Friday, February 29, 2008

FTTH Council Europe's First Ever Study Proves Positive Impact on Sustainable Development through FTTH Networks

The FTTH Council Europe announced the results of a research exercise evaluating the sustainability and environmental impact of fiber networks, which shows that the net environment impact of FTTH will be positive in less than 15 years.

First of its kind, the research was conducted in collaboration with Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) and the Council’s Sustainable Development and FTTH Committee (SUDEFIB).

Joeri Van Bogaert, president of the FTTH Council Europe, commented in a statement, “The results clearly demonstrate the overall service and environmental benefits of FTTH. The findings stand as testament that fiber is a sustainable and future-proof technology for the 21st century.”

He explained that the research compared the environmental impact of a typical FTTH network to its associated benefits and will provide the foundation for further research on the subject by the Council.

The study noted that maximizing the opportunity for new services whilst minimizing the materials and maintenance required, FTTH contributes to “reduction in road travel, less transport infrastructure, and the introduction of innovative social and government services.”

In the study, the total impact of network implementation takes into account the full lifecycle of a typical fiber infrastructure from production of passive equipment, transport, implementation of all active equipment and power consumption to end of life.

Christian Ollivry, chair of the SUDEFIB Committee, commented, “Beyond this 15 year timescale, which is quite conservative, the research shows that FTTH provides only positives for Europe.”

He pointed out the results are based on calculations from tele-working and tele-assistance applications only.

The research used the projection of FTTH users according to IDATE -- 20 million for 2015 -- and found that for the first 15 years of network implementation, greenhouse gas emission savings per user were found to be 330 kg, which is equivalent to a car traveling 2,000 kilometers.

The research findings suggest that moving forward, the sustainability of FTTH solutions is expected to increase significantly as user experience grows and other fields -- not assessed in this current study such as supply-chain management and energy demand -- are considered.

In addition, over the full network lifecycle, the use of the network -- power consumption -- represents only six percent of the total environmental impact, while the production and deployment of the equipment totals over 80 percent.

However, the research findings report that with continuing innovations taking place in the industry these processes are becoming “cheaper, quicker and less disruptive, henceforth reducing the environmental impact and further increasing the sustainability of fibre networks over time.”

IT Governance

Europe and US lead rise in IT governance efforts
see also the IT Governance Institute (ITGI)

More businesses across the globe are stepping up their IT governance efforts, with North America and Europe leading the way, according to a study.

The IT Governance Global Status Report 2008 claims that 34 percent of respondents are implementing IT governance practices, compared to 19 percent in 2005. Commissioned by the IT Governance Institute (ITGI) and conducted every two years, the study surveyed about 750 C-level executives from 23 countries between July and October last year.

The survey also determined that 24 percent of companies are considering plans to introduce IT governance practices, compared to 22 percent in 2005 and 18 percent in 2003. In addition, only 20 percent said their organisations were not considering implementing such practices, compared to 36 percent in 2005 and 42 percent in 2003.

By region, North America and Europe have the highest adoption of IT governance initiatives globally, with 50 percent of respondents from each of these two regions indicating that they have already implemented, or are in the process of implementing, such processes and practices. Forty-four percent of executives from Asia and 27 percent of South American respondents reported similar plans.

"The bottom line is that many organisations around the world are needlessly sacrificing money, productivity and competitive advantage by not implementing effective IT governance," said Lynn Lawton, international president of ITGI. "Well-governed enterprises have been shown to provide better returns to stakeholders, and the same goes for governance over information technology."

"Executives need to direct their IT for optimal advantage, manage IT-related risks and measure the value provided by IT," Lawton added.

The survey also found that the IT Infrastructure Library (Itil), with the ISO 20000 standard, is used by 24 percent of organisations polled and is the preferred framework associated with IT governance. The ISO 20000 covers the IT service management aspects under Itil.

The ITGI-developed "Control objectives for information and related technology" (Cobit) framework, on the other hand, has doubled its user base. In addition, over 50 percent of respondents indicated they were aware of the framework, compared to 27 percent two years ago.

With regards to leading IT governance projects, the chief information officer was identified as the ideal champion by the majority of respondents (40 percent). Some 25 percent said the chief executive should be in charge, while the next most frequently cited roles for heading IT governance were the chief financial officer and IT manager.

Compared to the 2005 survey, more respondents were able to identify organisations which can help their companies implement IT governance. Large IT services providers or consultancy companies were the most frequently cited, followed by audit firms and smaller, niche IT players.

Mobile - advertising revenues

Mobile ads: Will the carriers be left out?

As mobile advertising gears up, one of the basic components of the ad network is still missing: the carrier. Though mobile operators hold a wealth of information on their customers, it’s still sitting dormant in the customer relations management and back office systems. The first mobile ad platforms have begun to launch without access to those databases, potentially leaving operators out to dry in what may be one of the most lucrative opportunities in wireless.

At the Mobile World Congress, Nokia launched its mobile ad network, based on the assets it acquired with its purchase of Enpocket in October. The network comprised 70 different publishers, including Nokia’s own mobile portal properties as well as worldwide publishers such as Hearst, Reuters and the Discovery Network. It included advertisers like Paramount and BMW, and even included a service provider, Sprint. But one thing the network does not do is incorporate the user data of the carriers whose networks these ads will run over, said Mike Baker, former CEO of Enpocket and current head of Nokia Interactive’s new ad business.

The interfaces between carrier customer data and ad networks haven’t yet been developed and it could take years before an open link between their arcane back office systems and ad platforms emerges, Baker said. In the interim, mobile adverting networks are going forward without them, compiling their own user databases, Baker said. Publishers and advertisers can’t afford to wait. Even in its infancy mobile ads are a $1 billion a year business, Baker said.

“We’re taking a pragmatic approach,” Baker said. “It will take 3 years for that subscriber data to filter back to our network, so on our own network we’re surveying the end customers and building our own databases.”

The irony of the situation, though, is that the more customer information that the ad networks collect, the less need they’ll have the carrier data when it is finally available. Through surveys and tracking customer behavior on mobile portals and sites, the ad networks can compile much of that information. When the carriers are ready to contribute, ad networks could already have the necessary data to target ads most effectively.

Still, operators stores of information are vast and our constantly updated. That information can also be applied across the spectrum of the mobile Internet, not just on a site where a user has a history. But it’s still a matter of debate how valuable that information is, no matter how granular, Baker said.

“Even if I had all of these data fields on Mike Baker, how do I use that data for mobile advertising?” Baker said. “Maybe it’s more relevant to know what I click on than the fact I’m 44 years old.”

IBM telecom group general manager Michael Hill doesn’t agree with Baker that carrier customer data is overrated, but he does agree that operators need to be much faster at integrating it with ad networks. IBM along with several other software companies is trying to find ways of aggregating that data presenting it in a useful way to advertising platforms.

“They have fabulous data,” Hill said of the operators. “The problem is it’s so scattered. The first thing we need to do is put that data in a usable format.” Data the carrier can track and centralize will have enormous relevance to advertisers, going far beyond just basic demographic info. The customer’s pinpointed location, via GPS or cellular triangulation, can be used to tailor ads. Presence data such as whether a user is at home, at work, available to chat or offline would also help networks target ads.

Content providers and ad networks are already compiling some of that data, though. Google applications such as Maps already access location data natively from their onboard applications. It’s not too far a stretch to imagine Google using that data to target text ads. IM applications on the device could similarly leverage presence data for on board display ads. The problem with those scenarios is information exists in a vacuum. Only the operator can aggregate the data, combine it with information from other applications and its own customer databases and then mine it to produce a comprehensive profile used for the highly accurate targeting mobile advertising promises, Hill said. For carriers there’s a definite urgency in installing the systems that can aggregate that data, Hill said, but it’s no simple task.

“An operator could take in a continuous stream of X and Y coordinates from millions users, but what the hell do they do with that data?” Hill said. “You need to be able to put that data to some use, and you need to be able to sort through it to determine what’s relevant.”

How carriers use that location and presence information is still a matter of some debate. While serving up an ad when a user requests specific information from a Web or maps search may not raise any red flags, using such personal information as whom a customer calls and his or her exact location could raise privacy hackles. Many companies that now use location-based data are restricting what information they collect and store from customers, and plans to use aggregated data are being launched entirely under opt-in situations.

Ultimately, it could be those opt-in scenarios that tie the operator and ad networks closely together. Though ad platforms may not be dependent on carrier data, they are dependent on the carrier networks to deliver services and ads, and the cost of wireless data connections is one of single biggest barriers to bringing more people to mobile Internet services. A relationship between the advertiser and operator would not only supply the advertiser with more granular information about the customer but also a means for the carrier to subsidize mobile data services to the customer. The better the information, the higher the cost per thousand of any given ad, meaning more revenue to be split between the publisher and the operator. The more revenue the operator receives the more it can discount the price of its data connections, which in turn would bring more users to the network and more eyeballs to the ads.

The goal is to bring that symbiotic relationship to the point where all wireless data services are free to the end user, funded entirely by ad revenues, said Hal Steger, vice president of marketing for Funambol. Funambol is in the e-mail business, which it offers as a white-label service to carriers subsidized by ad revenue.

“Our customers have found they can make almost as much money for free as they can offering it for a few dollars a month,” Steger said.

Better treated in Belarus than in Brussels

Telecoms firms treated better in Belarus than Brussels: mobile operator

Mobile phone companies are treated better in Belarus than in the European Union, the head of Telekom Austria said in an interview published Friday.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Boris Nemsic criticised EU plans to implement regulation if mobile phone companies do not cut their roaming charges for text messages and Internet use by July.

"We have been much better treated in Belarus than in Brussels," he told the business daily, after his company bought a 70 percent stake in a Belarus mobile phone operator.

"That's not a political statement. That's a business statement."

EU communications commissioner Viviane Reding told mobile phone company chiefs at the industry's annual trade show in Barcelona earlier this month that they would not be allowed to "rip off" EU citizens who travel in the 27-member bloc.

The EU has already regulated the roaming cost of phone calls within the region.

"The European Commission says it's one market. But it's done nothing to make it one market. They're simply taking the low-hanging fruit in populist ways ... The framework isn't there but the Commission is regulating retail prices," Nemsic told the FT, urging them instead to create a framework for the future.

"The liberalisation of telecommunications (in Europe) was successful. Competition was established and it works. But you can't make more competition by regulating prices. If we get the same prices (because of regulation) there will be no competition."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Telecommunications operators losing out

McNealy: Telcos falling behind in Internet race

Telecommunication companies need to go beyond just providing bandwidth and look into acquiring Internet destination sites.

Telecommunication companies need to go beyond just providing bandwidth and look into acquiring Internet destination sites that are heavily trafficked, Sun Microsystems Chairman Scott McNealy said on Friday.

"I have explained to every telco that either you become a destination site, or the destination site will become a telco," McNealy said at a news conference at Sun Microsystems' Worldwide Education and Research Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Internet destination sites are already gaining on telecommunication companies, McNealy said, giving as examples eBay integrating Skype's VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) technology and Google trying to buy wireless spectrum and help build cables across the Pacific Ocean. Microsoft's attempted acquisition of Yahoo would create another behemoth that could compete with carriers, such as by combining Microsoft's technology with Yahoo's existing VoIP and messaging services.

"I think the telcos have to make sure they don't get marginalized to being just bit providers and bandwidth providers," he said. On the other hand, carriers may be able to head off Internet sites by limiting the bandwidth available to them, so destination sites may need to affiliate with the carriers, he added.

While the future relationship between telecommunication providers and destination sites is unclear, both are looking at the Internet space to reach more users and generate advertising revenue, McNealy said. "There will be some very interesting challenges of who owns the subscriber and who owns the financial and advertising rights to those individuals."

"Stay tuned, the landscape's going to change enormously here in the next 10 years," McNealy said.

While a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo would have an impact on the Internet and telecommunications industry, one thing it wouldn't affect is the open-source community, McNealy said.

"I'm not sure Yahoo is a great driver on open-source technology. Certainly Microsoft hasn't been on the leading edge of that, so I'm not sure that will impact open source," he said.

During a speech earlier in the day, McNealy slammed the U.S. government for not being interested in adopting open-source software. McNealy said the farther he goes from Washington, the more governments get interested in open source.

Sun on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with China's Ministry of Education to give university students access to a set of open-source chip designs called OpenSparc. The OpenSparc designs are based on the company's UltraSparc server chips. Sun will provide the designs to universities including Peking University, Tsinghua University and Zhejiang University so those schools can develop teaching materials.

Sun is already incorporating OpenSparc in the curricula of U.S. universities including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Texas. Sun's efforts to promote open-source technology are succeeding, McNealy said, claiming there have been 50 million downloads of Sun's open-source Java Runtime Environment per month, McNealy said.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Europe - Fibre

FTTH situation in Europe
see also report

At end 2007 the “magic” barrier of 1 million FTTH/B subscribers has been passed in Europe and we reached nearly 5 million Homes Passed. Nevertheless FTTH is still concentrated to only a few countries as Europe remains far behind leaders such as Japan and the US.

As in previous years, IDATE has been commissioned by the FTTH Council Europe to give an overview of the FTTH deployments in Europe at end 2007. To date, IDATE has identified 201 FTTH/B projects in Europe of which 88 are new initiatives since June 2005.

UK - 3G coverage enforcement

Ofcom proposes action against O2 to meet 3G rollout obligation

Ofcom today issued O2 with a deadline for meeting its 3G rollout obligation and what steps it proposes to take should the mobile phone operator still not be in compliance.

The obligation requires each of the five holders of a 3G licence to rollout their networks to enable the provision of 3G services to at least 80 per cent of the population from 31 December 2007.

Ofcom has now completed its assessment of compliance with the obligation. Four of the five licensees have complied, but O2 only covered 75.69 percent of the population. This is a shortfall equivalent to approximately 2.5 million people.

Ofcom has now issued O2 with a notice under the procedure in the Wireless Telegraphy Act for licence breaches. This proposes that if O2 has not met the rollout obligation by the end of June 2008, Ofcom will shorten the term of its 3G licence by four months.

India - additional licences

Raja to issue 120 telecom licences

Amid allegations of ad hoc and irregular spectrum allocation, the telecom ministry cleared the decks for 120 LoIs (Letter of Intent) holders to sign licences.

According to DoT sources, telecom minister A Raja has signed these files and returned them to Sanchar Bhawan despite court cases challenging the government’s decision to allocate spectrum on a first-come-first-served system based on date of payment.

Idea Cellular and Spice have filed cases against the DoT in the TDSAT. The next hearing is due on March 12.

With this, Raja is set to make history, though for all the wrong reasons, as no other country has ever issued so many licences to as many companies with so little spectrum in an environment of complete ad hocism and lack of transparency.

S Tel, Allianze Infratech and Parvsnath have also challenged the recent decisions of government in Delhi High Court regarding grant of LoIs. These cases are listed for hearing this month and the matter is presently subjudice.

In fact, in the Parvsnath matter, the court has directed that the signing of UAS licences in respect to the applications received after the applications of Parvsnath will be subject to the orders of the court. This creates serious uncertainty for companies such as Datacomm, Loop Telecom (BPL), Unitech and Shyam Telelink all of whom applied after Parsvnath filed its application on August 27, 2007.

Undeterred by court cases and multiple warnings by the industry, the telecom ministry is now planning to proceed with signing of licences by making use of the fact that the UAS licence agreements will be subject to the outcome of various court cases.

This shifts enormous risk on the shoulders of new applicants who will have licences on paper but will lack legal clarity before proceeding with either its implementation or a likely M&A. Investors engaging these new entrants will also be on tenterhooks.

The telecom sector has been in turmoil for last eight months on the manner and lack of rigor through which spectrum worth Rs 6,000 Rs 8,000 crore is being given away at a mere Rs 1,651 crore to several new entrants based on controversial 2001 pricing.

It is likely that unless DoT can allocate sufficient spectrum for each of the applicants in all circles, several existing operators will now insist on a court stay on spectrum allocation.

TDSAT has so far held off granting a stay on the matter by citing that government was neither ready with spectrum nor had it decided on criteria. With this latest move and the possibility that licences will be signed within 48 hours, the crisis looks bigger.

Europe - Microsoft fine

Antitrust: Commission imposes € 899 million penalty on Microsoft for non-compliance with March 2004 Decision

The European Commission has imposed a penalty payment of € 899 million on Microsoft for non-compliance with its obligations under the Commission’s March 2004 Decision prior to 22 October 2007. Today’s Decision, adopted under Article 24(2) of Regulation 1/2003, finds that, prior to 22 October 2007, Microsoft had charged unreasonable prices for access to interface documentation for work group servers. The 2004 Decision, which was upheld by the Court of First Instance in September 2007, found that Microsoft had abused its dominant position under Article 82 of the EC Treaty, and required Microsoft to disclose interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers at a reasonable price.

“Microsoft was the first company in fifty years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision", said European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. "I hope that today's Decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft's record of non-compliance with the Commission’s March 2004 Decision and that the principles confirmed by the Court of First Instance ruling of September 2007 will govern Microsoft's future conduct".

The Commission’s Decision of March 2004 requires Microsoft to disclose complete and accurate interoperability information to developers of work group server operating systems on reasonable terms.

Initially, Microsoft had demanded a royalty rate of 3.87% of a licensee's product revenues for a patent licence (the "patent licence") and of 2.98% for a licence giving access to the secret interoperability information (the "information licence"). In a statement of objections of 1 March 2007, the Commission set out its concerns regarding Microsoft's unreasonable pricing. On 21 May 2007, Microsoft reduced its royalty rates to 0.7% for a patent licence and 0.5% for an information licence, as regards sales within the EEA, while leaving the worldwide rates unchanged.

Only as from 22 October 2007 did Microsoft provide a licence giving access to the interoperability information for a flat fee of €10 000 and an optional worldwide patent licence for a reduced royalty of 0.4 % of licensees’ product revenues.

Today’s Decision concludes that the royalties that Microsoft charged for the information licence – i.e. access to the interoperability information - prior to 22 October 2007 were unreasonable. Microsoft therefore failed to comply with the March 2004 Decision for three years, thereby continuing the behaviour confirmed as illegal by the Court of First Instance. Today's Decision concerns a period of non-compliance not covered by the penalty payment decision of 12 July 2006 starting on 21 June 2006 and ending on 21 October 2007. The Decision does not cover the royalties for a distinct patent licence.

The Commission has based its conclusions as to the unreasonableness of Microsoft's royalties prior to 22 October 2007 on the lack of innovation in a very large proportion of the unpatented interoperability information and a comparison with the pricing of similar interoperability technology.

San Francisco - Municipal Wireless network

Covad Tries Its Hand At Silicon Valley Mesh Network

Starting with the city of San Carlos, the company hopes to revive interest in the floundering Wireless Silicon Valley project.

After months of losing momentum, the effort to build a wireless network that covers Silicon Valley received a boost Tuesday when Covad Communications reported it will deploy a wireless broadband test network in San Carlos.

Covad said it will utilize equipment from Cisco Systems (NSDQ: CSCO) to create a mesh network as part of the Wireless Silicon Valley strategy to judge performance and user experience of a wireless network. Much of the early work on the "Concept City" phase of the ambitious effort to cover Silicon Valley will be centered on San Carlos. In addition, Palo Alto has been selected as a potential early adopter of wireless services.

Covad said it plans to install wireless broadband mesh technology over its existing fixed broadband wireless service in the test. "The Wireless Silicon Valley strategy aligns well with our goal to expand wireless broadband service in Silicon Valley," said David McMorrow, Covad Wireless general manager, in a statement.

Noting that Covad already offers fixed WiMax, pre-WiMax and LMDS wireless networks in Silicon Valley, the company indicated it will be a relatively easy matter to deploy additional wireless services in the area; San Carlos, for instance, already uses Covad wireless products and the municipality's experience with Covad gear provides a point of reference for additional wireless deployments in Silicon Valley.

According to Covad, the test will likely help in evaluating use of the network by small office and home office users, as well as by municipal and other vertical market segments. Mobile users also will be able to use test results to evaluate potential use of the wireless network.

"Covad Wireless has developed a service delivery model that utilizes different wireless technologies," McMorrow said. "By using the advantages of each technology within the test network, we plan to leverage incremental value, achieve lower costs, and ensure higher customer satisfaction."

Scores of companies signed on in 2006 to participate in the build out of Wireless Silicon Valley. Several companies have dropped out of the project. Covad said it will consider expanding the mesh service to other Silicon Valley locations after the test is completed.

West Africa - reforms

Ecowas to Develop Framework for Telecom Services

Stakeholders in the West African telecommunications sector are to evolve a framework for ensuring the region-wide implementation of the six Supplementary Acts to improve telecommunications services in West Africa during a workshop, which opened in Lome, yesterday. The Acts were approved by Heads of State and Governments during their rescheduled 2006 Summit held in January 2007 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

It aims at improving the competitiveness of the telecommunications market, promote greater regulation of the market and attract more investment into the sector. It will also ensure the harmonious development of the sector and promote greater access in order to bridge the digital gap in the region and place it on the information superhighway.

The three-day workshop, which would be attended by telecommunications regulators, officials of relevant ministries and parliamentarians from member states, will agree on a mechanism for overcoming the anticipated constraints against the integration and domestication of the Acts in Member States as a follow-up to the plan of action developed by the states after its adoption by the summit.

A joint project of the commissions of ECOWAS, the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) and the government of Togo, it will provide an opportunity for each country to present the status of implementation of the texts, the constraints and obstacles encountered and the technical and financial assistance required from the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions for implementation.

This process will enable Member States avoid the lengthy transposition process associated with Community texts to ensure expeditious implementation.

The Acts envisage the interconnection of networks and services, the establishment of a legal regime for operators, the management of numbering plans, the spectrum management and the provision of universal access and services.

France - UMTS on 900 MHz band

With the reuse of 900 MHz frequencies, 3G will cover almost the entire population

The new generation of mobile networks is going to considerably speed up the development and the ubiquity of the mobile Internet and its innovative services, by offering consumers a mobile access at speeds of several hundred kbit/s. ARCEP considers it essential that as many users as possible have access to mobile third generation services (3G). Access for all French residents to 3G is an important stake in regional development.

Therefore, in accordance with their request, ARCEP is today modifying Orange France and SFR’s authorisations in order to allow them to deploy UMTS technology in Metropolitan France in the 900 MHz band, which is currently used for GSM.

ARCEP proposed also to Bouygues Telecom to reuse the 900 MHz band for 3G. The operator responded that it would deploy UMTS in the 900 MHz band by the end of 2009 and that it would request the modification of its authorisation when it is necessary.

ARCEP is implementing the directions it adopted on 5 July 2007 for the reuse of the 900 and 1800 MHz bands for 3G. These directions planned that 2G-3G operators wishing to do so would be allowed to reuse the 900 MHz band for 3G in 2008, and that a 3G new entrant authorised in the 2.1 GHz band would be given access to a UMTS channel in the 900 MHz band.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

USA - broadband in minority communities

Study Finds Broadband Access Key to Empowerment of Minority Communities
See also Alliance for Digital Equality

/PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Today, the Alliance for Digital Equality announced findings from its new study, Affordable Broadband: Empowering Communities Across the Digital Divide, which examines how broadband has expanded access to education, health care and civic involvement in minority communities. Additionally, the Alliance launched the Houston Digital Empowerment Council (DEC) to study the impact of broadband on the local community. The Houston DEC is part of the Alliance's nationwide initiative that advocates for increased broadband access especially in urban and underserved communities.

"The so-called digital revolution is completely transforming the nation's economic, social, political and cultural landscapes," said Julius Hollis, chairman of the Alliance for Digital Equality. "It is the goal of the Alliance to become the voice of underserved communities and to ensure that broadband remains affordable so that the newest online users have continued access and that the last ones on aren't the first ones off."

"With broadband connections, children, students and businesses in our local communities will be better equipped to meet the demands of rapidly changing environments and capitalize on new opportunities," said Willard Jackson, MetroplexCore CEO and local DEC chair. "The Houston Digital Empowerment Council will bring together an expert group of community leaders dedicated to working for digital empowerment for all citizens."

Broadband internet access helps create wealth and opportunity for communities that are wired. The study found that while there remains a substantial gap in broadband use of the wealthiest Americans and the poorest, a drop in price has allowed for a greater number of minorities to join the broadband revolution. Among households with annual incomes of less that $30,000 per year, the number of high-speed internet connections has doubled from 15 percent to 30 percent in the past two years.

"As the cost of broadband access has declined, the percentage of Americans signing up for broadband has increased," said study author Dr. Jabari Simama. "We must work to ensure that broadband remains affordable if we want to see this trend continue."

As part of its mission of "empowering communities across the digital divide," in 2008, The Alliance will bring together elected officials, consumers and the business community to educate minority communities about the importance, as well as benefits of broadband usage across the United States for all people regardless of their race, ethnicity or income.

Saudi Arabia - increased fixed line competition

Cabinet OKs 3 Phone Companies

JEDDAH, 26 February 2008 — The Council of Ministers yesterday licensed three new companies to provide land-line telephone services in the Kingdom, ending the Saudi Telecom Company’s monopoly in the sector.

The new firms will sell 25 percent of their shares in initial public offerings and offer 10 percent to two state-owned funds.

The three companies were licensed earlier by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) in March 2007 and were awaiting a final Cabinet approval.

Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani said yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, named the three licensed firms as Optical Communications Company (Verizon), Al-Mutakamilah (PCCW-Hong Kong) Telecom Company and Atheeb (Batelco) Telecom Company.

Madani said the new joint stock companies are licensed to establish and operate land-line services across the Kingdom. “The three companies will sell 25 percent of their shares in initial public offerings within 30 days after their establishment,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the minister as saying.

The state-owned Pension Fund and the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) will each have a 5 percent stake in the three companies, the Cabinet said. “If the two organizations do not desire to have a share in the firms, the 10 percent would be either sold to the public or subscribed by the founders,” it added.

The arrival of the three new service providers augurs well for the national telecom and IT plan that aims to provide land-line services to 25 percent of the population, mobile phone services to 80 percent of the population and promote personal computers and the Internet among 30 percent of the population.

“The plan also envisages including computer and Internet studies in both general and university education, providing all schools with Internet access, setting up websites for individual schools and other educational institutions, and having a gateway for each level of education,” said Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology Muhammad Jameel Mulla.

Batelco-Atheeb plans to invest $1 billion in its fixed-line operation in the first five years of business.

It also intends to roll out broadband Internet, and voice and data services using WiMAX technology.

Among the three, only Al-Mutakamilah and Batelco-Atheeb have applied for radio spectrum technology.

CITC’s board of directors, chaired by Mulla, selected the three companies from a consortia of 10 that were vying for the much-sought-after licenses. Bids by Etihad Etisalat that operates the Kingdom’s second mobile-phone service, South Korea’s KT Corp. and China Telecom were among those that failed to qualify.

Madani added that the Cabinet meeting took a number of other important decisions: It approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Korea in higher education; and endorsed accords with Italy and South Africa on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of tax evasion.

It also instructed the concerned agencies to quickly complete the five seaport projects, including those in the Eastern Province, Tabuk and Jizan.

Fiji - third mobile licence

Third telecom license possible - Ricketts

After the announcement of the second provider of the cellular telephone mobile today the Minister for Communication Mr Tom Ricketts said there is a possibility of the issuance of another license.

Digicel Fiji Limited has now become the second licensed public cellular mobile telephone system (PCMTS) operator in Fiji in competition with Vodafone Fiji Limited.

“Apparently, this has left available a possible third PCMTS license pursuance of a third entrant into the cellular mobile market,” Mr Ricketts said.

However, he added that the decision on this will be left to the Telecommunication Authority of Fiji (TAF) Board.

Fiji - End of monopoly

Digicel has mobile licence

DIGICEL Fiji Limited is the second licensed mobile operator in Fiji, in direct competition with Vodafone Fiji Limited.

The Caribbean-based Digicel was yesterday awarded a licence to operate in Fiji.

Three other companies that bid for a licence Pacific Spectrum Holdings Limited, Telecom Pacific Limited and Unwired were unsuccessful.

Interim Commerce Minister Tom Ricketts said there was only one successful bid because the other three bidders did not meet all the requirements.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mr Ricketts said Digicel would be issued a licence once it paid its bid offer of $US10.25million ($F15.4m).

Digicel Fiji business development manager Thomas Underwood said they were "excited" at having won the bid.

He said a full statement would be released later.

Mr Ricketts said the outcome had left open a possible third public cellular mobile telephone system licence.

He said the entry of any third player in the cellular mobile market "will be left to the Telecommunication Authority of Fiji when they choose to do so".

He said the TAF would be formed in the upcoming weeks.

Digicel will have to wait until October before entering the commercial market as agreed in a deal to de-regulate the market.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Venture capital - portals

The next beachfront property

Like sand on the beach, profitability in telecommunications is shifting from the subscription-based cableco/telco world of pipes to the advertising-based Internet world of portals, and the “beachfront property” in these sectors is all in play.

This new view revolves around developed versus developing properties. Developed properties, though exciting and attractive, inevitably need consolidation, renovation or even more drastic measures. Developing properties, once desolate expanses of figurative sun and sand, are now the most bid-upon assets around. Neither is immune to change.

Consider the following:

* Renovation. Think of established companies in the industry as well-known properties on the beach at Waikiki. To be competitive with encroaching upstarts, they’re focused on renovation of existing brands. Incumbent players, legacy businesses and private equity firms are reordering the landscape through such deals as the AT&T mergers and Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of Dow Jones & Co.
* Reinvention. Envision Saint-Tropez, where successful, established companies are reinventing their landmark assets to reshape current business models: Apple and the iPhone, eBay and Skype.
* Invasion. Move down the strip to Miami’s South Beach, where companies are shaking things up as they look for new ways to grow and pre-empt aggressive interlopers. Google’s purchase of YouTube is a prime example. Telcos are moving into Internet television, wireless firms are in video and the cablecos are going wireless.
* Invention. Finally and figuratively, look to Dubai, where inventive players create spaces on the virtual beach. Sprint Nextel is betting on WiMAX, while Google and other nontraditional wireless operators are bidding for new FCC spectrum.

What’s driving these shifts? Three forces: portalization, stickiness and convergence.

The telecom industry — initially built on proprietary, closed pipes — is now in the portal business. AOL, Google, and Microsoft are mere clicks away from being telcos. They already control number ID and bearer information to enable click-to-call and dial-around while they cherry-pick various telecom applications. Telcos themselves want to portalize, but they lack the skills and ability to aggregate content like a Yahoo!

The definition of stickiness has also changed: from friends and family calling plans in the 1980s and walled gardens in the 1990s to social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, where eyeballs are glued for hours. These portals combine and update content from one place, giving them the inherent advantage of stickiness. With the increasing attractiveness of mobile devices (the iPhone, for example) and one-stop access to video, Internet and telephone, the sticky portal gets stickier.

All these roads lead to convergence. It’s the Holy Grail — the next step up in technology and the ultimate offering. It’s the quad play of seamless convergence of voice, video, Internet and wireless, and it’s driving the gathering storm closer to the shore. True IP-based session management across all modes is now a reality.

Whose sand castles will remain and whose will be washed away? That’s the big question as Wall Street continues to fund Waikiki-style renovation and privatization of big iron pipes, telcos, cablecos, system integrators and others, while venture capitalists continue to mine the world for the next Dubai-style market invention. Google will become a virtual, global wireless services player, while Apple moves into home portals. Cisco Systems will design and market its own handsets, while Rupert Murdoch owns 80% of the world’s eyeballs. AOL, EDS, Motorola, Nortel Networks, Sprint and Yahoo! will cease to exist as independent companies.

Anything can happen where the surf and sand meet. At the beachfront, you always have to stay ahead of the next wave.

Alex Liu is vice president of A.T. Kearney’s wireline practice.

South Africa - Vodacom goes fixed


The Vodacom Group today announced a capital investment of R2.5 billion over the next five years that will reposition the company from being a mobile centric network operator to a leading provider of converged information and communication solutions.

"We are standing on the brink of a significant change in the way corporate South Africa communicates and in this environment Vodacom plans to be a next generation network service provider delivering on mobile and fixed voice, video and data requirements of all businesses," said group CEO Alan Knott-Craig. "In a playing field that has quickly become crowded, we will differentiate ourselves with the services that are provided on top of the network infrastructure layer," he said.

Vodacom has established a new division called Vodacom Business to provide end-to-end converged solutions and services for the corporate and SME markets.

"In a maturing South African market where cellphone SIM card penetration is already over 90%, our future lies in expanding our business horizontally. We believe that substantial changes will take place in the telecommunications world this year, with the main drivers being within the regulatory and competitive environments," Knott-Craig said.

He added that Vodacom plans to remain the cellular market leader, but aims to leverage off these changes and developments in order to lead with an aggressive converged solutions strategy in the market place. "Secondly, the demand for broadband is growing exponentially whilst being stifled by the country's limited transmission capacity. Vodacom has now started the process to build our own transmission capacity for the Vodacom network as well as for our corporate customers," Knott-Craig said.

He added that the information communication technology (ICT) landscape has been developing rapidly over the last 18 months. "Vodacom Business has been positioned to offer centralised network architecture combined in a hosted environment to offer a full range of converged communication solutions by the second quarter of 2008. The resulting economies of scale will generate significant cost savings for customers, as well as improvements in network efficiencies, security, back-up of data and applications, and power redundancy."

Vodacom is building a fibre optic network and the first ring will be completed in Gauteng by April. The network is being built with links to many of South Africa's top blue-chip companies, who have already indicated a commitment to infrastructure and service contracts with Vodacom Business.

The slow but steady liberalization in the ICT industry as well as the introduction of new licensed operators has set the stage for fixed and mobile network operators to compete directly with ICT vendors, Value Added Network Service Providers (VANs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

With the changes in the Electronic Communications Act, the number of players providing information communication infrastructure has grown. Vodacom Business will differentiate itself at the service end of this new and developing playing field with four main towers of services to market.

* Access Services will build state-of-the art access networks to provide last-mile connectivity and broadband access with service level agreements to ensure optimum uptime and availability.
* Hosted Services will give customers the ability to outsource functions such as hosting, application services, storage and security functions allowing companies to take advantage of the scale and diversity of a large infrastructure and focus their attention on their core business.
* Managed Network Services will provide high-quality first-tier Internet and managed network services to businesses. This includes a range of Internet access mediums, virtual private network (VPN) solutions and a next-generation network that will provide a wide variety of simultaneous voice, video and data communication options.
* Converged Application Services streamlines the access and management of mobile applications and their various service providers into a seamless service that is globally operational, supporting a full range of communication devices, from cellphones to laptops to PDA's.

Bahrain - privatisation

Telecom revolution!

The government yesterday announced a plan to revolutionise the telecommunications industry in Bahrain by selling off its majority holding in Batelco.

A statement said the government undertakes to dispose of the majority, if not all of its shares, within Batelco over the next three years.

"This will enable Batelco to operate with full independence from the government and to be free to make wholly-commercial decisions.

"The government will continue to treat Batelco equally to any other licensed operator. Government ownership in Batelco is, and will continue to be managed by a body clearly separated from policy and regulatory decisions and entrusted only with the financial management of its investment."

The sale is part of the government's second national telecommunications plan, which was announced yesterday.

The government currently holds 36.7 per cent of the shares in the telecom firm through its holding company Mumtalakat. A further 20pc is held by its investment vehicle Amber, while 10pc is held by the General Organisation for Social Insurance.

The company is currently valued at about BD1.2 billion ($3.2bn) on its traded share price but it is likely any buyer of the government stake would be prepared to pay more than that.

The sale is expected to attract interest from regional operators with the UAE's Etisalat, Qatar's Qtel and Saudi Telecom - all possible bidders for the shares.

Orange and BT are also companies that could be interested in the firm, according to an industry expert.

"One of the most significant factors that will encourage investment by international companies in Bahrain and the growth of the telecommunications industry in general is a stable and reliable regulatory environment, matching the market and technological developments," the government statement said.

It also said that during the three-year plan it would look at the scope and powers of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) to see if they needed to be adjusted.

"Because of the necessity to adopt policy, regulatory and institutional framework to the changing technological environment and market development, the government will review the telecommunication law during the period of this current plan."

"We welcome this plan," said TRA director general Alan Horne.

"This gives firm direction in supporting the TRA take the necessary steps to create a healthy competitive environment to benefit the consumer."

Vietnam - investment

Vietnam to Invest $1B on Broadband

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam's largest telecommunications company plans to invest US$1 billion (euro670 million) to upgrade the country's broadband Internet network and keep pace with economic growth.

Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group will expand and improve the network over the next two years, said Bui Quoc Viet, spokesman for the state-owned firm.

The improved network will provide faster connections for Vietnam's nearly 19 million Internet users, he said. Roughly one-fifth of the country's 85 million people use the Internet.

"Vietnam is developing very quickly, and the number of Internet users is rising," Viet said. "We have to build a better Internet infrastructure."

The Vietnamese government wants to expand the country's broadband network into previously unserved regions of the country and link public high schools and government offices to the network.

Europe - Google IP addresses not private

EU Decision on IP Addresses Could Hurt Search Engines

Google is telling European regulators that IP addresses are not personal information. A decision by the EU that IP addresses fall under privacy rules could force changes in how search engines track Internet users. Google argues that IP addresses change regularly with users and so cannot be personal information to be regulated by the EU.

European regulators are considering whether to categorize IP addresses as personal property. Their decision could throw a monkey wrench into the methods that search-engine operators like Google, Yahoo and MSN use to track the online habits of Web surfers.

"As the use of search engines becomes a daily routine for an ever-growing number of citizens, the protection of the users' privacy and the guaranteeing of their rights remain the core issues of the ongoing debate," the European Commission's data-protection working group said earlier this month.

The group said it expects to release a final report in the months ahead. Its recommendations will have worldwide implications because any search engine with at least one establishment in any European Union country will be required to comply with EU privacy policies.

Not Personal?

Google has been trying to convince the regulators that IP addresses aren't personal. Given that not everyone is connected at the same time, each Internet service provider assigns a different IP address to each connecting computer, and then reassigns it when users disconnect, noted Google software engineer Alma Whitten.

"Because of this, the IP address assigned to your computer one day may get assigned to several other computers before a week has passed," Whitten said.

For example, as laptop Relevant Products/Services users move from home to work or operate from temporary locations, they are changing IP addresses constantly. "And if you share your computer or even just your connection to your ISP with your family, then multiple people are sharing one IP address," Whitten said.

Still, Whitten admits that each ISP knows the name and address of the person who holds the subscriber account to which a specific IP address has been assigned.

"On the other hand, the IP addresses recorded by every Web site on the planet without additional information should not be considered personal data, because these Web sites usually cannot identify the human beings behind these number strings," Whitten said.

Legal and Policy Implications

Google stresses that it has already moved to protect online privacy by voluntarily agreeing to make anonymous the IP addresses and cookies stored in its log files after 18 months. The search giant also gives its registered Gmail users the ability to delete their IP-based logs from Google's servers.

"At Google, we know that user trust is fundamental to our success" and "users will stop choosing to use Google products and services if they can't trust us with their data," Whitten said. "For this reason, we have made moves to safeguard that privacy."

Any further actions to restrict the retention of IP addresses would have a major impact on the Internet search industry, said Google's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer.

No Web site can comply with all the legal and policy implications of having to treat every IP address connection as "personal data," Fleischer told The New York Times. "Nor does that outcome make sense when Web sites have no way of identifying a user based solely on the IP address."

The better solution may be to regard IP addresses as "bits of data that can be personal under certain circumstances," Fleischer said. "Indeed, some leading privacy thinkers have been advocating for just that."

Siemens - redundancies

Siemens plans 40% cut in jobs in business telecommunications

BERLIN: Siemens plans to announce Tuesday that it intends to eliminate up to 7,000 jobs, or 40 percent of workers, in its troubled business telecommunications unit in Germany and Brazil as it seeks a buyer for the business, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said.

Company executives were to disclose the plans for Siemens Enterprise Communications, which makes corporate phone networks, at a meeting with representatives of the workers' council in Munich.

According to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting had not yet taken place, executives will announce plans to cut up to 4,000 jobs within the unit, which employs 17,500, and will advise worker representatives that a further 3,000 jobs could be transferred into ventures with new business partners.

The layoffs will likely occur in Leipzig, Germany, and in Brazil, where Siemens has factories that produce phones and corporate communications networks, the person said.

The job reductions and sale of small portions of business are unrelated to the German company's two-year-old effort to sell the entire unit, the person said.

Peter Löscher, president and chief executive of Siemens, has said he wants to sell or find an investment partner for the entire business by June. Plans for the job reductions were first reported Monday in The Financial Times Deutschland newspaper. A Siemens spokesman, Wolfram Trost, said Monday that the company would not comment on the newspaper report.

Siemens and its workers' council representatives met in August to discuss the future of the unit. At that time, Siemens executives said they wanted to eliminate 600 to 650 jobs, said Matthias Jena, a spokesman for IG Metall, an umbrella group that represents Siemens unions.

"We have not heard anything about 7,000 jobs being cut," Jena said Monday.

The corporate telecommunications business was first prepared for a potential sale in 2005, as part of a Siemens reorganization of the company's telecommunications businesses. Siemens put the largest part of that business - a unit that sold network equipment to phone operators - last year into Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture with Nokia, the market leader in cellphone manufacturing.

But Siemens has so far been unable to find a buyer for the remainder of the business - which was formerly called Siemens Enterprise Networks, which makes products like the Siemens Gigaset for business customers.

Theo Kitz, an analyst at Merck Finck, a private bank in Munich, said plans for significant job cuts would probably help Siemens rid itself of the unprofitable business.

"This would be a way to dress up the bride, so to speak, so they could more easily sell the business," Kitz said.

But the job cuts could also trigger retaliatory action from unionized workers at Siemens, he added.

Should the cuts be significant, Kitz said workers might vote to go on strike. While that is something they have not done in large numbers during the past decade, German trade unions have become more active within the past two years, Kitz said, with workers at Deutsche Telekom and the Deutsche Bahn recently winning concessions after prolonged strikes.

"That could make job cuts very costly for Siemens," he said.
P&G to trim management

Procter & Gamble will cut about 15 percent of its senior management staff as part of a bid to improve productivity and accelerate growth, the company said Monday, Reuters reported from New York.

The vast majority of the job cuts will come through attrition as employees retire or leave the company, said Paul Fox, a P&G spokesman.

The cuts will affect about 50 jobs at the general manager level and above. P&G, the world's largest maker of household and personal care products, has about 138,000 employees.

P&G also said it was aiming to raise annual productivity growth - or the value of sales per employee - to 7 percent or 8 percent from 6 percent over the next five years.

Afghanistan - Taliban and the mobile operators

Taliban issue ultimatum to Afghan mobile operators

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents on Monday gave Afghan mobile phone operators three days to shut down their networks at night or face attack, as the rebels said international forces used the mobile phones to track them down.

The warning was issued after recent talks with representatives of the four mobile phone companies, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Reuters by mobile phone from an undisclosed location.

"Since the occupying forces stationed in Afghanistan usually at night use mobile phones for espionage to track down the mujahideen, the Islamic Emirate gave a three-day ultimatum to all mobile phone firms to switch off their phones from five in the afternoon until seven in the morning," Yousuf said.

If the mobile companies failed to follow the Taliban order, then the Taliban would target their towers and offices, he added.

Ousted from power in 2001, the Taliban themselves largely rely on mobile phones for communicating with each other and for passing their news to the media in Afghanistan.

Four mobile phone operators, three of them foreign firms, with an estimated investment of several hundred million dollars have sprung up in Afghanistan since the Taliban's ouster.

The four companies are: privately-owned Afghan Wireless Communication Company; Roshan, owned by an international consortium formed by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, the Monaco Telecom International and TeliaSonera; Areeba, owned by Investcom Holding; and Dubai-based Etisalat.

The mobile phone networks are virtually the only means of communication in a country devastated by decades of war and are the some of the biggest investors in Afghanistan.

The Taliban in the past have accused some mobile phone companies of colluding with NATO and U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.

OTE - mobile in SE Europe

Cosmote claims 15m customers

Cosmote, the mobile communications group headquartered in Greece, has won 15.5m+ customers in the five south-eastern European countries where it operates.

The company says it aims to win over one in two mobile consumers throughout its footprint over the next 3 years.

Cosmote owns and operates a network covering 99.6 per cent of the Greek population, 95 per cent of the Greek mainland and islands and 98 per cent of Greece's territorial waters. The company also has operations Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania.

Egypt - increasing competition

Egypt to Launch Second Fixed-Line Licence in June 2008

Egypt's National Telecoms Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has announced that the country's second fixed-line licence auction will start on 19 June 2008, the first step in bringing an end to the fixed-line monopoly Telecom Egypt has had.

Global Insight Perspective

Significance - The new licence will bring competition, choice and innovation to the under-served Egyptian fixed-line sector.

Implications - Growth in fixed-line services has been slow and has rapidly been overtaken by mobile services.

Outlook - Additional competition will stimulate growth in the sector; however, the new operator will have to provide a range of bundled packages to ensure profitability.

Egypt is in the final stages of fully liberalising its telecoms sector; the country now has three mobile operators, and will provide the gateway for a second fixed-line operator in the second half of the year. Bidding companies can obtain the licence specifications and conditions booklet from the regulator's headquarters from 13 March 2008. Those interested will have to pay US$10,000 for the booklet and need to submit an auction guarantee of £E10 million (US$1.8 million).

At the end of 2006, the incumbent, Telecom Egypt, had 10.8 million fixed lines and a penetration level of 14.4%, which is around half the mobile penetration level. As part of the fixed-line licence terms, the government will also offer an international calling licence to the winner. Since 2004, fixed-line growth per annum has never exceeded 8% and was 4.3% at the end of 2006. Telecom Egypt currently provides retail telecommunication services, including access, local, long distance and international voice, internet and data, and other services. It also provides mobile interconnectivity through its 44.79% holding in Vodafone Egypt, one of the three Egyptian mobile operators. Although there are 10.8 million subscribers for fixed-line services, the real demand for the home service will come from broadband and the range of services it can offer. Whilst broadband penetration is low as a percentage of the number of fixed lines in operation, it has been increasing rapidly; at the end of 2006, Telecom Egypt had 92,300 ADSL subscribers, whilst the country as a whole has 400,000 subscribers.

Outlook and Implications

The news is essential to generate innovation and service diversity within the Egyptian telecoms market. Telecom Egypt has not been able to provide adequate services at a low enough price to increase demand significantly. At the end of the third quarter of 2007, its fixed-line customer base increased 3% to 11 million, compared to 10.7 million in the first nine months of 2006.

At least threee operators have previously expressed interest in the licence: Orascom, Etisalat and Raya. Of the three, both Orascom and Etisalat have a very high chance of winning the bid. Etisalat has the greater financial resources, and has already launched the third mobile operator in the country. Etisalat is also very keen on investing in emerging markets and has already made acquisitions in the African region. The second favourite to win the licence is Orascom, which has a 28.8% stake in Egyptian mobile operator MobiNil; its influence in the Egyptian market for other services, including construction and IT products, makes it a very important player in the auction. Whilst it is uncertain which other operators will bid for the licence, it seems likely that at least eight telcos will have shown interest by the auction date.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

UK - Parliamentary inquiry into Internet security

Lords inquiry looks again at internet security
see also House of Lords Science and Technology Committee

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has announced a follow-up inquiry to its Personal Internet Security report.

It said it has taken the measure because of its disappointment in the government's response to the report, which was released in August 2007.

The government rejected many of the committee's recommendations. These included calls for a data-breach notification law, increased resources for the police to deal with internet-based crime, and the reversal of the requirement that victims of online card fraud report the crime to their banks rather than the police.

It added that circumstances have changed since publication of the government's response in October. For example, the government has increased the powers of the information commissioner to inspect organisations holding sensitive data on members of the public.

The committee has written to those who gave oral evidence to its initial inquiry and to those who attended an inquiry seminar to ask for their views on the government's response, and will hold a public evidence session with government officials. It will not issue a general call for evidence, but aims to publish a short follow-up report in early summer.

Chair of the committee Lord Sutherland said: "The committee was disappointed with the government's response to its report. We felt they had failed to address some of our key concerns about people's security on the internet.

"The House of Lords is likely to be debating the report in the summer and to ensure that the debate is as well informed as possible we have decided to seek key stakeholders' views on the government's response."

USA - ICT indicators

Degrees of Access: Internet, Cell Phone, and Home Broadband
see also Presentation

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has created three "thermometers" of digital access: internet, cell phone, and home broadband connections. As of December 2007, 75% of American adults use the internet, 75% own a cell phone, and 54% have a high-speed internet connection at home. The thermometers show the variation among demographic groups. Also included is a summary grid of the typology of information and communication technology users.

Pakistan - Internet blasphemy

‘YouTube’ blocked for blasphemous web content

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has directed all the Internet service providers of the country to block access to the video-sharing website ‘Youtube’ for containing blasphemous content.

The order, issued by the director enforcement agency, says that the ratio of “non-Islamic objectionable video” has increased on the website. Following the order, all local ISPs have blocked the website from their servers. “The site would remain blocked till further orders from the PTA,” a local ISP worker said.

YouTube, powered by Google, allows people to easily upload and share video clips through websites, mobile devices, blogs, and email, and is used by people all over the world. online

Lebanon - average grade

Lebanon earns average grade in telecom index

BEIRUT: The United Nations' Telecommunications Infrastructure Index for 2008 ranked Lebanon in 76th place among 192 countries worldwide and 7th among 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Lebanon ranked 62nd globally and in 7th place regionally in the previous survey, which was conducted in 2005. Also, Lebanon ranked in 25th place among 36 upper middle-income countries in 2008 and in 18th place in the previous survey.

The index includes five key variables reflecting a country's telecommunications infrastructure capacity. It is a composite measure of the penetration of personal computers, land lines, Internet usage, online population and mobile subscriptions.

Globally, Lebanon ranked ahead of Venezuela, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and came behind Mexico and Maldives. It ranked immediately ahead of Venezuela and behind Mexico among upper middle income countries. Regionally, it ranked ahead of Iran, Jordan, Tunisia, Oman, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen and Iraq, but behind Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Israel. Lebanon received a score of 0.193 points, below the global average of 0.211 points, the MENA average of 0.1941 points, and the upper middle income average of 0.2483 points, but above the Arab average of 0.1708 points.

Lebanon ranked in 56th place globally, 14th among upper-middle income countries and fifth in the MENA region on the Internet Usage Sub-Index. This category measures Internet penetration, with Lebanon having 26.28 Internet users per 100 inhabitants compared to the Arab average of 14.23. Globally, Lebanon ranked ahead of Chile and Bulgaria and came behind Poland and Costa Rica. It ranked ahead of Chile and behind Costa Rica among upper-middle income countries, and ranked ahead of Iran and behind Israel in the region. Lebanon received a score of 0.296 points, above the global average of 0.223 points and the upper-middle income countries average of 0.261 points, and above MENA and Arab averages of 0.188 points and 0.174 points, respectively.

Lebanon ranked in 69th place globally, 23rd among upper-middle-income countries, and seventh in the MENA region on the Personal Computers Sub-Index. This category reflects PC penetration, with Lebanon having 11.45 personal computers per 100 inhabitants compared to the Arab average of 7.88 users per 100 inhabitants. Globally, Lebanon ranked ahead of Peru and Armenia and came behind Cape Verde and Russia. It ranked ahead of Trinidad & Tobago and behind Russia among upper-middle income nations. Regionally, Lebanon tied with Sudan, came ahead of Iran and behind Saudi Arabia. Lebanon received a score of 0.127 points on the PC Penetration Sub-Index, below the global average of 0.173 points, the upper-middle income countries average of 0.156 points and the MENA average of 0.137 points, but above the Arab average of 0.098 points.

Friday, February 22, 2008

China - rumours of restructuring

Under the Spotlight - China Close to Finalising Industry Restructuring Plans

As China gives its first official hint of a restructuring of its domestic telecoms market, Global Insight looks at what such a move could mean for the telecoms industry, both in China and across the world.

Global Insight Perspective

Significance - China has given the first official hint that it is close to finalising the restructuring of its telecoms market.

Implications - The creation of three giant integrated telcos would give the Chinese players the clout, experience, cash and will to expand abroad, raising the bar for established telcos in Europe and the United States.

Outlook - By this restructuring, China may be unwittingly outlining a coherent vision of what the telecoms industry of the future should look like—an industry made up of integrated telcos rather than single-play operators.

China's state-run radio has reported that the country may unveil long-awaited plans for a major industry shake-up as early as next month. If the plan proceeds as outlined in the brief radio report, the country's six telecoms operators will be consolidated into three, offering a full range of services from mobile, fixed-line to internet connections, as opposed to the current set-up where fixed and mobile operators are clearly divided.

According to the radio report, China Mobile Communications Corp, the country's largest mobile operator, would merge with the small fixed-line operator, China Tietong Telecommunications Corp. China Telecommunications Corp, the largest fixed-line operator, would acquire a mobile network based on the CDMA technology from China United Telecommunications Corp, the smaller of the country's two mobile operators. The remainder of China United Telecommunications, which also owns a network based on the GSM standard, would merge with China Network Communications Group, the second-ranked fixed-line operator. The sixth telecoms carrier, China Satellite Communications Corp, would merge into a state-owned aerospace industry group.

The report, broadcast by the Central People's Broadcasting Station, is the first official sign that the industry shake-up may come soon. The plan is likely to be scheduled for formal approval at the annual session of the National People's Congress (China's legislature), which kicks off on 5 March. A formal government announcement is likely to come shortly after the session concludes, two weeks later.

Outlook and Implications

Overhauling the Status Quo: The proposed restructuring will radically alter the status quo in the Chinese telecoms market and will create a level playing field for all operators in the market. Admittedly, the current split between fixed-line and mobile operators has not favoured all the players in the tightly controlled market, skewing competition in the market. In particular, the fixed-line operators have experienced slow growth in their traditional fixed-line service and are therefore eager to enter the mobile segment. The mobile sector, in contrast, still has a lot of growth left in it. China now has more than 547 million mobile subscribers, but a large majority of the population are not yet mobile users, with mobile penetration standing at just over 40%. As such, increased competition and the convergence of fixed and mobile services would help drive further growth in the market, creating a level playing field for all the operators. In addition, the industry restructuring would also remove the dilemma for the issuance of 3G licences, which has been delayed for years. There had been anxiety that the government was unsure as to whom it should issue the limited number of licenses, with all the existing mobile and fixed operators making a case for the 3G permits. It now appears that 3G licensing could finally take place later this year, with all three remaining telecoms giants set to receive clearance.

Restructuring for Growth: Apart from dramatically altering the domestic Chinese telecoms market, the proposed restructuring will create new industry stalwarts that are comparable to many of the big telcos in Europe and the United States. It is likely that the resultant giants will want to flex their muscles globally, and will thus wish to seize the juicy telecoms assets in the developing world. China Mobile, the country's largest mobile operator, has already revealed its desire to seek out takeover assets in Africa and the Middle East. However, without a foot in its domestic fixed market, China Mobile would have only really eyed mobile assets abroad. In contrast, the future China Mobile, with both fixed and mobile operations at home, will have the expertise, cash, clout and the will to acquire whatever telecoms assets become available around the world. That prospect raises the bar for the established Western telcos who, with their cash and historic ties, have hitherto had unhindered access to emerging market assets.

A Vision for the Future?: While the news headlines are full of analyses about how China is micro-managing its telecoms market, the Chinese government may be unwittingly outlining a coherent vision for the future of the telecoms industry globally. By fusing the fixed and mobile players together, China will eradicate single-play operators in its telecoms market, instead creating integrated operators able to compete across all segments of the telecoms market. Interestingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that this desire is not limited solely to China. Vodafone, for example, has abandoned its mobile-only strategy and has been wading into fixed services across many of its markets. In fact, in recent times, many of the acquisitions in the telecoms industry around the world have seen fixed players buy mobile assets and vice versa. That trend encapsulates the belief within the industry that the future of the telecoms market lies in offering integrated/converged mobile and fixed services. Contrastingly, however, while operators in the rest of the world hope to achieve that dream by innovation, luck or acquisition, China has taken the short-cut route, and will achieve that goal by legislation.

UK - Broadband inquiry

Government investigates path to next generation broadband

Next generation high speed broadband will be essential for the UK's future economic success, Business and Competitiveness Minister Shriti Vadera said today as she launched an independent review into the issue, led by Francesco Caio.

The new review will look at how Government can help pave the way for the UK to move to next generation broadband networks.

Ultra fast broadband - reaching speeds of up to 100Mbps or more - will be important to British businesses making the most of new opportunities arising from rapidly developing technology and an increasing reliance on Internet services.

The review will investigate what are considered to be the potential barriers to the mass roll-out of next generation technology, and will look at barriers to content companies collaborating with those responsible for infrastructure.

Shriti Vadera said:

"The way we will do business, access many government services, as well as information and entertainment, will change beyond recognition over our lifetime. New technologies will push the boundaries of today's communications infrastructure.

"We must be ready to respond to future technological developments, which will place unprecedented challenges for our communications networks over the coming decade.

"That is why we need to look ahead to the future now. We need to prepare the way for the UK to adopt groundbreaking new technologies to ensure that we do not get left behind - competitively or technologically.

"We must not be in a situation where our creativity and growth of our businesses are stifled by inadequate communications and regulatory frameworks."

Massive investment by companies has led to a rapid development in broadband services over the last 10 years. In 1997 less than 10% of the population had ever used the Internet. By the end of last year, 70% of the population were Internet users and more than half of homes had broadband.

As businesses and consumers increasingly demand a richer, more powerful and seamless broadband experience, the next decade could see technology develop at just as fast a rate and the Government is keen to ensure that companies are able to continue to build on the UK's world-leading position.

Broadband companies are already starting to develop high speed services, for example: Virgin Media's 50 Mbps pilot in Ashford, and BT's plans for a 100 Mbps fibre network to homes in Ebbsfleet.

The independent review will be led by Francesco Caio, working with relevant Government departments. It will report in the autumn to the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The key areas the review will consider will be:

* To consider the possible barriers to any new models of investment, involving collaboration between telecommunications suppliers and between suppliers and content providers and identify potential solutions

* To examine whether there are opportunities to minimise the cost of private sector investment, including whether there is a public sector role in this respect, for example related to civil works

* To examine the framework within which investment will take place to promote a more certain investment environment

* To clarify the treatment of new infrastructure options within the non-domestic rating system

* To examine whether the EU and UK statutory framework has given Ofcom the necessary powers to establish a regulatory regime which would provide regulatory certainty for investors and sufficiently incentivise new investment in high speed access

In parallel, the Government will also ask the Broadband Stakeholders Group to examine the economics of fibre deployment, specifically whether deployment of fibre to the premises will be viable without a first step of deploying fibre to the cabinet.

In looking at these areas, the review will consider the impact of barriers on both speed and reach of likely deployment of next generation broadband. It will also take account of the current Ofcom consultation on NGA policy, which this review is intended to complement, and the ongoing work of the Broadband Stakeholders Group following their report in April 2007. Ofcom will continue to develop their proposals for regulating next generation access under the existing regulatory framework.

Devolution means that the constraints this review seeks to address may differ in scope and application in different parts of the UK.

Kip Meek, Chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) said:

"This is the right announcement at the right time. The review addresses some of the BSG's central concerns about next generation broadband and we'll be fully engaged to support its work."

USA - economic effect of broadband

The Economic Impact of Stimulating Broadband Nationally

“The Economic Impact of Stimulating Broadband Nationally” details the potential state-by-state impact of legislation to accelerate broadband access and use. The report’s findings suggest that the U.S. could realize an economic impact of $134 billion annually by accelerating broadband availability and use across all states. The map above shows the potential for broadband that exists in every U.S. state. Please take the time to review the report and the potential for broadband in the U.S.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

USA - mobile price wars

Say Hello to Unlimited Minutes

Verizon Wireless offers unlimited calls for $100 a month, others follow suit, and Wall Street shudders at the prospect of a price war

As a communications consultant, Carlyn Taylor knows her way around a wireless bill. So when her mobile-phone provider, Verizon Wireless, began offering unlimited calling for $100 a month, it didn't take Taylor long to figure out that the new plan would have sliced more than $500 from her bills in the past six months.

Taylor quickly made the switch, and she reckons that a slew of wireless consumers may soon do the same math. The Feb. 19 price change by Verizon Wireless was swiftly matched by AT&T Mobility (T) and T-Mobile USA. In all, 5% to 15% of the combined customer base of these three of the four largest U.S. cell-phone service providers will probably save by converting to the all-you-can-talk calling plans, says Taylor, who heads the communications and media practice at consultancy FTI (FCN).

The moves fueled concern that the U.S. mobile-phone industry would become locked in a price war and sent mobile-phone company stocks lower. Indeed, service providers could lose 25% to 40% of the revenue from some of their most lucrative customers, and more attractive wireless plans will probably entice consumers to disconnect traditional phone services, Taylor says: "There's no question they are trying to lure people away from landlines."

A Bigger Problem for Cable Companies

Shares of Verizon Communications (VZ), the majority owner of Verizon Wireless, shed 7.8% the day the price change was announced. AT&T suffered a 10.1% two-day decline through Feb. 20. Once Verizon Wireless made its move, rivals had little choice but to follow suit. "It's a very competitive industry, and we want to be responsive," says AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel.

But for all the harm these price cuts may inflict on the wireless industry, experts say they may exact an even bigger toll on cable companies such as Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner's (TWX) cable division, which for years have been luring phone-company customers with service packages that bundle calling, high-speed Internet access, and hundreds of TV channels. "We have to look at it beyond wireless" says Roger Entner, senior vice-president at consultancy IAG Research. "We don't want to look at mouse traps when we are hunting for elephants. [With these plans], you can beat the cable guy."

In recent years, growing numbers of consumers have dropped residential phone lines with phone companies in favor of cheaper Web-calling services from cable providers. Comcast recently became the nation's fourth-largest phone company, with 4.4 million digital voice subscribers. Verizon's landline revenue dropped 1.3% in 2007 alone. The shift has been expected to accelerate this year as Comcast takes aim at 24 million homes that don't even have TV.

Cable Partnership with Sprint Moving Slowly

But with a wireless plan that promises unlimited calling for one price, not only do customers have greater incentive to disconnect land lines, but they've got far more reason to resist switching to cable. Today, a cell-phone bill averages $55 a month. A phone service from a cable company adds up to another $40 a month, bringing the total to $95. But for $100 a month, people can now buy unlimited wireless—a service that can be used on the go and at home—and by and large can't be matched by a cable company. Add in the TV services being offered by phone companies and the customer has even less cause to move.

Sure, cable companies are trying to provide wireless calling through a partnership with Sprint (S), but those programs are only just getting off the ground in a handful of markets, such as Portland, Ore. "If the telecom providers play it right, this is a big plus for them," Entner says.

That's a big if, of course. Wild card Sprint could try to undercut everyone. The company has been testing an unlimited plan in San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Tampa since last year. Its package of unlimited voice, as well as data and text messaging, sells there for $120 a month—on par with the new wireless plans, which don't include data. "We are continuously evaluating our market offerings but are not disclosing any future plans at this point," Sprint spokeswoman Emmy Anderson wrote in an e-mail. Unless Sprint at least matches its rivals' unlimited plans, though, the company risks losing subscribers to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile, says Michael Mahoney, managing director at Falcon Point Capital.

Mobile-phone providers will also need to ensure their networks can handle the added call volume that's likely with unlimited plans. If they can, they'll no doubt be happy with keeping fickle customers on board, and maybe even luring a few back from cable competitors.

Europe - RFID and privacy

Commission launches consultation on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
see also consultation document

The Commission is preparing a Recommendation that will address the issues raised by the use of RFID in terms of privacy, data protection and information security. As part of this preparation, and given the importance of this forthcoming Recommendation, the Commission has decided to put up for public consultation all the articles that are currently being considered in its draft Recommendation. This will allow all stakeholders to voice their opinion on the subject. The public consultation will be open until 25 April. The Commission services will then analyse the received contributions and put forward a draft Recommendation for adoption before the summer of 2008.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ARCEP - no to a Euro-regulator

Non à un super régulateur européen des télécoms : un point de vue de Paul Champsaur, président de l'ARCEP, publié dans Les Echos du 20 février 2008

Le Parlement européen et le Conseil s'engagent dans l'examen des propositions de la Commission européenne visant à modifier le cadre réglementaire des communications électroniques. Idéalement, ce processus devrait aboutir à augmenter le bien-être du consommateur européen. Je crains qu'il ne conduise au contraire à des processus de décision déséquilibrés qui nuiront à une dynamique de progrès.

Le cadre européen réglementaire actuel a été bénéfique au secteur et aux consommateurs. En 2003, il y avait 23 millions d'abonnés au haut débit ; ils étaient plus de 74 millions à la fin 2006. Dans le même temps, le nombre des abonnés mobiles a crû de 370, à 495 millions (chiffres Idate sur l'Europe à 25), la convergence se généralise et de nouveaux modes de communication apparaissent. Tout cela est le fruit d'une concurrence dynamique et de prix en forte baisse. Pour le consommateur européen, la libéralisation des marchés des communications électroniques est un vrai succès.

Comment capitaliser sur cette réussite ? Pour l'essentiel, la Commission propose de bonnes idées : ne pas modifier substantiellement la régulation économique du secteur mais supprimer la régulation là où elle n'est plus nécessaire et renforcer l'indépendance des régulateurs nationaux, proches des attentes de leurs consommateurs et de leur marché. En effet, s'il a pleinement démontré sa capacité à faire face aux problématiques actuelles, le cadre réglementaire doit, à l'image des changements qui interviennent dans les marchés dynamiques dont nous avons la charge, savoir évoluer pour répondre aux questions du futur.

Sur un point néanmoins, les régulateurs européens pensent que les propositions de la Commission européenne sont mal conçues : l'Autorité européenne des marchés de communications électroniques (EECMA) qu'elle prévoit de créer ne fonctionnera pas. L'EECMA serait lourde et coûteuse, coupée de la réalité des marchés et, paradoxalement, enverrait un signal en contradiction avec l'idée sous-jacente de disparition progressive de la régulation sectorielle et de convergence vers le droit commun de la concurrence. Elle brisera en outre la dynamique de coopération positive enclenchée au sein d'un réseau de régulateurs européens indépendants, qui apporte son expertise à la Commission et dont le résultat des travaux est d'ores et déjà reconnu par le secteur.

En janvier, les régulateurs européens se sont prononcés à une forte majorité sur ce diagnostic et ont dessiné le cadre d'une solution alternative. Il ne s'agit pas de défendre le statu quo. Comme la Commission et comme ses homologues européens, l'Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes (Arcep) considère que le rôle des régulateurs doit s'affirmer encore davantage en Europe. Le groupe des régulateurs européens, ou GRE, est prêt à assumer pleinement sa place et à contribuer vigoureusement à l'émergence d'un marché unique des communications électroniques en Europe. Pour cela, le GRE doit évoluer du réseau informel de régulateurs partageant les " bonnes pratiques " qu'il était à l'origine en une entité créée et reconnue en droit européen, dotée d'une gouvernance effective (les décisions pouvant par exemple être adoptées par vote avec majorité qualifiée), transparente et responsable de ses actes devant les institutions européennes compétentes.

La révision du cadre actuel offre cette opportunité : le réseau des régulateurs nationaux doit être renforcé par des responsabilités claires et des compétences élargies, exercées en collaboration étroite avec la Commission européenne. Le GRE et la Commission seront ainsi en mesure de contribuer vigoureusement à l'émergence d'un marché unique des communications électroniques en Europe. Plusieurs modèles juridiques peuvent être adaptés à cet objectif, par exemple celui du Comité des autorités de concurrence nationales, créé en 2003 par le Parlement européen et le Conseil, lui-même appuyé sur le réseau des autorités nationales de concurrence, reconnu par une déclaration conjointe du Conseil et de la Commission.

L'Arcep formule le voeu que le Parlement européen et le Conseil prennent l'initiative de faire évoluer la proposition de la Commission dans ce sens. Elle est prête, avec ses homologues européens, à leur apporter son concours pour que les consommateurs continuent de bénéficier d'innovations et de prix concurrentiels, et plus globalement que l'économie européenne profite des investissements dans les services de communications électroniques.

PAUL CHAMPSAUR est président de l'Arcep

Africa - undersea cables

SEACOM Reveals Pricing Structure
February 20, 2008

Sea Cable System (SEACOM), which is laying a 13,700-kilometre submarine cable from South Africa to Europe and India via Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya, and Tanzania, has revealed the wholesale pricing it will offer on the cable once it enters commercial service on 17 June 2009. At a press conference held this week in South Africa, SEACOM's president, Brian Herlihy, said that the wholesale price of an STM-1 circuit (155.52 Mbps) from South Africa to a point of presence in Europe such as London (U.K.) would be priced at the equivalent of 673 rand (US$88.4) per Mbps per month, an STM-4 circuit (622.08 Mbps) would be 575 rand, an STM-16 circuit (2,488.32 Mbps) would be 435 rand, and an STM-64 circuit (9,953.28 Mbps) would be 267 rand. By contrast, this compares with equivalent prices of 231,000 rand for satellite, 3,500–11,000 rand for Sat-3/WASC submarine cable, and estimated pricing on the EASSy cable at around 1,400 rand (source: Business Day newspaper/ SEACOM signed a cable development agreement with the second national operator Neotel in August 2007.

Significance: The SEACOM cable will have a capacity of 1.28 Tbps (terabits per second), some 10 times the 120 Gbps ultimate capacity of the Sat-3/WASC cable and 130 Gbps of the SAFE cable. SEACOM is basing its revenue stream on a low-margin/high-volume wholesale business, and, according to local reports, estimates that it would generate a return on its investment within three to five years. SEACOM will act as a wholesale provider to telcos and other operators and this pricing structure would "drop the international component of prices dramatically", said Herlihy. SEACOM reached financial closure on 9 November 2007, the construction contract with Tyco Telecommunications was signed on 13 November 2007, and construction work began in December 2007. The cable is scheduled to enter commercial service in June 2009, in time for the FIFA World Cup being held in South Africa.