Monday, June 30, 2008

Syria - cyber-dissidents

Syria - Syria sets Arab world record with at least five bloggers and cyber-dissidents detained

Reporters Without Borders is worried by the lack of news about Hammam Haddad, a Damascus University student and author of magazine and Internet articles, since his arrest on 5 May in the capital without any reason being given. He is the fifth Internet user to be detained in Syria in the past year.

"This arrest turns Syria into the Arab world's most repressive country towards people who post news and information online," the press freedom organisation said. "It is an additional attempt to intimidate and silence dissidents and bloggers."

Activist Mohammad Badi Dak Al Bab, a member of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria was meanwhile sentenced to six months in prison yesterday on a charge of "attacking the prestige of the state" under article 287 of the criminal code for posting an article entitled "Damascus, capital of Arab culture"on the organisation's website. Bab, who has been held in Adra (20 km northeast of the capital) since 2 March, was previously detained from 2000 to 2005.

A blogger, Tariq Biassi, 22, is being held in a Damascus security camp. He was sentenced on 11 May to three years in prison under articles 285 and 286 of the criminal code for "publishing false information" and "undermining national sentiment" for posting a comment critical of the government on a website.

He was one of the first people to fall victim to new government provisions regarding the Internet. Telecommunications minister Amr Salem, decreed on 25 July 2007 that website owners should, for security reasons, keep the personal data of those posting articles and comments online.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Biassi, Haddad and three other cyber-dissidents - Firas Saad, Habib Saleh and Kareem Arabji - and points out the Syrian constitution "guarantees the right to freely express one's opinions in word, in writing or by any other means."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Europe - network security

EU advisors: Secure ISPs, form "cyber-NATO"
see also full report and workshop

Academic researchers tasked with making information-security recommendations to the European Union called for rules to force Internet service providers to clean up their networks, for the passage of a comprehensive breach-disclosure law, and for the formation of a group to manage and aid international investigations.

The fifteen recommendations, part of a report prepared by University of Cambridge researchers and funded by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), could form the basis of future rules governing EU members, said Tyler Moore, a researcher and PhD student at University of Cambridge, who presented the work on Thursday at the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS) 2008. The recommendations call for collecting better data by passing comprehensive data-breach disclosure legislation and requiring the reporting of data losses to a central agency. In addition, the researchers proposed that ENISA publicly report the quantity of malicious data and spam flowing out of Internet service providers' networks as well as punish ISPs that do not block compromised machines.

"The good ISPs react very quickly," Moore said. "The bad ones don't, because it is expensive. The desire to clean up their networks is not that strong, so other measures are needed."

The European Union has already requested the aid of Internet service providers in reducing cybercrime. In April, the Council of Europe called for ISPs to share more attack information and speed responses to government data requests. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has asked ISPs to retain data for longer periods.

The recommendations called for EU to put pressure on the 15 nations that have not passed the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime treaty and to create a law enforcement group -- based on the model of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -- to help expedite investigations into cybercrimes that cross national borders.

Software vendors did not escape scrutiny. The report advised that the government to enforce standards that require network-attached devices to be secure-by-default, to adopt early vulnerability disclosure to force software makers to quickly patch their products, and to mandate that security fixes be distributed for free and not as part of a feature update.

A more in-depth version of the report will be published by ENISA later this year, Moore said.

Europe - reduction of mobile costs

T-Mobile CEO slams EU plans to cut operator fees

EU plans that call for a 70 percent reduction in what mobile operators can charge for handling each other's calls are too drastic, the chief executive of Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile said.

"If that is the level, it is significantly below what we expected... and too drastic," Hamid Akhavan said on Thursday on the fringes of an industry event in Frankfurt.

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding wants to bring down mobile termination fees charged by one operator for handling a call from another operator -- a common occurrence in a bloc of 27 countries and many phone companies.

Reding wants to end big differences in mobile termination rates between EU states and cross-subsidies between mobile and fixed-line termination rates at some operators.

"It is nothing we would support," Akhavan said, adding the industry had already seen annual declines for so-called mobile termination fees of 10-15 percent.

"The glide path should be on the level of the past years," Akhavan said.

Mobile operators generate around 20 percent of revenue from termination rates.

The EU guidelines contain no numerical cap for mobile termination rates and their equivalent for fixed-line calls but set out which charges can and cannot be included.

Europe - homes without fixed lines

Quarter of EU homes use mobile phones only: survey

A quarter of European Union households surveyed by the bloc's executive body have turned their backs on fixed lines in favor of mobile phones, with a fifth now making calls over the Internet.

The European Commission's survey of 27,000 homes in the 27-nation bloc found that 24 percent were using mobiles only.

The figure in the 10 ex-communist new member states was 39 percent as governments there found it cheaper to make the leap to mobile rather than upgrading old fixed-line networks.

But Finland -- home of handset maker Nokia -- came in at 61 percent.

Almost half of European households have access to the Internet but only 36 percent can use broadband, a service Brussels is seeking to make more widely available.

A separate study for the Commission found that "bill shock", or the high price of using mobile data services outside a home state -- such as surfing the Web on a laptop or checking emails via a mobile -- was holding back the roaming market.

"Mobile data services are the future and we in Europe were the first to roll them out," EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

Mobile operators are offering aggressive retail prices in consumers' home states, triggering growth in the market.

But subscribers have been afraid to use their mobiles while traveling in the EU for fear of being saddled with bills rising to thousands of euros.

"For the one last time, I call on mobile operators to react to my request of February to voluntarily but clearly bring down mobile roaming charges for text messages and other data by July 1," Reding said.

She will decide around July 18 whether to propose caps on the price of roamed texts and data usage, her spokesman told a news briefing on Friday.

Operators and Commission officials say regulation of roamed texts is inevitable but the case for data, a market in its infancy, is more finely balanced and additional time may be needed before possible intervention in the market.

Mobile phones - avoiding toxic waste

Hazard of old mobile phones under spotlight at UN meet

The disposal of massive numbers of unwanted mobile phones will be a key focus of a five-day meeting on waste management which started Monday in Indonesia, organisers said.

The fate of the more than three billion of the gadgets in use today will be discussed by more than 1,000 delegates from 170 countries at the meeting on the Basel Convention in Bali, a statement said.

Delegates to the conference will discuss new guidelines for disposing of the phones, which have grown from technological obscurity into a household essential -- and a major waste challenge -- in a matter of years.

The conference would "consider adopting new sets of guidelines for the environmentally sound management of used and end-of-life mobile phones," a statement from the organisers said.

"The use of mobile phones has grown exponentially from the first few users in the 1970s to ... more than three billion in April, 2008. Sooner or later these phones will be discarded, whole or in parts."

While highlighting the phone issue, organisers said the effect of hazardous waste on human health and livelihoods would be a focus of the ninth "Council of Parties" meeting of the 1992 treaty.

Opening the conference, Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said Indonesia's long coastline made it particularly vulnerable to the illegal dumping of toxic waste.

"Due to its archipelagic nature, with the second longest coastline in the world, Indonesia is vulnerable to illegal traffic of transboundary hazardous waste," he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Witoelar said rich nations needed to do more to stop their toxic waste being dumped in poor countries.

"Countries that export their hazardous waste have to be held responsible. There are many cases, such as in Africa, where this waste has killed populations of wildlife like lions and elephants, and even children," he said.

"Developed countries that dump their waste tend to ignore the problem."

The Basel Convention is an international treaty which regulates the international trade in hazardous waste and aims to minimise its generation and movement across borders.

Participants are expected to adopt a "Bali Declaration" aimed at highlighting the importance of health and waste management for global development strategies such as reducing poverty.

Convention Executive Secretary Katharina Kummer Peiry said countries on the receiving end of the trafficking of waste should be able to legally challenge dumping nations.

"There needs to be a joint commitment to help the suffering country using the Basel Convention. A mediating body could be formed and problems could be brought to an international court," she said.

"As we are all too often reminded, hazardous wastes continue to pose serious risks for human health and the environment," Peiry said in a statement ahead of the meeting.

Europe - e-commerce

EU to tear down cross-border Web shopping barriers

The European Union's consumer chief will propose new rules to make it easier and safer for the bloc's 490 million consumers to shop online in any corner of the 27-nation EU.

Some 150 million EU citizens turn to websites such as and EBay for shopping but only 30 million buy goods and services from another EU state, spending on average 800 euros ($1,240) a head.

"This autumn I will propose new legislation to cut back the current jungle of complex laws. I will table a simplified common set of rules for business to consumer contracts across the EU," EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said.

She will also start work on EU rules to stamp out unfair commercial practices in online retailing.

Kuneva wants a more consistent approach to rights and practices, from cooling-off periods to guarantees.

"A single, simple set of core rights and obligations will make it easier for consumers and business to buy and sell across Europe," Kuneva said in a speech in London and made available to the media.

Past efforts to harmonize consumer rules such as on consumer credit have proved a time-consuming minefield as some states battle to avoid dilution or a toughening of national regulations.

"This will be maximum harmonization so that the same rights apply everywhere without giving the possibility for member states to go beyond what's proposed," said Nuria Rodriguez, a legal officer at pan-EU consumer lobby BEUC.

"This is challenging and dangerous as certain, more protective legislation in some member states will be put into question."

States also need to introduce proper penalties for flouting consumer protection rules, Rodriguez said.

The move is the latest step from Brussels to make itself more friendly and relevant to people's everyday lives, particularly after the rejection of the EU's Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

There are also Commission plans to make switching bank accounts free and to cut the cost of sending text messages and downloading data abroad using a mobile phone or laptop.

The British Retail Consortium, a lobby whose members include, Tesco and Europe's biggest online consumer electronics retailer, Pixmania, said it backed moves to harmonize consumer rights.

"It can give a much-needed boost to consumer confidence in online retailing and will fuel innovation within retail both online and in terms of retailers with pan-European ambitions," a spokesman said.

Kuneva said in May that one in three European consumers using websites selling airline tickets were being misled or ripped off and told industry to improve or face legal action.


Brussels believes that the full potential of the EU's internal market -- already the world's biggest trading bloc serving a 10 trillion euro economy -- has yet to be fully tapped.

Retailer lobby Eurocommerce said online shopping was growing and welcomed by many members but proving tricky for small shops.

"For example, a retailer selling cameras will talk with a customer for an hour showing the different cameras and the customer then leaves and buys the camera online," a Eurocommerce spokesman said.

The Commission wants to tear down barriers to cross-border goods and services to boost competition, offer businesses a bigger market and cut prices for consumers.

Kuneva said 56 percent of EU citizens had access to the Internet for shopping, and business models should not be restricted to national borders because of unnecessary barriers.

"I believe the time has come to look closely at the legitimacy of market partitioning along national boundaries, notably in online retail," Kuneva said.

She wants business and consumer organizations to develop price comparison sites that compare prices among countries.

Kuneva also wants to crack down on unannounced fees and charges faced by consumers buying online, and practices such as the use of pre-checked boxes for buying costly options like insurance when buying travel tickets.

Mobile phones - with motion sensors for games

Sony Ericsson unveils Wii-like phone

Sony Ericsson, the Swedish-Japanese phone maker, on Tuesday unveiled a Wii-like handset which allows users to play games using the phone as a motion sensor.

"This is our first foray into motion gaming," Howard Lewis, vice president and head of the product business unit, said of the F305 mobile phone launch held in conjunction with CommunicAsia, an industry convention and exhibition.

"We see gaming as a way to interact with our young customers... it's a new area of the market that Sony Ericsson is entering into," he said.

With the F305 phone, the device itself acts as a motion sensor when playing pre-loaded games including bowling and bass fishing, the company said.

Japanese video game giant Nintendo Co.'s wildly popular Wii console is known for its innovative motion-sensitive controller.

Cuba - low levels of telecommunications

Cuba says few citizens have phones and computers

Forget iPods, BlackBerries and other electronic gadgets, most Cubans are still waiting for telephones and less than five percent have a computer, the government reported on Thursday.

The National Statistics Office ( released 2007 telecommunications data showing there were 1.241 million telephone lines in the country of 11.2 million inhabitants, of which 910,000 were residential and the remainder in state hands.

Mobile phones numbered just 330,000.

There were 4.5 personal computers per 100 residents, but most of those were in government offices, health facilities and schools.

The report was issued two months after Cuban President Raul Castro legalized the sale of computers and cell phones, though their high cost puts them out of reach of many.

Until the sales were permitted, Cubans mostly obtained computers on the black market and cell phones through foreigners, who have used them in Cuba since the 1990s.

The report said more than 10 percent of the population had access to Internet, but access in most cases is to a Cuban government Intranet and no data was available for access to the full Internet.

The number of telephone lines and computers has doubled since 2002, according to the report, which did not show any cell phones in use then.

By comparison, Latin American neighbor Mexico, with a population of 108 million, has 20 million telephone lines and 50 million cell phone users, according to industry statistics.

World Bank figures showed that in 2006, Mexico had 13.6 computers and 17.5 Internet users for every 100 people.

Cuban officials blame the longstanding U.S. embargo for the country's last place status in the region in communications and point out they are in first place in health and education.

The move to allow computer and cell phone sales was part of reforms by Castro, who replaced his brother Fidel Castro as president in February, aimed at easing economic hardship faced by Cubans.

Blyk - Mobile phones with advertisements

Ad-funded mobile firm to enter 3 European markets
see also Blyk

The world's first advertising-funded mobile telecoms operator, Blyk, will enter the German, Spanish and Belgian markets next year, the firm said on Wednesday.

Finnish-British Blyk offers a number of free calls and text messages to 16 to 24 year olds in return for users accepting advertisements.

The company is a pioneer among wireless carriers, which are only slowly entering the mobile ad market, helped by new technologies and the spread of more advanced phones.

Strategy Analytics analyst Nitesh Patel said Blyk's continued growth depended on demonstrating value to advertisers through superior ad response rates, growing its highly targeted subscriber base, and learning more about its customers.

"The reality is that advertisers are still testing the waters of the nascent mobile ad market," he said.

Closely-held Blyk opened the service last year in Britain and a launch in Netherlands is scheduled for later this year.

Germany and Spain are among Europe's biggest ad markets and Belgium's ad spending per capita is among the region's highest, Blyk's co-founder and chairman, Pekka Ala-Pietila, told Reuters.

The top German mobile operators -- Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, Vodafone Group Plc, KPN's E-Plus and Telefonica's O2 -- are competing hard on price, driven by E-Plus, which owns a host of budget brands.

The situation is similar in Spain, where Telefonica, Vodafone and France Telecom's Orange, along with a dozen virtual operators, battle each month for 350,000 people hopping from one operator to another.


Ala-Pietila, a former president of leading cell phone maker Nokia, said the firm was in advanced talks with operators over network renting in the new markets.

"These talks are in quite a late stage," he said.

In Britain, Blyk has signed up more than 100,000 youngsters offering 217 texts and 43 minutes of voice calls per month for receiving up to six texts a day from brands including Adidas, L'Oreal and Manchester United.

Ala-Pietila said it would be similar in Spain, Germany and Belgium. "The offer is seen as very attractive and as a proof we reached 100,000 clients six months ahead of our plans."

Blyk said the ad campaigns had generated average response rates of 29 percent, compared with the usual response rates in advertising of just a few percentage points. The campaigns are built on messages, and aim to engage users in dialogue.

"For 16 to 24 year olds, communication is strongly focused on instant messaging and texting, and that works extremely well as an advertising channel," Ala-Pietila said.

According to various studies, mobile ads will generate revenue of anywhere between $1 billion and $24 billion within four years. Advertisers are drawn to the sheer scale of the potential audience: 3 billion people worldwide use handsets.

Strategy Analytics this year lowered its forecasts for the mobile advertising market and expects it to reach just over $10 billion in 2012.

"Although we are impressed with what we've seen so far from Blyk, with respect to the reported numbers, we are still unsure about how sustainable the model is," Patel said.

Blyk plans to open in more European countries later.

"The concept can be adjusted to several markets," Ala-Pietila said. "Our target is not to stop at five."

Europe - 3G at 100 milllion

European 3G subscriptions seen topping 100 million

European mobile carriers have crossed the 100 million mark with subscribers on their third-generation networks, market research firm Informa Telecoms and Media said.

At the end of May, Europe had 101.5 million 3G subscriptions out of a total of mobile subscriptions of 910.8 million, a 11.1 percent penetration, Informa said, adding it only counted devices that were actively used for voice or data services or both.

"A slight slowdown in the growth in WCDMA handset sales in Western Europe in (the first quarter) was counteracted by an acceleration in sales of WCDMA/HSPA data cards and modems, which boosted the size of the total 3G market, particularly in Sweden and Austria," the firm said.

Mobile operators are increasingly looking to data services, provided over third-generation networks, to drive growth in mature markets where revenues from voice calls have begun to stagnate or fall.

Informa data shows that the percentage of 3G subscribers is highest in Sweden, Norway and Italy with well over 25 percent, followed by Portugal, Austria and Spain.

Amsterdam - Mobile Wi-Fi

Amsterdam gets Europe's first mobile Wimax network

A commercial network launched in Amsterdam on Tuesday is the first in Europe to use a mobile version of the Wimax standard to allow users to surf the Web at high speeds while on the move, operator Worldmax said.

The broadband wireless network is aimed at competing with telecoms operators KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile, the privately held Dutch firm said.

It is similar to using a mobile phone network and differs from networks using earlier Wimax technology which required users to be stationary.

The network initially covers just the city centre of Amsterdam, but Worldmax said it plans to extend it across the country in coming years.

The company is a potential threat to mobile operators that are increasingly looking to data usage to drive growth as revenue from voice calls levels off or falls.

Chief Executive Jeanine van der Vlist said a nationwide rollout was a task similar to building a new mobile phone network, adding the company would need about 3,000 sites to cover the Netherlands.

The total cost of building the nationwide network will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Worldmax, whose investors include Intel and Greenfield Capital, would not reveal financial or subscriber targets.

But the CEO said it would have to become one of the bigger Dutch players with its mass-market offer to be profitable.

The company will charge about 20 euros ($31) per month for a wireless broadband connection for laptop computers with unlimited amount of data.

With comparable speeds to broadband, a lower price and no long-term contract, Van der Vlist said Worldmax expects to gain customers from mobile operators, but eventually also attract new customer groups such as teenagers which at the moment cannot afford mobile broadband.

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley and N.Y. still top tech rankings
see also AEA Cybercities 2008

Silicon Valley, New York and Washington are still the country's top centers for high-tech employment, according to a report published Tuesday. But heavy concentrations of tech-industry workers can also be found in such cities as Boulder, Colo.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Durham, N.C., according to a report released Tuesday by the American Electronics Association.

'These are the types of jobs every city wants.' — Christopher Hansen, American Electronics Association

The association's "Cybercities" report, its first since 2000, also noted that 51 of the nation's top 60 metropolitan areas added high-tech jobs during 2006, which the group described as a sign of the industry's steady growth. "These are the types of jobs every city wants," Christopher Hansen, the association's CEO, said in a statement. Metro New York was the U.S.'s top tech employer, with 316,500 of the roughly 5.8 million U.S. tech workers, based on 2006 figures, the report said. Washington, D.C., was second, with 295,800, and the San Jose/Silicon Valley area of Northern California, with 225,300. Combined with San Francisco and Oakland, the wider Bay Area, long known as the world's tech mecca and home to such pioneers as Intel Corp., Google Inc. and Oracle Corp., topped the Big Apple with more than 386,000 workers.

In terms of concentration, San Jose/Silicon Valley was on top with roughly 285.9 of every 1,000 private-sector tech workers. Boulder was No. 2, with 230.5, followed by Huntsville, with 188.5, and Durham, with 155.9. The Riverside-San Bernardino area in Southern California posted the biggest growth in tech employment from 2005 to 2006, with an 11.5% increase, followed by Durham, at 8.4%, and Salt Lake City, with 7.2%. Tech workers in the San Jose/Silicon Valley area were the highest-paid, with an average annual salary of $144,800, followed by San Francisco, at $118,500, and Austin, Texas, at $100,500. San Jose/Silicon Valley also was the dominant area for technology manufacturing, the report said. Metro New York was prominent in the tech-service category, with many of its workers in telecommunications, Internet services, R&D and testing labs, and computer training services. Washington, D.C., was the leader in computer systems design and similar services and in engineering services, according to the report, based on 2006 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Low carbon future

global deal for low carbon future
see also full report

Tony Blair and the Climate Group publish a groundbreaking report "breaking the climate deadlock - a global deal for our low carbn future”, outlining the 10 building blocks for an agreement that will create a prosperous low carbon climate-resilient world.

The report is targeted at G8 + 5 leaders, policy makers, business leaders, and opinion formers from key countries. It identifies the actions and questions that need to be resolved by political and business leaders over the next 18 months to achieve a successful outcome to the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Low carbon economy in the information age

SMART 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age
see also full report

London, Friday 20 June 2008 – Transformation in the way people and businesses use technology could reduce annual man‐made global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020 and deliver energy efficiency savings to global businesses of over EUR 500 billion [GBP 400 billion / USD 800 billion], according to a new report published today by independent non‐profit The Climate Group and the Global e‐Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).

The report – SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age – is the world’s first comprehensive global study of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector’s growing significance for the world’s climate.

The report’s supporting analysis, conducted independently by international management consultants McKinsey & Company, shows that while ICT’s own sector footprint currently two per cent of global emissions will almost double by 2020, this is countered by the sector’s unique ability to monitor and maximise energy efficiency both within and outside of its own sector could cut CO2 emissions by up to five times this amount. This represents a saving of 7.8 Giga‐tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020 – greater than the current annual emissions of either the US or China.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Europe - rise of VoIP

Internet phone calls getting popular in European homes
see also press release

An EU-wide survey of 27,000 households has revealed the emergence of new consumption patterns in telecoms services in Europe. Technological progress and competition have brought more choice to European consumers; 24% of households have given up their fixed telephone in favour of mobile phones while 22% of them are using their computer from home to make phone calls over the Internet. In an increasing number of Member States, European households are using wireless access to connect to the Internet, via mobile or satellite networks. Meanwhile, 29% of European households buy bundled telecoms and media packages, an increase of nearly 10% since last year. Nevertheless, the top priority for consumers in this fast evolving environment remains the quality of services.

Europe - costs of mobile

'Bill-shock' thwarting downloads in Europe, study finds
see also EC press release and report

European Union consumers are not using their laptops to download songs and videos when traveling abroad because they are afraid of receiving large bills and are not aware of price specifics, according to an EU-financed study.

The report by Connect2Roam found that "bill-shock" was one of the major problems for developing data services as "consumers are discouraged by extremely high charges when compared to national prices," the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said in a statement Friday.

"A big problem with data roaming is transparency," Viviane Reding, the EU's telecommunications commissioner, said in the statement. "Operators should therefore better inform consumers and business people when they are abroad."

Reding is leading a campaign to cut mobile-roaming fees, saying the 27-nation EU represents a single domestic market. Consumers spend five to six times more to download photos, music and e-mails on mobile devices when abroad than when in their home countries, according to Reding.

The commission is considering adding data and text messages, known as short-message services or SMS services to a regulation last year that capped prices for voice calls made outside a local service area, so-called roaming. Operators have until July 1 to submit prices to the commission.

The commission will evaluate the prices and decide by mid-July whether data services should be regulated, Martin Selmayr, Reding's spokesman, said at a regulator briefing.

Reding set a goal in February, telling the industry to limit retail prices for sending an SMS to no more than 12 euro cents, or 19 cents, and wholesale prices for other data to a maximum 35 cents a megabyte.

"We'll wait for a little miracle to happen on Monday for data and text message prices to go down voluntary," Selmayr said.

Europe - reducing the costs of mobile telephony

Lower charges, greater consistency, more competition: Commission consults on bringing down mobile phone tariffs in Europe
see also consultation document

Aiming to spur competition among operators and lower phone charges for European consumers, the Commission today starts a public consultation on the future regulation of "voice call termination rates" in the EU based on a draft Commission Recommendation on termination rates. Voice call termination rates are the wholesale tariffs charged by the operator of a customer receiving a phone call to the operator of the caller's network. Included in everyone's phone bill, and therefore eventually paid by the consumer, these tariffs are determined by the intervention of national telecoms regulators. At the moment the decisions of the national telecoms regulators result in very divergent rates across the EU. Mobile termination rates range from €0.02/min (in Cyprus) to over €0.18/min (in Bulgaria) and are 9 times higher than fixed line termination rates (on average €0.0057/min for local call termination). This distorts competition between operators from different countries and between fixed line and mobile phone operators. The public consultation on this proposal will be open until 3 September 2008.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vodafone Moots Fibre (FTTx) Broadband Future

It's sometimes easy to forget that Vodafone even offers a land-line broadband service in the UK, albeit one based off BT's managed solution. The operator has failed to make much of a name for itself and most recently took a step back from its leading role in Tiscali's impending sale.

However, Vodafone is still Europe's biggest unbundler (LLU) of telephone lines and holds the title of fifth largest broadband provider on the continent. Its UK future may remain uncertain, but the operator continues to push ahead in neighbouring markets.

So, when Vodafone's director of public policy, Richard Feasey, starts talking about fibre (FTTx) broadband deployment, you listen. The following comments were made at yesterdays ECTA conference in Brussels:

"We are beginning to think about fibre... Fibre is the first time we all start again in technology deployment," said Feasey. "The economics look very challenging and it is difficult to find a way to improve the economics. The big issue is whether we can grow ARPU, and we have to believe in big increments. It's really about the way TV is sold and different platforms for HDTV and the constraints [in the form of competition]."

"We need to find economies of scope. If it's [coming from a] stand alone DSL [business] without adjacent services, it looks bleak," said Feasey. "You have to think big market share. We have to believe we can achieve 30% [market share]... That is where the mobile distribution engine comes in. The only one [sector] where we have seen these numbers [for market share in comparison to the incumbent] are in mobile."

"We spend 5 billion euros acquiring customers and selling services. We are looking to apply this mobile sales and distribution engine to fixed broadband."

Vodafone admits that it is still in the early stages of its planning and has nothing concrete to build on just yet, but this is a strong hint of things to come. Unfortunately the UK might not be part of it, with Feasey concluding that they were running out of time with rivals (e.g. Virgin Media) developing faster: "We'll take it as it comes."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Metropolitan Femto Cells to fill the gaps?

Vodafone Dreams of Metro Femto

Femtocells could one day proliferate in metropolitan areas at bus stops, on lamp posts, or on buildings, if Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD - message board)’s vision for a hotspot deployment of femto access points becomes reality.

The giant mobile operator's head of new technologies and innovation, Kenny Graham, proposed taking the mini home base stations out of the home/office and onto the streets at the Femtocells Europe 2008 conference in London Wednesday morning.

Graham (a.k.a. the Vodafone Visionary) reckons the same attributes that make femtocells ideal for deployment in homes and offices -– localized coverage, improved performance, self-configuration, self-optimization, and low cost -– can be of use outside, too. He dubbed this kind of deployment a “metrozone.”

Operators would get the same benefits of increased capacity and better coverage at a lower cost, compared to deploying more macro cell sites, believes Graham.

”Longer term, you can… get a contiguous network of access points,” he said. “If you create this layer of access points, you will deliver a step change in performance.

”We’ve talked about mesh, software-defined radio, self-organized networks, and base stations on lamp posts for years,” he reminded his audience. “All these technologies were concepts some time ago. The metro access point [femtocell] could be [what] brings these things together to improve performance for the outdoor environment.”

But while this all sounds intriguing, Graham admitted the idea faces a lot of challenges. One of the biggest issues with a metro femto deployment is backhaul. How would an operator backhaul traffic from all those little base stations?

As to the timing of when such an outdoor femto deployment might be practical, he said it could be three years from now, or even longer: The "metrozone" concept seems more appropriate for the so-called 4G technology, Long-Term Evolution (LTE), he added.

For now, though, Vodafone is testing femtocells for the home environment.

”Today, the focus is on the home,” said Graham. “We have to get that working right first. Then, we can start looking to the future and set a path for access points in the future.”

Vodafone is trialing femtocells in Spain with equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Alcatel-Lucent . Alcatel-Lucent uses femtocell technology and access points from Sagem SA and provides the system integration through a joint development partnership.

Graham stressed that the trial in Spain is focused on testing femtocells in the home environment and not the public access point scenario.

Unstrung has also reported that ip.access Ltd. , along with AlcaLu, were the joint winners of a group-wide Vodafone femtocell RFP. But Graham would not comment on whether the trial vendor choices in Spain are indicative of a supplier change at group level for the operator’s femtocell program.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Telecom - revenues from environmentalism

Market Research: Telecom Industry Stands to Make $1 Trillion over 5 Years Promoting Environmentalism

Carriers and other providers in the global ICT (information and communications technology) industry can bring to bear an expansive array of technologies and services to substantially improve the environment while generating over $1 trillion in new industry revenue over the next five years, according to a new market research study from The Insight Research Corporation. The study found that by using existing networks and services, carriers and other ICT providers can utilize green communications portfolios that mitigate the deleterious impacts that green house gas (GHG) emissions, energy power consumption, and waste disposal have on the environment.

Insight Research’s market analysis study, “Communicating Green: Telecommunications Value in Promoting Environmental Improvement, 2008-2013,” evaluated the use of existing telecommunications technologies and services applied to five key domains: transportation demand management to improve gasoline consumption; demand side management of electrical power, machine-to-machine communications to improve operational efficiencies; the recycling of electronic devices; and regulatory compliance and audits. To impact the environment positively in each of the domains, specific improvements were quantified in nine solution areas: mobile workforce; field services and personnel; data center operations; telecommuting; facilities/building management; environmental audit and compliance systems; branch and remote office capabilities; environmentally located data centers; and ICT equipment recycling.

“Instead of investing in new technology, all carriers have to do is organize their existing capabilities into solutions sets,” says Robert Rosenberg, Insight Research. “For example, carriers have technologies that can be used to reduce auto emissions as well as energy demand to heat and cool offices and homes. Enterprises and households that reduce their carbon footprint will be able to monetize the results, while carriers generate new revenue from existing capabilities,” Rosenberg concluded.

“Communicating Green: Telecommunications Value in Promoting Environmental Improvement 2008-2013″ examined over 50 technologies, services and applications to create an algorithmic model that combines over 60,000 relevant variables to assess telecommunications’ impact on environmental mitigation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

USA - broadband policy

FCC Member, Lessig Unveil U.S. Broadband Initiative

U.S. Federal Communications Commission member Jonathan Adelstein and several high-profile technology executives and industry advocates on Tuesday launched an initiative to make broadband access a national priority in the U.S.

At the Personal Democracy Forum in New York, Adelstein and others unveiled, a movement aimed at fostering a public dialogue among U.S. citizens to advise the government on how to set a national policy.

In addition to Adelstein, industry luminaries on hand to support the effort included Stanford University law professor Larry Lessig and Google Chief Technology Evangelist Vint Cerf, one of TCP/IP's developers.

Broadband advocates have complained that the U.S. government has not made widespread broadband adoption among its citizens enough of a priority. U.S. residents lag behind those of several nations in purchasing broadband access, according to a recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Indeed, Adelstein, who characterized himself as "a frustrated policymaker in Washington," said a lack of a national broadband policy directly contributes to the U.S. falling behind other countries in its citizens' adoption of broadband. This puts the country at risk in lagging behind globally in other social, educational and economic endeavors, he said.

"The [U.S.] government has had a policy of benign neglect and we're falling faster and faster behind," he said in an interview following Tuesday's press conference.

Lessig, known for being an outspoken critic of government policy around the Internet, called the U.S. broadband situation "abysmal" and said lawmakers have allowed a "Neanderthal policy" to govern access to broadband for the past eight years.

While he said the private business sector has a central role in ensuring that people have access to broadband, the Internet touches so many parts of American life -- including social, cultural and personal interests -- that the government can no longer take a backseat to creating policy that fosters adoption among its citizens. is based on four principles, said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press and one of those who launched the initiative on Tuesday.

Those principles are: to provide access to high-speed, world-class communications infrastructure to every home and business in America; to ensure that people have sizeable choice of broadband providers; to foster openness so users have the right to freedom of speech and commerce when using the Internet; and to promote innovation so the Internet can create jobs and foster enterpreneurship and economic growth.

To begin the discussion of how to form a national broadband policy, the initiative will hold four public forums across the U.S. to hear what average Americans have to say about the issue, Silver said.

There is currently no schedule for these forums; however, more information will eventually be posted on the initiative's Web site.

Some of the key problems surrounding giving everyone in the U.S. access to broadband is the price, which is cost-prohibitive for less affluent citizens; and lack of access to broadband in rural areas.

Adelstein said in an interview that it will take a combination of factors -- including the government freeing up more wireless spectrum and fostering competition among providers of broadband access -- to solve these problems.

To achieve this, lawmakers would do well to learn lessons from other countries -- including Sweden, Korea and Japan -- that have taken important steps to enact a broadband policy, he said.

When asked why is not making stronger recommendations to set up policy right away and is leaving it up to the public to help devise a plan, Adelstein said public consensus is crucial to spurring the government to take action.

"There's no want of proposals [for a national broadband policy], there is want of willingness and leadership to implement a policy," he said, noting that he himself has offered proposals for a national broadband policy. "What we need is this kind of movement -- a coalition that can bring together the public choice."

He said the FCC is eyeing a proposal to free up a 20 MHz wireless spectrum to be used for free wireless services; supporting such efforts is key to supporting a national broadband policy. The commission put out a request for comments on the proposal last week.

Indeed, Adelstein said the wireless realm provides the greatest opportunity right now to provide broadband access to everyone in the U.S., but more must be done to foster competition among companies that control the wireless spectrum.

For example, he said the U.S. missed a "golden opportunity" to improve the state of broadband access with the 700 MHz spectrum auction in March.

Incumbent telecom carriers Verizon and AT&T -- which face little competition -- won much of that spectrum at the auction. At the time, some called for the FCC to limit incumbent bidding in the auction.

South Africa - Tata and Neotel

Tata Takes Bigger Stake in South Africa's Neotel

In sunny South Africa, the deal market is as hot as ever...

Indian global services giant Tata Communications Ltd. is taking a majority stake in Neotel (Pty) Ltd. , South Africa's second national operator created to provide competition to incumbent Telkom SA Ltd..

Tata Communications is acquiring a 30 percent stake from electricity provider Eskom and transport and logistics company Transnet, both government-owned firms. The deal will bring the total ownership of Tata Communications and Tata Africa Holdings in Neotel to 56 percent. VSNL, which is now part of Tata Communications, was an original shareholder in the consortium that acquired South Africa’s second fixed-line telecom license.

Tata Communications recently extended its services in South Africa with a new point of presence in Johannesburg that integrates Neotel’s IP/MPLS infrastructure with its global network.

Formed in 2006 to bring down the cost of wholesale telecom services, Neotel launched its corporate high-speed Internet, VPN, network management, and hosting services last year and consumer services last month.

South African carriers are hot property right now -- Telkom SA and mobile operator Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) are both in talks to be acquired.

United Arab Emirates-based Oger Telecom , which has been rebuffed by Telkom before, is reportedly trying to get in on Mvelaphanda Holdings Ltd.’s negotiations with the carrier. Oger is keen to merge its South African mobile operator, Cell C , with Telkom's fixed-line operations to create a fixed/mobile convergence offering.

Tata Communications is actively extending its network in emerging markets to offer data connectivity and managed services to multinational corporations along with domestic enterprises. It has set aside $1 billion for network expansion over the next three years.

Last week it signed a joint venture deal with telecom and IT services provider China Enterprise Communications Ltd. Tata will acquire a 50 percent stake in CEC, which was recently awarded a nationwide IP-VPN service license by the Chinese government.

In February, Tata signed network-to-network interface (NNI) agreement with China Enterprise Netcom Corp. Ltd. (China Entercom), another telecom and IT provider. In May, it signed an agreement with Etisalat to offer Ethernet and other connectivity services to enterprises in the United Arab Emirates.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Australia - broadband

Broadband on the never-never

LABOR'S election pledge to appoint a national broadband network builder by the end of the year is in tatters because of another extension of the bid deadline and a trebling of the expected construction costs.

Proposals to build a broadband network to 98% of the population were initially due on July 25 but the deadline was extended last month after complaints from potential bidders.

The new deadline was to be 12 weeks after Telstra handed over detailed network information to its rivals, still allowing the Government to meet its end-of-year target.

But BusinessDay believes bidders have now been told that proposals will likely not be due until November, which could push back the awarding of the tender to mid-2009.

Labor's estimate that it would cost $8 billion to build a fibre-to-the-node network to 98% of the population, made a month before its November election victory, has also been disputed. Telstra chairman Donald McGauchie says the telco expects the network will cost up to $25 billion.

Mr McGauchie said that while Telstra had not fully costed its FTTN bid - if it decided to make one - the $15 billion to $25 billion estimate was "probably not a bad number".

Mr McGauchie said the Government's intention that FTTN reach 98% of the population would be a lot more expensive than relying on wireless broadband for outlying, sparsely populated areas.

"The first 50% is pretty economical," he said. "Every 10% beyond there the price goes up dramatically, and once you go past 90%, it goes up exponentially for every 1%."

The chairman hinted that a way to reduce the overall cost of building the network, as well as reducing the fibre footprint, would be to remove the Government's guarantee of minimum network connection speeds of 12 megabits per second. "Is 12 enough? I don't know, I think the market should decide that, not a bloody regulator," he said.

Other telcos, led by Optus, have been arguing that the FTTN construction is an opportunity for the Government to split Telstra's wholesale and network divisions from its retail division, as a means of ensuring equal access for all telcos.

Mr McGauchie again fiercely rejected the idea of structural or operational separation but conceded he was increasingly concerned the Government was contemplating stricter regulation of Telstra. "We've had all sorts of mixed signals from around the place," he said. "Various people, we'll just say 'close' to Government, (have told us) these issues are there."

Mr McGauchie also said Telstra would not comply with any FTTN proposal that involved the imposition of more regulation, and was miffed as to why there was not a push to reduce regulatory intervention from the Government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Macquarie Group last week pulled out of the running to build the FTTN network to advise Telstra instead.

The Optus-led Terria consortium still says it will bid for the project, despite its lack of external funding. But Mr McGauchie increased doubt about the viability of a rival bid by suggesting Telstra would shift its customers to its cable and wireless networks, rather than use the new network.

USA - broadband policy

Study Calls for 1G Broadband in US
see also Baller

The U.S. should aim for 100M bps (bits per second) of broadband available to all U.S. residents by 2012 and 1G bps by 2015 in order to catch up to other countries that are moving forward with broadband rollouts, recommends a study released Monday.

The study, by the Baller Herbst Law Group of Washington, D.C., also calls on the U.S. to create a national broadband strategy that helps state programs bring broadband to underserved areas. Neither private industry nor government programs alone can build the broadband networks needed for the U.S. to compete globally in the coming years, said Jim Baller, founder of Baller Herbst and the study's co-author.

The e-NC Authority, a state program in North Carolina focused on broadband rollout, commissioned the study, and many of Baller's recommendations are focused on how North Carolina can get broadband to the 16 percent of the state's residents who don't yet have it. Among the recommendations: Grants to broadband providers, communities working together to finance broadband networks and funding for new broadband competitors.

Several speakers at a forum accompanying the study's release said other states can learn from North Carolina's broadband efforts. The state has used a combination of state, nonprofit and other funding to bring broadband to its rural areas, and in January, it awarded a US$1.2 million grant to help bring broadband to four rural counties.

But speakers at Monday's event said the U.S. government needs to step forward and help bring broadband to rural areas across the nation.

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Program at the New America Foundation, compared broadband to electricity or telephony of the last century. Broadband is the "essential public infrastructure of the 21st century," he said.

The U.S. White House needs a broadband czar who coordinates how government agencies are promoting broadband, added Michael Copps, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The U.S. Department of Human and Urban Development should require broadband hookups in all new public housing projects, and other agencies should work with local schools and libraries to extend their Internet access out into the community using wireless networks, he said.

Countries such as Japan and South Korea have faster broadband available for cheaper prices than in the U.S., and residents in those countries have an advantage over U.S. residents, speakers said.

"Broadband is a revolution," Copps said. "Revolutions have winners, and revolutions have losers."

The average download speed among consumer broadband services in the U.S. is 8.9M bps, slower than average speeds in 18 other OECD countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Japan's average download speed is more than 10 times faster, at 93.7M bps, while France's is 44.2M bps and South Korea's is 43.3M bps, according to OECD numbers.

Some people will dispute that the U.S. needs 100M bps or 1G bps, as the study calls for, Baller said. "Great nations build key infrastructure with a lot of headroom," he said. "They do what it takes to be great and stay great."

Broadband can improve the economy in rural areas, bringing jobs that might otherwise be outsourced overseas, added Jonathan Adelstein, also an FCC member. Broadband can enable telecommuting, which is good for the environment, and it can help police and fire departments better communicate with each other, he added.

While the speakers at the event all called for a national broadband policy, some groups have questioned the need for major changes. Denny Strigl, Verizon Communication's president and chief operating officer, said OECD statistics showing the U.S. 15th out of 30 member nations in broadband penetration are misleading, partly because it fails to factor in population density.

The U.S. has the most broadband customers of any nation, and U.S. customers have more choice of providers than residents of most other countries, wrote Eric Rabe, Verizon's senior vice president for media relations in a blog post this month. A World Economic Forum study says the U.S. has the best Internet infrastructure, he added.

"While it hasn't quite achieved the notoriety of an urban myth, it's become commonplace to read that the United States lags other countries when it comes to broadband service," Rabe wrote on the Verizon Policy Blog. "It's time to put the myth of U.S. broadband inferiority to rest."

Ireland - broadband

Strategy aims for total broadband coverage in State

IRELAND WILL have "ubiquitous" broadband coverage by the end of next year and will enjoy broadband speeds that will be among the highest in Europe by 2012, according to a Government strategy to be announced next week.

The "Next Generation" broadband strategy will be published on July 3rd by Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan. An internal Department of Communications document seen by The Irish Times says the aim of the strategy will be to have "ubiquitous access to broadband by 2009".

It continues: "By 2012 speeds equivalent to or higher than that in competitor EU regions will be available over a variety of platforms."

The paper concedes these targets are challenging, as 40 per cent of the population live in rural areas and fewer than 10 per cent live in apartments, unlike many European countries where populations tend to live in densely-populated urban environments.

Another innovation, according to the paper, will be the separation of services from the network used to deliver these services. Mr Ryan strongly suggested at a telecoms industry event last month that his preference was for such open-ended networks through which all operators could provide services.

Next week's launch comes four months after Mr Ryan convened a group of international experts to advise him on the strategy.

Among the issues considered was whether the Government should fund the development of next-generation broadband or whether it should allow the roll-out to be led by the private sector, with State funding being provided only for areas that might be ignored.

The experts also advised the department on the relative merits of fixed and wireless services for the delivery of the fastest-possible and cheapest-possible broadband.

While broadband take-up continues to grow quickly in Ireland, the last benchmarking update by Forfás at the end of 2007 showed that broadband penetration in Ireland still lagged behind the OECD average, and that there remained a limited range and speed of broadband services. It showed that the fastest speed widely available of six megabytes per second costs four to five times more than much higher-speed services in countries such as France, Germany and Hungary.

The procurement process to roll out broadband under the National Broadband Scheme to the remaining 10 per cent of the State is currently on hold due to a High Court challenge to the process.

Fine Gael's communications spokesman Simon Coveney has been a consistent critic of Mr Ryan's broadband policies.

Mr Coveney has said that Mr Ryan has not moved quickly enough to make good the deficit, pointing to statistics that shows Ireland lying 20th out of 30 OECD countries for penetration and 33rd out of 35 countries for speed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

O2 - reduces roaming charges

O2 To Cut EU Roaming Text Rates

Mobile operator O2 is to cut the price pre-pay customers pay to send texts while travelling in the EU by 25%.

From July 1st, the cost of sending a text in Europe will reduce to 29cent from the current 39cent, bringing it in line with the cost for bill-pay customers.

Vodafone has also announced reductions in charges for business customers on its Wireless Office Plus tariff. They include new rates of 15cent a minute to UK mobiles and landlines.

Roaming - T-mobile reduces charges

T-Mobile cuts data roaming fees by 80 percent

T-Mobile has announced a cut of 80 percent in its European data-roaming charges, in time for the 1 July deadline imposed on operators by the European Commission.

Information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding told operators in February that they would have to make their data-roaming rates more reasonable by the start of July, otherwise the Commission would consider proposing strict new regulations on such charges. On Friday, T-Mobile said its data-roaming charges within Europe would, as of 1 July, drop from £7.50 per megabyte to £1.50 per megabyte.

The move will make T-Mobile the cheapest UK operator in terms of using a mobile phone or data modem for internet surfing while abroad on the continent. The operator also said on Friday that it would be cutting its rates for text messaging while in Europe — another bugbear for Reding — from 40 pence per message to 25 pence per message, bringing T-Mobile in line with its rival O2. Leaving opt-in bundles aside, O2 and 3 will, until 1 July, be the cheapest UK operators for data roaming, as they already charge just £3 per megabyte. has contacted all the other UK operators to see whether they also now intend to cut their data-roaming rates, but none had given confirmation of such a move at the time of writing.

It is not clear whether T-Mobile's rate cut will satisfy Reding, although she has always been clear that she would prefer voluntary reductions to further regulation. has contacted her office to seek comment on T-Mobile's move, but has not yet received a reply.

Europe - one year of the Roaming Regulation

The EU Roaming Regulation – One Year On

One Year of Lower Mobile Charges Abroad.
More Price Cuts for Voice Calls to Follow on 30 August.
Will Industry Voluntarily Reduce SMS and Data Roaming Charges?

Today is the anniversary of the EU Roaming Regulation, which entered into force on 30 June 2007. Since then, the introduction of the Eurotariff has led to savings of up to 60% for consumers using their mobile phone to make and receive calls abroad within the EU (roaming). They will benefit from further reductions by 30 August as prices will be capped at €0.46 for making calls and €0.22 for receiving calls for the coming year. The European Commission is now assessing whether there have been satisfactory developments in the prices of data roaming (including SMS and MMS) before deciding on whether the Regulation needs to be extended to also cover these services. A deadline set by Commissioner Reding in February to the mobile industry for voluntary reductions of roaming prices for text messages and mobile data services expires today, close of business.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

OECD - future Internet economy

OECD Delegates Chart Road Map for Internet Economy

Bringing about positive change through the Internet and tackling some of its most pressing issues -- this is at the heart of the "Seoul Declaration on the Future of the Internet Economy" which delegates to the OECD Ministerial Meeting adopted Wednesday afternoon.

One pressing issue is building confidence in the Internet. It is important, members said, because people are fearful of attacks on privacy, data breaches, identity theft and other cyber crimes. This becomes a growing threat to global prosperity as the Internet and real-world economies grow increasingly intertwined. One delegate from Canada stressed to adequately protect global flows of information, countries cannot seek solutions on their own.

Another issue is catering to the next several billion people to go online. Members said that the Net could play a bigger role in tackling global issues such as health care, global warming, and high energy prices. But the OECD said collaboration between the public and private sectors is needed to come up with policies that connect more people to the Web, especially those in developing countries. More users present more challenges such as creating Web domains in different languages and boosting convergence among various Internet services and applications.

Delegates at the meeting agreed to continue working toward the goals laid down in the Seoul Declaration, which they called a road map for the future of the Internet economy. It took the OECD ten years to hold this meeting, which is an eternity in Internet time, but as the role of the Internet becomes increasingly dominant in the global community, the OECD says it won't wait another ten years before it meets again.

Europe - brussels

Mobile operators braced for Brussels regulation over data and text charges

Britain's mobile phone giants are baulking at the likelihood of a major pricing shake-up planned by Viviane Reding, the European telecoms commissioner.

The EU's network operators have until 1 July to make "credible reductions" in their prices for sending text messages and downloading data on mobile phones within the bloc, or face regulation. The issue is not just the retail price set by the networks, but also the wholesale prices they charge each other for routing calls across national boundaries.

But while almost all UK suppliers have cut, or plan to cut, data charges, there is less progress on text messages, as the operators wait for what is seen as unavoidable regulatory intervention.

"The view with SMS is that regulation will happen anyway so we might as well just wait," said a source at a major UK network operator.

Data roaming is not Ms Reding's first contretemps with the industry. Regulations introduced last year brought voice roaming charges down by some 60 per cent, which may have been a public relations coup for the commissioner, but it left a sour taste in the mouths of the operators.

"There was threatening language over voice roaming, so the industry brought prices down and then the commissioner regulated anyway – so the threat now is not that helpful because it is just interpreted as politicking," according to a source at another operator.

"The first time around the industry felt hijacked so it may be less willing to move quickly this time."

Data roaming charges are a skirmish compared with the real battle that is brewing, both nationally and Europe-wide, over termination rates. Under the current model, operators charge each other to terminate calls – so if a customer on one network calls someone on another, the receiving network levies a fee. BT pays around £1bn a year to the networks for calls from landlines to mobile phones, and around £1.5bn washes between the mobile players.

BT and 3, the UK's smallest operator, have a case with the Competition Commission alleging that the practice, which made sense for a nascent industry requiring massive capital investments, is now obsolete.

Ms Reding is also looking at the issue, and has stated publicly that she wants to bring the rates down by as much as 70 per cent in order to lower the floor for retail pricing. Official guidance to individual regulators on the issue will be issued early next month.

Australia - interntional roaming

Govt to probe mobile roaming charges

THE federal Government has ordered an investigation to ascertain whether Australian consumers are paying too much to use their mobile phones when overseas.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has ordered the House of Representatives standing committee on communications to look into whether retail tariffs for international mobile roaming charges continue to reflect costs born by carriers.

Senator Conroy told telecommunications ministers at a meeting convened by APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Communities) earlier this year that the cost of mobile roaming services was becoming excessive for consumers and small businesses.

“For individuals and small businesses, international roaming charges are the subject of growing complaints where prices are so high as to discourage the use of mobile phones (roaming) in the APEC region," Seantor Conroy said.

"This issue deserves attention particularly as mobile data services grow and businesses come to rely even more on cross-border access."

The committee will follow-up on an inquiry carried out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in 2005 which found that carriers may be charging excessively high prices for international mobile roaming services.

At the time the ACCC said that consumers were being squeezed by anti-competitive features of the market including lack of consumer information and alternatives.

In a statement released today, however, the committee said "a technology driven environment such as mobile telephony, a lot can change in three years."

Information age - carbon footprint

SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age

Smarter technology use could reduce global emissions by 15 per cent and save global industry EUR 500 billion in annual energy costs by 2020

Transformation in the way people and businesses use technology could reduce annual man-made global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020 and deliver energy efficiency savings to global businesses of over EUR 500 billion [GBP 400 billion/USD 800 billion], according to a new report published today by independent non-profit The °Climate Group and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI).

The report – SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age – is the world’s first comprehensive global study of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector’s growing significance for the world’s climate. The report’s supporting analysis, conducted independently by international management consultants McKinsey & Company, shows that while ICT’s own sector footprint - currently two per cent of global emissions - will almost double by 2020, ICT’s unique ability to monitor and maximise energy efficiency both within and outside of its own sector could cut CO2 emissions by up to five times this amount. This represents a saving of 7.8 Giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2020 – greater than the current annual emissions of either the US or China.

Although tele-working, video-conferencing, e-paper, and e-commerce are increasingly commonplace, the report notes that replacing physical products and services with their virtual equivalents (dematerialisation and substitution) is only one part (six per cent) of the estimated low carbon benefits the ICT sector can deliver.

Far greater opportunities for emissions savings exist in applying ICT to global infrastructure and industry and the report examines four major opportunities where ICT can make further transformational cuts in global emissions. These exist globally within smart building design and use, smart logistics, smart electricity grids, and smart industrial motor systems.

Steve Howard, CEO, The °Climate Group, said: “PCs, mobile phones, and the web have transformed the way we all live and do business. Global warming and soaring energy prices mean that rethinking how every home and business uses technology to cut unnecessary costs and carbon is critical to our environment and economy. Supported by innovative government policy, ICT can unlock the clean green industrial revolution we need to tackle climate change and usher in a new era of low carbon prosperity.”

Luis Neves, Chair, GeSI, said: “The ICT industry is a key driver of low carbon growth and can lead transformation towards a low carbon economy and society. The ICT sector must act quickly to demonstrate what is possible, require clear messages from policy makers about targets and continue to radically innovate to reduce emissions.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “This rigorous assessment underlines that the world can realise a green economy and make the transition to a low carbon economy. It also underlines the crucial importance of the international community reaching a deal on a new climate agreement at the climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. This partnership between GeSI, convened under UNEP, The Climate Group and McKinsey gives us yet another platform for action and yet another compelling reason for reasoned optimism.”

KEY FINDING 1: The global ICT footprint
A new ‘socially networked’ generation around the world continues to drive unprecedented global demand for ICT hardware, software and services providing mobile and instant access to information.

The global study predicts PC ownership will quadruple between 2007 and 2020 to four billion devices and emissions will double over the same period, with laptops overtaking desktops as the main source of global ICT emissions (22 per cent); mobile phone ownership will almost double to nearly 5 billion accounts to 2020 but emissions will only grow by four per cent; and broadband uptake will treble to almost 900 million accounts over the same period, with emissions doubling over the entire telecoms infrastructure.

Despite the major anticipated advances in the energy efficiency of products, the ICT sector’s own footprint – currently two per cent of global emissions – is expected to grow at six per cent per year (CAGR) and double by 2020 driven by increased technology uptake in India, China and rest of the world.

Trends like virtualisation of data centres, long-life devices, smart chargers, Next Generation Networks, and growth of renewable energy consumption (eg solar powered base stations) could help deliver future sustainable sector growth.

To help, rather than hinder, the fight against climate change, the ICT sector must manage its own growing impact and continue to reduce emissions from data centres, telecommunications networks, and the manufacture and use of its products.

KEY FINDING 2: ICT’s enabling effect in cutting global emissions

Crucially, the new report reveals significant opportunities for emissions reductions and how cost savings can be leveraged by applying ICT to global infrastructure and industry. Through enabling other sectors to reduce their emissions, the ICT industry could reduce global emissions by as much as 15 per cent by 2020 – a volume of CO2e five times its own footprint in 2020. If global businesses systematically used ICT to realise all of the solutions indicated in the report they would unlock global energy efficiency savings of over EUR 500 billion (*calculated as at December 2007 prices and not including a carbon price which may emerge if a global carbon market is established).

This enabling effect is due to ICT’s unique ability to allow us to measure, optimise and therefore manage energy consumption.

Four major global opportunities were examined through regional case studies:

1) Applied globally, smart industry motors and industrial automation would reduce 0.97 GtCO2e in 2020, worth EUR 68 billion (USD 107.2 billion). A review of manufacturing in China uncovered that, without technological improvements, 10 per cent of China’s emissions (two per cent of global emissions) in 2020 will come from China’s motor systems alone: To improve China’s industrial efficiency by even 10 per cent would deliver up to 200 million tones CO2e savings.

2) The global emissions savings from smart logistics in 2020 would reach 1.52 GtCO2e, with energy savings worth EUR 208 billion (USD 441.7 billion). In Europe, the logistics industry looks set to grow by 23 per cent between 2002 and 2020.
Through a host of efficiencies in transport and storage, smart logistics in Europe could deliver fuel, electricity and heating
savings of 225 MtCO2e in 2020.

3) Buildings are the second highest consumer of power in the world behind industry. Globally, smart buildings technologies would enable 1.68 GtCO2e of emissions savings, worth EUR 216 billion (USD 340.8 billion). A closer look at buildings in North America indicates that through better building design, management and automation, 15 per cent of North America’s building emissions could be avoided.

4) Smart grid technologies were the largest opportunity explored in the study, and could globally reduce 2.03 GtCO2e, worth EUR 79 billion (USD 124.6 billion). In India, currently over 30 per cent of the generated power is lost through aggregated
technical and commercial losses (AT&C). Reducing these losses in India’s power sector by 30 per cent is possible through better monitoring and management of electricity grids, first with smart meters and then through integrating more advanced ICTs into the so-called ‘energy internet’.

KEY FINDING 3: Getting SMART about ICT

Going forward, the report recommends a SMART framework is implemented, outlining key actions required by the ICT sector, national governments and industry. Transformation of the economy will occur when standardisation (S), monitoring (M) and accounting (A) of energy consumption prompt a rethink (R) in how we optimise for energy efficiency and how we live, work and play in a low carbon world. Through this enabling platform, transformation (T) will occur when the business models that drive low carbon alternatives can be developed and diffused at scale across all sectors of the economy.

Molly Webb, ICT Project Director, The °Climate Group said, “ICT is a vital tool to combat global warming because of its unique ability to make energy visible and communicate the information in real time to business managers who can use this to make valuable efficiency gains. It is certainly possible for ICT to reduce global emissions by 15 per cent by 2020, but by no means inevitable. Although many low carbon technologies already exist, a more integrated policy framework is required to kick start industry action and enable these to be taken to scale.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thailand - Shin Corp & Temasek Holdings

Temasek to reduce stake in Shin Corp

Singapore’s Temasek Holdings plans to reduce its stake in Shin Corp, the Thai group it took control of more than two years ago, through a public offering of shares.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) on Tuesday, Shin Corp said it was drafting a prospectus for an offering that would increase the minority shareholding, although it also said it would have to monitor the investment climate and sentiment in order to “conduct a successful the future”.

Shin Corp gave no details of a time-frame or size for such a deal.

In January 2006, Temasek paid $3.8bn, or Bt49 per share, for a 96 per cent stake in Shin Corp, the telecoms-to-aviation group founded by Thaksin Shinawatra, who was then Thailand’s prime minister.

The deal, Thailand’s largest takeover, triggered a crisis as Bangkok residents protested against the Shinawatra family’s $1.9bn tax-free profits from the deal. Critics accused the Singaporean state investment agency,of violating Thai laws limiting foreign ownership of telecoms companies to 49 per cent, though the deal replicated similar takeovers.

The furore culminated in the September 2006 coup and the seizure of most of the Shinawatra family’s earnings from the Shin Corp sale. The military government also vowed to investigate whether the takeover violated foreign investment laws.

Mr Thaksin is still battling to recover the money, but the Thai official spotlight on Temasek seems to have faded, partly owing to concerns about the repercussions of such a probe on other foreign groups operating in Thailand and partly due to the installation of a new elected government loyal to Mr Thaksin.

Shin Corp shares are trading at or Bt25 per share, a 35 per cent discount to their net asset value, reflecting the political changes in Thailand and Mr Thaksin’s fortunes since the purchase.

Andy Chan, a JPMorgan telecoms analyst, said it was unclear whether Temasek was serious about a near-term offering or was deflecting pressure from the Thai stock market, which requires listed companies to have a free float of at least 15 per cent. “It could be, ‘Yes they are really going to do it,’ or maybe they are just trying to make some statements here and there to get the SET off their back.”

Syria - telecom markets

Politics hurts

With a relatively closed market, tight regulations and political volatility, Syria is a tough market for telecom operators. Milan Sallaba, partner, Oliver Wyman, tells CommsMEA where the country's potential lies.

Despite having a large young population and a relatively low mobile penetration rate, Syria remains a tough market for private telecom operators looking to enter the market.

And the situation has become more difficult in the past few years, partly owing to tightening US sanctions, which have been in place since 2004.

For the telecoms sector, the sanctions mean that operators have been forced to acquire telco equipment from alternative providers, including France and China.

It also makes it more difficult for the telecoms sector, and the country as a whole, to open its doors and become a fully liberalised and fluid market.

"In brief, a lack of infrastructure, underdeveloped services, lack of competition, an overly government-controlled communication sector all contribute to hamper take up and growth, and do not reflect the underlying market potential," says Milan Sallaba, partner, Oliver Wyman.

India - national roaming policy

DoT allows intra-circle roaming pacts between private players

The government has allowed private mobile operators to enter into mutual agreements for intra- circle roaming with each other, a move that will help new players who are yet to roll out their networks and those who do not have licence in a particular service area.

The Department of Telecommunications circular said: "A licensee may enter into mutual commercial agreements for intra-service area roaming facilities with other cellular operators." Industry sources said the measure may have been undertaken to benefit new operators with no telecom experience or infrastructure of their own or are in the process of rolling out their own networks.

The DoT decision would not, however, change the mandatory network roll out of 60 per cent in the first year but would give them a chance to offer their customers intra-circle roaming by allowing them to tie up with other operators.

The circular said roaming arrangements are normally entered into by access service providers for service area for which they do not have licence to provide service.

Therefore, so far the request for mandatory roaming facilities among the players have not been agreed to. However there is no bar in entering into roaming agreements subject to the mutual commercial agreements by various service providers.

Business security breaches

Verizon Business Releases Results of Security Breach Analysis

Verizon Business has released the results of a forensic study into the cause of corporate data breaches. The 2008 Data Breach Investigations Report covered incidents over four years, 500 separate investigations and 230 million records. The key findings include that 73% of breaches arose from external sources—which includes 39% (and trending upwards) attributed to business partners, with 18% identified as arising from insider threats. 62% were attributed to significant internal errors contributing to the breach. Of deliberate data breaches, 59% arose from hacking and intrusions to the network. Of these hack attacks, 39% targeted the applications or software layer with the Operating System targeted by 23% of attacks. Only 25% exploited known or unknown vulnerabilities—of which 90% had had a patch available for six months prior to the breach. 75% of breaches were also only discovered by a third party and had gone undetected for a significant period of time. There were regional differences in the type of attack with Asia, particularly China and Vietnam compromising data with application exploits, "defacements" largely originated from the Middle East while Eastern Europe and Russian attacks were associated with compromising point of sale system attacks.

Significance: Verizon Business notes that many companies have security policies but these are not implemented at a procedural level. Unknown data is often stored in disparate locations on the network and pointers to arising or completed attacks are often missed through lack of awareness. Security features are being built into networks at the hardware level and carriers increasingly offer them as features, including offering managed services but awareness and internals systems are still vital to control networked data security.

New Zealand - worst broadband

Telecom and Vodafone broadband worst - Commission

Two of NZ's biggest broadband providers are the worst performers, says the Commerce Commission.

A report issued yesterday ranked Telecom, Vodafone and smaller company Slingshot the worst performers.

The three companies scored average to below average in tests, including time taken to connect to the internet, download speeds and the time taken to send and receive emails.

By contrast, industry minnows such as MaxNet, Snap and Compass provided good services in their target areas, while the country's second-biggest provider, TelstraClear, rated best in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

In Hamilton and Dunedin, Orcon shared the top spot with TelstraClear.

The quarterly study by analysts Epitiro Technologies and IDC measured 13 internet service providers in 11 sites across the five major cities.

In Auckland, Telecom scored the worst of all internet service providers, followed by Vodafone and Slingshot.

TelstraClear DSL was the city's best provider, scoring 42 per cent better than the Auckland average.

Hamilton emerged as the country's broadband winner, with a service on average 30 per cent better than the rest of the country.

The report was not all bad for the big companies - the writers noted large companies had it tougher than their competition, because of crowded networks. Smaller networks had it easier, with relatively few users at any one time.

Report co-author Mike Cranna said Telecom was partly a victim of its own size.

"When you have 60 per cent of the market, that's an awful lot of customers and an awful lot of network to maintain.

"But we also know that traditionally Telecom has under-invested in its network."

The report said upgrades at key Auckland sites by Telecom, Vodafone, Slingshot and TelstraClear should start to improve broadband services over the rest of the year.

Finland - an end to wireline rural services?

TeliaSonera to end fixed-line services in rural areas

TeliaSonera Finland is substituting fixed-line services with wireless services in sparsely-populated areas.

Starting 15 February 2009, TeliaSonera will provide wireless voice services in rural areas. The company says it will terminate fixed-network services on 1 October 2010 at the earliest.

TeliaSonera says that rural customers will still be able to use their current fixed-line telephones and many auxiliary devices wirelessly after it terminates fixed-line services by using a GSM adapter.

Monday, June 16, 2008

OECD - Internet trends

The Future of the Internet Economy: A statistical profile

The statistical profile, prepared for the OECD Ministerial meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy taking place in Seoul on 17-18 June, compares major trends in the diffusion of the Internet across OECD and selected non-OECD countries.

USA - Internet and politics

Study: Americans use Net to look beyond sound bite
see also Pew Internet

Americans dissatisfied with political sound bites are turning to the Internet for a more complete picture, a new study finds.

In a report Sunday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that nearly 30 percent of adults have used the Internet to read or watch unfiltered campaign material — footage of debates, position papers, announcements and transcripts of speeches.

"They want to see the full-blown campaign event. They want to read the speech from beginning to end," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew group. "It's a push back from the sound-bite culture."

Google Inc.'s YouTube and other video sites have become more popular. Thirty-five percent of adults have watched a political video online during the primary season, compared with 13 percent during the entire 2004 presidential race.

The study also found that 10 percent of adults have used online hangouts like Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace for political activity, whether it's to add a campaign as a friend on their personal profile pages, discover a friend's political interests or join an online political group.

Of course, video and social networking have grown in general since the last presidential election.

"It is mirroring the broader trends that we see online," Rainie said.

Pew also found online fundraising is up — 6 percent of adults have contributed to a campaign using the Internet, compared with 2 percent in 2004.

The Internet has allowed campaigns to reach first-time donors without the expense of direct mail or phone calls. Democrat Barack Obama has been particularly adept at generating small donations from a vast number of Internet users to become the fundraising leader among all the presidential candidates.

Pew found that among Internet users, Obama supporters were about twice as likely as backers of Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain to have made a campaign contribution online.

All told, 46 percent of Americans have used the Internet or cell phone text messaging for some political activity.

Yet they have mixed views about the Internet in politics. Sixty percent of Internet users fear that misinformation and propaganda are widespread online and that too many other voters are trusting that information. And only 28 percent believe the Internet helps them feel more personally connected to the candidate they support.

The telephone study of 2,251 adults, including 1,553 Internet users, was conducted April 8 to May 11 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Thou shalt not blog

Blogger arrests hit record high

More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

China - growth of online shopping

CNNIC: Online Shoppers Spend RMB 16B In H1, Taobao Tops The Charts

China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released online shopping statistics for the first half of 2008 on Friday, reports Sina. According to the data, online shopping transactions reached RMB 16.2 billion in 19 developed cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen during the period. Just over half of the total, RMB 8.4 billion, came from male consumers while RMB 3.1 billion was attributed to students. The top five e-commerce sites based on online shopping penetration rates were Alibaba Group's consumer-to-consumer (C2C) site (81.5%), (16.6%), Amazon's China subsidiary Joyo (13.6%), Tom Online and eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY) Eachnet (8.4%), and Tencent's (0700.HK) C2C site (7.2%). According to the report, 91% of online shoppers who have heard of Taobao have made purchases on the site, while 61.4% percent of those familiar with Joyo had shopped there.

Europe - an end to CPP?

Report says EU may okay mobile charges for accepting calls

The European Union's telecoms chief is ready to accept mobile telephone users having to pay charges for accepting calls, she told the Financial Times in an interview published on Monday.

Asked if she was prepared to back the system, already used in the United States, EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said: "Why not? The whole market is developing so we should not stay on the rules that have been in place 10 years."

Charges for accepting calls could be part of a new business model for mobile phone operators to be developed as the European Commission, the EU's executive, is pressing the companies to lower the cost of texting and downloading data abroad.

The European Regulators Group, made up of the EU's 27 national telecoms watchdogs, has said intervention is needed to cap roamed SMS prices but that data roaming, still in its infancy, requires more careful study.

The Commission has already capped roaming charges for mobile phone users abroad.

Tanzania - HiTs Telecom

Hits plans $500m investment in Dar mobile market

New mobile phone operator Hits Tanzania Ltd plans to invest $500 million in its countrywide coverage within 13 months.

The firm’s chief executive officer Gerhard May, said Hits is targeting a network capacity for initial two million customers in the same period.

The firm has already signed a $180 million deal with its strategic partner Huawei Technologies of China to set up its network in the country.

According to Mr May, the two partners have started work on the network infrastructure as well as on construction works for the mobile switching centre and the firm’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam.

He added that the firm chose to invest in Tanzania because of the potential market, given the low penetration of mobile phones.

Hits becomes the sixth mobile phone operator to enter Tanzania after Celtel Tanzania, Vodacom Tanzania, Tigo Tanzania, Zantel Tanzania and the Tanzania Telecommunications Company.

Hits Tanzania is financially backed by Hits Africa — an arm of Hits Telecoms Holding based in Kuwait — and local investor Jitco.

Hits Africa is rolling out a series of telecommunications operations in Africa and has obtained GSM licences in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea and is a shareholder in Atlantic Telecom of Liberia.

Hits Africa will be the second national telecoms operator in Equatorial Guinea, after being picked by the government to establish a converged fixed, mobile and data network throughout the country by 2009. It will roll out 2.5G and 3G mobile networks in the country by the end of 2008.

Hits Telecoms has investments and interests in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. In Saudi Arabia, the firm is a key shareholder in ITC, the national broadband wireless data network.

Through its subsidiary Qanawat, the group is a major player in the telecoms distribution and service market.

The group plans to expand operations in both Africa and Latin America as well as obtain majority stake in a European operator. Hits America, part of the Hits Telecoms Group, operates in Brazil.

By selling stakes to private equity investors, Hits Africa plans to raise $300 million in capital by end of June. It aims to have between four million and six million subscribers by 2012 in eight African countries.