Saturday, August 30, 2008

UK - roaming price cap and the falling Pound

British mobile users face 'unfair' roaming cost increase

While Britons face new price increases for making mobile phone calls while travelling abroad, consumers who live in the 15 out of 27 countries which belong to the Eurozone will pocket savings of over six per cent.

The discrepancy will kick in on Saturday, August 30 because Brussels uses the Euro as the currency to calculate to annual maximum mobile phone roaming rates and the value of the pound has declined sharply against the European Single Currency since EU tariffs were first set last year.

Alan Duncan, Shadow Secretary for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, attacked as "unfair" the Brussels method of price fixing using a currency outside Britain and 11 other EU member states.

"This is a crazy way of looking at it. As a member of the EU we should be treated equitably," he said.

"Charges should be based on fairness and not on the arbitrary effect of currency fluctuations."

A European Commission spokesman argued that Britain must join the Euro if it wanted to get the full benefits of EU legislation aimed cutting mobile charges for travellers and holidaymakers.

"Exchange rates are not under the control of the Commission. There's nothing we can do. Only the UK can change this situation by joining the Euro. That is your decision," he said.

In August last year, the Commission moved to cut roaming charges to a flat rate Eurotariff of EUR 0.49, or 33p at the GBP 0.7867 exchange rate of July 30 2007, for making a mobile phone call while in another EU country.

On Thursday, Brussels made another scheduled cut to the Eurotariff reducing it to EUR 0.46 but at the same time resetting the exchange rate to the July 30 2008 figure of GBP 0.6753 giving a conversion of 36p a minute a nine per cent increase in real cost terms.

One British industry source said: "This is what happens when you have one-size-fits all regulations rather than allowing prices to be set by competition in the market."

Ofcom, Britain's telecoms regulator, welcomed the cut and explained that, outside the impact of currency fluctuations, the cost of mobile phone calls made while abroad are dropping for most Britons.

"UK consumers are already paying well below the new cap of EUR 0.46, the average prices for UK consumers is EUR 0.44 and has been for some time," said a spokesman. "We can not comment on exchange rates."

A Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform spokesman said: "UK customers have consistently paid rates that are below the new capped prices and this remains the case."

The Commission is expected to propose further legislation to crack down on overcharging by mobile phone operators later this year.

Brussels regulators are concerned that some mobile operators are charging by the minute rather than second for calls made while travelling between EU states.

Decline is sales of mobile handsets

world mobile phone sales growth slowing: survey

Growth in worldwide sales of mobile telephones will slow sharply in 2008 as consumers face increased economic difficulties, a report by Gartner research institute showed on Wednesday.

The US-based industry research unit predicted 11 percent growth in global sales to 1.28 billion units this year, down from a rise of 16 percent in 2007.

Sales reached nearly 305 million in the second quarter, a rise of 11.8 percent on a year earlier, it said.

"The economic environment continued to negatively impact mobile phones sales in both mature and emerging markets," Gartner's head of research for mobile devices said in the institute's report.

"Replacement sales remained weak as consumers faced higher prices for fuel and food in addition to higher levels of inflation."

Nokia of Finland, the world's number one phone maker, sold more than 120 million telephones and boosted its share of the market to just under 40 percent.

Samsung of South Korea had 15 percent of the market with 45 million units sold, shooting far ahead of the former world number two, Motorola, on 30 million.

Oman - second fixed operator

Oman lists 6 bidders for 2nd line

Oman has shortlisted six bidders interested to operate for the sultanate's second fixed-line telecommunications network, agencies have reported. The Oman government is looking for a company that could invest at least $300m in the first five years of the contract. The package deal eyes a 25-year contract to build and operate the second fixed-line service and a similar 15-year contract for broadband internet services.

USA - a major source of badware

Report Slams U.S. Host as Major Source of Badware

Last week, I examined a series of Web services that make profiting from cyber crime a point-and-click exercise that even the most novice hackers can master. Today, I'd like to highlight the activities of Atrivo, a Concord, Calif., based network provider that hosts some of these services.

Several noted security researchers are releasing a report today that stems from many months of investigating malicious activity emanating from Atrivo's customers. Security experts say that Atrivo, also known as "Intercage," has long been a major source of spyware, adware, viruses and fake anti-virus products.

The report is an exhaustive and well-researched analysis of Atrivo and its operations. Some of the statistics on active exploits cited in that report come from data sets I commissioned during my own investigation of Atrivo and later shared with Jart Armin, the principal author of the report and curator of the blog

Looking back several years, Atrivo's various networks were used heavily by the Russian Business Network, an ISP formerly based in St. Petersburg, Russia. RBN had gained notoriety for providing Web hosting services catering exclusively to cyber criminals. But after increased media attention, RBN dispersed its operations to other, less conspicuous corners of the Internet.

Municipal fibre - rising again

Muni fiber networks bounce back

Despite some high-profile failures, the deep-seated need for broadband keeps municipalities on the fiber-to-the-home-track.

The headlines surrounding municipally funded telecom networks have been dominated by bad news this year.

In addition to the outright collapse of muni Wi-Fi networks, there have been notable failures in the muni fiber market as well, namely the iProvo network, sold to Broadweave earlier this year, and Utopia, a network linking multiple municipalities that has struggled to sign up customers. A multicity fiber network in northeastern Minnesota that had been under study for years also was scrapped recently.

Anyone who thinks the municipal broadband market is headed south, however, needs to take a closer look. For every visible failure, there are multiple other cities, towns and villages either building or looking to build their own fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, for the simple reason that they want broadband facilities they can't convince their local telco and cable incumbents to build.

These projects are being fueled by the falling cost of FTTH technology and the growing experience in deploying systems, due in no small part to the massive effort Verizon has launched, as well as that of other telcos. It is supremely ironic that one of the nation's more visible and contentious muni fiber projects, involving the city-owned Lafayette Utilities System in Lafayette, La., is now reaping the benefits of delays to its FTTH construction caused by lawsuits and legal actions launched by incumbent cable and telco operators.

“Not only is the technology cheaper than what we would have deployed, it's better,” said Terry Huvall, director for LUS. “We are using [Gigabit passive optical networks], not [broadband PON].”

In addition, in a few cases states are getting in on the act. North Carolina's e-NC Authority is seeking ways to stimulate broadband initiatives in rural areas of that state, while Massachusetts just passed a bill to create a Broadband Institute, using $40 million in state funding to bring broadband to western areas of the state still served only by dial-up.

What's different about today's municipal networks is that, while still intended to solve the problem of broadband access, they are more practically grounded in market realities.

UK - revising the rules for mobile

Ofcom seeks help on mobile rules
see also OFCOM press release and consultation document

The good and bad aspects of the UK's mobile phone networks are being sought by Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator wants help from consumers and industry on areas that need more regulation or where the rules can be loosened.

It is also looking for ideas on how best to extend mobile networks across the entire nation.

It said rule changes might be necessary given the rapid pace of technological change in the industry.

Mobile banking - developing countries

How mobile banking is fueled by emerging markets

Mobile banking has become a key addressable in which the emerging markets are showing developed countries how it’s done

While most wireless technologies start in developed markets and eventually make their way to emerging markets, mobile banking is one area where developing countries may be leading the way. In regions like the United States, mobile banking is quickly gaining traction as a complement to online services, but in many emerging markets, the technology is already a staple for unbanked consumers.

“I think [mobile banking] is maybe one application where some of that knowledge will come back and be used in different ways here,” said John Devlin, lead analyst at IMS Research. “Here, I can walk into a branch very easily, drive to a cash machine, do Internet banking or telephone banking and mobile banking now, whereas if I’m in Northern Vietnam, for example, mobile may be my only means of access without traveling two hours to a bank. It just makes it more convenient.”

IMS Research has been tracking the growing trend towards mobile banking – what Devlin calls a “key addressable” at the moment. The technology has gotten a lot of attention from banks and operators as a way to increase quick usage of the phone in everyday situations, he said. Considering that the addressable market is anyone in any country with a bank account and a phone, the potential is attracting banks and carriers alike. This has been shown to be especially true in emerging markets, including parts of Asia and Africa, where banking penetration is much lower than in the US.

"Mobile is often a key access point for end users [in emerging markets],” Devlin said. “That is probably where the greatest traction is at the moment, driven by greatest necessity. People want access to financial services, and they do want to be able to transfer money either internationally or nationally, between friends and relatives. For that reason, the mobile penetration is far higher than other banks, and the presence is much greater."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Guinea - partnerships in state company

Guinea wants new partner for state telecom

Guinea will seek a new partner for its state telecommunications company Sotelgui after Telekom Malaysia gave up its 60 percent stake in the West African operator, the communications minister said on Wednesday.

Telekom Malaysia paid $45 million for the stake in fixed line and mobile phone operator Societe des Telecommunications de Guinee S.A. (Sotelgui) in 1995 but reached a final agreement with the Guinean government this month to relinquish its share.

"The government's option is to open up Sotelgui's capital, seek a partner with sufficient financial and technical capacity that will allow the company to face an increasingly competitive environment," Minister for Communications and New Information Technology Tibou Kamara told Reuters in an interview.

Kamara said the negotiations with Telekom Malaysia leading to it ceding its stake had been "bitter and long".

The Malaysian company reported earlier this month it had booked an 82 million ringgit foreign exchange loss after relinquishing its entire Sotelgui stake, but said this had no impact on its cash flow.

Sotelgui has a monopoly on fixed phone lines in Guinea, but faces intense competition in the mobile phone sector, which has seen the entry of several private operators, including France Telecom unit Orange and Areeba, part of South Africa's MTN group.

Kamara said the Guinean government would examine Sotelgui's assets and liabilities to determine its true market value and then open a tender to choose a partner.

"The lights have pretty much turned from red to green for this to happen. That means the company is of interest to a lot of operators," the minister said, without revealing which companies had shown interest in taking a stake in Sotelgui.

He said the Guinean state operator needed private capital because it did not by itself have the necessary financial resources to invest in bolstering its position in the growing Guinean telecoms market.

Areeba alone recently reported one million mobile subscribers out of Guinea's population of more than 8 million.

China - 1.7 millions IPTV users

China supports nearly 1.71 million IPTV users at end of 2Q

There were 1.708 million subscribers of IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) service in the China market at the end of the second quarter of 2008, growing by 396,000 or 30.2% on quarter and by 132.1% on year, according to China-based consulting company Analysys International.

The exceptionally large growth in IPTV user base was due to the increased demand attributable to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Analysys pointed out.

China market: IPTV operators

Company Occupation of total number of subscribers at the end of June 2008

UTStarcom 40.1%
Vcom (Chinese) 34.4%
ZTE (Chinese) 21.9%
Huawei Technologies (Chinese) 3.5%
Alcatel Shanghai Bell 0.2%

Source: Analysys, compiled by Digitimes, August 2008

Vodacom - acquisition of Gateway

Vodacom buys Gateway for $700m

Vodacom, South Africa’s biggest mobile operator which is half-owned by Vodafone of the UK, on Friday stepped up its plans to expand into Africa with the $700m acquisition of Gateway, a mobile network connection company that operates in 17 countries on the continent.

Peter Uys, incoming chief executive, said the purchase, to be funded with a mixture of local and foreign debt and cash, ”gives us a springboard to launch into the continent”.

”Many of our customers are becoming pan-African companies,” Mr Uys added. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

Vodafone has long sought to make Vodacom, its joint-venture with South Africa’s state-controlled Telkom, its conduit to lucrative emerging African markets.

Buying Gateway, which primarily provides services to connect mobile services between different networks, will allow Vodacom to throw down the gauntlet to MTN, its South African rival currently the biggest operator in Africa.

However, Vodafone’s strategy to gain overall control of Vodacom through a purchase of some of Telkom’s stake appears to be bogged down.

Reports on Thursday suggested that a Nigerian telecoms magnate was seeking to buy Telkom’s 50 per cent interest in Vodacom to create a potential pan-African mobile giant. Telkom said it would issue a statement to the market shortly.

The government is believed to be keen to unload its stake in Telkom to the right buyer in part to spur its telecoms liberalisation drive.

Mvelaphanda Holdings, a black-empowerment investment group, is also in talks with Telkom that may see it buy the remainder of the business – the fixed line assets that would be left were the Vodacom stake to be sold.

Vodacom’s recent offering of shares to black investors valued the group at about R140bn. However, in a sign of the confusion surrounding the various permutations on a deal, such a valuation would make Telkom’s stake in Vodacom worth R70bn – greater than Telkom’s entire market capitalisation of R72.5bn ($9.4bn) even before its other assets are factored in.

USA - roaming bill shock

A cellphone bill roams to the stratosphere

Santa Monica resident Aurelie Foucaut traveled last month to Paris with her two kids. During a brief stopover in Montreal, she made six calls on her BlackBerry to friends and family members, each lasting less than three minutes.

Foucaut's wireless bill from T-Mobile arrived a few weeks ago. It included $59.77 in ordinary usage charges. It also included a $2,367.40 "data service roaming charge" for nearly 158 megabytes' worth of Internet access while in Montreal -- the equivalent of downloading about 80 novels.

"How is this possible?" Foucaut, 41, wanted to know. "I never go on the Internet with my phone. I don't download into my BlackBerry. I don't even know how to do it."

Foucaut's experience illustrates the ease with which extra charges can be tacked onto people's wireless bills when they travel.

It also shows how tough it can be to get those charges erased, or at the very least documented by your wireless provider, even though most telecom companies can detail exactly what's passing over their networks at any particular moment.

Foucaut's husband, Thierry, tried to work with T-Mobile to resolve the situation. He didn't get very far.

"It's very frustrating," he told me. "We just want them to provide some proof that the data service was provided, since we know it never happened. But they won't give us anything."

Thierry Foucaut, 43, works as chief operating officer for a Los Angeles soft-drink company and understands a thing or two about customer service. He said that when he first called T-Mobile, a service rep initially apologized for any misunderstanding and said she'd look into the matter.

"She came back on the line five minutes later and said the charge was valid," Foucaut recalled.

He asked to speak with a supervisor, who also insisted that the charge was valid. If that was the case, Foucaut responded, please produce some record of the data transfer having occurred.

"They sent me a copy of my July bill," he said. "This was completely irrelevant."

When he called T-Mobile again, he was told he'd have to take up the problem with a Canadian firm called Rogers Wireless, which handles T-Mobile's roaming requirements in the Great White North.

Foucaut said he called Rogers and was told to take it up with T-Mobile. He said the Rogers rep refused to even discuss the firm's operations.

Foucaut then complained to the Better Business Bureau, prompting an offer from T-Mobile last week to settle the disputed charge for $1,726.30. Foucaut replied that he'd be happy to pay as soon as T-Mobile provided proof of the data transfer to his wife's phone.

He said he received a letter from the company last weekend reiterating that the charge was valid but offering no further information. "I just don't think I'm being heard by T-Mobile," Foucaut told me.

Could the data transfer have happened? Apparently so, under certain circumstances.

No one at Rogers Wireless returned my calls for comment. But a technician at the Canadian company said the speed of any data transfer at the Montreal airport would depend on how close a wireless customer was to a cell tower and how many other people were using the network.

He said Rogers' network handles average wireless speeds of about 1.5 megabytes per second. At that rate, it would take less than two minutes to download 158 megabytes.

Eric Westrom, manager of network services at the Folsom, Calif., telecom consulting firm Miles Consulting Corp., said it's not unheard of for more than 150 megabytes to be downloaded to a BlackBerry.

But he said this would typically come in the form of a multimedia program -- an unusually large video or audio file -- attached to an e-mail. A five-minute video from YouTube might account for 10 megabytes.

Aurelie Foucaut said that not only does she never send or receive large files with her e-mail, but her e-mail access wasn't even working the day she was traveling. "I received no e-mail," she said.

At my request, T-Mobile took a closer look at the Foucauts' situation. I finally heard back from Tom Harlin, a company spokesman.

"T-Mobile feels the charges are indeed valid," he said.

I asked how the company reached that conclusion -- and why it had failed to provide any supporting evidence to the Foucauts. Harlin said he'd have to get back to me on that.

He wanted customers to know, though, that they can read up on roaming charges by visiting and typing "international" in the search box. Then click on the link for "WorldClass International Services." Then click on the link for "T-Mobile international roaming."

I did this and discovered that T-Mobile charges $10.24 per megabyte for data transmissions in Canada. So why were the Foucauts billed $15 per megabyte and not $10.24?

Harlin said he'd have to get back to me on that as well.

He called late Tuesday to report that he didn't have anything to report. He said he couldn't explain why the Foucauts were being billed at the higher rate.

Harlin also said he couldn't explain how 158 megabytes of data traveled to or from Aurelie Foucaut's BlackBerry, except that "we're confident the data did move across our network."

"The case is under review," he said. "We'll try to reach a resolution that's suitable for both of us."

Does that mean the data service roaming charge could be dropped?

"There's a chance, yes," Harlin replied.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Foucaut's soft-drink company has 60 phone lines and they're all hooked up to T-Mobile's network. Foucaut said he's thinking maybe it's time to try another provider.

Maybe then T-Mobile would listen.

Europe - roaming

European Commission seeks new upper limits on mobile phone roaming charges

The European Commission is seeking new upper limits on mobile phone roaming charges. The Brussels authorities say mobile phone users frequently pay too much, because many providers don't charge by the second. While national watchdogs have been unable to act against these additional charges for roaming, the EU can. "The commission will be considering this in the coming weeks", said a spokesman for Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, in Brussels today. SMS texting is also viewed as too expensive.

Brussels says the national regulators are recommending the imposition of a price limit on roaming SMSs. For end users, they are quoted as saying that 11 to 15 euro cents per text message plus VAT would be reasonable.

The Commission, says that, starting on Sunday, the maximum charges for normal mobile phone roaming calls are to be lowered. Providers can then charge their customers a maximum of 46 euro cents per minute or part thereof – 37 pence, instead of the previous 49 euro cents, excluding VAT, for self-dialled connections. Incoming calls are to cost 22 euro cents – 18 pence, instead of the previous 24 cents, plus tax.

The EU introduced upper limits on mobile phone roaming charges for the first time last year. "As a result over 400 million consumers across Europe have benefited from significant savings of around 60 per cent when making and receiving calls during travel, holiday or business", claims European Commissioner Reding in a press release. "The next challenge is now to bring about a single market for roaming text messages and data services." She is hoping that progress will be made this year.

According to the Commission, regulators had found that charges for roaming data transmissions on mobile networks were "still very high for many users". In the first quarter of 2008, it says, a user paid 2.05 euros per megabyte – £1.65, if the data were sent by members of his provider's group of companies. For companies outside the group, the average charge could be as much as 5.40 euros – £4.35. Italian and Slovakian clients would sometimes even have to pay more than 12 euros per megabyte – £9.66.

The supervisory authorities criticized the charging methods of the mobile phone operators in a report in mid-August, pointing out that they were frequently charging not by the second, but by the minute or part of a minute. That meant customers paying for an average 24 per cent more call time than they actually spent making calls.

Nigeria - 20 millicom Glo mobile customers

Globacom hits 20 million subscribers mark

National telecommunications operator, Globacom, has attained the 20 million subscriber base mark, as it marks a five-year milestone of joining GSM operations in Nigeria.

The milestone, the company said in a statement on Thursday was a mark of the wide acceptance it has received from Nigerians.

Globacom switched on its network on August 29, 2003, with a promise to build Africa’s biggest and best network.

The company’s Executive Director, Marketing Communications, Mr. Okon Iyanam, said in a statement on Thursday, that the company was overwhelmed by the expression of faith in the network demonstrated by Nigerians.

“We are excited by the expression of faith in us by Nigerians. Within five years, Nigerians have made us what we are. This is only possible where the people are passionate about a brand that delivers on its promises as we have been doing,” he said.

In appreciation of the support, Globacom is placing “Thank you” messages in publications in the country with a focus on the areas where Nigerians had really rallied round the network to make it the leader in the market.

According to Iyanam, Globacom was taking the opportunity to appreciate Nigerians for the acceptance of the network and for their loyalty over the years.

Earlier in the year, the Group Chief Operating Officer, Glo Mobile, Mr. Mohammed Jameel, had disclosed that the company was installing a capacity for over 30 million subscribers by adding over 1,500 new base stations before the end of the year.

Globacom has extensive international roaming services involving over 200 networks in more than 100 countries and provides services on voice, SMS, GPRS roaming and BlackBerry services.

It also provides bulk sale of bandwidth and offers access to 804 networks in 174 countries via international SMS.

India - GSM v. CDMA (again)

India's GSM Operators Lose Legal Battle Against CDMA Firms

India's High Court in Delhi has rejected a petition by the GSM network operators to block the government from allowing the incumbent CDMA operators from offering GSM services. The GSM operators had told the court that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) was trying to pass-off a second license to each of the CDMA operators for free.

The DoT has already allocated GSM radio spectrum to the existing CDMA operators, Reliance Communications, the Tatas and Russia backed, Shyam-Sistema.

The court's Justice Gita Mittal also required that the GSM operators, along with their trade body, the COAI to pay costs for the legal action. The GSM operators and COAI have leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, but they have not said if they will pursue that option.

Welcoming the decision, S C Khanna the Secretary General of AUSPI, which represents the CDMA industry in India said, “It allows the government policy to be carried out smoothly, and opens up the market for more operators, which ultimately will benefit the consumer.”

According to the Mobile World subscriber database, the country ended the first half of the year with just under 70 million CDMA subscribers, compared to around 212.5 million for GSM networks.

Thailand - 3G

Thai NTC plans to issue new 3G licences by end-2009

Thailand's telecoms regulator said on Friday it expected to issue new licences for third-generation mobile services by the end of 2009, seen as a key step in reforming the competitive sector.

The National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) held a public hearing about 3G services this week and expected to complete drafting criteria on issuing licences by the end of this year, Secretary-General Suranan Wongvithayakamjorn told reporters.

"Late next year, we should be able to issue 3G licences for a new 2.1 GHz spectrum," Suranan said, adding the regulator needed more time to consider public opinion and the information needed to decide on the number of licences and how they will be won.

"We will hold a public hearing about the draft criteria early next year. After that, we will send letters to invite interested operators worldwide. This process should take around 6-8 months," he said.

Licensing is seen as a key step in reforming the sector because companies will pay licence fees instead of paying a portion of their revenue to state-owned firms for the right to operate networks they built and paid for, as they do now.

Reform was delayed by slow progress in setting up another regulator to join the NTC in allocating 3G spectrums. But under a new law, the NTC itself has the authority to allocate them, Suranan said.

Analysts said the new 3G licences would also help reduce regulatory costs for operators.

"Although operators have to allocate big budgets to obtain licences and roll out networks, they will gain from big savings in long-term, regulatory, per-unit costs by as much as 20 percent of revenue," said Kim Eng Securities analyst Solaya Na Songkhla.

Europe - EC on automatic further reduction in roaming charges

Roaming prices: Calling home becomes cheaper again – but not (yet) texting across borders

On 30 August, it will become cheaper to make or receive calls while travelling in the EU. The price ceiling for roaming calls (the Eurotariff) introduced by the EU in 2007 will fall from €0.49 to €0.46 per minute (excluding VAT) for making a call and from €0.24 to €0.22 per minute (excluding VAT) for receiving a call while in another EU country. These price reductions are the result of the EU Roaming Regulation, proposed by the European Commission in 2006 to curb the excessive roaming charges consumers had to pay for roaming calls (on average €1.15 per minute at the time). The EU Roaming Regulation which will expire in 2010, is currently under review. Following the specific request of the European Parliament the Commission must propose by the end of 2008 whether to extend the Regulation in time and in scope. Figures published by national telecoms regulators this summer have shown that prices for roaming text messages and data services remain unjustifiably high.

UK - CPP or RPP??

Mobile users may face fee to take calls

Mobile phone users may have to pay to receive calls, as they do in the US, the telecoms regulator said on Thursday. Ofcom called for “careful consideration” of the case for billing mobile users for receiving as well as making calls.

This would be a sweeping change, and UK mobile operators say their customers are set against the idea. Ofcom has raised the issue, however, because it wants to provoke debate over the charges that mobile operators impose on one another for connecting calls to their networks.

Ofcom sets caps on these wholesale charges, known as termination rates. Its existing price controls regime does not expire until 2011 so the earliest that users might start being billed for receiving calls is still three years away.

But Viviane Reding, European commissioner for telecoms, told the Financial Times in June that termination rates were far too high and wrongly amounted to “guaranteed money” for mobile operators. The charges represent about 15 per cent of their revenues.

In the US, termination rates are set at close to zero, and mobile users there pay lower charges per minute compared with their counterparts in many European Union countries. However, US mobile operators require their customers to pay for receiving calls.

USA - Spending on IT hit

Study: Grim outlook for U.S. IT spending - Higher energy costs are a big factor

U.S. companies are pulling back hard on IT spending as the economic downturn continues, a new study by ChangeWave Research has found.

ChangeWave surveyed 1,947 people involved with IT spending at their organizations. The survey was conducted Aug. 11 through 21. Eighty percent of those surveyed were located in the U.S., along with small percentages in Canada and other countries.

Thirty percent overall reported that third-quarter IT spending was lower than previously planned, an increase of three percentage points since ChangeWave's May spending survey. Meanwhile, only 12% spent more than planned.

In addition, 29% said spending will drop or even cease in the fourth quarter, a 5% increase over the previous study. Thirteen percent plan to spend more.

"Thus, the brief period of stabilizing we picked up in May has given way to another major leg downward," ChangeWave director of research Paul Carton wrote in a blog post yesterday. "In fact, you have to go way back to the middle of the last recession (August 2001) to find a ChangeWave survey projecting this big of an IT spending downturn."

Higher energy costs stood as a top factor for the spending slowdown, cited by 35% of respondents.

ChangeWave's findings show a turnaround is not imminent; 39% of respondents predicted that IT spending in their companies would not rise until the second quarter of 2009 or beyond.

MVNOs - Turkey and South Africa

Muddy Water Around the MVNOs in Turkey and South Africa

A recent report from Reuters indicates that Turkey's telecommunications regulator is considering regulations to allow mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) to gain licenses to operate within the country by this winter. This feature of the more developed markets is now appearing in certain larger emerging markets as well, and it's interesting to note the differences. Turkey, which is perhaps a half-step behind South Africa in general terms of liberalization and advancement, is also behind in this regard, because there have been MVNOs functioning in South Africa for almost two years.

The difference is that the South African regulators have never said anything to clarify this fact, and actually forbade virtual operators as recently as four years ago. What's happened since then? I would say this is one of a number of issues where the regulator (or actually regulators, as there are several bodies with a say in telecom) has gradually fallen silent, enervated by infighting and uncertainty over the future direction of the regime. The Electronic Communications Act of recent times, in truth, does allow for licenses that can be interpreted to mean facilities-free competition. But there is quite a bit of confusion over this, as in several other areas, including self-provisioning, access to international bandwidth (regulation of submarine cable landing sites) and the ever-popular fixed-wireless technologies.

Ideally, one should handle things the way the Turkish authorities appear to be. The regulator makes a clear statement, and then the licenses come in. South Africa's "muddy waters" around regulation have competitors trying things and hoping for the best. With the World Cup 2010 on the way, I presume authorities will have the wisdom not to stand in the way of a company that is getting things done. But South Africa's heritage is facilities-based, and so I'm guessing the goodwill won't extend beyond the players that are putting in fiber, or launching new satellites, or bringing in the submarine cables. Virtual operators occupy an interesting niche, but right now, they compete in South Africa under uncertain conditions.

I call upon the South African regulators to meet behind closed doors, hammer out a consensus and then issue it for all to see. It could be that on many issues - self-provisioning of competitive players, fixed-wireless licenses, essential facilities and open access - they'd simply be repeating themselves, and possibly on others they won't be able to agree yet (in which case they should say that, and state the governing principles for review and arbitration). But the market is at a crucial point, and now's the time to establish as much clarity as possible for all concerned. I wish them well, and we'll continue to keep an eye on this emerging model telecom market.

Ghana and Vodafone

Vodafone completes purchase of Ghana Telecom stake

British mobile phone giant Vodafone said Monday it had completed the purchase of a 70-percent stake in state-run Ghana Telecommunications.

"Further to the ... approval from the Ghanaian Parliament, Vodafone announces today that it has completed the acquisition of a 70 percent stake in Ghana Telecom for 900 million dollars," or 610 million euros, a statement said.

Last week, the Ghanaian parliament ratified the controversial sale, which the country's opposition had argued was a sellout.

The purchase, worth 483 million pounds and announced last month, sees the government of Ghana retain a 30-percent holding.

The deal values the nation's leading fixed line operator at about 1.3 billion dollars.

In recent years, Vodafone has sought aggressive expansion into emerging markets in Asia and Africa, as it looks to combat weakening sales and fierce competition in Western markets.

Ghana Telecom is the west African country's third largest mobile phone group with 1.4 million customers or 17 percent of the market.

Yemen - 10 million mobile phones

Yemen's cell market to hit 10.5m subscribers

With the entry of the fourth cellular operator in Yemen in December 2007, Yemen's cellular market is expected to reach 10.537 million subscribers (a cellular penetration rate of 42.4%) in 2012, up from 4.437 million by end of 2007, according to report by Arab Advisors Group. The report also projects Yemen's mainlines to reach 1.432 million lines by the end of 2012 with a penetration rate of 5.76%.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

iPhone 3G survey's iPhone 3G Survey Reveals Network Weaknesses's survey of iPhone 3G users suggests that widespread data speed problems have more to do with carriers' networks than with Apple's handsets.

Recently asked iPhone 3G users all around the world to participate in a study, which involved testing their 3G speeds and entering their data on an interactive map. The purpose? To gain a general idea of how 3G was performing -- where it's best and where it's worst -- in light of widespread complaints about the handset's network performance. More than 2,600 people participated (wow!) and we've diligently cleaned up the data to present it to you here.

In the map above, each colored bar indicates the relative 3G download speed for an individual respondent. Purple dots represent several respondents clustered together geographically. (If you don't see many colored bars, zoom in on an area until the purple dots disappear and are replaced by colored bars.) To speak very generally, the data overall shows that 3G is performing faster than EDGE (which is expected). In the best scenarios, 3G is up to seven times faster than EDGE; in worse scenarios, 3G performed just as slowly as EDGE; at worst, some users couldn't connect to 3G at all -- which isn't surprising since 3G towers are not yet ubiquitous.

Australia - Broadband

Australian opposition party threatens structural separation for government-funded National Broadband Network

The 'S' word has been exchanged in Australia to a chorus of disapproval from dominant operator Telstra and a chant of support from Telstra's competitors.

Last year the Australian Labor government announced plans to invest up to $4.7 billion in a high speed national broadband network, designed to boost the country's broadband capabilities and overcome the huge distances and low population densities which always hinder economic network roll-out there.

The building and operation of the new network has been put out to tender and dominant operator Telstra is expected to be named as the builder and manager.

Now, however, the country's opposition 'shadow' spokesman on communications has publicly backed a 'structurally separated' version of the national broadband network initiative - a stance that will arguably radically change the risk/reward calculations undertaken by the company winning contract.

In doing so, the spokesman, Bruce Billson, has been accused by Telstra's regulatory affairs director of having "thrown out a decade of coalition policy". Clearly structural separation is not an option that appeals to Telstra. The company has made it be known that it would not bid for the contract if structural separation is required.

Billson, however, is unrepentant.

“The Opposition has made it clear that if $4.7 billion of taxpayer money is to be utilised, then we need commensurate public policy gains,” Billson said at a Sydney conference. “We’re not about imposing new burdens on taxpayers, new burdens on shareholders, new burdens on corporations.

"We’re about saying ‘if you want the money, there are strings attached to it,’ and we believe that achieving effective structural separation needs to be one of those things, because of the natural monopoly that will be produced requires that kind of clarity.”

Telstra's competitors are delighted by the intervention. One such, Terria, which is bidding for the contract and promising structural separation as its central pillar told CommsDay. “I think that it’s a very sensible proposal, I’m heartened he thinks that way. Separation is all about getting the alignment of interests right... we’ve been all the time saying separation is vital to a truly independent, open access network.”

USA - broadband policy from Democrats

Democratic Convention Brings Calls for Broadband Policy

The U.S. needs a broadband policy targeting unserved areas that's backed by action, not just words, said several speakers at a technology forum in Denver.

The U.S. has gone from "leader to laggard" in broadband rollout and adoption during the past eight years under Republican President George Bush, said Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, speaking Tuesday at a forum hosted by Silicon Flatirons, a tech law center at the University of Colorado, held in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

In early 2004, Bush called for broadband to be universally available across the U.S. by 2007, but that hasn't happened, Rockefeller said at the technology forum, which was webcast. "Despite all the rhetoric about improving Americans' access to broadband, the Bush administration never made achieving their goal a serious matter," he added. "Why? For starters, deploying broadband is really hard work."

While several other speakers at the forum joined Rockefeller in calling for a more aggressive broadband rollout policy, others at the event questioned if the U.S. was as behind other nations in broadband adoption as some studies have suggested. Commonly quoted statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which rank the U.S. 15th among its 30 member nations in broadband adoption per capita, ignore several factors, said Michael Katz, an economics and business professor at New York University and former chief economist at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

If researchers look at the percentage of the population that has access to broadband, instead of broadband lines per capita, the U.S. would be eighth, Katz said. The countries in front of the U.S. generally have smaller household sizes or a higher population density, he added.

"Let's start with the facts," Katz said. "Let's try to have a rational basis for the policy, instead of relying on knee-jerk reactions and slogans. Yes, it'd be great for everyone to have broadband, but how about we look at what it'd cost?"

Other panelists suggested a national broadband policy is necessary because there remain large populations who don't have access to broadband or can't afford it. Less than half of African-Americans, Latinos, rural residents and people making less than US$20,000 a year have broadband, said Larry Irving, president of the Irving Group and a former assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"Whether you think that's important or not, some of those people do," Irving said. "There are young, bright kids in barrios; there are young, bright kids in Appalachia; there are young, bright kids born in the projects who are not getting out because they're not able to go home every night and do their homework."

For many areas of the country, there isn't accurate information to know where broadband does or does not exist, he added. Better statistics and mapping should be a first step, Irving said.

Broadband can help solve several issues facing the U.S., including providing a better education system and access to health care, Irving added.

One way to step up broadband rollout would be to refocus the Universal Service Fund, which has been used to bring broadband to schools and libraries, toward more general broadband rollout, said Dorothy Attwood, senior vice president for public policy at broadband provider AT&T. But policymakers need to think more broadly about the benefits of broadband, she said.

Policymakers need to realize that "broadband is essentially important to solving our problems," she said. "It isn't a broadband policy in isolation. We need to say, 'How do we look at the problems that are confronting all of us?' and recognize that broadband is part of the solution."

UK - mobile broadband and regulation

Growth in Mobile Broadband to Drive Changes in Regulation of UK Mobile Industry

Adjustments to the UK regulatory framework are required given consumers' rapid adoption of mobile broadband services, according to an Ofcom-commissioned report from Analysys Mason, the premier advisers on telecoms, IT and media.

The study, which forms part of Ofcom's 'Mobile Sector Assessment' consultation, considers the recent dramatic increases in data service usage, which could accelerate over the next five years, and this ubiquitous mobile broadband access may change the nature of the mobile proposition. Widespread access to 'real' Internet-based services from laptops and mobile handsets, as well as the development of new applications based around mobile IP connectivity, would offer considerable additional value to UK consumers and businesses.

"The current UK regulatory framework governing the delivery of mobile services was established to promote competition in infrastructure-based services that were delivered solely through mobile communications networks," says Mike Grant, partner at Analysys Mason. "With users increasingly focussed on consumption of content across multiple networks, adjustments to the UK regulatory framework are likely to be required if the benefits of the emerging trends are to be fully realised."

The Analysys Mason report developed four possible scenarios for the evolution and development of the mobile industry over the next ten years. The scenarios, based on discussions with major industry players, provide insight into the dynamics of the sector and how different players in the value chain may fare under different assumptions.

UK - one third of homes without broadband

Third of UK homes still lack internet access

While broadband continues its march into ever more homes in the UK, new figures from the Office for National Statistics also reveal that more than a third of households are still going without a web connection.

According to the ONS's 2008 Internet Access report, 65 percent of homes — some 16.46 million households — now have internet access: an increase of 1.23 million households since 2007. And while 35 percent of UK homes remain internet-less, the figure is down from 43 percent two years ago.

Of the homes that have internet access the vast majority (86 percent) are getting the web via fat pipes, while dial-up continues its decline, with connections falling to just nine percent — a one percentage point drop on last year.

Overall, more than half (56 percent) of UK homes now have broadband internet access — an increase of five percentage points on 2007, according to the ONS report.

The statistics also show a digital refusenik attitude is growing among Britons. Of those households that do not have internet access, a larger proportion of respondents said they do not need it or do not want it than two years ago. While other reasons for eschewing the web — such as access or equipment costs being too high — showed little or no increase.

However, the figures also suggest Britons may be becoming slightly more tech savvy across the board: just 15 percent said they don't have web access because of a lack of skills, compared to 24 percent two years ago.

There is also a clear link between a household's level of education and whether it's online, according to the ONS report. Individuals who have no formal qualifications are least likely to have internet connection in their home, at 56 percent now online, while adults under 70 with a university degree or equivalent qualification are most likely (93 percent).

The generation gap in web access persists too — adults aged over 65 are still the least likely to use the web, with 70 percent stating they have never done so. However, there's evidence the gap is shrinking: that figure is down from 82 percent two years ago. Meanwhile, the 16 to 24 age group unsurprisingly used the web the most, with 77 percent using it every day or almost every day.

Although the ONS report shows the most popular place to get online was the home, the number of adults who have accessed the web via wireless laptops and 3G mobiles in the last three months has increased since last year — five percentage points and one percentage point respectively, to 23 percent (laptops) and four percent (mobiles).

For mobile-phone data users, the most popular activity was sending photographs or other video clips. It's a marked difference from the wired world, where sending and receiving emails was the most popular online activity, followed by finding information about goods or services.

The ONS figures also reveal a growing north-south digital divide.

The Southeast is the most connected region, with 74 percent of households having net access in 2008, followed by London with 73 percent and then the East of England (70 percent). While the Northeast has the fewest internet-enabled households (54 percent), followed by the Northwest (56 percent), and the East Midlands and West Midlands (both with 61 percent).

The divide between North and South is getting bigger: back in 2006 there was a 12 percentage point gap between net connectivity in the Southeast and the Northeast. In 2008, that gap has risen to 20 percentage points.

While the general trend is for internet access to keep growing in southern homes but to stagnate in some northern regions, there are exceptions: Yorkshire & Humber web connections, for instance, have jumped 10 percentage points since last year.

The stats also show internet access in Wales has taken a leap forward — rising from 57 percent of homes in 2007 to 67 this year to just overtake England (66 percent) in the league of wired countries.

Northern Ireland remains the least wired area in the UK, with just over half (56 percent) of households connected.

Orange - limiting 3G iPhone speeds

European Network Operator Admits To Slowing 3G Speeds

Wired recently reported that the 3G iPhone's poor speeds are the fault of the network operators, not the device itself. In France, at least, this is very true. French wireless network operator Orange has admitted that it is slowing down the surfing speeds of mobile phones on its 3G network.

Wired surveyed readers all over the globe. In contrast with other tests performed on the 3G iPhone itself (which suggest the device has a bad radio air interface), it seems as though the wireless networks themselves are to blame for slow 3G speeds. At least according to Wired's survey.

In France, Orange is the network operator that offers the 3G iPhone. After taking a look at Wired's data, many noticed that Orange customers were experiencing the slowest speeds. You can imagine the consternation of Orange customers.

Ars Technica reports, "Orange has revealed that all 3G devices on its network are capped at download speeds of 384 Kbps, roughly one-fifth the download speeds that T-Mobile users have been getting and a little over 5 percent of HSDPA's theoretical maximum speed. Never fear, though: Orange will be upping the cap to a whopping 1 Mbps by Sept. 15, but the boost may not be enough to clam consumers now that the trickery has been revealed."

I would not want to be a customer service representative at Orange right now.

How do speeds compare in the United States? Well, according to Apple, the 3G iPhone is capable of hitting the theoretical speed of 3.6 Mbps. I spoke to AT&T about this issue when the iPhone was first released in the United States. While the device may be capable of hitting 3.6 Mbps, it won't go any faster than 1.4 Mbps on AT&T's network. AT&T was not clear with me if the speed restraint was a real-world usage scenario (which is likely) or an actual cap on data speeds.

Any way you look at it, AT&T's U.S. customers are seeing faster 3G speeds than those using the Orange network in France. But that's not saying much.

Apple has acknowledged the issue, and says a fix will be made available for poor reception issues in September.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Europe - book - Future Networks and Services

Future Networks and Services (119 pages)

"The Internet has profoundly changed our perception of society and our approach to everyday life. Today with billions of transactions streaming on the web, the Internet has certainly become the most powerful tool to share information" says Viviane Reding, European Commission for Information Society and Media in her preface to a new information brochure about state-of-the-art in research and policy developments on future networks and services. The publication presents the various ongoing European activities and future trends in network and service technologies.

India - IPTV policy

Indian IPTV policy cleared by the government

The Indian government has now cleared the policy framework for the IPTV which would now enable the companies to launch commercial services.

The government also today announced changes to the current downlinking guidelines for television channels.

Channels would now be allowed to share their feeds with the IPTV service providers.

BSNL and MTNL are two telecom service providers which are already offering IPTV services in the country on a limited scale.

Airtel is also testing IPTV services since a long time now. Reliance is also expected to reveal their plans for IPTV services in the future.

TV viewers would soon have several options to pick from. CAS, Cable and DTH are already widely available in the country.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

USA - roaming with AT&T iPhone

AT&T Expands International Data Offerings for iPhone

AT&T Inc. today announced expanded international data offerings to help keep iPhone customers connected around the world. Beginning tomorrow, AT&T will offer two new plans that accommodate iPhone customers' increasing reliance on data services while traveling abroad. The two new plans, which offer 100 megabytes (MB) or 200 MB a month, can potentially save customers hundreds of dollars compared to pay-per-use international data roaming charges.

For discounted international data usage in 67 countries,1 the 100 MB iPhone plan is available for an additional $119.99 a month, while the 200 MB plan costs an additional $199.99 a month.2 These new plans are in addition to existing plans for smartphones, including iPhone, which offer 20 MB and 50 MB in the same countries. There are no long-term commitments required, so customers can add or remove these plans to their existing packages on an as-needed basis.

"AT&T has worked diligently to provide affordable options for international roaming because the feature-rich mobile experience of iPhone is indispensable to users," said Bill Hague, executive vice president of International for AT&T's wireless operations. "With these new international data plans, iPhone users can access more data in more countries for less cost."

With the largest global footprint of any wireless provider, only AT&T customers can make and receive calls in more than 200 countries and send e-mail and browse the Web in more than 150 countries, including more than 60 countries with high speed third-generation (3G) coverage. AT&T also offers voice and data coverage on 120 major cruise ships.

iPhone 3G is one of more than 40 world devices AT&T offers, more than any other U.S. wireless service provider. AT&T customers can take their new iPhone 3G devices around the world, including Japan and South Korea, which require a device that operates on 2100 MHz.

With access to full HTML e-mail, visual voice mail, enhanced Web browsing and other feature-rich applications that can use a significant amount of data, iPhone users may need more than they think while traveling abroad. Just 2 MB of data use at pay-per-use data rates of $0.0195 per kilobyte would cost almost $40, making these new plans very valuable for customers traveling outside the U.S.

iPhone customers can also save money by following some simple tips, including keeping data roaming in the preset off position, using Wi-Fi when possible, turning off automatic checks for e-mail and setting the usage tracker to zero at the beginning of a trip to monitor use.

To help travelers stay connected and manage their wireless costs, AT&T offers a variety of resources. AT&T's Travel Guide ( allows customers to create an itinerary with rate information for up to 10 international destinations as well as review discounted voice and data packages.

Spam - people do buy products

Studies Indicate 29% of Internet Users Buying Goods from Spam Emails

29 percent of Internet users have purchased goods from spam emails, according to new research by Internet security company Marshal. The most commonly purchased items include sexual enhancement pills, software, adult material and luxury items such as watches, jewellery and clothing.

Marshal's research, which asked 'What purchases have you made from spam,' attracted 622 responses with 29.1 percent indicating that they had made purchases. The poll showed the proportion of spam purchases had risen when compared to a similar Forrester Research poll from 2004, which surveyed 6,000 active Web users and reported 20 percent had made purchases from spam.

Bahrain - registering pre-paid mobile users

Bahrain to name prepaid SIM users

Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has decided to register around 600,000 prepaid mobile SIM users across the country, Bahrain Tribune has reported. The move aims to ensure the availability of telecom subscribers' data as majority of prepaid users are not registered. The registration will start from September 1 and would be completed on December 31. After the deadline, all the unregistered prepaid mobile SIMs will be suspended.

India - approaching 300 million mobile users

India adds 9.22 mln mobile users in July: regulator

Indian mobile telecoms firms added 9.2 million users in July, taking subscribers in the world's fastest growing wireless market to nearly 300 million, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said on Monday.

Leading mobile firm Bharti Airtel signed up 2.7 million customers, enough for it to overtake state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd as India's largest telecom firm by total subscribers, including fixed-line subscribers.

Second-ranked mobile firm Reliance Communications added 1.75 million customers, and No. 3 Vodafone Essar, controlled by Britain's Vodafone Plc, added 1.76 million.

India is the world's fastest-growing market for wireless services and the second-largest market for such services after China, with growth fuelled by cheap handsets and call rates as low as 1 U.S. cent a minute.

The regulator's data showed Indian wireless phone users rose to 296.1 million in July, while fixed-line line subscriptions fell by around 160,000 to 38.8 million.

South Korea - the rise of LG handsets

LG Mobiles Rise with a Vengeance

LG Electronics has recorded an outstanding performance in the global mobile phone market recently, in sharp contrast to its loss two years ago. LG has performed exceptionally well in sales for six straight quarters since Q1 2007.
LG’s Pyeongtaek plant has produced one global hit after another, starting with the Chocolate Phone (November 2005), to the Shine Phone (October 2006), Prada Phone (March 2007), Viewty Phone (November 2007), and Secret Phone (May 2008).

All are expensive, priced on average at more than W600,000 (US$1=W1,079). The Prada Phone is still selling at its initial price of W880,000. In the past, the byword "LG-ish" in referring to its mobile phones implied minor malfunctions and room for sophistication in the finishing touches of the products. But that has changed.

◆ No longer cheap and inferior

Following the Chocolate Phone, of which it sold nearly 20 million units, LG released the Prada Phone, its most expensive phone at that time, simultaneously in domestic and overseas markets. Its touch-screen style function stunned a skeptical industry. The question was whether LG could survive in the high-end market. But LG surprised them all.

Industry insiders were again skeptical when LG produced the Viewty Phone, another high-end handset. It is equipped with a sophisticated camera, contrary to the common wisdom that a camera phone is no match for a real digital camera. The Viewty has a 5 megapixel lens and a hand-shaking correction function to guarantee clear pictures. As a result, the handset sold like hot cakes, with 2 million units flying off the shelves in just nine months.

◆ Can LG beat Samsung?

In the second quarter 2008, LG Electronics' mobile phones finished second in the North American market after Motorola but ahead of Samsung Electronics. Operating margin was 14.4 percent for the period, again outdistancing Samsung’s 12.7 percent. LG has ranked first in the global CDMA mobile phone market for six consecutive quarters. Some market analysts say there are signs that LG's mobile phone unit can overtake Samsung Electronics.

But others also say LG mobile phone has not created a solid image on its own. "There's still a long way to go,” admits one LG executive. The company has not advanced into the global market as extensively as Nokia, he says, nor built as strong an image as Samsung in the Korean and Chinese markets. "We're concentrating our energy on emerging markets such as India and China,” he said. “We're also reinforcing our manpower in the marketing division, which is thought to be our weakest point."

Monday, August 25, 2008

USA - Broadband in California

The State of Connectivity: Building Innovation Through Broadband
see also full report

The California Broadband Task Force today released its final findings and recommendations in a report to the Governor and Legislature. The report, “The State of Connectivity: Building Innovation Through Broadband,” represents the culmination of more than a year of work by the Task Force, including maps of current broadband availability and speed, recommendations to achieve universal access and increased use, and a timeframe in which to meet these critical goals.

“The seven recommendations developed by the Task Force address how to reach communities with little or no access, while increasing broadband adoption rates statewide,” said Secretary Dale E. Bonner, Co-Chair of the Task Force. “Implementing these recommendations will create jobs, improve public health and safety and expand educational opportunities.”

In order to bring the tremendous advantage of high speed internet to even more Californians, the Task Force has proposed seven recommendations, each containing action items to be led by both the public and private sector:

• Build out high-speed broadband infrastructure to all Californians
• Develop model permitting standards and encourage collaboration among providers
• Increase the use and adoption of broadband and computer technology
• Engage and reward broadband innovation and research
• Create a statewide e-health network
• Leverage educational opportunities to increase broadband use
• Continue state-level and statewide leadership

Nigeria - spending on diesel for telecoms

GSM operators spend over N2 trillion on diesel annually

Judging from claims made recently by Zain Nigeria’s chief executive officer, Bayo Ligali, the GSM industry spends trillions of naira on the purchase of diesel annually.

Ligali claimed in a press briefing recently that Zain Nigeria consumes about 450 litres of diesel every second to power its 3600 base stations across the nation. Considering the northward movement of the price of diesel, which has doubled to N150 over the last 12 months, it can be inferred that the company will be spending more than N2 trillion before the end of this year.

Buttressing this point early this year while speaking at the launch of the then Celtel’s Rural Acquisition Initiative in Abuja, Gamaliel Onosode, the company’s chairman, had noted that the company spent an average of N36,000 on diesel at each base station per second to total more than a trillion naira. The continued increase in the price of diesel to more than 100 percent over the past few months may have increased the company’s expenditure to more than two trillion naira.

Last year, Ahmad Farroukh, chief executive of MTN, had claimed that his company was spending about N700 million per month on diesel. The more than double price increase over the last year to N150 must have increased that cost by now, to at least N1.4 billion per month, to equal about N15 billion per annum.

Although the diesel cost implication of Globacom is not clear, its operating base stations are however a little more than the number operated by Zain. A manager at its head office simply said that he does not know company’s total expenses on diesel.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is considering the contribution of $5 billion (N585 billion) to alleviate the problem of power outage in the country.

Zambia - not sharing infrastructure

African telecoms refuse to share infrastructure

MTN and Zain Zambia have refused to share infrastructure in a quest to expand to rural areas of Zambia, claiming it would be difficult to maintain quality assurance.

The Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ) has been urging the companies to share infrastructure in order to quicken the rural expansion programs.

Optimization for Disaster Recovery During a meeting organized by CAZ on the quality of service in the ICT sector last week, MTN customer services manager Chimfwembe Mzyece said the company is ready to accomplish its nationwide expansion program on its own.

Zain Zambia also stands ready to expand on its own and not through shared infrastructure, said company public relations manager Bridget Nundwe.

"It is quite taxing for Zain to take mobile services to rural areas due to the power shortage that the country is experiencing," Nundwe said. "However, Zain shares the same view with MTN on the sharing of infrastructure."

Zain has been pushing the Zambian government to provide tax incentives for expansion to rural areas, claiming that expansion is not worth the high cost of operations.

CAZ has no mandate to compel mobile service providers in the country to share infrastructure in their expansion programs but can lobby the government to provide incentives to mobile companies willing to carry out such expansions.

The Zambian government, through CAZ, has set aside almost US$4 million for ICT development aimed at connecting all remote areas to mobile communication.

Saudi Arabia - Zain launches third operator

Kuwait's Zain launches mobile phone service in Saudi

Kuwait's telecom giant Zain will launch its mobile phone service in Saudi Arabia on August 26, the group said Monday in a statement.

Last year, a Zain-led consortium won the third mobile phone licence in the oil-rich kingdom after making the highest bid of 6.1 billion dollars.

At the start, Zain in Saudi Arabia will cover 95 percent of the population, using 3.5G broadband technology to half the population, the statement said.

With the launch of service in Saudi Arabia, Zain now operates in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East and connects customers in 16 of them to the "One-Network" service.

The service allows clients to make calls across borders and be treated as local customers in terms of pricing. Zain plans to extend the service to other countries.

Zain in Saudi Arabia plans to invest between six and eight billion dollars in the next five years.

"We are delighted to launch services in the economic powerhouse of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we intend to fulfill our promise to offer the community world class telecom services," Zain CEO Saad al-Barrak said.

Barrak said that Zain is working to expand its customer base to 150 million clients in 2011, from 45 million at present, and become one of the top 10 global operators.

Founded in 1983, Zain is capitalised at 27 billion dollars.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

USA - opposition to street cabinets

Summary box: Telecom rollouts spawn unloved boxes

THE ISSUE: New utility boxes are popping up in neighborhoods as cable and phone companies race to offer advanced video, Internet and phone services. Often residents don't want the boxes, which can be nearly as large as refrigerators, on or near their front yards.

THE FIGHT: A San Francisco neighborhood group's opposition to AT&T Inc.'s U-verse cabinets prompted the phone company to back down last month, at least temporarily. In another example, residents of Lower Makefield Township, Pa., are at odds with Comcast Corp. over permits for its 50 utility boxes.

POTENTIAL SOLUTION: AT&T is taking a more collaborative approach in some cities. The phone company agreed to pay Springfield, Ill., $1,500 for each U-verse cabinet it installs, to defray the cost of landscaping. In Santa Rosa, Calif., AT&T voluntarily relocated utility boxes when asked by city officials.

USA - suppressing pre-recorded sales pitches

FTC all but bans robocalls

The Federal Trade Commission essentially banned robocalls Tuesday--creating new rules that telemarketers may only send the prerecorded sales pitches to people who actually want to receive them.

The FTC amended its Telemarketing Sales Rule after reviewing more than 14,000 comments made since October 2006, when proposed amendments were published for public consideration.

There are two stages to the change: By December 2008, robocalls will be required to include an automated key-press or voice-activated opt-out. Beginning September 2009, telemarketers won't be able to send out any robocalls without "the prior express written agreement of the recipient to receive such calls."

There are no exceptions for telemarketers to send robocalls to customers with whom they have an "established business relationship," as an earlier policy allowed, but there are some exceptions. Health care-related calls subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 are still allowed, as are charitable fundraising robocalls made to members of the nonprofit charitable organization for which the call is placed, or to people who previously donated to it. The fundraising calls must still include an automated opt-out, however.

The strict limits won't stop robocalls from political campaigns, either."Political calls are not placed for the purpose of inducing purchases of goods or services, and therefore are not 'telemarketing' within the meaning of the TSR," the FTC notes in a footnote of the amendment.

Congress made some attempts this year to address annoying prerecorded political phone messages. The Robocall Privacy Act of 2008, introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year, would put a number of limits on robocalls from political campaigns, including the number of calls made to a house in one day and the hours such calls can be made.

Japan - wallet phone export plans

Japan to start overseas cell phone technology push

Japan will start an aggressive push to market abroad its mobile technology, especially the nation's popular "wallet phone," a government official said Tuesday.

Although Japan boasts some of the most sophisticated cell phones in the world, delivering high-speed Internet connections, digital TV broadcasts and video downloads, the nation has failed to make its handsets, wireless technology and mobile services hits outside of Japan.

The latest initiative spearheaded by the government with an industry group of Japanese carriers and manufacturers is an effort to help Japan catch up in wooing global users, said Masayuki Ito, official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Among the wireless innovations Japan hopes to peddle is the wallet phone. The technology relies on a tiny computer chip called FeliCa, embedded in each cell phone, which communicates with a reader-device at stores, train stations and vending machines for cashless payments.

FeliCa was developed by Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. Such technology is more common in smart cards, popular in Singapore and parts of Europe. But Japan hopes to market the technology abroad for cell phones.

In Japan, wallet phones have been available since 2004, introduced by top mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo. Most recent handset models here have the wallet function.

Older Japanese technology had compatibility problems with other global standards, but new third-generation technology allows new products to be used outside the country, and can be more easily adapted to overseas products.

Japan leads the rest of the world in 3G cell phone proliferation, with nearly 104 million 3G handsets in use, or about 90 percent of cell phones being used in Japan.

Japan also hopes to promote overseas other kinds of wireless technology, including 3G mobile phones with GSM, or Global System for Mobile communications, which allows the same phone to be used in most countries.

Ito acknowledged that wireless technology must adapt to differing social needs around the world. Wallet phones have been hits in Japan because of the omnipresent convenience stores and vending machines, as well as the relative lack of credit card use here. But conditions in other nations may differ.

"Some critics say Japanese mobile technology tends to be quirky like the Galapagos Islands," he said, referring to the isolated Pacific islands reputed to have averted evolutionary changes in a reference of the incompatibility of older Japanese cell phones and their quirky services.

"But Asian nations such as Taiwan and South Korea have for years expressed great interest in Japanese cell phones," he added.

Other technology Japan hopes to promote abroad are more futuristic such as fourth-generation wireless, Ito said.

Details and budget plans for the government effort are being outlined in the next few months, but a proposal was approved at a ministry meeting last month.

The ministry is planning international missions and seminars to spread the word about Japan's technology, he said.

IPv6 - the slowness of adoption

Study Shows Glacial Pace of IPv6 Adoption
see also full report

A study this week has revealed just how slow is the rate of adoption for IPv6, the next version of the Internet's main communications protocol, and some experts say black markets where companies trade unused IP addresses may be only a few years away.

The report, from Arbor Networks, claims to be the most comprehensive study of IPv6 use to date. It includes few surprises for those who follow the area closely, but the results provide a sobering measure of how just slowly the technology has been adopted.

"At its peak, IPv6 represented less than one hundredth of 1 percent of Internet traffic" over the past year, Arbor Networks' Craig Labovitz wrote in a summary of the findings, adding wryly: "This is somewhat equivalent to the allowed parts of contaminants in drinking water."

Arbor said it put together the study over the past year, working with the University of Michigan and almost 100 ISPs (Internet service providers) and content providers, including a quarter of the biggest ISPs in the U.S. and Europe. It used commercial traffic probes to monitor about 2,400 peering and backbone routers and 278,000 customer and peering interfaces.

"We believe this is the largest study of IPv6 and Internet traffic in general to date (by several orders of magnitude)," Labovitz wrote.

IPv6 is the successor to the current version of the Internet's underlying protocol, IPv4. Its adoption is important because IPv4 can support only about 4 billion IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and they are fast running out, while IPv6 will be able to support many trillions more (2 to the 128th power). It also offers advantages in security and network management.

Some experts say the supply of IPv4 addresses will run out in the next few years. Matthew Ford, a principal researcher with BT's Networks Research Centre in the U.K., operates a Web site that counts down the days until IPv4 addresses are used up. As of Tuesday, it predicts that the central registry of addresses will be exhausted in 904 days.

Few people expect disaster to ensue. The Arbor report notes that IPv6 adoption is growing, albeit at a slow pace. Since July last year IPv6 traffic has grown by nearly a factor of five, to an average of 100M bps (bits per second) per day. "Though not a landslide of adoption, it is still something," the report says.

What's more, there are already creative ways to get around the shortages, like using network address translators, or NATs, which essentially allow many computers to share the same IP address. There are also many addresses that were allocated to organizations and are not being used.

That's why some, including Labovitz, expect companies to trade unused addresses with each other, on a black market if the activity isn't officially sanctioned. "I think an IPv4 market is inevitable," he wrote.

BT's Ford said he wasn't surprised by the results, but he cautioned that the figures may not be completely accurate. Arbor acknowledged that it did not distinguish between native and tunneled IPv6 use, he noted, and the figures may also be skewed towards what's happening in the U.S., where many of Arbor Networks' customers are.

"The US has historically been quite sluggish, and most IPv6 research and implementation has been in Europe and Asia," said Ford, who previously chaired the IPv6 Cluster of the European Commission.

Nevertheless, the adoption has clearly been slow and the study should be a further wake-up call that widespread adoption of IPv6 needs to begin quickly, Ford said.

"Two or three years ago you could make the argument that [the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses] is far enough away that we don't need to make the investment," he said. But given that widespread adoption will take about two years to implement, "now is the time for large ISPs and content providers to begin their migration."

Arbor Networks said money is the main reason for the delay. The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated it will cost US$25 billion for ISPs to upgrade to native IPv6. "This massive expense comes without the lure of additional revenue, since IPv6 offers diminishingly few incentives nor new competitive features to attract or upsell customers," Labovitz wrote.

Ford said enterprises may be among the earlier adopters because they can suffer the most from having to use IPv4.

"They can suffer problems through corporate mergers, because both parties might be using the same address space, or they find they have a lot of network address translators, which can make it challenging to deploy new applications. IPv6 helps both those problems," he said.

In addition, deploying IPv6 within the enterprise can be easier than it is for ISPs, which have to make more connections to outside networks.

"While it is easy to poke fun at predictions of the 'Imminent Collapse of the Internet', the eventual exhaustion of IPv4 allocations is real," the Arbor report states. "We need to do something. And IPv6 is our best bet."

Uganda - rural connectivity

Uganda: Reviewing Rural Connectivity Policy

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has commenced a review of the Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF) policy, as well as the design of new technology projects to be completed between 2008 and 2013.

The first phase of the RCDF programme was a success, said Eng. Patrick Masambu, UCC executive director. The industry regulator spent over US$4.1 million establishing Internet points of presence in 52 rural districts, funding the development of district Web portals and completing other ICT projects to help narrow the digital divide.

The ongoing review and design of new projects follows the expiry of the first phase of the program under the current policy, which covered the period 2003 to 2008.

The UCC is mandated with ensuring equitable distribution of postal and telecommunications services throughout the country. It raises funds for the RCDF by taking 1 percent of the gross revenues of all licensed operators telecommunications operators in Uganda.

Facilities that have been established under the program include 1,704 public pay phones, 54 Internet cafes, 52 Internet points of presence, 55 basic ICT training centers and 78 district Web portals.

Another 24 POPs will be established in the regions not serviced by the first phase of the POP project, which was carried out by MTN Uganda, Masambu (pictured above) said.

Virtually every region of Uganda has benefited from the RCDF program, Masambu noted at the opening of a technology workshop for developing countries in Kampala recently.

In addition to the RCDF program, UCC is currently engaged in the establishment of computer laboratories in all government secondary schools, beginning with 80 schools this year, and the establishment of data centers in all health units, beginning with 43 hospitals this year, Masambu said.

"We are going to continue in the next financial year by installing ten PCs in every school's computer laboratory," Masambu said. "Beyond that, we will spend another $1 million to connect the laboratories to the Internet."

UCC is also working on setting up a pilot call center by the end of the year, he said, in order to help stimulate business process outsourcing, currently monopolized by India and Malaysia.

Kenya - Econet to launch ... eventually

Kenya: Econet Pledges Phone Service By December

Econet Wireless has promised to deliver Kenya's third mobile telephone network by December this year.

Mr Michael Foley, CEO for Econet Wireless Kenya, said his firm had secured an extension of an earlier September deadline to have the network running, after it lapsed.

"We have been in touch with the Communications Commission of Kenya over this issue. After consultations that included visits to our sites to evaluate work already done, they have given us upto end of November as the new date. I assure you we will meet it," said Mr Foley during his first media briefing on Wednesday evening at the Serena Hotel.

His firm was almost closing site-sharing deals with the existing operators. Site-sharing, industry-speak for using another network's installations such as towers at a fee, has been a key plank of Econet's market entry strategy.

"We have the capacity through our parent company, Essar to build our entire network. But we believe in the long run, it is beneficial for everybody to have operators sharing infrastructure. I am glad people are beginning to see the logic and our negotiations are advanced. I foresee closure in two weeks," he said.

Earlier indications were that the two incumbent providers, Safaricom and Zain were not keen on the proposal to share their infrastructure with the dominant notion being that it would give Econet undue advantage.

Since it won the nod to set up Kenya's third mobile telephone network in 2003 as the lead strategic investor, Johannesburg-based Econet Wireless International's venture in this country has been a magnet for controversy.

At one point majority shareholder, Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa who operates out of South Africa, had alleged that his frustrations were down to his refusal to play ball with corrupt State operatives.

Most of the disputes, which found lengthy play in court, revolved around the original shareholder agreement and failure by some local owners of the firm (principally the Kenya National Federation of Cooperatives), who were supposed to collectively hold some 30 per cent of the shares, to raise enough cash to pay for the license.

Issues came to a head in November 2004 when the then Minister for Information and Communications Raphael Tuju took the unprecedented step of cancelling Econet's licence.

Econet took him to court but withdrew the case in September last year, paving the way for the deal with Indian firm Essar Communications Holdings Limited.

As part of the deal, Mr Foley said the Indian investors, who are keen to build a mobile phone business in Africa, had committed $500 million to the venture in exchange for a 49 per cent stake in Econet Wireless International.

Essar now owns 49 per cent of the 70 per cent that EWI owns in the Kenyan operation, which translates into 34.3 per cent of Econet Wireless Kenya, leaving EWI with 35.7 per cent.
Umniah Launches One-World Roaming Service

Umniah, a leading provider of telecommunications services, takes yet another groundbreaking step in its expanding portfolio of unprecedented accomplishments. The Company recently joined the new Unified International Roaming service launched by Saudi Telecom, and Batelco Bahrain to provide subscribers with One-World Roaming services.

This service, which will be launched in August , 2008 ; will provide travellers with fixed and low cost rates for calls during their stay at these countries and based on the Company's transparent approach customers will receive a message explaining the roaming rates as well as the preferred roaming network in these respective countries.

STC, Baleco Bahrain, and Umniah will be acting as one network.

Commenting on the service launched, VAS and Roaming Manager, Mr. Mohammad Serieh said, “We are proud to be amongst the pioneering providers of the One-World Roaming service in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. By inaugurating this partnership, we are making communication easier and less costly for subscribers traveling across KSA, Bahrain and for travelers coming to Jordan,”

Aligned with its aims to make easy communications a tangible reality transcending geographical boarders, Umniah had launched International Voice Short Message service (SMS) to Palestine last March to send voice SMS messages to relatives, friends and loved ones living in Palestine, Jawal subscribers.

Europe - roaming charges

Text message for 10 cents, 1 megabyte for 1 eur

There are very few reasons for mobile operators to like the EU commissioner, Viviane Reding. And it seems this energetic official is preparing to take away another reason.

After the successful campaign for cheaper phone calls, she is now finishing the preparations for another crusade. Her goal is to decrease the costs for roaming text messages, e-mails and internet for Europeans.

The reason for this planned regulation is, as was the case last year, straight forward. Roaming is overcharged, the high costs limit the free movement of people and the development of pan-European business.

Expressed in numbers this means: each of 2.5 billion text messages Europeans send by roaming each year were about 10-times more expensive than a locally sent message. It is a fact that the prices of roaming text messages and megabytes are premium prices.

Operators, unlike people like V. Reding, still consider roaming to be a premium service. According to the European Regulators Group (ERG) the price of one text message sent from abroad was on average 29 cents.

Clients of Slovak operators paid between 30 and 40 cents (prices include VAT). The price differences between countries are fairly big. For instance a Swedish person on holiday in Spain will pay 40 cents whereas his fellow holidaymaker from the UK would pay 50% more.

It is true that roaming prices are falling. According to the GSM Association the price of text messages went down by 18% y/y on average and 1 megabyte of data transferred costs 30% less.

However the prices decreased mainly in service packages that are designed for more active travellers. Anyway, as far as the ratio between roaming and local tariffs is concerned the situation with text messages is the same as for regulated voice services, stated the strategy manager of Slovak Orange, Ivan Marták.

Australia - roaming

Industry groups slam mobile roaming report

MOBILE carriers have taken a united stand in condemning information in a report on mobile roaming charges commissioned by the Rudd Government as inaccurate and out-of-date.

The industry's peak representative body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has issued a statement berating the reports author, accounting firm KPMG, for neglecting to include consult carrier's for information when compiled its research.

The report, released yesterday by the federal Government yesterday prompted Communications Minister Senator Conroy to warn carriers that consumers unrest over charges for using their mobiles overseas had reached levels that warranted government scrutiny.

An AMTA spokesman described the document as "essentially a desktop report" containing questionable data.

"We believe it would have been far better if KPMG had contacted our members to check the accuracy or otherwise of data and at least get their views.

"We think it a reasonable proposition that the industry would have at least been consulted and asked for input into the report," the spokesman said.

In its report KPMG described roaming charges levied against Australian consumers as "unreasonably high".

Illustrating its point, it said that Australian travellers at the Olympics in Beijing could expect to pay up to $4.80 per minute to call home.

The report singled out Vodafone as the cheapest provider of the four major carriers offering calls for $1.86 per minute.

However, Vodafone Australia rejected the findings of the report. It said that the report ignored changes to international mobile voice and data pricing schemes the carrier had recently introduced – its Vodafone Traveller and Roaming Data Bundles.

"Vodafone rejects the KPMG report because it is selectively modelled on out-of-date information," the carrier said in a statement today.

Analyst group Ovum also urged the government not to overreact to the report.

It said that regulatory action would only serve to benefit offshore carriers to the detriment of their local counter parts.

It said the issue could not be negotiated on a unilateral basis.

"Let us hope that the Government does not decide to resolve this by implementing a Roam Watch to sit alongside the Fuel Watch and Grocery Watch initiatives," Ovum said.

Europe - roaming charges

EU puts roaming charges in the dock

EUROPEAN regulators have increased pressure on mobile phone operators to change their billing practices as a result of a report that finds customers are being overcharged for calls made while they are travelling.

The minutes mobile phone users are billed exceed the duration of calls they make outside their home country "by a significant margin", the European Regulators Group, which represents national telecommunications authorities, says.
By billing users per-minute instead of for the actual call duration, companies can charge about 24 per cent more for calls made and 19 per cent more for calls received.

The European Commission may propose a review of a law adopted last year that capped prices for international calls from mobile phones to consider per-minute billing.

"These new figures by ERG are a strong indication that the review of the roaming regulation also has to tackle the issue of per-second billing," says Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for the commission's telecommunications unit.

Another proposal considered in October will be the commission's plan to cut overseas text messaging fees. Viviane Reding, the EU telecommunications commissioner, said in July companies "are ripping off the consumers".

David Pringle, a spokesman for the GSM Association, which represents more than 750 operators, said competition would suffer if regulators tried to "micromanage" the market.

At the moment, companies in most countries have the choice between offering users better rates on a per-minute or per-second basis. "To look at it in that amount of detail would prevent operators from having any flexibility," Mr Pringle said.

The European Regulators Group of telecommunications watchdogs from the 27 EU nations, said in its report on August 12 that prices charged across the EU for voice calls are "in full compliance" with the EU rules enacted in June 2007.

Still, average retail prices remain at, or just below, the maximum cap in about two-thirds of the EU countries, it says.

"This shows there continues to be a worrying lack of competition in the roaming market," Selmayr says.

The report was put together based on information provided by more than 140 mobile phone operators, including Vodafone Group, Telefonica and other providers of international roaming services in the EU, Iceland and Norway between April 2007 and March this year.

Caribbean - non-roaming

C&W removes Caribbean roaming charges

Cable & Wireless mobile customers, from today, will no longer have to pay roaming charges with the introduction of its “Home Rate Roaming” product which is a part of the company’s new One Caribbean strategy.

This announcement was made by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cable & Wireless Davidson Charles yesterday during a press launch.

According to Charles, in its one Caribbean initiative, the company is attempting to have one Caribbean space. “In that space, we will be offering more value to our customers when they roam within the Caribbean,” Charles stated.

While explaining the new product, the CEO said that customers on Cable & Wireless Caribbean networks will no longer pay roaming charges for calls to and within the Caribbean but will be charged at a cost as if they were in Antigua.

Incoming calls will continue to be rated as if the person was roaming because of the regulatory environment.

“If you were to go to Barbados and you were to call back home to Antigua, it will be considered a local call, that is our One Caribbean policy.

"If you now make a call to another Caribbean country, that call will be an international call or an IDD call rated,” Charles added.

According to him, the network will be looking at the caller as an Antiguan customer residing in Antigua even though the person may have travelled.

Both pre-paid and post paid customers are expected to benefit immediately from these reductions in cost.

“This is to facilitate our customers having a better experience and increasing the value of services to them,” Charles said.

This Home Rate Roaming will also be launched in all 13 countries where Cable & Wireless operates.

This product is one of the primary initiatives from the new, single pan-Caribbean Cable & Wireless entity which is now taking shape.