Friday, January 30, 2009

Thailand - 3G service in 2010?

NTC says 3G licences to be approved in Q3 - Service could be up and running next year

BusinessThird-generation (3G) mobile technology inched closer to reality when the National Telecommunications Commission assured operators that it could award licences by the third quarter meaning service is likely early next year.

NTC commissioner Sethaporn Cusripituck said the board would meet next Thursday to fix significant details on a 3G licensing timeframe.

He said both 3G draft regulations and nationwide public hearings had been completed. It remains uncertain how many operators the board can allocate for the remaining 45MHz band on the 2.1GHz frequency and what methods should be used to select the licensees.

He said the board was considering whether to use a first come, first served option, a lottery, a "beauty contest" (based on technical capabilities), or a hybrid method to choose licensees.

"If there are no mishaps, 3G services should be seen in the second quarter of next year at the 2100 MHz frequency," he said.

He also said that wireless broadband service or Wi-Max licences could be awarded at the same time.

He said the delay in 3G licences resulted from a lack of clarity on the duty and role of the NTC. The existing Frequency Management Law became effective in 2000 and brought about the NTC in 2003, but frequencies were meant to be allocated jointly with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) which was never formed. The Council of State finally ruled that the NTC could allocate frequencies even without the existence of NBC.

Sanchai Tiewprasertkul, marketing director of Advanced Info Service, said telecom service consumption contributed 3% of GDP. If 3G service became available, at least 50-60 billion baht in working capital would be in the market in the next three years.

AIS has offered 3G service on 900 MHz since the middle of last year in Chiang Mai, and within three months will provide services in Chon Buri and Bangkok.

He said that at present users still did not see much difference with 3G service because AIS began with only advertisements on video calls.

In fact, video calling services might not be popular, but the real killer applications for 3G would be wireless broadband, digital broadcasting and high-speed internet, he said.Roar Wiik Andreassen, DTAC's chief strategy officer, said it set aside 5-10 billion baht for 3G annually, depending on roll-out conditions from the NTC and delays in licensing. He added that DTAC would provide 3G service on 850 MHz and the new frequency.

Atip Asvanond, True Corporation 'assistant director, said the significance of 3G service did not lie in the network but in the content. This was why True Move approached Apple for iPhone 3G imports in the Thai market because of the variety of applications.

WiFi networks - virus risk assessment

Wireless Networks Are Soft Virus Targets
see also Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

We’ve all gotten e-mails warning us about nasty computer viruses. Maybe you even have antivirus software installed on your machine. Well, now scientists say that our wireless networks are particularly vulnerable to infection, especially in densely populated urban areas.

The use of Wi-Fi routers has become increasingly commonplace, as more people get online at home, at school, at the coffee shop. And these wireless networks are an excellent target for computer viruses, because they’re always on, always connected to the Internet, and don’t have specific software to protect them.

The scientists simulated the infection of real wireless networks in a handful of U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Boston. They found that the infection of just a small number of routers triggered an outbreak, with the virus spreading to tens of thousands of routers within a week, most within the first 24 hours. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wireless networks are weakened by a general lack of security, including a failure to change the default password. So if you want to keep your network virus-free, at the very least choose a password that’s hard to guess. Like Bosco.

WiMAX - adding international roaming

WiMax Forum looks toward roaming - Global Roaming Program aims to enable subscribers to get online when they travel to areas served by other carriers

The WiMax Forum kicked off an initiative on Thursday that someday may be critical for making WiMax a true rival to cellular networks.

The industry group launched its Global Roaming Program, aimed at helping mobile WiMax operators set up roaming so subscribers can get online when they travel to areas served by other carriers. The program offers resources for service providers, including technical specifications, a manual, a contract template, and a test plan, on the organization's Web site.

Domestic and international roaming is widely available among cellular operators, especially those using the most widely adopted mobile standard, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications). WiMax is just beginning to be rolled out in many parts of the world and has a long way to go before it's as widespread as 2G (second-generation) and 3G (third-generation) mobile networks. But the WiMax Forum is smart to get the ball rolling on roaming agreements now, said Robert Syputa, an analyst at Maravedis.

"Generally, it's always favorable to have these operators do roaming, because that enhances the value of their network," Syputa said.

The program provides a "how-to" manual, a template for writing a contract between operators, a test plan for trying out roaming services with other operators ahead of launch, and specifications for exchanging information to track usage and settle the bill. The documents were developed by WiMax operators and other participants, including iPass and Verisign.

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The WiMax Forum's work may help carriers get through some of the rough patches that come with setting up roaming with a new technology. But other challenges remain, according to Syputa. Carriers in different countries use different radio bands for their WiMax networks, such as 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz, and client devices may be equipped to use only one of them. In addition, service providers can allocate varying amounts of bandwidth to individual subscribers. So customers of one WiMax carrier may get a fat pipe of 1Mb per second or more at home and then find they can't use a roaming partner's network for the rich applications they're used to, he said.

In any case, it is too early for the largest U.S. WiMax operator, Clearwire, to get involved in any international roaming deals, Syputa said. With mobile WiMax commercially available in just two metropolitan areas -- Baltimore and Portland, Oregon -- Clearwire probably doesn't have enough demand to make it worthwhile.

"They need to have some critical mass" with 20 cities or more, Syputa said. That isn't likely to happen until some time in 2010, he said.

Google - Net Neutrality tools

Google, partners release net neutrality tools
see also

Google and a group of partners have released a set of tools designed to help broadband customers and researchers measure performance of Internet connections.

The set of tools, at, includes a network diagnostic tool, a network path diagnostic tool and a tool to measure whether the user's broadband provider is slowing BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P-to-P) traffic. Coming soon to the M-Lab applications is a tool to determine whether a broadband provider is giving some traffic a lower priority than other traffic, and a tool to determine whether a provider is degrading certain users or applications.

OECD - market development and policies influencing telecommunications investment

The influence of market development and policies on telecommunication investment

Players in communication markets are no longer the traditional alternative operators providing voice services, but a range of service providers including Internet Service Providers and cable television service providers who provide VoIP services and broadband access. This paper assembles some evidence on developments in investment by incumbent and alternative telecommunications operators during the period 2000-2005.

Bangladesh - independent regulator

Telecoms watchdog made all too mighty

The caretaker government on December 22 approved an ordinance amending the Telecom Act, 2001 bypassing the telecoms ministry and in contradiction with existing laws, making BTRC extraordinarily powerful.

The approval appears surprising as earlier that month the finance ministry rejected BTRC's proposal to amend the Act to make it more powerful and financially independent.

The finance ministry observed that many of the proposals violate the constitution.

The ordinance gives Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) authority to call law enforces for any reason and any time to arrest persons violating the Act without warrant. It also says in dealing with telecoms related crimes, the punishment outlined in the ordinance will overrule any other laws of the land.

One of the major parts of the amended ordinance styled "Amended Telecom Act-2008" is that the telecom watchdog will have full control of inquiry and investigation of any violation and at the same time no court can execute trial without report from BTRC investigators.

It empowers the BTRC chairman is to appoint any of commission officials as an investigation officer to investigate related offences.

As per the amended ordinance (Section-18, clause-18), BTRC can recruit manpower and fix up their salary as per their wish without notifying the government concerned bodies concerned.

Besides, it dictates a maximum financial penalty of Tk 500 crore instead of earlier Tk 10 lakh for violation of any section of the Act.

Telecoms ministry sources say in the all inter-ministerial meetings the ministry officials stood against the BTRC proposals. But the commission had it approved apparently by convincing the Ministry of Law and other authorities concerned, they add.

Finance ministry insiders say the new judicial power of BTRC officials enacted in the ordinance was beyond their knowledge. In the inter-ministerial meeting they rejected BTRC's intention to have independence in recruitment and salary.

Other parts of the ordinance could have been scrutinised by the Ministry of Law, the sources say.

"There is no scope for us to do anything about the ordinance. What we opposed was passed by the government," says a high official of the telecom ministry who attended a series of inter-ministerial meetings.

The amended telecom ordinance is out of 117 ordinances promulgated by the immediate-past caretaker government to be tabled as bills in parliament to make them laws.

Eminent citizens say it should not be passed in a democratic parliament, as laws of the land didn't follow its amendment.

"No government organisation can recruit manpower and fix up their salary as per their wish. Such ordinances should be dismissed," said former adviser Hafiz Uddin Khan.

Citing an example he said some other organisations like the Supreme Court, Auditor General Office and Election Commission had also sought such independence. But it did not happen as it mismatches with the present administrative rules and regulation.

"BTRC is not so important a commission, which must have independence in recruitment and fixing up employees' salary," said Khan.

He also expressed disappointment to see the ordinance approved just seven days before the parliamentary elections. "There was no reason to hurry. A caretaker government can amend laws that are very necessary to keep the country peaceful."

"It's an unfortunate job done by the earlier un-elected government," he observed.

Regulatory Reforms Commission (RRC) Chairman Dr Akbar Ali Khan said the ordinance should be discussed in parliament. "The concerned parliamentary committee should scrutinise the ordinance whether it is truly good for the country," he added.

According to the finance ministry's observation about BTRC's proposal of recruitment and fix up salary, as no organisations in the country requires such financial freedom and the telecom watchdog cannot exclusively get the power.

Besides, a regulator's job is to monitor whether any unlawful activities are occurring in the industry. It should not work as a revenue collector, the officials of the ministry repeatedly pointed out at the meetings.

The ministry sources say some other organisations such as the central bank had also sought such independence long ago. "But that did not happen due to constitutional obligations," comments a high official of the ministry.

The official adds the finance ministry rejected the proposal also because if one gets it, other regulators might seek such independence.

The BTRC chairman yesterday said the commission had no scope to amend the law. "The amendment came mainly after the telecom ministry's proposal and BTRC was present there as an audience."

He admitted that BTRC will enjoy more independence than what it enjoys now as per the Telecom Act-2001.

He said not only BTRC, Energy Regulatory Commission enjoys full independence in recruiting manpower and fix up salary. In this case, the establishment ministry approved the proposal.

"The finance ministry denied our proposal to keep 5 percent of the total annual earnings of BTRC for its expenditure. And then we cut the proposal."

Some salient features of the amendment to the Telecommunication Act, 2001

A) The BTRC can recruit officials or consultants and fix their salaries as per its wishes without government's permission [section-18, subsection-(3) (a) (c)].

B) If any operator violates the Telecommunication Act, regulations or licence conditions, the BTRC can penalise up to Tk 500 crore instead of the previous Tk 10 lakh [section-46 (3) (d)].

C) The BTRC can seize equipment of any operator if it violates telecom rules and regulations and can appoint administrators to run the company [section-46 (3) (f)].

D) All offences declared in the ordinance will be treated as cognisable and no court can commence trail without BTRC report [section-77 (1) (2)].

E) Trail of offences would be conducted by magistracy instead of sessions court [section-77 (3)].

F) The BTRC shall have full control over enquiries and investigations of any telecom offence. The BTRC chairman can appoint any of his officials as investigation officer to detect offences in the telecom sector [section-78 (1) (2)].

G) The investigation officer will act as an officer-in-charge of a police station and can impose any legal action [section-78 (5)].

F) A BTRC investigation officer's findings would be treated as a police report [section-78 (5)].

H) The investigation officer can seek necessary support from any government agencies which are obliged to provide support [section-78 (11)].

I) The BTRC can appoint its own lawyers as special public prosecutors and especial government pleaders [section-80 (1)].

UK - BT pushing ahead with broadband roll-out

BT to push ahead with broadband roll out

Despite it facing financial difficulties, British Telecom (BT) has announced that it plans to push ahead with broadband fibre roll-out plans.

The telecoms giant previously unveiled a mission to provide broadband of up to 40Mbps to ten million households by 2012.

However, around £1.5 billion has recently been wiped from BT's share value, alongside £340 million being paid out from the BT Global business division following a review of contracts.

This has prompted fears that the £1.5 billion fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) roll-out programme would be affected.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum annual meeting, BT chief executive Ian Livingstone told Reuters that he didn't think BT's financial position would hinder the investment.

"We still have strong plans to invest in fibre in the UK and also, actually, to still expand our global presence," he added.

Despite this, the operator has also hinted that it will require favourable regulatory conditions in Lord Carter's upcoming Digital Britain report to play its part in universal service provision.

Romania - interference with the independent regulator

EU starts action against Romanian telecoms law

The European Commission said on Thursday it had launched legal action against Romania for "interfering" with the independence of the national telecom regulator.

"The Romanian government's decision in 2008 first to remove the president of the national telecoms regulator and then, after a court ruling suspending this decision, to restructure and rename this authority represents ... a serious violation of the regulator's independence," the Commission said in a statement.

The three-stage legal action will end up in the European Court of Justice unless Romania amends its "illegal" telecoms legislation to ensure regulatory independence.
"Independent national regulators are the backbone of the EU telecoms rules and are therefore central to fair regulation in Europe's single telecoms market," EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

The European court can force Romania to change the law if it finds in favour of the Commission, executive arm of the 27-country European Union.

New Zealand - VDSL

World-class broadband this year: Telecom

Known as VDSL2 (Very High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line 2), it offered a huge step-up in broadband speed, said Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds.

It was the next key phase of Telecom's multi-billion dollar capital expenditure programme.

The new VDSL2 capability will be offered from fibre-fed roadside cabinets and local telephone exchanges within Telecom's local access network.

VDSL2 was expected to offer customers who live one kilometre or less from an exchange or roadside cabinet download speeds of up to 50Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.

Already 57 percent of New Zealand lines can take advantage of Telecom's next generation access network and this grows to 84 percent on completion of the fibre-to-the-node roll out in 2011.

VDSL2 broadband plans will most benefit those who regularly download large files or use their broadband service for multiple voice, video and other applications.

VDSL2 had been tested for several months, said Telecom wholesale chief executive, Matt Crockett.

"We're excited to be getting the VDSL2 roll out under way in key metropolitan centres across New Zealand.

"With the fibre-to-the-node programme hotting up and shortening copper loop lengths across the country it's the perfect time to deploy VDSL2.

From March, VDSL2 line cards will be progressively installed into all roadside cabinets and local telephone exchanges in towns and cities with more than 500 lines.

In the second quarter of 2009, Telecom will offer service providers a new, dedicated VDSL2 broadband product initially available in key Auckland exchange areas, with roll out to all major cities and towns in the third quarter of the year.

Service providers can then offer VDSL2 broadband plans to their retail customers based on their needs, and their proximity to the nearest telephone exchange or roadside cabinet.

UK - Digital Britain

Digital Britain: the triumph of hope over experience

Lacklustre and improbable are two words that spring to mind in the wake of the Government’s interim Digital Britain report, published yesterday by Lord Carter.

It’s frankly bizarre that something heralded, just last October, as ‘an action plan to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries’, should have as its goal 2Mb broadband connections countrywide by 2012 – even if that is the minimum, not maximum.

Given speeds already available from many ISPs for both business and private houses, that’s a snail’s pace. What’s more, it’s barely able to handle today’s online requirements, certainly in the media, communications and entertainment worlds.

And then there’s the small matter of cost? With an estimated price tag for rolling out even a 2Mb infrastructure country-wide around the 15 billion mark, who is going to pay? ISPs, telecom companies, mobile phone providers?

Given the spread of problem-ettes in the media and 24-hour news worlds right now, combined with the near global recession driving even the hugely lucrative telecom, high tech and electronics giants to shed jobs and issue profits warnings, it’s hard to imagine magnanimity from these directions.

Couple that to a fit of the wobbles where PPI initiatives are concerned and a UK public purse already groaning under the weight of a 20-plus year payback for the excesses of the last few months – or more accurately, years – and Digital Britain looks very, very interim indeed.

As the CBI’s deputy director-general, John Cridland says: “Extended access to broadband for businesses and households has to be the right way forward, but there must be a dialogue between business and government about how this can be funded. The Government must also put in place the right conditions for essential investment in next generation broadband.”

And he adds the equally obvious skills point: “As access to digital services is as much about skills as it is about infrastructure, the Government is right to highlight the need to improve digital literacy.”

We wait with bated breath for the final report in the spring.

Pakistan - blocking 11 millions mobile phones

Pakistan telecom body blocks 11m mobile connections

The Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) has blocked 11.15 million mobile connections in the current drive to discourage illegal use of subscriber identity modules (SIMs), official sources said here yesterday.

These connections were blocked as subscribers were issued SIMs without verification of their computerised national identity cards (CNICs) or they had more than ten connections on single CNIC in violation of the

PTA policy

The data of the mobile phone subscribers by November 30, 2008 has been verified through Nadra (National Database and Registration Agency) and 8.23 million unverified connections were blocked by the PTA. Moreover, as per the policy of 10 connections on one CNIC, 2.92 million connections have been blocked.

In order to meet the growing demand for mobile services, Cellular Mobile Telephony Operators (CMTOs) have significantly expanded their distribution channels to increase their sales without much focus on verification of subscribers’ antecedents, which resulted in heightened concerns for law-enforcement agencies.

To address the situation, PTA adopted a series of procedures in consultation with the operators and enforcement agencies. It was observed that the mobile phone operators kept increasing their sales without properly verifying consumers’ antecedents.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was issued on June 28, 2005 on the subject where mobile companies were required to get their data verified through Nadra database and issue new connection after due verification.

In May 2007, a strict directive was issued by PTA having split the verification in two parts — new connection sale and cleaning of old data — with clear deadlines for mobile operators to complete the task. As a result, an adequate amount of old data was cleaned through Nadra database and considerable improvement observed in new connections sales through the franchisees only

In January 2008, IT and Telecom Ministry issued a policy directive under section 8(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996, which replicates the procedure already in place for verification of mobile subscribers’ antecedents.

In light of the policy directive, a revised standing operating procedure (SOP) was issued in line with the existing policy for immediate implementation by the cellular mobile operators.

To ensure the implementation of SOP, a number of measures were initiated which included meetings with law-enforcement officers, business communities, sales representatives and conduct of countrywide surveys/inspections through PTA zonal offices. About 106 raids were conducted, and 853 franchisees and 4108 retailers inspected.

USA - economic stimulus of broadband

Broadband stimulus unlikely to boost telecom profits

The U.S. government's Internet stimulus package may help create jobs and bring faster Web connections to rural America, but it isn't expected to boost profits for the telecommunications industry.

Potential benefits to phone companies and equipment vendors such as Ciena Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, Tellabs Inc and Juniper Networks Inc are likely to be overshadowed by the recession's deep impact on technology spending, analysts say.

Conditions on "net neutrality" -- aimed at preventing Internet service providers from giving preference to certain content over others -- may also discourage some phone companies such as AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc from taking part in the government plan.

U.S. lawmakers are debating bills this week to bring broadband service to rural areas and to allow tax credits and grants for phone companies delivering higher-speed advanced Internet service.

Analysts and telecommunications executives say the $6 billon to $9 billion packages being discussed appear too little to bolster spending in the industry, which is suffering a sharp cutback in consumer and corporate spending.

"It's certainly material, but $6 billion is not going to change the broadband footprint of the United States," said Craig Moffett, analyst at Bernstein Research. "What it may do is it may bring much needed broadband investment to rural areas."


Incentives for companies to spend more on building out Internet communications could help create thousands of jobs in maintenance and engineering, especially in areas too sparsely populated to attract infrastructure spending.

Higher speed Internet services could also spark new business opportunities by allowing, for example, more consumers to browse online stores or enabling doctors to consult patients in rural areas over video conferencing systems.

"The broader your base is, the more ways you can figure out how to monetize the network," said Shirley Bloomfield, vice president of federal relations for Qwest Communications International Inc, which operates in rural areas including Colorado and Wyoming and is seen as a benefactor of the stimulus plan.

The United States lags behind many developed countries in Internet speeds, partly due to a sparsely populated interior that makes next-generation infrastructure build-outs expensive.

The median Internet speed is somewhere between 2 to 5 megabits per second in the U.S., analysts say, compared to above 50 megabits in Japan and low double-digits in European countries including Finland, France and Sweden.

Discussions over President Barack Obama's Internet stimulus package comes as top U.S. phone companies AT&T and Verizon announced this week that they plan to cut back on capital spending in 2009.

AT&T, among the country's highest spenders with a capital expenditure budget of $20 billion in 2008, said on Wednesday it would trim spending by 10 percent to 15 percent this year.

"It's certainly something that would be an incremental positive. But it would hardly move the needle at the end of the day," Chris King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, said of the package.

Ciena shares have fallen over 60 percent in the past six months on worries about slower spending. Even shares of Cisco, considered relatively resilient to the U.S. recession, has seen its shares fall about 25 percent.

Arab world - privatisation

Foreign Investors Have the Highest Share of Revenues in Arab Telecom Markets

­Foreign investors have the highest share of revenues in the telecom markets of Jordan, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, reports the Arab Advisors Group. The analysis aimed at examining the "actual" level of privatization and state ownership in each country measured by the proportionate share of each operator of total market revenues.

The Arab Advisors Group has analyzed the ownership structure and revenues of all fixed line and cellular operators in the region. This was intended to shed a light on the actual level of privatization and state ownership in each country measured by the proportionate share of total revenues for the first nine months of 2008.

"Lebanon and Libya have the least privatized telecom markets, with 100% government share (ownership) of PSTN and cellular telecom revenues. The public sector in Kuwait had the highest share of the PSTN and cellular revenues amongst all examined public sectors. In terms of local private sector revenue share, Palestine and Kuwait had the highest shares. Finally, in terms of foreign ownership proportionate share of revenues, Jordan had the highest share of 75% of proportionate PSTN and cellular revenues, followed by Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria." Ms. Hadeel Sakkijha, Arab Advisors Sr. Analyst commented.

Consulting revenue to reach US$15.1 billion in 2012

Global telecom consulting revenue expected to reach US$15.1 billion in 2012

The global telecom consulting revenue is estimated to have reached US$12.97 billion in 2008, representing a 8.2% increase on 2007, according to industry watcher HOT TELECOM’s latest report Global Telecom Consulting Market Report.

“For the next 12 to 18 months, we are likely to see telecom operators across the board tightening their capital and expense budgets with a significant impact on consulting projects and staffing” HOT TELECOM’s President Isabelle Paradis said.

If looking at the worst case scenario, this negative growth could extend into 2010 before the situation stabilizes again in 2011. HOT TELECOM however thinks that this is unlikely and that growth will return toward the second half of 2010 and the telecom consulting market should slowly come back to healthy growth rates in 2011 and 2012. These expectations translate into a CAGR of 4.8% from 2008 to 2012, bringing the sector’s total revenue to US$15.10 billion in 2012.

Global consulting services revenue as a whole increased by 10.7% in 2006 to US$99.3 billion and for the first time in 2007 surpassed the US$100.0 billion mark. With the increasing severity of the global downturn of the world economy in 2008 however, growth of consulting revenues is forecasted to have peaked in 2007. The next two years should be much more difficult for the industry. We can expect significant impact on consulting services revenue from the financial industry’s predicament and the recessions evident in leading industrialised countries. We therefore expect the world consulting services revenue to decrease by 1.7% in 2009 and come back with a growth of 2.3% in 2010.

As it has been the case for the past 4 years, the industries’ top 30 telecom consulting firms continue to control the majority of the customers and revenue. In 2007, telecom consulting revenues from the top 30 players amounted to US$10,030 million and accounted for 83.7% of the industry’s total. In order to support the strong growth years of 2005, 2006, 2007, consulting firms across the board hired extensively. The number of employees in the top 30 telecom consulting firms increased by an estimated 16.5% and 13.9% in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

The unchallenged market leader remains Accenture, with a telecom consulting revenue estimated to have reached US$1,970 million in 2007, representing a market share of 16.4%. IBM follows with an estimated telecom consulting revenue of US$1,443 million and a 12.0% market share.

2009 will be a rocky year for Western Europe with a forecasted decrease of 3.4% in telecom consulting revenue. The region is expected to be the hardest hit by the economic downturn, partly due to the bad economic situation in the UK, which is likely to impact spending.

In North America, the full impact of the financial crisis should take effect starting in 2009 with a forecasted decline in telecom consulting revenues of 1.9%. If the economic crisis evolves as envisaged, telecom consulting revenue should return in the second half of 2010, with a forecasted yearly growth of 2.2% in that year.

Middle East and Africa (MEA) continues to be the world’s smallest, but fastest growing telecom consulting market, with a spend of US$234 million, representing a growth of 18.6% in 2007. The region has enjoyed double-digit growth over the last 5 years with a CAGR of 23.6%. There has been a slight reduction in growth in 2007, compared with the peak of 28.1% in 2006, however the region should be the least impacted when it comes to the current economic downturn.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nigeria - calls for lower tariffs

NATCOMS Calls For Lower Telecom Tariff

The National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers, NATCOMS, an umbrella association of telecommunication users nationwide has called on telecommunications operators to review downwards their high tariffs as a marginal way of cushioning the effects of an unmitigated and sustained poor service delivery currently being experienced by subscribers.

National President, NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, who made the call at the weekend in Lagos, therefore appealed the new Minister of Information and Communications, Dr. Dora Akunyili never to allow operators take advantage of consumers by putting on them tariffs increase as they have always threatened, the last one being at their November 13, 2008 meeting. He, however, added that any attempt to do so will be totally resisted by his association.

He disclosed that under the current tariff regime for GSM voice calls, the operators charge between N42-N48 per minute (without promotion conditionalities) during the peak period for off-net calls, while they collect between N30-N40 per minute during the peak period for on-net calls. For the CDMA (fixed wireless) category, for voice calls, Ogunbanjo further said the operators charge between N8 - N15 per minute (without promotion conditionalities) for the peak period for off-net calls.

Under the current tariff regime for GSM SMS, the operators charge between N15-N20 per SMS (without promotion conditionalities) provided the short message is not more than 160 characters, for both peak and off peak periods, while for the CDMA SMS, the operators charge between N10-N15 per SMS (without promotion conditionalities) provided the short message is not more than 160 characters.

"We consider the various tariff regimes stated above as very high. Worse still, the high tariff regime for SMS has discouraged the effective utilisation of the SMS platform as a means of interactive communication among subscribers. The under-utilisation of the SMS platform is principally responsible for the network congestion, because if the SMS platform is optimally utilised, many voice calls would have employed the medium of SMS and the voice call platform would have been less congested because each SMS uses an insignificant band-width of the system capacity when compared with voice call," he said.

The NATCOMS boss said the association is aligning with the displeasure expressed by Professor Akunyili regarding the worrisome and persistent poor services rendered by telecoms operators. He consequently called on the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) to 'collect statistics in order to determine the performance of each operator which should be properly analysed and made available to the office of the Minister regularly as directed by her.

While applauding the cheering news that the Minister had directed the telecommunications operators to review downwards their high tariffs, Ogunbanjo commended the exemplary leadership the Minister has demonstrated in the Communications Ministry since assumption of office. He said since the agenda of the Minister was in time with his association’s vision it will stand with her in ensuring that tariff reduction is attained within 90 days as directed, which he further noted was already counting.

"But in the unlikely event that the operators ignore the directive, our National Executive Council shall meet and direct millions of our members on what to do to ensure compliance," the NATCOMS President warned. NATCOMS was established in 2002 to fight for, and defend the rights, interests and privileges of telecoms subscribers in Nigeria.

France Telecom - no large acquisitions

France Telecom: big M&A impossible in current market

France Telecom considers big merger and acquisition (M&A) deals "impossible" in the current market, Chief Executive Didier Lombard said on Wednesday.

"Do you think that in the current state of the markets you are capable of doing a big deal? It is impossible," Lombard told journalists at a presentation in Paris.

Last year the French telecoms group, which trades mainly as Orange, failed to clinch a takeover of Nordic operator TeliaSonera but said it remained in favor of consolidation in the European telecoms market.

Asked if the company's net debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) target would be eased if a major acquisition presented itself, Lombard said it would be "set in stone" as part of a new three-year plan due to be unveiled alongside annual results on March 4.

Iran - Emirates Telecoms mobile licence

Emirates Telecom to pay $402 mln for Iran licence

Emirates Telecommunications Corp ETEL.AD (Etisalat) said on Tuesday a consortium it is part of would pay 300 million euros ($402.1 million) to acquire a mobile phone licence in Iran and was in talks to buy an operator in Iraq.

The group would invest at least $1 billion into building infrastructure in Iran and was looking to begin operations within nine months, possibly earlier, said Jamal al-Jarwan, chief executive of Etisalat International Investments.

The firm hopes to get at least 1 million subscribers in the first year of operations, Jarwan told Reuters in an interview.

"Mobile penetration is 60 percent and we see Iran as a growing market," Jarwan said.

Etisalat Chief Financial Officer Salem Ali al-Sharhan added that the operator was also in discussions to acquire an existing operator in Iraq.

Lebanon - bids to run mobile networks

France Telecom, Zain and Orascom bid to operate mobile networks

"Lebanon’sTelecommunication Ministry on Friday received offers to operate Lebanonstwo GSM mobile networks from France Telecom (FT), Zain Group of Kuwait and Egypt’sOrascom Telecom, a source at the department told local newspaper The DailyStar. One of the bidders, Zain, is currently running one of the networks,Mobile Interim Company (MIC 2), under the name MTC Touch Lebanon,although the latest extension to its state management contract officially endedin December 2008. The other GSM network, MIC 1, branded as Alfa, is undercontrol of the Telecom Ministry, after the government cancelled the operatingcontract of Fal Dete Telecommunications, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekomsubsidiary DeTeCon International and Saudi Arabias Fal Holdings, at thebeginning of December. It had been hoped that the state would launch the fullprivatisation of both cellular networks early this year, but the Cabinet hasdelayed the auction of controlling stakes until after parliamentary electionsscheduled for May 2009, partly due to unfavourable global financial marketconditions. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms datatbase notes that success for FTwould mark a return to the Lebanese mobile market, as the French company’sFrance Telecom Mobile Liban venture was behind the launch of MIC 1 in 1995under a ten-year build-transfer-operate (BTO) agreement with the government; itprovided services under the Cellis brand until June 2004.

Telecoms Minister Jebran Bassil will submit the three offers to the Cabinet for study by ministers, with two one-year management contracts up for grabs. Winners are expected to be paid monthly fees by the government.MTC Touch and Alfa were paid USD4.2 million a month each in return for operating the networks. Bassil has said repeatedly that he wants the operators to expand the number of mobile lines in service and to improve efficiency. The overhaul is forecast to cost at least USD100 million. There are approximately1.4 million mobile subscribers in Lebanon but Bassil has been pressing for the total to be increased to more than two million before the end of 2009.

South Korea - government funds for telecoms

Gov't to Invest in Broadcast, Telecom Industries

Some W2.8 trillion will be spent over the next five years to develop the broadcast and telecommunications sectors (US$1=W1,352). The Korea Communications Commission announced the plan after technological convergence was selected as one of 17 target areas for economic growth at a National Science and Technology Council chaired by President Lee Myung-bak.

Convergence refers to the combining of the separate spheres of Internet and communications technology with traditional broadcasting. With the money, the commission plans to nurture technologies such as IPTV and mobile Internet or WiBro. The money will also be used to fund six major research and development projects, including development of fundamental IPTV technologies, digital broadcasting and next-generation networking services.

The KCC hopes the plan will boost exports of related products to US$220 billion by 2018 and create an extra 150,000 jobs by the same year.

Nortel seeks bankruptcy protection

Nortel telecom seeks bankruptcy protection

Canada's once-mighty Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE:NT) filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware Wednesday and was set to do the same in Toronto.

The U.S. Chapter 11 filing came as $107 million in interest on debts came due, the Globe and Mail reported.

Nortel is North America's largest telecom equipment maker, but is likely to be broken up and sold to foreign rivals, sources told the newspaper after a board of directors meeting.

The company has an estimated $1 billion on hand, but $4.5-billion in long-term debt, the Canadian newspaper said. Court protection will give Nortel more leeway in selling or restructuring, the report said.

In 2000, Nortel had 95,000 employees and its shares were worth $1,231, but as of Tuesday, there were 26,000 staff and shares closed at 38.5 cents on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Globe and Mail said.

The 114-year-old company was founded in Toronto as the Northern Electric Manufacturing Co.

Internet safety

CDT Endorse Key Findings of Internet Safety Technical Task Force

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force, of which CDT was a member, issued its final report today, concluding that risks to minors in social networks are far less, and different, than media hype and public perception suggest. CDT endorses the report and strongly agrees with its conclusion that "age verification" technology does not address the actual risks (such as cyberbullying) that kids face online. The report also concludes more broadly that that lawmakers should not impose any technical mandates on social networks.

Decline in global IT spending

Forrester forecasts decline in global IT spending

Global spending on IT products and services will drop by 3% in 2009 to $1.66 trillion when measured in U.S. dollars, but will subsequently rebound by 9% in 2010, according to a Forrester Research Inc. study released today.

The market saw 8% growth during 2008, Forrester said. The economic recession in the U.S. and other countries is the main reason for the 2009 decline, followed by the stronger dollar, according to the report.

If measured in euros, global IT spending in 2009 "will be positive at 6%, but then slide to 3% in 2010, as the euro starts to revive against the dollar," the report states.

Forrester noted that "an ideal measure of global IT market growth would use a basket of local currencies, weighted for each geography's share of the global IT market." Under this system, IT spending will grow by 3% this year and 6% in 2010.

The forecast could be worse, according to Forrester Research analyst Andrew Bartels. "In this environment, bad news can actually be good news if it's not disastrously bad news," he said.

Some technology areas will do better than others. Software spending this year will remain flat over 2008, at $388 billion, while communications equipment, IT services and computer hardware expenditures will all see a drop, Forrester said.

Server virtualization technology is reducing the need for physical servers, Bartels said. Companies may also be holding off on refreshing their PC and laptop supplies, or even relying more heavily on smart phones, he added. "CIOs might be saying 'Our sales guys can do everything they need with a BlackBerry.' "

Meanwhile, industry-specific computing devices, such as next-generation RFID (radio frequency identification) systems, are seeing growth, Bartels said.

Forrester cautioned that its findings are based on the assumptions that the recession will ease starting in the second half of this year, and that the dollar's strength will drop somewhat.

Bartels cited factors such as lower-energy prices, an "unfreezing" of the commercial credit market and the prospect of a large stimulus package from the incoming Obama administration as reasons to believe the economy could turn around sooner than later. It may take longer for emerging markets to recover, he added.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

dot EU reaches 3 millions names

.EU Domain Registrations Reach 3 Million Milestone

EURid, the European Registry who manages the .eu top-level Internet domain under contract to the European Commission, today announced .eu domain registrations have passed the three million mark. This registration marks significant growth in the registry with an extra one million domain names since July 2007.

Since the .EU domain name extension was launched to the public on April 7th 2006 it has grown to become the forth largest domain in Europe (after the .uk, .de, and .nl), and is the ninth largest global domain.

Mark Boost, Managing Director LCN, a leading UK domain registration company, noted: “It was initially feared that this domain extension would simply become a purchase by companies to protect their brand identity online and not be utilized to its full potential”. “However, since its launch in 2006 we have seen the .eu become a valuable tld to companies wishing to leverage a single common European identity for their online brands”. “

In most countries of the EU, the national ccTLDs have the major share of the market with the remainder spread over .com/.net/.org/.info/.biz. As a result of this, .eu has had an uphill battle to gain a significant share of these national markets. But, with a 50% growth in 2007, the appeal for a website to emphasise its 'European identity' rather than to be seen as being strictly national or global ("dotcom") appears to have been a significant enough fact to aid its rapid growth.

New registrations were seen as an initial guideline of the strong success of the .eu extension. But, this tld has also seen a very positive vote of confidence from the existing domain name holders. According to Boost, "The renewal rates have remained very high for .eu domain names when compared to other popular domain extensions".

With the .eu domain extension yet to celebrate its third anniversary, the future success of the European domain name is expected to continue to grow in strength.

Corruption - Siemens in Bangladesh

Feds seek $3 million in Siemens bribe money\

The U.S. government is trying to seize $3 million including bribe payments paid by Siemens to win contracts in Bangladesh.

Using laws that impose U.S. jurisdiction over money laundering that flows through U.S. financial institutions, the Department of Justice says it is seeking the money from accounts in Singapore. Most of the money involved was paid to the son of the former prime minister of Bangladesh.

The bribes were made in return for favorable consideration in the award of public works projects in Bangladesh, the Justice Department says. Siemens Bangladesh has admitted to funneling corrupt payments through business consultants to government officials in the country. In all, the Siemens subsidiary paid $5.3 million in illegal payments between 2001 and 2006.

3G - shifting to embedded modems

Mobile Operator Muscle Drives 3G Data Services and Cellular Modem Deployments in the Face of a Declining Economy

2008 was a banner year for the cellular modem market, as many operators aggressively beefed up their 3G data service offerings. Consequently, 3G modem manufacturers enjoyed an upswing in demand with shipments reaching 20 million units in 2008, according to market research and consultancy firm In-Stat.

Two big trends are the move in form factor to USB modems and the growing emphasis on embedded modems, led by Ericsson and Qualcomm. Embedded shipments will overtake external modem shipments by the end of 2011. The result is increasing price erosion for external clients, especially in Western Europe, where Huawei has become a strong player.

“Clearly, here is an instance where CAPEX investments in good times are paying dividends in lean years” says Daryl Schoolar, In-Stat analyst. “Operators continue to move forward with their mobile data subscription initiatives even as the economy suffers. This has put cellular modem manufacturers in a really nice place to be.”

Recent research by In-Stat found the following:

The peak of the external modem market will be in 2010 when revenues crescendo at over US$2.6 billion.

USB has become the dominant form factor, overtaking PC cards in annual shipments in 2008.

According to a survey of 504 individuals from the In-Stat Technology Adoption Panel, most users have their mobile broadband service paid for by their employer.

Africa - Orascom acquires Telcel

Orascom Acquires Telecel Centrafrique, Explores Other African Opportunities

Telecel Globe, the newly created subsidiary of Orascom Telecom, has acquired Telecel Centrafrique.

Significance - Telecel Globe finalised the acquisition of both U-Com Burundi and Telecel Centrafrique during July 2008, paying US$106 million for both.

Implications - Orascom once owned 13 GSM operations in sub-Saharan Africa, including Centrafrique.

Outlook - These acquisitions are part of Telecel Globe's strategy to target licences and mobile operators in small and medium-sized developing countries that have high growth potential.

During May 2008 Orascom created a new subsidiary, Telecel Globe, to look into small-sized acquisitions in Asia and Africa, according to Dow Jones. The plan was to bid for new mobile licences that would become available in the region during the year and the operator planned to enter up to six African countries within 12 months. Telecel Globe has already assumed operational management of Telecel Zimbabwe, which was owned by Orascom (see below). According to one report, the operator also acquired a company in Namibia during 2008 and is exploring opportunities in Mali and Equatorial Guinea. By 30 September 2008, U-Com Burundi, Telecel Centrafrique and Telecel Zimbabwe reported a total of 603,088 subscribers.

U-Com Burundi: Telecel Globe bought the leading mobile operator in Burundi from Indian company Global Vision Ltd. The acquisition will officially close in January 2009. U-Com Burundi operates GSM 900/1800, CDMA 800 and WIMAX networks in Bujumbura (the capital of Burundi). U-Com is the largest operator in the country, reporting 246,000 subscribers by 30 September 2008 and a market share of 70%. It plans to double its subscriber base to 555,000 by 2010, according to Reuters.
Telecel Centrafrique: Telecel Centrafrique operates a GSM 900/1800 network and is the largest operator in the Central African Republic, according to Orascom’s third-quarter 2008 results, with over 113,000 subscribers and a 37% market share. The Central African Republic has a population of 4.4 million, of which 55% is between the age of 15 and 64 years, and had a mobile penetration of 6.2% at the end of 2007. ARPU for U-Com and Telecel RCA is US$9.2 and US$15.6 respectively. Orascom sold Telecel Centrafrique to the Gloria Trust, a previous minority shareholder in Telecel International, in May 2003 (see below).
Telecel Zimbabwe. Telecel Zimbabwe was the last of Orascom’s operations in sub-Saharan Africa, which it was unable to sell and has remained under Orascom's management. The operator reported 244,088 subscribers by the end of September 2008, a 5% increase on the 232,781 subscribers of the previous year, but slightly lower than the 245,176 subscribers reported by the operator at the end of June 2008.
Outlook and Implications

Through its February 2000 acquisition of an 80% stake in Telecel, Orascom once had the largest footprint of all mobile operators in sub-Saharan Africa with operations in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, the operator restructured to focus on the larger, more lucrative markets of North Africa and the Middle East, broke up Telecel and succeeded in selling off all but one (Zimbabwe) of its subsidiaries in the region. Five years after selling off its empire of mobile operators in sub-Saharan Africa, the chairman of Egyptian operator Orascom Telecom, Naguib Sawiris, said in September 2008, "We believe that within the next 12 months we could add up to six more countries, all in Africa."

Orascom had approximately 79.3 million customers in six countries by the end of September 2008—Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe—a 22% increase from 64.7 million in the previous year. The operator looked for new expansion into the Middle East during 2007, but struggled to match the financial strength of other major Middle Eastern operators, which consistently outbid and won the available licences. Rival Middle Eastern operators, including Etisalat, Warid Telecom and Zain, have expanded dramatically into sub-Saharan Africa, even acquiring some of Orascom's former assets. In May 2008, Orascom then created Telecel Globe to look into small-sized acquisitions in Asia and Africa. The plan is to bid for new mobile licences that will become available in the region during the year. However, the target of six more countries within a year hints at the potential acquisition of a smaller operator that could scoop this many countries in one go.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nigeria - telecoms development

'The way we see telecom development in 2008'

It is usual for various neighbourhoods to find which ‘malam’ would help slaughter their rams. Those who have had to do the business themselves know how frustrating it can be when no ‘malam’ shows up by 12 noon on Sallah day.

NdukweThis last one was a different one. One neighbourhood’s resident mentioned the need for a ‘malam’ to a ‘maiguard’ and the chap turned in a piece of paper, photocopy of a slip on which there was a crude drawing of a ram, a knife, some Arabic inscription, a phone number and a name. Apparently, one Suleiman had turned in the piece of paper to all the ‘maiguards’ in the vicinity in anticipation of Sallah day – indicating anyone could use the mobile phone number to their advantage.

This number dialled, Suleiman showed up in a jiffy. He slaughtered the ram, left the details for his subordinates and moved on to other places where his services were needed. Suleiman took advantage of ‘access’ to boost his business. He didn’t need to be told to do so. He needed no campaign by anybody as to what he could do with his phone. All he needed was the phone and access on it and the remaining could be left for him. For his services, he charged N2,000 instead of the traditional N1,000 and his clients were glad to have got a good and fast solution. Give broadband access to Suleiman and wait to be amazed what he is capable of doing with it.

And the coming of Barrack Hussein Obama! Visit and see how a young man is changing the world using access to the web. The rest needs not be told. How about his almost impossible story of grassroot campaign, fundraising and eventual victory all fuelled by the power of the web and mobile applications. Like no one else before now, he used social networking websites (isn’t almost everyone now on FaceBook?) and other web tools such as YouTube to build an army of young people whose excitement – and driven action – played not just a small part in giving him a much_deserved victory seeing he livened up the floor of even American presidential politics with his promise (and delivery) of a 21st century campaign. His choice of a running mate was made using SMS broadcast, (mark the word ‘broadcast’), he was always on his phone cracking away at eMail, and he kept the world following his every step with up_to_the_minute updates through his campaign website. In 2008, politics and governance were redefined through new technologies!

Lesson: It is leadership, not followership – especially as the Nigerian case has shown in 2008 – that needs a campaign on what is achievable with broadband access.

The good: Access improved considerably during the year, with efforts of providers like Starcomms who introduced products such as IZAP to bring fast internet access to individual phone level. In Ijebu-Ode, where the first leg of this review was fine-tuned, Izap did all the trick. But in Igbara-Oke where the second leg was to be firmed up, Starcomms is yet to show up. Maybe in 2009! Other vendors – mobile and fixed wireless service providers – have stepped up the game by providing access options that have kept many Nigerians online more than before.

The performance review table of operators who ever played in the industry shows that as at close of business on December 31 2008, 9 operators are running full stream, 8 are ailing, 1 was bought substantially into while 6 were bought over 100%. 4 have since closed shop, 7 are begging for buy_over and two are fit for merger while the performance of 1 is indeterminate as its subscribers are largely unknown. Toady, 19 are trudging on in the market.
Etisalat finally executed the Mubadala mono_selection license of 2006 and rolled out services in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Port_Harcourt, Ibadan and Ogbomosho, several months after the promised date. It does not matter when, point is that it came at last. It is still in search of the joker that could repeat what Globacom did when it arrived in 2003 with the per_second rate of charging, a feat which one operator had said was impossible __ as if anything is impossible in engineering. 2008 was indeed full of action, slowed down by executive slow motion right from the top.

NCC, Nigeria’s regulator must have had a busy year. For long, it conceived the ideas of the Wire_Nigeria Initiative (WIN), State_Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI), etc, certainly for the purpose of connecting Nigerians to such possibilities as 2008 demonstrated. Now, Nigerians can’t wait to see it happen. The telecom regulator came up with a code and practice regime on standard three-digit code number which shall serve the purpose of emergency services in Nigeria. Ditto for pre-registration of phone subscribers and number portability except that the matter spent the entire year being on the drawing board.
A ban was announced on products’ promotion of GSM Mobile telephone service providers in Nigeria as the regulatory authorities hinted that measurement of phone quality revealed unsatisfactory performance of all GSM operating networks. The regulator discouraged operators even from placing advertisements that are capable of adding more subscribers or result in additional airtime usage on their networks in the face of un-abating congestion.

Two mobile operators, which instituted a court case against a directive of NCC to compensate consumers for poor service, had the case thrown out by the court and they have gone on appeal, although they paid the fines under various degrees of insubordination to the directive. Chances are that the National Assembly has taken notice of this and gone working, not to rest after the unnecessary battle some of those in the lower House went into with the regulator the previous year.

Nigeria’s Globacom made its way into Benin Republic, towards the fulfilment of the promise of building a truly African network. Transnational Corporation, Transcorp, which bought into Nigeria’s ailing National Carrier (NITEL) in 2006 was threatened with withdrawal of license if no remarkable improvement was recorded in NITEL’s and Mtel’s, services. There was no improvement but the license was not withdrawn either. There was also the rebranding of two major players.

Amidst all the good news, there was a threat of a probe of the Rural Telephony Project, RTP which was never to be. The threat gave way to a solution which is neither here nor there as government handed over RTP’s remnants to five telephone service provider upstarts which the government said are ‘operators’. The RTP is a $200 million telecommunications loan packaged by a consortium of Chinese investors in 2002 for provision of telephone service in 96 rural communities in Nigeria. It finally stalled after several months of inaction.

There was encouraging activity with Nigeria’s Top Level Domain, .ng, as the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) finally announced institutional structures and major framework under which the Association would operate. Namely four institutional elements: The Secretariat, Policies & Procedures, Technical Infrastructure and Service Provider Partners. Several draft documents, which sought to map the way forward were reviewed and pioneer registrars came alive.

Then the bad. The big disappointment for Nigeria’s ICT space in 2008 is the fact that the Federal Ministry for ICT did not emerge. Very senior IT practitioners expressed serious concern about the direction, or lack of it, that government trudged in the year under review. It was widely believed that just as many were clamouring that IT be raised to the level of a Ministry in a converged regime for regulation and project implementation, the IT sections of Federal Ministries were about being merged with the Departments of Planning and Statistics!

Government in 2006 commenced a desire to restructure the information and communications industries when it set up a Committee to examine the wherewithal of a converged industry. It however impulsively went ahead to create the Ministry of Information and Communications ahead of the work of the Committee only to realise that restructuring in a true sense was more than mere name_changing and merging of Ministerial portfolios. It is understood that the Committee completed its work and advised government on the amount of work required to effect a true change that will take advantage of the march of science and technology in the years ahead.

Work has since stalled on the project and the Yar’ Adua government, since take_over in 2007, has operated as if the issue never mattered.
Proponents of a restructured industry argue that because of the radical changes that the internet and indeed Internet Protocol (IP) has offered, it shall be contentious if not totally difficult to determine what is telecommunications or broadcasting or IT service, and especially to distinguish between where one stops and the other commences. A clear view and sharp industry management shall resolve this and enhance smooth management, reduce cost of doing business and ultimately cost and options of service provision. On the other hand, a continuous application of legacy systems and management of new systems using the old methods will create confusion, increase cost of doing business and ultimately impose severe cost on consumers.

Those who are opposed to change argue issues which surround ‘who gains what’ and ‘who loses what’. They talk about persons when the argument is about issues. These are usually enough to confuse a government that has no view of its own.

But while government was seen as taking the proverbial two steps backwards, the private sector remained active even in the face of clear signs of a global financial meltdown and stock market slowdown.

Starcomms, for example, made its way to the Capital Market. NITEL still remained sick. Infact, terminally, maybe. Meanwhile, Kevin Caruso, a new hand who Transcorp hired to put NITEL to shape, said a turnaround of the company would be in the horizon. Few weeks into his assuming office, Caruso told an audience in Lagos: ‘We have studied the network extensively. We know what needs to be fixed. And it is not just a matter of fixing it but sustaining the tempo. We have identified the black spots on the network, in the switches, in the transmission and in the billing. Within three to four months, we will get the network running.’ The 4_month promise expired in November 2008 just about when Caruso’s workers went on strike telling the world their company’s ship was sailing in no direction. The verdict is therefore clear.

Still on NITEL: Pentascope showed up in the news again when the Senate said it would reopen the Pentascope file and review it. The Pentascope deal was a management contract which took NITEL from the stretcher to the mortuary all in 18 months a few years ago. If the Senate committee did the review, it never published the report. While that was going on, a Lagos_based analyst said although the value of NITEL’s assets might have plummeted, its true value was actually the worth of its First National Operator’s License which would have in no way devalued. Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu, a telecommunications engineer and consultant, told the media in Lagos that those who spent 8 years to gradually devalue NITEL didn’t achieve their objective after all because they were wrong to be rating NITEL as just any other company down the road. He gave a $2.2billion figure as the worth of the First National Operator License and counselled that it be retrieved from NITEL and placed on auction.

As the year was coasting home, DAAR Communications’ Digital Multi-channel Direct-to-Home Pay TV kicked off at Abuja. 40 channels covering a wide range of broadcast interests are provided for by the afro-centric media conglomerate.

What, however, was probably the most regrettable story of the year is the Nigerian Communications Satellite, NIGCOMSAT-1 which was declared troubled in orbit. It was not immediately clear what the remote cause was but bits of information which reached government and got refurbished for onward transmission to the public showed that the handlers apparently lost control of its tracking due to insufficient maintenance skills.

Thank goodness General Olu Obasanjo does not read newspapers. What appeared under the caption of ‘Nigcomsat apologises to customers’ in several literature would have made him break his seeming silence. The article was nothing too far away from share insult on the intelligence of Nigerians.

The 42 kilobits of text could only have been crafted by those who purport to make image for the distraught government owned Nigcomsat Ltd and not likely by its own officials. Apart from the first two and the last paragraphs which feign true apology, the remaining 14 went cataloguing other satellite failures in a futile attempt to justify the waste which the past government threw upon the country as a result of autocracy, graft and egotism. The ‘apology’ kept talking about Nigeria being in space when in actual fact it is China, and not Nigeria, that is actually re-asserting itself in space using Nigeria’s petrodollars. It may be easier, however, for the authors to appreciate that Nigcomsat-1 is a project in commerce, not in science.

2008 was a year of dramatic events: highs and lows, private sector advancement, and missed opportunity. Government missed the unique opportunity of building on the 2007 momentum within the industry by being slow in everything including its response to the expectation

WiBro - a white elephant

WiBro Turns Into White Elephant

Korea's hope of creating a legacy in wireless technology may come true but for all the wrong reasons.

It wasn't long ago when government officials were convinced that the market was ready for a new kind of wireless network, which they dubbed WiBro, designed to provide high-speed data services to handsets, computers, homes and offices.

Now, just two-and-a-half years into deployment, WiBro, which is short for ``wireless broadband,'' is looking more and more like a monumental letdown everyday.

Desperate to save the WiBro, policymakers recently enabled operators to provide voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services on their networks and pressed them to increase investment.

The problem with the plan is that these are the same companies that are backing alternative mobile-phone services that so far have successfully fended off WiBro's challenge with ease.

``We have no intention of allowing WiBro to fade out when we believe the technology has great potential,'' said Shin Yong-sub, an official of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country's broadcasting and telecommunications regulator.

``If the home-made WiBro goes international, it will bring new opportunities for Korean high-tech firms in royalty payments and equipment sales, and for this to happen, the local market for the service needs to get bigger. Allowing voice is a good way to achieve that and we need operators to renew their commitment and invest more aggressively,'' he said.

WiBro is designed as a predecessor to mobile WiMAX, which is competing with Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in the fourth-generation (4G) telecommunications race.

The government has been promoting WiBro aggressively in hopes of allowing local companies to drive the standard and capture the benefits of homegrown intellectual property.

However, in a country that boasts one of the most advanced wireless networks in the world, WiBro looks like a solution without a problem.

WiBro's struggles are not just a concern for its operators, but for high-tech giants Intel and Samsung Electronics, who are the biggest backers of WiMAX and had hoped WiBro would provide a convincing reference case against LTE in the standards race.

Now, WiBro seems to be mentioned more by LTE supporters, including Ericsson Vice President Jonas Lundstedt, who, in a recent news conference in Seoul, claimed that the experience in Korea indicates that mobile WiMAX is lagging by years.

KT, the country's biggest telephone company and Internet provider, has just 180,000 customers for its WiBro services, while wireless leader, SK Telecom, which had to be dragged into the market by heavy-handed government policies, gathered 11,000 customers through a half-hearted effort.

Around the time of WiBro's commercial launch in June 2006, the state-run Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI) predicted the market for the technology would grow to 12.5 trillion won (about $9.2 billion) by 2012.

KCC now says the goal is to reach 330 billion won by then.

Considering that KT and SK Telecom used 790 and 600 billion won, respectively, to build their WiBro networks and each needs to spend between 200 and 400 billion won more to expand coverage, a 300 billion won-plus market after seven years hardly qualifies as a consolation prize.

KCC officials are betting heavily that VoIP could inject new life into WiBro, which appears particularly vulnerable. Jo Young-hoon, a KCC official, says that VoIP WiBro could provide customers with mobile services that are about 30 percent cheaper than current ones.

``We expect commercial services to start in December this year, when consumers will be able to use dual-band, dual-mode handsets that switch between WiBro and existing mobile-phone networks,'' he said.

The WiBro handsets will be given numbers that start with the 010 prefix, used by all three of the country's mobile-phone carriers ― SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom.

SK Telecom, which controls more than 50 percent of wireless customers and currently enjoys leadership in the third-generation (3G) market, doesn't like the scenario one bit.

KCC officials recently ``recommended'' SK Telecom executives consider allowing VoIP calls on its WiBro handsets, according to government sources, which has the company reacting as if it was robbed of its wallet.

``We would need to invest at least two trillion won more to complete a nationwide WiBro network, and the cheap calls on WiBro handsets will erode our profits by initiating fierce competition,'' said an SK Telecom spokesman.

The idea of allowing VoIP over the WiBro network was first initiated by KT, which looked ready to tap into the mobile telephony market to compensate for its declining fixed-line revenue.

However, with the company expecting to complete its merger with its mobile subsidiary, KTF, during the first-half of the year, KT is suddenly indifferent.

Although KT plans to introduce the services by the end of the year, its level of commitment remains to be seen, as company officials now claim that WiBro should complement existing mobile-phone services, not cannibalize the customer pool.

Jordan - telecommunications tax

Operators' concern over Jordan telecom tax

Mobile operators in Jordan have criticised a proposal to tax mobile phone use as being ill-planned and potentially damaging to the sector, after the lower house of the country’s parliament, the house of deputies, endorsed a decision to impose a 1-fils tax per minute on mobile phone calls, with the revenues earmarked to help the country’s livestock industry.

But operators and industry analysts said that the planned tax of D0.01 ($0.014) per minute on wireless calls would cause headaches for cash-strapped mobile users and mobile operators already hit by numerous taxes.

Philippe Vogeleer, chief strategy officer at Jordan Telecom Group said the government had come to view the mobile sector as a “cash cow”, and added that the proposed tax would stifle the ability of operators to offer customers different types of services and payment methods, such as all-you-can-talk deals, and combined fixed and mobile bills.

“It makes a number of things very complicated, because let’s say you want to make a package between fixed and mobile, you will have a different tax applicable to the fixed traffic and mobile. As such, the complexity of the tax prevents simple marketing approaches from happening,” Vogeleer told CommsMEA.

“We are trying to do everything we can to simplify things and this type of initiative is not helping. It is also confusing for consumers not knowing exactly how much they are paying.”

Jawad Abbassi, general manager of Arab Advisors Group, a Jordan-based consultancy focused on the ICT sector, said the tax could amount to a 10% surcharge on the call rate for some packages in Jordan, or a 10% cut to the revenues for the operator.

Lebanon - bids to operate GSM networks

France Telecom, Zain and Orascom bid to operate mobile networks

Lebanon’s Telecommunication Ministry on Friday received offers to operate Lebanon's two GSM mobile networks from France Telecom (FT), Zain Group of Kuwait and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, a source at the department told local newspaper The Daily Star. One of the bidders, Zain, is currently running one of the networks, Mobile Interim Company (MIC 2), under the name MTC Touch Lebanon, although the latest extension to its state management contract officially ended in December 2008. The other GSM network, MIC 1, branded as Alfa, is under control of the Telecom Ministry, after the government cancelled the operating contract of Fal Dete Telecommunications, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom subsidiary DeTeCon International and Saudi Arabia's Fal Holdings, at the beginning of December. It had been hoped that the state would launch the full privatisation of both cellular networks early this year, but the Cabinet has delayed the auction of controlling stakes until after parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2009, partly due to unfavourable global financial market conditions. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms datatbase notes that success for FT would mark a return to the Lebanese mobile market, as the French company’s France Telecom Mobile Liban venture was behind the launch of MIC 1 in 1995 under a ten-year build-transfer-operate (BTO) agreement with the government; it provided services under the Cellis brand until June 2004.

Telecoms Minister Jebran Bassil will submit the three offers to the Cabinet for study by ministers, with two one-year management contracts up for grabs. Winners are expected to be paid monthly fees by the government. MTC Touch and Alfa were paid USD4.2 million a month each in return for operating the networks. Bassil has said repeatedly that he wants the operators to expand the number of mobile lines in service and to improve efficiency. The overhaul is forecast to cost at least USD100 million. There are approximately 1.4 million mobile subscribers in Lebanon but Bassil has been pressing for the total to be increased to more than two million before the end of 2009.

France - 3G spectrum

France to break up fourth 3G mobile licence

France has decided to break up a planned fourth licence for 3G mobile telecommunication services into three lots of 5 megahertz, with one reserved for a new operator, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Monday.

He added that the new frequencies would be allotted before the summer. A government official said the tender would be launched in February.

France has three 3G licences, operated by France Telecom's (FTE.PA) Orange, Vivendi's (VIV.PA) SFR and Bouygues Telecom (BOUY.PA).

Iliad (ILD.PA) had bid for the fourth licence in 2007 but the state rejected the proposal. The company said subsequently that it remained interested in becoming a mobile phone operator.

Iliad, which runs ADSL services under the Free brand, said on Monday it had no further comment at this stage.

Bahrain - STC the sole bidder

Saudi Telecom only bidder in Bahrain mobile licence

Saudi Telecom 7010.SE (STC) is the only bidder for Bahrain's third mobile licence, the kingdom's telecoms regulator said on Monday.

A total of four firms had registered for the licence auction, but STC was the only company which bid before Sunday's deadline expired, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said in a statement.

The regulator did not name the other three companies.

The TRA plans to open the financial bid on Jan 22, but only once it had established whether or not STC's bid had passed the technical requirements, it said.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Malware - 22,000 new samples each day

22,000 New Malware Samples Detected Every Day in 2008, According to PandaLabs Annual Report
see also PandaLabs 2008 Annual Report

PandaLabs, Panda Security's malware analysis and detection laboratory, today announced the general availability of its 2008 annual report. Last year PandaLabs detected an average of 35,000 malware samples each day, 22,000 of which were new infections. By the year's end, the total count of malware threats detected by PandaLabs exceeded 15 million. This number surpassed initial projections by over 5 million and resulted in Panda's detection of more malware in the first eight months of 2008 than in the company's previous 17 years combined.

99 percent of these new threats were automatically detected by Panda Security's Collective Intelligence technology, which performs malware scanning, detection and analysis in the cloud. This approach provides the ability to maximize malware detection capabilities through gathering real-time data from the cloud, while at the same time minimizing the resource and bandwidth consumption of protected systems.

The majority of this new malware (67.7 percent) was classified as Trojans, meaning it was designed to steal confidential data such as bank accounts, passwords and the like. A breakdown of malware by category (e.g. Adware, Spyware, Trojan, etc.) and month can be found here:

"Computer users often underestimate the threat that malicious software represents," explains Ryan Sherstobitoff, chief corporate evangelist for Panda Security. "For this reason, on many occasions they may provide little or no security measures for their computers. The reality is that malware has increased exponentially over the past few years and this false sense of security helps cybercriminals to infect more computers without being discovered."

Trojans represented the most common malware infection at 70.1 percent of total detections, followed by adware at 19.9 percent and worms at 4.22 percent. These three types of infections combined represented the majority of malware detected in 2008, totaling 94 percent.

With respect to the threats that increased the most last year, PandaLabs' annual report also highlights the emergence and rapid rise of rogue antivirus programs. These new programs are a special type of adware that trick the computer user into believing they have been severely infected by multiple dangerous malware and offer a paid solution to supposedly remove the infections. The fake antimalware programs cost approximately $70.00 and collectively generate $13.65 million dollars a month for their creators, according to estimates from PandaLabs.

Banker Trojans: The Threat Continues

Banker Trojans are designed with the sole objective to steal the victim's bank account information in order to access their accounts. Normally these Trojans run silently in the computer's memory and only activate when the victim accesses certain bank websites.

"For cybercriminals, it's relatively simple to obtain these malicious programs since there is a thriving marketplace for custom designed Trojan creation kits," explains Sherstobitoff. "These kits allow the creation of Trojans which not only offer multiple features, but also have the ability to be controlled remotely."

The most active banker Trojans that PandaLabs identified fell into the following three families:

1) Brazilian Banker Trojans (Banbra, Bancos): These are mainly designed to steal passwords to Brazilian and Portuguese banks, although the Bancos family also targets Spanish banks occasionally. They normally transmit the information obtained through FTP or email.

2) Russian Banker Trojans 1.0 (Cimuz, Goldun): This type of Trojan has become less prevalent over time, since its lack of new functions makes it easier to detect. However, there are many variants still in circulation.

3) Russian Banker Trojans 2.0 (Sinowal, Torpig, Bankolimb): Created to replace its predecessors, variants of this family are constantly changing and being updated, which makes generic detection difficult. All of these have a common function. The list of target banks and organizations is obtained from a configuration file, which is either included with the Trojan or obtained from a server controlled by the cyber criminal, so the Trojan itself does not need to be modified in order to add a new target bank.

PandaLabs 2008 Annual Report additionally gathers information about the current spam situation, the most important vulnerabilities of 2008 and trends in the malware threat landscape entering 2009.

Broadand - economic stimulus

Defining 'broadband' key in stimulus plans

As information begins to emerge regarding President-Elect Barack Obama’s plans to include broadband in his sweeping economic stimulus proposals, a key question remains: At what speed will the new administration define “broadband” for the purpose of its goals?

According to Business Week magazine, Obama’s team is considering a $20-billion to $30-billion plan centered around tax breaks for companies that extend broadband availability or even boost its speed in areas where it is already available. The government may agree to subsidize 60% of the cost of the former and 40% of the cost of the latter. In the article, a Cisco executive echoed other analysts in suggesting Obama’s team could even set the tax breaks relative to the speed of the offerings, with higher subsidies for higher speeds.

Bell carriers and cable operators would likely be the primary beneficiaries of those tax breaks, Stifel Nicolaus analysts said in a research note today, since as a group, those companies have lower broadband penetration than most publicly traded rural telcos. However, much depends on how – i.e., at what speeds -- broadband is defined, they said, as Bell companies have focused on higher speeds while others focused on broader penetration.

This week Qwest Communications urged the Obama transition team to give states federal money to contract with private companies for rural broadband deployment. But by “broadband,” the company specified speeds of 7 Mb/s and above, which Qwest is currently deploying.

The question of how to define broadband has long been a challenging one for many proponents of universal broadband. When asked last summer at what speed Obama’s administration might define broadband, Blair Levin, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus who is now a key member of Obama’s transition team focused on broadband, told Telephony, “Part of it depends on what feature sets happen in the future. I don’t think we’ll define universal service as that necessary to carry Cisco’s telepresence, for example. But we may get to a level of video; who knows. I think there’s a growing consensus that universal service, as it is today, ought to [allow one to] be capable of doing Web-surfing, VoIP, information gathering – those kinds of things. And we want that to be available in roughly 100% of the country. And we’d like to achieve penetration rates similar to what we’ve achieved in voice.”

“Here’s the way I think service providers will think about it,” he added last August, speaking only for himself. “What is the speed which qualifies you that I can achieve but disqualifies some of my potential competitors? In other words, if you can achieve 3m, but your wireless guys are never going to get there, you want that to be, in order to qualify, you want that to be the level.”

The Obama team’s planning evolves as Verizon Communications ponders what to do next year after it accomplishes its goal of passing 18 million homes with fiber. This week Verizon Chief Executive Officer Ivan Seidenberg said the company would wait until next year to make a decision on further deployment (at least one analyst believes the company could spill into adjacent areas in other Bells’ territories rather than push hard into rural places), but due to the dropping cost of fiber deployment, he added, “Anything we do beyond 18 million homes would be on a completely different economic model.”

Broadband for economic stimulus

Obama includes broadband, smart grid in stimulus package

President-elect calls on Congress to approve funding to roll out broadband, and to boost technology in health care and energy

U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama laid out his plan for a huge economic stimulus package, with broadband rollout, an Internet-based smart energy grid and computers for schools as part of the plan.

During his campaign, Obama included rolling out broadband, energy issues, and computers for schools in his list of goals, but in Thursday's speech in Fairfax, Va., he called for those items to be included in a giant stimulus package he'll push Congress to pass within weeks. The stimulus package could cost close to $1 trillion.

The president-elect called the economic situation in the U.S. a "crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime."

He also called for all U.S. medical records to be computerized within five years. "This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests," he said. "But it just won't save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs -- it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system."

Obama called on Congress to approve funding for rolling out broadband to unserved and underserved areas, although his speech did not provide details on how he wants it to happen. Several tech groups have called for a national broadband policy that would include a mixture of tax credits, loans, and payments to broadband providers that bring broadband to new areas.

Part of the package should include rebuilding physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, Obama said. "But we'll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy," he added. "That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation. It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world."

Smart energy grids would allow real-time monitoring of a customer's energy use through Internet technology. Proponents of a national smart grid say it would likely result in decreased electricity use, allow energy companies to more efficiently distribute electricity, and encourage homeowners to install alternative energy generators such as solar panels and sell their excess energy back to the grid.

Obama also called for Congress to approve money for "21st-century" classrooms, laboratories and libraries. "We'll provide new computers, new technology and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future," he said.

Obama's priorities line up with several tech groups that have been calling for more broadband and smart-grid funding. The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), a trade group, praised Obama's stimulus plan. The package outlined by Obama represents an "excellent starting point," ITI President Dean Garfield said in a statement.

"Our firms know that technology investments are the quickest way to dramatically turn the economy around," he added. "Increased broadband spending, electronic medical records, green energy investments and new computers for schools and libraries are all smart ways to keep America competitive while also creating new jobs and spending."

South Africa - MTN cleared to acquire Verizon Business

South African Competition Authority Approves MTN Acquisition of Verizon Business

The South African Competition Tribunal has said that it has given unconditional approval for MTN to acquire the African operations of Verizon Business, according to Dow Jones. Verizon Business is among the largest ISPs for corporate clients in South Africa and also has operations in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Zambia. The proposed transaction for a 69% stake is reportedly valued at US$150 million.

Significance: The approval comes after Allied Technologies (Altech), one of the chief critics of the transaction, reportedly withdrew its intervention in the case, according to the Business Day newspaper. Altech had objected to the transaction on the grounds that MTN already owns one of South Africa's largest corporate ISPs through MTN Network Solutions and that therefore the acquisition would be anti-competitive. In 2001, MTN acquired CITEC, one of the four top-tier ISPs, which was renamed MTN Network Solutions.

Skype on mobile

Skype Extends VoIP To Some Mobile Phones, MIDs

Skype is offering its Voice over Internet Protocol service to Android and Java-enabled mobile phones, and to Intel-based Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). This is the first time the software has been released for mobile users in the U.S.

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Skype announced Thursday the release of a light beta version of Skype for Android and Java-based phones. Java-enabled phones include those from LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

Call Anywhere

The light version currently does not offer video calls. The capabilities include calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world, sending or receiving instant messages, and making low-rate calls to landline or mobile phones not on the Skype network. Users can also see when their Skype contacts are available online for chatting.

The MID version, also in beta, is for the new category of small consumer devices based on Intel's Atom processor and the Moblin-based Linux operating system. They offer four-to-seven-inch screens, an enhanced Internet experience, and, for some, WiMAX or 3G/4G connectivity.

While Skype on a PC uses an Internet connection, the company pointed out that the light version for mobile phones works where phones work, without needing a Wi-Fi connection. But users do need both calling and data plans from a wireless carrier.

This means the prospect for mobile phones to save on calls via Skype is more complicated than on computers. The company noted that, while the light version requires both air time and data usage, there are no charges for Skype-to-Skype calls or for instant messages to Skype friends. But national calling rates may apply.

'Tension' Between VoIP and Cell Plans

The Skype software is available worldwide, but the company noted that the ability to make Skype-to-Skype calls and low-cost calls to non-Skype landlines and mobile phones are presently only available in 10 countries -- the U.S., the UK, Poland, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo in Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Australia and New Zealand.

Michael Gartenberg, vice president for consumer strategy at Jupitermedia, pointed out that Skype on mobile devices doesn't necessarily mean carriers' voice plans are obsolete. He noted that it does, however, "illustrate the growing tension between VoIP and regular cell plans."

Gartenberg also said the mobile versions extend the Skype experience, eventually including video calls, that many users regularly have on their computers.

USA - Verizon acquires Alltel

Verizon completes 28.1 billion dlr acquisition of Alltel

Verizon Wireless announced Friday that it had completed a 28.1 billion dollar acquisition of mobile phone operator Alltel to become top wireless carrier in the United States in terms of subscribers.

Verizon said Alltel's purchase from Atlantis Holdings would expand its wireless network coverage to nearly the entire United States population, "making it the largest wireless carrier in the country with more than 83.7 million total customers."

Under a settlement with US Justice Department antitrust officials, the firm will divest some operations and will also reduce "overlapping" properties.

A joint venture of US telecom giant Verizon Communications and Britain's Vodafone, Verizon Wireless said it expected to realize "synergies" of more than nine billion dollars from the mega deal.

Consistent with the terms of the transaction first announced in June last year, Verizon said it paid about 5.9 billion dollars for the equity of Alltel and assumed 22.2 billion dollars of its debt.

Verizon used a combination of cash generated from operations, Alltel cash, proceeds from capital markets transactions, and borrowings from lenders to make the acquisition.

"Following the completion of a series of financing transactions later today, Alltel and its subsidiaries will have reduced the debt that is owed to third parties to approximately 2.7 billion dollars, which is expected to decline further to approximately 2.5 billion dollars within the next 30 days," the statement said.

In markets that will be retained and combined with Verizon operations, the company will continue to use the Alltel brand for the next several months, as it works to integrate networks, convert billing systems and upgrade high-speed wireless broadband service.

Verizon will also maintain Alltel's existing GSM cellular networks in retained Alltel markets to continue serving the roaming needs of GSM carriers' customers.

Verizon said it would rebrand Alltel operations in the retained markets in phases, beginning in the second quarter of 2009 as billing conversions were completed throughout the country.

It added that Alltel employees "below executive level" would continue in their present jobs as Verizon assessed staffing needs required to best serve customers and achieve synergies.