PBT in IPTV delivery and other multicast applications, addresses one of the chief criticisms of PBT since it came on the scene in mid-2006.

And early this year, word got around of an important new development in the market for packet optical networking gear — systems that help carriers migrate from legacy to packet-based (usually Ethernet) networks, using integrated optical multiplexing as a third leg on which to balance. Analysts believe Fujitsu Network Communications won a deal to supply Verizon with its new packet optical offering, the Flashwave 9500, beating out Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel for the contract. Meanwhile, other packet-optical players, such as Ciena and Tellabs, are adding ever more Ethernet functionality to their gear.

(in millions of U.S. dollars) 2006 2007
AT&T 280 347
Verizon Business 165 229
Time Warner Telecom 140 189
Cogent Communications 152 167
Source: New Paradigm Research Group - MP3 sales without protection

Amazon to begin roll-out of international MP3 store

Online retailer Inc said on Sunday it will begin an international roll-out this year of its digital music store that offers songs without copy-protection technology known as digital rights management.

Amazon said it is the only retailer to offer DRM-free MP3s from all four major music labels as well as thousands of independent labels.

Amazon MP3, launched in September 2007, offers DRM-free MP3 music downloads, which now includes more than 3.3 million songs.

Venture capital funds

Venture capital investing hits six year high at$ 29.4 billion

Venture capitalists invested $29.4 billion in 3,813 deals in 2007 -- marking the highest yearly investment total since 2001 -- according to the MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Financial. The total invested in 2007 represents a 10.8 percent increase in dollars and a five percent increase in deal volume over 2006. Investments in the fourth quarter of 2007 totaled $7.0 billion in 963 deals, marking the fourth straight quarter with investments totaling more than $7 billion - a phenomenon not seen since 2001.

Much of the increase in investments over the prior year can be attributed to record
investment levels in the Clean Technology and Life Sciences sectors as well as strong
investment levels in Internet-specific companies. Seed/Early-Stage companies received
more dollars in 2007, but Later Stage investments experienced the most dramatic increase during the year. At the same time, first-time financings reached a six- year high as venture capitalists placed more initial bets in companies across multiple sectors.

Software investing remained relatively flat in 2007, consistent with levels over the last five years with $5.3 billion going into 905 deals, compared to $5.1 billion going into 920 deals in 2006. Despite the lack of growth, it still remained the largest single industry category for the year both in terms of deals and dollars, edging out Biotechnology for the top position.

Internet-specific companies received $4.6 billion in 748 deals in 2007, an increase of 12 percent and eight percent, respectively, over 2006 when these companies received $4.1 billion in 691 deals. ‘Internet-specific’ is a discrete classification assigned to a company whose business model is fundamentally dependent on the Internet, regardless of the company’s primary industry category. These companies accounted for 16 percent of all venture capital dollars in 2007, approximately the same percentage as in 2006.

The Media and Entertainment industry saw more venture capital dollars in 2007, with $1.9 billion going into 340 deals compared to 2006 when $1.7 billion went into 318 deals. Other industries that saw increases in deals and dollars during the year include Business Products and Services, Financial Services, IT Services, and Retailing/Distribution.

Telecom companies saw a decrease in investment in 2007 with 290 deals receiving $2.1 billion dollars, a drop from the $2.6 billion in 301 deals they captured in 2006. Other industries that experienced declines in deals and dollars in 2007 include Healthcare Services, Semiconductors, and Electronics/Instrumentation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

USA - wireless networks

Wireless Carterfone: A Long Overdue Policy Promoting Consumer Choice and Competition

Rob Frieden, Penn State University

Wireless carriers in the United States operate as regulated common carriers when providing basic telecommunications services, such as voice telephone service, text messaging and speed dialing to services and content. Remarkably, stakeholders debate whether this clear cut regulatory status requires wireless carriers to provide service to any compatible handset, subject to a certification process to ensure that such use will not harm carrier networks.

Thirty-nine years ago the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established its Carterfone policy establishing such a right for wireline subscribers. Consumers now take for granted the right to purchase their choice of telephones and other devices (e.g., computer modems, answering machines) and to attach them to wireline networks without carrier-imposed limitations. After announcing its Carterfone policy, the FCC identified ample consumer benefits and applied this fundamental right in several instances so that consumers can freely use their handsets to access services, applications and content. This fundamental right has accrued unquestionable benefits to consumers and the national economy.

Wireless operators have vigorously opposed efforts to convince the FCC that it should establish a wireless Carterfone policy. Opponents claim that Carterfone offered an industry-specific remedy to a monopoly environment where the Bell System controlled both the manufacture and distribution of telephones and telephone service. They assert that the lack of such vertical integration and the existence of robust competition in the wireless marketplace obviate the need for rules requiring carriers to unlock the handsets they sell and to open their networks for access by any compatible handset.

This paper explains why wireless Carterfone policy constitutes a long overdue policy response to carrier practices that often have nothing to do with protecting their networks from technical harm or other legitimate network management needs. For example, blocking the implementation of wireless Carterfone enables carriers to continue locking subscribers into two-year service contracts with substantial penalties for early termination. In exchange for the service commitment, consumers acquire a carrier-subsidized handset, but they also consent to carrier-imposed restrictions on the use of the handset they bought, including the ability to access telecommunications and content services of competitors even after the carrier has recouped its subsidy.

This analysis explains how wireless carriers benefit financially by avoiding Carterfone obligations and refutes the rationales and justifications for this behavior. The paper also demonstrates that the FCC has ample statutory authority to apply wireless Carterfone policy based on the largely ignored fact that when wireless cellular telephone companies provide telecommunications service, they remain subject to most common carrier regulations regardless of the fact that they also may offer less regulated information services. Finally, this report explains that wireless carriers must comply with public interest regulatory mandates even though they might conflict with carriers’ preferred business plans. The Commission has undertaken a number of analogous initiatives to protect consumers from mandatory bundling arrangements, such as its 2005 order mandating alternatives to cable set-top box leasing, which underscore the continued importance of Carterfone principles to protecting the public interest.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Korea - YouTube

Koreans Underwhelmed by YouTube's Local Offering

YouTube's new Korean platform got off to a bad start on its first day on Thursday. YouTube is the world's largest video sharing website, with about 70 million video clips and 10 hours of new clips being uploaded every second.

Korean netizens were less than enthusiastic about the debut of YouTube Korea on Thursday, finding the service far short of their expectations. Since Korea is an IT powerhouse with widespread high-speed Internet, Koreans have long enjoyed video sharing websites and thus have highly-developed tastes.

The biggest problem Korean users had with the service is the language barrier. Since YouTube is a global site with content from around the world, the dominant language on the site is English. Most Koreans in their teens and 20s, who are the primary users of the Internet, have a hard time communicating in English. Others say that the video quality is poorer than that of domestic sites.

On its first day YouTube Korea was filled with videos with English titles and had few clips uploaded through the Korean service. Even popular clips only managed 4,000-5,000 viewings, compared to tens of thousands for hit clips on domestic sites. It remains to be seen whether YouTube Korea can eventually live up to the high expectations of Korean netizens, or end up just making noise.

Nigeria - ICT infrastructure plan

Nigeria's ICT Infrastructure Plan validated by Stakeholders

Following a workshop held in Lagos on 17 January 2008, over 100 experts from various stakeholder groups, comprised of Government ministries, private sector, non-government organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CBOs), academia, women and youth groups endorsed Nigeria's Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) Plan. This is the result of a series of activities started in January 2006 following signature at the end of 2005 of an agreement between the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the framework of the National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) process within the African Information Society Initiative (AISI).

The work was coordinated by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which established the National Strategic Action Plan Committee mandated by the Federal Government to draw up an e-strategy action plan and programmes in line with the national development objectives and priorities of the country, especially the “Vision 20-20-20 aimed at positioning Nigeria amongst the 20 leading economies in the world by year 2020”.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Director-General and CEO of NITDA, Prof. Cleopas O. Angaye, said: “On behalf of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will like to express my sincere gratitude to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) for sponsoring this project. They have contributed immensely in terms of funding and human resource.”

The ICT4D Plan is organized into 11 broad policy focus areas led by Resource Persons under the coordination of an international ECA consultant:

1. ICT Infrastructure
2. e-Health
3. e-Agriculture
4. e-Government
5. ICT in Education
6. Private Sector Participation
7. Human Resource Development
8. Research and Development
9. IT Popularisation and Awareness
10. Security and Law Enforcement
11. Legal and regulatory framework

The ICT4D Plan has identified programmes for short, medium, and long-term implementation by stakeholders. Following incorporation of comments from stakeholders, the Plan will be submitted to the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria for approval and implementation by all stakeholders at the federal and state levels.

Funding of the Nigeria Plan stems from the Finland Project (The Cooperation in the Development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa) related to NICI development.

USA - Municipal high speed broadband

New Report Concludes: To Be Competitive, Cities Must Own High Speed Information Networks

Minneapolis, Minn.-- (January 22, 2007). The United States, creator of the Internet, increasingly lags in high-speed access to it. In the absence of a national broadband strategy, hundreds of communities have invested in broadband infrastructure to solve their problem locally. A new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) explores this essential infrastructure and the options now available to communities.

The ILSR Report contends that DSL and cable networks fail to offer the speeds and capacity necessary for the digital future.

"As broadband has gone from convenience to necessity, communities can no longer rely on private providers to satisfy their broadband needs," explains Christopher Mitchell, author of the study and Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative for ILSR. "As we transition from copper-based networks to fiber optic networks, each community has an opportunity to build the network they need for their stakeholders."

Communities are continuing to invest in broadband networks -- both wired and wireless. Mitchell's study, Municipal Broadband: Demystifying Wireless and Fiber-Optic Options, serves to inform communities about these technologies and the tradeoffs of each.

"This study helps communities to understand the broadband world -- a complicated place -- so they can make informed decisions to meet their needs now, and in the future, " says Mitchell.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vodafone - Mobile VoIP integration

Vodafone to introduce service to converge mobile communications and VoIP

A new service, known as Messenger PC for private customers and IP-Phone Pro for business customers, is being introduced in March 2008 by Vodafone Germany, a mobile communications company, aimed at driving the convergence of mobile communications and VoIP forward.

According to Vodafone, its client enables worldwide VoIP calls to be made in regular mobile phone quality. It confirmed that PC-to-PC calls to other Vodafone users around the world are made free of charge, while the user's national tariff applies for calls made from the PC to mobile phones.

Vodafone said PC clients allow private and business customers to use Vodafone services with their regular Vodafone phone number, anywhere in the world, on the PC/Internet and on the mobile phone. It confirmed that incoming calls to the regular mobile phone number ring on the mobile phone and the PC, enabling the user to decide where to pick the call up from, with PC-to-PC communication free of charge for Internet users.

In addition, Vodafone has introduced the Text Message Toolbar feature which allows its users to send text and MMS messages from their PC via the Internet Explorer or Firefox browser.

Spoofing Caller Identity Helps 'Untraceable' Movie Make Untraceable Phone Calls, the leading provider of Caller ID spoofing service, is proud to announce its phone card service, used to help make anonymous and untraceable phone calls, can be seen in the upcoming high-tech thriller, Untraceable, opening in theaters across the United States on January 25th, 2008. SpoofCard was chosen by Untraceable's technical advisor for its widely renowned and highly regarded communications privacy service which businesses, local and government law enforcement agencies and privacy advocates have been using to make truly private and untraceable calls since 2005.

SpoofCard is a one-of-a-kind calling card that works from any telephone and offers its users the ability to change their number that appears on their recipients Caller ID display as well as their call logs. SpoofCard helps eliminate any record of a call taking place from a users phone, making their call virtually untraceable by the recipient. SpoofCard can also record phone conversations, which can then be downloaded or played back at a later time, and even change its users voice in real-time to sound like a man or a woman. SpoofCard focuses on bringing back communications privacy in an age where privacy is rare, yet, more important than ever.

3G - network sharing

3G-Infrastructure Sharing: the future for mobile networks

"Network sharing will become essential for operators that are struggling to expand 3G coverage and make funds available for a number of alternative investments."

Faced by the need to make a variety of substantial investments, most mobile network operators will implement network sharing of some sort within the next three years. The recent announcements of major network-sharing deals in the UK between Hutchison 3G and T-Mobile, and between Orange and Vodafone, are indicative of a trend that is set to spread across all developed markets. Network sharing will have many benefits for mobile network operators, but also represents the greatest upheaval to mobile networks in the market’s history and will present major challenges. 3G-infrastructure consolidation, to just one or two networks per country, will have profound implications for other industry players, such as equipment vendors and regulators, and will require them to adopt new strategies.

This report reviews a range of network-sharing arrangements, from site sharing to complete network sharing. It evaluates the potential cost savings arising from 3G- and 2G-network sharing and discusses a range of other benefits. The report studies the many challenges that mobile operators will face as they undertake network sharing and identifies the best approaches. It considers the strategic implications of extensive network sharing for mobile operators, equipment vendors and regulators, and defines the actions that they should take. The report includes insights into network sharing from interviews with early adopters and vendors.

3G-Infrastructure Sharing: the future for mobile networks answers your key questions:

* Why is network sharing so important now? How extensive will it be?
* What are the different types of network sharing? Which is the best approach?
* What are the potential capital and operational cost savings of network sharing, and what are the other benefits?
* What are the key challenges of network sharing and how can they be overcome?
* How do you implement a successful network-sharing project while minimising risk?
* Do operators need both 2G- and 3G-network sharing?
* How should network operators choose their network-sharing partners?
* How will network sharing affect the market for mobile infrastructure? What can equipment vendors do to protect and strengthen their businesses?
* What are the implications of network sharing for competition and regulation?

USA - policies for a new president

Working group focuses on communications policy for new administration

University Park, Pa. -- While the presidential election moves through its primary stages, a group of Penn State faculty members and colleagues from across the country has its sights set beyond the outcome of the general election in November. They're not focusing on a specific candidate, either.

Instead, the faculty members anticipate January 2009, the next president's inauguration and the corresponding change in the federal government as the time to present an outline — as well as the practical steps necessary for implementation — of a new U.S. communications policy.

The Future of American Communications Working Group, supported by a $75,000 grant from the Media Democracy Fund, a project of the Proteus Fund, plans to produce a volume outlining a comprehensive telecommunications policy agenda for the federal administration to be entering office in January 2009. That agenda will emphasize the potential of information technologies for improving democratic discourse, social responsibility and the quality of life. It will specify the means by which those technologies can be made available to all Americans.

"The unique concentration of such a large group of leading communication policy scholars in the College of Communications has made Penn State the natural place to serve as the center for such an ambitious project," said Amit Schejter, an assistant professor in the Department of Telecommunications and director of the working group.

Other Penn State faculty involved in the project include: Robert Frieden, the Pioneers Chair in Cable Telecommunications; Krishna Jayakar, associate professor of communications; Jorge Reina Schement, distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Institute for Information Policy; Andrea Tapia, assistant professor of information sciences and technology; and Richard Taylor, the Palmer Chair professor of telecommunication and law and co-director of the Institute for Information Policy.

Additional collaborators represent universities across the United States, including Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia Law School, Fordham University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Illinois, Rutgers School of Law, St. John's University, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas.

The volume produced by the working group will include a comprehensive vision for the United States as a 21st-century information society that is both internally inclusive and globally competitive; an analysis of the reasons for the failure of the previously most ambitious attempt at rewriting American telecommunications policy (the Telecommunications Act of 1996); and an international benchmark and best practices survey.

It will address issues such as: public service media; network neutrality; universal broadband policy; rural connectivity; universal service funding mechanisms; media ownership; minority ownership; municipal networks; spectrum policy; access, unbundling and structural separation; wireless and mobile services; and media ethics regarding matters such as product placement, "fake news" and the fairness doctrine.

A concluding chapter will summarize and contextualize the recommendations in the various fields and present them in the form of a plan for action.

Penn State faculty members and Institute for Information Policy have consistently earned respect among academics and policy makers, both nationally and internationally, for the outcomes and recommendations produced by similar working groups. A project on universal broadband service provides one of the most recent examples.

"For more than a decade, the Universal Service Working Group at the Institute for Information Policy has been at the forefront of universal access policy in telecommunications," Schement said.

The Media Democracy Fund, which provided $75,000 to support the working group's effort, is a newly formed foundation and donor collaborative in support of media reform and media democracy. It is rooted in the belief that freedom of expression and access to information are necessary elements to civil society and basic human rights.

Bangladesh - mobile telephony growth

Bangladesh mobile phone users soar 58 percent in 2007: regulator

DHAKA (AFP) — Mobile phone subscriptions in Bangladesh soared by 58 percent in 2007, spurred by a price war among operators, officials said Wednesday.

The country added over one million subscribers a month in 2007 as the total number rose to 34.37 million at the end of the year, up from 21.77 million in 2006, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said.

GrameenPhone, 62 percent owned by Norway's Telenor, led with 16.48 million users, while Egyptian Orascom-owned Banglalink edged Telekom Malaysian-owned AKtel for the second spot with 7.08 million, it said.

"Increased demand for mobile phones along with more affordable services led to the growth in the industry," chief executive officer of the GrameenPhone Anders Jensen told AFP.

Total landline and mobile phone penetration in Bangladesh rose to over 20 percent of the population, officials said.

Telephone penetration was only one percent in 1997 when the country's first of three top mobile phone companies including GrameenPhone launched their services.

"Another important reason is the falling prices of low-end handsets, which will also be a key component of future growth," Jensen said.

Operators said the cost of a low-end mobile handset fell by an average 30 percent to 20 to 30 dollars and tariffs dropped by 40 to 50 percent in 2007 amid a price war among six operators, allowing low income people to afford the services.

The telecommunications sector has emerged as a key driver of the economy of Bangladesh, which is one of the world's poorest countries, with nearly 40 per cent of its 144 million population surviving on less than a dollar day.

Bangladesh's army-backed government crackdown on graft coupled with natural disasters have slowed growth, economists and lending agencies say, while the central bank has lowered it growth projection to around six percent from seven percent for the financial year to June 2008.

The country posted record growth of 6.6 percent last year.

The booming mobile phone industry has created nearly 240,000 jobs, a study last year said.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Asia-Pacific trends

Top 10 Telecommunications Trends Across Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan) for 2008

“The preference of the new media sector and corporate users for on-premises solutions have been disruptive to the APEJ telecom industry in the past few years. To stay on top of the market, telcos have been experimenting with various go-to-market offerings, partnerships, solution developments, and network investments models. However, not all experiments generate immediate financial benefits. As a result, telcos are under pressure to find a balance between continual innovation and ensuring positive financial returns in the immediate term from 'cash cow' offerings,” said Sandra Ng, Group Vice President for IDC’s Asia/Pacific Communications, Peripherals, Services and ETAS research.

The Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) telecom services market was worth over US$215 billion in 2007. In terms of infrastructure, the networking equipment market grew 13% to US$6.6 billion in 2007 while the carrier segment remained a stable market at US$32 billion. Growth from broadband, IP-based and 3G services, and demand for on-premise solutions will further propel the services and infrastructure markets in 2008.

1. Adoption Of Multi-Media Applications Becomes A Reality With 802.11n

2. Streaming Services -- A Silver Mine For Mobile Operators

3. All-IP Mobile (Core) Network: The Market Is Ready

4. Mobilizing The Digital Marketplace -- The Role Of Mobile Operators

5. Opportunities Come In Verticals

6. Communication Services Go Green

7. The “Nine Lives” Of Wireless Local Loop

8. Feeling Secured With IP Surveillance

9. Unified Communications and Web 2.0 Come Together To Accelerate Uptake Of Enterprise Collaboration

10. The Tale Of Two Technologies: HSPA For 3G Carriers Vs Mobile WiMAX For 2G Carriers And Wireline Providers

Bangkok - first hotel with 802.11n

The Oriental Bangkok First Hotel in the World to Deploy 802.11n Wireless Technology
Oriental to use technology to improve guest experiences

BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan. 22, 2008 - Cisco® and the Oriental Bangkok Hotel today announced the world's first deployment of Cisco's next-generation wireless 802.11n technology in the hospitality industry. The new high-speed wireless network supports the Oriental Bangkok's vision to offer superior guest experience through information and communications technology (ICT).

Cisco Aironet® 1250 Series Access Points have been installed throughout the hotel, allowing guests and staff to stay connected even as they move from floor to floor.

Mr. Paul Jones, hotel manager, The Oriental Bangkok, said, "The Oriental is recognised as one of the world's foremost luxury and legendary hotels. With over 130 years of history behind the hotel, achieving this reputation is an honour for the hotel, and one which we respect by constantly evolving with the times and with the expectation of our guests. In terms of technology, in today's world, this means offering the latest advancements to make a guest's stay as comfortable and convenient as possible. We are delighted to be the first hotel in the world to offer the latest Cisco wireless 802.11n technology in our rooms. It reinforces our tradition of providing exceptional guest service.

"Today's business travelers demand more than simple connectivity: They value voice, video and data options which are efficient, convenient, highly secure and most importantly can be accessed anytime, anywhere in the hotel," he added.

"We are proud that the first hotel in the world to deploy this highly advanced wireless technology comes from Thailand, putting the country on the ICT map. The Cisco Thailand team worked closely with the Oriental Bangkok Hotel to help ensure that the solution we proposed solved a business challenge. The Cisco Aironet 1250 Series Access Point was the first enterprise-class access point to be Wi-Fi certified to support the IEEE 802.11n draft 2.0 standard and provides the versatility, high capacity and enterprise-class features demanded by wireless local-area network customers. It is a modular, dual-band access point with a choice of 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz IEEE 802.11n draft 2.0 radio modules. The Cisco Aironet AP1250 Series Access Point is designed for challenging RF environments such as a hotel," said Tatchapol Poshyanonda, managing director of Cisco Thailand.

"We are excited to be part of the effort in delivering innovative and differentiating premium services to the valuable guests of the hotel," he added.

China - national roaming

China holds hearing on roaming fee cut, final scheme suspended

The Chinese government on Tuesday held a public hearing on cutting mobile phone domestic roaming charges, but the final pricing scheme remained suspended due to divided opinions.

A total of 18 representatives, including five consumers, five telecommunication operator officials and three experts made submissions at the hearing.

Two plans, which suggested price cuts ranging from 14.9 percent to 63 percent, were under discussion.

Plan A proposes cutting the 0.2 yuan (less than 0.03 U.S. dollars) per minute surcharge for roaming services, while plan B also scraps the surcharge and proposes a charge of 0.7 yuan per minute for making calls and 0.3 yuan for receiving calls for all users.

Shen Changzheng, who represented mobile phone users, said it was unreasonable to set service charge standards on the basis of administrative divisions.

"Roaming charges should be scrapped. Instead, an equal charge should be imposed for domestic roaming services and local services on a step-by-step basis," he said.

Most of the China's 539 million mobile subscribers pay from 33 to 50 percent more for calls made or received on their cell phones when they travel to another provinces.

Zhu Jinlin, from the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the fee reduction proposed by plan B was too small.

Profit margins for both China Mobile and China Unicom should be reduced to 15 percent, but the mobile phone industry in China had 19-percent net profits, he added. "Telecommunication operators should not be huge profit seekers."

China has two mobile phone service providers - China Mobile and China Unicom. Increasing numbers of mobile phone users in China accuse them of reaping handsome profits by charging monopolistic prices.

Lu Wenchang, from China Mobile, argued that his company had reduced call charges by 62.1 percent in the last five years and that it was impossible to provide mobile services in such a vast country with no costs.

The average roaming cost of China Mobile and China Unicom was 0.0485 yuan in 2006, said Huang Xinyan, senior manager with the China Audit Certified Public Accountants.

Ding Ming, from China Unicom, said the ceiling on roaming services fees should be higher than that of local services as the cost was higher.

"Only 2.5 percent of China Unicom's mobile subscribers frequently use roaming services," he said. "That means only a small fraction of our customers can benefit from a fee reduction."

Zhu Zhengwu, from China Telecom, said plan B, which would no longer charge subscribers for long-distance calls when they were outside home provinces, may lead to people giving up fixed lines and turning to China Mobile for long-distance calls.

"The plan could help China Mobile monopolize the market with the substitution of fixed lines with mobile phones, which as a result will hurt the consumers' interests," he warned.

He said the government should provide the mobile license to the fixed lines operators.

Source: Xinhua

Korea - China and technology

China to Overtake Korea in Tech Power in 3 Years - Survey

Nearly seven out of 10 Korean companies doing business with China think that China will overtake Korea in technological power in three years. That's according to a survey of 390 companies on the potential effects on Korean industry of a free trade agreement with China released by the Korea International Trade Association on Monday.

Some 68.2 percent of respondents said that it would take less than three years for China to pull ahead of Korea in terms of technological power. Some 15.1 percent said it would take less than one year and 51.7 percent said between one to three years. Some 1.4 percent said that China has already overtaken Korea.

The survey also found that 74.6 percent of respondents are favorable to a Korea-China FTA. But only 14.2 percent believed that an FTA would contribute to increasing exports to China, while a whopping 55.4 percent said it would greatly increase imports rather than exports.

As for the timing of a trade pact with China, the majority said that it would be better to delay it as long as possible, with 76.4 percent saying the government should spend more than three years to prepare for it.

Thailand - IT market

Thai IT spending seen up 9.3 pct in 2008 - IDC

Thailand's spending on information technology is expected to reach $4.36 billion in 2008, up 9.3 percent from 2007 due mainly to government investment in infrastructure, market research firm IDC said.

That growth rate would make Thailand Asia's fourth biggest growing market after India, China and Vietnam, research manager Thaweesit Kun-Ongkhananon told reporters on Tuesday.

Last year, Thailand's IT spending was hit by a long political crisis and uncertainty about the new government policy on IT spending could slow growth in the second half of 2008, he said.

Hardware was expected to account for 73 percent of spending, with the largest portion on personal computers.

Thailand's telecoms spending was expected to be around $7.77 billion in 2008, down slightly from $7.8 billion in 2007 due to declining revenues at fixed line firms, Thaweesit said.

The launch of third-generation (3G) mobile services should boost spending in the Thai telecoms industry by around 5 percent to $8.12 billion in 2009, he said.

The top two telecom firms -- Advanced Info Service ADVA.BK and Total Access Communication DTAC.BK -- have agreed to cooperate with state-run operators on network development, including 3G.

Analysts expect 3G commercial operations, which have been delayed for several years, to start in 2009. ($1 = 33.20 Baht)

Europe - IP address is private

EU Official: IP Is Personal

IP addresses, string of numbers that identify computers on the Internet, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Union's group of data privacy regulators said Monday.

Germany's data protection commissioner, Peter Scharr, leads the EU group preparing a report on how well the privacy policies of Internet search engines operated by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others comply with EU privacy law.

He told a European Parliament hearing on online data protection that when someone is identified by an IP, or Internet protocol, address "then it has to be regarded as personal data."

His view differs from that of Google, which insists an IP address merely identifies the location of a computer, not who the individual user is — something strictly true but which does not recognize that many people regularly use the same computer terminal and IP address.

Scharr acknowledged that IP addresses for a computer may not always be personal or linked to an individual. For example, some computers in Internet cafes or offices are used by several people.

But these exceptions have not stopped the emergence of a host of "whois" Internet sites that apply the general rule that typing in an IP address will generate a name for the person or company linked to it.

Treating IP addresses as personal information would have implications for how search engines record data.

Google led the pack by being the first last year to cut the time it stored search information to 18 months. It also reduced the time limit on the cookies that collect information on how people use the Internet from a default of 30 years to an automatic expiration in two years.

But a privacy advocate at the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, said it was "absurd" for Google to claim that stripping out the last two figures from the stored IP address made the address impossible to identify by making it one of 256 possible configurations.

"It's one of the things that make computer people giggle," EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg told The Associated Press. "The more the companies know about you, the more commercial value is obtained."

Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, however, said Google collects IP addresses to give customers a more accurate service because it knows what part of the world a search result comes from and what language they use — and that was not enough to identify an individual user.

"If someone taps in 'football' you get different results in London than in New York," he said.

He said the way Google stores IP addresses meant one of them forms part of a crowd, giving valuable information on general trends without infringing on an individual's privacy.

Google says it needs to store search queries and gather information on online activity to improve its search results and to provide advertisers with correct billing information that shows that genuine users are clicking on online ads.

Internet 'click fraud' can be tracked down by showing that the same IP address is jumping repeatedly to the same ad. Advertisers pay for each time a different person views the ad, so dozens of views by the same person can rack up costs without giving the company the publicity it wanted.

Microsoft does not record the IP address that identifies an individual computer when it logs search terms. Its Internet strategy relies on users logging into the Passport network that is linked to its popular Hotmail and Messenger services.

The company's European Internet policy director, Thomas Myrup Kristensen, described the move as part of Microsoft's commitment to privacy.

"In terms of the impact on user privacy, complete and irreversible anonymity is the most important point here — more impactful than whether the data is retained for 13 versus 18 versus 24 months," he said.

But neither of the search engines received a pat on the back from Spain's data protection regulator, Artemi Rallo Lombarte, who criticized them for not trying to make their privacy policies accessible to normal people.

Their privacy policies "could very well be considered virtual or fictional ... because search engines do not sufficiently emphasize their own privacy policies on their home pages, nor are they accessible to users," he said, describing the policies as "complex and unintelligible to users."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Singapore - ending regulation of resale of telephony

IDA Removes Price Regulations on the Resale of Public Switched Telecommunication Services

IDA will stop regulating the prices for resale of public switched telecommunication services ("PSTS") with effect from 1 March 2008. Licensees who currently provide resale of PSTS include hotels, service apartment providers, office rental companies, and companies providing payphone services for local and international calls within their premises. From 1 March 2008, these Licensees will have the flexibility to set their own prices for the resale of PSTS. Nevertheless, PSTS resellers must still comply with IDA’s requirement to disclose the prices, terms and conditions of any telecommunications service, prior to providing that service to end users. This will ensure that end users are able to make an informed choice before their purchase of any service.

The price regulation framework2 was first introduced in 19953 to address the concern that end users, especially those end users staying in hotels, had little alternatives to the PSTS provided by the PSTS resellers. The price regulation framework served to ensure that end users using the resold PSTS are able to enjoy competitive prices comparable with those provided outside the premises. This would in turn support Singapore's larger goal to be a business and tourism hub.

Arising from a recent request from the industry for this price regulation to be removed, IDA undertook a review of the policy to determine if it was still relevant in the current market environment. IDA recognised that the market environment has changed significantly since the last review of the policy in 2001. Mobile telephone subscription penetration is now very high, and there is a large variety of international telephone services available in the market at competitive prices, such that end users can now choose to use mobile phones, international calling cards or Voice over Internet Protocol services, if they find the PSTS provided by the resellers to be expensive. As such, IDA has determined that it is no longer necessary for IDA to continue to regulate the prices for the resale of PSTS. Instead, the appropriate price levels can now be left to market forces. In arriving at this decision, IDA had also consulted the relevant stakeholders.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

India - investigation into spectrum decision

Vigilance Commission quizzes DoT

The Central Vigilance Commission has asked the Department of Telecommunications to make a presentation on 28 January on contentious issues arising out of its spectrum-allocation policy, the key being allocation of spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz to existing operators leading to a financial loss to the government.

The CVC missive comes at a time when many service operators have raised the demand that spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz should be surrendered or operators should be made to pay for the additional spectrum.

Some of them have demanded that this additional spectrum should be given to the nine new operators who have recently been issued letters of intent for telecom licence.

According to sources close to the developments, the CVC has asked the DoT to explain the reasons for allocation of higher spectrum.

The DoT will also have to explain why it did not go in for "auctioning" or "imposition of additional entry fee" or "spectrum enhancement charges" from existing operators, while allocating additional spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz.

In addition, the DoT has been asked that even as the licensing norms specified that GSM operators should be given an initial tranche of 4.4 MHz, why it gave start-up spectrum of 6.2 MHz to some service operators.

The CVC has also asked the DoT why was spectrum for services raised from 6.2 MHz to 8 MHz when they reached a subscriber base of 500,000.

This, some have argued, could have resulted in higher spectrum allocation to some operators, given the varying geographical conditions and population density in various parts of the country.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Burundi - 6th mobile operator

Government licenses sixth mobile operator – HiTs Telecom

The government of Burundi has awarded a GSM mobile licence to Uganda-based, but Saudi owned, HiTs Telecom, reports citing local paper Burundi Realities. The company becomes the sixth venture licensed to offer mobile services in a country whose population totals less than seven million. The newcomer will join the existing cellcos Telecel Burundi, Africa Cellulaire (Africell), Econet Wireless (formerly Spacetel), Onatel and privately owned Lacell – the last named of which is yet to launch, having only been awarded its licence on 8 April 2007.

House of Integrated Technical Systems (HiTs) Telecom was established in Uganda in 2007. In Uganda it operates as a branch of the House of Integrated Technical Systems Limited which is registered in Al Ulayya, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. It was broadly welcomed in Uganda as it promised to shake up the market there. It is still unknown how much money HiTs intend to devote to the Burundian market, the paper said.

Kazakhstan - liberalisation

Telecommunications market requires further liberalization: PM

Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov has instructed the Kazakh Informatization and Communications Agency to carry out the telecommunications market’s liberalization and continue work on tariff reduction at the agency’s collegium today.

“In whole, a considerable step was done in 2007 in the sphere of informatization and communications. It is necessary to work out an issue on tariff formation”, Mr. Massimov emphasized.

During the collegium, the Kazakh PM paid specific attention to the development of the Kazakh internet network.

California - Broadband

Report urges more broadband in California's rural areas
See also the full report

A task force formed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recommended Thursday that the Internet highway be extended into California's heartland. The California Broadband Task Force, in its final report, urged that affordable high-speed Internet be made available to all residents, but noted that 1.4 million rural residents lack broadband access at any speed.

The 21-member group, appointed by Schwarzenegger more than a year ago, urged the state to build out its broadband high-speed infrastructure as a critical component to the state's economic future.

Dale Bonner, secretary of the California Business, Transportation & Housing Agency and co-chair of the task force, laid out seven recommendations that when implemented "will create jobs, improve public health and safety and expand educational opportunities."

The report urges public and private partnerships to streamline permitting, greater broadband research and innovation, leveraging educational opportunities to expand broadband use, creating statewide e-health and government networks, and offering tax incentives for expanding broadband networks.

The report found that 96 percent of California households have basic broadband access, among the highest rates in the nation. But the Golden State lags in serving rural residents. Nearly 2,000 communities are still unable to access high-speed Internet and only half of Californians have access to broadband at speeds greater than 10 Mbps, the report showed.

Dave Roberti, a rancher in Loyalton, a small rural community in Sierra County, said the report shows the "great technical divide" between urban and rural areas. He resorts to a satellite dish for his Internet connection.

"There is so much more telecommuting going on with people wanting to get out of the cities and go to the rural areas, and then they don't have the Internet access, at least the high-speed access," Roberti said. "You can get dial-up. Yes, I think there is a real need."

Governor Schwarzenegger, who has made infrastructure improvements of roads, levees and water projects a high priority, applauded the report.

"Expanding broadband access keeps California competitive in a global market and stimulates our economy through job growth," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

USA - Sprint Nextel poor results

Sprint Nextel Reports Fourth-Quarter Subscriber Results, Announces Actions to Streamline Operations

Sprint Nextel Corp. today reported wireless subscriber results for the fourth quarter of 2007, announced initial plans to streamline its business as part of an ongoing review of its operations and market approach, and provided an update on its annual assessment of the goodwill recorded on its financial statements.

For the fourth quarter Sprint Nextel reported a net gain of 500,000 subscribers through wholesale channels, growth of 256,000 Boost Unlimited users and net additions of 20,000 subscribers within affiliate channels. These gains were offset by net losses of 683,000 post-paid subscribers and 202,000 traditional pre-paid users.

In the fourth quarter, post-paid churn was 2.3 percent. Compared to the third quarter, improved voluntary churn in both the CDMA and iDEN customer bases was offset by higher involuntary churn. At the end of 2007, Sprint Nextel served a total subscriber base of 53.8 million subscribers including 40.8 million post-paid, 4.1 million traditional pre-paid, 500,000 Boost Unlimited, 7.7 million wholesale and 850,000 subscribers through affiliates.

Anticipating continued downward pressure on subscriber trends, revenues, and profitability in 2008, Sprint Nextel also announced initial plans to streamline the business in coming months. These plans call for job reductions across the company including approximately 4,000 internal positions and reduced utilization of outsourced services and contractors. The company also expects to eliminate more than 4,000 third-party distribution points and to close approximately 125, or 8 percent, of its company-owned retail locations. The company has approximately 20,000 total distribution points, including nearly 1,400 company-owned retail locations.

Sprint Nextel currently expects these actions to reduce its internal and external labor costs by an annualized rate of $700-$800 million by the end of 2008. The employee headcount reductions are expected to be completed in the first half of the year and will include management and non-management positions throughout the company. The company will offer a voluntary separation plan for its employees, and displaced employees will receive separation pay and outplacement and other services. The company expects to record a first-quarter charge for severance costs associated with the workforce reduction.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Turkey - acquisition by Indian firm

Dhanus Technologies buys Turkish telecom firm

In a mega acquisition by a domestic telecom giant, Chennai-based Dhanus Technologies has acquired Borusan Telekom, Turkey's first alternative telecom operator with A type (broad) licence. Dhanus Technologies provides global call cards and GPS tracking devices.

The Indian firm has reached an understanding with Borusan Holding for 100 per cent acquisition of Borusan Telekom, supporting its growth strategy for Europe, a company release here said.

Underlining the aggressive growth process of Dhanus Technologies in global markets, vice chairman S. Muthukrishan said: "Turkey has a strategic position for us between Asia, Europe and Africa".

"As we step into European markets, we have decided to start with Turkey. With a total of 34 point of presence (POP) stations, 32 within Turkey and two abroad, Borusan Telekom has one of the strongest alternative networks in Turkey."

Fiji - liberalisation

Prime Minister Bainimarama - Address at the signing of the Deed of Settlement between Fiji Govt, ATH, FINTEL, Vodafone and TFL


Thurs. 17th January, 2008 Tower 11 RBF Building
11.30 am

The Chairman Amalgamated Telecom Holdings;
The Directors and Management of FINTEL and Vodafone;
Representatives of FNPF;
Ministers of My Cabinet;
Government Officials;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka and a good morning to you all.

Yesterday was a momentous occasion. The National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) met formally for the first time. The NCBBF and the resultant People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress is a vision and now work in progress for building a better Fiji.

A Fiji in which all her citizens will, amongst other things, benefit from a robust and efficient economy, an economy which has a level playing field, an economy which reap benefits for all our citizens by way of access to competitive pricing, access to services and opportunities for sustainable employment.

It is, therefore, only fitting that today we are here to sign a settlement deed that paves the way for a liberalized telecommunications sector.

As demonstrated through other economies a liberalized or de-regulated telecommunications sector has a direct positive impact on GDP. It provides the trajectory to economic growth and increased employment opportunities.

It further through competition makes the industry more attuned to meeting the needs of the consumers.

My government was and is faced with the mammoth challenge of undoing years of bureaucracy, systems, inefficiencies, laws, blatantly wrong decisions and mind sets which are all impediments to making our economy more robust, efficient and investor friendly.

We however have the resolve to do so. We will do so, and today we have done so - in the telecommunications sector.

The signing of the settlement deed today and the issuance of the licences marks the move away from an exclusive environment to one that creates market competition.

It also heralds in new laws and rules which will provide certainty and transparency to all stake holders.

The liberalization will lead to greater net work coverage through out Fiji. Our aim is to ensure that our people in the rural areas and in the islands have access to services enjoyed by those in the towns and cities.

It will lead to competitive prices. We already are seeing the benefits through cheaper and packaged prices offered to our citizens.

It will also have an enormous impact on the cost of doing business. Companies will be able to enjoy the same competitive prices that their overseas counterparts have when making international phone calls.

In this respect we already have a number of overseas operators wanting to set up call centers and invest in the ICT sector. Government has in this year’s Budget provided extremely attractive
tax incentives to those wishing to invest in this sector.

Government will in the next few weeks issue two more mobile telephone licences through a process that has already commenced. It looks forward to the finalization of the bidding process and the subsequent competition and increased services in that sector.

To those opposed to liberalization. You must understand that this government will not engage in deregulation for the sake of it. But it will do so where appropriate and required. Liberalization makes your companies more competitive and forces you to rationalize costs and make your companies more efficient and productive. It will provide better return on shareholders funds. Protection will not necessarily make your companies healthier, or slicker, competition will. Competition will benefit the investor, the consumer and the economy of Fiji.

There are many people who have spent much time, energy, effort and good-will to bring this agreement to fruition. I wish to acknowledge all of them for their perseverance, dedication and commitment. To the management, shareholders and directors in FINTEL, Vodafone, TFL and ATH, you have now embarked on a path that will reap enormous benefits for you, your company and the economy - you are indeed pioneers in making a better Fiji.

Europe - dominant incumbents

Telecom giants keep stronghold on EU market

Former state-owned telecom operators occupy more than half of the EU fixed telecommunications markets whether for local, long-distance or international calls. However, prices have tended to decline, according to the latest data published by the Commission.

The latest data delivered by Eurostat for 2005 indicate that for local calls, the market share of the incumbent operators in the former EU 25 averages 72%. It has reached its peak in small countries, such as Cyprus and Slovenia, where the incumbents control 100% of the national markets. Meanwhile, Austria and Germany recorded the lowest shares for former state-owned operators, who manage 53% and 56% of the national phone calls respectively.

The same pattern emerges for long-distance calls, for which incumbent operators have 66% of the EU market share (the minimum, in Finland, is 45%). Moreover, former state-owned companies manage 56% of international calls (39% in Germany, again the minimum).

On the other hand, the dominance of incumbents does not prevent price decreases. In August 2006, the average charge for a 10-minute call on a weekday morning in the EU 25 was €0.36 for a local connection, €0.74 for a national connection and €1.79 for an international call to the USA (VAT included). The same calls in August 2004external had respectively an average cost of €0.4, €0.9 and €2.1.

In the mobile sector, incumbents' market shares are less remarkable, with an average of 39% registered in 2006 in the EU 25. Incumbents provide less than half of the subscriptions in the vast majority of member states. In the UK, they control 26% of the market, in Denmark 32% and in Poland 34%. On the other hand, in Cyprus, the former state-owned company controls 90% of the mobile market, and in Slovenia 71%.

Europe - Roaming review

Roaming Regulation: Commission welcomes first implementation benchmark report

The first benchmark report on international roaming has been published today by the European Regulators’ Group. This report confirms that implementation of the roaming regulation has generally gone smoothly with a high level of compliance in all EU Member States. The European Commission welcomes the findings of this report and urges national regulators to continue monitoring developments so that all European consumers benefit fully from lower roaming charges when making or receiving calls from abroad.

"Monitoring implementation of the roaming regulation is very important: The Commission will itself report on this to the European Parliament and the Council by the end of this year. This initial ERG report published today confirms the general trend towards lower roaming prices but it would be premature to draw firm conclusions at this stage,” said Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner. "However, on the basis of the figures in the report, I remain concerned about prices for SMS and data roaming services. We will watch developments very closely and respond appropriately by the end of 2008."

The ERG Report covers 6 months from April to September 2007 and includes data from 150 mobile providers in all Member States. Given that the Report's findings only run until shortly after the Roaming Regulation's full effects were felt, it is still too early to draw conclusions on the overall effects of the Regulation. However, the figures for that period already illustrate the positive impact of this regulation on average tariffs: prices for roaming calls made and received have both fallen in all EU Member States. The Commission welcomes the fact that operators have not tried to compensate for the effects of the Roaming Regulation by increasing prices for non-regulated roaming calls.

The Commission notes that operators have now broadly complied with the transparency obligations set out in the regulation. However, the Commission is concerned that customers are being charged on a per minute basis instead of for the actual time of the call. For example a customer may only use 20 seconds of a call but be charged for a full minute. At the retail level, the difference between billed and actual minutes appears to be typically around 20%. The Commission agrees with the ERG that it is important to understand the actual average charged to consumers and will consider this issue in its year-end report.

The ERG's Report also highlights that prices for SMS and data roaming services, which are currently not regulated, remain high with a very diverse pattern across Member States. The Commission will report at the end of this year on whether the charges for these services also need to be regulated.

UK - Broadband

We need vision for next-generation broadband, not complacency
Michael Cross in The Guardian.

What's depressing is the complacency. The sheer head-in-sand, not-invented-here, civilisation-ends-at-Folkestone complacency. I'm talking about Britain's broadband policy. And I confess that, until a few weeks ago, I was among the guilty ones.

Ofcom's Future Broadband consultation (, now closed) claims to propose "a policy approach to next-generation access". But what shines through 117 lacklustre pages is a complacent message that what we've done up to now has turned out pretty well, and with any luck should serve us through the next generation. As the parachutist who forgot his kit said, "So far, so good... so far, so good...".

But Ofcom opens the debate by explaining why our strategy, of leaving things to the commercial sense of operators of bundled services, will not see us through. The reason is that the copper network infrastructure has had its day. It's time to get seriously fibred.

As the document puts it: "Next-generation access will involve fundamental changes to the infrastructure of the underlying network ... this will involve the installation of new cables for at least part of the route between the customer and the service provider, which involves very high levels of investment." Ofcom's attitude is that this investment will happen in good time, as and when companies like BT find a commercial case.

Two problems. One is that the current economic environment is not conducive to "very high levels of investment", especially if betting on new products and services. The other that the UK's position in the world broadband league (which five years ago was reasonable, hence my own complacency) is slipping. In Japan, one-third of Japanese broadband networks are already optical fibre to the home. On visits to the Netherlands and Sweden I've seen entire towns where multi-megabit broadband, fixed and wireless, is as much part of the local infrastructure as sewerage is.

This is where Ofcom's complacency really grates. While observing that some countries may be ahead, it says: "We do not yet see evidence that the UK will be significantly disadvantaged economically or socially as a result."

OK, we do not yet see hard empirical evidence - mainly because it does not yet exist. But in three years, five years or 10 years, it will.

Consultation on the document has already closed, sadly, but several critics have got their cases in. One response worth reading is from Manchester city council's One Manchester project (, PDF). It condemns a "very cautious and risk-averse" approach which "does not exactly inspire confidence that we are able to aspire to be a global leader".

In particular, the Manchester team points to the threat to social cohesion if a gap opens between those who have broadband and those who do not. This should concern a government relying on broadband to the home to underpin new policies in education and healthcare.

No one sensible is suggesting that the taxpayer immediately start digging the trenches for a new national grid. But the state does have a role in encouraging innovation. We need vision, not risk-aversion and complacency.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mobile - searching

46 Million Mobile Data Users Used Mobile Search Functions in Q3 2007, According to Nielsen

According to the report, which surveyed more than 5,700 mobile search users who use at least one mobile data service, Nielsen also estimates that:

* The most popular form of mobile search among data users in Q3 2007 was 411 (18.1 million users), followed closely by SMS (text-message) -based searching, which was used by 14.1 million data users during the same period.
* While local listings were the leading search objective in terms of users, (27.1 million data users searched for local listings in Q3 2007), 14.8 million said they searched for information such as sports scores, news or weather, while nearly a quarter (11.3 million) said they searched for mobile content.

"As more mobile users turn to their phone for the answers they need, mobile search has quickly escalated as a critical part of the mobile media and advertising landscape," said Kanishka Agarwal, VP of Mobile Media for Nielsen Mobile. "Knowing how mobile searchers find information -- and what they're looking for -- will help us intelligently engage with consumers through mobile search."

Europe - Broadband

The state of play in high speed internet connectivity

Firstly, where are we today? After my visit to the USA last week, I am more than ever convinced that Europe is doing well on broadband availability and take-up. In July 2007, we had over 90 million connections in the EU25, 10 million up on January 2007. The average penetration rate of the 27 is at 18% and rising fast. Five European countries are world leaders (Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Belgium) ahead of even South Korea and Japan, while the USA has slipped back to 15th place.

It has to be recognised that the EU average is being brought down by the slower moving EU markets. More than 30 percentage points separate the leading and the last-placed Member States. The single most important factor explaining this gap is lack of effective competition on the market because access regulation has not been effectively implemented.

In December, in its latest Lisbon Strategy update, the European Commission laid down a challenge to all Member States to move ahead on broadband take-up, to achieve a 30% penetration rate by 2010 and to embrace this target in their National Lisbon Strategies this year.

To assist this process, by summer in the mid-term review of the i2010 strategy, I will publish a new indicator of broadband take-up in Europe that compares national performance, not only on broadband penetration but also geographic coverage, speed, competition and price.