Sunday, November 30, 2008

India - telecommunications growth

Telecom services revenue to touch $54 b by 2012: E&Y report

India’s telecom services industry revenues is projected to reach $54 billion in 2012, as compared with $31 billion in 2008 according to the CII Ernst & Young report titled ‘India 2012: Telecom growth continues.’

Mr Prashant Singhal, Telecom Industry Leader, Ernst & Young India, said, “The telecom sector has witnessed exponential growth in the past decade. However, the global economic scenario is expected to have a low to medium impact on the overall telecom industry. Despite this scenario, the interest shown by global telecom operators in the domestic market has been very encouraging.”

He further added, “Going forward, rural telephony, 3G, WiMax and data services will drive sector growth in 2012. The industry will witness sustained growth in mobile services and data revenues. Network expansion will continue in order to support the rural growth. It is imperative for the government to revisit high levies on the telecom sector and lay down a clear roadmap for future spectrum allocation. A positive and pro-active approach from all stakeholders in defining the future course of the sector will ensure a positive outlook for 2012.”


Findings from the report indicate that the total telecom subscriber base is expected to reach approximately 690-700 million by 2012 to include about 640-650 million wireless users and approximately 45-50 million fixed line users.

This is going to be primarily driven by a rise in communications demand from semi urban and rural India.

Circle B and Circle C would experience the highest growth and would contribute to about 60 per cent of the total mobile subscribers.

“That said the availability of adequate spectrum could remain a hurdle for wireless growth. The telecom sector will witness another round of Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A). As new operators roll-out networks, there could be 10-12 operators in each circle. However, by end of 2012, industry consolidation will result in about five to seven large operators,” it said.

3G & WiMax

The report emphasises that the launch of 3G and WiMax services will drive the data revolution. In 2012, 3G services will have just begun to spread in India and mobile entertainment and mobile banking are likely to be the biggest drivers for data services. 3G and WiMax services are expected to gain popularity initially in the top 20 cities and gradually penetrate to the rest of the country. By 2012, India would have about 25-30 million 3G subscribers and 3G revenues would reach around $4-5 billion by 2012. WiMax, on the other hand, could attract about 8-10 million subscribers and could account for about $1-1.5 billion by 2012.

Tanzania - growth of telecom sector

Tanzania sees rapid growth in telecom sector

Dar Es Salaam: Tanzania expects the number of phone users to rise by about 25 per cent to 13 million in the first half of 2009 with most growth coming from mobiles, the telecom regulator said on Friday.

Telecommunications is among the fastest growing sectors in the country. Government statistics showed it grew by 20.1 per cent in 2007, compared with 19.2 per cent a year before.

"Hardly four years ago we were less than two million. Towards the middle of 2009, we should easily reach 13 million," Tanzania Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Director General John Nkoma said.

"We do expect that by the end of this year, we should be hitting maybe 10.5 million or 11 million. It's largely driven by mobile."

At the end of 2007, Tanzania had 8.48 million subscribers, while by the middle of this year, it had 10.43 million. According to the regulator, Tanzania has a penetration rate of about 25 per cent for both mobile and fixed lines, making it still attractive for other players entering the sector.


Nkoma said TCRA issued licences last week to two local firms - MyCell and Egotel - for fixed line and mobile networks, among other services.

TCRA has also given Zain Tanzania, part of Kuwait's Zain, a licence to install an international gateway. Zain said in October it would invest $180 million (Dh662.04 million) on its network. It joins four other firms, including state-run Tanzania Telecommunications, lic-ensed to own international gateways.

A third application is pending from Smile Communications Tanzania Limited, owned by Mauritius' Smile Telecoms Holdings Limited with 65 per cent and local stakeholders, he added.

Two other companies, including HITS Telecom Tanzania, majority owned by Saudi firm HITS Telecom through its subsidiary HITS Africa, and locally-owned Dovetel, are also in the process of rolling out their networks, Nkoma said.

Other companies in the sector include market leader Vodacom Tanzania, a unit of the South African company jointly owned by Telkom and Britain's Vodafone. Others are Zantel, majority owned by etisalat and Tigo, owned by Millicom Cellular.

The east African nation of 40 million people, regarded as relatively calm in a volatile region, has been attracting investment in telecom and other sectors apart from traditional areas like tourism, mining and agriculture.

Turkey - 3G licences granted

€970 mln 3G launch set to boost Turkish economy

An official from the tender committee cuts the ribbon holding the dossiers of the mobile operators’ bids soon before the auction for 3G licences started.
A tender for the 3G mobile communication system ended yesterday with the participation of Turkey’s three GSM operators, bringing a total of 822 million euros into the Treasury with another 148 million euros going to the Finance Ministry as the value-added tax (KDV).

This extra revenue is expected to increase confidence in Turkish markets and improve the budget balance.

Despite some pessimism that the tender would not achieve the expected returns and the prospect that it might have been postponed again due to a lack of demand, the result was a success amid the global financial crisis which has rendered it difficult for companies to find credit to finance their bids. The mobile operators that shared the 3G licenses in yesterday’s standoff announced they would pay the amount as a lump sum.

The tender marked the dawn of a new era in mobile communication technology, as the introduction of 3G will bring a number of novelties such as visual communication, watching TV on phones and much faster Internet connections.

Avea, Turkcell and Vodafone bid in the tender, which was held at the headquarters of the Science Technologies and Communication Council (BTK) in Ankara. Separate bids were held for the four separate licenses on offer.

Turkcell, Turkey’s largest mobile phone operator as measured by the number of customers, offered 358 million euros for the “Type A” 3G mobile phone license, with the highest bandwidth of the four that were auctioned (40 MHz). The company outbid rivals Vodafone, a British GSM operator, and Avea, a Turkish-Italian GSM company.

Vodafone withdrew from the auction in the first round, Avea offered 348 million euros in the second round, but withdrew in the third round. Thus, Turkcell was awarded the tender for the Type A license.

The tender will be concluded after it is ratified by the relevant authority.

In the tender for the Type B (35 MHz) license, Vodafone gave the highest bid of 250 million euros. Avea won the tender for Type C (30 MHz) license with its bid of 214 million euros. The tender for the Type D (25 MHz) license was canceled as none of the three operators submitted bids. Vodafone and Avea then won licenses for lower 3G bandwidths, with offers of 250 million euros and 214 million euros, respectively.

BTK President Tayfun Acarer said the total payment after the tender will amount to 970 million euros. He said the companies are supposed to begin 3G services within five months. "3G services will be introduced by the beginning of summer 2009," he said. Acarer noted that the 3G system will stimulate the Turkish telecommunications market. He underlined that the tender was fair and ended without any problems and sides were content with the results on their behalf. He noted that the winning companies will have to recruit more than 500 research and development engineers from Turkey over the next three years. "This fact will affect research and development studies in Turkey positively," he added.

He said the tender for the Type D license would be held again only after they get approval from the government.

Acarer further said the winning companies will be held responsible to expand 3G coverage to the whole country within the next 10 years. "I believe that the companies will offer service earlier than expected," he noted.

Companies happy with the result

Turkcell CEO Süreyya Ciliv said that they were please to support the Turkish economy. Speaking after the tender was concluded, Ciliv said this was an important step to create an extra source of funds in such a time of difficulty.

Ciliv thanked Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım and the BTK for their efforts to hold the 3G tender. Regarding the ongoing global financial turmoil, Ciliv asserted that further investments in communications technology would help the Turkish economy overcome the negative effects of the crisis. He stressed that they will introduce 3G technology by July 2009. "We should attempt to further improve this technology. It will not be enough for the future," he said, underlining that Turkcell was always looking to develop and innovate. He also said that the 3G infrastructure will take time to establish throughout Turkey, saying they will first launch the technology in large urban centers.

Avea CEO Cüneyt Türktan said they were happy that Avea was able to get the Type C license. "This was what we were looking to get out of the tender and we are glad that we have achieved our goal," he said. Türktan said they expected to start offering 3G service soon, underlining that they had already carried out studies into infrastructure for the implementation of 3G. "We want every single house in Turkey to have access to the Internet. There are currently 67 million GSM subscribers in Turkey, why shouldn't all of them use Internet services via mobile Internet? We would like to contribute to this as much as we can," he noted. He said they would start offering 3G service by June 2009. He also stressed that Turkey was not too late in its shift to 3G technology. Current infrastructure costs, the fall in the price of mobile devices and the recent government decision to reduce the private communication tax (ÖİV) on Internet use are all facts which will encourage 3G technologies to become widespread in Turkey in a short time.

Ian Gray, the CEO of Vodafone Turkey, said yesterday that they were happy to get the "Type B" license and they were expecting to continue 3G infrastructure studies in Turkey, in conjunction with studies in other countries, underlining that Vodafone had the largest 3G network in the world. "We offer 3G service to 33 million subscribers all around the globe, and we expect to share our experience with Turkish mobile phone users," he noted. He noted that they had been conducting studies into 3G technology for a long time and they will build their new infrastructure building on the base they had established from 2006, when they first entered the Turkish market. "We will finish our studies as soon as possible. We are excited to introduce our customers the privilege of being a Vodafone customer," he added.

Türk Telekom also said they expected communication investments in Turkey to accelerate now that the tender for 3G communication has ended successfully. Releasing a written statement yesterday, Türk Telekom noted that the tender was an important step to improve the telecommunication sector of Turkey. "The Türk Telekom family constantly invests in the field of communication with the vision of developing Turkish technology and exporting it. We hope that the long-awaited 3G technology will be to the benefit of the Turkish telecommunication sector and its customers," the statement said.

Government hopeful for future

Minister Yıldırım said that the 3G tender showed that foreign entrepreneurs had no hesitations in investing in the Turkish market, which he stressed is currently a safe haven for investors despite the current financial crisis. Speaking in Antalya yesterday, Yıldırım noted that prominent international mobile telecommunications companies had decided to invest in Turkey's future and this was really encouraging. "I hope that this tender will be for the benefit of our country," he said. He also said the government was content with the amount of money bid in the tender.

3G services scheduled for June 2009

Upon the completion of the bidding, the BTK approved the tender. Later a draft for a concession agreement between the three GSM operators and the BTK will be prepared by the BTK. This agreement, an understanding between the companies and the BTK, will specify the rules under which the companies can operate, is expected to be sent before the end of December to the Council of State for an opinion from the council. The Council of State will then send the agreement to the next stage within two months. If this agreement reaches the council by the end of February 2009, it is expected that operators will be able to sign it by the start of next March.

Operators offering the next-generation service will only begin to be able to offer these services three months after the date that they sign the agreement, at the earliest. For this reason, 3G telecommunication services will only begin to be offered in Turkey next June.


Operators to receive control of networks for next 20 years
Operators that win bids for licenses in a tender for third generation (3G) mobile communication systems will also have the right to be authorized for every new type of new generation technology to be developed in this area over the next two decades.

According to information supplied by the Science Technologies and Communications Council (BTK), operators that win licenses in the tender, will not need to re-enter bidding to get licensed for new technological developments, such as the upcoming 4G system currently undergoing testing in the US. In fact, operators who acquire licenses for 3G will automatically be authorized for new generation technology over the next 20 years.

Turkey enters new era in mobile communication with 3G

The third-generation (3G) networks enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency. Services include wide-area wireless voice telephony, video calls, and broadband wireless data, all in a mobile environment. Additional features also include HSPA data transmission capabilities able to deliver speeds up to 14.4 Mbyte/s on the downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s on the uplink. 3G networks are wide-area cellular telephone networks that evolved to incorporate high-speed Internet access and video telephony.

Belgium - a fourth mobile operator?

Belgium to get another 3G operator next year?

In an effort to increase competition in the market, the Belgian government will offer a new 3G licence next year.

Business minister Vincent Van Quickenborne recently talked about plans to promote competition in the telecoms market. “The agreement within the government is that we want to break open the market,” he said to Belgian daily “De Tijd.”

Next year, Belgium plans to issue its fourth UMTS/3G licence that is reportedly worth 40 million EUR.

Broadband provider Telenet wants to acquire the licence, but a number of other operators had also expressed an interest.

At present, the Belgian market is dominated by former monopoly Belgacom, which is still partly owned by the government. Other “players” in the industry include France Telecom-owned Mobistar and KPN, which is a unit of Dutch KPN.

Europe - telecom reforms

EU Shelves Telecom Super-Regulator

A proposal by the European Commission for an EU-wide regulator to coordinate telecom rules was rejected by ministers from member states

EU telecoms ministers have rejected European Commission proposals to harmonise oversight of communications networks across Europe under a commission-controlled "super-regulator."

Meeting on Thursday (27 November) in Brussels, the ministers dashed the commission's hopes of seeing the establishment of a new EU-level telecoms body that would supercede national regulators and give the EU executive the right to veto member state decisions in the area.

Under the commission's original November 2007 telecoms proposals, the new body would have replaced the current European Regulators Group (ERG).

Where the ERG gathers together national regulators to co-ordinate telecoms regulation, the commission's preferred solution would have been controlled by the EU executive, supervised domestic regulators and been able to overrule national decisions.

Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding called the agreement amongst telecoms ministers today an improvement on earlier suggested compromises, although she said she was "disappointed" with the outcome.

"I continue to believe that Europe's telecoms sector requires better rules than those now on the table here."

Expressing her frustration, she made reference to a US intelligence report published on Friday (21 November) that predicted the EU would become a "hobbled giant" by 2025 – powerful economically but powerless politically – if it did not overcome its internal bickering.

She warned that if telecoms regulation was not harmonised under the commission's surveillance, the dire predictions contained in the report would come true.

"Last week, an American intelligence report painted a picture of the world in 2025. The EU was predicted to have a diminished status as a 'hobbled giant'," she said.

"It is decisions that we take now that will determine whether this is indeed our fate, whether our giant market of 500 million consumers and many innovative companies remains hobbled by 27 varieties of regulation, by fragmentation, and by the absence of a level playing field for our industry."

Ms Reding called on France, currently chairing the EU presidency, to call a meeting of ministers, the commission and the European Parliament to attempt to achieve a final agreement before Spring.

The parliament has an equal say with national ministers in the realm of telecommunications. The agreement between national ministers made on Thursday provides the basis for the negotiations on a final deal on the subject between them and the European Parliament.

The parliament's position – established in September- is to give the ERG a new name, but to keep its current loose co-ordination role, with the sole move towards the commission line being that the new body could take decisions by qualified majority, rather than unanimously.

The 11 cent cap

Ministers on Thursday also rejected the commission's wish to see EU-level co-ordination of the allocation of radio frequencies – or "spectrum" – that will be no longer be in use after television has completed the shift from analogue broadcast to digital.

But they did back commission plans for limiting the price of sending text messages or email via a mobile when abroad but still within the EU.

The EU has already imposed price limits on mobile phone calls from abroad – also known as "roaming" – as Ms Reding felt that it was unfair that consumers should pay substantially more when calling from another EU state, if the union is supposed to have a single market.

This price limit will now be extended to text messaging and data traffic.

Mobile operators will now be required to introduce a "Euro-SMS tariff" by July 2009 that should not exceed 11 euro centes, excluding value-added tax. Wholesale charges for sending data over mobile networks – such as surfing the web or sending emails – would be limited to €1 per Mbit. The commission did not propose to limit retail prices in order to give what it feels is still a young market the chance to regulate itself.

Three strikes rule struck out

The commission and national capitals also came together on criticising French proposals to force internet service providers to cut off subscribers that repeatedly download copyrighted material without permission.

The French government is considering the so-called graduated response law that would see users lose their internet connection after three strikes. First an email would be sent to the offender, then a letter in the post and finally the subscriber would be cut off from the internet for a year.

Internet users have reacted with horror at the plan, and the commission and parliament are not fans, arguing that access to the internet is increasingly the main avenue of accessing information, connecting to health service providers and other essentials. Cutting off an internet connection is almost akin to cutting off someone's electricity, many believe.

In September, the European Parliament approved by a large majority an amendment to the telecoms legislation package outlawing internet cut-off. The commission afterward backed the parliament's amendment, with the telecoms ministers now also on board.

Broadband - global forecasts

Broadband number crunching

The pundits seem to be trying to outdo each other with forecasts for broadband uptake. One thinks the world has now passed the billion user milestone, and Ericsson reckons that in five years time 80 percent of all broadband connections will be mobile, which would be a serious problem for the builder of the National Broadband Network.

Strategy Analytics lays claim to flagging the billion broadband user milestone. Its global forecasting model predicts 415 million broadband connection by the end of 2008 but its 'broadband user' designation " is meant to capture the multiple individuals potentially sharing a single household broadband subscription," it says, claiming it to be "an important indicator for Internet companies of broadband's global reach."

Rival number cruncher, Point Topic, at least agrees on this 400 million connection figure, and some. It says that, "as the total number of broadband lines in the world passes 400 million Point Topic forecasts that the total in the 40 biggest broadband countries in the world will grow from 393 million by the end of 2008 to 635 million by 2013. Broadband in the rest of the world will grow from 16 million to 48 million lines in the same period, so the world will add 273 million lines to reach 683 million in total.

Unfortunately Point Topic does not specify exactly what it means by broadband 'lines' Do these include fixed wireless, or mobile wireless as well?

An important question given that 3G Americas has just put out a statement claiming that "3G UMTS/HSPA mobile broadband technology continues its momentum throughout the world, adding more than 100 million subscriptions in the twelve months ending in the third quarter 2008."

This "mobile broadband" label might suggest they are talking about data connections, but subsequent statements suggest they are really talking about 3G mobile subscriptions per se. One minute they are talking about 3G UMTS/HSPA and the next about the GSM/HSPA 'family'.

All very confusing, and I suspect deliberately so to make the numbers look good and support their contention tht "the uptake of 3G services [has been]...driven by the phenomenal success of the HSPA-enabled USB dongle as a competitive fixed broadband alternative, both on speed and price." However it is impossible to tease out from 3G America's figure exactly how many 3G dongles they think are out there.

Whatever that number is, it certainly growing fast and if Ericsson is right, 80 percent of global Internet subscribers will connect via mobile broadband instead of fixed by 2013.

Ericsson CTO for North Western Europe, John Cunliffe, was quoted by Total Telecom saying: "That includes people who have abandoned their fixed-line connection in favour of mobile broadband, or are new broadband."

He contends that ease of installation will be a big driver. '"Installation of a fixed connection into the customer premises is a nightmare for both the consumer and the service provider, compared to a mobile connection which self-installs and automatically connects to the network."

He has a point. And of course he touts the impressive speed numbers that the mobile industry is increasingly talking about: 21Mbps on HSPA today and 160Mbps on LTE tomorrow.

Ericsson has every reason to be bullish, but as I commented earlier, the great unanswered question is the ability of these technologies to cost effectively support large numbers of users and to get the spectrum they need to do so. Unless there is ample spectrum, economics dictates that as the utility of and demand for it increases so does its price.

These are big unanswered questions which I put to Ovum analyst Nathan Burley in the wake of his recent comment that 'take-up of mobile broadband in Australia has been extraordinary. Ovum estimates there were over one million mobile broadband connections to PCs at June 2008."

His response was in part encouraging an in part not so. Rather worryingly he said: "My discussions with the some mobile operators show that they don't even know what the real costs of providing these services. This problem is amplified by the disconnect between operator engineering and marketing departments,"

Very similar comments were made by Qualcomm's president Southeast Asia/Pacific, John Stefanac, at a briefing in Sydney this week.

}On a more positive note, Burley said: 
"Ovum's view is that 3G networks can handle significant growth but operator margins will decline with the continued investment required to support growth.

Additionally, although spectrum is clearly an issue, operators still have lots to play with...Qualcomm is happy to offload 10MHz of prime 3G spectrum in Australia cities if someone wants to buy it. Also by the time spectrum is a big enough issue 2.6GHz and 700MHz will come along with LTE enhancements as well."

Does this mean that the NBN will be a $8 billion white elephant? Time wil tell.

LTE - to grow to 400 million by 2015

LTE subscriber base expected to reach 400-450Mn by 2015

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. ("Huawei"), a leader in providing next generation telecommunication solutions to operators around the world, today said that they will provide LTE/SAE infrastructure to mobile operators based on multi-standard base stations and their first commercial LTE/SAE network is expected to be ready by June 2009.

Speaking at SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s ‘Convergence to Jordan 2008’ on ‘Preparing for the future technology trends – LTE focus’ Mr. Ihab Ghattas, Assistant President, Huawei Technologies Middle East said, “The rapid development and benefits of wireless technology has seen mobile broadband evolve from UMTS / HSPA/HSPA+ to LTE which offers more efficiency than other networks. Expectations are that by 2015 LTE subscriber base will reach 400-450 million generating revenues of almost EUR 150 billion.”

According to ABI Research, nearly 300,000 LTE Base Transceiver Stations will be installed and network operators will invest a total of almost $18 billion in LTE capital infrastructure by 2014.

Added Mr. Ghattas, “LTE and SAE (System Architecture Evolution) are 3GPP (3rd Generation partnership projects) concepts defining long-term evolution for radio access technology and core network respectively but when enhanced they are no longer inseparable. LTE can be deployed by operators with heavy UMTS investments as a complement at hot spots as well as by operators who plan to directly deploy LTE on a wide scale.”

Huawei is the main sponsor and participant of LTE research and standardization with more than two hundred contributions in LTE RAN in 2006 which occupies 7% of total contributions as well as being a member of NGMN.

Huawei is an active member of LSTI reflecting their commitment to contributing significantly to the development of HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE technologies. Huawei takes part in the IOT work to promote the LTE industry and has received high acclaim from the board of LTE/SAE Trial Initiative for its performance in global HSP and LTE fields.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Europe - economic recovery plan

The Commission launches a major Recovery Plan for growth and jobs, to boost demand and restore confidence in the European economy
See also COM(2008) 800 final

The European Commission has today presented a comprehensive plan to drive Europe's recovery from the current economic crisis. The Recovery Plan is based on two mutually reinforcing main elements. Firstly, short-term measures to boost demand, save jobs and help restore confidence. Secondly, "smart investment" to yield higher growth and sustainable prosperity in the longer-term. The Plan calls for a timely, targeted and temporary fiscal stimulus of around €200 billion or 1.5% of EU GDP, within both national budgets (around €170 billion, 1.2% of GDP) and EU and European Investment Bank budgets (around €30 billion, 0.3% of GDP). Every Member State is called upon to take major measures good for its own citizens and good for the rest of Europe. The Recovery Plan will reinforce and accelerate reforms already underway under the Lisbon Growth and Jobs Strategy. It includes extensive action at national and EU level to help households and industry and concentrate support on the most vulnerable. It puts forward concrete steps to promote entrepreneurship, research and innovation, including in the car and construction industries. The Recovery Plan aims to boost efforts to tackle climate change while creating much-needed jobs at the same time, through for example strategic investment in energy efficient buildings and technologies.

"Therefore, for 2009 and 2010, the Commission proposes to mobilise an additional € 5 bn for trans-European energy interconnections and broadband infrastructure projects."

"10. High-speed Internet for all High-speed Internet connections promote rapid technology diffusion, which in turn creates demand for innovative products and services. Equipping Europe with this modern infrastructure is as important as building the railways in the nineteenth century. To boost Europe's lead in fixed and wireless communications and accelerate the development of high value-added services, the Commission and Member States should work with stakeholders to develop a broadband strategy to accelerate the up-grading and extension of networks. The strategy will be supported by public funds in order to provide broadband access to under-served and high cost areas where the market cannot deliver. The aim should be to reach 100% coverage of high speed internet by 2010. In addition, and also with a view to upgrading the performance of existing networks, Member States should promote competitive investments in fibre networks and endorse the Commission's proposals to free up spectrum for wireless broadband. Using the funding mentioned in action 5 above, the Commission will channel an additional € 1 bn to these network investments in 2009/10."

Europe - analysis of reform compromises

Council waters down deal on telecoms package

After a fierce debate, EU telecoms ministers reached agreement yesterday (27 November) on a review of rules governing electronic communications, scrapping many "ambitious" proposals made by the European Commission.

Despite the interruption of the morning session to revert to bilateral negotiations, a deal was reached following negotiating efforts by the French EU Presidency. In the end, the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands abstained, and Italy approved the conclusions despite reservations.

Insititutional negotiations begin today ahead of a second reading in the European Parliament expected in April 2009. Final adoption is expected by mid-2009.

The most controversial issues were radio spectrum, the new telecoms authority, functional separation and the regulatory framework for Next Generation Networks (NGNs). The Commission's original proposals were largely watered down, as anticipated by EurActiv.

Radio spectrum

On radio spectrum, Sweden and the UK endorsed the Commission line in favour of flexible use of the spare frequencies freed by the switchover from analogue to digital services. The majority of the countries instead pushed for maintaining the status quo and also rejected the idea of harmonising radio bands.

The final text agreed by ministers remains generally against flexible use of frequencies, which could have technical drawbacks and ultimately might interfere with the services of broadcasters, deemed too politically and socially important by many states. However, although the text calls for "an adequate level of technical quality," it also says that this should not preclude "the possibility of using more than one service in the same frequency band".

Telecoms authority

Despite strong opposition from Italy, Belgium, Sweden and the UK, the Council deal strongly waters down the Commission's original plan. The new body is foreseen as an extension of the current European Regulators Group (ERG), with advisory powers and private status. The EU executive wanted it as a sort of new community agency with an EU budget and staff.

As the Commission pointed out, the private nature of the body might cause legal problems when its advice is taken into account by the EU executive. "The European Court of Justice might request us to take into consideration other private bodies," warned the spokesperson of Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Moreover, the veto power on national regulatory measures, which the Commission originally assigned to itself, has been changed to an opinion power. Nevertheless, the Netherlands raised concerns and threatened to veto the deal until the very end, denouncing possible counterproductive meddling of the Commission in national decisions.

Functional separation

The debate on functional separation between services and network activities set states like the UK and Sweden, which are in favour of the measure to spur competition, against countries like Spain and Germany, which are completely against it. The final deal foresees the possibility of using functional separation only as an "extraordinary measure" and provided that a range of conditions are met.

It was exactly the nature of these conditions that sparked controversy within the Council. The final deal lowered the requirements for a national regulator to impose functional separation.


The battle on NGNs concerned a last-minute amendment that the German delegation had added to the negotiating text. The objective was to clearly indicate the importance of investing in the new networks and to give account of the underlying economic risks. Ministers agreed to "take into account investment risks," leaving investors the freedom to define access prices for competitors interested in using their infrastructure. However, access will have to be guaranteed to preserve competition.

Roaming and broadband as universal service

In separate negotiations, ministers also agreed on new roaming caps proposed by the Commission (EurActiv 24/09/08) and discussed a French proposal to voluntarily include broadband as a universal service, with the objective of attaining complete coverage for European citizens by 2010.


Luc Chatel, French minister of state in charge of the telecoms package negotiations, commented: "Thanks to this agreement the European telecoms market will be more competitive. From tomorrow, I will start negotiations with the Parliament and the Commission to have it finally agreed by the end of their mandates."

Viviane Reding, the EU telecoms commissioner, commented : "The new text now agreed by ministers is an improvement compared with the initial text, even though I continue to believe that Europe's telecoms sector requires better rules than those now on the table here."

Socialist MEP Catherine Trautmann, Parliament's rapporteur on the Electronic Communications Framework Directive, welcomed the agreement, which she said sent "a positive signal to the telecoms sector as a whole and allows the co-legislators to go forward and engage in trialogues".

In a bitter note, she added: "The European Parliament is eager to sit at a table with the Council and start discussing the few controversial points. The Commission's role in this process is to facilitate the negotiations - and I'd like to insist on this point because unfortunately it is not always so clear."

Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour, Parliament's rapporteur on one of the texts of the telecoms package, said: "Today's Council decision avoids a long period of uncertainty, and will encourage potential investors in next generation fibre and wireless networks."

Incumbent telecoms operators did not welcome the deal. “The EU Telecoms Council has missed an opportunity to bring the necessary changes to encourage investments and recognise the risk they entail," said Michael Bartholomew, ETNO director.

"Furthermore, in the current context of economic and financial crisis, the adoption of functional separation and a weakening of the conditions for its imposition goes against the objective of boosting NGN and sends a negative signal to investors," added Bartholomew.

But alternative telecoms operators welcomed the deal. Ilsa Godlovitch, ECTA's director of regulatory affairs, said: "We welcome the result of today's Council of Ministers meeting. We are particularly pleased that the Council has followed the Parliament in ensuring telecoms regulators are entitled to use functional separation as a remedy to promote competition. We are also pleased that the Council has rejected the incumbents’ demand for risk sharing of investment in fibre access networks."

Private television also welcomed the agreement. Ross Biggam, director general of the ACT, commented: "It will be helpful to adopt the Electronic Communications Package still under this legislature. We are very positive that similar to the European Parliament, the Council has also recognised the important role of member states when it comes to spectrum allocation and management."

USA - special free roaming offer

Du customers get free roaming during Haj

Du will offer all its customers free incoming calls while roaming in Saudi Arabia during the Haj pilgrimage. The facility of free unlimited incoming calls is valid for all its mobile postpaid and prepaid subscribers roaming in the kingdom. All Du mobile customers (Monthly Plan, Pay as you Go and Visitor Mobile Line subscribers) will benefit from this promotion by default while roaming with any service operator in KSA during the period.

Europe - telecommunications package - reforms

Telecommunications package: unanimous agreement of the 27 on the text

Luc Chatel, the French Minister of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs, who presided over the Telecommunications Council in Brussels on Thursday 27 November, welcomed the political agreement reached on the Telecommunications Package. Eric Besson, the French Minister of State for Forward Planning, Assessment of Public Policies and Development of the Digital Economy, then presided over the next part of the Council on promoting the information society and the internet of the future.

This Council brought together the telecommunications ministers of the 27 Member States of the European Union and the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding.

The Presidency recalled that telecommunications present a real economic opportunity for Europe and a fundamental lever for growth in the context of the current crisis: a better use of information and communication technologies (ICT) would enable growth of half a point, i.e. half the growth differential between Europe and the United States over the last 12 years. However, to respond to tomorrow’s challenges, the sector needs to be reformed. The aim of the Telecommunications Package is to adapt the legal framework for telecommunications to the coming changes (process of convergence, deployment of very high speed fibre optic and mobile networks, increased consumer protection).

The agreement on the Telecommunications Package represents major advances :

- Market regulation will be improved, better coordinated, and adapted to the challenges to come. Several provisions will facilitate consideration of the challenge of deploying new generation networks. Mechanisms to ensure more coherence in applying market regulation will be enhanced. The European Regulators Group will be institutionalised and its governing structure amended to ensure more transparency and efficiency in its decision-making process. In addition, the package henceforth provides that national regulators should take the utmost account of opinions published by the Commission and justify themselves if they move away from them.

- A pragmatic evolution of frequency management (spectrum management) will enhance the economic value of this rare resource. A certain number of new principles have been set out, in respect of the principle of subsidiarity, such as service neutrality, reconciled with considering services of general interest. Furthermore, the European Parliament’s wish to be more involved in the strategic reflections on spectrum policy was taken on board.

- Lastly, consumer protection will be considerably enhanced with improved transparency and contractual information and measures aimed at users with a disability, deadlines for transferring a number reduced to one day to make it easier to change operator, and enhanced protection of users’ private lives and the fight against spam, notably by SMS, with an incentive to penalise service providers responsible for illicit messages.

The negotiation process with the European Parliament will continue with a view to the final adoption of the Telecommunications Package by the end of 2009.

In addition to these advances on the Telecommunications Package, the Presidency welcomed the guideline adopted by the Council on regulating roaming communications from one EU country to another.

Three flagship provisions for consumers were made:

- Fixing the rates for sending an SMS between EU countries at 11 euro cents (excluding VAT) as opposed to an average of 29 euro cents (excluding VAT) at present;

- Roughly halving the ‘Eurotariff’, the limit for calls made or received from one European country to another. The ministers also proposed that these calls should henceforth be invoiced per second (after a first 30 second bloc);

- For sending or receiving e-mails or consulting the internet on mobiles, Luc Chatel proposed to his counterparts that operators should systematically and without charge provide their clients with a mechanism for interrupting the connection when their bill reaches a ceiling of €50 per month. This mechanism would be an effective response to the growing phenomena of ‘bill shock’ – very high bills, sometimes of several thousand euros, which consumers are not aware of until they receive them.

These dispositions will now be debated with the European Parliament with a view to their final adoption by mid-2009.

Europe - telecommunications reforms

Telecommunications Council - to move forward with four important dossiers on electronic communications

The session will be chaired by Luc Chatel, the French Minister of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs, who will chair the regulatory part of the meeting, and by Eric Besson, the French Minister of State for Forward Planning, Assessment of Public Policies, and Development of the Digital Economy, who will chair the part on promoting the information society and the internet of the future.

The "Telecommunications" Council will examine four main dossiers:

(1) Electronic communications
Ministers will re-examine the European regulatory framework, and in particular will take decisions concerning two draft directives from the Commission reforming the legal framework adopted in 2002, as well as one draft directive creating a European authority for the electronic communications market. These draft texts aim to underpin the rapid changes in the electronic communications sector and respond to new challenges, e.g. easier access to radio-electric frequencies, and measures aimed at protecting consumers as well as reinforcing network safety and integrity.

(2) International roaming
When mobile telephone users travel around the EU, most of them opt for "international roaming", i.e. a host operator assumes responsibility for providing communication and passes the cost to the national telephony provider. The ministers will attempt to reach agreement in principle on the proposal concerning roaming communications, which aims at extending the 2007 regulation until 2012, as well as extending its coverage to SMS and data transfer. The preceding regulation led to significant reductions in mobile communication roaming tariffs, of the order of 50 to 60%.

(3) Universal high-speed internet access
The very rapid growth in the use of high-speed internet access, its role as an essential tool for accessing a whole range of services, and its impact on competitivity and economic growth, have led to high-speed internet access becoming an essential commodity. These factors act as criteria in favour of reinforcing community and national strategies in the area. Ministers will hold exchanges on the subject, notably on the opportunity to include high-speed internet access within the framework of universal service provision.

(4) Networks and the internet of the future
The internet has become a strategic infrastructure that has played a major role in economic and social matters for the last ten years. New-generation networks (very-high-speed fixed and mobile links) will offer the speeds required by new services and applications. Accordingly, mobilisation at European level would seem to be indispensable in order to undertake the work necessary to deploy these new networks, and to play an active part in designing the internet of the future. Following on from the Commission Communication of 29 September 2008, the "i-2010" conference organised by the French Presidency on 9 September 2008 in Paris, and the Conference on the Internet of the Future held on 6 and 7 October, the ministers should adopt conclusions that will identify new challenges as well as the measures that need to be taken to respond to those challenges.

Europe - gaps in broadband performance

Broadband: Gap between best and worst performing countries in Europe narrowing

Broadband penetration in Europe continues to grow, from 18.2% in July 2007 to up to 21.7% in July 2008, according to a report published today by the European Commission. The report also shows the gap between EU countries narrowing, from 28.4 percentage points in July 2007 to 27.7 this July. With 17 million fixed broadband lines laid in a year, today's figures show high-speed internet in the EU is more widespread and faster, while mobile broadband is starting to take off, with 6.9% penetration. Three quarters of broadband lines in the EU have download speeds of 2 millions of bits per second (Mbps) and above, a speed that supports TV over the Internet, for example.
"Broadband growth remains strong, with the top EU countries firmly remaining world leaders in broadband penetration," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am also glad that other countries in Europe are catching up. Under the European Economic Recovery Plan presented by the Commission this week, we plan to channel a further € 1 billion of EU funding into High-speed Internet infrastructures. I expect that this additional measure, together with a strong policy emphasis on effective competition and further market opening, will pave the way for 'Broadband for all Europeans' by 2010; and for 'High-speed Internet for all Europeans' by 2015."

New figures published by the European Commission today show that, in spite of reduced growth perspectives for the economy at large, broadband growth has continued in the last year throughout the EU, with an increase of 19.23% between July 2008 and July 2007. On 1 July 2008 there were over 107 million fixed broadband lines in the EU, of which 17 million lines have been added since July 2007. The rate of growth was highest in Malta (6.7 lines per 100 inhabitants), Germany (5.1 per 100 inhabitants) and Cyprus (4.9 per 100 inhabitants) and lowest in Finland (1.9 per 100 inhabitants) and Portugal (1.0 per 100 inhabitants).

Globally, Denmark and the Netherlands continue to be world leaders in broadband, with penetration over 35%. Nine EU countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and Germany) are above the United States which stands at 25% according to OECD June 2008 statistics.

The gap between the strongest (Denmark 37.2%) and weakest broadband performers (Bulgaria 9.5%) remains significant but is decreasing for the first time (penetration in Denmark was 34.1% in July 2007 while in Bulgaria it was 5.7%). The gap can mainly be explained by lack of competition and regulatory weaknesses. For example, while the market share for incumbent fixed broadband operators is beginning to stabilise at around 45%, in some countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Romania and Spain) it has increased since July 2007. These main obstacles to broadband growth remain to be addressed through the reform of the EU's telecoms rules, which is currently under discussion by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Internet - the strain of 400 millions

Broadband subs hit 400 million, 'Net bending under the weight
see also Broadband Forum press release and Nemertes press release

The Broadband Forum and research partner Point-Topic announced that there are now more than 400 million global broadband subscribers. That's a long way from the first measurement taken in 1998, when global broadband subscribers numbered barely more than than 57,000. Fiber-based broadband services now account for about 45 million subscribers, according to Point-Topic.

Meanwhile, a new bit of research from Nemertes Research renews the agency's concern, first raised late last year, that broadband user demand will out-strip Internet bandwidth availability in the next two to four years. This time around, Nemertes is especially concerned that the amount of investment required for network capacity to keep pace--between $42 billion to $55 billion in the U.S., and $137 billion globally--could be a difficult mark to meet amid global economic downturn. Unfortunately, we can't stuff bandwidth under our mattresses to save it for a rainy day.

Europe - competition policy as an obstacle to growth

Is EU competition policy an obstacle to innovation and growth?

The focus of this paper is on high-tech firms. Both competition law and intellectual property rights are designed to promote innovation and economic efficiency. But they pull in different directions, at least superficially: competition policy seeks to maximise competition, while the granting of a patent provides an innovator with a temporary monopoly. High-tech companies need to benefit from the development of their intellectual property, while newcomers need to be able to challenge incumbents and spur them to innovate. It is up to competition authorities to strike the right balance.

2009 - year of bricolage

Tech Predictions 2009: Bricolage IT

You probably won’t be stunned by my prediction that 2009 looks like a bumpy year indeed. No matter how we put it, many IT departments will need to cut down on their costs. Applications and infrastructure will be consolidated, innovative projects may be on hold and the rest of the budget – if any – is likely to be spend on risk management, reporting and regulatory compliance.

Interesting enough, this may lead to an even stronger push to the phenomenon of Bricolage IT, particularly at the business side of organisations. Let me explain ‘Bricolage’ first: this is a typical French word that describes the art of using whatever is available – in a pragmatic way – to achieve a goal. ‘Do it yourself’ describes the same, but misses a bit the semantics of making the most of what you have, even if it is not that much.

I predict that the business side of organisations in 2009 will need new IT solutions to deal with the requirements of the market, particularly alluding to the downturn. However, the same downturn makes the central IT department even less responsive than it used to be: with a decreased budget and even less headroom to innovate, it will act more and more like the central Nay department.

Left to its own devices, the business side will look for alternatives – outside the scope of central IT and within the limits of their own, local budget -. And it may be in for a surprise, because a new wave of on-demand, software-as-a-service solutions is readily available, covering a considerable number of new grounds. They will enable Bricolage style applications that directly address the needs of market-facing units (some would call it Business Technology solutions). All without costing a fortune.

It may pertain to ‘office’ applications, like Google Apps but also to client relationship management (with established players and challengers), human resource management (talent management may be a crucial driver in 2009 and more solutions are supplied 'as-a-service'), collaboration and social networking platforms (they can be created in a snap), Business Intelligence (corporate performance management scorecards can be delivered through the browser) and of course, Mashups (impressive composite applications, built with just a few clicks). Users can even create, launch and monitor processes from their own iGoogle portal, supported by a business process management service.

Come to think of it, a petrified central IT department will have the business side turn to Do It Yourself IT. This may lead to some breakthrough innovations, that we would not have seen so quickly with sunny weather. Obviously, new concerns will arise, for example around integration and security. It will be a good challenge for IT to deal with that. Or even better: anticipate on it. In the meantime, if you are in desperate need for a solution and there is no support, you simply turn to what is available and make the best out of it. This is why the business side will make 2009 the year of Bricolage IT.

Mobile - Interface for NFC

GSM Association supports SWP interface for NFC functionality

The board of the GSM Association (GSMA), at a meeting on November 17 in Macau, China, announced its support for SWP (Single Wireless Protocol) as the interface standard between NFC (near field communication) chipsets and SIM cards to provide handset-based contact-less NFC services.

SWP is endorsed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and has been largely promoted by Gemalto NV and NXP Semiconductors, both headquartered in the Netherlands.

Amid its efforts to promote SWP-based NFC, GSMA is implementing the Pay-Buy-Mobile initiative with 45 mobile telecom carriers around the world having launched NFC services on a trial basis. The 45 companies include AT&T, Orange, Vodafone, Softbank Mobile, China Mobile Communications as well as Chunghwa Telecom and Far EasTone Telecommunications in Taiwan. SWP-based NFC-enabled handsets will be initially available in mid-2009, according to industry sources.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Venture Capital - downturn

Venture Capitalists Have Flashbacks as Institutions Dump Stakes

Universities and pension managers are dumping their holdings in venture-capital funds, depressing values by as much as 50 percent as the financial crisis extends to private companies.

Investors have venture-capital stakes valued at more than $2 billion up for sale, double the $800 million this time last year, said Hans Swildens, principal at Industry Ventures LLC, a San Francisco-based firm that buys venture stakes.

The glut may lead to a chilling in the venture-capital industry that rivals the slowdown between 2000 and 2003, when investments fell 81 percent, Swildens said. A decline in demand for startup investments may push their value lower and slow the development of new products.

``2009 will feel like 2001,'' Swildens said in an interview. The current environment feels like the third quarter of 2000, he said. ``Everyone knew the market had changed.''

Stakes in venture-capital funds are changing hands for as much as 50 percent less than their original value, said Bondurant French, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Adams Street Partners LLC, which advises clients on private-equity investments. Investors are willing to shoulder a loss because they have few other ways to liquidate their holdings, he said.

Most pension funds have policies capping their exposure to alternative investments, making the situation worse, said Stuart Frankel, a partner at Grotech Ventures in Vienna, Virginia. As stock markets plummet, those investors are being forced to rebalance their portfolios and sell VC holdings even if they haven't lost money, he said.

`Out of Whack'

``The size of their other portfolios, in stocks and hedge funds, has gone down so much they're out of whack,'' Frankel said.

Venture-capital firms gather commitments from universities and pension funds in pools as large as $2.5 billion, which are invested over 10 years. The money isn't collected until the firms identify which startups to invest in.

Venture funds compensate investors when startups have initial public offerings or are bought. If investors want out earlier, they have to turn to brokers such as Cogent Partners or Nyppex Holdings LLC that sell stakes in a secondary market.

The value of private-equity and venture-fund stakes handled by Cogent will rise by two-thirds this year, Colin McGrady, a managing director at the Dallas-based company, said in an interview.

`Hard Look'

``When fourth-quarter numbers come out for the stock market, a lot of institutions will take a hard look at what's the right time to make a shift,'' McGrady said.

Nyppex, which runs an exchange for interests in VC funds, has seen the dollar value of stakes sold double this year, said Larry Allen, the firm's managing member. The value of stakes in top-performing private-equity funds, including venture funds, fell an average of 12 percent in the first nine months of the year, according to Nyppex. The value of stakes in below-average funds declined 37 percent.

Little information is available on who is selling venture stakes. The University of Virginia's investment management company may explore the secondary market for sales of a small amount of its interests in older private funds, CEO Chris Brightman said in an e-mail. The company, which oversaw about $4 billion in assets as of last month, hasn't made sales yet.

Harvard University's endowment was in preliminary discussions about reducing its private-equity holdings, a person familiar with the situation said last week.

Capital Calls

The lack of IPOs and acquisitions mean only the best venture firms will generate positive returns, said Mike Speiser, a managing director at Sutter Hill Ventures in Palo Alto, California. The top 10 percent of firms make almost all the money, he said.

This year, six venture-backed companies have had initial public offerings, the fewest since 1977, according to the National Venture Capital Association, an industry group in Arlington, Virginia.

The worst scenario may be for institutions to refuse to meet commitments they've already made to venture-capital funds. The penalty for refusing so-called capital calls can include forfeiting half of the money already invested, Adams Street Partners' French said.

That strategy is still rare. In a study of more than 50 firms by the National Venture Capital Association this month, none admitted investors had refused to supply promised money.

``We haven't seen direct evidence of that problem,'' said Peter Barris, managing general partner of New Enterprise Associates in Chevy Chase, Maryland. ``I've had limited partners call to find out if other limited partners are having trouble. There's a little bit of, `Where there's smoke, there's fire.'''

IDC - Global IT spending to grow in 2009

Global IT spending will grow in 2009, but not by much, says IDC
see also IDC

Worldwide spending on information technology will slow significantly in 2009 as a direct result of the global financial crisis that began in September 2008. According to a newly revised forecast from IDC, worldwide IT spending will grow 2.6% year over year in 2009, down from IDC's pre-crisis forecast of 5.9% growth. In the United States, IT spending growth is expected to be 0.9% in 2009, much lower than the 4.2% growth forecast in August.

"Although all the economic forecasts went from up slightly to down drastically in a matter of days, the good news is that IT is in a better position than ever to resist the downward pull of a slowing economy," said John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC. "Technology is already deeply embedded in many mission-critical operations and remains critical to achieving further efficiency and productivity gains. As a result, IDC expects worldwide IT spending will continue to grow in 2009, albeit at a slower pace."

On a regional basis, spending growth in Japan, Western Europe, and the United States will hover around 1% in 2009. In contrast, the emerging economies of Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America will continue to experience healthy growth, but at levels notably lower than the double-digit gains previously forecast. On a sector basis, software and services will enjoy solid growth while hardware spending, with the exception of storage, is expected to decline in 2009.

Looking beyond 2009, IDC expects IT spending to make a full recovery by the end of the forecast period with growth rates approaching 6.0% in 2012. Despite these gains, IDC estimates that more than US$300 billion in industry revenues will have been lost due to slower spending over the next four years.

In light of the uncertainties associated with the ongoing financial crisis, IDC also developed a downside scenario to help executives plan for a situation where the impact of the crisis is more pronounced. In this scenario, IDC lowered the forecast for worldwide GDP growth in 2009 to 0.3%, which is 1.5% lower than the current forecast and worse than any year since World War II. This produced a forecast of 0.1% growth in worldwide IT spending in 2009 with negative growth in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan.

"Although the revised forecast and the downside scenario both reflect a grim outlook for global economic growth over the next several years, IT spending actually fares well when compared to the previous downturn after the events of September 11, 2001," said Stephen Minton, vice president, worldwide IT markets and strategies at IDC. "Companies currently don't have the asset and spending 'overhang' that enabled them to put off purchases after Y2K and the dot-com bubble. As a result, there will be greater pressure for them to continue making IT investments in order to stay competitive."

Europe - openness to mobile marketing

A third of W European mobile users open to marketing

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has released the results of its Annual Global Mobile Attitude and Usage Study, conducted with research partner Synovate. The report spans selected markets in four geographic regions including the US, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, and allows brands and advertisers understand the global habits of mobile users and their overall receptiveness to mobile marketing. The markets surveyed in the European segment of the study include UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Ireland.

The study’s key findings for Western Europe include heavy penetration of mobile phones and strong use of features that are both fun and functional which means that these markets have integrated mobile phones into their daily lives and may be willing to make the leap to the acceptance of mobile marketing into their regular phone use, the two features used most often are camera (75 per cent) and text messaging (68 per cent), seven-in-ten users report some level of text messaging usage, one-in-five mobile phone users in Western Europe reports using mobile web services, users access the internet via mobile phones between three and eight times a week, most commonly used mobile web applications include accessing mobile specific sites, browsing the internet and visiting news and sports sites, roughly a third of consumers in the Western European markets surveyed express interest in mobile marketing and likelihood to opt-in to mobile marketing opportunities, and mobile couponing, receiving status alerts for accounts and products owned and alerts for special sales and discount opportunities garner the most interest.

USA - policy moves

Telecom Warily Waits on 'Wired' President

President-elect Barack Obama famously made the Web a pillar of his campaign, so it is not surprising that the man called the nation's first "wired" president has championed the idea of an open Internet.

And that is what Sprint Nextel chief executive Dan Hesse said recently "should scare" the telecom industry the most.

Republican lawmakers and technology regulators have fought the idea of an open Internet, or net neutrality, calling it a "solution in search of a problem." But it is widely expected that Obama will make net neutrality and access to broadband in rural and poor areas a key part of his agenda to close economic divides and help spur job creation.

The task of translating net neutrality -- the notion put forth by academics that network operators should be banned from slowing, blocking or degrading Internet content and technologies -- could likely fall under the Federal Communications Commission, business leaders and analysts said.

The FCC has been criticized by consumer groups for trailing technology changes in the marketplace by grappling with reforms on landline programs and falling short on consumer protections and rules for wireless operators. Under the Obama administration, however, many high-tech leaders and analysts say the agency first formed to hand out broadcast licenses will be more important than ever.

"There is going to be a sea change. Technology has been primarily ignored by the Bush administration but Obama from the beginning made it a central part of his push for change," said Maura Corbett, a partner at Qorvis, a tech public relations firm. "He understands that technology has a multiplier effect on the economy and that is something we've never needed more right now."

The telecom industry has become more consolidated, with giants AT&T, Verizon and Comcast dominating Internet, landline phone, wireless services. The nation has dropped to 15th place in international ranking for broadband access, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Obama's Technology and Innovation plan, put forth in the campaign, addressed providing broadband access to underserved areas. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin has tried to do that by reforming a $7 billion federal program for phone lines so that it would also apply to broadband service.

Yet reforming the program, which has vocal critics in both parties, has been difficult, analysts said. "It's the elephant in the room," said Joe Farren, spokesman for CTIA, a wireless trade group. "This is an intersection of the old and new but there may be a unique opportunity to change the fund and refocus it on providing consumers with what they want and need -- wireless and broadband."

On net neutrality, there is pressure from Congress and the FCC to address the issue.

Richard Wiley, a partner at law firm Wiley Rein, said in a panel at a conference yesterday, that net neutrality regulation could include additional guidelines on broadband management that would ban discrimination against technologies that transfer Web content. The FCC punished Comcast last summer for deliberately slowing the transfer of video files with software application BitTorrent, an order that the cable operator has appealed in court.

Ben Scott, the policy director of public interest group Free Press who is also on the panel, said the broadband principles need to clearly include wireless service providers, particularly as technology innovation moves to mobile devices.

One question is how quickly an Obama administration might tackle these issues and, if as expected, how soon he might replace Martin.

Much of Obama's focus has so far been centered on filling key Cabinet positions and seats at the Treasury and Justice Department, analysts said. That lends a level of unpredictability about who might lead the FCC, the nation's rulemaking body for broadcasters, cable providers and landline, wireless phone and broadband providers.

Obama's campaign advisers included many tech veterans such as Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, and former FCC chairmen Reed Hundt and Bill Kennard.

"They've got this very deep bench of people to draw from and a really good group of people doing campaigning and policy advice and fundraising from the telecom world," said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, an investment firm.

A few notable figures in telecom policy were mentioned for the position during the campaign, including:

· Blair Levin, an investment analyst for Stifel Nicolaus, former chief of staff to Hundt and an adviser during the campaign.
· Julius Genachowski, a member of Obama's transition team and former chief counsel to Hundt.
· Scott Blake Harris, founder of law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, a fundraiser and adviser on tech policy for the campaign who served as the FCC's international bureau chief 1994 to 1996.

UK - the complexity of bills

Consumer bills information warning

Consumers do not have enough good quality information to get the best deals for their gas, electricity and fixed phone lines, a committee of MPs said .

A recent survey found that a quarter of households who switched electricity suppliers ended up paying higher prices, and telecoms customers may well be having the same problem, said a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The committee's chairman Edward Leigh said that the removal of price controls on these services, as well as business postal services, was failing to deliver the expected competitive market pressures to benefit consumers.

Since retail price controls were removed by regulators Ofgem, Ofcom and Postcomm between 2002 and 2006, prices have risen by 60% in energy, but fallen in communications, the report said.

It warned that it was vulnerable people, like the poor and the elderly, who would benefit most from cheaper prices but are the most likely to have problems negotiating the system to find the best deal.

Mr Leigh said: "Where price controls have been removed from a market, suppliers are under pressure to keep their prices as low as possible and their service as good as possible by the ability of consumers to switch suppliers easily and effectively.

"In practice, however, the removal of price controls from energy, telecoms and business postal services has failed to generate the expected market pressures to the benefit of all consumers.

"Consumers simply do not have the kind of good quality information needed to get the best deals on price and service.

"It is very telling that, according to a National Audit Office survey, a quarter of electricity consumers who had switched supplier ended up paying higher prices. Recent Ofgem research indicates the proportion might be even higher. And telecoms customers could well be having the same problem.

"It is the poorer and older citizens who are least able and yet would benefit most from switching to a cheaper supplier. They have been exposed to huge increases in gas and electricity prices, far greater than in many other countries."

Ghana - the entry of Vodafone

Vodafone will change telecom market – CEO

Mr David Venn, the new Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Telecom/Vodafone said on Thursday that Vodafone is in the country to change the telecom market.

He made the statement at his first meeting with journalists to introduce himself and his vision for the company.

Mr Venn, formerly the CEO of Celtel Zambia, said his focus for Vodafone Ghana would be to build a very strong total communications company that would bring world class services into the local market.

“We will earn the respect and trust of the Ghanaian community by turning Ghana Telecom with the local staff into a world class company,” he said.

He noted that the next five years promised major changes in the telecom industry in Ghana and Vodafone was poised to be at the head of that change.

He said whereas each of the five multi-nationals in the market were capable of acquiring modern technology, the difference among them would be quality service and the choices they had to offer subscribers.

Mr Venn said Vodafone Ghana would tap into the wide range of services in the Vodafone group and bring them to bear on the local market.

“When our competitors see what we are doing they will step up,” he boasted.

Mr Venn said as part of measures to put Vodafone at the head of the telecom industry, 800 of the local staff members have been sent on various courses both in the country and abroad and 45 management staff members have also been sent to Vodafone operations around the world to acquire skills.

“I personally prefer coaching, developing and working with a local management team to hiring new staff,” he said.

He said part of the Vodafone strategy would be to strike co-location deals with the other operators to save money and also to maintain some tidiness in the environment.

Mr Venn also assured the public that corporate social responsibility was top on his list and very soon Vodafone would bring some exciting things into the market.

He, however, stopped short of saying when the re-branding of GT to Vodafone would take place and what exactly the name of the company would be after the re-branding.

Mr Venn pointed out that Ghana Telecom still remained Ghana Telecom in terms of staff.

Major Albert Don-Chebe, Public Relations Director of the company, said even though the Sale and Purchase Agreement required that the Ghana Telecom University be turned into a public university, the company would continue to support the university substantially.

Iran - a possible Reliance bid

$1bn Iran telecom licence

India’s Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) may be considering bidding for Iran’s third mobile phone service licence, estimated to cost around $1 billion (Rs4,880 crore).

“Reliance has shown interest to bid for the tender and will compete with firms from Russia, Turkey and Malaysia for the tender, the bids for which will be called within a month,” claimed an Iranian government official who didn’t want to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
It will cover 5mn customers in the first phase, 10mn in the second and 15mn in the third phase

Other prospective bidders for the third licence include Qatar Telecom.

RCom is part of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. A spokesman for the phone company declined to comment specifically on a potential bid for the Iran licence. Reliance Communications “has substantial international operations and continuously evaluates various growth opportunities globally, both organic and inorganic, on an ongoing basis”, he added.

“Going into Iran means more cash going out but no one knows when an operation in Iran will become cash positive,” said Kevin Trindad, who tracks telecom companies for KR Choksey Shares and Securities Pvt. Ltd.

Iran recently invited firms to take part in the tender, which envisages covering five million customers in the first phase, followed by 10 million and 15 million in the second and third phases, respectively.

It was not immediately clear how long the phases would run.

The two existing operators in Iran are state-owned Telecommunication Co. of Iran and MTN Irancell, which is 49% owned by MTN Group Ltd, Africa’s biggest phone firm.
RCom, through alliances and firms it has acquired, has a significant data and voice presence in various parts of the world.

It has a telecom licence in Uganda, and in April this year acquired eWave World, a UK-based operator of so-called Wimax or high-speed wireless data services, with plans to launch what is called fourth generation phone services in 50 countries by 2012.

The company, through its acquired unit Flag Telecom, owns and operates the world’s largest Internet protocol-enabled undersea cable infrastructure, spanning 150,000km of fibre optic cable systems and connecting India, the US, Europe, West Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

RCom and Alcatel-Lucent recently formed a joint venture to offer managed network services to telecom companies across the globe.

Several Indian firms, such as the country’s largest power generation firm, NTPC Ltd, are planning infrastructure projects in Iran, which is facing economic sanctions by the US and its allies over its nuclear programme, which Washington suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons and Tehran says is designed to produce electric power.
“A lot of Indian companies are interested in getting a share of our privatization drive,” claimed the Iranian government official.
“We are allowing substantial stake to be taken by the overseas companies. There is an absence of Western companies in Iran, which can be used by the Indian firms to their advantage.”

Telcos and Google

Hey Telecoms, Don't Hate Google
see also Gartner

Memo to telcos: Make nice, not war with Google the disintermediator.

Sure, the search giant may have outmaneuvered telecommunications carriers on regulation issues such as Net Neutrality and White Spaces, but it's a wise carrier that looks for ways to partner, rather than battle Google.

That's the gist of a new Gartner report , "Dataquest Insight: How Google May Influence the Future Direction of Telecom," released today.

The report predicts Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) will get what it wants -- unfettered Internet access -- and recommends that telecom players partner with the search titan instead of battling in court or federal agency hearings.

Google is advancing what Gartner terms a well-executed strategy on several fronts to ensure its own agenda is addressed, according to the research firm's report author. "They want to remove access control from carriers and they've been very smart about it," Alex Winogradoff, Gartner analyst, told

"Google wants to be the source of information and have everyone go through them. Pretty much a 'all roads go through Google'," he said.

The Gartner report comes as wireless carriers are facing big challenges in today's sluggish economy. Carriers are selling handsets and services to an increasingly saturated marketplace, while trying to advance mobile services and applications to grab new subscribers. Then there are the Google strategy challenges.


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"Google wants to be the hub and spoke of everything and have everyone who deals with data, indirectly or directly, go through them," explained Winogradoff.

Take the "C" block issue. According to Gartner's report, Google pressured the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set aside the "C" Block (22MHz to 11MHz in the uplink and 11MHz in the downlink within the U.S. 700MHz spectrum auctions) as an open-access spectrum.

"All winning "C" Block bidders would be required to provide open access to applications (which cannot be blocked) and devices (which cannot be locked). Google's primary motivation was to encourage the development of open broadband network platforms to ensure they will be able to deliver bandwidth-intense over-the-air services and applications."

Google "wants to be able to provide services like on-demand video, which carriers are making big money off, but not pay to deliver those services using carriers' infrastructures. Meanwhile carriers have invested heavily to provide those types of services," added Winogradoff.

A spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, which declined to comment specifically on Gartner's report, said the carrier "encourages all companies interested in entering the wireless market to abide by the "openness" requirements on the C Block that Google and others fought so hard for." Google and AT&T did not respond to media inquiries by presstime.

On the mobile front, Gartner's report continued, Google wants to be "the most-trusted source" and the best at matching up unique geographic location-based data so it can take advantage of just-in-time advertising opportunities derived from location-aware applications and bypass device manufacturers and carriers as the gatekeepers of location data.

While telecoms may be tempted to face off in resistance, battling Google in future FCC hearings and spending lots of lobby money to protect their investments, Gartner believes carriers would be better served working with Google and finding common ground given the advancements Google has made. A primary reason is that the new presidential administration will be very Google-friendly, noted the analyst.

Gartner's report outlines six areas where Google's actions are impacting the telecom industry. The first is Google's lobbying efforts to get the Federal Communications Commission to set aside open access spectrum. This now will provide open broadband network platforms that players, such as Google, will be able to use to push out applications and unlocked mobile devices, according to the report.

In forming the Open Handset Alliance and its strong support of the first open platform smartphone, the G1, Google has brought openness on the mobility device front which will provide Google with an advertising platform, said Gartner.

"This will enable Google to exert a strong influence over the development of the next-generation mobile operating system," noted the Gartner report.

The search giant's lobby to get television broadcast white space spectrum opened for unlicensed device use is another victory Gartner cited in the report. The newly opened spectrum band provides a free viable channel for public use and Web company use.

But it is Google's effort within the network neutrality issue that could really hit the telecom industry.

What Google seeks with the Net Neutrality debate, said Gartner, is regulation to make sure that the public Internet is free from "content blocking" and providing equality between public and private Internet without cost to customers or Web companies -- aka Google.

In essence, said Winogradoff, Google wants Internet access that's now controlled by telecom to be had for free.

"If that happens it will be the largest impact that telecom industry has experienced," said Winogradoff.

"It used to be that companies needed to be in the industry to make an impact but Google has showed we live in a different world today," said the analyst. "They've been very smart."

It's not as though telcos are sitting still, either. Verizon Wireless is reportedly close to a search deal with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) to become the default search provider on Verizon's mobile phones, according to the Wall Street Journal.

If the deal comes to pass, Microsoft would have outbid Google for the placement by offering between $550 million and $650 million over five years, about twice what Google offered, the report said.

Real Divorce - Virtual adultery

UK couple in real-life divorce over virtual affair

A British woman is divorcing her husband after discovering his online alter-ego was having an affair with a virtual woman in the fantasy world of Second Life, media reported on Friday.

Amy Taylor, 28, said her three-year marriage to David Pollard, 40, came to an end when she twice walked in on him watching his online character, Dave Barmy, having sex with other virtual women.

Second Life enables players to create online lives in which their virtual alter ego, or avatar, can socialize, develop relationships, buy property and set up businesses in an imagined world using the game's virtual currency.

The couple met in an internet chatroom in 2003 and married in real life and in a fantasy tropical setting in Second Life.

However, Taylor always had suspicions about Pollard's online loyalty. At one point she hired a virtual detective to test whether his avatar was cheating on her, after finding him at the computer watching his character having sex with a prostitute.

Pollard passed that honeytrap test but earlier this year Taylor found his character in a compromising position with another virtual woman.

"He confessed he'd been talking to this woman player in America for one or two weeks and said our marriage was over and he didn't love me any more," said Taylor, who filed for divorce the next day.

"The solicitor wasn't at all surprised -- she said it was her second divorce case involving Second Life that week."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

India - spectrum assignment

HC notice to telecom ministry on spectrum allocation

Judicial scrutiny of the allocation of 2G spectrum by A Raja-headed telecom ministry began on Monday with the Delhi High Court asking the Centre to respond to a PIL, which challenged the "first come first serve" basis of allotment at "throwaway prices" and alleged huge loss to the exchequer.

Even before a Bench of Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar could take a prima facie view of the PIL and was inquiring whether any tender was issued, the government tried its best to convince the court not to entertain the petition as an identical matter was pending in another quasi-judicial forum -- the telecom appellate tribunal TDSAT. Senior advocates, appearing for spectrum licence holders, were ready to render assistance to the government counsel.

But the Bench decided not to let the private parties drag the hearing in a different direction by asserting that the government should first "explain to the court as to what this 'first come first serve policy' means".

Issuing notice on the PIL filed by Arvind Gupta, the Bench asked the telecom ministry to put in its response within three weeks and scheduled next hearing on the petition for December 10.

Accusing the telecom ministry of resorting to "first come first serve" policy, which had been termed illegal by courts in an earlier case, the petitioner said allotment of spectrum through an arbitrary non-transparent policy not only stifled competition but resulted in huge loss of revenue to the exchequer.

"The present policy stifles competitive bidding and allows people with no telecom experience to book spectrum and sell it to bigger players for huge money," alleged the PIL and sought quashing of the "first come first serve" allotment procedure.

Gupta said Doordarshan had in 1993 resorted to an identical "first come first serve" policy for alloting time slots to private producers on satellite channels. The HC, in its September 21, 1993, verdict, had held, "The basis of first come first serve for allotment of time slots on satellite channels is arbitrary. It is unreasonable, unjust and unfair."

Gupta said it was strange that the government decided to employ an allotment procedure that had been declared illegal by the HC leading to arbitrary allotment of spectrum licences without accountability and transparency.

"The proximity of real estate developers to the corridors of Department of Telecom has enabled them to overnight turn into telecom entrepreneurs. The real estate developers and infrastructure promoters, who perhaps did a great job for urban development, have also become Indian telecom players," he alleged.

"The telecom ministry's wilful and deliberate inaction in adopting recommendation of the finance ministry, PMO and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) policy has benefited private parties at the expense of public exchequer," the petitioner said.

Without providing a level playing field for all, the government by adopting the "first come first serve" policy had acted like a fair price shop and allotted telecom licences and spectrum on rates fixed long ago causing a huge loss of revenue, Gupta alleged.

No effort was made to find out the current market value of spectrum licence and the allotments were done at 2001 prices, he alleged, adding, "This enabled new telecom players to acquire spectrum and then bargain huge premium from foreign players to trade the spectrum."

India - spectrum for 3G

Telecom Commission clears 3-yr lock-in, 3% fee on 3G

The Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body of the communications ministry, on Tuesday approved the department of telecom’s (DoT) proposal to impose a three-year lock-in on the sale of promoters equity in start-up companies who were given licences earlier this year. It also barred such operators from issuing special dividends in the first three years, a DoT source told ET.

The decision, however, will not impact the Unitech Telecom-Telenor deal and wan-Etisalat tieup. This because the lock-in will apply only in the case of sale of promoter equity and not when investment is brought into the company by a strategic investor by subscribing to fresh equity.

The commission also cleared the 3% (of aggregate revenue) spectrum usage charge on new telcos that will offer third-generation (3G) mobile services. Existing telcos entering the 3G space will have to pay an additional 1% of their aggregate revenues as 3G usage charge. At present, telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea pay 2-6% as user charge, depending on the amount of spectrum they hold, for 2G services.

According to the DoT official, the commission also endorsed a 1-2% hike in the usage charge for 2G spectrum, or airwaves on which telecom signals travel. The hike will be a flat 1% for telcos that hold up to 8 MHz of spectrum. Beyond this limit, the charges would go up by a flat 2%. The new charges will be effective from January 1, 2009.

This means, an operator with 4.4 MHz of spectrum in a circle will have to pay 3% of its total revenues as usage charges, up from 2% at present. And an operator who holds 10 MHz of airwaves will have to shell out 6% of its revenues towards spectrum usage charge, up from 4% at present.

The hike in 2G spectrum charges will translate to over Rs 1,000 crore of additional levies for the exchequer, from all operators combined. Since telcos’ revenues are rising, this levy will only go up. The Telecom Commission, however, did not take a decision on the DoT proposal for imposing a one-time fee on GSM operators who hold 2G radio frequencies beyond 6.2 MHz.

A positive decision would have impacted Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea. “The proposal was considered, but we did not take a final decision on this. It has been deferred for a period of 15 days as both the Planning Commission and the department of industrial policy and promotion want to send their inputs,” a DoT official said.

India - accusations of bribes

Now Amar Singh claims telecom companies offered him money

the Samajwadi Party on wednesday claimed that he was approached by major telecom companies with "obscene amounts" to maintain silence on the issue of alleged misuse of Telecom spectrum allotment.

"Representatives of major telecom companies had approached me offering an obscene amount of money to maintain silence on the issue of misuse of spectrum allocation," party General Secretary Amar Singh claimed here.

However, he refused to give details regarding who had approached him and how much money was offered.

Singh said he had "apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about it last week and also informed Sonia Gandhi".

Sticking to his charge that a scam had occurred during the allocation of spectrum to telecom companies, Singh alleged that many companies violated Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) norms by using more than their allotted share of spectrum.

The SP leader said he has apprised the PM and UPA chairperson of the issue and has full faith in their integrity and understanding.

"If our request for investigating this matter is not heeded, then I will personally take this matter to court", the SP leader said.

Singh said that asthe SP is supporting the UPA government, he did not want his party to be part of this "scam". "We don't want to be party to this scam," he said.

BT- loss of 10,000 job losses

BT set to shed 10,000 jobs

Telecoms giant BT is cutting 10,000 jobs, mainly among agency workers and sub-contractors, the firm has announced.

The company said it had already cut 4,000 jobs, leaving a further 6,000 to go between now and March.

The cuts, part of an on-going efficiency programme, will mainly affect BT's indirect labour force including agency workers, contractors and offshore staff.

BT said it was reducing its dependence on consultants and contractors, cutting those jobs by 12% whereas direct staff numbers will come down by 4%.

BT, which has a global workforce of 160,000, said it will achieve the reduction in its direct staff largely through natural turnover, pointing out that reductions in previous years have been through voluntary schemes.

Around 90,000 direct jobs are based in the UK whereas contractors and agency workers are spread between this country and other parts of the world.

Ian Livingston, BT's chief executive, commenting on the company's second quarter results, said: "Three out of our four business units, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach are delivering on or ahead of target.

"But profits in BT Global Services are simply not good enough and we are taking decisive action to put matters right. We have appointed Hanif Lalani as the new chief executive of BT Global Services and he will continue to grow the business while reducing the cost base."

BT had issued a profits warning, with the Global Services division, which provides IT networks to multinational businesses, blamed for the alert after it failed to deliver anticipated efficiency savings.

The job losses add to a week of gloom on the employment front, with thousands of redundancies announced in recent days and official unemployment edging closer to the politically sensitive two million mark.