Monday, August 31, 2009

Greater Mekong Sub-region: optic fibre network now links the six countries at 620 Mbps

[telecommunications] An important milestone in connecting the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) was achieved recently with the official inauguration of a fiber optic network linking the six neighbouring countries of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

According to the Phnom Penh Post, the completion of the connection with Laos completes the first phase of an infrastructure project designed to provide a transmission speed of 620 Mbps. Known as the GMS information superhighway, the project is managed by TC and Huawei Technologies from China.

Indochina gears up for next generation services - First phase involving fiber optic network to link six countries completed

Cambodia: Millicom to sell to local partner, since it lacks the scale to succeed in Asia

[wsj] Telecom operator Millicom International Cellular SA (MICC) said Tuesday it has agreed to sell its Cambodian operations for $346 million in cash to The Royal Group, its partner in the country.

The transaction, which is expected to be completed before the end of 2009, comprises Millicom's 58.4% holdings in each of CamGSM, Royal Telecam International and Cambodia Broadcasting Services.

It values the Cambodian operations at an enterprise value of $605 million, representing an estimated 7.1 times 2009 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda.

Luxembourg-based Millicom, which is listed on Nasdaq and the Stockholm stock exchange, earlier this year decided to divest its Asian operations and focus on Africa and Latin America.

It said July 2 that the units in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Laos will be classified as "assets held for sale" and that it had received expressions of interest from a number of parties.

"We don't think that we have the critical mass to operate in Asia," Millicom Chief Financial Officer Francois-Xavier Roger told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview last month, adding that the proceeds from a sale of the Asian assets will be used to invest in external growth, repaying debt, or distributing part of the money to the owners through dividends and share buybacks.

Millicom To Sell Cambodian Operations For $346M

Laos: Lao Star Telecom is preparing to launch a 3G service with Viettel of Vietnam

[cellular news] Laos based mobile network operator, Star Telecom is reported to be preparing to launch a 3G network in the near future. The Chinese Xinhua news agency, citing the Vientiane Times reported that the 3G network would be developed in partnership with Vietnam's Viettel.

Viettel set up the partnership in Laos late last year with local firm, Laos-Asia Telecommunications. Star Telecom has set itself a target of 1.5 million customers by 2010.

Star Telecom is studying the market before deciding when to introduce the 3G service to local customers, Saeng Alounboulana, head of the Lao Star Telecom Administration told the newspaper. He added that the network operator had completed installation of 700 base transceivers in Laos and planned to complete 1,200 phone signal stations around the country at the end of this year.

According to estimates from the Mobile World analysts, Star Telecom ended Q1 '09 with around 63,000 subscribers.

Laos Operator Plans 3G Network Rollout

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mobile: social relationships can be deduced from patterns of mobile phone use

[scientific american] A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that researchers deduce social networks with great accuracy simply by analyzing mobile phone use.

How do you know if someone’s your friend? Ask your cell. Because your phone knows who your friends are. Sometimes even before you do. Or so says a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists who study social networks have long been hampered by one thing: their subjects are not always reliable reporters. They don’t lie about their associations, but their ability to recall how much time they spent with Tom, Dick or Cody last month is not always accurate.

So scientists have been searching for a better way to track relationships. Which is where mobile phones come in. Researchers handed nearly a hundred subjects souped-up cell phones that recorded information about calls, text messages and even how physically close callers were to those they contacted. Analyzing calling patterns, the investigators were able to infer which contacts were friends with 95 percent accuracy. In some cases, the patterns revealed a friendship in the making months before people declared someone a pal.

The data could also predict job satisfaction: people who spend all day on the phone with friends, it seems, are generally not stoked about their work. So remember—keep your friends close. And your cell phone even closer.

Phone Networks Reveal Relationships

USA: AT&T is forecasting global economic recovery from next year

[AT&T] U.S. companies are preparing for a global economic recovery to begin in the first half of 2010 according to a new “Road to Growth” study from AT&T.

The 2009 AT&T Road to Growth Study is based on more than six dozen one-on-one interviews with IT executives employed with multinational companies in the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. portion of the study included CIOs and senior information technology executives from approximately four dozen multinational companies averaging $4.75 billion dollars revenue and operations in 28 countries. All U.S. executives interviewed for this study work for a U.S company or a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign company, and they have responsibility for making decisions about IT strategy and budget allocations.

2009 Road to Growth Study Key Findings:

Time horizon to achieve ROI narrowed by 50%: In today’s economic climate, U.S. companies have significantly shortened the time frame over which return on investment (ROI) is delivered.

More than half of U.S. IT executives interviewed stated they are under pressure to deliver a return on investment in half or less than half the time. As a result, two-thirds cited that the

change has affected their IT budgets, strategies and priorities. The study found that companies are less willing to invest in longer-term projects or projects where the return does not come quickly. One CIO stated that the added pressure has forced the company to focus on IT projects that give at least 100% ROI in 12 months; otherwise, the project(s) get dropped.

Cost cutting and improving productivity are top priorities: Cost cutting and increasing revenue remain the two primary business goals cited by U.S. companies. To achieve the goals, survive the recession and move towards growth, IT strategies are focused on:

Reducing operating costs: 87 percent cited “reducing operating costs” as “extremely or very important”;
Improve collaboration with customer and partners: 85 percent cited “improved collaboration with customers and partners” as “extremely or very important”;
Enhancing workforce performance and productivity: 83 percent cited “enhancing workforce performance” as “extremely or very important”.
“U.S. companies are under added pressure to deliver, and IT investments are more critical than ever before,” said Bill Archer, chief marketing officer, AT&T Business Solutions. “From the study, we expect U.S. companies to come out of the recession leaner and more agile. Technologies that cut cost, reduce redundancies and loss, and improve efficiencies top the priorities list.”

Short and long term strategies are similar: The Road to Growth study found that U.S. companies employ multiple strategies to address business goals, and do not distinguish between short-term and long-term strategies. It appears that U.S. companies are reducing the time period for their long-term forecasting until after the recession is over. The role IT plays in helping U.S. companies achieve long-term strategies is very similar to the role IT plays in supporting the companies’ short-term business strategies.

Business continuity & security solutions have the highest positive impact: IT investments and priorities will go towards lowering cost, reducing risks and improving productivity and efficiency. The study found that “business continuity and security solutions” will have the biggest positive impact on business growth as U.S. companies prepare for an economic turnaround. This is closely followed by “enterprise mobility solutions” and “Web delivery solutions”. Areas of IT investment that are expected to have a high to moderate impact on businesses are “unified communications services” and “hosted solutions.”

These findings are in line with AT&T’s annual study on business continuity and disaster recovery preparedness for U.S. businesses in the private sector, conducted in June this year. The dramatic rise in social networking and mobility trends is presenting new challenges to companies’ network security, disaster planning and business continuity programs. Businesses are stepping up their technology investment and efforts to meet these challenges, despite the economy. IT executives indicated in the Road to Growth study that they expect to make the biggest financial investments in business continuity and security solutions and hosted solutions in the next 9 months.

Disparate views in Europe: The European portion of the Road to Growth study found that in contrast to the U.S., European executives have a consensus view that the global economy will rebound between Q1 and Q4 2010. The majority of executives expect a recovery towards mid to the end of 2010. Additionally, 50% of the European executives stated that there is no change in the time period with which they achieve ROI.

The consensus between European and U.S. IT executives is that the two largest global economies – the United States and China – will emerge first from the current recession.

For more information on the AT&T Road to Growth Study including the complete research results, please visit

AT&T Study: U.S. Companies Preparing for Economic Recovery in First Half of 2010

USA: FCC is begining to tackle the problems of the wireless industry

[network world] With word that the Federal Communications Commission will next week begin to take a broad look at the wireless industry and how it is regulated, one wonders: What took so long?

The Government Accountability Office pretty much wondered the same thing in June with a report on the FCC’s handing of the wireless industry. That report, which was none-too-popular at the FCC, said the agency needed to reexamine its handling of a number of growing problems. The key areas of concern from the GAO report:

Billing: Complexity of wireless billing statements leads to lack of consumer understanding. Bills contain unexpected charges and errors.

Terms of service contract: Consumers are subject to fees for canceling their service before the end of their contract term (early termination fees), regardless of their reason for wanting to terminate service, and effectively locking consumers into their contracts. Consumers are not given enough time to try out their service before having to commit to the contract. Carriers extend contracts when consumers request service changes.

Explanation of service: Key aspects of service, such as rates and coverage, are not clearly explained to consumers at the point of sale (when they sign up for the service).

Call quality: Consumers experience dropped or blocked calls as well as noise on calls that makes hearing calls difficult. Consumers experience poor coverage, which in rural areas may be the result of lack of infrastructure and in urban areas stems from lack of capacity to manage the volume of calls at peak times.

Customer service: Consumers experience problems such as long waits, ineffective assistance, and insufficient resolution to problems.

Some other interesting facts from the GAO survey/report:

GAO estimates about 21% of wireless phone users who contacted their carriers’ customer service were dissatisfied with how their carriers addressed their concerns; FCC’s efforts to handle complaints are an important means by which consumers may be able to get assistance in resolving their problems. However, the results of the GAO’s survey of 1,143 randomly selected consumers, suggested that most consumers would not complain to FCC if they have a problem that their carrier did not resolve. Specifically, the GAO said that of 13% of wireless phone users would complain to FCC if they had such a problem and that 34% do not know where they could complain.
In response to the areas of consumer concern noted above, wireless carriers have taken a number of actions in recent years. For example, officials from the four major carriers, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile, reported taking actions such as prorating their early termination fees, offering service options without contracts, and providing Web-based tools consumers can use to research a carrier’s coverage area, among other efforts. In addition, according to CTIA–The Wireless Association, the wireless industry spent an average of $24 billion annually between 2001 and 2007 on infrastructure and equipment to improve call quality and coverage.

The GAO estimates that about 19% of wireless users wanted to switch carriers since the beginning of 2008 but did not do so. Then 42% of these wireless phone users who wanted to switch but did not because of the early termination fee.
The GAO plans to complete a full report in the fall and expects to make more recommendations then.

FCC will have tough time reining-in burgeoning wireless industry
see also GAO Report

UK: Mobile television has failed to deliver its promised vision

[bbc] Mobile TV has so far failed to deliver on its promise of ubiquity, but analysts expect worldwide user numbers to increase to 54 million in 2009.

Analysts also predict that by 2013 there will be about 300 million people watching analogue TV on the so-called third screen, their smart phone.

Industry watchers said the biggest potential will be in emerging markets.

"Mobile TV is just not as big a deal as we all thought it would be," Frank Dickson of Reed Business told the BBC.

"The idea combines the two biggest things around: TV and phones. Everyone has a TV and everyone has a mobile phone. So of course the industry thought the prospect of bringing the two together was going to be huge.

"In reality, live mobile TV has been very slow to take off," explained Mr Dickson.

Mobile TV 'very slow' to take off

Saturday, August 22, 2009

USA: teenagers having a cellphone has risen from 45% in 2004 to 71% in 2008

[Pew Internet] Teenagers have previously lagged behind adults in their ownership of cell phones, but several years of survey data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that those ages 12-17 are closing the gap in cell phone ownership. The Project first began surveying teenagers about their mobile phones in its 2004 Teens and Parents project when a survey showed that 45% of teens had a cell phone. Since that time, mobile phone use has climbed steadily among teens ages 12 to 17 – to 63% in fall of 2006 to 71% in early 2008.

In comparison, 77% of all adults (and 88% of parents) had a cell phone or other mobile device at a similar point in 2008. Cell phone ownership among adults has since risen to 85%, based on the results of our most recent tracking survey of adults conducted in April 2009. The Project is currently conducting a survey of teens and their parents and will be releasing the new figures in early 2010.

We went back to our databanks in light of the intriguing findings about adult mobile phone use in two of our recent reports, and to help lay the ground work for our current project on youth and mobile phones. This memo is the result of our data mining.

Teens and Mobile Phones Over the Past Five Years: Pew Internet Looks Back

Cybersecurity: an analysis of the changing challenges users face

[wharton] Hardly a week goes by without some new internet security snafu being reported. And with web usage exploding, expect to hear about a lot more. According to a new analysis from Forrester Research, the number of Internet users is forecast to grow 45% globally over the next four years, reaching 2.2 billion by 2013. More people online, more data to hack -- it's a cybercriminal's paradise.

Many people don't yet fully understand the enormity of the threat -- to individuals, their families and the companies that they work for, warns Andrea M. Matwyshyn, professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton. A frequent public commentator on the topic, Matwyshyn is the editor of a forthcoming book titled, Harboring Data: Information Security, Law and the Corporation.

Information Security: Why Cybercriminals Are Smiling

Australia: the regulator has moved against Allphones

[ACCC] The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Allphones Retail Pty Ltd alleging contempt of court.

The ACCC alleges that Allphones has breached orders which were made by Justice Foster in the Federal Court on October 9 2008.

The orders reflected the terms of two undertakings given by Allphones to the court which:

prohibit Allphones from withholding consent to the assignment of an Allphones franchise on the basis that the franchisee will not sign a deed releasing Allphones from liability (undertaking 8)
require Allphones to give the ACCC 7 days’ written notice of its intention to withhold consent to the assignment of an Allphones franchise on the basis that the new franchisee must enter into a new franchise agreement (undertaking 9).
The ACCC claims that Allphones breached undertaking 8 on one occasion and undertaking 9 on three occasions.

A directions hearing has been set down in the Federal Court in Sydney for August 21 2009.

ACCC institutes contempt of court proceedings against Allphones

Australia: the regulator has acted to end misleading adverts for mobile premium services aimed at young people

[accc] Young consumers are better protected from misleading mobile premium service (MPS) promotions following Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action.

"The ACCC has been successful in putting an end to many misleading MPS promotions which were directly targeted at young consumers," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

As a result of the ACCC's work, the Federal Court yesterday declared Teracomm Limited, a Bulgarian MPS content provider, had engaged in misleading advertising.

Teracomm was advertising services such as 'love calculator', 'cheat meter' and 'celebrity soul mate'.

The court found Teracomm's advertisements placed in Dolly magazine in May, June and July 2008 were misleading because they did not clearly show the nature of the service being offered and their costs.

Justice Moore found "the customer would not be obtaining content on a one off basis, but rather would be subscribing to a service for which a weekly fee would be charged until the service was terminated."

The court also found that using the word 'subscribe' in fine print at the foot of the advertisement "did not disclose that the service was a subscription service."

The subscription service had an initial sign-up fee of $3 and a subscription fee of between $9-$12 per week.

Mr Samuel said this action demonstrates the lengths the ACCC will go to protect youth from misleading MPS advertising.

"It is simple, if you advertise in Australia than you must follow Australian laws. The ACCC will not be deterred from going after overseas based companies that are doing the wrong thing by Australian consumers."

Earlier this year the ACCC was successful in a similar action against a UK based company AMV Holdings Pty Ltd. The court declared, by consent, that AMV's advertisements in Dolly, Girlfriend and TV hits magazines were misleading.

In February 2009 both ACP Magazines which publishes Dolly and Pacific Magazines which publishes Girlfriend and TV Hits magazines provided the ACCC with court enforceable undertakings that they would not publish advertisements unless they clearly and prominently state the nature, cost and any eligibility requirements of receiving the service.

The ACCC currently has proceedings before the Federal Court in relation to MPS scratch card promotions by Star Promotions Club Pty Ltd and Clarion Marketing Australia Pty Ltd.

The ACCC and other agencies often receive complaints from people who didn't know they were subscribing to an ongoing premium service. To assist consumers the ACCC and the Australian Communications Media Authority have published a MPS fact sheet for consumers. The fact sheet is available via the ACCC website.

ACCC protects youth from misleading mobile premium service promotions

Jordan: Orange has a 3G licence and should be operational in three months

[into mobile] Orange Jordan got the 15-year 3G license for Jordan, the country’s Telecommunication Regulatory Commission announced. The carrier paid JD 50 million ($70.5 million) for it, gaining exclusive rights to the frequency block for 12 months from the launch of the network, after which other operators will be allowed to bid for usage rights.

The France Telecom-owned company has already rolled out some of the required network infrastructure and is expected to launch 3G services within six months.

For the record, this is the second time the regulator has tried to issue the 3G licenses. The last attempt failed after none of the bidders met the regulator’s minimum terms

Orange scores 3G license in Jordan

Ethiopia: The state monopoly will invest ETB 100M in the eastern region of the country

[walta] The East Region with the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) said it has carried out telecom expansion works with over 100 million birr over the past budget year.

Region Manager, Masresha Mekonnen, told WIC the expansion works will help to serve 805,000 mobile phone and 30,000 wireless telephone clients in nine woreda and town kebeles.

According to the Manager, the expansion activities have been carried out in Diredawa, Harar, and Chiro towns.

He said the region is providing mobile phone service to 70,000 clients and the expansion works will help alleviate network problems being witnessed in the area.

He further said that receiver centers that could serve 40,000 wireless telephone clients in Diredawa, Harar, and Chiro towns have been built owing to the efforts carried out to expand the service in these areas.

Installation of optical fiber has been finalized so as to provide reliable telecom service in Jijjiga, Harar and Diredawa towns, he added.

The region has earned more than 158. 3 million birr from the telecom service it provided over the past budget year.

Region executes over 100 mln birr telecom expansion works

Friday, August 21, 2009

Europe: The EU will invest EUR 18M in research on LTE (4G mobile)

[ec] As of 1 January 2010, the EU will invest € 18 million into research that will underpin next generation 4G mobile networks. The European Commission just decided to start the process of funding research on Long Term Evolution (LTE) Advanced technology, that will offer mobile internet speeds up to a hundred times faster than current 3G networks. LTE is becoming the industry's first choice for next generation mobile networks, also thanks to substantial EU research funding since 2004. 25 years ago, Europe already made the GSM standard the backbone of modern mobile telephony. Based on Europe's joint research and the strength of the EU's single market, the GSM standard is today used by 80% of the world's mobile networks. LTE promises to be a similar success as EU-funded research continues to bring cutting-edge technology to the daily lives of Europeans.

EU invests a fresh € 18 million in future ultra high-speed mobile internet

Europe: The Commission sets a new information society challenge to become literate in new media

[ec] The way we use media is changing, the volume of information enormous, demanding more of us than being able to read, write or use a computer. The European Commission today warned that Europeans young and old could miss out on the benefits of today's high-tech information society unless more is done to make them 'media literate' enough to access, analyse and evaluate images, sounds and texts and use traditional and new media to communicate and create media content. The Commission said EU countries and the media industry need to increase awareness of the many media messages people encounter, be they advertisements, movies or online content.

Commission sets new information society challenge: Becoming literate in new media

Africa: The rise of mobile banking revolutionises cash transaction across the continent

[bbc] Millions of Africans are using mobile phones to pay bills, move cash and buy basic everyday items. So why has a form of banking that has proved a dead duck in the West been such a hit across the continent?

It has been estimated that there are a billion people around the world who lack a bank account but own a mobile.

Africa has the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world and most of the operators are local firms.

In countries like South Africa, for example, mobile phones outnumber fixed lines by eight to one.

In Kenya there were just 15,000 handsets in use a decade ago. Now that number tops 15 million.

Setting up a bank account on your phone is straightforward. All you do is register with an approved agent, provide your phone, along with an ID card, and then deposit some cash onto your account.

You can use it to pay for everything from beer to cattle - one Masai farmer told the BBC that when he sells cows in Nairobi, he puts the money on his phone to ensure that robbers can't get his cash.

A Kenyan woman said she uses the technology to transfer money from her phone to that of her parents while a Nairobi businessman told us it was handy for settling customer accounts.

Africa's mobile banking revolution

USA: AT&T responds to questions about blocking mobile VoIP on the Apple iPhone

[AT&T] On July 31, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued letters to Apple, AT&T and Google with a series of questions about the Google Voice app and Apple’s App Store approval process. AT&T today responded to the questions raised in the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau letter. The following statement may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president, external and legislative affairs:

“We appreciate the opportunity to clear up misconceptions related to an application Google submitted to Apple for inclusion in the Apple App Store. We fully support the FCC’s goal of getting the facts and data necessary to inform its policymaking.

“To that end, let me state unequivocally, AT&T had no role in any decision by Apple to not accept the Google Voice application for inclusion in the Apple App Store. AT&T was not asked about the matter by Apple at any time, nor did we offer any view one way or the other.

“AT&T does not block consumers from accessing any lawful website on the Internet. Consumers can download or launch a multitude of compatible applications directly from the Internet, including Google Voice, through any web-enabled wireless device. As a result, any AT&T customer may access and use Google Voice on any web-enabled device operating on AT&T’s network, including the iPhone, by launching the application through their web browser, without the need to use the Apple App Store.”

AT&T Statement on Letter to the FCC Regarding Apple App Store

UK: There are now 6 million unbundled local loops in use for broadband

[ofcom] Competition in the UK’s broadband market has reached a significant milestone.

The number of unbundled lines – where rival communications providers such as Sky or Carphone Warehouse offers services over BT’s copper telephone network – has reached the 6 million mark.

The spur for the surge in unbundling was a set of legally-binding Undertakings that Ofcom agreed with BT Group plc in September 2005. These required BT to set up a new division, called Openreach, to provide services to rivals.

At the time there were just 123,000 unbundled lines in the UK and the majority of people could only get their broadband and landline telephone service from one provider – BT.

Today there are over 30 different companies offering unbundled services to homes and small businesses. This has helped to drive up broadband take-up and drive down fixed-line prices.

In September 2005, 37 per cent of households and small businesses had broadband; today the figure is 65 per cent.

Competition also means lower bills for consumers. According to Ofcom research consumers were paying on average £23.30 a month (excluding VAT) for a broadband service delivered over a copper phone line* in the last quarter of 2005. Today they are paying around £13.61 for the same service.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “In just four years unbundling has gone from a flicker on the dial to a major competitive force in telecoms. This has delivered the dual benefits of driving up broadband take-up and driving down prices.”

Broadband competition reaches 6 million milestone

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

OECD: Communications Outlook the biennial statistics and analytical volume has been published

[oecd] This new OECD Communications Outlook presents the most recent comparable data on the performance of the communication sector in OECD countries and on their policy frameworks. The 2009 edition analyses the communications sector over the years following the "dot com bubble" crisis and explores future developments. It provides an extensive range of indicators for the development of different communications networks and compares performance indicators such as revenue, investment, employment and prices for service throughout the OECD area.

OECD Communications Outlook 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kenya: KDN has cut Internet connection rates by 90% due to cheaper international capacity prices

[daily nation] Kenya Data Network on Tuesday slashed its internet connection rates by 90 per cent, a move likely to spark a price war in the fast-expanding ICT sector.

The infrastructure merchant firm's marketing manager, Vincent Wang'ombe, said the decision was taken after successful capacity trials with Seacom's fibre optic submarine cable.

"We are slashing down the prices by 90 per cent on our Internet and international connectivity. The submarine cable is a very efficient and economical medium and we would like to pass these benefits to our clients," he said.

He said Kenya Data Network would offer free internet on its Butterfly network and DSL services from yesterday up to Saturday to its clients.

Mr Wang'ombe said video streaming is faster and efficient, which enabled the consumers to view it in real time, instead of previously when they had to wait for it to buffer before viewing it.

"With the roll-out of the digital villages and our fibre optic cable network it will not only bridge the digital divide but also ensure that whether our client is in the city or rural areas, they will enjoy same quality and speed of internet connectivity," he said.

He said the faster connection at reduced prices will open up new financial streams in web advertising and promotion of local content in voice, video and data services.

Data Firm Cuts Internet Rates By 90 Per Cent

Kenya: Eassy claims prices will not fall yet, due to the uncompetitive market structure

[business daily] It was anticipated that the arrival of two fibre optic links would bring the cost of communicating down by up to ten times.

The East African Submarine System says pricing for internet and voice services should fall by at least 70 per cent.

Kenya's third fibre optic operator, the East Africa Submarine System (EASSy), on Thursday upped the ante in the ongoing internet pricing debate by accusing its rivals of deliberately denying consumers the benefits of broadband connection through exorbitant pricing.

The company, whose fibre optic cable is expected to land at the Kenyan coast in June next year, termed Kenya's internet market as an oligopoly that lacks competitive pressure that would yield better pricing.

Chris Wood, the chief executive of WIOCC, the largest shareholder in EASSy, said that with the landing of the fibre optic cables, the cost of internet and voice service should drop by a margin of at least 70 per cent.

"The current argument that prices will only fall by 20 per cent is baseless as it does not recognise the value of competition in the market," Mr Wood said.

An oligopoly is a market dominated by a few players acting in concert to foster self interest. Kenyans have been vigorously debating internet pricing since two fibre optic cables landed at the coast in the past four weeks.

The debate is informed by the high expectations that the landing of the cables would offer consumers access to high speed internet and significantly reduce prices.

Since the landing of the two cables however, service providers have maintained that prices will only drop marginally citing the large number of cost items associated with it.

Spur progressMr Wood said Kenya's internet market is a victim of collusion among service providers to increase their profitability at the expense of public good.

"Were any of the two operators to move close to global pricing, a price would ensure that would bring prices down significantly," he said.

EASSy says only a developmental rather than commercial approach to the business of information and communication technology would spur progress in countries like Kenya that have some catching up to do in a globalizing world.

EASSy says it would offer a more flexible pricing structure than is currently available from the East African Marine System (TEAMs) and Seacom.

Mr Wood said that his company is already selling an STM1 - a measure of a bundle of bandwith capacity on fibre optic - at $1 million less than its competitors.

"Our STM1 is priced at $2.5 million. We anticipate competition will drive this rate down to $1 million per STM1 sometime next year," said Mr Wood, with a promise of corresponding drop in consumer prices.

EASSy's rivals termed Mr Wood's statement as a self serving excise meant to prevent consumers from sign up to what is available in the market with the false hope that a cheaper alternative is coming.

EASSy is betting on its bank of 12 African telecommunications operators who have committed to buying capacity from its cable for sale to customers at competitive prices.

WIOCC is the investment vehicle for the EASSy cable and owns a 30 per cent stake in the project alongside major national telecommunications operators including Telkom Kenya.

The remaining 70 per cent of EASSy is shared between development agencies and global telecoms operators.

EASSy officials ruled out the possibility of unscrupulous operators taking advantage of their access monopoly to fix prices, saying all operators have committed to maintaining an open access policy as dictated by key investors such as the World Bank.

"We have committed to bringing down prices through open and fair access mode of operation," said James Wekesa, WIOCC Chief Commercial Officer.

The $263 million EASSy hopes to meet its ready for service date of June 2010 and is currently building its fibre optic cable in readiness for laying beginning next month.

International fibre optic cables are essentially pipes that contain thin strands of fibre that are able to carry high amounts of data quickly across long distances.

They are typically laid along the sea beds that line continents, and provide cheap access to high quality television, high speed internet and clear voice services compared to the more commonly used but unreliable satellite technology used in this region.

EAASy has spent an additional $2 million to secure military support and procure war zone insurance to fend off threats from pirates in the cable's route.

Avoid piratesIt has also been forced to implement a 400km reroute of its cable in the seas off the Horn of Africa to avoid areas targeted by pirates.

In addition, the project will feature in-built redundancy options which will provide seamless service even if a cable connection is lost.

"Redundancy is a key differentiator between our cable and the other two projects. We have multiple links to various points so that there are no single points of failure on the cable," said Mr Wood.

First conceptualised in over five years ago, EASSy was the first fibre optic cable project planned for the East African seaboard and hopes to connect 20 African countries using a 10,000 km cable.

Political intrigues have seen its construction lag behind other projects which have since been completed such as Seacom and TEAMs. Both those cables were finalised in the last month.

Winning bidderThe potential and need for a submarine cable along the east coast of Africa became even more evident after May 2004, when South Africa was announced as the winning bidder to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Positive economic growth in sub-Saharan African states between 2004 and 2007, coupled with the great drive by African governments to foster the growth and adoption of ICT in various sectors, further underscored the need for submarine connectivity to meet Africa's growing need for affordable high-speed international bandwidth.

EASSy Attacks Rivals Over Internet Pricing

Nigeria: NITEL is up for its fourth (4th) privatization under a new board of directors

[daily trust] Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) is becoming synonymous with controversy as the renewed bid to sell the foremost national carrier for the fourth time is being threatened by infighting and battle of wits amongst stakeholders.

In what seems like a battle for spoils, parties involved are set for a show down.

And should the development be left unchecked, the entire exercise might lead to another round of failure and by extension short changing the Nigerian people.

Following the revocation of the Share Purchase Agreement of the telecoms outfit to Transcorp, the federal government in June set up a technical board consisting of members to oversee the company and to also get a credible core investor for it.

In a statement signed by Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to the Vice-President, Ima Niboro, the Technical Board under the chairmanship of Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Communication Dr. Abubakar Muhammad, the board will be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the company in the interim, pending the completion of the on-going core investor sale process.

Other members of the board are Director-General, BPE, Dr. Christopher Anyanwu; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance Steve Oronsaye (now, Head of Service); Acting MD, NITEL (to be appointed); Director, Information and Communication, Ibrahim Kashim; SSA (Econs) to VP, Mr. Sam Worlu; representative of the Chairman, National Council on Privatisation (NCP); and Managing Director, NIGCOMSAT Ltd.

At the moment, a substantive Managing Director has not been appointed for NITEL and MTEL. Speculations are rife in the media that one of the board members is currently angling to head the conglomerate whereas the BPE, which is represented by two members i.e. the DG and a director is given to having an in house head for the company. Apart from that, while the BPE wants the company sold in bits, some members of the board are said to be striving to convince the federal government to invest and reactivate it instead of outright sale at the moment.

Daily Trust reported an unnamed source at the weekend, who is believed to be a member of the technical committee of accusing the BPE of being bent on rendering the technical board useless and conniving with interested parties to sell NITEL as scrap without value.

"We have evidence that the BPE does not mean well for NITEL. We are aware of a security report showing that BPE is behind the various crises bedevilling the technical board since it was constituted to manage the affairs of NITEL after the cancellation of its sale to Transcorp. The two BPE members on the Technical Board have stopped attending our meetings and even before then the BPE refused to implement the decision to pay 50% of SAT-3 debt. We asked the BPE to also pay so that it would not be disconnected from London. We recently had to also pay PHCN debt of N350, 000 to prevent them from totally disconnecting NITEL facilities."

Not done yet, the source said, "The downfall of NITEL started with the intervention of the BPE in the privatisation process. When Obasanjo took over in 1999, NITEL was worth $8 billion. Today, thanks to the BPE which first gave the company to Pentascope and later Transcorp, NITEL value now stand at less than $200 million and they have never deemed it fit to apologise to Nigerians for misadvising government on the competence of these companies they have been off-loading NITEL to. He said since 2004, NITEL had no audited account and management were and BPE never cared because they want to sell NITEL as scrap."

But the BPE sees this as a waste of money. The BPE's spokesman told Daily Trust on phone that, "There is disagreement on procedures. Our stand has always been that while privatising, there is no need for refurbishing and rehabilitation because it is wasteful."

Other members of the technical board are believed to be taking sides with the position canvassed by the proposal of the member, because "they are ministry people and that is where they will get contracts from," a source said.

These are some of the intrigues of interest currently facing the once flag bearer of Nigeria telecoms industry.

Anichebe had said last week in an interview told Daily Trust that the CVs of top managers at the company were being scrutinised to get a capable hand for the firm.

"I am suspecting they should have the short list ready before council meeting where whoever is recommended will be approved by the council. The next council meeting comes up next (this) week. We are looking at general managers and Deputy General Managers. Within that ranks, we hope to get somebody who will be able to be in charge till we find another investor," he said. The three deputy managers are Mrs Laraba Abbas, Sabo Ibrahim and Pius Ugandem.

NITEL in 2002 had 553,471 functional lines and a generated income at N53.41 billion as a viable company apart from labour related issues, a debt overhang of over N20 billion, stripped assets and liabilities arising from unpaid workers arrears, and pensioners' dues, NITEL is no doubt a shadow of its old self.

In 2002 when the first attempt to sell the company to Investors International London Limited (IILL), NITEL had over 10,000 employees. In 2003 before Pentascope took over, NITEL generated and collected N51.43 billion as revenue in one year from about 555,055 connected lines. After 23 months of Pentascope take over, the connected lines dropped to 440,000 and a debt profile of over N40 billion was incurred which eventually led to the revocation of deal with Pentascope. In 2005, Orascom, the Egyptian telecoms giant failed to buy the company because their $250 million bid was said to be below the reserved price.

The takeover of NITEL by Trans-national Corporation (Transcorp) in 2006 was celebrated with fanfare. The $500 million deal promised to turn around the company but three years after, they left it in a sorry state.

When they took over, NITEL'S connected line was 400,000. Three years after, it dropped to less than 100,000. Working lines was 296,000, it has dropped to 5,000. M-tel had about 1.3 million lines when Transcorp took over, but today, the lines stand at less than 100, 000. The 250,000 CDMA lines that were at 90% completion before Transcorp took over have not been completed. There were 249 (out of the original 284) active exchanges in the NITEL network nationwide at the time Transcorp took over. Today less than 60 of them are working, many of them shut down due to power problems.

The Transmission link nationwide through optic fibre network and the Micro-wave (Radio) link have broken down. Today, calls cannot be made in any part of Nigeria (e.g. Abuja to Kaduna) on a land line. Most observers are waiting earnestly to see whom the BPE will hand over NITEL to this time around.

Globacom has not hidden its interest in acquiring NITEL but those opposed to this move think that it could create monopoly in the Nigeria telecom industry.

The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) chaired by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan with up to five ministers as members will definitely have the final say. However, the term of reference among others given to the board upon its appointment was to hold the forth and make NITEL/MTEL as a going concern till a credible investor is found.

How the battle of wits and interest plays out in the nearest future can only be left for time to tell but no doubt the entity to suffer most is NITEL itself and the staff who have suffered untold hardship over the years.

Nitel Privatisation - the Politics, the Crisis

South Africa: The telecoms sector finally has its "Charter" on quality of service

[business day] After 30 months of work and three rounds of consultations, some toned- down regulations demanding certain standards of customer service from SA's telecommunications sector have finally been issued.

Under one new rule, operators can be fined up to R500,000 if more than 3% of calls are dropped or cannot be connected. That is unlikely to happen, as the operators say their call failure rate is only 2%.

The rules are outlined in the End- User and Subscriber Service Charter issued by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) last week. The operators must ensure their networks are available for 95% of the time, and 90% of reported faults must be resolved within three days.

Operators must also submit reports every six months to show how well they are meeting those standards. Councillor Brenda Ntombela said Icasa had budgeted R6m this year to monitor the transmission quality of the networks.

Icasa's effort to beef up consumer protection began in January 2007 when it formed a committee to set minimum standards for customer service. Regulations were drafted in July 2007 and a workshop was held to get feedback from the industry.

Icasa published its regulations in February last year, but quickly withdrew them to allow another round of comments. Concerns had been raised that the regulations were "extremely onerous and would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement", it said.

After amended regulations were published in October last year, Icasa received more complaints, and gave the operators and the public another chance to comment when it published the regulations again in January.

On Friday, it announced that the rules were now final. Icasa has also issued draft regulations on the allocation of scarce wireless spectrum that the operators need to carry voice and data communications.

Its most important decision concerns the spectrum needed for WiMax, a technology that can cover large areas and carry high volumes of traffic relatively cheaply. Initially, Icasa insisted that any operator applying for spectrum must be at least 51% black-owned. That sparked an industry outcry, with players saying the companies black enough to meet that profile lacked the skills or the cash to build a network.

Now Icasa has capitulated, and whittled down the black ownership demand to 30%. That still eliminates many experienced players, but does allow more companies to apply or to bid with a black partner.

Icasa has also taken the industry's advice by offering the spectrum in larger chunks so the winners will have enough to operate effectively.

That will limit WiMax to just four licences. MTN, Vodacom, Altech, Internet Solutions and MWeb have all expressed interest in a licence.

One problem is that state-owned Sentech is sitting on spectrum it does not use. Icasa's new rules say that if licensed spectrum remains unused, a principle of use it or lose it will apply. It was not clear how feasible it would be to put that rule into practice.

Telecoms Charter Becomes a Reality At Last

Nigeria: 66 million Nigerians now have a phone, 99% of whom are new customers since 2001

[all africa] Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), Chief Ernest Ndukwe, has said the Nigerian Telecommunication connection base is now 67 million.

Ndukwe said this yesterday, while receiving a delegation of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) in his office in Abuja,

He said no fewer than 66 million Nigerians or 99 per cent owned a telephone for the first time between 2001 and now, Ndukwe said.

He said the figure is a huge leap from about 200,000 Nigerians using any form of telecommunication before 2001. According to him, the subscribers base has made Nigeria a reference point to other African nations in telecommunication industry and that was the reason other regulatory commissions across the continent had been visiting Nigeria, to understudy the NCC.

Earlier, Director General, NIALS, Professor Epiphany Azinge, said the visit was to explore areas of collaboration with the commission.

While commending the agency for its remarkable achievements in the telecommunication industry, Azinge urged NCC to remain focused without sounding political, to avoid distractions.

NIALS oversees supervision of Postgraduate Law Students and also advises government and the judiciary through research works.

Azinge said the institute was working towards establishing a Centre for Media and Communication Laws, to further strengthen the sector and requested NCC to grant the Institute's research fellows opportunities to visit NCC, to obtain first hand information on its operation.

NCC - Telecom Subscribers' Base Now 67 Million

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mobile: Handset sales grew 5% in Q2, reversing the decline

[Reuters] Global handset shipments grew nearly 5 percent in the second quarter, the first quarter- on-quarter growth in 9 months, marking a reversal of course for the struggling market, researchers at iSuppli said on Friday.

Worldwide shipments of cellphones rose 4.7 percent to 265 million units in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, helped by strength in the Middle East and Latin America, but were still down 15.1 percent compared with a year ago, according to preliminary data from iSuppli.

"The market is approaching the bottom," iSuppli analyst Tina Teng said. "In the handset market we are seeing more orders coming in and the top 5 OEMs are projecting positive growth."

Inventory levels have decreased and factories are seeing higher utilization rates, she added.

Shipments for 2009 are still expected to shrink 9.9 percent year-on-year to 1.1 billion units -- their first annual decline in eight years.

But iSuppli forecast an improving second half, with quarter-on-quarter increases in shipments of 6 percent in the third quarter and 8.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

Global mobile market bottoms, grows anew: iSuppli

Motorola: Following three quarters of losses turned a profit for the most recent quarter

[AFP] Motorola, the largest US mobile phone maker, rebounded from three straight quarters of losses and posted a small quarterly net profit on Thursday.

The Schaumburg, Illinois-based company reported a net profit of 26 million dollars in the second quarter of the year compared with a net profit of four million dollars a year ago.

Motorola posted a net loss of 231 million dollars in the first quarter.

Earnings per share of one cent in the second quarter were better than expected by analysts who had forecast a loss of four cents per share.

Revenue during the quarter which ended on July 4 fell 32 percent to 5.49 billion dollars.

Motorola's mobile phone division cut its operating loss in half compared with the first quarter. It rang up a second-quarter operating loss of 253 million dollars on revenue which fell 45 percent to 1.8 billion dollars.

"In Mobile Devices, we improved the operating loss, reflecting a lower cost structure, and substantially reduced cash consumption as compared to the first quarter," Motorola co-chief executive Sanjay Jha said in a statement.

"We have agreements in place with carriers and remain on track to bring our new smartphone devices to market for the holiday selling season," said Jha, who is also CEO of the Mobile Devices division.

Motorola said it shipped 14.8 million handsets in the quarter, a slight increase from 14.7 million the first quarter, giving it an estimated global handset market share of 5.5 percent

Motorola said it expects to again post earnings per share of one cent in the current quarter.

Motorola enjoyed success with its popular Razr phone launched in 2005 but has been losing ground since to Apple and Research in Motion as well as other major cell phone makers such as Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

Motorola enjoyed a 17.5 percent share of the handset market two years ago.

Motorola has said it hopes to have devices based on Google's open-source Android operating systems in stores by the fourth quarter of the year.

Motorola shares gained 9.68 percent to 7.48 dollars in early trading on Wall Street.

Motorola rebounds, posts profit

Mobile: Advertising revenues are escaping the recession, with significant growth

[teleclick] Mobile advertising revenues will buck a downward trend in the wider advertising industry and grow significantly over the next five years, according to a recent report by Juniper Research.

Constrained advertising budgets in the wake of the global economic crisis are forcing companies to think creatively about marketing and aim for greater engagement with consumers, which will increase interest in mobile ad channels, Juniper predicts.

Researchers were careful to put this trend into context, however, noting that mobile advertising will still be a fairly minor part of the overall ad market, accounting for some 1.5% of global spending by 2014. Even major brands that are already investing in mobile ad space remain cautious about cutting spending on other forms of advertising.

“These investments still form only a small proportion of a brand’s total advertising budget,” explained Juniper analyst and report author, Dr. Windsor Holden. “Regardless of mobile’s advantages — its personal nature, the facility for highly targeted advertising — advertisers will not commit more budget until they perceive that the audience for their advertisements has reached a critical mass.”

Mobile Advertising Expected to Buck Downward Trend in Ad Industry

France: 92% of the population has a mobile phone according to ARCEP

[Reuters] The number of mobile users continues to rise in France with 91.8 percent of residents subscribing to wireless services as of end-June, up from 88.1 percent a year ago, the telecoms regulator said on Wednesday.

French wireless operators, including Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR, together attracted 678,000 customers during the second quarter, raising the total number by 1.2 percent against the same period last year.

In 2008, quarterly growth reached 0.5 percent year-on-year, Arcep said.

Mobile virtual network operators, (MVNOs) which buy minutes wholesale from incumbents, counted 2.9 million subscribers by the end of June, giving them a market share of 5.3 percent against 4.6 percent at the same time last year.

As of June 30, France had 58.905 million wireless service subscribers.

In France, 92 percent of residents use a mobile

UK: consumers prefer to cut back on dining out than buying broadband, mobile telephony

[Reuters] Britain's recession-hit consumers would rather cut back on eating out and holidays than give up their broadband, mobile phone and pay-TV services, according to a new report from media regulator Ofcom.

Customers are looking to save money on communications and media deals but are still willing to pay up for services that enhance the experience, such as digital video recorders and mobile broadband.

Britons are shopping around more, signing long-term contracts in exchange for cheaper payments, and bundling services such as TV, phone and telephony, Ofcom's Communications Market Report said.

"Despite the recession, people are spending more time watching TV, using their mobile phone or accessing the Internet," said Ofcom partner Peter Phillips.

"Meanwhile, we are becoming more canny about the way we pay for these services (and) as well as getting better deals we are demanding more control."

In the first quarter of 2009, 46 percent of consumers took a bundle with two or more services from one operator, such as pay TV groups BSkyB and Virgin Media, up from 39 percent a year earlier.

For mobile phones, some 70 percent of users said they would rather retain their existing handset than upgrade if it meant a cheaper deal.

But the report showed that despite the pressure on spending, consumers were still prepared to pay for services that enhanced the experience, such as digital video recorders, high definition television and mobile broadband.

According to the report, more than a quarter of UK homes had a digital video recorder, while consumers with faster broadband access were also catching up on programs via online catch-up sites.

More than 2 million households had access to a high definition service, according to the report, and 17.6 million HD-ready sets, in nearly 9 million households, have been sold in the UK.

Almost 70 percent of homes took broadband by the end of the first quarter of 2009, up from 58 percent a year ago, while more than one in 10 households had access to mobile broadband.

Of those taking mobile broadband, three quarters also had access to fixed-line broadband, showing the two services can complement each other.

While online, some 19 million Internet users visit Facebook, spending an average of nearly 6 hours per month on the site, although those in the 15 to 24 age group were spending less time on social networking sites in general, down from 55 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 to 50 per cent in 2009.

There were 2.6 million Twitter users by May 2009 -- up from 0.1 million on the previous year.

Britons willing to pay for enhanced media services

Australia: The National Broadband Network would take 18 years to connect most homes

[] IT WILL take at least 18 years for most Australian homes to be connected to the Rudd Government's National Broadband Network, according to financial services giant Goldman Sachs JBWere.

In a 92-page report on the NBN, Goldman analysts say it will take until financial year 2017 before 50 per cent of homes are passed by the network, and until 2028 before 85 per cent of homes are connected.

When the Government announced the $43 billion NBN project in April, it said it intended to sell down its stake in the scheme "within five years after the network is built and fully operational".

According to the analysts' estimation, the NBN company's present value is negative $9 billion.

They predict it will take until 2019 for it to break-even on an earnings before interest and tax basis.

The report -- from analysts led by Christian Guerra, Tristan Joll and Adam Alexander - also argued that dominant telco Telstra is likely to sell $12 billion of its network assets into the NBN, making the project faster and cheaper for the Government to build.

It said Telstra was most likely to sell "passive" physical assets, such as ducts, pits and pipes, to NBNCo for a discounted $8 billion, below Goldman's $12 billion valuation, but would keep its copper network.

The analysts argued that for Telstra to accept a 33 per cent discount on the replacement value of the assets is a "somewhat contentious assumption", but said that, among other reasons, "Telstra's public persona has certainly been more constructive, conciliatory and co-operative in recent times. We believe this will continue".

The report argued the NBN would cost the Government $37 billion if Telstra co-operated in this way, but if not the price would be bumped up to $41 billion.

It said the benefits to the Government of Telstra selling these assets would be enormous, reducing the cost of the NBN build by 10 to 15 per cent and speeding up the NBN roll-out by three to four years.

The analysts said paying Telstra through an equity stake in NBNCo was likely to be "completely unsatisfactory" for Telstra and its shareholders.

"It is difficult to see the market ascribing any value to an equity investment in a company such as this," they said.

The report argued the Government's regulatory review of the telco sector was its way of "encouraging Telstra to co-operate" in the NBN, "as opposed to a significant industry reform plan".

It said the structural separation of Telstra, the enforced split of its retail and wholesale arms, was unlikely, as was the forced divestment of its 50 per cent stake in pay-TV provider Foxtel.

The report came a day after Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy announced financial advisory firm KPMG and management consultancy McKinsey & Co had won a $25 million contract to head up an implementation study into the NBN.

National Broadband Network years away, says analyst report

USA: 40% of consumers strongly prefer a single portable device for all applications

[teleclick] Forty percent of American consumers would strongly prefer to have one portable device that performs various functions, rather than carrying separate devices, according to a recent study by Data Development Worldwide (DDW).

This preference has been a driving force behind the fast-growing popularity of smartphones, which often combine voice, data, music, and multimedia functions into a single product, and make it less necessary for the user to carry a laptop.

Just because a device has all the features, however, doesn’t necessarily mean consumers will use them. Consumers who frequently use mobile banking, for example, are still more likely to be interested in a laptop or netbook than a web-ready smartphone.

“Just because technology makes a capability possible doesn’t mean that consumers will value it,” explained DDW managing director, Chip Lister. “The device with the right mix of capabilities delivered at the right price point is going to win in this market.”

That “right mix of capabilities,” without over-developing a product, is exactly what handset, netbook, and laptop manufacturers must strive for.

40% of Americans Prefer Single Mobile Device
see also Data Development Worldwide

UK: leading retailer Tesco has launched a STG 30 per month SIM-only service with unlimited minutes, texts and browsing

[emediawire] Tesco Mobile has unveiled a brand new credit crunch-beating unlimited tariff, allowing people to talk and text as much as they want without worrying about their monthly phone bills.

The SIM only, pay monthly deal gives people unlimited minutes, texts and browsing for just £30 a month. With everyone watching their wallets, people need not worry about going over their free minutes and getting a large, unexpected bill at the end of the month.

Research from Tesco Mobile showed that in the current financial climate, worry over the cost of monthly phone bills has led to people spending less time on the phone to friends and relatives.

59% of Brits said they would spend more time on their mobiles if they had unlimited minutes and over half of all respondents (52%) claimed they had friends or relatives who cut short phone calls to keep costs down. Nearly half admitted doing this themselves (49%) despite it being voted one of the most annoying breaches of 'mobile phone etiquette'.

With over 85% of the population now owning a mobile phone, mobile use has developed its own 'rules' for behaviour. Asked to name the most unacceptable and annoying mobile phone habits, the majority of people surveyed cited habits such as calling someone and then hanging up so they have to return the call, texting people to ask them to call back and not picking up voicemails to save money as the most irritating.

Lance Batchelor, Chief Executive Officer of Tesco Mobile and Tesco Telecoms said: "Ours is the only pay monthly deal that gives consumers truly unlimited calling and texting. You don't have to choose if you're a chatterbox or a texter, you can use your mobile as much as you want without having to worry about the cost.

"We believe that this will change the way people use their mobile phones. The new tariff aims to give people a simple, guaranteed way to have unlimited calls, texts and browsing. It takes away the concern and uncertainty about your monthly bill as it's fixed at £30, meaning you can talk, text and browse freely, and avoid the annoying habits revealed by our research."


Unlimited tariff is subject to a fair use limit of £500
Research undertaken by YouGov for Tesco Mobile, July 2009

Tesco Mobile Gets People Talking with Unlimited Mobile Deal
see also Tesco Mobile network

Friday, August 07, 2009

UK: Stephen Timms returns as part-time minister for digital Britain

[bbc] Treasury minister Stephen Timms is to take charge of delivering the plan for the future of the UK digital industry.

Mr Timms, who remains as financial secretary to the Treasury, will report in the new role to Lord Mandelson and Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw.

The Digital Britain blueprint was published in June by ex-communications minister Lord Carter.

The plan proposed measures including a £6-a-year charge on all phone lines to pay for next generation broadband.

The plan's other key points include making broadband access available to all by 2012, a changed role for Channel 4, a consultation on how to fund local, national and regional news and a push towards digital radio.

Mr Timms is a former e-commerce minister who previously worked in the telecommunications sector.

Downing Street said creative industries minister Sion Simon would lead on aspects of the report in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with the work overseen by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

Timms to lead 'Digital Britain'

Europe: the EC has launched a consultation on the successor to the i2010 strategy

[ec] The objective of the consultation is to help prepare a new EU strategy for the information society, as the current i2010 strategy is coming to a close this year. All citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to this consultation. Closing date of the consultation is 9 October 2009. Please note that you are not obliged to answer all questions; you may focus on the areas of interest to you. You can write your replies in any of the official EU languages.

Public consultation on post-i2010: priorities for new strategy for European information society (2010-2015)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

USA: mobile ringtones maket contracts in recession

[emediawire] According to a recent analysis from SNL Kagan, ringtone sales shrank last year as subscribers learned how to add ringtones to handsets with no direct purchase through their carriers.

U.S. Mobile Music Market by Revenue to Labels
We estimate this category grew at a 37% CAGR from 2005 to 2008, from $77 million to $199 million.
Ringtone sales declined 24% in 2008 versus 2007, from $714 million to $541 million, causing overall U.S. mobile music revenues to post an annual decline -- a first for a U.S. mobile content category. Ringtones' share of the total U.S. mobile music market fell from 80% in 2005 to 63% in 2008.

Although the popularity and use of ringtones remains strong, many subscribers have found ways to bypass labels and carriers, or "sideload" music -- editing MP3 files and transferring these user-generated ringtones to handsets. SNL Kagan expects labels will begin pricing ringtones lower to rekindle demand lost to sideloading.

So what's the next revenue generator for mobile music? "When we ask mobile music insiders what will replace ringtone revenues, RBTs (ringback tones) are most often mentioned," said SNL Kagan wireless analyst John Fletcher. "We estimate this category grew at a 37% CAGR from 2005 to 2008, from $77 million to $199 million."

Other mobile music services expected to grow in importance going forward include full-track download services and ad-supported mobile streaming radio. Overall, the U.S. mobile music market grew at a 20% CAGR from 2005 to 2008.

This report was published in SNL Kagan's Wireless Investor feature and is available via the SNL Kagan Unlimited Information Service. For more information on SNL Kagan Unlimited, contact Sales at 866.296.3743; SNLKaganSales (at) snl (dot) com.

Shrinking Ringtone Sales Lead to Decline in U.S. Mobile Music Market

USA: the stimulus of $7billion for broadband will be too little to achieve its goals

[business week] Access to telecommunications networks for all Americans has been the centerpiece of U.S. information policy for 75 years. Now the U.S. government is endeavoring to equip every citizen with broadband Internet access. But the $7.2 billion Congress has allocated for the plan may not stretch as far as lawmakers envision.

The economic stimulus package, officially known as the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, directs the Federal Communications Commission to construct a "national broadband plan" and provides $7.2 billion to the Agriculture Dept. and Commerce Dept. for grants and loans for broadband deployment and related projects.

In doing so, Congress kicked off a race for government broadband money and a debate over how to achieve universal broadband access. Ironically, the money will likely be gone before the broadband policy is in place.

Part of what's slowing the process of rolling out broadband networks to remote rural and unwired urban areas are debates over how fast the networks should be, how much it will cost to provide universal broadband service, and who will pay for it.

A Leap in Data Capacity
Broadband connections allow the fast flow of information that permits people to send e-mail, shop online, and retrieve information from the Web at high speeds. Broadband Internet access also lets PC users exchange videos, music, and other large digital files. To get an idea of the leap in data capacity we're talking about, standard phone system voice calls transmit data at the rate of about 10,000 bits per second. But digital videos require bandwidths of about 2 million bits per second. Applications such as online "distance learning" classes need even more.

Some companies and consumer groups have advised the FCC to set a goal for national broadband speeds of 10 million to 20 million bits per second. Meeting that goal will require network speeds 20 to 100 times faster than is typical in today's networks, which were designed for voice or one-way video distribution. Upgrading, extending, and adding to today's networks will require enormous capital expenditures.

The problem is, nobody really knows how much capital will be needed. The broadband goal isn't yet defined, and the U.S. doesn't have an accurate count of how many households lack Internet connections or are "underserved" by slower networks.

Part of the government's stimulus money will go toward defining this "broadband gap." Closing the gap could be more expensive than the country expects, however, and will depend on several technical and geographic factors.

A More Realistic Estimate

Many estimates say that about 40 million U.S. households may be unserved or underserved by broadband networks and that providing those homes with broadband connections will cost about $1,500 per household. That comes to $60 billion at minimum, since this math excludes the money consumers will need to spend to acquire PCs and other computer gear.

The $60 billion estimate also excludes the cost of bringing users who are in areas served by slow broadband connections up to the emerging national standard. Our best estimate of the minimum capital requirement is about $120 billion. This assumes substantial provision of wireless Internet service to rural homes and elsewhere, which is contingent on making available more radio spectrum.

It's clear the $7.2 billion stimulus package funding won't go very far, even if all the money is used for network investment. And that won't likely happen, since the Recovery Act says the money also needs to be used for things such as consumer education and maps that show which areas are least served.

Some public interest groups urge more government funding and call attention to efforts of state, local, and foreign governments to build networks with tax funds. But the fiscal realities are discouraging.

To Spread Broadband, $7.2 Billion Isn't Enough

OECD: A report reviewing data on ICTs and the environment

[oecd] This report explores available statistics and data from official statistical sources and from product life cycle studies, suggests a conceptual framework for the statistical field “ICT and the environment” and makes recommendations on how to improve statistical collection.

Improving measurement of links between ICT and environmental outcomes

Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group has issued best practices to help ISPs work with consumers to eliminate botnets

[PRNewswire] With the growing problem of bot infestations contributing to spam, identity theft and online fraud, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) has issued the first best practices aimed at helping the global ISP industry work more closely with consumers to recognize and remove bot infections on end-users' machines. The paper outlines a three-step approach with recommendations for detecting bots, notifying users that their computers have been compromised, and guiding them in removing the malware.

Bots, or malware running on users' computers without their knowledge, are responsible for generating up to 90 percent of spam and can also be used to steal personal information or take part in DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. MAAWG Common Best Practices for Mitigating Large Scale Bot Infections in Residential Networks (Version 1.0) outlines strategies used by some of the largest ISPs worldwide yet was developed to be scalable for smaller network operators and to consider legal and process differences among countries.

"Bots are a global affliction and these best practices are an important step in educating the industry on the appropriate processes to help protect consumers. We're sharing the experiences of our global membership so that network operators everywhere can more aggressively tackle this problem. As an industry, we are becoming more proactive in alerting customers when bots are detected on their computers and in helping users remove the malware before it can harm them," said MAAWG Chairman Michael O'Reirdan.

The new best practices outline various options for alerting customers when their computers are infected and has suggestions for helping end-users clean their systems. The paper discusses bot detection methods, customer notification, and the use of walled gardens to limit infected machines' exposure to the Internet. Among the recommendations:

While protecting users' privacy, network operators can use various tools to detect infected end-user computers, including DNS, scanning the IP space to identify vulnerable computers, and collecting IP traffic information for known command and control addresses.
Email, phone calls to customers, postal mail and walled gardens are common notification tools, each with their own considerations. In-browser messages are considered to be among the most effective methods to alert customers but also can be technically challenging to implement.
ISPs need to maintain a well-publicized security portal that includes directions for end-user bot removal.

The paper also includes sample end-user messages and a list of malware detection and removal tools. The best practices will continue to be revised to reflect new procedures and the evolution of new bots threats.

Users Under Estimate Bot Threat

A bot residing on a consumers' computer is usually part of a larger network of machines programmed to perform specific, clandestine operations under the control of a "botmaster." The malware is often installed on unsuspecting consumers' machines when they click on an infected email or download illicit code from a compromised Web site. Bots are designed to operate stealthily - for example, sending spam or recording passwords and personal information without their owners' knowledge - making it difficult for end-users to detect their machines are infected.

While about 80 percent of consumers are aware of bots, only 20 percent believe they will ever be infected, according to a survey MAAWG released in July (the survey and related news release are available at "ISPs need to take steps to protect users, but we also need to continually educate customers and work closely with them to contain bot propagation," O'Reirdan said.

The new bot mitigation best practices are part of the ongoing work at MAAWG to confront messaging abuse. Previously, MAAWG has published best practices for managing port 25, using walled gardens, sharing dynamic IP address space, email forwarding practices, and senders best communications practices, among other topics.

The MAAWG Common Best Practices for Mitigating Large Scale Bot Infections in Residential Networks can be downloaded from the organization's Web site at The MAAWG consumer survey, published white papers and best practices also are available at the site.

MAAWG Tackles Bots with New ISP Guidelines for Restoring Infected End-Users' Machines

Haiti: Political and economic turmoil have held back development of the telecommunications sector

[official wire] The Haiti - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband profiles the fixed-line, mobile and broadband markets in Haiti.

Haiti’s economic and social indicators are still far lower than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The political and economic turmoil of recent years has kept Haiti’s telecommunications sector as one of the least developed in the world. In early 2009, Haiti’s fixed line teledensity was amongst the lowest in the world, at less than 2%.

Fixed-line services are provided by state-owned monopoly operator Telecommunications d’ Haiti (Teleco), a branch of the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications. Teleco is inefficient and poorly managed. There is a lack of accountability and questionable business practices.
Although in mid-2007 the government announced its decision to privatise Teleco, by late 2008 Teleco was still government owned and with the economy still reeling from significant hurricane damage, it appeared unlikely for the privatisation to return to the national agenda during 2009.

Given the stagnating fixed-line infrastructure and poor fixed-line penetration rates, mobile is likely to remain the principal form of telecommunications for the short-to-medium term. In the longer term growth can also be expected to come from wireless broadband solutions such as WiMAX.

This report contains overviews, analyses and statistics of the Haitian fixed-line, mobile and broadband markets.

Key highlights:
• In early 2008, Comcel in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent, launched a WiMAX network under Comcel’s 3.5GHz licence.
• Haiti’s mobile market continued to enjoy strong growth during 2008, reaching a penetration level of almost 40%by September, up from 18% in 2006.
• Digicel’s subscriber growth in Haiti remained robust during 2008, with Digicel accounting for approximately 63% of the mobile market by September-2008.
• In August and September 2008, Haiti experienced a series of devastating hurricane, with economic damage and loss estimated to be over $900 million, approximately 15% of GDP.
• Following the crippling effect of the hurricanes of Haiti’s economy, the privatisation of Teleco appeared to have slipped from the government’s agenda.

Haiti Telecommunications: Stagnating Fixed-line Infrastructure And Poor Fixed-line Penetration Rates
see also Haiti - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

USA: FTC continues its investigate of the Apple-Google relationship, event after a Google director resigned

[Reuter's] The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it will continue to investigate the relationship between the boards of Apple Inc and Google Inc, after Google's chief quit Apple's board on Monday.

Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC's bureau of competition, commended both companies for recognizing that sharing directors raises competitive issues, in light of the resignation of Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt from Apple's board.

Feinstein said regulators have been investigating the Google-Apple tie for "some time," even as the two companies increasingly compete with each other in markets such as smartphones and operating systems.

"We will continue to investigate remaining interlocking directorates between the companies," Feinstein said.

Antitrust experts say, typically, a resignation like Schmidt's would have closed the FTC investigation. But because one other person still sat on the boards of both companies, the agency was not likely to close its investigation down yet.

Former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson remains a director of both companies.

"Generally it would have shut down the investigation because they (regulators) achieved what they wanted to achieve," said Gary Reback at the law firm of Carr & Ferrell.

FTC to press on with Apple-Google board probe

Europe: Commission has published its Digital Competitiveness Report, showing the progress made

[ec] The European Commission's Digital Competitiveness report published today shows that Europe's digital sector has made strong progress since 2005: 56% of Europeans now regularly use the internet, 80% of them via a high-speed connection (compared to only one third in 2004), making Europe the world leader in broadband internet. Europe is the world's first truly mobile continent with more mobile subscribers than citizens (a take up rate of 119%). Europe can advance even further as a generation of "digitally savvy" young Europeans becomes a strong market driver for growth and innovation. Building on the potential of the digital economy is essential for Europe's sustainable recovery from the economic crisis. Today the Commission has asked the public what future strategy the EU should adopt to make the digital economy run at full speed.

Digital economy can lift Europe out of crisis, says Commission report

ASEAN: consumers seeking improvement in terms of service from ISPs and MNOs

[bangkokpost] Subscribers and users of the internet and mobile phone services in Thailand and in other Southeast Asian countries are victimised by identical problems.

As these services are run by just a handful of operators, consumers are left with limited options to accept whatever packages are on offer.

This way users are either being directly or indirectly ripped off and "deceived" by the unfair practices of telecom giants, concluded consumer advocates and telecom experts at Thursday's conference on telecommunications and consumer protection in Chiang Rai.

Led by the Southeast Asian Consumer Council, delegates from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore joined their counterparts from Hong Kong, Australia and Spain to discuss the related problems at length, from billing inaccuracies to spam marketing messages, and ways to solve them.

What was worse was, they said, while consumers have been taken advantage of by the industry, little has been done by the business sector and regulators to provide them with better services and prevent potential health impacts.

Their message is: Unless national regulators and governments step up pressure on telecom giants, consumers will continue to bear the brunt of unfair practices and risk sicknesses like developing cancerous brain tumours.

In Thailand, about 90% of mobile phone users choose pre-paid services, says the National Telecommunications Commission. Currently, there are 58 million mobile phone numbers in use in the country.

But all the current operators offer non-refundable, time-limited prepaid packages, meaning users involuntarily lose their money if they cannot use up all the credit.

"Buyers may be unaware that this is unfair because the credit unused each time may not be that high," said NTC commissioner Sudharma Yoonaidharma.

"But there are tens of millions of pre-paid users in Thailand. This means there could be up to a hundred thousand baht of unused credit, as free revenue, going into the pockets of operators," he said. "This is the money that should be returned to buyers."

Earlier, DTAC, a Thailand-based mobile network operator, charged its post-paid customers a reactivation fee should they want to resume the service terminated due to late payment. The NTC later ordered it to scrap the practice after countless complaints from consumers.

In the Philippines, the level of customers being ripped off by telecom giants is excessive, said Filipino delegate Reilee Joy Dulay. Common complaints include deceptive and exorbitant rates, a pricing scheme and expiration dates on prepaid cards, she said. Mobile phone users there are charged for each unsolicited or spam message sent by the operator. The situation is not much different in Indonesia where there are just 12 operators providing services for 230 million people, said Indah Suksmaningsih of the Indonesian Consumers' Organisation.

Operators mislead people through advertisements. Buyers, therefore, are not well-informed of hidden terms and conditions on charges, she said.

For the internet, the conference was told the cost of broadband service in the Philippines is too high and thus a heavy burden for low- to medium-income people. Internet users in Indonesia have to put up with poor quality of services. In Thailand, the government recently asked the operators to halve their pricing of broadband services only to receive a cold response.

What is the same for the three countries is the telecom industry is dominated by just a handful of operators, leaving buyers with limited choices.

"The number of users continues to increase dramatically while that of service providers has rarely expanded over the past years," said Mr Sudharma of the NTC.

The problem is that investment in infrastructure development in this industry is high, meaning there is room for only a limited number of players, he said.

This market domination is what really allows the operators to force unfair conditions on consumers, he said.

Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, agreed, saying national governments needed to bring about more liberalisation to encourage more providers in this sector.

While businesses enjoy less competition in this highly profitable industry, the majority have not invested that much in improving the quality of their services.

The conference was told that users have had to tolerate poor quality services, such as having their communications cut off without warning, or asked to pay more for high-speed internet only to receive a lower level service instead.

What is more worrying, said electrical engineer Sumeth Vongpanitlerd, is that operators are not willing to invest more to safeguard the health of users.

As wireless and mobile technologies cannot do without the installation of relay antennas at the community level, electro magnetic radiation released by the antennas could endanger the health of those regularly exposed to it, he said.

Though there is no scientific proof that it can cause headaches and brain cancer, health experts have not ruled out the possibility, he said.

But operators can minimise the risks by increasing the number of antennas as that could reduce the radiation's density level. "Operators don't want to do that because they would have to invest so much more. If this is obliged by law, potential health risks would be eliminated. It's up to the government whether it wants to take action," he said.

Telecom operators in hot water - Conference agrees users being ripped off

ASEAN: consumers seeking to improve the performance of ISPs and mobile operators

[bangkokpost] Consumer groups are pledging a new Southeast Asia-wide battle against unfair business practices by telecom giants.

The activists, led by a non-profit consumer network, the Southeast Asian Consumer Council (SEA-CC), wants to force governments to improve access to internet and mobile phone services.

They were speaking at the close of a three-day conference held in parallel with the annual meeting of Asean telecommunications regulators here.

"Telecommunications is a transnational issue important enough for regulators to hold such an annual meeting, which is always well attended by business," said Jiraporn Limpananont, SEA-CC's chairwoman.

Regional cooperation among activists was vital for getting consumers a better deal, she said. The meeting drew more than 50 consumer advocates from eight countries - Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Spain. They found consumers have many problems in common.

These include billing inaccuracies, unfair charges, spam messages via mobile phones and spam emails, and difficulties in settling disputes.

Consumers, especially those in developing nations, have been offered poor quality services such as limited network coverage, calls which fall off the network, and slow delivery of messages.

Indah Suksmaningsih, of the Indonesian Consumers' Organisation, said consumers were also forced to receive unwanted marketing messages from operators and other businesses.

Saree Aongsomwang, secretary-general of Thailand's Foundation for Consumers, said activists would work together to demand basic standards in telecommunications services for the region.

"We'll demand businesses, especially international ones, offer customers in Asean countries the same standard that consumers in developed countries get, and to be more socially responsible," she said.

Consumers could lose out when Asean free trade agreements come into effect early next year, said Seah Seng Choon of Singapore.

"Whole markets in certain areas including e-commerce will open as a result of the change, and businesses will be able to do whatever they want without barriers," he said.

Fight looms with telecoms giants over unfair trade

New Zealand: Finally, the third mobile operator has gone live after years of delay

[cellular news] ­After years of delays, numerous ownership and name changes, New Zealand's third mobile network operator has finally launched its services. 2degrees has announced also low market rates with no contractual commitment. In particular, 2degrees offers a no contract "Pay Now" service with call and text rates that it says are half the headline price that Vodafone and Telecom offer their pre-pay customers. Plus 2degrees' rates are valid anytime of the day and week.

Eric Hertz CEO of 2degrees says "the 2degrees no contract 'Pay Now' service means that there's no more deciphering complicated plans, no commitment to a minimum spend, no need to pay for airtime never used, and no contracts."

2Degrees - formerly, NZ Communications, and then before that, Econet Wireless - was granted a mobile license in 2001 when it formed an alliance with the Hautaki Charitable Trust which was allocated a 3G license at a discount price by the regulator.

Only last month, the company changed its CEO and Trilogy International Partners brought a controlling stake in the firm.

New Zealand's 3rd Mobile Network Finally Launches

South Africa: Employees are on strike over requests for increased pay

[cellular news] ­Employees of South Africa's dominant landline telco, Telekom SA are striking this week over pay demands. Communication Workers union members in three of its provinces namely Gauteng; Kwazulu Natal & Western Cape intent to down tools by staying away from work from the 3rd to the 4th of August 2009.

CWU members in Gauteng are expected to march to Telkom Head Office on the 4th August 2009 to deliver a memorandum outlining their grievances and demands.

CWU members in other provinces will also be following the strike programme of "Go-Slows" and an ban on overtime working. The union will be staging a national march on the 11th of August 2009 in the event that an agreement with Telkom has not been reached.

The CWU says that its members are still adamant that their salary scales adjustments should precede the 7.5% salary increment and both the adjustment and increment must be implemented retrospectively to the 1st April 2009. Another burning matter was the distribution of Telkom profits to its employees.

It is estimated that around 3,500 employees are complying with the strike.

Thousands of Telekom SA Staff Strike Over Wage Demands

USA: FCC has launched an inquiry into Apple's rejection of of Google VoIP app

[WirelessWeek] The FCC has launched a sweeping inquiry into Apple’s recent rejection of Google’s telephony application for the iPhone, Google Voice. The FCC on Friday sent letters of inquiry to Apple, AT&T and Google in an effort to understand the relationship between the companies with regard to Apple’s application approval process for its App Store.

The move is the latest in FCC efforts to gauge competition in the wireless industry.

The letters pose a range of questions related to the App Store’s practices. More specifically, the FCC questions the approval criteria for applications submitted to Apple’s popular App Store and whether AT&T had any involvement in the rejection of the Google Voice application.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement Friday that the move was an effort to obtain information and protect consumers. “The Wireless Bureau’s inquiry letters to these companies about their practices reflect the commission’s proactive approach to getting the facts and data necessary to make the best policy decisions on behalf of the American people,” he wrote.

Apple was not available for comment before press time, but blame for the rejection has been passed around in recent days. According to some reports, Apple said that it rejected the app due to Google Voice’s duplication of services offered by AT&T, such a text messaging.

A spokeswoman for AT&T was referring reporters to Apple, saying that “AT&T doesn’t manage or approve applications and has received the FCC letter and will respond accordingly.”

Another similar third-party application, GV Voice, also was rejected by Apple.

FCC Probes Apple on Google Voice Rejection