Tuesday, September 30, 2008

USA - the bailout and increased regulation

The government is coming: what the bailout means for tech

Technology and telecoms companies should prepare themselves for the pendulum to swing towards greater regulationJonathan Weber
The US bailout of Wall Street marks the end of the deregulation era – and it isn't just the money business that's about to see a lot more oversight and other forms of government engagement. In energy, transportation, health care food and, yes, technology and telecommunications, the role of government – always much greater than acknowledged – is about to change in big ways.

The speed of the shift away from the free-market approach that has dominated since Ronald Reagan was president will depend to some extent on who is the next president. Barack Obama, liberated by the Wall Street meltdown, now talks openly of the need for a strong federal government hand in the economy. (That's a theme that Democrats, whatever they might have felt in their hearts, have had to handle delicately for years lest they be accused of socialism.) John McCain, to the extent that he thinks much about the economy, is a comparatively unreconstructed free-marketeer – but not one unwilling to shift with the times.


On the regulatory front, look for more aggressive anti-trust enforcement, and a more activist stance on privacy issues. The Bush Administration has actually been less complaisant than one might expect on anti-trust, but the angry mood towards big business is likely to translate into further scrutiny of big businesses getting bigger. And if the federal government is once again explicitly charged with defending the little guy, consumer-protection issues like privacy are likely to get more attention.

Telecommunications, which remains among the most highly regulated of all industries, promises to be a huge battleground. Some Reagan-era policies, like loosening restrictions on ownership of television and radio stations, are likely to fall by the wayside or even be rolled back. But what a new Congress and Administration might do about the rules governing competition in both fixed-line and mobile telephone services, in cable television, and on the internet remains to be seen.

The phone companies, notably Verizon and AT&T, remain incredibly potent as bi-partisan lobbying forces, but they'll likely have to fight renewed efforts to control both their rates and their business practices. In particular, the struggle over so-called net neutrality will continue, with the phone companies arguing for their right to do what they want with their networks and internet businesses, and others insisting that the network be operated in a non-discriminatory fashion.

As an internet entrepreneur, this last issue is the most critical for me. In theory, Google and the other big internet companies are standing up to the phone companies on my behalf in the net neutrality debate. But when push comes to shove, I think the big boys will be happy to cut their own deals with the providers of internet connectivity if they think it's in their interests.

3G - promoting mobile broadband

Telcos, IT companies unite to promote mobile broadband

A group of 16 leading telecoms and IT companies is uniting to promote mobile broadband in a marketing initiative worth more than $1 billion over the next year under the auspices of the GSM Association.

The companies -- which include Vodafone, Microsoft and Asustek -- aim to make it simpler for consumers to identify laptops that have built-in access to the Internet via high-speed, next-generation HSPA and LTE networks.

According to research commissioned by the GSMA and Microsoft and carried out by Pyramid Research, there is demand for $50 billion worth of such notebooks this year.

"We definitely expect to see several hundred thousand in the shops by Christmas time," Mike O'Hara, the GSMA's chief marketing officer, told Reuters by telephone.

The group said the move also could pave the way to connect devices from MP3 music players to refrigerators and cars to the Internet in future.

The partners will label laptop computers that meet their standards for mobile broadband access with a new service mark that identifies laptops ready for mobile broadband connection "out of the box."

Many in the telecoms and computer industries believe that most people in the world will have their first and perhaps only experience of the Internet via a mobile device.

"While there will always be a place for WiFi connectivity, the great benefit of mobile broadband might be that it liberates the user from the spatial tyranny of the so-called 'hotspot,'" Shiv K. Bakhshi, director of mobility research at IT research firm IDC, said in a GSMA statement released on Tuesday.

The other partners in the initiative are 3, a unit Hutchison Whampoa Ltd Dell, ECS, Ericsson, Gemalto, Lenovo, Orange, a unit of France Telecom SA, Qualcomm, Telefonica Europe, T-Mobile and Toshiba.

Vodacom - South Africa

Knott-Craig bids farewell to a solid, flourishing Vodacom

VODACOM CEO Alan Knott-Craig will leave his office for the last time this evening, as he retires after 15 years as the head of SA’s largest cellular network.

In an industry where CEOs come and go, Knott-Craig’s remarkable staying power has been achieved through a combination of vision, determination and innovation that has created a company serving 34-million customers in five countries, generating an annual revenue of R48,2bn and an operating profit of R12,5bn.

He could have done more but was thwarted by the stalemate in Vodacom’s shareholding, which remains unhappily divided between Telkom and the UK’s Vodacom. Achievements would also have been greater if SA had more liberal telecoms policies — a fact that has often seen Knott-Craig vociferously slate what he sees as incompetence.

A major problem was the protection of Telkom, which forced other operators to lease their backbone infrastructure from Telkom instead of building their own. That and clashes over handset subsidies and spectrum allocation provoked him to say that the industry would fare better if the regulators stayed at home rather than went to work each day.

Yesterday Knott-Craig said he would still work for Vodacom as a consultant until March.

“Hopefully, they won’t need any consulting because they know what they are doing. If they don’t know what they are doing by now, they’ve got problems,” he quipped.

He may accept a board position or two, but his main ambition is to write more books and indulge in photography. His new book of bird photographs made its debut this week.

The most memorable part of his career was making cellphones a tool for consumers rather than just for businesses, he said.

That included selling handsets through retail outlets and advertising that targeted ordinary people, not business users.

He also established Vodaworld in 1998, the first cellular shopping mall in the southern hemisphere.

“We did a lot of things that were different from other cellphone companies. It could have gone belly-up but it was the right time and the right place,” he says. “We took a different approach and it worked and now it works for the whole world, and the world is better for it.”

The cellular industry now serves 3,7-billion users because people stopped trying to make cellphone a business tool and made it a personal tool.

The worst part has been fighting the regulations that stifle the industry in SA, he says.

“It’s been frustrating. That was negative stress, which is why I want to go. Positive stress is getting to grips with the competition, but negative stress is dealing with stupidity. We are not going forward at the rate we could have been.”

For the future, Knott-Craig sees Vodacom’s foray into television, radio and advertising on the cellphone as areas of highly profitable growth.

But he is not purely business-oriented. One of the most gratifying experiences of the past 15 years has been Vodacom’s work as a powerful force for good in the communities where it operates, he says.

Last year Vodacom sponsored Smile Week, and Knott-Craig watched an operation that allowed a seven-year-old boy born with a cleft palate to smile for the first time.

“It was one of the most moving moments of my life,” he says.

Irnest Kaplan, MD of Kaplan Equity Analysts, said Knott-Craig is seen as the father of cellular in SA, building Vodacom from a small startup into a giant. He has made a huge contribution to the technology sector and SA at large, Kaplan says.

“I’ve always liked Alan’s frank nature and his animated comments about the company and the industry. I have always found him to display a very deep knowledge about the industry and a strong passion for it.”

It was fairly rare in hi-tech circles for someone to lead an organisation through its entire development from infancy to maturity, and to keep many of the core senior team intact.

“Alan has led the organisation very well while having shareholders that often did not agree on major issues. This must have been extremely tough,” Kaplan says.

Former employee Nicholas Maweni, now the head of corporate affairs for rival operator Virgin Mobile, describes Knott-Craig as a visionary leader deserving national recognition for his exceptional contributions in fields including nation-building, business and the economy, science, medicine, technological motivation and community service.

Tomorrow the new CEO will be Pieter Uys, another 15-year Vodacom veteran who is now chief operating officer.

Uys is a solid, stable character with an infectious enthusiasm for technology and a clear vision of what needs doing next to drive further commercial growth.

Vodacom’s focus now is to play in every area of communications — a significant shift away from being a mobile-centric operator to providing communications infrastructure and services. That initiative was firmed up by the launch of Vodacom Business in February, driven by Uys to provide a wide range of services including data storage and protection as well as business software online.

Uys will also steer Vodacom through its ongoing R7,5bn black empowerment transformation and through a potential change of parent companies.

Telkom is debating whether to divest its 50% stake by selling 12,5% to Vodafone and distributing the remaining stake to its own shareholders.

There is no clarity yet on whether that will happen, but whatever the outcome, Knott-Craig is happy to let younger hands take the strain.
'Femtocells' could see mobile networks challenge Wi-Fi

As Long Term Evolution (LTE), the speedy 4G wireless technology touted by telcos including Telstra, approaches widespread deployment in 2010-2011, femtocell adoption could gather steam if the groundwork is laid right.

Currently, many carriers are trying out femtocells, small 3G base-stations that are being suggested as on-premises equipment that deliver mobile coverage within a home or office, but use DSL or other broadband connections for backhaul. By creating small hot spot-like pockets of cellular access on a provider's own spectrum and then routing data over the Internet, femtocells are said to improve indoor coverage and reduce costs.

But as carriers debate whether customers should bear some or all of the burden of buying and maintaining femtocell hardware, they have been slow to adopt femtocells broadly. Each femtocell can cost several hundred dollars, and consumers aren't necessarily sold on the idea of buying one more gadget to manage.

LTE, however, might provide several openings in the femtocell market and give carriers a golden opportunity to familiarize consumers with these devices.

For one, femtocells enable end users to take their LTE network wherever they want, even if a carrier's own buildout remains small at first.

"Some vendors are looking to deploy LTE in hot spot-like deployments, where the demand is highest first," said Nadine Manjaro, a senior analyst at ABI Research. "So it makes sense that they would cover a building with a picocell and femtocells for the smaller buildings or personal usage."

Similar to a femtocell, a picocell is a device that's higher powered and is intended for larger, in-building deployments.

In a new ABI research report, Manjaro predicted that emerging femtocell standards will likely be an integrated part of the LTE standard, with several manufacturers even supporting new interfaces. That support suggests that some early LTE deployments will be entirely femtocell based.

She said many of these principles apply to WiMax. But the shorter deployment timeline for WiMax means it won't receive the benefits of the more fully finished femtocell standards.

Part of the interest in femtocells stems from timing: For the most part, femtocell standardization has been a slow process, though in the past few months major progress has been made. Manjaro said many of those standards will be ratified shortly before LTE comes online, giving the technology a fresh shot at wider adoption.

The deployment picture will also vary greatly from country to country, depending on which wireless spectrum has been allocated to LTE. In the U.S., the relatively robust, low-band 700 MHz spectrum --which penetrates walls and buildings well -- will probably be the first to support an LTE network. In China and much of Europe, however, far higher bands are likely, and higher spectrums have a tougher time penetrating walls and providing in-building coverage, which strengthens the femtocell argument.

Possible risk to the femto future?

While LTE could signal a golden age or at least a greater opportunity for femtocells, there is also concern that the technology's gaining favor could be short-lived if it's not handled properly.

"If femtocells are not proliferated in large-scale deployments over the next two to three years, the whole business case might be in jeopardy," said Sudhir Tangri, the marketing director for telecommunications outsourcing and consulting firm Aricent. Otherwise, Tangri said, users will not be familiar with femtocell use cases and, when the time comes, will likely pass for simpler alternatives.

Tangri also said it's critical for service providers to sort out the logistical questions about how deployments will work, even as the tricky technology problems get solved.

"There are certain issues that need to be sorted out -- whether it's 3G or 4G -- like distribution, like ownership," he said. "Who owns the box? The service provider? The consumer? These are fundamental questions before even getting into the technology, and we believe they need to be sorted out."

Tangri said that if these issues were not resolved by the 2011, femtocells would likely miss their opportunity to become accepted and integrated into cellular infrastructure and uptake would be minimal.

That being said, Tangri was upbeat about the technology's prospects, citing the ongoing testing by major carriers globally and their eagerness to move forward.

"I would say that currently we as an organization are involved with operators on advanced stages of user trials," he said. "We'll get into deployments the second half of next year. … But there are still questions that need to be answered."

Mobile - Data is 20% of operator revenues

Mobile data now 20% of worldwide operator revenues

Data revenues now account for almost 20 percent of worldwide operator service revenues according to a new report by advisory firm Chetan Sharma Consulting. The report notes that data now contributes close to 40 percent of revenues for some leading operators, although the growth of data ARPU is still not completely offsetting losses in voice ARPU. During the first half of 2008, the U.S. moved past Japan as the world's most lucrative mobile data market, with operators racking up $17.5 billion in data revenues versus $13.6 billion for Japanese operators. China followed at $7.8 billion--together, the three markets account for close to 50 percent of combined worldwide data service revenues.

Japan's NTT DoCoMo led among individual operators with $6.8 billion in data revenues during the first six months of 2008, crossing 84 percent in 3G penetration. The remainder of the top 10, in descending order: China Mobile, KDDI, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, China Unicom, Softbank, O2 UK and T-Mobile USA. According to Chetan Sharma, data revenues for the top 10 operators increased 10.3 percent from 2007 marks, and while their collective subscriber share is around 30 percent, their mobile data revenues represent close to half of global totals. During the first half of 2008, many carriers experienced an increase in non-SMS data revenues--on average, Japan and Korea rake in between 70 and 75 percent of their data revenues from non-SMS applications, with the U.S. between 50 and 60 percent and Western Europe around 20 to 40 percent.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

USA - the rise of SMS charges

Senator examining rising text messaging rates

A key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking the nation's top four wireless carriers to justify the "sharply rising rates" they charge people to send and receive text messages.

In letters to top executives at Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile, Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl said Tuesday that he is concerned that rising text messaging rates reflect decreasing competition in the wireless business.

Kohl chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. His inquiry comes as European Commission regulators are threatening to impose a cap on roaming fees for text messages sent by Europeans traveling outside of their home nations, in an effort to force prices down by as much as 70 percent.

Kohl said he was concerned that consumers are paying more than 20 cents per message, up from 10 cents in 2005. This increase, he said, "does not appear to be justified by rising costs in delivering text messages," which are small data files that are inexpensive for carriers to transmit.

Kohl said he is particularly concerned that all four of the companies appear to have adopted identical price increases at nearly the same time. "This conduct is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace," he wrote.

Kohl also noted that these rate hikes have occurred during the industry's recent consolidation, which has reduced the number of national wireless carriers in the U.S. to four from six. That consolidation continues, he said, as the large national wireless carriers buy out smaller, regional competitors — as evidenced most recently by Verizon Wireless' planned acquisition of Alltel Corp. for $5.9 billion plus the assumption of $22.2 billion in debt.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, said it will respond to Kohl's letter once it has had a chance to review it. AT&T said it has received the letter and will respond accordingly, and Sprint said "we look forward to responding to the Senator's inquiry about the text messaging options we offer our customers and we will fully cooperate with his request."

T-Mobile, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, said it will fully cooperate with Senator Kohl's requests.
Vodafone wants 670 mln euros in damages from Telefonica

British mobile phone giant Vodafone is seeking 670 million euros (950 million dollars) in damages from Telefonica for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the 1990s, a company spokesman said Monday.

Vodafone accuses the former state monopoly of seeking to prevent Airtel, which the British firm bought in 2000, to expand its business in Spain through unfair competition practices between 1995 and 1999.

Spain's supreme court upheld Vodafone's complaint in May 2006 but it did not rule on the amount of financial compensation which Telefonica should pay.

Vodafone then filed a new claim at a Madrid court with a claim of 670 million euros in damages, the company spokesman said.

In July, the court asked Telefonica to present its arguments and it expects to issue a ruling by the end of the year.

Due to the possibility of appeals to higher courts, a final decision may only come in two to three years, the Vodafone spokesman said.

Europe - MVNO

Sales Of SIM Cards Might Shuffle Deck In Wireless Services

SIM-only marketing has roiled Europe's wireless phone market, as consumers shy away from signing long-term service contracts often required in cell phone purchases.

Instead of buying new phones, many wireless users in Europe have been choosing a new type of rate plan. They're buying subscriber identity module, or SIM, cards, which they insert inside their existing phones. SIM cards work with all phones that run on the wireless standard called GSM, which dominates in Europe and is popular in many other regions.

Consumers pay in advance for SIM card call minutes and text messages, usually at discounted rates. This type of service helps users save money, but it lowers average revenue per user for carriers and can delay cell phone upgrades.

Nonphone companies such as German supermarket retailer Aldi are among the most aggressive marketers of SIM-only deals. In August, Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea jumped into the SIM-only market in the U.K.

Aldi, Ikea and other retailers don't own wireless networks, but they lease airtime from mobile phone companies at wholesale rates. SIM-only marketing sprouted first in Scandinavia a few years ago. The deals are common in the U.K. and Germany, and have spread to southern Europe and even to the U.S., though SIM use isn't popular here for a number of reasons.

It is, however, becoming more popular in Europe. As a result, wireless firms are fighting back with their own SIM offers. Spain's Telefonica, U.K.-based Vodafone (NYSE:VOD - News), France Telecom and Germany's Deutsche Telekom have rolled out SIM-only products.

Wireless firms realize SIM-only deals are going to be a big part of the market, says Mark Newman, an analyst at research firm Informa.

With Europe's economies slowing, cost-conscious consumers are turning to SIM-only deals to avoid buying new phones and to pay less for service.

"European operators aren't fighting the marketplace," Newman said. "They accept that the prepaid segment is growing and, with the credit crunch, SIM-only services give consumers an alternative."

But the shift to SIM-only deals has more downside than upside for wireless firms, analysts say. The trend could affect some financial metrics that wireless firms are judged by, such as average monthly revenue per subscriber or the mix of higher-valued contract vs. prepaid subscribers.

Prefer Contract Subscribers

Prepaid users are less valued because they switch service providers more often and spend less than customers who are billed monthly under contracts.

SIM-only customers generally get 30-day plans that roll over if users buy more minutes. Wireless firms count 30-day, SIM-only users as prepaid subscribers. But they aim to convert SIM-only users to contract plans with promotions.

There is a plus for carriers. With SIM-only offers, wireless firms don't need to subsidize the cost of mobile phones sold to consumers. Wireless firms sell high-end phones below their cost but recoup the money as customers are billed each month. No phone subsidies means that wireless firms stand to spend less to acquire new customers.

More retailers are jumping into the wireless market through SIM-only deals. They include Spanish department store chain El Corte Ingles, France's Carrefour and U.K.-based Tesco. Germany's Aldi reportedly has a few million SIM-only customers.

"Germany is at the epicenter of SIM-only activity, but it's also making waves in the U.K.," Newman said. "It's pretty much a Western Europe phenomenon."

In May, Telefonica said it had 500,000 SIM-only customers. Most of those were in the U.K., where's Telefonica's O2 unit has been pushing SIM-only offers.

Vodafone, the world's biggest wireless firm by revenue, has said it expects to step up SIM-only marketing. "We are now assuming that we'll do a little bit more SIM-only than we were thinking a while ago," Andy Halford, its chief financial officer, said in July.

In the U.K., SIM-only plans start at about 15 British pounds, or $26, a month.

O2's Simplicity service offers 200 calling minutes for 15 pounds, 600 minutes for 20 pounds ($36) or 1,200 minutes for 30 pounds ($54).

Unlike customers under contract, prepaid subscribers don't pay taxes or surcharges.

While most SIM-only offers have targeted consumers, France Telecom last month unveiled a plan targeted at business users.

Hurdles To SIM-Only In U.S.

SIM-only plans could spread to the U.S., but there are a few hurdles, analysts say.

For one, fewer nonphone companies that lease airtime on networks, called mobile virtual network operators, exist in the U.S. The networks are where retailers lease airtime.

The biggest hurdle, though, is that mobile phones sold in the U.S. are usually "locked." Wireless firms sell mobile phones that only work on their cellular networks. That makes it less convenient for customers to switch to rivals.

In Europe, wireless firms use unlocked GSM-type phones, which contain SIM cards.

AT&T operates a GSM-type network in the U.S. In January, it introduced a SIM-only, bring-your-own-phone service. But AT&T hasn't promoted the service much, analysts say.

Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA unit also operates a GSM-type network in the U.S. A representative declined to comment on any SIM-only plans.

In Europe, service contracts come up for renewal every 12 to 18 months on average, compared with every two years in the U.S., says Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.

U.S. consumers are usually ready to purchase new phones when their contract ends, she says, because during the two-year contract span more advanced mobile phones typically have come to market.

In Europe, which has shorter contract lengths, she says, many users are not interested in replacing phones that are only a year old.

France - fourth mobile operator?

France says to launch a new 3G licence tender

French telecoms regulator Arcep said on Monday that it planned to launch a new tender for the country's last remaining 3G high-speed mobile license, after an earlier one failed.

Last year, Arcep rejected as too low an offer from broadband provider Iliad, the only operator to bid for the license.

The tender, backed by the French government, is meant to increase competition in the French mobile market by allowing a new 3G operator to compete head on with incumbents Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom.

In March this year, the telecoms regulator said it would consult on the tender with market players and publish its conclusions by September 30.

Arcep on Monday rejected the possibility of splitting up the license into different frequency packages without giving priority to a new entrant.

"Therefore, we are looking at procedures that give a priority to all or part of the frequencies to a newcomer, following similar conditions that governed the previous tenders," Arcep said in a statement.

It did not say when the tender would actually be launched.

T-Mobile android phone - no data cap

T-Mobile uncaps data plan ahead of Google phone

In advance of the new Google phone, T-Mobile USA has changed the wording of the user agreement for its wireless data network and no longer claims the right to slow surfing to a crawl once a subscriber goes over a monthly usage limit.

The amendment was made late Wednesday, a day after T-Mobile revealed the G1, the first smart phone that will use the new network. The G1 is also the first phone to use Google Inc.'s mobile software platform.

Bloggers had spotted a 1-gigabyte monthly download limit in T-Mobile's user agreement and were concerned that it would apply to the G1. The phone comes with a Web browser, access to Google e-mail and songs from Amazon.com Inc., which could make a user quickly exceed a gigabyte of traffic.

In a statement, T-Mobile said that since the G1 doesn't go on sale until Oct. 22, the details of the plan were not final, but it had removed the limit anyway. It still reserves the right to slow down traffic for a "a small fraction of our customers who have excessive or disproportionate usage that interferes with our network performance."

China - telecommunications revenues

NDRC: Telecom Industry Revenue Up 9% To RMB 468B

China's telecom industry saw revenue climb 9.1% year-on-year to reach RMB 467.81 billion in the first seven months of 2008, according to National Development and Reform Commission data released on Tuesday. China added 61.073 million mobile phone users in the first seven months to reach 608 million handset users by the end of the July. Broadband subscribers grew by 11.413 million to 77.827 million users, while fixed-line users fell by 10.581 million to 355 million subscribers in the period.

China Mobile - TD-SCDMA

China Mobile Calls For 260,000 TD-SCDMA Users In September

China Mobile told subsidiaries in the ten cities where it is conducting TD-SCDMA trial operations that collectively they should reach 260,000 TD-SCDMA users by September 20 and 400,000 TD-SCDMA users before the end of 2008, reports The Beijing News quoting a China Mobile insider.

China Mobile began second round bidding on Tuesday for domestic-made 3G TD-SCDMA network construction equipment for 28 cities. The company plans to spend roughly RMB 21 billion in the second round of bidding. China Mobile asked subsidiaries in 28 cities including Dalian, Harbin, Nanjing, Wuhan, Hannan, Chongqing, Lhasa, Urumqi and Xining to complete TD-SCDMA network construction before the end of 2009.

South korea - IT Competitiveness

Korea's IT Competitiveness Declines

Korea's IT competitiveness declined five notches from 2007. According to the Korea International Trade Association on Sunday, Korea ranked eighth among 66 countries, with 64.1 points out of 100, in the 2008 IT industry competitiveness index by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a provider of economic data and analysis. Korea ranked third after the U.S. and Japan in 2007.

This year, the U.S. topped the list for the second year running with 74.6 points, followed by Taiwan (69.2 points), the U.K. (67.2 points), Sweden (66 points), Denmark (65.2 points), Canada (64.4 points), and Australia (64.1 points).

Taiwan rose to second place from sixth last year. Sweden and Canada rose by three notches each.

By contrast, Japan fell from second to 12th place (62.2 points). Germany and France ranked 19th and 20th, respectively. China finished 50th with 27.6 points.

The EIU uses weighted categories such as overall business environment (10 percent), IT infrastructure (20 percent), human capital (20 percent), legal environment (10 percent), R&D environment (25 percent) and support for IT industry development (15 percent).

KITA said, "Korea has been well-known as an IT powerhouse, but it's noteworthy that its IT competitiveness had declined significantly." It urged the government to give a variety of support to the industry, and the industry to make its own efforts to enhance its competitiveness.

Czech Rep. - Vodafone and fibre

Vodafone acquires BroadNet

Vodafone has completed the acquisition of BroadNet Czech, a fixed telecommunication provider in the Czech market.

BroadNet provides voice, data and internet services to business clients in the Czech market and operates its own FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) broadband network in the nationwide licensed bandwidths of 26 and 28 GHz. BroadNet was a part of pan-European BroadNet Holdings, fully owned by the US cable and broadband services corporation Comcast.

BroadNet is expected to bring to Vodafone vast experience in the fixed-line market, relationships developed over years, and an approach to customer service that matches with Vodafone’s. BroadNet´s approach fits especially well into Vodafone’s OneNet platform which already offers total telecommunications services (fixed-mobile voice, data and internet services) to business customers.

WiMAX - case studies

WiMAX Forum introduces new database

The WiMAX Forum has announced the introduction of its Interactive Deployment Database, a resource of information reportedly featuring more than 300 WiMAX deployments across the world. The WiMAX Forum also released the first of a series of operator case studies that illustrate the business models of existing WiMAX networks.

Powered by Informa Telecoms’ WCIS database, the WiMAX Forum’s Interactive Deployment Database features WiMAX operators including the most recent statistics on worldwide WiMAX deployments. The database may be found at wimaxmaps.org, and is linked to on the WiMAX Forum homepage. Available for public use, this tool includes information on each of the operators, stage and type of deployment, spectrum utilised etc. This resource will be updated quarterly with the latest information, and also includes a section for user feedback.

China - TD-LTE

China Mobile To Build Demo TD-LTE Network In 2010

China Mobile plans to establish a demo TD-LTE network in select cities in 2010, reports Shanghai Securities News quoting China Mobile Technology Department general manager Zhou Jianming. Zhou said China Mobile will draft TD-LTE equipment regulations and solve problems facing TD-LTE application.

UK - broadband costs

'Tough choices' for UK broadband

The cost of taking fibre-based broadband to every UK home could top £28.8bn, says a report.

Compiled by the government's broadband advisory group, the report details the cost of the different ways to wire the UK for next generation broadband.

Another option, to take the fibres to street-level boxes, would only cost £5.1bn, it said.

Big differences in the cost of updating urban and rural net access will pose difficult choices, says the report.

High costs

In a statement Antony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group which drew up the report, said: "The scale of the costs involved means that the transition to superfast broadband will be challenging."

"We hope that this report will help to ensure an informed public debate on the key policy and regulatory decisions that lie ahead," he said.

...and the faster the broadband we choose, the bigger the gap between town and country is likely to be.
Rory Cellan-Jones

dot.life blog

The BSG report looks at the three most likely options for using fibre to boost the speed of the UK's broadband networks.

The cheapest option, at £5.1bn, is to take fibre only to the familiar street-level cabinets that act as a connection point between homes and exchanges. Beyond the cabinet to the home existing copper cables would be used. The BSG estimates that this system would permit speeds of 30-100 Megabits per second (Mbps).

The other two options involve taking fibre to homes via a shared or dedicated cable.

The BSG puts a £25.5bn price tag on the shared option which would see a small number of homes sharing the 2.5 Gigabits per second capacity of each line.

Giving every home or business its own dedicated cable is the most expensive option, said the BSG, and could cost up to £28.8bn. But it would mean each home would get up to 1Gbps.

But, warned the report, even these relatively simple choices conceal stark differences in the cost of taking fibre to different parts of the country.

For instance, it said that the high price of the cheapest option for fibre is already far higher than the amount telecoms firms have already spent cabling up the UK.

Also, it noted, taking fibre to homes in rural areas costs disproportionate amounts of money - essentially the more isolated a home the more it costs to take fibre to it.

The BSG estimates that getting fibre to the cabinets near the first 58% of households could cost about £1.9bn. The next 26% would cost about £1.4bn and the final 16% would cost £1.8bn.

The disparity in costs meant the UK faced some tough choices, said Mr Walker.

However, he added, enthusiasm for the take-up of broadband could make taking it to rural areas more palatable for telecoms firms.

"If operators could achieve a higher level of take-up in rural areas than we have predicted in our study, then the business case for deployment in those areas could improve significantly", said Mr Walker.

NSFW at 10,000 metres

Porn nightmare at 37,000 feet? American Airlines urged to filter Web sites on its high-flying Wi-Fi service

Bloomberg reported last week that American Airlines flight attendants are urging their employer to block passengers from using inflight Internet access to view pornography and other inappropriate Web content.

The flight attendants union stopped short of making a formal request, according to the story. American this summer started offering passengers a fee-based Wi-Fi service that lets them access the Internet while in flight. The potential problem: What happens if passengers in close quarters indulge a penchant for graphic sex or violence?
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The wireless Internet service is based on a unique nationwide cellular network, created by Aircell, which links the jet’s onboard 802.11abg access points with one of 92 ground base stations. The cell link is based on CDMA EVDO technology in the 3MHz band, and delivers an uplink data rate of 3.1Mbps, and a downlink rate of 1.8Mbps. Aircell plans to use compression techniques, which may boost those rates.

The company recently announced it eventually will embrace the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard for so-called 4G mobile broadband communications.

CNET’s Dave Carnoy reviewed the jeternet access and concluded the speed was pretty impressive. The chief drawback was the drain on the notebook’s battery, created by that continuous Wi-Fi connection.

The Bloomberg story included the obligatory "slippery slope" comment, this one from Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, who wondered “Where do you draw the line once you start policing the information your customers can access?''

An American spokesman suggested the flight attendants and crew have plenty of experience doing just that. “Customers viewing inappropriate material on board a flight is not a new scenario for our crews, who have always managed this issue with great success,'' says Tim Smith, a spokesman for American.

What’s not clear is whether the airline will try a technology fix: some kind of filtering program that will block sites or types of content. A union spokesman said American already uses software to block VoIP calls via the wireless network.

China - handset sales

China market: Nearly 36 million GSM, CDMA handsets sold in 2Q

There were 35.95 million GSM and CDMA handsets sold in the China market in the second quarter of 2008, and Nokia, Samsung and Motorola were the top three vendors with a combined share of 66.0%, according to China-based consulting company Analysys International.

For CDMA models alone, Samsung was the largest vendor with a market share of 26.7%, followed by China-based Huawei Technologies with 25.3%, China-based ZTE with 16.1% and LG Electronics with 15.1%, Analysys indicated.

China market: Handset sales volume, 2Q08

Amount (million) Q/Q Y/Y

GSM 33.99 (13.4%) 5.4%
CDMA 1.96 (30.9%) (24.9%)
Aggregate 35.95 (14.6%) 3.2%

Source: Analysys, compiled by Digitimes, September 2008

China market: Vendor market share by sales volume , 2Q08

Vendor Share
Nokia 38.6%
Samsung 17.7%
Motorola 9.7%
K-Touch (Chinese) 7.8%
Lenovo (Chinese) 3.3%
Sony Ericsson 2.7%
LG Electronics 2.5%
Amoi (Chinese) 2.4%
Konka (Chinese) 2.3%
Gionee (Chinese) 2.1%
Ningbo Bird (Chinese) 1.9%
Haier (Chinese) 0.9%

Source: Analysys, compiled by Digitimes, September 2008

Vi-Fi - Vehicular Wi-fi

Plan rolling to improve vehicle-based Wi-Fi nets

You could think of this as the Tarzan protocol for Wi-Fi. The goal is to improve interactive Wi-Fi connections dramatically for moving vehicles.

Dubbed "Vi-Fi," the protocol lets Wi-Fi clients keep in touch with several access points at once. In a sense, Vi-Fi lets overlapping access points coordinate with the moving client, minimizing the disruptions that can zap interactive applications. The tests, published in a recent technical paper, showed that Vi-Fi doubles the number of successful short TCP transfers and doubles the length of disruption-free VoIP sessions compared to an existing, more fragile Wi-Fi handoff protocol.

One member of the investigating team, Ratul Mahajan of Microsoft Research, uses the analogy of Tarzan swinging through the jungle on a vine attached to one branch. If either breaks, Tarzan's forward motion is abruptly interrupted. If multiple vines and branches are readily at hand, however, he easily can keep moving forward. Vi-Fi in effect provides those additional resources.

The results of Vi-Fi tests in two location are the subject of "Interactive WiFi Connectivity for Moving Vehicles," a paper presented August 21 at the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communications(SIGCOMM) in Seattle. (Todd Bishop of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote about the project in his "Software Notebook" column.) The co-authors are Aruna Balasubramanian, Arun Venkataramani and Brian Neil Levine, all of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Microsoft's Mahajan; and John Zahorjan, from the University of Washington. Balasubramanian and Mahajan talked with Network World about the research.

Today, linking people and computers in moving vehicles with a network requires relatively slow and expensive satellite or cellular data links, Mahajan says. The demand is growing, however, for instant, continuous, interactive access for Web browsing, voice, multimedia and similar applications. The researchers wanted to explore the feasibility of using the ever-growing number of Wi-Fi access points as a low-cost alternative.

The original vision for 802.11 wireless LANs, and the basis for its protocol design, was for stationary nodes relatively close together. "But it's evolved: It's very flexible and we've been pushing it further ever since," Mahajan says

Gigabit Wi-Fi

IEEE readies launch of gigabit Wi-Fi project

Intel, Nortel, Motorola among those active in Very High Throughput Study Group

The IEEE working group that is putting the finishing touches on the 802.11n 100Mbps wireless LAN standard is about to launch a new project, for a 1Gbps WLAN standard.

That would mean gigabit Wi-Fi.

Last year, group members formed the Very High Throughput (VHT) Study Group to explore changes to the 802.11 WLAN standard to support gigabit capacity. The study group is looking at doing so in two frequency bands, high-frequency 60GHz for relatively short ranges and under-6GHz for ranges similar to that of today’s WLANs in the 5GHz band, 802.11a and 11n.

At a meeting this week in Hawaii, the study group has been finalizing a proposal calling for creation of a new, as yet unnamed task group to carry forward the work of crafting a standard. That proposal must be accepted by the 802.11 Working Group, which oversees the entire WLAN standard.

“The basic idea right now, and that’s subject to change, is that the ‘maximum mandatory mode’ on a single link would be [at least] 500Mbps,” says Tushar Moorti, director of systems architecture for chip maker Broadcom’s WLAN Business Unit. “But the further requirement is that [an access point] device that supports VHT would be able to sustain multiple links, so the aggregate would be over 1Gbps.”

Currently, WLAN products based on the draft 2 802.11n standard typically are providing throughput of 130M to 150Mbps, sometimes as much as 170Mbps.

“I think we’ll see a [VHT] standard in two years, and WLAN products with more than 1 gigabit per second within three years,” says Craig Mathias, principal for wireless consultancy Farpoint Group. “That is absolutely phenomenal.”

That may be optimistic. One version of the IEEE proposal suggests a completion target date of 2012-13 for the standard. But a lot of big players have been active in the study group so far: Atheros, Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, Motorola and Nortel.

“It’s the next-generation technology for wireless LAN, in the same sense that 11n was the follow-on to 11a/b/g,” says Broadcom’s Moorti.

According to the proposal, VHT “will allow a corporate or home user to roam from high-throughput dense cells to wider area networks in a seamless manner, while maintaining full support for the installed base security, management, diagnostics and backbone infrastructure.” VHT will also be backward compatible with the full range of existing and emerging 802.11 standards, such as 11i for security, and 11s for mesh networking.

Global telecoms revenues

Global telecom revenue to hit $2 trillion in '08

Global telecom revenue will reach $2 trillion by the end of 2008, an increase of 7.6% over telecom revenue in 2007, research firm Gartner projects.

One of the biggest drivers for telecom growth in 2008 has been the expansion of the Asian telecom market, which Gartner says will surpass the North American market in total revenues for the first time in 2008. In total, the Asian telecom revenues will grow by 8% to $513 billion this year, just barely surpassing North American telecom revenues, which are projected to grow by 4.5% and to total $511.6 billion. Looking forward, Gartner expects the Middle East and Africa to be the fastest-growing regions for telecom revenues over the next four years, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.6% projected between 2007 and 2012.

As far as trends within the telecom industry, Gartner projects that mobile services will continue to eclipse fixed-line services and that a strong increase in mobile data services and fixed-mobile convergence services will increase customers’ need to invest in new telecom equipment. Specifically, Gartner says that the ratio of mobile connections to fixed connections will exceed 4-to-1 by 2012 and that revenue from mobile telecom services will top $1 trillion by 2010. And because mobile data use is expected to expand rapidly over the next five years, Gartner projects that the telecom equipment segment will see a compound annual growth rate of 8.7% between now and 2012, as customers invest in new technology that will support their mobile bandwidth and fixed-mobile convergence requirements.

“Our breakdown of services clearly shows that fixed voice is in decline, but mobile voice, though currently growing, will also stagnate as a proportion of the market by 2012,” says Gartner analyst Will Hahn. “The baton has clearly been passed to data services in the legacy sector.”

While telecom revenue is projected to see solid growth this year, Gartner also projected last month that spending on both telecom services and IT in general would slow worldwide in 2009. Telecom spending, which accounts for more than half of all IT spending worldwide, will grow by a projected 6% and will total nearly $2.1trillion in 2009. Spending on software (8% projected growth in 2009) and IT services (7% projected growth in 2009) will be the fastest-growing services next year, while computing hardware spending is projected to slow to just 4% growth next year, down from 10% spending growth on hardware worldwide in 2007.

Mobile e-mail - growing dependence

Loss of mobile access can have serious consequences - Mobile messaging is critical to a large and growing proportion of users

A study we recently completed with end users of mobile messaging devices in organizations of various sizes revealed just how critical mobile e-mail really is. For example:

* If a user’s mobile device, or an organization’s mobile service, experienced an outage, 35% of respondents told us that this would have a serious or critical impact on their senior managers’ ability to make critical, time-sensitive decisions.

* If a user discovered on the way to work that he or she had forgotten their mobile device, 20% of respondents would return home immediately to retrieve it, while another 9% would have someone from home bring it to them.

* Mobile devices are used in interesting places: 79% of respondents told us they have used their mobile device in the bathroom, 41% have used it while flying on a commercial flight while the plane is in the air, and 11% have used it during a “romantic” moment.

There are a couple of important takeaways from this. First and most obvious is that mobile messaging is critical to a large and growing proportion of users, even for those who have not become “CrackBerry” addicts.

Second, mobile messaging has become an integral component of the unified communications paradigm – an extension of many users’ desktops that permits them to move away from a fixed platform and lose little, if any, of their messaging functionality. While that also seems quite obvious, it has important ramifications for organizations that want to deploy unified communications.

Instead of thinking of mobile messaging as simply an add-on capability for some users in the organization, IT must consider mobile messaging as an integral component of the entire unified communications system that will eventually be rolled out to all users. This increases the potential cost of unified communications, and also puts more pressure on vendors to integrate easy-to-manage mobile communications capabilities into their base offerings.

Corruption - Costa Rica telecoms

Former Alcatel official sentenced in cellular contract bribe case - $2.5 million in payoffs went toward landing a $149 million contract in Costa Rica

A former Alcatel official has to pay a $261,500 fine and serve three years of supervised release for bribing Costa Rican officials to help Alcatel land a $149 million cellular network deal with a Costa Rican phone company.

Christian Sapsizian, 62, who pleaded guilty last year to violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, was sentenced Tuesday. He no longer works for Alcatel, but when the bribes were paid between 2000 and 2004, he was a deputy vice president of Alcatel for the Latin American region. Alcatel and Lucent Technologies merged in 2006 to form Alcatel-Lucent.
Sapsizian admitted paying out $2.5 million over that period to an official of the Costa Rico telecommunications authority who shared the money with another official, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The sentence took into account that Sapsizian, who worked for Alcatel for more than 20 years, is cooperating with federal prosecutors in an ongoing investigation.

Alcatel was awarded a $149 million mobile network contract in 2001, according to the Justice Department. The bribe money was funneled through an Alcatel consulting firm in Costa Rico.

A former managing director of VoIP provider ITXC was sentenced earlier this month to five years of probation, including three months of home confinement and three months in a community confinement center, for his role in a bribery scheme involving telecom contracts in Africa, the U.S. Department of Justice says.

USA - location and the law

Cops Need Warrant for Cellphone Location Data, Judge Rules

The government cannot force your cellphone provider to turn over stored records about your location without proving to a judge there is probable cause you have violated the law, a federal district court ruled Wednesday.

The ruling from Judge Terrence McVerry of the Western Pennsylvania U.S. District Court deals a blow to investigators who have been getting cellphone location data on in the past simply by proving to a judge that the information would be relevant to an investigation. That's the same standard used to force a telephone company to reveal the name and address of a subscriber.

McVerry upheld a February decision written by five magistrate judges, who found that the government's request for historic cellphone location data for a person required a stricter standard. Little is known about how often investigators ask for such data, since the hearings are one-sided and the decisions are almost never published so as not to tip off the targets.

However, the ruling does not hold force across the country, and as the government's objection to the ruling noted, other judges have disagreed with the logic of protecting this data as if it were very sensitive.

The orginal decision(.pdf) found that "location information so broadly sought is extraordinarily personal and potentially sensitive; and that the ex parte nature of the proceedings, the comparatively low cost to the Government of the information requested, and the undetectable nature of a [cellular service provider]'s electronic transfer of such information, render these requests particularly vulnerable to abuse."

The government appealed, arguing the records only reveal a phone's location when it is actually used and that there's no constitutional right to have these stored records protected.

"Wireless carriers regularly generate and retain the records at issue, and because these records provide only a very general indication of a user’s whereabouts at certain time in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest," the government wrote (.pdf).

But the friend-of-the-court brief (.pdf) from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology and others disagree -- arguing that law enforcement wants the data to pinpoint where a person was or is and that the data will only get more precise in the future.

"Law enforcement uses the fact that the suspect’s phone contacted the cell tower nearest his home to infer he is home, nearest the narcotic’s kingpin’s house to infer that they are together, nearest the drop off point to argue that he was present when the contraband was delivered," the groups wrote. "One can also imagine that the government can ask for all the numbers that made calls through the tower nearest a political rally to infer that those callers attended the rally."

The distinction matters since generally speaking police officers don't need a warrant to plant a tracking device on a car, unless that vehicle goes onto private property. Tracking someone onto private property requires a warrant.

As for what the police need to prove to a judge in order to turn your cellphone into a tracking device -- that's a question that federal judges remain split on, despite the Justice Department's own recommendation that investigators get warrants based on probable cause.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Europe - broadband as universal service

Broadband Internet for all Europeans: Commission launches debate on future of universal service

How can the EU achieve that all Europeans – from the North of Finland to the South of Italy, from the Western Ireland to Eastern Romania – have access to broadband Internet? This is the main question raised in a Commission report today. From 2003-2007 broadband use in the EU tripled to 36% of households. However, 7% of the EU's population are still not connected (30% in rural areas). There are striking gaps in the EU: 100% of the population is covered in Denmark, Luxembourg and Belgium, but more than 60% in Romania (75% in rural areas) do not have broadband access. Even in strong economies such as Italy and Germany, 18% and 12% respectively of the rural population are not covered. With broadband increasingly important in daily life, policy tools like radio spectrum management and mobile satellite services should accompany a broad debate about the universal service in telecoms – a safety net guaranteeing a minimum level of services, such as connection to a phone network and basic Internet access, filling basic needs that the market does not.

recycling batteries

Environment: new EU legislation requiring collection and recycling of spent batteries applies from today

Revised EU legislation that aims to protect human health and the environment by ensuring waste batteries are properly collected and recycled applies from today. The directive also makes producers responsible for the management of batteries once they become waste. Adopted by the European Parliament and Council in 2006, the revised Batteries Directive should be transposed by Member States into national law by today. So far seven Member States have communicated to the Commission national legislation which fully transposes the directive.

Europe - cutting the costs of roaming

Roaming: Commission acts to cut cost of texting and mobile data services abroad

Mobile phone users can expect the cost of sending text messages from abroad in the EU to be much cheaper next summer. The European Commission today proposed to reduce the price of roaming text messages by 60% as of 1 July 2009. EU citizens travelling in other EU countries should pay no more than €0.11 per SMS compared to the current EU average of €0.29. The Commission also wants to improve transparency for surfing the web and downloading data on a mobile phone while abroad: consumers used to cheaper data services at home should be better protected against roaming "bill shocks" that can run to thousands of euro. The proposals will now be submitted to the European Parliament and Council, who must agree before they become law. The EU already reduced charges for making and receiving calls abroad (voice roaming) by 60% in summer 2007.

Singapore - next generation broadband

SingTel-led group bags Singapore broadband network deal

A consortium led by SingTel has won the bid to build the city-state's planned ultra high-speed broadband network, the telecoms regulator said on Friday.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd's grouping OpenNet comprises Canada's AXIA NetMedia, Southeast Asia's largest newspaper publisher Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and Singapore Power's telecoms unit.

"OpenNet's proposal offers attractive wholesale prices that can stimulate a vibrant and competitive retail market," said the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) in a statement.

Rival StarHub Ltd's Infinity consortium lost to SingTel. Infinity included Singapore's No.3 mobile player MobileOne Ltd and Qatar Investment Authority, the Middle Eastern state's investment vehicle.

The network, called the Next-Generation National Broadband Network, will allow users to surf the Web at speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second -- 10 times faster than those available now -- when it is fully completed by 2015.

The Next Generation National Broadband Network is part of state-owned IDA's Intelligent Nation 2015 or "iN2015" blueprint to give the Asian financial services hub seamless connectivity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Uganda - roaming top-up

Uganda Telecom launches new borderless service

In a bid to beef up its borderless roaming offer in East Africa, Uganda Telecom is now offering Prepaid Roaming Top Up, a service that allows prepaid subscribers to top up their phones in the neighboring countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.

Since borderless roaming launched last year, Uganda Telecom users have been able to use their phones while travelling throughout East Africa but could not purchase airtime in foreign countries.
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"Essentially, this new value-added service allows Uganda Telecom's roaming subscribers to conveniently top up their prepaid account by using vouchers from another partner roaming network operator in the same way as they do in their home network," said Levi Nyakundi, Uganda Telecom's marketing manager.

To top up while on the move, customers using partner recharge vouchers must use the access codes assigned to each network partner: 5 for Uganda Telecom, 1 for Safaricom Kenya, 3 for Vodacom Tanzania and 6 for UCOM Burundi.

"A subscriber will have the option of either using home network recharge cards or visited network recharge cards, ensuring that they don't run out of airtime while away from home," Nyakundi said.

The airtime purchased will be converted to the subscribers' local currency at the prevailing exchange rate, which will be updated each month.

Subscribers will receive a message following each transaction that states the exchange rate used.

Europe - regulating roaming charges

EU to seek caps on text-message fees

The European Union's telecommunications minister plans to propose a new set of price controls that would sharply cut the roaming fees charged by mobile operators to send short text messages while also reducing the cost of surfing the Internet on a cellphone.

Details of the proposal, obtained by the International Herald Tribune on Wednesday, show that the minister, Viviane Reding, will seek to cap retail roaming fees for short text messages, or SMS, within the European Union at 11 euro cents, or 16 U.S. cents, a message.

That would be a 62 percent reduction from the current average of 29 cents, according to the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU.

Reding also intends to recommend a cap on the wholesale cost of using mobile phones to access the Internet - the fees operators charge each other - that would halve the average cost to €1 a megabyte from €2.

SMS roaming prices range from 6 cents in Estonia to 80 cents in Belgium, according to the European Regulators Group, a panel of the European Union's 27 national telecommunications regulators.

"SMS prices are really too high so bringing them down is best thing that can happen for consumers," said Monique Goyens, the director general of the European Consumers' Organization, a Brussels group representing 41 consumer organizations in Europe.

In 2007, Europeans spent €800 million in SMS roaming charges and €560 million on data roaming services, according to the commission. They also spent €5.2 billion in voice roaming charges that year. Over all, €300 billion was spent on telecommunications in Europe, the European Information Technology Observatory said.

Reding devised the EU's limits on charges for voice roaming, which took effect a year ago and have, according to her, saved European consumers an average of 60 percent for the service.

Her new proposal cleared an internal commission economic assessment panel last week and has been circulating for comment among the commission's 27 ministries. The full commission could vote on the proposal as early as Sept. 15.

Approval of the commission is considered likely, given the support of France, which holds the rotating EU presidency through 2008.

In July, Luc Chatel, the French junior minister for consumer affairs, said his country supported efforts to lower SMS charges, which in France have not dropped below 12 cents on average since 2004, even as the volume of messages has doubled in the country, according to a study by Arcep, the French telecommunications regulator.

The European Parliament and ministers' council could vote on Reding's plan this year or next year, with the caps taking effect in July at the earliest, when the new legislative session begins.

Support is likely in the Parliament, which voted overwhelmingly last year for caps on voice roaming. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, a member of the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, which will consider Reding's proposal, said broad support for data price controls was likely.

"My sense is that there is strong support for this in Parliament," said Hennicot-Schoepges, a member of the European People's Party from Dudelange, Luxembourg. "As a conservative I am generally opposed to price controls, but I think in this circumstance it is the only way to get the mobile operators to cooperate."

Hennicot-Schoepges said she was personally frustrated by the fees she must pay to travel the relatively short distances between Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg.

"Every time I cross a border, the operators change and I am charged again," she said. "I think the charges are basically arbitrary and bear no relation to the actual service."

The European mobile industry, which fought unsuccessfully last year against the limits on voice roaming charges, will fight the caps on data roaming, said David Pringle, a spokesman for the GSM Association, which is based in London and represents wireless operators.

"In our view, these markets are healthy, competitive and functioning well," Pringle said. "There is no need for Brussels to set prices."

The operators say they base their roaming charges on the actual cost of connecting voice and data calls between different networks. The charges have so far been set largely by operators without government oversight.

But prices have fallen recently as large operators like Vodafone, 3 and KPN have begun offering reciprocal wholesale data roaming fees to other operators of 50 cents or less per megabyte.

Attempts to regulate the fees with a single, uniform price cap ignore important differences in data services, Pringle said. Those who use push e-mail, a service that forwards messages to mobile phones, for example, stay in constant contact with their network, placing a greater drain on an operator than the 30-minute Internet session of a traveling laptop user.

Kenya - roaming rates

Safaricom ups its roaming services in the region

Safaricom has enhanced its roaming services for its customers in the East African region.

The company has introduced its PrePay roaming top up service in partnership with other leading networks in the East African region, which will allow users to top-up using airtime from partner networks in whichever country they are in.

Previously, customers roaming within the region had to purchase phone credit from Safaricom dealers in order to re-charge their accounts.

With the new move, users will be able to purchase credit from either Vodacom Tanzania or UTL in Uganda and use it regardless where they are.

Subscribers will not be charged roaming fees and will use their home service as usual without having to buy bulk amounts of credit or switching tariffs while in another country.

Regional service
“The calls are not charged as roaming calls. Subscribers travel with their home tariff hence they know exactly how they are charged when they travel.

When in Tanzania, subscribers can top up with Vodacom scratch cards and in Uganda they can top up with MTN and UTL scratch cards,” said Michael Joseph, the firms CEO.

Safaricom launched its regional roaming service, dubbed Kama Kawaida, in February 2007. The service allows Safaricom, Vodacom Tanzania, and MTN Uganda customers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania the opportunity to move freely across the three countries as they would on their home network.

Two units
In October 2007, the service expanded into Rwanda through a partnership with MTN Rwanda.

Meanwhile, Safaricom’s parent company Vodafone, announced that its Kenyan operation will now fall under the Central Europe/Africa grouping.

The move, expected to take place in January next year, will see the current union that links Europe, Asia and Africa split into two units covering Central Europe/Africa and Asia/Pacific. The company said new CEOs to head the divisions will be selected in due course.

In addition to several high level managerial changes mostly taking place in its European divisions, Vodafone announced that it will also be de - linking its investment in Verizon Wireless, which will not be part of any operating region.

In light of its financial and strategic importance, Verizon will be managed directly at a senior level by Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao.

Uganda - roaming

utl simplifies East African roaming

UGANDA telecom (utl) has introduced a service which allows East African roaming clients to load airtime using vouchers of telecom firms in the countries they are visiting.

According to a statement, the service is dubbed Prepaid Roaming Top Up.

“This service allows subscribers to conveniently top up pre-paid accounts by using vouchers from a partner network operator the same way they do at home. For example, a subscriber roaming in Kenya can use a recharge voucher of Safaricom,” Levi Nyakundi, the utl marketing manager, said.

“Prepaid roaming builds onto utl’s borderless network with Safaricom in Kenya, Vodacom in Tanzania and U-COM in Burundi,” he said.

Subscribers will receive calls for free and make calls at home rates. It also allows clients to share airtime with friends and family.

Asia-Pacific - data roaming package

Asia Pac shows Europe how data roaming is done

Third placed Singaporean operator M1 has launched a promotional daily data roaming plan capping charges at S$25.60 ($18.75) per day for usage of 5MB or more.

Below 5MB, users pay S$0.05 ($0.036) per 10KB. The plan is available to M1 subscribers roaming on the Celcom Malaysia and SmarTone-Vodafone Hong Kong networks until mid-December.

Analysts at telecoms.com parent, Informa Telecoms & Media, welcomed the move, which highlights how Asia Pacific is continuing to challenge traditional roaming tariff structures as an effect of domestic competition.

"The Asia Pacific markets are achieving through competition what it is taking the threat of regulation to manage in Europe," said Angela Stainthorpe, research analyst at Informa.

M1's move follows the introduction of flat rate daily data roaming plans by Starhub, Singapore's second largest mobile operator.

Starhub's offer - launched in April - gives customers unlimited data roaming on seven Asia Pacific networks for S$30 per day. The unlimited data plan was jointly rolled out with pay-per-day flat rate data and capped roaming plans from six other members of the Conexus Alliance. These flat rate services were the first of their kind in the region.

"Transparent tariffs will be key to the success of data roaming", said Stainthorpe, "And data will be the future for roaming in Asia Pacific."

The analyst said that while roaming in Asia Pacific is certainly significant, it is not at nearly the same level as in the more mature European roaming markets, which is why traditional roaming models are less important to the region. "We expect to see more unlimited plans in Asia Pacific as the roaming alliances strengthen their presence in the consumer marketplace. Their inter-operator relationships will expedite and simplify wholesale roaming negotiations, leading to more innovative pricing structures for end users," Stainthorpe said.

Revenues from non-SMS data roaming in Asia Pacific are forecast to grow to almost four times their 2008 level by 2013, according to figures from Informa's recently published strategic report 'Global Mobile Roaming: Operator strategies and Market Trends - 3rd edition'.

Africa - non-roaming

MTN starts roaming in Burundi

BURUNDI’s leading telecom company, UCOM has partnered with MTN to provide a free roaming service for their subscribers. The “Home and Away” roaming service will provide customers in East Africa a ‘borderless’ network.

“With this enhanced product, customers will use their MTN numbers and be charged the local rate when travelling in East Africa,” Isaac Nsereko, the MTN head of marketing, said.

He said Safaricom of Kenya, Vodacom of Tanzania and MTN Rwanda were the other networks partnering with MTN to provide the service.

Nsereko added that the service would allow customers to load airtime from partner service providers when travelling in these countries.

He, however, explained that customers would require specific access numbers to load their airtime vouchers of the local network on MTN lines.

“Our customers shall automatically be connected to the partnering networks and will also get a special rate when calling our partner networks,” he added.

He said the product would in future allow MTN-Uganda customers to share airtime across partner networks.

“This will enhance the East African spirit,” Nsereko added.

Europe - extending the roaming regulation

European Commission to cap price of sms while roaming

The European Commission will Tuesday propose capping the price of text messages sent by European Union customers while travelling elsewhere in the 27-member bloc, sources said Friday. The proposal will be based on a report by the European Regulators' Group (ERG), which has recommended ex-VAT price caps of between 0.11 euros and 0.15 euros (0.16-0.22 dollars) per short message (sms).

Sources familiar with the issue say the EU executive could call for a maximum Euro-SMS retail roaming tariff of 0.11 euros as from July 1, 2009.

This compares with a current average European price of 0.29 euros. Belgian customers are charged as much as 0.80 euros per sms while abroad.

The commission is also expected to set a maximum price for internet surfing roaming charges, which currently range from 0.25 euros to more than 16 euros per megabyte.

The EU executive is considering an average wholesale charge cap of 1 euro per megabyte.

"EU citizens should be free to text across borders without being ripped off," Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said in July.

Each year, EU customers send some 2.5 billion text messages while travelling abroad.

The commission has already succeeded in bringing down roaming charges for voice calls.

Greenpeace - assessment of electronics

Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics: Nokia Leads the Pack, Nintendo Falls Flat

It’s that time of year again—Greenpeace has released the 9th edition of The Guide to Greener Electronics. The guide scores companies based on a set of criteria for chemicals, e-waste, and energy.

This year, Nokia regained its first place crown with a rating of 7 out of 10 points. The company performed well in a variety of areas— it has an excellent take-back policy in India, and all new products since 2005 are vinyl-plastic (PVC) free. Additionally, all models released after 2009 will be free of brominated flame retardants (BFR) and antimony trioxide.

So why is it a good thing that Nokia is getting rid of PVCs and BFRs? PVCs release dioxin, a known carcinogen, and BFRs are reproductive and developmental neurotoxins that build up over time in the human body.

Samsung also got the nod as a green company, receiving 5.7 points out of 10. All new Samsung LCD panels since 2007 are PVC-free—a big deal since Samsung is the number one LCD panel supplier globally. The company also reports recycling rates of 137% for TVs, 12% for PCs, and 9% for mobile phones.

Coming in dead last in the Greenpeace guide is Nintendo, with a shameful rating of 0.8 points out of 10. While Nintendo has banned phthalates and plans to eliminate the use of PVC, it hasn’t set a timeline for their goal. And though the company claims that it wants to cut CO2 emissions, it admits that an increase in business has led to a 6% rise in emissions since 2006. Ouch.

Europe - consultation on next generation access

Broadband: Commission consults on regulatory strategy to promote high-speed Next Generation Access networks in Europe
see also draft recommendation and explanatory note

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the regulatory principles to be applied by EU Member States to Next Generation Access broadband networks (NGA). NGA optical fibre-based networks enable bitrates several times higher than those currently available on traditional copper wire networks. NGAs are required to deliver high-definition content (such as high definition television) and interactive applications. The objective of a common regulatory framework for NGA is to foster a consistent treatment of operators in the EU and thereby ensure the necessary regulatory predictability to invest. The Commission is consulting on the basis of a draft Recommendation, addressed to the regulators in the 27 EU Member States and suggesting definitions for harmonized categories of regulated services, access conditions, rates of return and appropriate risk premiums. The public consultation will be open until 14th November 2008. The Commission will then finalise the Recommendation in the light of comments received and formally adopt it in 2009.

Europe - infringement on independence of regulators

Commission opens three new cases on independence and effectiveness of telecoms regulators in Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden

Effective national telecoms regulators are a prerequisite for ensuring fair and effective regulation of the telecoms markets in the interest of effective competition and tangible consumer benefits. This is why the EU Telecoms rules lay down standards and powers for all national authorities which perform regulatory functions in the field of telecoms, whether these functions are performed by separate regulatory authorities or (as is still the case in some countries) by a ministry. To ensure compliance with these rules, the European Commission today opened three new infringement proceedings against Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden.

EU - WTO ITA trade negotiations

EU proposes major update to IT trade pact

The European Commission has today presented at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) its proposal to update and expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), an existing trade deal between some of the world's biggest trade powers that lowers the cost of IT products. The proposal would take account of new products that have entered the market since the agreement was originally concluded in 1996, eliminating customs duties for these goods. Further points considered are tackling non-tariff barriers "behind the border", as well as the problems caused by the non-functioning of some of the mechanisms and procedures provided for in the current ITA. The Commission hopes that other WTO members will engage in discussions in the near future.

Cisco - transparent teleworking

Cisco makes teleworking transparent

Cisco Systems plans to make remote work as simple as plugging a router into a broadband connection and starting up a PC.

Cisco Virtual Office (CVO), announced Tuesday, combines a variety of existing products with management software that hides the complexity of a VPN and other technologies. Remote employees with no technology training can use CVO to make their home setups work just like a regular office, Cisco said.

Fuel price hikes and concern over carbon emissions recently have focused more attention on telecommuting and permanently home-based employees. Cisco, a company with much to gain from large and medium-sized enterprises extending connectivity to remote sites, has been a big proponent of work forces keeping in touch electronically, in both its product offerings and its own infrastructure. CVO began as an internal project in Cisco's IT department, said Bob Berlin, a director of product management at Cisco.

The CVO setup for home and remote offices is built around the Cisco 881w Series Integrated Services Router (ISR). After an employer or a Cisco partner sends the router to a remote site, the worker can connect it to the local broadband connection and start using it. The router can call in to the main office, retrieve the proper configuration, and set itself up. As soon as the remote employee plugs in a laptop, the online experience is just like working at the office, with no special browsers or authentication tools, Berlin said.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is also part of CVO, so employees can plug in a Cisco 7970G IP phone and immediately start using it as if they were in the office. If the worker has both a main office and a home office phone, both will use the same number. Outgoing calls will look like they are coming from the office number, and all incoming calls will ring on both phones unless one of the ringers is turned off, Berlin said.

The full-featured 7970G has been tested and certified for CVO, and other wired and wireless IP phones will follow, but theoretically any IP phone that uses SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) should work with the system, Berlin said. Cisco plans eventually to make its TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing technology an endpoint for CVO.

The 881w Series router can be used with Wi-Fi within the home and shared with other household members with two separate virtual networks. If the local broadband connection goes down or the router is disconnected, it can reconfigure itself again in the same way as soon as the connection is restored, he said.

At the main office, a Cisco 7200 Series router runs the VPN. CVO uses Cisco Dynamic Multipoint Virtual Private Networking, which allows for data to be exchanged securely between two remote offices without going through the central site, according to Cisco. Security can be assured via SSL and L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) over IPsec VPNs.

With the Cisco Configuration Engine, Cisco Security Manager and Cisco Secure Access Control Server, administrators can set up system images and policies and distribute them to as many as 10,000 remote ISRs. As part of CVO, Cisco and its partners will offer planning, design and implementation services to IT administrators.

The system is available immediately, priced starting at $700 per seat.

Web - the future

Berners-Lee starts foundation aimed at Web's future

Tim Berners-Lee to launch the World Wide Web Federation, which aims to advance freedom of speech and Internet use, Web standards and interoperability, and Web access to all parts of the world

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, will launch a new foundation focused on extending the capabilities of the Web and bringing the Internet to all the world's people, he announced Sunday.

The World Wide Web Foundation , scheduled to launch early next year, will "advance a Web which is open and free," Berners-Lee said at a Washington, D.C., event. The foundation will promote democracy, free speech and the freedom of Internet users to access the online content they want, he said.

In addition, a major focus of the foundation will be to provide Web access to the 80 percent of the world's population that is not currently connected to the Internet, Berners-Lee said. "It will extend capability of the Web to everyone on the planet," said Berners-Lee, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It will try to."

Berners-Lee acknowledged the goals he outlined are a "very big undertaking," but he said it's important for the Web to benefit humanity as a whole, not just executives who want the latest pocket device.

Anticipating questions about what he envisions for the foundation and the Web's future, Berners-Lee said his ideas were limited. The next generation of Internet users should think of the Web as a blank canvas, he said.

"If we can accomplish everything I can think of, we'll have failed," he added.

Berners-Lee mentioned two goals for the Web in the future: to advance and create new forms of democracy, including meritocracies, and to help improve health care. The Web Foundation will also focus on Web standards and interoperability and on advancing Web science, he said.

The Knight Foundation , focused on improving journalism in the U.S., will provide US $5 million in seed money to help launch the Web Foundation. The Web is an important tool for journalism and freedom of speech and the press, said Alberto Ibarguen, the Knight Foundation's president and CEO.

Berners-Lee said he had doubts about trying to push the Web out to the most remote areas of the world, when many people need basic health-care, food and clean water. People in the Web-connected part of the world need to understand others' needs "before we make rash assessments," he said.

But an African missionary told him a story about a man there who taught himself English by reading the Bible and other texts, then offered his services as an interpreter over the Web. The man could bring money to his village through the Web, Berners-Lee said.

Berners-Lee invented the hypertexted Web in 1989, while working as a software programmer at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory. He wrote the first Web client and server in 1990, and he created the HTML and HTTP protocols.

Mobile operators - going green

Mobile operators get help to go green
see also GSMA Greenpower

Industry organization GSM Association (GSMA) has launched the Green Power for Mobile program, which will help operators that want to use renewable power sources, including solar, wind or sustainable biofuels, to power base stations, it announced on Thursday.

"We've had a number operators ask us informally if the GSMA could do some research in this area, and actually look at the feasibility of different energy sources, particularly in off-grid locations. They also wanted to see if we could bring some economies of scale to the operators -- electricity and energy is not their core competency," said David Pringle, spokesman at GSMA.

The list of supporters includes Bharti, Mobinil, Orange, Orascom, Safaricom, Telefónica, Vodafone, and Zain.

The goal is to power 118,000 new and existing off-grid base stations in developing countries by 2012, saving up to 2.5 billion liters of diesel per year and cutting carbon emissions by up to 6.3 million tons. Up to 50 percent of new off-grid base stations in the developing world could be powered by renewable energy by that time, according to research done by the GSMA Development Fund. "These are not pie-in-the-sky figures; we have taken a very measured view of what can be done," said Pringle, and as the underlying technology improves the numbers can go up.

Currently only 1,500 base stations worldwide are powered by at least one form of renewable energy, according to the GSMA Development Fund. Challenges to date have included commercial viability, equipment availability, and lack of expertise. But as the cost of diesel goes up, environmental interest grows and operators also want to move into new areas interest is on the rise, according to Pringle.

Vodafone, for example, announced in April it plans to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2020, and that it will help customers lessen their burden on the environment.

All mobile carriers are currently investigating how to improve energy efficiency. "The main driver is to reduce the cost of running mobile networks, but then you also get to reduce CO2 emissions as a bonus," said Gartner analyst Martin Gutberlet.

The Green Power for Mobile program will take what the GSMA Development Fund has learned working with a number of different operators using renewable energy sources and develop step-by-step instructions for others that want to do the same. "What the Development Fund produces, as a way to spread the knowledge, are replication manuals, which is a hefty document that shows what the operators need to do to reach a certain goal," said Pringle.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lebanon - telecommunications

Phares on Hezbollah’s telecommunications expansion

by W. Thomas Smith Jr. on 17 August 2008

In a conversation last week with Middle East terrorism expert Dr. Walid Phares regarding Hezbollah’s recent strategic positioning and repositioning since the 2006 war with Israel - more specifically since the attacks on the Lebanese government in May 2008 - the subject came up of Hezbollah’s extensive telecommunications system.

I was reporting the existence of Hezbollah’s telecommunications system - and Hezbollah’s control of much of greater Lebanon’s telecom system - as early as September of 2007 (when I was in Lebanon). Dr. Phares has also been writing about it, and with much greater specificity than perhaps any other writer or analyst to date.

On Wednesday, Phares told me:

“Before the invasion of West Beirut and the assault on the Druze mountain, Hezbollah’s telecommunications systems were up-and-running and fully operational in half of Lebanon. They showed the structure of absorption for thousands of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Pasdaran already deployed in Lebanon. The swift takeover of half of Lebanon’s capital and the multi-axis advance on the Shuf heights demonstrated that this system can insure an internal “hard” communications which can instruct, direct, guide, and move large units from one side of Lebanon to another.

“Following the political victory of Hezbollah in Doha and the surrender of the Lebanese first cabinet of Seniora and the March 14 Coalition to the Syrian-Iranian agenda, Hezbollah’s TC system not only survived, but we believe was extended and expanded. Reports - including those from media open sources - tells us that the TC system was stretched across the line of summits from the Metn area in the center northbound to Kesruwan and Jbeil mountains, deep in the Christian heartland of Lebanon. Hezbollah operatives and special forces have been seen on the commanding heights and summits of central Mount Lebanon where they’ve established “security zones.” The Iranian-backed militia today controls better strategic location than that which was ever controlled by the Syrian occupation forces before 2005.”

Strange Rumblings in Lebanon

JOHNSON: How can the covert microwave telecommunications network that sparked the internal violence in Lebanon this May allow Hezbollah to act as a state within a state?

SMITH: It’s not the telecommunications system that has allowed Hezbollah to act as a state within a state: The telecom system is only one piece of the Iranian-funded infrastructure in Lebanon that supports Hezbollah’s state – actually more of a kingdom – within the state of Lebanon.

The real danger of the system is that it provides secure command-and-control for Hezbollah by connecting Hezbollah’s stronghold in Dahiyeh (Beirut’s southern suburbs) with all points controlled by Hezbollah in south Lebanon, the Bekka Valley and elsewhere, and links them directly to Teheran and Damascus.

Hezbollah today is far-better wired than it was prior to the 2006 war with Israel.

UK - broadband policy

Industry 'must pay for super-fast broadband'

The telecoms industry, not the government, will need to stump up the billions of pounds needed to rollout the next generation of super-fast broadband networks across the UK, according to the former boss of Cable & Wireless, who was appointed earlier this year by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Treasury to look at the UK broadband market.

But Francesco Caio said the government can help reduce the estimated £5.1bn to £28.8bn cost of installing super-fast broadband, by coordinating the digging up of streets so that fibre optic lines can be installed, opening up national infrastructure such as sewers so cables can be laid and relaxing the rules on where overhead wires can be erected.

His recommendations, which the government welcomed, come ahead of the publication of regulator Ofcom's initial thoughts on next generation broadband networks - which will allow consumers to download songs in seconds and movies in minutes - later this month. The regulator is expected to re-open its consultation with the industry by asking what sort of regulatory regime is required to ensure next generation networks are built over the coming decade.

Caio said there has yet to emerge a service that cannot be delivered over current broadband networks but as more and more devices are produced that can access the internet, the need to install networks that can run at much faster speeds will increase. The government needs to keep a watchful eye to ensure investment is made, but does not need to bankroll broadband.

"In my view the case for major intervention now is weak at best," he said. "It is true that the UK has a lower number of homes connected through fibre (optic cables) than other countries, but I think we should take a rather more articulate view of how broadband is used, what there is today and how the system is evolving, as opposed to just counting the number of fibres there are in the ground."

He said next generation networks will be a mixture of fibre-optic cabling, either to individual homes or street-side cabinets, and wireless broadband. BT, which welcomed the review, has already said it plans to spend £1.5bn running fibre optic cabling to the streetside cabinets that ultimately connect 40% - 10 million - of the UK's homes.

Earlier this week, the government's own independent advisory panel, the Broadband Stakeholders Group, estimated that rolling out such fibre optic cabling to all the UK's cabinets would cost £5.1bn, while putting cabling all the way into every home in the UK would cost £28.8bn.

Virgin Media, meanwhile, is already rolling out broadband at up to 50Mb per second - 10 times faster than the average connection - across its cable network which covers half the UK.

Caio said such moves prove that competition, not intervention, is the way to go. The market is also changing so fast - wireless networks today can offer faster broadband speeds than were possible over a fixed-line connection a decade ago - that the government should keep an open mind on what technology gets used.

"My recommendation to the government is don't commit to anything today because the technology is changing," he said. "You might find yourself having committed a lot for something that could have been done by the market".

As a result he said the government should not look to extend the universal service obligation, under which BT must to provide a basic phone line to every UK household, into the provision of fibre optic cabling.

He gave the current state of the broadband market - which covers 99.6% of UK households - a relatively clean bill of health. But he added that current 'bottlenecks' in the system, which reduce the speed of internet access, are appearing in the telecom companies' backbone networks rather than in the 'last mile' connection between telephone exchanges and people's homes, which is where next generation networks will be installed.

As a result he wants Ofcom to demand that the ISPs give their customers more detail of how they manage their internet traffic, especially at peak times. The regulator has already pushed for a voluntary industry code which gives customers more information about the average speed they can expect on their line. But Caio believes some customers may be willing to pay more in order to have dedicated bandwidth, once they fully understand how their line is managed, so they do not see their speed dip at any time of day.

Caio's recommendation that telecoms companies be able to carpet the countryside with overhead cables is likely to alarm some rural communities. But Shriti Vadera, parliamentary under secretary of state for business and competitiveness, said local communities will have to weigh up the benefits of super-fast broadband against the impact of overhead cabling. "It is a matter of ensuring that people have a say," she added.

Business secretary John Hutton added: "We want to create the right conditions for private sector investment and stand ready to play our part in ensuring the UK has a competitive infrastructure in the years to come."