Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Australia - Business Council has added its voice to the calls for cost benefit analysis of the NBN

[herald sun] AUSTRALIA'S powerful business lobby says a cost-benefit analysis of the $39.5 billion National Broadband Network is needed.

The Business Council of Australia yesterday welcomed the unveiling of a long-awaited NBN business plan.

But the group - representing 100 of the nation's top companies - said "only a rigorous and transparent cost-benefit analysis" could determine whether the investment was "in the national interest".

Another leading business group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, raised similar concerns about the lack of detail.

ACCI director of economics and industry policy Greg Evans said: "Irrespective of the business case put today, the question remains: 'Is it prudent for the Government to be taking on this risk and associated spending without an independent and rigorous cost-benefit analysis?' "

Releasing the business plan yesterday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the public investment of $27.5 billion in the network would be "returned with interest".

"What this document is telling you today is the NBN is viable," Ms Gillard said.

"That's before you go to all of the economic benefits for business."

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the release of the business plan was an important step in giving business a better understanding of the scope and implications of the project.

"The potential gains from improving business productivity through very fast broadband were not included in the business case released today and offer considerable opportunity to extend the national gains from this investment," she said.

The NBN is expected to provide a 7.04 per cent internal rate of return and produce $5.8 billion in annual revenue in financial year 2021.

The business plan depends on NBN Co striking a binding $11 billion deal with telco giant Telstra to split its retail and wholesale arms and transfer its customers to the NBN.

Telstra yesterday said it intended to have a shareholder vote on the agreement by the middle of next year.

Cost doubts linger on National Broadband Network

Greece - OTE is to freee wages for two years and to eliminate some benefits

[suite 101] The Hellenic Telecom OTE Worker's Union OME-OTE and OTE management have ratified the corporations' wage policies for 2011.

Kathimerini morning newspaper reports on Tuesday the 28th of December 2010 that Hellenic Telecom OTE management and OTE employees through their union representatives have agreed to a renewed remuneration policy to help the corporation through these trouble times.

The OTE Telecom agreement includes a two year wage freeze, as well the reduction or total elimination of certain extra benefits that were awarded to Hellenic Telecom OTE employees during the years.

The final settlement between the employees’ union and OTE management ended harmoniously after 11 months of laborious collective bargaining; the workers’ union consented to the wage freeze whilst securing current wage levels as a reference base for current and future negotiations.

Salary Freeze and Benefit Reduction

In addition, the latest agreement includes overtime remuneration reduction from 140% to 120% of current salary levels, and a 50% reduction in the ½ hour remuneration that drivers and chauffeurs earn for heating company car engines.

Deutsche Telecom’s CEO (Deutsche Telecom owes 30% of Hellenic Telecom OTE while the Hellenic Government owes 20% of Hellenic Telecom) outlined his preference that OTE moves towards wage reductions –as has been stipulated by Greek finance minister Papakonstantinou- and additionally towards staff reductions so that OTE matches Deutsche Telecom’s costs towards revenues; Deutsche Telecom’s employee costs are 20% of its total revenue while OTE’s costs are 37% of OTE’s revenues.

The OTE union reps ( OME OTE ) dispute the Deutsche figures since, as OME OTE points out, the figures aren’t based on equivalent accounting methods or staff enumeration. In addition, wage reductions as recommended by the Greek government would be unilaterally across the board, and are likely to receive little support from OTE management who would also be subjected to such wage reductions.

Hellenic Telecommunications: OTE moves towards Wage Freeze

Malta - Consumer Council is concerned by growth in complaints about telecommunications

[times of malta] The Consumer Affairs Council is preoccupied with the prevailing situation in the telecommunications sector in as far as consumer rights are concerned.

In a statement, the council said that the recent removal of two popular channels from the major cable operators programmes again triggered many complaints by consumers and this sector was probably the one where most complaints by consumers were being registered.

Such complaints could include possible misleading advertising, unfair contract terms, unfair commercial practices, difficulties to move from one operator to the other and other instances of possible abuse of consumer rights.

The council said it will be holding meetings with the Malta Communications Authority and the Consumer and Competition Department so as to try and find ways and means to ameliorate the coordination between these two entities when investigating possible abuses.

“Such decisions should be given wide publicity for the benefit of all as empowered consumers fully aware of their rights, possibly in all sectors, is the way forward,” the council said.

Situation in telecommunications sector worrying consumers' council

Singapore - the IDA has adopted a revised Telecom Tecompetition Code (TCC) updating the 2005 original

[channel news asia] Consumers can expect a better deal when they next sign a contract with a telecom operator such as SingTel, StarHub or M1.

Starting 21 January, it will be harder for these companies to penalise consumers if they breach their contract with the telcos.

Under the revised Telecom Competition Code, telecom operators cannot "cross-terminate" a consumer's agreement.

This means that if a consumer has a cable TV and mobile contract with a telco, and the consumer dispute charges for the cable TV contract, for example, the telco cannot threaten to terminate the consumer's mobile contract or vice versa.

This is applicable to all contracts, except for those sold under a single bundle or offered under the same service agreement, for example, if a telco offers a free fixed line when a consumer subscribes to cable TV as a bundled service. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said consumers' right to enjoy a basic telephone service will also be protected unless there is a breach of the agreement of the telephone service itself.

In addition, under the new law, telcos will no longer be allowed to automatically charge consumers once a free trial service has ended.

Telcos need to get consumers to agree first before charging them. Currently, such terms and conditions are buried in the fine print of a service contract.

IDA said consumers often end up being charged for services which they are unaware of. It said: "This requirement was introduced due to increasing number of complaints received by IDA from consumers. IDA's intent is not to stop the free trials, which could be beneficial to consumers, but to ensure that licensees keep consumers clearly informed upfront of the terms of any free trial services and when charging will begin, and to obtain the consumers' express agreement to subscribe to the service to minimise disputes".

These changes are part of regular reviews conducted by IDA.

The last review was done in 2005.

Leong Keng Thai, IDA's Deputy Chief Executive and Director-General (Telecoms & Post) said: "IDA reviews its codes and guidelines periodically to ensure that they would be effective and relevant with the times.

"We hope this Code, revised following its second review, will continue to protect consumers' interests, facilitate market entry and police anti-competitive behaviour."

Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, SingTel and StarHub said they are reviewing the changes.

A StarHub spokesperson said: "As StarHub operates in a competitive environment, being customer-focused is always a key priority for us. With regard to the topic of charging after a free trial, we would like to note that we do not charge our customers after a free trial of their service has ended, unless we have obtained consent from them.

"The current Telecoms Code already contains a requirement that 'the end user will not be required to pay for any telecommunication service that the end user did not consent to receiving". As for the other changes to the Code, we are currently reviewing them."

A SingTel spokesman said: "We provided our views during the course of the IDA's public consultation process, and we shall review the revisions to the Telecom Competition Code."

Better consumer protection with revised Telecom Competition Code

Gabon - Maroc Telecom (Vivendi Group) has completed its purchase of 51% of Gabon Telecom

[bloomberg] Maroc Telecom has completed the final payment for a 51 percent stake in Gabon Telecom SA, which it bought from the state in 2007, Gabon’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications said.

Maroc Telecom, which is controlled by Paris-based Vivendi SA, has paid the last 34 million euros ($45 million), the ministry said in a statement today.

Gabon Telecom had 36,000 fixed-line subscribers in the first half of 2010, unchanged from the year before. The remaining 49 percent of the company belongs to the state.

Maroc Telecom Completes Purchase of Gabon Telecom, Ministry Says

Brasil - Other operators may be allowed to share with Telebras the extension of the Broadband network

[bloomberg] Brazilian telecommunications companies will be invited to share with state-owned Telecomunicacoes Brasileiras SA leadership of the government’s plan to extend broadband Internet services to all homes, incoming Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo told Folha de S. Paulo newspaper.

The private carriers will need to offer a reasonable price and a quality service to ensure their participation in the government’s plan to deliver broadband access to 68 percent of Brazilian homes by 2014, Bernardo said, according to the Sao Paulo-based newspaper.

Bernardo, who is currently Brazil’s planning minister, will assume control of the broadband plan when he takes office Jan. 1 with President-elect Dilma Rousseff.

Brazil Telecoms, Telebras May Share Broadband Plan, Folha Says

Sao Tome - The sole mobile operator now has more than 100,000 customers or over 60% of the population

[telecom paper] Companhia de Telecomunicacoes Santomense (CST), 51 percent owned by Portugal Telecom and 49 percent by the State of Sao Tome, has just passed the milestone of 100,000 customers on its mobile network. This represents a penetration rate of over 60 percent of the population of Sao Tome, estimated at around 164,000 inhabitants. The 100,000 clients represents growth of 25 percent over the previous year, when the growth was 60 percent. CST plans to introduce 3G in the first quarter of 2012.

CST surpasses 100,000 mobile customers

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

UK - 1 million children have no home access to the Internet at home

[metro] In a new study by the E-Learning Foundation, a digital education charity, it was also discovered that a further two million kids can't get on the internet in their house.

Those from poorest families are hit hardest, as the organisation found these homes to be two-and-a-half-times less likely to have the internet than children from the richest backgrounds.

The foundation's chief executive Valerie Thompson said that so many children are given plenty of gifts over the Christmas period but people must continue to reflect on the fact that too many youngsters live in poverty around the UK.

She continued: 'For those at school, this translates into very tangible disadvantages when it comes to completing homework, researching topics, independent learning, and communicating with teachers and classmates on the school learning platform.'

Without a computer with the internet, this attainment gap measured by the E-Learning Foundation that characterises children from low income families will only get worse, she added.

The E-Learning Foundation's objective is to make sure every school-age child in Britain has access to a computer with an internet connection at home.

Over 1m children 'have no home access to computer'

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghana - Govt responds to arguments by operators against tightening of rules and taxes on incoming international traffic

[ghanaweb] RE: Dakar Declaration – Concerning Government Imposed Surcharges On Incoming International Traffic.

The attention of the Ministry of Communications has been drawn to a statement issued by the West African Telecommunications Conference of telecom operators held in Dakar on 25th November 2010 concerning ‘government imposed taxes on incoming international traffic’. The statement was published in the Monday, December 13, 2010 edition of the Business and Financial Times, and lately it is being serialized in some of the national daillies.

The conference sponsored and organized by France Telecom, was attended by Vodafone and some operators in an ostensible attempt to frustrate the regulation of the activities of the telecom operators in the wake of the increasing popularity of the success of anti-fraud activities being undertaken by the National Regulatory authorities.

Indeed, the Declaration of the ITU Study Group 3 Regional Group for Africa meeting in Dakar held in March 2010 took notice of the unique network by multinational telecoms groups and called for special and indispensable steps to be taken by the African Regulatory Authorities to protect the interests of their states to guarantee the revenue optimization and its equitable distribution.

The recommendations of the ITU Study Group-3 meeting, signed by the Regulators, acknowledged the necessity to set up “common platforms for the exchange of information in real time on the flow of traffic. This technological update is all the more important because it will serve to collect fees from the various players and to fight fraud – which is a scourge of the telecommunications sector – efficiently”.

In the rush to discredit the exercise by Regulatory Authorities in Africa to establish mechanisms to protect the markets from dumping and anti-competitive practices and raise revenue for development, the Telecom Operators in their Statement made serious misrepresentations, for which reason it is necessary to throw more light on the international telecom operations.

To begin with, the Ministry is satisfied that the regulation of the communications sector in Ghana is conducted in an open and transparent manner and this is in consonance with the transparent and democratic credentials of the Better Ghana Agenda of the Government.

It is the existence of Ghana’s enabling legislation and the generous incentives provided by Government that have largely contributed to continual growth of the sector and which has attracted such global players as MTN (50% market share); TIGO (23%); Vodafone (15%); Bharti Airtel (10%); and Espresso (2%).

The France Telecom-engineered conference has made an assumption that the tax on international traffic runs counter to the decision of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference of 1998 that requires settlement fees to be cost based. This statement demonstrates a clear mis-understanding of the ITU. The protocols of a Plenipotentiary Conference also reserve the right of individual countries to set aside the provisions of the Conference where these conflict with sovereign interests of the particular country.

Furthermore, there is a reference to a communiqué of a meeting of ICT Ministers in Bamako on 29th July 2010. This actually refers to a meeting of the UEMOA member countries. This is a francophone grouping that Ghana does not belong to.

It is also strange that the discussion on the tax failed to recognize that the European countries (e.g. France, Spain, Hungary, Portugal) have also instituted general telecommunications taxes to be managed by the Telecoms Regulators. In the last year for instance, special taxes have been introduced by European countries as a way to increase tax revenue in periods of large public deficits. Most relevant examples are:

In France, Law 2009-259, of 5 March 2009, imposed on French telecom operators with revenue of more than 5 million euros a special tax of 0.9% of their total revenue from subscribers minus VAT for the financing of public broadcasting. The total amount expected to be raised is around €400 million a year.

In Spain Law 8/2009 of 28 August 2009 imposed a special tax; Hungary instituted a special ‘crisis tax’ of 6.5% of gross revenue by the Act of Parliament in October 2010. Portugal has also made public a draft bill instituting a tax on total internet access revenue of 1.5% to finance local cinema production.

Aside from these special taxes, the European countries also impose: General Telecom tax, Numbering tax; Spectrum tax; and Land occupation tax on operators for occupation of land for the deployment of their networks.

It is pertinent to mention that during the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) involving stakeholders from Government, telecom operators, equipment manufacturers, civil society, etc, held in Dakar on 9-10 November 2010, the Industry Leaders Forum that was held as a side-event of the GSR introduced the same issue of taxation on international telephone traffic and it was made clear that developing countries consider taxation as a vital source for revenue for, and should therefore be respected.

With regard to the assertion that the tax increases the retail prices, it is pertinent to note that in Ghana, Act 786 specifically provides in section 1.3 that ‘a network operator shall not charge its customers for its services because of the minimum rate for international incoming electronic communication traffic’. It is therefore incumbent on the telecom operators to comply and ensure that no increase in retail prices will be made on account of the observance of the minimum rate for international incoming traffic to affect subscribers/consumers.

The Ministry also wants to respectfully report that contrary to the charge that the tax will cause a reduction in incoming international traffic accompanied by a reduction in revenues and diminished fiscal receipts, the Ghana experience has witnessed significant increases in traffic through the legal international gateways bringing along buoyant revenues that some of the honest operators have attested to.

Ministry of Communications response to the statement by GCT

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mobile - Google will overtake Apple through dominance in search and advertising

[mobile marketer] Google dominates mobile advertising, with a market share of 59 percent of total spending including search and display advertising, followed by Apple with 8.4 percent and Millennial Media at 6.8 percent, according to IDC.

When it comes to mobile Internet display ads, Google is tied at first place with Apple with 19 percent market share and independent ad network Millennial Media comes in second place with about 15 percent. Google dominates mobile search advertising, with an ad revenue market share of 91.4 percent.

“The key finding is that the market grew very fast this year, by about 146 percent, which was much faster than we thought and we also think that next year we will see almost $2 billion for mobile online advertising,” said Karsten Weide, research vice president of digital media and entertainment at IDC, Framingham, MA.

“The second key finding is the majority of that spend will be search advertising,” he said. “Display was bigger than search and we find that now this is not true anymore. In mobile display, the market is more fragmented.

“A lot of mobile Internet traffic comes from peole looking for stuff on the go so we expect mobile search to grow. We believe the one company that is going to do well because of that is Google. We also believe that Google is going to outgrow Apple in mobile display market share.”

Google to beat Apple?

Mr. Weide said that he expects more Android devices will be sold than Apple devices in years to come.

More mobile devices mean more market share. More market share means more inventory for ads. More inventory means more impressions, which means more revenue.

Google will outgrow Apple in mobile display advertising, Mr. Weide said.

Total U.S. mobile online ad spending for 2010, including search and display advertising, will be an estimated $877.2 million, up 138.3 percent from the $368 million spent in 2009, according to IDC.

Implications to brands and marketers

For brands and marketers that are looking into engaging in mobile search advertising, Google is the company to go with.

“You probably want to go with Google and not the smaller players like Microsoft and Yahoo because they don’t have the required traffic volume for a successful search campaign,” Mr. Weide said.

“In display, if you are a marketer you want to go to someone that has access to all the major networks,” he said.

Mr. Weide said companies should go with Google rather than Apple when it comes to mobile display advertising.

Google’s AdMob runs ads on both iPhone and Android devices, ensuring reach and impressions.

For marketers that go with Apple, all they get is Apple and neglect the other half of the market.

2011 growth

Whether it’s Google or Apple, one thing is for sure. Mobile advertising is growing by leaps and bounds.

This year mobile advertising was about 3 percent of marketers’ total online advertising budgets, per IDC. In 2011, this number is expected to grow to 5 percent.

The reason for the growth is advertisers are following eyeballs. There is a lot of activity on the mobile Web and advertisers finally understand that it is an effective marketing channel.

Additionally, the mobile phone is a personal device. It enables in-your-face advertising. The ads are more personal than on the PC.

Another reason for the expected growth in mobile advertising budgets in 2011 is for marketers it is about the results and the effectiveness of a channel. Mobile is starting to make a name for itself with ads that see grand results.

“Marketers love the new, cool and sexy stuff and they want to ride the cool wave,” Mr. Weide said. The final reason why mobile budgets will increase is they do realize that mobile advertising will be big.

“We expect there will be more mobile Internet traffic than the desktop, meaning mobile display and mobile search will outgrow their PC counterparts,” he said. “I am very skeptical about rich media though because the phone screens already are so congested.

“Video will be big, but I don’t see other rich media being big because already AT&T has pulled the plug on unlimited data plans. I expect other carriers will follow and when they do, it will become very tricky to use apps and rely on a lot of data. Location-based advertising will be most successful.”

Final take

Both Apple and Google's platforms foster innovation, but in a different way. Here is Bloomberg's take on the Google-Apple feud, following Eric Schmidt's resignation from the Apple board.

Senior Editor Giselle Tsirulnik covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at

Apple beware: Google will rule the mobile industry in 2011, claims IDC

UK - Regulator wanrs against undisclosed blogging and tweeting

[guardian] The Office of Fair Trading has fired a shot across the bows of marketing companies that buy blogposts and tweets for sponsored promotions without disclosing the fact, after finding that a London-based company broke its code on disclosure.

But it declined to say whether it will be going after other companies in the next few months, despite the insistence of Handpicked Media, an 18-month-old startup based in Carnaby Street which the OFT censured on Monday, that the practice is widespread.

The OFT would not say either whether it will apply the rulings demanding full disclosure of sponsored postings to newspaper or magazine articles that appear online, such as travel or equipment reviews, but it has set a precedent that will strengthen the hand of the Advertising Standards Authority, which will gain regulatory powers over UK internet advertising from March.

Handpicked Media, founded and run by Krista Madden, provides text and content for sponsored posts for about 200 blogs. Madden said she was "quite happy" with the OFT ruling and insisted it had grown from a single tweet earlier this year which had failed to indicate that it was sponsored.

In a press release, the OFT said: "The OFT has received undertakings from Handpicked Media, an operator of a commercial blogging network, requiring them to clearly identify when promotional comments have been paid for.

"In taking this enforcement action the OFT has confirmed its view that online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose they include paid-for promotions are deceptive under fair trading laws. This includes comments about services and products on website blogs and microblogs such as Twitter."

But Madden insisted that she has pushed clients to disclose when they are paid to blog or tweet. "I started this company because I wanted absolute disclosure because I knew that other people weren't doing it," she told the Guardian. "There's a lot of blogging going on which doesn't have full disclosure, a lot of places."

She said she had suggested to the OFT that there were other organisations which would fall foul of its rules by not being transparent about payment.

Robert MacDougall of the OFT declined to say whether the organisation will act on any of Madden's suggestions.

"We take each case on a case-by-case basis," he said, while insisting that the finding – which was determined by the OFT without reference to a judge – was part of a strategic aim of the organisation.

OFT fires a warning shot over sponsored Twitter promotions

Mobile - IDC predicts app downloads will grow to USD 77 Bn by 2014

[zdnet] International Data Corp. projects that the number of mobile apps downloaded worldwide will grow from 10.9 billion in 2010 to 76.9 billion in 2014. That growth will equate to $35 billion in revenue in 2014.

In its forecast, IDC said that mobile apps are moving from phones to tablets to TVs and other devices in the home.

IDC said there will be an increasing move toward appification as software interacts better with users. In other words, mobile apps will extend into every aspect of our personal and business lives, argues IDC.

That final point is worth pondering. Will everything really be appified or is IDC just trying to accelerate the app bandwagon?

Global mobile app market to hit $35 billion in 2014, says IDC

Sunday, December 12, 2010

UK - Govt to ensure every community will have access to super-fast broadband by 2015

[yourindustrynews] Every community in the UK will gain access to super-fast broadband by 2015 under plans outlined today.

The private sector is to deliver broadband to two thirds of the UK. Other, mainly rural, areas will receive public funds to build a "digital hub" with a fibre optic internet connection.

Ministers say they aim for the UK to have Europe's best broadband network.

"The reason we want to do this is very simple -- it's about jobs," says Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Speaking to the Today Programme he said the government had a key role in "catalysing investment by the private sector" in broadband. Mr Hunt cited the example of South Korea which has high speed broadband throughout the nation and which was "90%" paid for by private firms.

The government has earmarked £830m for the scheme, with some of this money coming from funds given to the BBC to pay for the switch to digital TV.

Mr Hunt said the strategy would give the country Europe's best broadband network by 2015 and will be central to economic growth and the delivery of future public services, dependent on quick, reliable access to the internet.

Explaining why the government had abandoned the plans of the former administration that promised 2 megabits per second broadband for all by 2012, he said: "It's silly to hang your hat on a speed like two meg when the game is changing the whole time.

He added: "What we've said is that just giving people two meg is not enough, what people use the internet for is changing the whole time."

A recent study by the regulator Ofcom revealed that fewer than 1% of UK homes have a super-fast broadband connection, considered to be at least 24Mbps.

However, the government does not define the minimum speed it hopes super-fast services will achieve.

"In order to determine what constitutes 'the best' network in Europe, we will adopt a scorecard which will focus on four headline indicators: speed, coverage, price and choice," the strategy says.

"These will be made up of a number of composite measures rather than a single factor such as headline download speed."

Difficult-to-reach areas

Much of the detail of the government's broadband strategy has previously been announced, including how it will be funded and the coalition's desire to see everyone able to access broadband with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2015.

Labour promised the same minimum speed for everyone by 2012.

But the coalition says that it will now roll together its drive for universal access with its strategy to deliver super-fast broadband.

At the heart of this is a plan to create a "digital hub" in every community by 2015.

"Our goal today is very simple: to deliver a fibre point in every community in the UK by the end of this parliament," Mr Hunt is expected to say when he delivers a speech outlining the strategy at the London headquarters of computer giant Microsoft.

Communities and local operators would then be expected to take on the responsibility for extending the network to individual homes.

The coalition has earmarked £50m of the £830m to pay for trials - particularly in difficult-to-reach areas - to see how it can ensure that super-fast fibre optic broadband reaches these communities in the timescale.

These new trials will run alongside projects in North Yorkshire, Herefordshire, Cumbria and the Highlands and Islands, announced earlier this year.

"We will be inviting local bodies and devolved administrations right across the UK to propose new testing projects in April of next year, with a view to making a final selection in May," Mr Hunt will say.

In his speech, Mr Hunt will also confirm that the government will sell off parts of the spectrum in 2011 that could be used for mobile broadband services.

Government reveals super-fast broadband plans

USA - FCC has published its latest Broadband Deployment report - at end of 2009 58% of connections were less than 3Mbps

[converge digest] The FCC published its Broadband Deployment Report, providing detailed statistics across the United States based on data from 31-December-2009. The report categorizes connections into speed tiers defined by eight ranges of downstream speed and nine ranges of upstream speed.

At year-end 2009, 58% of reportable connections (or 76,594,000 connections) were slower than 3 mbps in the downstream direction, 12% (or 16,172,000 connections) were at least 3 mbps in the downstream direction but slower than 6 mbps, and 30% (or 40,382,000 connections) were at least 6 mbps in the downstream direction. Extensive charts and tables are included in the 83-page report.

FCC Releases Sixth Broadband Deployment Report

New Zealand - Mayor of Wellington calls for ultrafast broadband to ensure economic growth of the city

[wellington] Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is working with Central Government to bring the huge benefits of ultrafast broadband to Wellington.

Communications Minister Steven Joyce has announced that the Government has selected partners to lay fibre-optic cable to homes and businesses in nine cities and towns in the North Island - the first tranche of a $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband (UFB) investment.

Mayor Wade-Brown has already had conversations with the Minister about the importance of UFB for Wellington and said she was looking forward to continuing to work with the Government in the issue.

She said: "UFB is a must. The potential benefits to the Wellington region are huge - calculated at between $400 million and $650 million a year.

"The issues are more complicated in the big cities than the smaller centres so I am looking forward to discussing with Crown Fibre Holdings how we and our regional partners can make sure Wellington's interests can be met."

The Government, in partnership with the private sector, aims to roll out infrastructure which will bring UFB access to 75 per cent of New Zealanders over in 10 years, concentrating in the first six on priority users such as businesses, schools and health services.

Wellington City Council is a key member of the regional Broadband Operating Group, which represents the Wellington region's nine councils.

Mayor Wade-Brown said the Wellington region is home to 52,179 businesses - more than 10 percent of all New Zealand businesses - with business growth faster than for New Zealand as a whole.

She said: "Wellington was the first major New Zealand city to deploy fibre, work begun by Wellington City Council staff. The innovative use of technology is the cornerstone of our region and is a critical ingredient in our tourism, film, creative, education, health and governmental sectors. It will also greatly benefit education and social connection.

"We have a large, young, highly skilled and globally connected population which would guarantee high take-up."

In October a report from Business and Economic Research Ltd found that early roll-out in Wellington urban areas would add 11 percent to the region's GDP by 2026. The impact of the nationwide roll-out on New Zealand's overall GDP was found to be 8.9 percent.

Ultrafast Broadband 'a must' for Wellington

UK - Govt's Broadband plan largely welcomes, but with criticism of the "fbire tax"

[isp review] The government's new plan to bring faster broadband internet access to almost every community in the UK by 2015 ('Britain's Superfast Broadband Future'), which was released yesterday morning, has today been broadly well received by the vast majority of ISPs, albeit not without some extremely harsh criticism of particular points (e.g. Fibre Taxation).

Several critical issues, such as the controversially unbalanced tax on new fibre optic lines (Fibre Tax) and the minimum download speed commitment (USC) of 2Mbps, remain key stumbling blocks for some providers. Vtesse Broadband has even decided to stall further rural deployment projects until the regulatory issues can be fully resolved.

An ISPA Spokesperson said:

"ISPA welcomes Government's announcement making clear its vision, commitment and investment to bring the UK's broadband future to everyone. We welcome the aim of tackling the digital divide by bringing superfast broadband to rural areas and support cooperative work between industry and other stakeholders to help the roll out of broadband within the right regulatory and policy framework.

It is important to stress that there have been significant developments in superfast broadband by ISPs in the UK which is set to continue. ISPA would like to see any Government investment used for places where it is not viable for the market to reach to ensure that no-one is excluded from super-fast broadband and the opportunities it offers.

ISPA would also like Government to ensure that there is a level playing field when it comes to companies having access to backhaul networks when building their network. Currently 'fibre taxes' are considered by many to be hindering small scale network developments and slowing down the roll out of super-fast broadband across the country. The importance of sensible terms for open access to poles, ducts and cabinets is also

UPD UK ISPs React to the Governments Superfast Broadband Report and Slam Fibre Tax

Bulgaria - Electricity company is preparing to enter the telecoms market using excess capacity of its fibre network

[novinite] Bulgaria’s National Electric Company (NEK) is preparing a tender for remittance of part of its telecommunications network, the company’s CEO Krasimir Parvanov has announced.

“At present we use only 30% of our network and the rest could transmit digital television throughout the country, as well as 70% of the Internet,” the company has explained.

NEK has built a fiber optic network in parallel with the rehabilitation of its own grid.

The cables have been placed in the lightning-protected ropes of the larger grids. So far, the company has used them to transmit their own data in real time. The number of embedded optical fibers is 24 and the company uses six of them for its own needs.

“So far we did not need a license for such activities because we work for ourselves. We will also not need it when we begin to remit part of the network because it will be given to already licensed operators,” Parvanov said.

The phones and Internet of NEK are also connected to the system. The company has not yet completed its network, which currently covers 2880 km, which is one fifth of the Bulgarian territory. The transmission speed is 9,600 megabytes per second. The completion of the cables for the rehabilitation of the grid in the country is pending.

Bulgaria’s NEK to Enter Telecommunications Sector

Saturday, December 11, 2010

India - Deputy Minister reports advice from regulator to cancel large numbers of GSM spectrum licences

[pib] TRAI has not recommended cancellation of 2G spectrum licenses of 85 companies. However, recently TRAI has recommended for cancellation of 38 Unified Access Service (UAS) Licenses.

Further TRAI has also recommended for cancellation of 31 UAS licenses after legal examination.

Cancellation of 2G Spectrum Licences

see also Report No. 19 - Performance Audit of Issue of Licences and Allocation of 2G Spectrum by the Department of Telecommunications (Ministry of Communications and Information Technology)

India - Regulator has called for the cancellation of 38 of the licences issued by now ex-minister Raja

[straits times] INDIA'S telecom watchdog has called for the licences of operators caught up in what could be the country's largest corruption scandal to be cancelled, a statement said on Saturday.

The proposal to cancel 38 permits came as the government reeled under fierce attacks from opposition parties for the way second-generation (2G) licences and radio bandwidth were awarded two years ago.

The firms affected by the recommendation include the Indian joint ventures of Norway's telecommunications giant Telenor and Emirates Telecommunications Corp, junior communications minister Sachin Pilot said in a statement.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or TRAI, has also recommended the cancellation of 31 more licences including a joint venture of Russia's Sistema investment holding company but only after a further legal examination.

The Congress-led government plans to 'take necessary action after verification of data and after taking legal notice', Mr Pilot said in the statement posted on a government web site.

The regulator's recommendations are not binding on India's telecommunications ministry, which holds the power to cancel the licences.

Watchdog urges scrapping of telecom licences

UK - Welsh Executive has set out plan for next generation broadband by 2016

[zdnet] Welsh businesses will all have access to next-generation broadband by 2016, the Welsh Assembly pledged on Wednesday.

The Delivering a Digital Wales report (PDF) also stated that "all households will be enabled by 2020". Although the broader UK plan for super-fast broadband is for almost all of the country to get connected by 2015, much of Wales is rural and some of it would fall into the small percentage that Westminster's subsidies will not reach, making the Welsh Assembly's promise a fresh commitment.

The document stated that, as of 2009, 58 percent of Wales had broadband access, and 75 percent of Welsh small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) "use the internet in some way" — the UK figure for internet-using SMEs is 81 percent. According to the Welsh Assembly, only 35 percent of the Welsh population is likely to get super-fast broadband without public subsidy.

"We will seek to ensure that market-led private investment in next-generation broadband and additional next-generation deployment through public sector intervention will together deliver high-speed broadband services throughout Wales," the document read. "We expect that all businesses in Wales will have access to next-generation broadband by the middle of 2016, and that all households will be enabled by 2020."

The report added that any public-sector-funded super-fast broadband in Wales would have to deliver at least 30Mbps, "and ideally 100Mbps to avoid the need for repeat investment at a later date".

Welsh government lays out broadband plans
see also
Delivering a Digital Wales report

Friday, December 10, 2010

Syria - Discussions about 3rd licence show concerns about policy and regulatory uncertainty

[reuters] Syrian telecom officials came under a torrent of questions at a meeting with international companies regarding a major cellphone tender, seen as a test of the state's declared intent to shed secrecy in doing business.

The rare meeting in the Syrian capital on Wednesday was part of an auction process for a third cellphone licence in one of the last markets in the Middle East with a major potential for expansion, telecom executives told Reuters.

The cellphone sector, a major source of state revenue, has been marred by political interference since the government awarded operational contracts to two existing cellphone companies, MTN and Syriatel, nine years ago.

Two independent public figures who criticised those contracts were jailed for a total of 12 years. Officials said the process for granting the third licence, which started last month will adhere to international standards.

Representatives from Turkcell, France Telecom, Saudi Telecom, Emirates' Etisalat and Qatar's Qtel, the five firms that made a pre-qualification shortlist to become Syria's third operator, met Telecom Minister Imad Sabouni and his aides at a hotel in Damascus.

Detecon, a German consultancy advising the government on the process for granting the licence, also attended.

"The licensing process is going with a high level of clarity and transparency. The objective of this meeting is to reach a better understanding of the companies' requirements," Sabouni said before a two hour Q&A.


"The questions centred on sections in the tender where investors see risk, and vagueness about certain clauses," one of the executives said.

The executive said one company raised the need to regulate roaming agreements with the existing two operators so the new operator would not face a disadvantage.

"The minister agreed that this needs to be addressed. He and his team were professional, emphasising that the government will be a partner with the third operator and had no interest in seeing the new entrant lose money," he said.

A point of contention was that pre-qualified companies had to submit a business plan with revenue projection, although an auction will decide who will be awarded the licence.

Rare meeting spotlights Syria cellphone licence risk

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Malaysia - Govt advised to accelerate rollout of broadband to achieve economic growth

[bernama] The National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) has recommended that the government accelerate the rollout of broadband.

Its second and concluding report on the New Economic Model (NEM) said expediting the implementation of broadband was a national priority.

This was not only to put Malaysia back on track to robust growth but also as an important tool for the eight Strategic Reform Initiatives (SRIs), including the creation of new growth and income for the SMEs and the rural areas, it added.

Broadband was a key in the provision of innovative services nationally, globally and a critical platform for SMEs, it said, adding that a World Bank study suggested that if a country were to increase its broadband penetration by 10 per cent, it could support more than a one per cent increase in GDP growth.

"Broadband is more supportive of growth than older technologies such as Fixed Line, due to the higher speed and bandwidth that facilities video-conferencing, content creation, and value propositions," it said.

The report said that the recommended broadband expansion policies could leverage Malaysia's advanced infrastructure by:

* Attracting large data and processing centres (such as Google and Yahoo) to one of the five focus areas with good High Speed Broadband (HSBB) in order to generate content and spin-off services.

* Using the Universal Service Provision Fund (USP) to speed up implementation of HSBB in Zone 1 as a matter of priority to generate revenue and growth by the incumbent telecommunication companies (telcos).

* Focusing on content development. The National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) Lab has suggested using eGovernment, eLearning and eHealth as drivers for content provision, software, and process skills that could be adopted or replicated for the other emerging markets.

The NEAC suggested that there should be a concerted public-private initiative to focus on content development in the media and cultural area that could assist the SME and tourism sectors.

NEAC Recommends Speedier Rollout Of Broadband

UK - BT (with govt financial support) will reach 9 of 10 UK properties

[cable] The telecoms giant said it can achieve this target if it wins £830 million of government funding.

BT has confirmed it will be able to bring super-fast broadband to nine in ten UK properties if it wins all the public money available for fibre deployment.

The coalition government has indicated it will release £830 million during the current parliament and the next in a bid to bring the technology to more rural parts of the country.

With this in mind, BT said funding on that scale would enable it to deploy fibre optic broadband to 90 per cent of homes and businesses, provided the regulatory and investment environments are favourable.

Responding to the news, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "A super-fast broadband network is vital to the country's economic growth and the development of our high-tech and creative industries, as well as the reform of public services."

BT's fibre-to-the-street cabinets offer download speeds of up to 40Mbps, with the company claiming this figure could potentially rise to 60Mbps in the future.

BT confirms plans for 90% fibre optic broadband coverage

Broadband - global fixed broadband market has grown steadily in 2010 in terms of subscriber additions as well as service revenue

[iptv news] The global fixed broadband market has grown steadily in 2010 in terms of subscriber additions as well as service revenue, with revenues for the third quarter of this year rising 10% year-on-year to reach US$ 44.4bn, according to a new report from ABI Research.

DSL is still the dominant access technology, and currently accounts for nearly 60% of fixed broadband service revenues, according to the report, although this share is expected to dwindle: “Due to market saturation in most regions, DSL broadband’s growth rate is expected to slow, especially in those Western European countries where DSL penetration is greater than 50%,” said Jason Blackwell, digital home practice director at ABI Research.

Global adoption of fibre-based broadband has been growing fast in 2010, according to the research firm, as they can provide high enough speeds to offer consumers advanced services such as IPTV, video-on-demand and other interactive applications. ABI Research predicts that fibre broadband services will generate revenues of more than US$ 30bn in 2011.

Customer demand is described as driving the push for faster and more reliable broadband access, with UK cable operator Virgin Media named as showing a 43% yearly increase in its customer base for high-speed broadband services. Broadband operators around the globe will need to continue innovating to improve broadband speeds in order to maintain growth in Average Revenues Per User (ARPUs) and reduce churn.

The research firm also projects that global revenues from fixed broadband services should approach US$ 186bn in 2011.

Fibre broadband to generate over US$ 30bn next year

Australia - Regulator has advised govt to reject the NBN Co's interconnection plan

[reuters] Australia's competition regulator has told the government to reject a plan by its $35 billion National Broadband Network to extend its monopoly by limiting the points where internet service providers can access the network, The Australian newspaper reported on Friday.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has told the government to discard the NBN's plan to build just 14 "interconnection" points in five capital cities and instead it would require 200 such points, the newspaper said in an unsourced report.

The interconnection points allow service providers to hook into the NBN's fibre optic network to deliver broadband services.

The super-fast broadband plan was a key election for Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labor. Rival phone companies have been critical of the plan and want to be able to connect at up to 400 points around Australia.

Earlier this month Parliament passed a bill to force dominant phone company Telstra Corp to separate its wholesale and retail arms, enabling the government to finalise an A$11 billion deal with the firm for the use of its fixed-line assets in developing the NBN.

Australia regulator tells govt to reject NBN monopoly plan -report

Australia - One danger of the NBN is of regulatory capture, ACCC has made the first set of recommendations

[business spectator] One of the big risks posed by the intensity of the Gillard government’s commitment to the national broadband network and by the marginal, at best, economics of the network is that of regulatory capture.

The regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has been intimately involved in developing the NBN concept, which represents its own triumph after nearly a decade and a half of battling Telstra. With the NBN paving the way for structural separation of Telstra, it would be tempting for the ACCC to do what it can to help the parlous economics of the project.

The first real test of the commission’s approach to regulating the NBN relates to its recommendations on the numbers of points at which retail service providers can connect to the NBN.

The ACCC’s recommendations on the number of points of interconnection had to be handed to the government by 30 November and there have been a number of reports, which the commission won’t confirm or deny, that it has recommended against NBN Co’s preferred model.

NBN Co’s preferred option of 14 POIs – two in each capital city – ignited a fierce backlash from the industry because that option would strand or undermine the returns on a vast amount of existing backhaul fibre. At the moment there are about 550 POIs in Telstra’s network.

A limited number of POIs would also effectively extend NBN Co’s monopoly.

NBN Co has argued that having fewer POIs would enable it to lower the combined costs of accessing the NBN and providing backhaul to the retailers and help to promote greater competition at the retail level. It would also make it easier for it to meet the government policy of national uniform pricing.

The ACCC would be conscious that it is firm government policy that there will be national uniform pricing at the wholesale level and that having only a handful of POIs would be the most obvious way of delivering that objective. Conversely, the fewer the number of POIs the bigger the NBN Co monopoly and the less competition.

It would appear the ACCC favours having a larger competitive dimension in backhaul provision, presumably using other mechanisms – like direct subsidies – to produce uniform pricing.

If the ACCC has advocated several hundred POIs it would be difficult for the government to reject that advice, particularly as those telcos with their own fibre – and there is a lot of fibre out there – have been threatening to seek compensation if their fibre is stranded.

In the summary of the NBN Co business case that was released last week, however, NBN Co warned that a rejection of its preferred option would cut 50 to 80 basis points from its own projected internal rate of return, although the IRR would still remain above the long-term government bond rate.

The implication in the summary was that the IRR would be marginally above the risk-free rate but substantially below NBN Co’s estimate of its weighted average cost of capital of 10 per cent to 11 per cent.

While the ACCC may have been frustrated in the past at the extent to which Telstra managed to retain its dominance of fixed line telecommunications, the access regime had allowed competitors to install their own infrastructure within Telstra exchanges and compete for its customers. NBN Co’s monopoly, while wholesale, will be more complete.

That, and the shaky economics of a project that will cost $35.7 billion – and potentially far more – means that it is imperative that the ACCC protect the long-term interests of end users of the network by emphasising competition wherever it can and ensuring that the footprint of the monopoly is as small as possible.

Ironically, that will provide common interest between the ACCC and Telstra and the rest of the sector, who have also found themselves in the novel position of siding with Telstra on the POI issue.

NBN Co will inevitably try to improve its financial position as much as possible. As we’ve seen with Telstra that is a natural and indeed desirable organisational ambition – NBN Co needs to be as efficient and commercial as possible if consumers and taxpayers’ interests are to be maximised – but it does demand vigilance and a ‘’competition first’’ mentality from the regulator if the natural instincts of a commercial organisation are to be disciplined.

By the sound of it, the ACCC is off to a good start – provided the government heeds its advice.

The ACCC's NBN temptation

Bahamas - Cable & Wireless will pay USD 210 million for 51% of Bahamas Telecom Co.

[business week] The Bahamas government is selling a majority interest in its telecommunications company to London-based Cable & Wireless Communications.

The $210 million deal for 51 percent of the company will be completed by early next year. Officials say it will improve communications across the island chain.

Cable & Wireless Communications operates in the Caribbean under the trademark Lime.

It made the announcement on Thursday and said the Bahamas will receive $15 million in cash upon closing.

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company is the sole mobile operator in the British territory, where it serves 392,000 mobile customers and also provides broadband services.

The company reported $361 million in revenues last year.

Bahamas to privatize telecommunications company

Bahamas - Cable & Wireless will acquire 51% of Bahamas Telecom from the Govt

[trading markets] Cable & Wireless Communications plc (Cable & Wireless Plc), a UK-based telecommunications company, has entered into non-binding memorandum of understanding to acquire a 51% stake in Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited, from The Government of the Bahamas for $210 million.

The Government of the Bahamas will also receive any excess net cash in Bahamas over and above $15 million (calculated at completion), subject to a normal level of working capital being maintained in the company.

Bahamas is a provider of fixed-line telecoms, Internet, data and hosting services. The transaction is expected to complete in the first quarter of 2011.

Cable & Wireless Communications to acquire 51% stake in Bahamas Telecommunications

India - Further complaints between operators about overstating of customer numbers

[tribune india] After Vodafone Essar, it is now the turn of other two major GSM mobile operators, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, to fire a salvo at dual technology operators Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications, in what is a sequence of the recent war of words that erupted after Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata accused GSM operators of “hoarding spectrum”.

A fresh round of controversy began after Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular issued a statement pointing to the inflated figure of active customers reflected by the dual technology operators on their networks.

Another twist to the tale was added by MP-industrialist and a former telecom entrepreneur, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who accused Ratan Tata of “speaking inconsistently and in two voices over the critical issues of out-of-turn allocation of spectrum, hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators and flip-flop of the telecom ministry policy”.

According to reports, Chandrasekhar, in a letter to Ratan Tata, has questioned the need for such a prestigious group like Tatas employing a lobbyist like Niira Radia and the wisdom of Tata Group head in fighting corruption by doing an “ineffective intellectual post-mortem” instead of active resistance. The MP was referring to Tata’s bribery charge regarding an incident that occurred 15 years ago. Chandrasekhar wondered “why Tata remained silent all these years when he should have spoken out then and there”.

The statement by Bharti and Idea follows sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) report mentioning that some of the operators were inflating their customer base figure.

TRAI had undertaken the exercise in a bid to establish the correct number of mobile subscribers in the country, which was one of the fastest growing markets in the world with about 15 million additions every month.

Apparently referring to Tata Teleservices and RCom, the GSM operators said their competitors “had a very low active customer base, both for their long-established CDMA operations and the relatively new GSM operations”.

The TRAI report last week had revealed that less than 50 per cent of the subscribers of new cellular operators were active, in sharp contrast to the national average of 70 per cent active users.

It had further said that Bharti had over 89 per cent active customers, while Idea Cellular had 88 per cent, followed by Vodafone Essar at 75 per cent, compared to 45-47 per cent for Tata (GSM and CDMA) and 65-67 per cent for RCom. This was the first time that the telecom regulator had released the percentage of active customers on operator networks.

Notably, the TRAI had last month told telecom companies to report their active subscribers. Though companies use different yardsticks, many define an active subscriber as one who has used the phone at least once in a defined time period, such as the preceding 30 days.

Bharti, Idea accuse Tata, RCom of inflating customer base figures

India - Regulator claims only 70% of mobile customers are "active"

[domain b] The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has set the cat among the pigeons with its recent finding that only 70 per cent of mobile subscribers were 'active' as of 30 September. Apart from belying the much-reported figures of India's mobile telephony growth, the TRAI report has also re-ignited the simmering war between GSM and CDMA operators.

According to TRAI, out of India's wireless subscribers were 687.71 million, but only 70 per cent or 482.89 million are active. It further found that new entrants Sistema Shyam, S Tel, Unitech, Loop, Videocon, and Etisalat have the least active subscribers - and even the Tatas' telecom entities are lagging, with just 44 per cent of CDMA subscribers and 46.2 per cent of GSM users actually using their services.

This is the first time the telecoms regulator has released the percentage of active customers on operator networks.

Established GSM operators like Bharti Airtel and Idea, with a higher percentage of active subscribers, look good in comparison.

Prompt to react to the findings, Bharti Airtel said on Monday, "The first-ever 'visitor location register' report, which captures the number of active customers on mobile networks, nails the canards and lies spread by a particular set of telecom operators, which falsely alleged that established and performing GSM operators have been reporting inflated customer numbers.'' It added that 90 per cent of its customers were active.

Idea on its part claimed that 88 per cent of its customers were active. Both companies said that they welcomed TRAI's move to capture real, active user base.

Fortuitously, the TRAI findings come in the midst of allegations by Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata that GSM operators are 'hoarding spectrum'. The GSM-based companies have now riposted by accusing dual-technology licence holders Tata Telecom and Reliance Communications – which operate on both GSM and CDMA platforms - of inflating their customer numbers.

30% mobiles idle; new telcos have least active subscribers

India - CDMA operators has counter-claimed that GSM operators were overstating their subscriber numbers

[ciol] Responding to the allegations made by Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular that CDMA players have been wrongly reporting wireless subscriber figures to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Tata Teleservices has pointed finger back at the active wireless subscriber figure reported by other telecom operators.

"The statement issued by some of the older operators on VLR (Visitors Location Register) figures contains inaccuracies and doesn't hold water. That's because it does not present a true apple-to-apple comparison. As a Tata Group company, Tata Teleservices Limited has taken on the most stringent parameters for VLR reportage, that's on a peak-period of just seven days, while most other operators are calculating their VLR figures on much longer periods, of 30 days and so on,” mentioned TTSL spokesperson in a statement send to CIOL.

The TTSL spokesperson further clarified that TTSL does not register a SIM in its visitor location register if it has been inactive for seven days while most of the other operators do not remove it from their VLR for 30 days.

The spokesperson added that some operators even wait for longer period of time, say 45 days, 60 days and even 90 days for SIM to respond.

“That's the reason for the difference in VLR figures from operator to operator. Going forward, TTSL will also be reporting its VLR figures on the basis of the direction by DoT – that will provide a true picture and a just comparison of VLR and other parameters,” mentioned the statement.

TTSL mentioned that the company has learnt this kind of practice being followed by most of the operators from DoT itself.

Reacting to TRAI’s recent report on telecom subscribers base in which the authority has first time included active subscribers number based on VLR, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular in a joint statement alleged that a set of telecom operators, having CDMA operations and relatively new GSM operation, inflated their subscriber numbers. This way both Bharti and Idea Cellular in hidden words pointed fingers at TTSL and Reliance Communications.

“The first-ever Visitor Location Register report from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which captures the number of active customers on mobile networks, nails the canards and lies spread by a particular set of telecom operators falsely alleging that established and performing GSM operators have been reporting inflated customer numbers. The TRAI report exposes the double standards of these operators. Paradoxically, they are the ones who have inflated their own numbers, as evidenced in the report of their VLR records establishing a very low active customer base both for their long established CDMA operations and the relatively new GSM operations,” mentioned the joint statement from Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular.

TRAI in its report on telecom subscriber base in last September included active subscribers on all telecom networks. The report stated that active wireless base based on VLR was 482.89 million against the total wireless base of 687.71 million by TSPs.

According to this new set of data, Bharti Airtel has 89.3 per cent active subscriber on its network and Idea Cellular 87.89 per cent of their total subscriber base.

Tata Indicom has only 44 per cent, Tata DoCoMo 46.18, Reliance CDMA 68.26 per cent, and Reliance GSM 66.35 per cent of active subscribers on its network against the total number of subscribers reported by these companies.

TTSL points finger at GSM operators

UK - govt will deliver a digital "parish pump" to every community

[isp review] Yesterday the government announced its ambition to deliver a Digital Hub to almost every community in the country, which it claimed would be at the heart of their £830 million strategy to make sure that the "UK has the best broadband network in Europe by 2015" (here). But just what do they mean by Digital Hub?

The concept sounds, at least for now, similar to that of a community owned Digital Village Pump (DVP), which has been pioneered by ISPs like Fibrestream ( NextGenUs ) and a few others, to help bring fibre optic broadband connectivity to rural towns and villages. A hub is not unlike a small local telephone exchange, albeit often almost exclusively focused on digital / internet connectivity.

In essence, a fibre optic cable is carried from a reliable backhaul source outside of town and dug all the way into the village, where it connects inside a small building (DVP) to manage the areas various premise (home / business) connections. Premises can then be individually connected by digging a direct fibre optic link ( Fibre-to-the-Home ( FTTH )), or the service could even be distributed over wireless (e.g. Wi-Fi , WiMAX etc.); sometimes called FiWi (Fibre Wireless).

This certainly sounds a lot like what the government proposed yesterday when it said that, "The hubs will act as central digital points in each community, with high speed connections to the nearest exchange and communities working with local providers to extend networks to individual homes".

Examining the UK Governments Digital Hubs for Superfast Rural Broadband

UK - Govt to subsidise fibre to every community not covered by market-based operators

[zdnet] The government will subsidise a fibre-connected cabinet for each community ignored by the private sector's push to deploy fast broadband around the country, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on Monday.

The plan — which will involve £50m worth of pilot projects — brings together two programmes inherited from the Labour government. One is to provide universal broadband of at least 2Mbps across the UK, and the other is to ensure that fibre-based connectivity reaches the mostly rural 'final third' of the country that the private sector deems uneconomical.

Having already shifted the deadline for 2Mbps back by three years to 2015, the government is now signalling it wants much faster connectivity available to everyone by that date.

In a speech to the think-tank Reform on Monday, Hunt said that super-fast broadband would bring new jobs as well as fresh opportunities for telemedicine and education. He praised BT and Virgin Media's rapid deployment of super-fast broadband connectivity, as well as moves by smaller providers such as Vtesse and Rutland Telecom.

"The government does have a key role to play in stimulating competition and catalysing investment in the new infrastructure we need," he said, pointing to the £530m that the government recently diverted from the BBC licence fee to rural fibre as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The government has also indicated that a further £300m can be found if needed.

"The strategy we are publishing today represents our plan for how to spend it in a way that will stimulate the greatest possible investment in our super-fast broadband network," Hunt said.

The culture secretary listed various steps the government has already taken, including forcing BT to open up its ducts and poles to competitors, clarifying existing guidelines for street works to improve co-ordination, encouraging broadband-ready new-build houses, and releasing new spectrum for mobile broadband.

Hunt stressed that the government favoured a technologically neutral policy on broadband provision — the end user may get their connectivity via fixed, wireless or even satellite means. However, he said it was nonetheless necessary to get fibre "deeper into the network".

"In order to help achieve this, I can announce that we will be making up to £50m of funding available for a second wave of super-fast broadband market testing projects — to add to those that we have already established in North Yorkshire and Herefordshire, Cumbria and the Highlands and Islands," Hunt said. "We will be inviting local bodies and devolved administrations right across the UK to propose new testing projects in April of next year, with a view to making a final selection in May."

The culture secretary also highlighted a few of BT's recent moves, notably the telco's plan for a 1Gbps trial in Kesgrave early next year, and "a signal that they intend to bid for our £830m investment by matching it with a similar investment".

A spokesman for Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that the government's commitment extended to providing a link between a fibre cabinet in each relevant community, and their closest exchange. "The existing copper network should be sufficient to provide super-fast broadband speeds to the majority of homes in that community," he told ZDNet UK.

The DCMS spokesman stressed that Hunt's new scheme did not necessarily involve BT in each case, but was "available to whoever can come up with the best proposal to provide good services and the most cost-effective way — it could be BT, a local consortium or another provider".

The government has not "put a definition on 'community'", he added. "The likelihood is, if it is three houses on top of a mountain, that's not a 'community', but a village is."

Government to subsidise fibre for rural communities

India - Police raid minister's home in investigation into spectrum pricing scandal

[bloomberg] News photographers climbed walls and passersby gawked as officers from India’s Central Bureau of Investigation searched for clues yesterday in a $31 billion probe at the government-issued bungalow of ex-Telecommunications Minister Andimuthu Raja in New Delhi.

In Mumbai, packaging company Uflex Ltd. completed a 33 percent two-day slide after Chairman Ashok Chaturvedi was convicted in a separate land allotment investigation carried out by the CBI, India’s federal anti-corruption agency.

The high-profile cases may bolster the graft-busting credentials of an agency that lists an $11 bribe as one of its most important convictions and was criticized by the Supreme Court for inaction in the telecom probe. Corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency help make India the riskiest country in Asia for investors, according to this year’s survey by Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd.

“Without convictions, and a powerful and effective anti- corruption agency, corruption remains a low-risk and high reward proposition in India,” consultant Jon Quah said in a telephone interview from Singapore, where he works with Asian governments and the United Nations on corruption-related issues. “If the incumbent government is not committed in curbing corruption, the ‘big fish’ or rich and powerful are usually protected from investigation and conviction.”

In the past month, federal investigators have ensnared eight executives at the nation’s biggest life insurer, a brokerage and three state-run banks in a housing-loan probe and detained organizers of the $4.6 billion Commonwealth Games for misappropriation of public funds.

Household Names

Still, the CBI has yet to secure convictions of political leaders in any of the cases that are household names in India including the so-called Fodder Scam, a 25-year probe into the theft of $215 million from the animal husbandry budget of Bihar state, and the 24-year investigation into the Bofors defense contract in which then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was investigated, according to S. S. Gill, a retired Indian civil servant, and the author of the Harper-Collins 1999 book “Pathology of Corruption.” Gandhi was posthumously cleared of bribery charges by the Delhi High Court in 2004.

“In all of these famous cases, there hasn’t been a conviction of a single major political or national figure,” wrote Gill. “There cannot be a stronger indictment of the Bureau.”

More Corrupt

Some 74 percent of Indians believe that the country has gotten more corrupt in the past three years, and only a quarter feel that the Singh government has been effective in fighting graft, according to Transparency International’s 2010 Global Corruption Barometer. Indians consider political parties to be the most corrupt institutions in the country, the report, released in Berlin today found.

CBI spokesman R. K. Gaur did not respond to a list of e- mailed questions. CBI officials declined to comment on details of documents they described as “incriminating” seized from Raja’s two residences yesterday and from 12 other locations, including the houses of his former personal secretary, three other ex-officials in the telecommunications department and a managing director of a Chennai-based export agency.

The CBI raids on Raja, an ally of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress Party, fall short of opposition lawmaker demands for an all-party probe into the telecom case that has stalled parliament for a month, blocking legislation on land reform, mining and banking.

‘Lacked Transparency’

Raja, 47, has denied any wrongdoing in the 2008 sale of mobile-phone licenses that “lacked transparency and was undertaken in an arbitrary, unfair and inequitable manner,” costing India as much as $31 billion, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Telenor ASA, based in Fornebu, Norway, and Emirates Telecommunications Corp., the United Arab Emirates’ largest phone company, were among operators that purchased stakes in Indian companies the auditor said weren’t qualified for the licenses.

The investigations checked gains in the world’s best performing major stock market this year, sending the Sensitive Index down 7 percent since reaching a record on Nov. 5. While India is Asia’s second fastest-growing economy, growth could accelerate by as much as half a percentage point if it reduced corruption to South Korean levels, according to a 2007 analysis published by the Washington-based Cato Institute, a policy research group favoring free markets.

‘Investors Aren’t Dumb’

“Investors aren’t dumb - it’s not like they don’t know these things (corruption) are happening in India,” said Samir Arora, founder of hedge fund Helios Capital Management Pte. in Singapore. “But other than in telecom, the scale of these investigations has not shaken the overall super confidence in India - ten guys in ten companies taking $10,000 bribes doesn’t really mean anything.”

Prime Minister Singh vowed Nov 21 that any wrong-doers would “be brought to book,” while declining demands from opposition lawmakers for a deeper probe. The Supreme Court yesterday asked the government to form a special court because of the magnitude of the alleged offense.

“With these investigations, you get a lot of political theater,” said Michael Johnston, a professor of political science at Hamilton, New York-based Colgate University, who has studied corruption in Asia. “In Indian politics, more pieces are in motion, things are changing so rapidly, and the political picture gives a lot of leverage to minor and regional parties.”

Conviction Rate

The CBI, with a 2010 budget of $83 million, has a conviction rate of as high as 70 percent, “comparable to the best investigation agencies in the world,” according to its website. Those included a telephone lineman in Mumbai who was sentenced to 3 years rigorous imprisonment for taking a $11 bribe to install a phone line, and a Union Bank of India clerk who was sentenced to jail for two years for accepting a $109 bribe, according to an Oct 2009 listing of important convictions.

India spent about 28 cents per capita fighting corruption in 2005, while Hong Kong spent $12.14, said Quah, a former National University of Singapore professor.

The CBI had 9,636 cases pending trial at the end of 2009, yet more than one-third of the positions in its prosecution department were vacant, according to its 2009 annual report.

Even if investigations drag on and don’t necessarily result in convictions, the publicity and temporary arrests of the accused are helpful, Paramjit Bawa, the Chairman of Transparency International India, said in an interview.

“Being put behind bars, even if for a little while, is a punishment in itself,” said Bawa. “You were once on a high pedestal, and now you’ve toppled from it by a process of law.”

India Raids Ex-Minister's Home as Corruption Focus Moves Beyond $11 Bribes

India - Mr Justice Shivaraj Patil to inquire into spectrum licence scandals within one month

[reuters[ The Indian government will set up a one-man committee of a former Supreme Court judge to examine the allocation of telecom licences and spectrum, some of which were granted at rock bottom prices, in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit India this year.

Speaking to reporters, Indian telecom minister Kapil Sibal said former Justice Shivaraj Patil would look into the internal operating procedures of the telecoms ministry and the allocation of licenses and spectrum between 2001 and 2009.

He said he would like to see the inquiry completed in a month.

"We want to look at whether internal procedures were followed or not, if they were deviated from, to what extent, and who was involved in the deviation, if any."

The case, which revolves around the sale of telecom licenses at low prices, has led to the resignation of India's telecoms minister, and, according to an official audit, has possibly lost the state $39 billion in revenue.

It has also frozen the country's parliament for nearly a month as opposition parties have demanded a full parliamentary investigation.

The scandal is one of many corruption scams that has hit India this year, including a bribes-for-loans scam in which eight officials from financial institutions have been arrested.

In its report on the telecoms scam, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said rules were flouted when the licences were given in 2007 and 2008, and led to many ineligible firms receiving them.

"We are relying on the judge to tell us what was right and what was wrong," Sibal said. "Objective is to tell the people how spectrum was granted over the years, so that people know what procedure was followed at various points in time and why."

Companies named in a government auditor's report on the scam included Uninor, a unit jointly owned by Unitech (UNTE.BO) and Norway's Telenor (TEL.OL), Etisalat DB Telecom (ETEL.AD), into which Swan Telecom and Allianz Infratech later merged, Loop Telecom, Videocon Telecommunications and S Tel.

India's telecoms ministry has said it would send notices to five companies that were given 85 telecoms licences in 2008, asking why their licences should not be cancelled after the government auditor found the firms were not eligible for them.

The ministry will also send separate notices to 119 telecoms licensees that have not complied with services rollout obligations. Sibal said separate notices would be sent out to companies this week, seeking details on procedural issues.

India to set up one-man committee for telco probe

UK - Fixed traffic data show the "regions" in terms of patterns of fixed telephone calls

[it portal] A team of collaborating researchers from MIT, Cornell University and University College London have used a massive database of 12 billion anonymised fixed line call records to redesign the map of Britain.

The data, which was originally meant for the BBC's Britain from Above series, allowed the researchers to map Britain according to the frequency of the calls made by people in the country, the BBC reports.

The researchers used local telephone exchanges to break the call records down according to the areas they were made between. By using a computer programme, they were able to create a map of Great Britain using the data.

People in regions that made and received the most phone calls were thought to be better socially connected than others.

Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT SENSEable City Lab and project leader, said "The difference between Scotland and Wales is striking. Based on our landline data, Scotland is very separated from the rest of Great Britain: just 23.3 per cent of all call time placed or received there goes to or comes from another part of the country."

Scientists Use Fixed Line Call Data To Produce "Social" Map Of Britain
see also Senseable at MIT

India - Regulator proposes 100 mn broadband customers by 2014, a 10 fold increase

[economic times] India's telecom regulator on Tuesday said it was targeting a 10-fold increase in broadband subscribers to 100 million by 2014.

The country has 10.29 million subscribers now. "We will have 100 million broadband subscribers by 2014," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman J.S. Sarma said at the fifth India Digital Summit 2010 organised by the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

He said TRAI will come up with its recommendations on a national broadband plan in a day or two.

Sarma said the regulator was also planning a licensing regime for value added services (VAS).

TRAI has stated in a consultation paper that the non-availability of national broadband network to provide connectivity up to village level, non-availability of content in vernacular language and affordability of broadband were factors affecting the growth of broadband in India.

As per TRAI, the high broadband tariff in the country was due to the lack of sufficient competition.

TRAI targets 100 mn broadband subscribers by 2014

Australia - Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation has been created at Marsfield NSW

[electronics news] CSIRO and NICTA has joined forces in the launch of the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation.

The ACBI was launched on 7 December 2010 at the headquarters of CSIRO’s ICT Centre at Marsfield.

According to the organisations, the ACBI will establish a large scale testbed network of fibre, wireless and satellite. It will eventually have a national footprint and will work with industry to deliver breakthrough broadband applications.

Dr Ian Oppermann, director of CSIRO’s ICT Centre said, “With ACBI's broadband network we'll take the broadband applications we're developing out of the lab and bring them into the real world. We'll test our applications with real people, over a real network, bridging real distances between real towns."

CSIRO and NICTA are in talks with the ABC, IBM, Technicolor, Microsoft, Huawei, Hewlett Packard, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, and claim industry support will be key to the success of the ACBI.

CSIRO and NICTA launch Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation

UK - OFCOM to impose access obligation on BT in a review of wholesale broadband markets

[computing] Communications regulator Ofcom is to impose access obligations and price controls on BT in broadband markets where the telecoms giant has significant power, in a bid to get a better deal for consumers.

Regulations and price controls are outlined in Ofcom's Review of the Wholesale Broadband Access Markets, which puts considerable emphasis on the relationship between competition and market success.

"Competition has driven the success of the current generation of broadband services. The result has been greater choice, innovation, lower prices and high levels of broadband adoption," it says.

"We have found that there is effective competition in almost 80 per cent of the UK.

"However, in just over one-fifth of the UK – covered by what we have called Market 1 and Market 2 – we have concluded that there is not sufficient competition and so have had to imposed regulation."

According to Ofcom, Market 1 is an area in which BT is currently the only provider of wholesale broadband services.

Market 2 is an area with two or three significant providers, but where BT still has market share of 50 per cent or more.

"In Market 1 there is limited prospect in the near term of any wholesale competition," argues the report.

"Therefore, we are imposing general access and non-discrimination obligations on BT, together with a requirement that charges should be based on the costs of provision," said the report.

BT will be subject to a wholesale price cap, to ensue it does not pass on excessive charges to consumers.

"These obligations will ensure that other communication providers have the opportunity to use wholesale products supplied by BT to compete effectively at the retail level," Ofcom says.

To obtain transparency, BT will also have to publish information on the services it provides in Market 1.

In Market 2 areas, BT will also be subject to general access, non-discrimination and transparency obligations. However, owing to the constraint on pricing provided by there being other operators in these areas, BT will not see strict price regulation here.

Details of the charge controls being imposed in Market 1 will be outlined in a separate consultation at a later date.

Ofcom to impose cap on BT charges

Canada - Regulator said to lack legal authority to force ISP to expand rural coverage

[globe and mail] The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has no legal authority to force Internet service providers to expand high-speed broadband to rural areas, says a business professor.

Ian Lee says CRTC hearings, held in October to decide whether companies should be required to extend broadband Internet to all rural parts of the country, are outside the commission's jurisdiction.

“They have encroached into new territory that they never were in before, that they didn't have the authority to encroach upon before,” Mr. Lee, a professor at Carleton University's Sprott School of Business, said in an interview.

It's the latest salvo in a continuing controversy over whether the CRTC has the authority from Parliament to make telecommunications companies such as Bell Canada treat broadband the same as other services, like telephone or dial-up Internet.

Those in favour of making broadband a basic required service say CRTC regulation is the only way thousands of rural Canadians without high-speed Internet will ever see service in their homes.

“You have to do it that way because otherwise you'll just have this hodgepodge of programs that don't really work and that are also subject to a lot of political manipulation,” said John Lawford of the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a group of lawyers who argue on behalf of consumers.

One Internet service provider, MTS Allstream, told the CRTC during the hearings in October that covering 100 per cent of the country would cost $700-million a year for 10 years.

The federal government, struggling with a $56-billion deficit, may be reluctant to commit the public money necessary to fund rural broadband.

Lee's comments echo arguments Internet service provider Bell Canada made at the October hearings.

Bell officials said the CRTC cannot make the Internet a basic service because it would force the company to expand its broadband network outside its current service territory. Vice-president Denis Henry said the independent public commission, which operates at arm's length from Parliament, can only regulate the company within the area it currently serves.

CRTC officials argued during the hearings that declaring high-speed Internet a basic service falls within their mandate to regulate existing services.

Other advocates for basic service say leaving expansion of the Internet to market forces will also mean a continued lack of service for rural residents.

“It will be a godforsaken long time before Bell is providing access to rural eastern Ontario or northern Ontario, remote locations,” said technology lawyer David Fewer, the director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.

“It's not going to happen without some interest that goes beyond market forces.”

Launching a court case against the CRTC is one way to overturn a decision. Mark Goldberg, a telecommunications consultant, says a court could decide the commission has no legal basis for ruling in the area.

The CRTC will make a decision on the matter by May.

Jacqueline Michelis, a spokesperson for Bell Canada, says the company will wait until then before commenting on possible legal action.

While high-speed Internet is readily available to urban residents of Canada, many of those living in outlying areas of the country are still forced to make do with dial-up, generally less reliable and slower.

A report released by Statistics Canada earlier this year found that 92 per cent of people in Canada had access to high-speed Internet in 2009.

Internet regulation outside CRTC jurisdiction: expert

New Zealand - Govt is drip-feeding information about "ultrafast" broadband with little indication of delivery of the service

[voxy] After two years in office National is still drip-feeding the public information about its ultrafast broadband scheme, with no indication who the major players will be and when those decisions will be made, says Labour's Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran.

"Despite announcing two regional agreements today to deliver fibre in Northland and the Central North Island, Communications Minister Steven Joyce was unable to guarantee that the remaining 25 ultrafast broadband agreements could be finalised before next year's election," Clare Curran said.

"After announcing wholesale access prices of between $40 and $60 a month for connections to fibre to the home, Mr Joyce said he wouldn't be making public details of how those prices were arrived at in negotiation with partner companies.

"I understand these prices are akin to the fee charged to customers by an electricity lines company. On top of this wholesale price there will be a yet to be disclosed retail price. It is as yet unknown whether most New Zealanders, despite having access to ultrafast broadband, will be able to afford to connect to it.

"Instead of being transparent about the method used to calculate a wholesale price for fibre, which is funded by $1.5 billion of taxpayer money, Steven Joyce plans to legislate to provide partner companies with a 10 year period free from regulation from the Commerce Commission," Clare Curran said.

"Today's announcement of two ultrafast broadband partners sheds no light on the bigger issue of who will win the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch rollouts.

"The government will introduce legislation this week that significantly signals it will introduce amendments to enable the structural separation of Telecom if Telecom is chosen as a preferred supplier under the UFB initiative. This is very concerning and appears to be putting the cart before the horse for legislation which could be rushed through without proper time for public discussion and scrutiny.

"It's taken the Government two years to come up with this Bill following a policy slogan at the last election," Clare Curran said. "They've made no major decisions yet about who will roll out fibre, there is still no fibre in the ground and the role of Telecom in the rollout is the still the biggest issue. The Government needs to reveal its whole plan and give some certainty to the industry."

No Guarantee Of Major Broadband Agreements Before Election

USA - 0.28% of homes dropped their multichannel video service, but maintained their broadband connections

[multichannel] Cord-cutting, at this point, is barely a blip on the multichannel horizon.
According to an ESPN analysis of Nielsen's national people meter sample over the past three months, just 0.28% of homes dropped their multichannel video service, but maintained their broadband connections.
That percentage was mitigated by a group of broadcast-only households that became subscribers to multichannel TV and broadband over the same period, as these "un-cutters" represented 0.17% of homes in the Nielsen sample.
As such, the net loss between the groups was just 0.11% of all households.

Additionally, people who were heavy or medium sports viewers showed zero cord-cutting. Heavy and medium sports viewers account for 83% of sports viewing and 90% of viewing to ESPN, according to the programmer.
"This project adds critical intelligence to our understanding of the multichannel marketplace," said Glenn Enoch, vice president of Integrated Media Research, ESPN, in a statement. "We knew from other sources that cord cutting was a very minor behavior, but we now have the ability to quantify this group and monitor it in the future."

Only 0.1% Have Cut The Cord: ESPN Analysis

Australia - House of Representatives Committee to examine benefits and roles of the NBN

[it wire] The House of Representatives Infrastructure and Communications Committee is to conduct an inquiry into the role and potential benefits of the National Broadband Network.

The chair of the committee, Sharon Bird, said "the National Broadband Network represents an enormous investment in our nation's public infrastructure, so we want to make sure the potential applications of NBN are well understood by the Parliament and the Australian people.

"The Committee is looking forward to hearing from a range of organisations and individuals across Australia about how they will be affected by the roll out of high-speed broadband into their communities".

The inquiry was referred to the committee by the minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese.

According to Bird, he specifically asked the Committee to examine the capacity of the National Broadband Network to contribute to:

- the delivery of government services and programs;
- achieving health outcomes;
- improving the educational resources and training available for teachers and students;
- the management of Australia's built and natural resources and environmental sustainability;
- impacting regional economic growth and employment opportunities;
- impacting business efficiencies and revenues, particularly for small and medium business, and Australia's export market;
- interaction with research and development and related innovation investments; and
- facilitating community and social benefits; and
- the optimal capacity and technological requirements of a network to deliver these outcomes.

The Committee is seeking submissions by 25 February 2011 and will deliver its report by August 2011. Details of public hearings will be announced in due course. Full details here.

Reps committee to scrutinise NBN