Sunday, October 19, 2008

PCCW - abandons sale of stake in HKT

PCCW abandons HKT stake sale

PCCW became the latest high-profile Asian company to abandon plans to sell a significant stake in one of its key business units in the wake of last week's world stock market crash.

After an emergency board meeting on Sunday, Hong Kong's dominant telecommunications operator said that the market downturn had "significantly impacted" the offers received for a 45 per cent stake in HKT, a newly created holding group for most of its core fixed-line, broadband and television assets.

PCCW started the sale process in May and hired UBS to find a buyer in a deal, which was then expected to raise up to $2.5bn.

Mobile advertising declines

Mobile phone ads hit by spending curbs

The global economic downturn is set to hit advertising on mobile phones until at least 2010, when marketing agencies expect clients to increase their budgets.

Advertising agencies say clients are reining in their marketing spending and focusing on proven mediums such as mass audience television and the internet.

Jean-Paul Edwards, executive director of futures at Manning Gottlieb OMD, which is part of Omnicom, the world’s largest marketing agency, said that many advertisers become more conservative in a downturn, and “retreat into what is most proven”.

He added that mobile advertising “has had false dawns for several years. The current economic climate will push things back a bit,” he said. “If money is tight, mobile is not proven yet.” Other companies involved in mobile advertising say that the industry’s fragmented state is also holding it back.

Over the last 18 months, European mobile operators such as Vodafone and France Telecom’s Orange have increased investments in mobile advertising.

Companies including AOL, Microsoft, Nokia, Publicis and Yahoo have made acquisitions to expand their roles in the mobile advertising market.

Analysts say that the mobile advertising industry will be forced to consolidate after a “gold rush” by operators and venture capital-supported start-ups.

“Brands are not seeing enough potential return from mobile at the moment to warrant significant investment,” said Informa, adding that advertising spending “will not be sufficient to sustain every player” across the young industry.

Mobile operators pledged to work together to drive the nascent mobile advertising market in February at the Mobile World Congress, the mobile industry’s main industry event.

But critics say that inertia and bureaucracy have impeded such collaboration. Andrea Casalini, chief executive of Buongiorno, an Italian technology company specialising in mobile content, said that operators’ piecemeal local initiatives were failing to provide advertisers with broad audiences.

“Fragmentation is the single most important element slowing down the market,” he added.

Mobile operators - the decline in advertising

Operators slow at getting the message

The nascent state of advertising on mobile phones is underlined by how its greatest successes come only when consumers are rewarded for tolerating it.

Blyk, a mobile operator in the UK, offers young people free phone calls and text messages if they agree to receive marketing campaigns on their handsets. Most of the advertisements are in text or multimedia message format; by targeting fun, relevant marketing at a mobile-literate niche, its response rates are high.

That compares with the fact that just 0.1 per cent of people visiting websites click on banner advertisements by companies seeking to sell their wares.

“From the advertisers’ side, mobile media has not been the simplest or easiest one to use,” says Pekka Ala-Pietila, co-founder and chief executive of Blyk, and a former president of Nokia, the world’s largest mobile manufacturer.

“Advertisers needed to put multiple piecemeal elements together from multiple different companies. We believe we have overcome the challenges of buying and using mobile from [an] advertising perspective.”

Blyk has attracted 200,000 UK customers in its first year, which puts it well ahead of its internal targets, and more than 100 different brands have now run more than 1,000 advertising campaigns. But Blyk is mindful of not overloading customers.

It is still sending them less than the maximum six marketing messages each day that it could do because it does not want to irritate its audience.

Blyk’s story is being closely watched by the mobile industry’s groups. Network operators and handset manufacturers, such as Vodafone and Nokia, are hoping mobile advertising will provide them with a significant new revenue source.

Nokia, the world’s largest mobile manufacturer, regards advertising as an important part of its strategy for expanding from hardware into services that run on handsets.

But the Finnish company admits that the mobile advertising market is in its infancy. Tom Henrikkson, Nokia’s head of interactive advertising, says: “Today mobile [advertising] is still small. We are honest and realistic about that.”

Advertisers are looking at mobile phones as a new venue for their marketing messages, but they are not allocating significant resources to the activity.

Their reluctance is not only due to the global economic downturn, which is prompting advertisers to cut back their marketing budgets.

The lack of widely accepted ways to display advertisements on mobiles and measure handset users’ response rates to the marketing makes it harder to be confident of a return on investment.

Babs Rangaiah, director of global communications planning at Unilever, the consumer goods company, agrees the mobile phone “is going to be a much bigger area than it is today” for advertisers. The ability to personalise advertisements is one of the operators’ greatest assets and is seen by many as crucial to ensuring the relevance and acceptance of mobile marketing.

But some carriers are nervous about invading customers’ privacy by using their extensive databases, and many agencies are ill-equipped to execute highly targeted campaigns.

Expensive targeted advertising space is not selling as well as cheaper, generic marketing which is often bundled with fixed-line banner sales.

Shailendra Pandey, analyst at Informa, the research firm, highlights how operators have been offering customers free content, such as music, in return for accepting advertisements on their handsets.

Telefonica - growth forecast

Telefónica sticks by guidance for growth

Telefónica has sought to reassure investors that it will not be knocked off-course by the economic downturn by confirming previous guidance for solid growth in revenue and operating profit during 2008.

Spain’s largest telecoms company, which is also a leading telecoms provider elsewhere in Europe and Latin America, wooed investors by extending its share buyback programme.

In a further statement of confidence, Telefónica’s top six managers, led by Cesar Alierta, chairman, each spent €1m ($1.35m) on Monday buying 400,000 of the shares. Telefónica closed up 9.6 per cent at €15.11.

Telefónica’s shares have fallen about 30 per cent this year partly because many investors have concluded that telecoms companies will get hurt by the downturn.

Vodafone and Telecom Italia have cut their group guidance for 2008. BT has warned of a possible fall in profitability at its division serving large companies. Vodafone’s shares have fallen about 40 per cent this year, BT’s, 50 per cent, and Telecom Italia, 60 per cent.

Telefónica will report its third-quarter results on November 14. On Monday it said: “Preliminary results for the third quarter of the year reflect the continuity of the trends recorded in the first six months of the year across main markets, leading the company to remain fully on track to fulfil 2008 guidance, both at group and regional level.”

In February, Telefónica said group revenue would grow by 6-8 per cent in 2008 against 2007, and operating profit by 7.5-11 per cent. Telefónica said on Monday it was maintaining a “sound balance sheet”; at September 30 net debt was at the “bottom end” of its target range of 2-2.5 times operating profit.

Telefónica increased its leverage during a series of acquisitions that peaked in 2006. The group has since been reducing its debt.

Analysts will study Telefónica’s third-quarter performance in Spain, which is on the brink of a recession.

Telefónica declined to say how much it had spent buying back 100m shares. But it said the average share price between January 1 and October 10 was €18.25, which implies €1.8bn was spent.
Demand for high-end handsets falling

Global handset vendors are lowering their shipments goals for high-end handset and smartphones in the fourth quarter and and related chip suppliers such as Texas Instruments (TI), Qualcomm, Infineon Technologies, Broadcom and ST-NXP Wireless are the first to fell the impact, according to industry players. Only MediaTek is being temporarily buffered by demand from the China market.

The conservative fourth-quarter outlook of handset vendors is as expected since consumers have tightened budgets for high price products. Order volumes for high-end handsets and smartphones have declined week by week since the last week of September, commented the sources.

Actually, most Taiwan and overseas handset chip suppliers still believe demand for the fourth quarter is likely to represent growth from the third quarter since inventory levels in the supply chain have been almost cleared. Demand for mid-range and low-end handsets in particular is expected to see double-digit growth while high-end handset demand will stay flat or decline slightly.

Handset chip suppliers have forecast that peak season effects should not be too strong in the fourth quarter based on current order visibility. However, customers are conservative but not pessimistic. But if sales are not satisfactory or the global economy worsens, handset vendors will cut orders again, pulling down demand in the fourth quarter even further.

Taiwan - the growth of 3.5G

Taiwan 3.5G mobile Internet-access could grow to 2 million users in 2009, says Vibo Telecom

Mobile access to the Internet through a notebook PC together with an HSDPA data card is becoming increasingly popular in the Taiwan market. The number of 3.5G Internet surfers, of which a large portion will be shifting from fixed-line ADSL, is likely to reach two million in 2009, according to president Feng-hsiung Chang for Vibo Telecom (one of the five 3G telecom carriers in Taiwan).

Download speeds for 3.5G access to the Internet are likely to increase from the current 3.6Mbps or 7.2Mbps to 14.4Mbps, while charge rates are generally lower than those for ADSL at comparable speeds, Chang indicated. This will encourage ADSL users to shift to 3.5G, Chang claimed. There are approximately four million ADSL subscribers currently in Taiwan, and as many as half of them may eventually shift to a 3.5G service if ADSL prices are not lowered, Chang analyzed.

Vibo Telecom has set up a network of 4,500 3G base stations of which a portion can be used to operate 3.5G services. Plans to set up an additional 1,000 3.5G base stations are in progress, Chang noted.

Economic Downturn - delay to LCD glass plant construction

Corning to delay construction at Taichung facility, cuts 2009 capex

Noting what he called current economic turbulence, Corning vice chairman and CFO James B Flaws indicated that the LCD glass maker is widening its estimates on the lower-end for 2009 worldwide LCD glass market growth. The company is now forecasting growth of 15-25%, down from a previous growth estimate of 20-25%. This would equate to the LCD glass market growing from about 2.25 billion square feet this year to 2.65-2.9 billion square feet next year, an increase of at least 400 million square feet, Flaws pointed out.

In line with its updated forecast, Corning has decided to delay construction and startup of capacity associated with the fourth phase of its Taichung facility until later in 2010. The company may also decide to keep tanks planned for maintenance in the fourth quarter and early next year off line and could idle others as appropriate.

As a result of the company's capacity decisions in the display glass business, Corning's total capital spending for 2008 and 2009 is expected to be approximately US$400-600 million lower. This year's capital spending will be between US$1.8-1.9 billion, a reduction of US$300-400 million. 2009 capital spending is now expected between US$1.6-1.7 billion, a US$100-200 million reduction from previous estimates.

Telepresence - public service

Tata Communications First to Launch Cisco TelePresence Rooms for Public Use

Tata Communications, a leading provider of the new world of communications, announced the launch of its TelePresence rooms available for public use in the United States and United Kingdom, linking to additional public rooms in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, India. The collaboration between Tata Communications and Cisco is the first managed telepresence service in the world to deliver public and private Cisco TelePresence rooms to companies globally. This new service will allow companies and individuals to use Cisco TelePresence for one-off meetings.

Tata Communications is working with Cisco, Taj Hotels owner, the Indian Hotels Company Limited, and the Confederation of India Industry (CII) to offer public telepresence facilities which are available for rent on an hourly basis. The first phase of public rooms was launched in India in July at the Taj Hotels in Mumbai and Bangalore, and CII offices in Bangalore and Chennai. Tata plans to make 100 rooms available globally by the end of 2009.

Cisco today also introduced a dedicated public Cisco TelePresence suites facility in Santa Clara, California.

"With this innovative service offering, Tata Communications is not only adding value to its business and that of its customers, but revolutionising business altogether," said Tata Communications, Chief Operating Officer, Vinod Kumar. "This groundbreaking innovation enables our global customers to join a wider ecosystem of users via public access rooms allowing them to not only to communicate virtually in real-time but providing a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution."

The public room offering creates a larger network of interconnected rooms and expands the telepresence market to small and mid-sized businesses. Tata Communications' managed service offers a professionally run concierge service that handles reservations, scheduling, customer support, monitoring, management, reporting and billing capabilities. These services provide organizations with the ease and speed to deploy and manage highly collaborative tools more effectively. The public room offering is also certified as a world class network solution, which further helps ensure high levels of reliability and availability.

"Public Cisco TelePresence rooms provide global organisations with a cost effective way to connect in virtual 'in person' meetings with key customers, partners and suppliers around the globe. Our objective was to collaborate with a company to launch a unique Cisco TelePresence solution that was innovative, yet reliable and cost effective for businesses whatever their size," said Cisco Chief Globalisation Officer, Wim Elfrink. "Working with Tata Communications offers customers extensive coverage in a user-friendly managed service, and has the potential to help small to medium businesses develop more globalised business models. These Public Cisco TelePresence rooms join a Cisco TelePresence ecosystem that has almost 300 rooms internal to Cisco and more than 1,000 rooms installed by over 200 customers. Cisco TelePresence is now represented in over 60 countries worldwide."

Cisco TelePresence provides life-like, high definition, conferencing facilities with superior audio, video and environmental qualities allowing participants to meet their colleagues, customers and business partners across a virtual table. Cisco TelePresence use also contributes towards a company's environmental responsibility, enabling it to lower overall CO2 emissions by reducing the need for travel.

"It is our constant endeavour to provide state-of-the-art value-added services to our customers. With the telepresence facility, we will be one of the first hospitality companies worldwide to offer this kind of cutting edge technology. We are happy to announce that this facility will be available at Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces' properties in Mumbai, Bangalore, New York, Boston and London," said Mr. Raymond Bickson, managing director, Indian Hotels Corporation Ltd.

Tata Communications has plans to open additional rooms in Hyderabad, Gurgaon, and New York later this year, with a more extensive global rollout of 100 rooms planned to be deployed by 2009.

Security mistakes

Cisco Research Reveals Common Data Loss Mistakes

Global study explores behavioral risks based on country, culture - from accessing unauthorized facilities and networks to intentionally leaking corporate information

Cisco today announced findings from a new global security study that spotlights numerous risks taken by employees that can lead to one of the most prominent security concerns for businesses: the loss of corporate information. The study identifies common data leakage mistakes among workforces around the world and is based on surveys of more than 2,000 employees and information technology professionals in 10 countries. The findings show that behavioral risks of employees can vary by country and culture, creating opportunities for businesses to tailor risk management plans that prevent incidents locally while remaining global in scope.

Conducted by InsightExpress, a U.S.-based market research firm, the study was commissioned by Cisco to examine security and data leakage ( implications for businesses at a time when employee lifestyles and work environments are changing dramatically. As the reliance on centralized offices shifts to distributed business models and remote workforces, lines are blurring between work life and personal life. This operational shift for businesses and the lifestyle overlap for employees are driven in large part by the proliferation of collaborative devices and applications that are used for both purposes, including mobile phones, laptops, Web 2.0 applications, video and other social media.

This evolving business environment serves as a backdrop for the study, which surveyed 1,000 employees and 1,000 IT professionals from various industries and company sizes in 10 countries: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, India, Australia, and Brazil. The countries were chosen because they represent a diverse set of social and business cultures, established and emerging network-dependent economies and varied levels of Internet adoption.

"We conducted this research in order to understand behavior, not technology per se," said John N. Stewart, chief security officer of Cisco. "Security is ultimately rooted in users behavior, so businesses of all sizes and employees in all professions need to understand how behavior affects the risk and reality of data loss - and what that ultimately means for both the individual and enterprise. Understanding this can help strengthen relationships between IT and employees, tailor localized awareness and education programs, and better manage risk. Simply put, security practices can be more effective when all users realize what their actions result in."

Of the many behavioral findings, the 10 most noteworthy were:

1. Altering security settings on computers:
2. Use of unauthorized applications:
3. Unauthorized network/facility access:
4. Sharing sensitive corporate information:
5. Sharing corporate devices:
6. Blurring of work and personal devices, communications:
7. Unprotected devices:
8. Storing logins and passwords:
9. Losing portable storage devices:
10. Allowing "tailgating" and unsupervised roaming:

"Businesses are enabling employees to become increasingly collaborative and mobile," Stewart said. "Without modern-day security technologies, policies, awareness and education, information is more vulnerable. Today, data is in transit, in use, within programs, stored on devices, and in places beyond the traditional business environment, such as at home, on the road, in cafes, on airplanes and trains. This trend is here to stay. To protect your data effectively, we need to start understanding the risk characteristics of business and then base technology, policy, and awareness and education plans on those factors."

BT - global telepresence interconnection

BT Launches Inter-company TelePresence Capability with BT Global Video Exchange

BT today announced the availability of BT Global Video Exchange, a service that enables Cisco Telepresence connections between companies. With this new service, companies can now connect to external business partners that have Cisco TelePresence systems.

With businesses focusing on reducing travel costs and lowering CO2 emissions, an increasing number are deploying immersive technology as a viable solution. Cisco TelePresence systems combine life-sized, high-definition video, spatial audio and a specially designed interactive environment to create the feeling of being in the same room as participants in remote locations. BT Global Video Exchange increases the utility of Cisco TelePresence by enabling interconnections between companies, driving more potential for use and faster return on investment. BT's networked IT heritage and the reach and quality of its MPLS network enable the delivery of world class services.

BT Global Video Exchange offers significant benefits and versatility to customers, including:

Full conferencing services, including set-up, live call monitoring and assistance and 24-hour help-desk support

A high level of multi-layered security

Global reach.

BT Global Video Exchange is available now in the United States, UK and EMEA. Asia Pacific service will be available in the second half of 2009.

Aaron McCormack, CEO of BT Conferencing, said: "BT Global Video Exchange makes the promise of inter-company TelePresence a reality. The new services supported by BT Global Video Exchange help companies maximize their investments in TelePresence technology by allowing them to collaborate with partners, suppliers, customers and others around the globe. Our delivery of this offering further solidifies our global market leadership, video expertise and commitment to innovation."

Ross Fowler, vice president, service provider, European Markets, Cisco, commented: "The cost, efficiency and environmental arguments for Cisco TelePresence are now just too strong to ignore, and we see strong growth opportunities for video communication across a range of sectors. Today's announcement represents a first step towards 'anywhere, anytime' Cisco TelePresence capabilities for BT's global customers." Initially, BT Global Video Exchange will offer three levels of flexible service:

Producer-assisted offers full conferencing services with in-call monitoring and assistance available.

Automated self-service provides call assistance with no live call monitoring.

Direct Dial scheduling allows for reservation-less, point-to-point connections. In-call assistance is available on demand, with no call monitoring.

The launch of BT Global Video Exchange builds on BT's strong existing partnership with Cisco. BT recently became the first service provider to complete the Cisco TelePresence Global Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) program. In July 2008, BT also announced that it has earned Cisco's Global Certification status by expanding the geographical scope of its existing Cisco specializations in unified communications, routing and switching, security and wireless. Additionally, BT announced in June 2007 that it had earned the Cisco Powered TelePresence Connection certification.

Cisco - remote working

'Cisco Virtual Office' Extends the Enterprise, Increases Productivity and Secure Collaboration for Remote Workforces

Highly Secure Solution Helps Employees Collaborate Via Office-Caliber Video, Voice, Wireless and Data Service in Branch or Home Offices
SAN JOSE, Calif. - September 9, 2008 - Cisco® today announced the Cisco Virtual Office, a highly secure solution that allows businesses to extend their enterprise - and productivity - by "bringing the office" to employees who regularly work in a variety of remote settings, such as branch locations or from a home office.

The Cisco Virtual Office addresses the growing trend among mid-sized and large enterprises that have increasingly distributed workforces who need access to collaborative business applications and services outside of their corporate offices. The networking solution packages routing, switching, security, wireless, IP telephony, and policy control technology into a centrally managed office-caliber solution that provides highly secure video, voice, data and wireless service. ( It is flexible, allowing employees to work in a variety of places with technology and services that are as advanced as if they were sitting at their desk in their office. This "extension" of an employee's collaborative office environment includes access to voice and video over IP communications, all protected within a highly secure networked environment.

The Cisco Virtual Office comes at an opportune time. As businesses look for flexible and cost-effective work options, particularly in the wake of rising gas prices and energy costs, the solution enables them to ensure highly secure collaboration amongst a more distributed workforce. ( This agility helps maintain business continuity, such as during inclement weather, and can generate cost savings on real estate by eliminating needs for additional office space. Furthermore, remote workers can enhance productivity by accessing the same communications and collaboration technologies available to their office-based counterparts.

One of the solution's most valued features is its "zero-touch" setup. Automated, pre-configured setup offloads installation responsibilities from employees, most of whom are not qualified or knowledgeable enough to implement networking systems themselves. With the solution's zero-touch setup, businesses can extend their workforces to thousands of locations with the peace of mind that employee error and IT support will be minimal. As a whole, the Cisco Virtual Office consists of the following components:

Remote site

Zero-touch setup of the new Cisco 881w Series Internet Services Router (ISR) and Cisco 7970G IP phone with color display. Once the Cisco 881w ISR is connected to the Internet, it "calls home" and automatically downloads a pre-defined configuration that syncs with headquarters. From there, employees can benefit from efficient, automated delivery of collaborative business applications and services. For example, wireless LAN connectivity is offered as an option to provide such features as mobile intelligent roaming.

Headquarters site

A Cisco 7200 Series router serves as a converged platform for virtual private networking, offering easy-to-manage encryption and security. It utilizes Cisco Dynamic Multipoint Virtual Private Networking (DMVPN), which secures the exchange of data between two locations without traversing the head office, improving network performance and data delivery by offloading traffic demands from headquarters. This infrastructure also supports SSL and L2TP over IPsec VPNs, serving as a single point of convergence for multiple secure access technologies, such as mobile users with laptops or PDAs.

Management servers for policy, identity and configuration, which include the Cisco Configuration Engine for image distribution to as many as 10,000 Cisco Integrated Services Routers; Cisco Security Manager for management of security policies; and Cisco Secure Access Control Server (ACS), which provides access policy control to meet regulatory and corporate compliance requirements. This centralized management architecture allows control of all the services that Cisco Virtual Office enables, including security, mobility, collaboration and unified communications.


Cisco and its approved partners provide services for Cisco Virtual Office planning, design and implementation. Services include deployment and integration at the head-end site, consultative guidance for automating the deployment and management of remote sites, and ongoing operational support. These services help reduce customers' operating costs and continually assess, tune and evolve Cisco Virtual Office components to keep pace with customers' business needs and security threats.

"The Cisco Virtual Office is ultimately about helping extend secure mobility and empowering the collaborative workforce wherever and whenever it connects," said Marie Hattar, vice president of network systems and security solutions for Cisco. "It enhances the benefits of remote working by providing office-caliber technology wrapped in a security blanket. It allows businesses to stay agile, and in some cases, it can provide an environmentally friendly alternative to commuting while managing operational expenses at corporate sites."

According to Hattar, as the number of distributed workers increases and the way they access corporate networks and information multiplies, both in terms of device and location, businesses need an increasingly flexible IT infrastructure that extends the same protection found within a corporate office to remote locations where employees connect. Because of the solution's security capabilities, businesses can safely establish highly secure mobility, collaborate with their constituents and adopt distributed employee work models that can be more efficient than relying exclusively on centralized corporate sites for conducting operations.

American Century Investments, a leading investment management company based in Kansas City, Missouri, is harnessing the value of remote working and distributed - yet collaborative -- enterprises through the Cisco Virtual Office. To date, American Century Investments has rolled out the Cisco Virtual Office solution to more than 110 of its sales agents and remote workers.

"Our remote worker implementation of the Cisco Virtual Office is designed to provide our employees with flexibility and to allow them to be as functional working from home as they are in the office," said Keith Little, network services manager for American Century Investments. "As our intermediary sales staff grows, we will continue to broaden our adoption of this solution so we can provide our employees with easy remote access to network resources. The Cisco Virtual Office provides us with the benefits of greater employee productivity and operational efficiency. Simply put, we've adopted the Cisco Virtual Office as our own virtual office."

Roaming - Open Connectivity Hub

22 operators to join Link2One Open Connectivity Hub

Link2One has announced that 22 operators have signed agreements to join the Link2One Open Connectivity Hub.

Link2One started in February 2008 building a multilateral GSM roaming hub that includes signalling, clearing and settlement, agreement management and value added services. This multilateral approach enables operators to access networks around the world with just one link and one agreement.

The company explained that with the proliferation of operators and the advent of networks that will be based on new technologies, the complexity of managing partner relationships is increasing. Roaming managers are faced with coordinating hundreds of agreements and tests and the launch of new products and services to all partners is a slow and complicated process.

Link2One Chairman Peter Coates said, “Having worked in the roaming industry for many years, we’ve seen roaming managers under increasing competitive pressure to create a seamless roaming experience for their customers. Not only for voice, but for data, SMS and MMS as well. That’s why we started Link2One. Our goal is to help operators increase profitability by making it easy to obtain worldwide coverage.”

In July 2008 Link2One conducted a trial of its open connectivity service with 40 potential clients. They agreed to open their networks to real roamers for a period of two weeks. During this period their customers made calls on participating networks.

Europe - simplifying notification of regulatory decisions

Commission streamlines notification procedure for national regulators

The Commission decided on 15 October to reduce administrative demands on national telecoms regulators when submitting draft regulatory measures to the Commission. Since 2003, the Commission has reviewed more than 800 national regulators' decisions to break traditional telecoms monopolies and open up networks for competitors. Today, the Commission adopted a new Recommendation on procedural rules for the EU-wide consultation mechanism, also known as 'the Article 7 procedure', that allows national regulators to use a simplified and shortened standard form to notify the Commission of certain decisions. This will considerably simplify and speed up the EU consultation mechanism. To further streamline the process, the Recommendation also invites national regulators to submit their market analyses together with the proposed remedies instead of separately, as it is already best practice in most EU Member States. These rules are another step towards a timelier implementation of regulatory measures and increased legal certainty for market players investing in the European telecoms sector, which ultimately benefits consumers.
Mobile data revenues in BRIC economies to grow to $48bn by 2013 - report

According to a new report from Juniper Research, increasing adoption of messaging and content services, aided by increased availability of 2G and 3G-based mobile networks, is expected to push operator-billed data revenues in the mobile markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China (collectively referred to as the BRIC economies) from $26.2 bn in 2008 to more than $48.3 bn by 2013.

The research mentions broader expectations that these four markets will be among the six largest economies in the world by 2050, and be matched in size only by the US and Mexico.

The report says that as fixed-line telephony and broadband availability via traditional forms of access remain low in comparison with other important economies, these countries are expected to turn to the mobile phone for much of their future communications, banking, entertainment, commerce and lifestyle needs. In countries such as India, low-cost multi-functional mobile handsets will become an essential part of everyday life for people otherwise beyond the geographic and economic reach of basic fixed-line infrastructure. This will help continue to drive economic growth.

For operators, the key change in the next five years are expected to be the launch of commercial 3G services (currently available only on a regional basis in Russia and Brazil) as well as migrating low-cost prepaid users to higher-value postpaid offerings wherever they can.

The report provides coverage and forecasts for the four individual BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well as for the grouping as a whole.

France - infringement on universal service

Telecoms Rules: Commission closes Universal Service Infringement Case against France

In today’s round of telecoms infringement proceedings, the European Commission closed the case against France over the designation of universal service providers, following changes to French rules. EU rules under the Universal Service Directive provide a safety net guaranteeing a minimum level of services such as connection to a telephone network and basic internet access that fill societal needs not delivered by the market. The Commission launched a case against France in 2005 because its procedure for designating providers of the universal service was only open to operators offering nationwide services. EU rules say that the process should not discriminate against any operator interested in providing the service only in parts of a country. France amended its rules after the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Commission in June 2008. These amendments will ensure that no telecoms provider interested in providing the universal service in parts of the country will be excluded from a designation process in advance.

LEDs for light and Wi-Fi

LED Lights: The Next Big Thing in Wireless Technology?

LED lights are more than an energy-efficient lighting alternative— they’re also a potential Wi-Fi replacement technology. Researcher at Boston University are working on Smart Lighting, a wireless technology based on visible light instead of radio frequency.

Data is transferred through the Smart Lighting system with LED light, so each light is essentially a Wi-Fi hotspot. Initial speeds of the network will be about 1 to 10 megabits per second, and data transmission will occur over existing electrical wiring.

And since LED bulbs are energy efficient, an LED wireless network will also be efficient—significantly more so than a radio frequency-based network. Additionally, since light doesn’t travel through walls or other opaque objects, chances of eavesdropping are lowered.

BU’s technology is still in the prototype stage, but it could potentially rival radio frequency networks for wireless dominance.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Green IT Report

Green IT Report 2008

Marketing message or genuine developments in power efficiency?

A study of the IT industry’s green credentials and an assessment of how industry leaders, EMC, HP, IBM, Google and Sun Microsystems are dealing with the topics of environmental responsibility, sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.

How is IT responding to the growing pressure to be green and use energy more efficiently?

In addition to assessing the industry’s leaders on their green practices, the Green IT Report provides insight into the future developments that will shape IT’s relationship with the environment as well as tips on what organizations can do to implement a successful green IT strategy.

Growing sophistication of threats to cyber security

Cyber security threats grow in sophistication, subtlety and power

Researchers say malware, botnets, cyber warfare, threats to VoIP and mobile devices, and the "evolving cyber crime economy" are ever-more sophisticated threats

The annual report from Georgia Tech Information Security Center identifies five evolving cyber security threats, and the news is not good.

GTISC interviewed a range of industry security experts to explore the threats and the available countermeasures. The five are malware, botnets, cyber warfare, threats to VoIP and mobile devices, and the "evolving cyber crime economy."

In all five areas, attackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, increasingly subtle, and increasingly adept at exploiting new Web developments, such as the rise of social network sites. Industry and government need to become equally concerted and sophisticated to contain these threats if the Internet is to be a trusted communications medium.

The just-released report, "Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2009: Mobility and Questions of Responsibility will Drive Cyber Threats in 2009 and Beyond," is online.

Malware development expertise is rapidly maturing, skills that are perfectly suited to exploit the continued weaknesses of poorly configured Web sites, especially social networking sites. The report cited Ryan Naraine, security evangelist for Kaspersky, as predicting a 10-fold increase in malware objects detected in 2008.

"As cyber criminals move beyond mass-distribution style phishing scams, they are learning how to localize and personalize their attacks for better penetration," according to the GTISC report. "Social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and others will likely be used as delivery mechanisms to get unsuspecting users to a malicious Web site link in order to deliver malware."

As an example, the report described an exploit that sends a Facebook message from one friend to another, about a YouTube video, including a link to the clip. The recipient clicks on the link, sees a prompt to download an updated version of Flash player to run the clip. When he clicks on the update, it actually installs malware on his computer.

Another weakness that malware continues to exploit is the delay in patching and updating software on enterprise computers. Kaspersky's Naraine says the average corporation takes three to five months to apply a Windows patch everywhere, giving that much more time for malware programs and the botnets that they call into being to take advantage of known weaknesses.

Researchers at GTISC estimate that 15% of all online computers in 2008 will become part of botnets – infected with code that effectively puts them under the control of a remote botmaster. That's up from an estimated 10% in 2007.

One massive recent botnet was created by an 18-year-old New Zealander.

Infections can occur even through legitimate Web sites, botnet delivery mechanisms are becoming more sophisticated and subtle, and users don't have to actually do anything, except load a Web page, in order to enable botnet infections.

Uncovering bot communications is extremely difficult, according to Wenke Lee, an associate professor at GTISC and a leading botnet researcher. "It's very difficult to filter bot traffic at the network edge since it uses http and every enterprise allows http traffic," Lee says.

The GTISC report cites a second quarter 2008 assessment by Panda Labs, which found 10 million bot computers were used to distribute spam and malware over the Internet every day.

One of the most troubling sections in the report deals with cyberwar: the deliberate use by one nation of computer technology to weaken, cripple or confuse an enemy nation's military, economic and infrastructure assets.

The report cites the work of Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence for SecureWorks, in compiling research that implicates the Russian government in cyber attacks against Georgia just a few months ago. For example, most Georgian Internet traffic is routed through Turkey and Russia. As of Aug. 10, 2008, the day after the Russian Air Force was given the green light for air attacks, traffic routed through Turkey was almost completely blocked, and IP traffic through Russia "was slow and effectively unusable," according to the GTISC report.

Estonia faced cyber attacks in 2007.

We can expect such attacks to increase. Jon Ramsey, CTO for SecureWorks, says there are several reasons why: such attacks are inexpensive to mount compared with conventional warfighting; cyber defenses are weak or non-existent; the Internet offers "plausible deniability" for attackers; there are no "rules of engagement" to govern such cyber conflicts among nations.

VoIP and mobile devices
VoIP traffic, like e-mail, will be targeted for fraud, theft, and other scams. As wireless VoIP expands, denial of service becomes more than an inconvenience: in the case of service provider, an attacker could attempt to blackmail the provider with widespread voice disruption, according to Tom Cross, a researcher with the IBM Internet Security Systems X-Force team.

Mobile devices will draw cyber criminals as the handhelds are used more often for transacting business and accessing sensitive data such as credit reports, according to Dave Amster, vice president of security investigations for Equifax. One prospect is that smartphones will be targeted for immense malware driven mobile botnets.

The very lack of open security standards in mobility today is actually a good thing, because it provides industry players the chance to develop and apply them comprehensively, an opportunity missed for PCs, according to the report.

Cyber criminals are increasingly professional, organized and profit-driven, the report argues. It notes that would-be criminals now can buy, lease, subscribe, or pay-as-you-go to obtain the latest in malware kits, complete with product guarantees and even service-level agreements. According to one researcher in the report, a few even have multiple language customer support.

The costs of cybercrime to business is mounting.

Gunter Ollmann, chief security strategist for IBM Internet Security Systems, identifies three tiers in this unfolding criminal industry: low-level criminals who buy and use kits to execute specific crimes; skilled developers, often in groups, working to develop new components for their commercial malware-creation products; and "managed service providers" that can apply and sustain malware attacks on a global scale.

Meeting these threats will require a three-pronged initiative, according to the report: technology, regulation, and education. Technology such as DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) to sign e-mails, coupled with user education, can almost entirely eliminate phishing as a problem, according to some security researchers. One possible avenue for government regulation is modeled on auto insurance, which auto owners in most states are required to buy. Government could require purchase and update of appropriate security applications, according to researchers.

Gambia - aspiring to the success of Nigeria

FG, Gambia Sign Agreement on Telecom Regulation

The Gambian government's desire to attain Nigeria’s success in telecom development has received a boost with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Gambian Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) signing a technical cooperation agreement on telecom regulation.

The agreement, which was signed in Abuja, by the Executive Vice Chairman of Commission, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, and Director General of PURA, Mr. Alagi Basiru Gaye, representing both countries, the regulatory bodies agreed to cooperate on such areas as quality of service frameworks, interconnection, economic regulation, management of scarce resource such as frequencies and numbers, pricing, and universal access.

This is coming on a day the Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria ICN, a leading interconnect service provider in the country signed a roll-out agreement with telecommunication giant, Nokia Siemens worth $2.1million.The Chief Technical Officer of ICN, Mr. Jude Chukwuma, stated that the contract will entail Nokia Siemens supplying and installing carrier grade, reliable and scalable transiting switches in Abuja and PortHarcourt.

The roll out agreement between ICN and Nokia, will also enable the upgrade of ICNs existing and operational switch in Lagos .Chukwuma, who emphasised the necessity of installing new nodes in Abuja and Port Harcourt and the upgrading the node in Lagos, stated that the upgrade will be based on Nokia Siemens high performance Surpass hiE9200 soft switch, which supports all relevant features and TDM and IP interfaces.

Describing the switch as the perfect solution to meet the requirements of new challenges, Chukwuma stated that the new architecture will support any Class4 or Class5 features set known from TDM and is best positioned for new applications.
He reiterated that the IP trunking solution of the Surpass hiE9200 will enable ICN to provide a consolidated, flexible and optimised IP based transit network solution.Chukwuma added that ICN will be able to support different trunking solutions while supporting all PSTN/IN services & features of the existing PSTN networks in the IP based network. The upgrade according to him will offer ICN the flexibility of a next generation network, the ability to connect all trunking traffic types and support several traffic categories. He listed some of the high lights of ICN’s upgrade as SIP-I, intelligent network services, SS7 over IP, lawful Interceptions SPC sharing, codec negotiation, IPSec among others.

He reiterated that ICN is out to explore the benefits presented by developing telecommunication core and access networks, based on the Next Generation Networks (NGN) concept. The upgrade switch will offer all available protocols in the IDM and IP environment. The interfaces on offer will include Ethernet 10/100 baseT,E1, STM1 etc.Community licenses are also not left out as they now have the privileges of both local and global connectivity through ICN.

For instance, a Community Licensee in any location in Nigeria can now enjoy media global connectivity with ICN in any of its location via IP, and will not have to connect individually with the other networks (both local and international).Chukwuma stated that with this new device, ICN is now a one- stop shop for media connectivity to all intended and would be beneficiaries that include but not limited to mobile operator, content/ VAS aggregators and Community Licensee.

Other areas specified in the agreement document between Nigeria and Gambia include licensing, type approval, consumer protection, stakeholder and international relationship management.This agreement consummates several meetings and consultations between the two organizations which first began with the ITU and other development agencies recommending Nigeria to the Gambia for a study in telecom regulation, with the Gambian authorities also sending several officials to Nigeria.
About three months ago, Secretary of State (Minister) for Communications of the Gambia, Hon. Fatim Badjie-Janneh, paid a visit to the NCC headquarters during which she commended Nigeria’s success in telecom regulation and the desire of her government to emulate this success.A fortnight ago, the Department of State Communication, Information and Information Technology of the Gambia, and PURA, invited Engr. Ndukwe and his team at NCC to a workshop for the review and validation of a new bill modeled around the Nigerian telecom regulatory laws, which is expected to be passed into law within the next three months.Engr. Ndukwe was said to have advised the Gambian authorities to encourage private sector participation in fashioning out a robust regulated telecom and ICT sector in the Gambia.

The signing of the agreement in Abuja for the cooperation is seen by observers as a necessary outcome of the of the relationship developed by the two regulatory institutions which would benefit PURA in its effort to implement a fully regulated telecom and ICT environment. The agreement is also predicated on the need to facilitate and deepen cooperation, namely in the field of the regulation of the communications, and frequent and regular exchanges, within the framework of a joint programme of action.The agreement provides for the parties to organize joint training seminars for staff and to exchange executives and experts through organization of technical missions, and short and medium duration training sessions.

Brasil Telecom - financial results

Brasil Telecom Profit Increases 9.2% on New Customers

Brasil Telecom Participacoes SA, Brazil's third-biggest land-line telephone company, reported a 9.2 percent increase in third-quarter profit after signing more Internet and wireless customers.

Net income climbed to 164.1 million reais ($73.6 million), or 45 centavos per 1,000 shares, from 150.3 million reais, or 41 centavos, a year earlier, the Brasilia-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Net revenue increased 3.4 percent to 2.84 billion reais.

Brasil Telecom expanded its high-speed Internet customers 16 percent to 1.76 million in the year ended in September. Mobile-phone users increased 30 percent, offsetting the land-line business, which was little changed.

``A relative stability in the fixed-line segment is made up for by the strong growth of the high-speed Internet services,'' Alex Pardellas, an analyst at Banif Investment Banking in Sao Paulo, said before the company released the report.

Brasil Telecom, which has agreed to a takeover by Telemar Participacoes SA, rose 39 centavos, or 2.4 percent, to 16.49 reais in Sao Paulo trading today. The shares lost 21 percent in the third quarter, compared with a 24 percent decline of the Bovespa index.

The carrier's net income beat the 144 million reais average of five analysts in a Bloomberg News survey.

Higher Rates

``It has been posting a satisfactory growth in mobile-phone users,'' said Beatriz Battelli, an analyst at Brascan Corretora in Rio de Janeiro. The company also has raised rates for its land lines, generating more revenue in a market that isn't growing, she said.

The country's telecommunications agency allowed Brasil Telecom to increase fixed-line calling fees by 3.1 percent in July. The number of land lines in service was 8.2 million last quarter, compared with 8.1 million a year earlier.

The number of mobile-phone users reached 5.25 million, representing 35 of the company's customer base, compared with 29 percent a year earlier.

Average revenue per user, or ARPU, declined 18 percent to 28.81 reais in the third quarter after the percentage of prepaid phone customers climbed to 83 percent of the total, from 79 percent last year. Prepaid customers typically generate less revenue.

Loss on Currency

Brasil Telecom posted an expense of 60 million reais in the quarter, caused by a 16 percent drop of the Brazilian real value against the U.S. dollar in the period. The country's currency was the second-worst performer tracked by Bloomberg in a basket of the 16 most-traded currencies.

By the end of the quarter, about 14 percent of the carrier's debt of 4.27 billion reais was linked to foreign currencies such as the dollar and the Japanese yen.

Brasil Telecom's operating expenses also rose after it brought its call centers in-house this year. The number of employees jumped to 17,700 by the end of September, compared with less than 5,900 a year earlier, helping push up costs 6.2 percent.

In April, Brasil Telecom agreed to be sold to Telemar Participacoes in a deal that may top 13 billion reais, making it the largest transaction in the Brazilian telecommunications industry since the government sold off its monopoly a decade ago.

Law Change

For the deal to go through, telecommunications regulators have to change a law that bars carriers that operate in different parts of the country from having the same controlling shareholders. The agency's board members plan to vote on the changes tomorrow.

The deal fulfills Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's desire to have a national telecommunications company strong enough to compete with Spain's Telefonica SA and Mexican America Movil SAB's operations in the country.

Telemar may have to pay a 490 million reais penalty in case the transaction isn't approved by the regulatory agency, known as Anatel, by Dec. 19.

``It's very unlikely that the takeover doesn't take place,'' Battelli said. ``The government has already done too much to make it happen.''

Europe - electronic money

Electronic money: Commission proposes clear legal framework for innovative payment solutions

The European Commission has put forward a proposal revising the current rules governing the conditions for issuing electronic money in the EU. The proposal follows extensive consultation which showed that the current rules, dating from 2000, have hindered the take-up of the electronic money market, hampering technological innovation. The revised rules will facilitate market entrance for new providers and contribute to develop an industry whose expected volume could reach up to EUR 10 billion by 2012.

Korea - households spend W 90,000 on mobile

Household Mobile Phone Fees Average W90,000 per Month

Korean households are spending more and more on cellular phone bills. The Korea Communications Commission says the average monthly cell-phone bill for Korean households has increased every year since 2003, topping W90,000 (US$1=W1,390) last year.

This is up W6,000 from 2006 and by nearly W20,000 compared to 2003 when national records first began.

But the commission also said cell-phone bills accounted for 5.9 percent of an average household income in 2007, and this has been on a downward trend since 2003.

Meanwhile, the average monthly cell-phone bill in the United States was slightly over US$50 in 2005.

Vodafone - a private IP exchange

Vodafone gives network neutrality a thumbs-down

Vodafone doesn't believe network neutrality will work as capacity demands increase, forcing operators to build out faster networks. Instead, a second network is needed, according to David Leftley, head of technology economics at Vodafone Group R&D.

Network neutrality typically refers the way Internet access or backbone providers deliver packets on a first-come, first-served basis, and do not prioritize packets of one type, source, or destination.

That Internet model has so far meant a free lunch for application providers, companies such as Google currently sit on top of networks which the large network operators happily have put in place, according to Leftley.

That has to change, according to Leftley. His idea of how future networks should be financed and built is at odds with the principles of network neutrality.

"There are the network neutralists who believe we just build an infinite capacity network, as big as you can. Bandwidth is infinite, the carrier has no differentiation, and all content has infinite value. The application provider, on the whole, ignores the carrier. There is no value exchange, so I don't see how that can work," said Leftley, in panel discussion on the future economics of the Internet at the Wireless World Research Forum in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Instead, what is needed is an alternative, intelligent Internet that can extract and distribute the value of the content it carries, Leftley said. The solution he proposes, IPX (IP Exchange), is already being developed by mobile phone operators.

IPX will consist of a number of private, global IP backbones designed to guarantee quality of service when users connected to different mobile operators communicate with one other.

The first IPX networks will see the light of day next year, and will make it possible for all involved to receive "a fair commercial return for their work," according to industry organization the GSM Association, which is leading the development.

What Leftley sees as a change in the message from network vendors has convinced him that operators are on the right track.

Leftley said he has had discussions with the likes of Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, and they have gone from opposing the idea of an intelligent network to embracing it.

"There seems to be a common understanding that this has to happen," he said.

Leftley wasn't the only one on the panel advocating the idea of a second network. France Télécom and TeliaSonera, both working with Vodafone on IPX, are on the same page.

The French operator sees a future with two Internets, where one is a best-effort network and one offers support for quality-of-service guarantees. Users will for example be able to choose between free TV over the regular Internet or pick and pay for a service that uses the new network and get better quality.

"Two models for different users and services," said Brigitte Cardinael, at Orange Labs, a subsidiary of France Télécom.

Saudi Arabia - roaming tariff

Mobily users to receive free calls

Customers of Saudi telco firm Mobily will be able to receive calls at no charge in 56 countries and 100 operators globally. The move is a result of the company's roaming agreement, which covers 100 GSM providers. Countries covered include; the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Sudan, Libya, France, Switzerland, Japan, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

India - possible delays in 3G auctions

India to review market conditions for 3G auction

India plans to review market conditions for a planned auction of radio waves for next generation wireless services, but hopes to start on schedule by December, the telecoms minister said on Wednesday.

"I have to discuss with the finance minister whether the atmosphere prevailing right now is conducive for an auction," Andimuthu Raja told reporters, when asked whether it was the right time for the auction.

"But we are not slowing down any action, it is going on," he said.

India plans to hold a global auction of radio spectrum for third-and fourth-generation (3G and 4G) wireless services simultaneously by December, from which it hopes to raise up to 400 billion rupees ($8.2 billion).

The government has appointed U.S. bank Rothschild to conduct the auction, which is expected to see interests from both local and foreign firms.

India is the world's fastest growing mobile services market, with new additions each month running at more than 9 million.

There were 305 million wireless subscribers at the end of August, behind only China's about 600 million, with the growth potential seen large as only 28 out of 100 Indians own a mobile phone.
Asked about a report in the Economic Times newspaper on Wednesday the government was considering relaxing guidelines to allow winning bidders to pay in instalments because of the global liquidity crunch, Raja said there was no such proposal.

"Right now... there is no move to delay nor to give the option of partial payments," he said.
However, he said the government would discuss the financial crisis and any change in the mode of payment would have to be discussed with the prime minister and the finance minister. ($1=48.5 rupees)

Ivory Coast - MTN buys Arobase

MTN buys Ivory Coast's Arobase Telecom, Afnet

Sub-Saharan Africa's biggest mobile phone operator MTN said on Wednesday it has acquired 100 percent of Ivory Coast's Arobase Telecom S.A. and 100 percent of Afnet, for an undisclosed amount.

Arobase Telecom is the second land line operator in Ivory Coast and Afnet is an Internet service provider in Ivory Coast which offers wireless broadband technology and data services.

MTN said in a statement the acquisition of Arobase Telecom and Afnet was in line with its stated strategy to provide integrated communications solutions in all its markets.

"We believe both Afnet and Arobase will add value to MTN and support our strategy to ensure that the group is well positioned to benefit from a rapidly converging technology market," MTN Group Chief Executive Officer, Phuthuma Nhleko, said in a statement.

The acquisition of the fixed line business and Internet service providers is in line with its strategy of rolling out fibre-optic network to enhance its converged communications services.

MTN, which operates in more than 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, is trying to diversify its earnings beyond its key markets of Nigeria and South Africa.

The stock fell 3.47 percent at 111.01 rand by 1451 GMT, in line with the Johannesburg Top-40 index of blue-chip stocks which lost 2.41 percent.

Telecom NZ - the cost of 3G

US shareholder attacks Telecom’s mobile plans

Telecom continues to be haunted by its bogeyman shareholder, Elliott International, this time over its new mobile network rollout plans.

In a letter emailed to the NBR entitled “All Talk, No Detail” the group presents a series of questions for the board, questioning the viability of a $391 million extension of capital to Telecom’s mobile network upgrade.

The total capital spend of the project is $574 million.

Elliott’s main gripes are with the detail of the mobile network build offered at Wednesday’s meeting, specifically the return on investment timeframes, issues with plans to reinvest future dividends to fund the construction, and a general lack of transparency from the board.

It also argues that Telecom shouldn't issue more shares to help pay for the new network.

Telecom says it will run a dividend reinvestment plan to help fund the network and issued a profit warning due to the costs and depreciation associated with it.

But Elliott, which has previously argued that Telecom should sell its network to improve shareholder returns, says shareholders have not been drawn the full picture of what’s at stake.

“Why did the Board choose to announce these figures this week instead of at the AGM, just thirteen days earlier, when shareholders were in attendance?

“What has happened to change the company's position so radically in the past two weeks? Arguably, this restricted shareholders from seeing the full picture when casting their votes,” Elliott says.

“Does the board seriously believe that issuing more stock with the stock price at an all-time low is beneficial to shareholders?

“Does the board understand that value can be created for shareholders by optimizing the capital structure?”

Telecom chairman Wayne Boyd says the company welcomes the views of all our shareholders regarding the company’s strategy and performance.

He says many of the important issues raised by Elliott in relation to the announcement this week were discussed during management’s conference call with shareholders and analysts.

The mobile strategy, not withstanding the near-term financial implications, is in the best interest of shareholders and the long-term strategic and financial performance of the company, he adds.

“No doubt there will always be vigorous debate and discussion around our performance and our strategic direction, and that’s to be expected and welcomed. However, at the same time, we have a job to do and we intend to get on with it, for the benefit of all shareholders.”

This week Telecom predicted its earnings before tax, depreciation and amortisation will fall by 5% to 8% (down from previous guidance of 4% to 6%).

It says net profit after tax will now decline to $460-500 million, down 8% on previous guidance of $500-540 million.

“This is the fourth time in six months and second time in the last two months that Telecom has lowered its guidance range,” Elliott says.

Most analysts are projecting the announcement to hurt 2009 figures, with a bounce-back in 2010 as the network is in use and making a return.

Telecom’s share price fell 21 cents from to $2.23 at the close on the news, before recovering to just over $2.30 by lunch-time today.

Telecom’s share price sat around $6.50 in 2005.

Elliott – a 3% stakeholder in Telecom – has long been calling for operational separation of its wholesale and retail arms, claiming that as a singular entity the return to shareholders is inadequate.

At Telecom’s recent annual meeting Elliott attempted to have its two directors, Mark Tume and Mark Cross, elected to the Telecom board.

Although unsuccessful, the pair managed to gather support of 24.8% and 21.8% respectively, proving that their dissent touched a nerve, and was more than just shareholder activist behaviour.

Portugal Telecom - financially comfortable

Portugal Telecom "comfortable" financially - CEO

Portugal Telecom has 2.3 billion euros in funding available, including standby facilities and commercial paper, putting it in a comfortable position to withstand the financial crisis, Chief Executive Zeinal Bava said on Tuesday.

Goldman Sachs reduced its price target on PT shares on Tuesday to 5.3 euros from 6.8 euros, citing the possibility that PT would cut its dividend or seek other forms of financing due to the financial crisis.

But Bava said the company's financial position was "comfortable".

"We have 1.5 billion euros in standby facilities and 800 million in commercial paper, which sums up to 2.3 billion euros total, and with the cash we have this leaves us very comfortable," Bava said during a presentation.

"We will honour all our obligations and continue to invest in our business."

He added that PT had recently raised 465 million euros in a private debt placing and that the company has 1 billion euros to refinance in April 2009.

In June PT had net debt of 5.8 billion euros with an average maturity of five years at an average cost of 4.59 percent.

Bava said PT had also set a target of 300,000 clients for its triple-play cable TV, Internet and telephone MEO service by the end of 2008 or first quarter of next year. At the end of last month PT already had 200,000 clients for MEO.

PT has promised to pay a dividend of 0.575 euros per share for 2008.

Orascom Telecom - price "plunges"

Orascom Telecom plunges, leading Egypt shares down

Orascom Telecom ORTE.CA posted its sharpest single-day drop in 22 months on Thursday, dragging down Egypt's CASE30 index .CASE30, as foreigners dumped the stock as part of a global equity sell-off.

Shares of Orascom, the largest Arab mobile operator by subscribers, tumbled 8.18 percent to 34.90 Egyptian pounds ($6.24). The share had fallen 58 percent this year to Wednesday's close.

"There is a lot of selling pressure from foreign investors reacting to what is happening globally," said Mohammed Radwan, trader at Pharos Securities.

Shares across the world fell for the second straight day on Thursday, pummelled by signs the world's biggest economies were headed for recession after a month of financial sector turmoil.

The CASE 30 index fell 3.02 percent to 5,792.01 points, its second straight session of drops.

Banking shares also fell. Commercial International Bank COMI.CA(COMIq.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Egypt's largest lender by market value, shed 4.43 percent to 34.50 pounds. Shares of the bank had fallen 40 percent this year to Wednesday's close.

"The banking sector locally is completely isolated from the kind of risk we see over there," Radwan said. "But the sentiment towards banks is negative."

Turkey - cutting telecommunications taxes

Turkey to cut some telecom taxes - sources

Turkey plans to cut taxes on some telecommunications services, beginning with a cut on tax for broadband services, government sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The special tax on broadband services will be reduced to 15 percent from 25 percent, the sources said.

Turkey has some of the highest telecommunications taxes in the world.

Turkey's mobile operator market is made up of Avea, owned by Turk Telekom TTKOM.IS, Turkcell and Vodafone.

The tax cuts are expected to be introduced with the new budget which will most likely take effect at the beginning of 2009.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Nigeria - investment in telecoms

Nigeria records N1.3trn telecom sector investment in 7 years

Yar’Adua, who disclosed this in Abuja while declaring open the sixth annual conference of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), expressed his determination to accelerate ICT infrastructure development with the aim of further boosting the growth of the sector.

This is coming as Dasuki Nakande, minister of state for information and communication, explained why government decided to fully privatise Nitel, stressing that "the particular transaction that sold Nitel to Transcorp did not work as planned and there were hitches in the share purchase agreement."

Yar’Adua who was represented by Yayale Hammed, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), noted that "the telecommunication sector in Nigeria has witnessed major structural changes and monumental growth in the past few years."

He described Nigeria’s telecommunication sector as one of the fastest growing in the world, which has witnessed "a quantum investment of $11 billion" in the last seven years."

The president observed that the sector had grown "from a teledensity of 0.73 in 2001 to 38.09 in 2008; with installed capacity of about 95 million; close to 60 million active lines with about 60 percent coverage."

While lamenting that "these positive indices notwithstanding, the sector is still faced with a very real challenges," the president said within the context of his administrations’ holistic commitment to physical development as outlined in the seven-point agenda, government would accelerate ICT infrastructure development with the aim of further boosting the growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria.

He noted further that from a global perspective Nigeria endorsed the institution of an open and stable telecommunications policy framework that support effective global and regional alliance partnerships; "and one which equitably places the benefits of ICT at the disposal of our common humanity."

John Odey, minister of information and communications, said bridging the digital divide could only be accelerated through the promotion of stable telecommunications networks and a responsive regulatory regime that would galvanise all stakeholders to participate in the delivery of ICT benefits.

The minister, who noted that Nigeria and Africa in general were experiencing exponential growth in the sector, however said the strategic global agenda in the industry was increasingly focused on social inclusiveness in leveraging the benefits and opportunities that this new era of possibilities present in Africa.

He however warned that Africa must fully embrace digital opportunities to be an integral part of the emerging global knowledge and information society.

Monday, October 06, 2008

CWM - Nokia music busines model

Qualms with music - Cross-subsidised subscriptions offer a promising new model—if the sums add up

IT IS a gift that keeps on giving—for a year, at least. Starting in Britain this month, buyers of some handsets made by Nokia will be able to download as much digital music as they like. The handsets, starting with a model costing £130 ($230), are bundled with a year’s free online-music subscription, called “Comes With Music” (CWM), launched on October 2nd. You can download music, and listen to it, on both the handset and your PC. Once the subscription expires at the end of the year, you can still listen to the tracks.

Nokia’s new handsets are sure to appear under many Christmas trees this year. The offer of unlimited downloads will appeal to teenagers; and parents will not have to worry about their children getting caught downloading music illegally, or spending a fortune at online music-stores. But CWM and similar subscription services are also being touted as a potentially life-saving gift to the ailing music industry. That is because they cleverly reconcile the demands of teenagers, who think music should be free, with those of record companies, which want to make money.

The world’s biggest handset-maker has pulled this off by acting as a go-between: it licenses music from the four major labels and some independent record firms at a discount, tags some of the cost onto the device’s purchasing price and absorbs the rest itself. Such a deal is made possible by a convergence of interests. Sales of digital music are growing, but not fast enough to offset falling sales of CDs, partly because of internet piracy (see chart). Record companies are realising that their efforts to get young music fans to pay up are not working. Many are unwilling, or unable, to pay for downloads, and legal action results in bad publicity. So something new is needed. Nokia, for its part, wants to move beyond hardware, and considers music a way to kick-start Ovi, its new initiative to offer a range of mobile-internet services.

Both camps also have a common interest in reining in Apple, the computer-maker that dominates digital music with its iTunes download service and iPod music-players. At the moment, record labels have to accept Apple’s terms. A strong rival service from Nokia could strengthen their negotiating hand. As for Nokia, it hopes to catch up with iTunes and defend its core market against Apple’s iPhone handset.

CWM is the most prominent example of a wider trend. Other companies have also started to combine their offerings with similar “all you can eat” music subscriptions. TDC, a Danish telecoms operator, has bundled such a service with its broadband connections. Orange, a European mobile operator, has launched Musique Max, which combines unlimited music downloads with a mobile-broadband service for €12 ($17) a month. And Sony Ericsson, another handset-maker, is planning to launch an unlimited music service called “PlayNow plus”, which will be offered to consumers via mobile operators.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

SFR condamné pour clauses de contrat abusives

L'opérateur mobile a été condamné le 30 septembre par le tribunal de grande instance de Paris à verser 40 000 euros à l'UFC-Que Choisir pour six clauses jugées « abusives » dans ses contrats. L'association de défense des consommateurs avait attaqué l'opérateur en décembre 2006 pour les conditions générales d'abonnement de l'époque.

Parmi les six clauses jugées abusives : l'article 14 réservait à SFR « la possibilité de transférer des données nominatives sans l'accord préalable de l'intéressé à d'autres sociétés pour des opérations de marketing ». Autre clause concernée : l'article 8.2 prévoyait qu'après une interruption de service, l'indemnisation de l'abonné n'était faite qu'en cas de faute de l'opérateur.

India - dual-SIM handsets

Spice D-90 Raises the Bar for dual-SIM handset category

The new avatar of Dual SIM handsets with trendy advanced features

New Delhi, September 2008: Spice Mobiles, the pioneer and the leader in dual SIM category of handsets in the country today announced the launch of their next generation dual SIM handset Spice D-90. The new GSM/GSM handset offer simultaneous access on two different numbers on the same handset, enabling users to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Unlike other dual phones available in the market, Spice dual phones have the capability of two live SIMs working simultaneously with features like call hold & swap (providing real-time switching facility between both SIM). The new Spice D-90 is a boon for those who travel a lot. The Dual-SIM helps to cut down on roaming bills without getting disconnected from their home-network.

The Spice D-90 is a smart phone with all the multimedia functionalities too. It has a 2 MP Camera which can double up as a webcam. One can listen to his favourite music through the in-built MP3 player and FM player. With the superb FM recording facility, one can record latest blockbusters and evergreen songs. The Spice D-90 makes all this possible with a free 256 MB memory card bundled along with the phone which could be expanded upto 2 GB.

Spice Mobile has always come up with unique innovative feature. Continuing the same tradition, the Spice D-90 features a special handset Contact back-up application which allows seamless transfer of all your phone book contacts to D-90 at one go. It also has boasts of features like panic button and mobile tracker. Adding to the complete deal, the Spice D-90 is GPRS / WAP/ JAVA enabled and is pre-loaded with Opera Mini web browser.

And this entire set of offerings is available at a price of Rs 7799 (MRP).

Mobile - Rich Communication Suite Initiative

GSM group to push new mobile services

Proponents of the mobile services portion of the Rich Communication Suite Initiative hope it will get a boost as the GSM Association takes charge of the development.

The Rich Communication Suite Initiative was announced in February. Its goal is to turn the architectural framework IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) into standardized services offered by mobile operators. First-phase services include enhanced phone book, enhanced messaging and enriched calling. The GSMA is a trade group that has more than 750 GSM mobile phone operators worldwide as members.

Enhanced phone book includes contact information with presence support, which means that users will be able to see who is available and how each person prefers to communicate in the phone book. Those contacted will have to give their permission for it to work. Enriched calling will, for example, make content sharing during a voice call a possibility, and enhanced messaging includes chat.

"These are services that in many cases are already available on the Internet, and when we talk to users it's something they want on the mobile phone as well," said Jörgen Lantto, vice president of portfolio management and technology and business unit multimedia at LM Ericsson Telephone Co.'s mobile platforms unit.

About 30 operators and vendors support the initiative, including all of the major mobile phone vendors. Having Nokia Corp. and the rest on board is a must, according to Lantto. Operators who are members include AT&T Inc., France Telecom/Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and NTT DoCoMo.

When the initiative was launched, the first services where meant to be introduced before the end of the year, but now the first interoperable RCS services are set to be launched in mid 2009.

"The plan was always to make RCS a part of an existing standards organization, and now everyone agrees that the GSM Association is the right one, but it has taken some time to get it all in place," Lantto said.

On the other hand, the delay has meant that the initiative has gotten wider support from vendors and operators, which in the end will benefit the rollout, Lantto said.

So why should consumers care about RCS services, when they can already use existing Internet-based ones? Standardization is key, according to Lantto. Most Internet services are proprietary and closed off in separate islands. Using standards will make life easier for users. "Just like SMS, you won't have to think about which service your friends are using," he said.

What the industry has learned from past failures, including push-to-talk, is that it's difficult to get something like this off the ground if it's supported by just one operator in one country, Lantto said.

The next step toward launching the services is testing, which is planned to take place in Helsinki at the end of September, hosted by TeliaSonera.

USA - exporting toxic waste

GAO: U.S. exports harmful e-waste to other countries
see also GAO report

The U.S. is shipping used electronic devices containing toxic substances overseas with little regulation and enforcement to protect people and the environment in those countries, according to a government auditor's report.

Many U.S. electronics recyclers appear to be shipping used equipment containing CRTs overseas in violation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules, and the agency's regulations cover only the export of used and discarded CRT monitors, not other electronic equipment, according to the report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (download PDF).

There is a "thriving" market for discarded electronic equipment overseas, but the EPA has "done little" to enforce its January 2007 rule that requires companies to notify the EPA before exporting CRTs, the GAO said. Electronics equipment containing CRTs can contain four pounds of toxic lead, said the report, which was released today.

"Concerns have grown ... that some U.S. companies are exporting these items to developing countries, where unsafe recycling practices can cause health and environmental problems," the GAO report said. "Imported used electronics that cannot be repaired are often recycled in developing countries by crude and inefficient means and with virtually no human health or environmental protection."

Earlier this year, 43 U.S. companies told GAO investigators, posing as buyers of CRTs from several Asian countries, that they would be willing to export broken CRT monitors in violation of the 60-day waiting period required in the EPA rule. GAO investigators had contacted 343 U.S. recyclers and sellers of used electronic equipment by e-mail, the report said.

Some of the 43 companies offering broken CRTs included "ones that publicly tout their exemplary environmental practices," the GAO said.

In addition, Hong Kong officials have intercepted and returned 26 containers of illegally exported CRTs since January 2007, the report said.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) ripped into the EPA, saying new leadership is needed there. A new U.S. president, elected in November, will appoint a new EPA administrator, and Green said he hopes the new leadership will be more focused on the hazards of e-waste.

The GAO report "hits the EPA very hard," Green said during a press conference. "The GAO's report [contains] blistering criticism of EPA's failure to enforce even the weak regulations that they have. We believe EPA's regulations should apply to all toxic e-waste, and not just CRTs, but we're surprised that they didn't even enforce the CRT rule."

Since the investigation, report co-author John Stephenson said he's concerned about taking his discarded electronics to a recycler. Many discarded products end up in China, India and other parts of Asia and Africa, and products that can't be reused are dismantled or destroyed, in some cases by children, said Stephenson, director of natural resources and environment at the GAO.

Orange - ranking environmental effects of devices

Orange to rate environmental impact of mobile phones

Network operator Orange will rate the environmental impact of the fixed-line and mobile phones it sells, it said Friday.

The company will publish eco-ratings for around 30 products on its French-language Web site in mid-October, and will extend the rankings to all the products it sells next year, Orange said.

Orange is the brand used by France Télécom SA for its mobile phone and Internet access activities in France, the U.K. and other European countries. The ratings initially concern its French stores and networks, and are based on five indicators, compiled by the company BIO Intelligence Service SAS:

CO² assessment, a measure of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the phone's manufacture and use. Energy efficiency, a gauge of the phone's power consumption and of any features that allow consumption to be reduced. Resource preservation, a broad rating of whether the materials used to make the product are nonrenewable or whether, like the gold and tantalum used in electrical connections and capacitors, they come from what Orange describes as "sensitive economic or social environments." Limitation of dangerous substances, a measure of whether the phone avoids the use of toxic chemicals -- although the most dangerous of these are already prohibited by European Union law. Waste reduction, a rating of whether the device can be repaired and whether it or its packaging can be recycled.Orange's program, developed in conjunction with environmental group World Wildlife Fund, could give the French government some food for thought.

After the success of an eco-tax to penalize buyers of polluting vehicles and reward purchasers of vehicles with lower CO² emissions, the government had talked of extending the measures to other products. Those plans were postponed last month because, the government said, there were no clear environmental criteria for products other than cars.

In France, mobile phones -- and most other electrical and electronic goods -- are already subject to a special tax called "eco-participation," intended to fund recycling of the products at the end of their lives. Although the current eco-tax on mobile phones differs from that for, say, photocopiers, it's the same for all models of phone, and at just €0.01 (1 cent U.S.), is nowhere near enough to influence customers to choose more environmentally friendly products.

Oman - fine for operators

Oman telecom fined $5.4m

Oman's telephone regulator has fined Oman Telecommunications Co, the sultanate's biggest phone company, for not registering 260 microwave links with the authority, reported Bloomberg. The company will pay 2.1 million rials ($5.4m) to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, according to a statement posted on the Muscat bourse website today.

Etisalat - in India

Etisalat buys 45% stake in Indian mobile operator

Etisalat has agreed to acquire approximately 45% of Swan Telecom Private Limited, a recently licensed mobile operator in India. Under the agreement, the UAE-based telecom operator is subscribing to newly issued shares for a cash consideration of up to $900m, implying a post-money equity value for 100% of the company. Swan Telecom holds universal access service licences in 13 telecom service areas in India, and is in the process of acquiring UASL licences in an additional 2 telecom service areas. Together these licences enable the company to provide a full spectrum of telecom services, including GSM services, covering a population of over 900 million across India.

Bahrain - multiple SIM cards

Survey analyzes Bahrain's cellular use

A new survey of Bahrain's cellular users has revealed that multiple line use (two lines or more) stood at 15.7% of total cellular users. Over half (53.5%) of respondents cited separating business use from personal use as the main reason behind multiple line use. The survey, conducted by Arab Advisors Group, also revealed that 56% of Bahrain's cellular users reported being aware of 3G cellular services. Of those who are aware, 36% use 3G services, while 75.7% of those who use 3G services stated that they use it for video calling.

London - 60,000 handheld devices lost in taxis

'60,000' devices are left in cabs

London taxi passengers have left more than 60,000 hand-held devices in the back of black cabs during the past six months, a survey has found.

Some 55,843 mobile phones and 6,193 other devices, such as laptops, were forgotten, Credant Technologies found.

The data protection company, which surveyed 300 taxi drivers, warned users to password-protect equipment amid rising fears of identity theft.

Fraud experts said such devices could give criminals crucial data.

New devices - including mobiles, MP3 players and memory sticks - have the capacity to store tens of thousands of documents or pictures and millions of contacts and emails, making them a target for identity theft criminals and hackers.

A survey by credit reference agency Equifax in April suggested 16% of its customers put PIN numbers on their mobile devices while 24% recorded birthday dates.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Nokia - music service

Nokia's unlimited music service on sale Oct 16 in Britain

Nokia will start offering unlimited music through mobile phones in Britain on October 16, the Finnish company said Thursday, as it seeks to muscle in on a market dominated by Apple's iPod.

The new service, named "comes with music", allows people owning a special device to download unlimited music for free through their mobile telephone or computer for up to 18 months -- after which they can also keep the music.

"It's about changing the way we consume music," said Tero Ojanpero, executive vice president and head of entertainment and communities business at Nokia, the world's leading mobile phone maker.

Britain will be first to offer the service through the Carphone Warehouse dealer. It will be initially available on 5310 Xpress Music phones, which cost 129.95 pounds (165 euros, 229 dollars), but other phones will then be added.

The service will then be rolled out to ten other countries including France, Sweden, Spain and Singapore where the online Nokia Music Store is available.

The store in Nokia's answer to the iTunes store from Apple, and it has signed deals with Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI, Warner and a host of independent labels to give customers a wide range of music to choose from.

Sony-Ericsson said Wednesday that it would also be launching an unlimited music download service by the end of the year, but it would be part of a mobile phone package, PlayNowTM, and customers could only keep up to 300 songs.

In another challenge to Apple, Nokia said it would launch its first touch-screen phone in Taiwan, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, India, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates later this year, and France and Britain in 2009.

Nokia performs well in emerging markets such as China, India and Latin America, but has been struggling in the United States, where Apple's iPod, iPhone and related iTunes store have made it the world leader in digital music.

Europe - ICT research and telecoms

Viviane Reding (Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society
and Media)
ICT research and telecoms: Europe's opportunity to lead global competition
European Policy Centre: Breakfast Policy Briefing, Brussels, 3 October 2008

ICT is changing the nature of economic activity and social interaction. It is entwined in our economic and social fabric – in areas as diverse as telecommunications, government services, car electronics, or entertainment. This development is fuelled by the increasing pervasiveness and power of the Internet.

• Businesses are using ICT to improve efficiency and promote innovation. Today, ICT is an integral part of almost every other sector of the economy, and this key set of technologies represents as much as 40% of overall productivity growth.
• Doctors are diagnosing patients remotely. Students and researchers use the Internet to participate in distance education and to collaborate with colleagues around the world. Consumers are enjoying cheaper phone calls and making purchases on-line.

The question is: How can we, as policymakers, ensure that Europe continues to harness the potential of ICT, so critical for our economic prosperity and international competitive standing? Furthermore, how can we help our businesses, administrations and citizens to make the best out of the technology at hand and of its future developments?

Europe - obligation to notify security breaches

New Legal Requirements for the Electronic Communications Sector: Security Breach

Notification, Content Filtering and Data Retention22 October 2008, Brussels, Belgium
New requirements for operators and service providers will be introduced by the review of the EU telecommunications regulatory framework. Companies suffering a security failure will be required to notify affected individuals as well as supervisory authorities. One of the issues debated is whether the application scope of the notification obligation will be extended at the national level, to include also banks, insurance companies, hotels, universities, etc. Another requirement under discussion is content filtering. The electronic communications sector is also facing the implementation of the new European rules about traffic and location data retention for law enforcement purposes.