Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vodafone is most valuable telecom brand worldwide

[peace FM] Telecommunications giant, Vodafone, has emerged as the world's most valuable telecommunications brand, according to a global ranking of the world's most valuable brands by compiled by BrandFinance Global 500.

The same brand ranking places Vodafone as the most valuable brand in the UK, a statement from Vodafone said on Saturday, quoting a report by Brand Finance Global 500.

The report said out of the 500 global top brands, Vodafone currently ranks seventh, beating other top brands such as HSBC (8th), Toyota (10th), MacDonald's (17th), Apple (19th) and Nokia (20th).

Vodafone was the eighth most valuable brand in the world in the 2009 rankings of the Brand Finance Global 500 report, but the brand's image and value shot up to seventh this year.

The value of the world's leading telecommunications brand, Vodafone, is at $29 billion US dollars.

Vodafone paced past major brands in the UK league, with the firm among 27 British companies listed in this year's survey of the world's 500 most valuable brands by Brand Finance.

Vodafone entered the telecommunications market in Ghana about 11 months ago, and is already making a great impact with its subscriber base, according to the company.

The company said its ultimate goal is to become the number one telecommunications operator in Ghana providing a one-stop telecommunications solution to its clients and subscribers.

According to the Head of Corporate Communications of Vodafone Ghana, Mr Ike Cudjoe, the global ranking of the Vodafone brand is a clear indication of the pedigree of the company and what the brand offers to its clients, customers, partners and shareholders.

Mr Cudjoe said the posture of Vodafone was to excite the Ghanaian market with great telecommunication innovations and solutions, "because mobile and fixed line subscribers in Ghana deserve the best and this must happen".

The methodology employed in the BrandFinance Global 500 uses a discounted cash flow (DCF) technique to discount estimated future royalties, at an appropriate discount rate, to arrive at a net present value (NPV) of the trademark and associated intellectual property: the brand value.

Vodafone is most valuable telecom brand worldwide - Report

Nigeria - The messy sale of Nitel

[next] There must be a sense of déjà vu among watchers of Nigeria's privatisation programme with the unfolding drama surrounding the sale of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, better known by its acronym NITEL.

Last week, the Bureau of Public Enterprises proudly announced the choice of a preferred bidder for the utility months after the last core investor -Transcorp - was forced to give up a large part of its holdings in the company. In 2007, the Federal Government revoked the sale of NITEL to Transcorp because the company had "failed to achieve the objectives of the privatisation guideline".

The sale of the company to Transcorp itself came after several false starts, but the ongoing controversy over who actually won the 2010 bid is likely to complicate government's efforts to unload the company on private investors.

Hardly had the last drop of celebratory wine been drained from ecstatic mouths last week Wednesday than Unicom, a Chinese company advertised as a member of the winning team, denied having any part in the consortium's bid. An official of the company, speaking from Hong Kong, said neither the Beijing-based company nor its parent company, participated in the bid.

Things were going to get even messier. Telecom New Zealand International, listed as technical partners for another bidder, Brymedia West Africa Limited, which emerged third with an offer of $551million, also said they were never involved in the bidding process.

New Generation Consortium, which won the bid, decided to put a brave face on the debacle. It attributed Unicom's reaction to a case of mistaken identity between China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited and China Unicom (Europe) Operations Limited, which it claimed was actually providing technical and managerial support for the consortium.

But even the European arm of Unicom denied any knowledge of its participation. China Unicom has, however, backtracked a bit by saying it was ready to work with New Generation to run Nitel.

But the denials and hedging tend to support allegations that due diligence and transparency were not the most important qualities considered by those in charge of the bid process.

The failure of Nigeria's privatisation programme could best be captured in the travails of the national utility, which was, at some time in the not too distant past, one of the key agencies of government.

In 2001, during the first attempt at privatising NITEL, Investors International London Limited (IILL) emerged the preferred bidder with an offer of $1.317 billion for 51 per cent equity in the company. This ended in disaster after the firm failed to meet the payment commitment for the bid and it, along with its financial backers, First Bank of Nigeria, lost their deposit.

In 2003, government tried a different tactic using a strategic investor sale through a management contract with another European firm, Pentascope; that also failed. Yet a third attempt, which saw Orascom of Egypt emerging the front bidder, with a $256.53million offer, did not succeed as the bid was deemed below the reserve price for a 51 per cent stake in the company.

There is no disputing the fact that Nigerians - aside from some harassed government officials, unpaid staff and former employees of the company- are hardly bothered about what happens to Nitel anymore. More nimble telephone operators have taken over the industry offering a suite of services that the former national champion would struggle to match.

But the company still matters because it is still a drain on the national purse and its staff of over 10000 cannot be left floundering. In addition, the company still runs the national telecommunications gateway - the Sat 3 - which remains a monopoly until cable projects of private companies such as Glo, come on stream.

So, it is imperative that a genuine core investor be found for Nitel.

Professionalism and decency demand nothing less.

The messy sale of Nitel

Zambia - Taxes on telecommunications equipment worry Zain director

[post zambia] Taxes attracted by the telecommunications equipment and services have continued to be the main hindrance in infrastructure development, Zain Zambia managing director David Holliday has disclosed.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee on communications, transport, works and supply yesterday, Holliday said the high taxes on equipment had stagnated the telecommunications sector, particularly in rural areas.

“The taxes attracted by the telecommunications equipment and services remain a major hindrance in the deployment of costly infrastructure particularly for rural areas and certain economically depressed areas,” he said.

Holliday told the committee that the telecommunications sector has been negatively impacted through the absence of short and long term tax incentives.

“The telecoms sector is negatively impacted between 31 per cent and 35 per cent in total being taxes on revenue as contribution to the state treasury,” he said.

Holliday suggested that taxes charged on renewable energy tools such as solar equipment which is vital for sector development in rural areas should be removed for a considerable time.

He also noted that the lack of an integrated licensing regime had increased the cost of telecommunication service expansion.

Holliday said rural areas in the country had great potential which remained unexploited.

“The potential for rural connectivity which spurs infrastructure development is vast and remains unexploited in Zambia. Our shortcomings in fully meeting these targeted areas for telephony universality need a quick rethought beyond projects and programmes on rural connectivity,” said Holliday.

Taxes on telecommunications equipment worry Zain director

FTTH Europe: Reality Sinks In

[light reading] FTTH Conference 2010 -- Amongst the cheer created by the some 2,500 people here, fiber access service provider hopefuls wander around the genuinely buzzing show floor checking out the wares of the 100-or-so exhibitors.

But the reality is that FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) just hasn't taken off in Europe in the way people had expected. At the end of 2009 there were just 3.46 million FTTH/FTTB (fiber-to-the-building) users in the whole of Europe, and 900,000 of those were in one country, Russia, according to the latest figures from the FTTH Council Europe , collated by Idate .

(Helpfully, and rightly, the Council doesn't include fiber-to-the-curb in its statistics, as the final connection to the customer is over copper.)

Other than Russia, the only other country with more than 500,000 FTTH/B users is Sweden, with 537,100, giving it an FTTH/B penetration level of 12.2 percent. Lithuania has the highest penetration figure, with nearly 17.7 percent (it had nearly 240,000 FTTH/B users at the end of last year).

By contrast, in Asia/Pacific there were 38 million FTTH/B users at the end of 2009, and 7.6 million in North America.

The slow pace of progress in Europe is frustrating many, and has forced Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie to revise his outlook for European FTTH uptake by the end of 2013 to 11.3 million from his previous 14 million. (See FTTH Fever Hits Europe.)

Even the normally tub-thumping Council is admitting that things could be better. The Council's director general, Hartwig Tauber, admitted today that Europe "is lagging... we have a long way to go."

FTTH Europe: Reality Sinks In

McKinsey - Capturing the promise of mobile banking in emerging markets

[McKinsey Q] Financial services for the unbanked are among the most promising opportunities for mobile-telecom operators hoping to counter slowing subscription growth with auxiliary offerings, such as banking, health care, and education services. In emerging markets, formal banking reaches about 37 percent of the population, compared with a 50 percent penetration rate for mobile phones. For every 10,000 people, these countries have one bank branch and one ATM—but 5,100 mobile phones.

A new focus on bringing financial services to the unbanked—those without easy access to traditional banking channels—represents a strategic shift for mobile operators. The very small deposits and loans held by poorer customers make them unprofitable for banks that use traditional delivery models. But mobile devices reduce the cost to serve customers by 50 to 70 percent, making it possible to offer financial services to a vast population once considered unprofitable.

The commercial potential for mobile operators could be significant. Our estimates reflect research, on 147 countries, that we conducted with the trade group GSM Association (GSMA). They show that about one billion people in emerging markets have a mobile phone but no access to banking services; by 2012 this population will reach 1.7 billion. Today, only about 45 million people without traditional bank accounts use mobile money, but we expect that this number could rise to 360 million by 2012 if mobile operators were to achieve the adoption rates of some early movers. By that year, the opportunity could generate $5 billion annually in direct revenue, primarily from fees for financial services such as transactions and cash out, and an additional $3 billion annually in indirect revenue, including reduced churn and higher average revenues per user for traditional voice and short message service (SMS).

Capturing the promise of mobile banking in emerging markets

Morocco - Surge predicted in Moroccan mobile use

[zawya] Government investments and increased competition may drive further growth in Morocco's mobile phone sector in 2010.

A third operator and projected three-fold expansion in 3G internet and e-commerce may cause a boom in Morocco's mobile phone business in 2010.

"In 2010 we expect triple-digit growth of 250% to a projected turnover level of 300 million dirhams for e-commerce," Maroc Telecommerce technologies and development manager Samira Gourroum said. Maroc Telecommerce is an online payment platform.

The trend maintains 2009's rapid growth, said the manager, adding: "In 2009, the market saw turnover of more than 104.5 million dirhams from a total of 78,500 transactions."

Telecom market penetration already exceeds 80% in Morocco, but that number may grow with the arrival of a new mobile operator, Wana. The company's launch in late February will pit it against established players Meditel and Maroc Telecom, who already have 25 million customers.

Wana's entry into the market may also expand 3G use in Morocco. Mobile internet exceeded broadband use in Morocco for the first time in 2009, reaching 54% of the country's 1 million internet subscribers. Increased competition among Wana, Meditel and Maroc Telecom may spur further growth.

A 100-million dirham government subsidy is also likely to spur expansion, Casablanca Technopark CEO Omar Balafrej said.

"This is a landmark measure forming part of the sector-wide programme known as Maroc Numeric 2009-2013, which is intended to support the implementation of innovative projects," he added.

The fund, which will subsidise private and public shareholders, will target newly-created companies and firms entering the fields of mobile services, e-payment, security, web design, computer graphics, multimedia and software development.

The emergence of Moroccan-based iPhone applications marks the growth of mobile internet enthusiasm in the region. The iPhone widget by Point Info is one example.

"The development of mobile applications, in particular on the iPhone, provides an opportunity for Moroccan content to be made international and reach new users and readerships," Point Info manager Tarik Essadi said.

Surge predicted in Moroccan mobile use

Future Telco Profits Will Depend on Emerging CEM Tools

[prnewswire] Network operators will increasingly have to rely on customer experience management (CEM) initiatives to maximize subscriber retention and service profitability, a development that will place more importance on ensuring customer satisfaction, rather than just delivering advanced services, according to the latest report from Heavy Reading Services Software Insider, a paid research service of TechWeb's Light Reading.

Beyond CRM: Customer Experience Management identifies and analyzes the new technology ecosystem developing around the CEM concept for network operators. The all-new, 33-page report evaluates the category of customer intelligence (CI) systems emerging in the CEM sector, based on technology used to provide operational intelligence (OI), a branch of business analytics. The report profiles 13 leading suppliers in the emerging network operator CEM market.

"CEM covers a wide range of activities and, like all such buzzwords, is very loosely defined at this stage of its development," says Caroline Chappell, research analyst with Heavy Reading Services Software Insider and author of the report. "Telco CEM is primarily focused on the customer experience of services as the operator delivers them. The more an operator understands about the customer's experience as it occurs, the more it can align the customer's expectations of that experience with its delivery."

CEM is most critical for operators in mature markets where churn is costly, revenues are flattening, and new technologies and services are having a serious impact on network capacity, Chappell notes. "The quality of the customer experience is seen as key to customer loyalty and willingness to buy additional services," she says. "It will also be a critical consideration for third-party partners using telcos as a channel to market for their services."

Key findings of Beyond CRM: Customer Experience Management include:

* CEM requires an ecosystem of vendors to support the customer experience of the service provider, rather than just the experience of the individual service.
* CEM adoption will be essential for network operators to move beyond their conventional business models and into the emerging Telco 2.0 service environment.
* Early specialists in telco CEM tools will see stiff competition from IT vendors and from big suppliers of analytics tools, such as IBM and SAP.
* Vendors with multiple CEM-related products are struggling to articulate a coherent strategy that ties them together.

Future Telco Profits Will Depend on Emerging CEM Tools, Heavy Reading Reports

Canada - Shaw to Begin Rolling Out 1-Gbps Fiber-Optic Broadband Service

[teleclick] Calgary-based cable giant, Shaw Communications, announced today that it will begin testing an ultra-fast ‘Gigabit’ internet service based on fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband technology.

The new service will support download speeds of up to 1-Gbps, making it ten times faster than the company’s existing High-Speed Nitro offering, which runs at 100-Mbps.

Shaw expects to begin rolling out the FTTH service in April. Initially, it will likely only be available in a handful of newly-built apartment buildings in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

Shaw to Begin Rolling Out 1-Gbps Fiber-Optic Broadband Service

USA - FCC: Broadband Adoption and Use in America

[pew] A new report released today by John B. Horrigan, formerly of Pew Internet and now at the Federal Communications Commission, finds that 78% of adults in the U.S. are internet users and 65% of adults have home broadband access.

Adults who do not have broadband at home fall into four categories:

Digitally Distant: 10% of the general population. Median age is 63. Half say that the internet is not relevant to their lives or they lack the digital literacy to adopt broadband.

Digital Hopefuls: 8% of the general population. Low-income, heavily Hispanic and African American. Likely to say they want to go online, but lack the resources.

Digitally Uncomfortable: 7% of the general population. Likely to own a computer, but lack skills and interest in taking advantage of all the internet has to offer.

Near Converts: 10% of the general population. Median age is 45. Cost is the biggest barrier to having broadband at home.

FCC: Broadband Adoption and Use in America

Zambia - Zain blames ZICTA for 3G rollout delay

[it news africa] Zain Zambia, which plans to rollout its 3G network in the country, has issued a complaint saying the process has been delayed by Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA).

The company’s managing director, David Holliday, argued that Zain Zambia was ready to introduce 3G services in the country once it had a license issued by ZICTA, writes Zambia’s publication The Post.

“We would have expected 3G and other licences under to have been issued by now. So, we are patiently waiting for the licence to be issued. Once this licence is issued, we’ll be ready to rollout 3G for the benefit of Zambian consumers”, told Holliday.

Zain Zambia is currently awaiting the Statutory Instrument for 3G to be released by the authority.

The mobile operator has invested over US $10 million in 3G infrastructure.

Also, Zain Zambia had made an announcement at the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE), regarding the sale of its parent company. In the statement, the Zambian operator denies disposal of any shares, saying that it would remain 78,9% owned by Celtel Zambia Holding BV. The proposed sale of Zain’s African operations to India’s Bharti Airtel would also exclude Zain Sudan and Morocco.

Kuwaiti telecom operator Zain and Bharti Airtel are expected to sign a letter of intent for the US $9 billion African assets deal this week.

Zain Zambia blames ZICTA for 3G rollout delay

Zambia - Foreigners responsible for expensive telecom services

[zambian watchdog] The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has stated that telecom costs in the country continue to be the highest in the region and this was partly because most of the players in the industry were foreigners.

“ZICTA acknowledges that the cost of using ICT services in the country has continued to be high and needs to be regulated. The tariffs being implemented are still unreasonable”, told Richard Mwanza, acting executive director for ZITCA, to the parliamentary committee on communications, transport, works and supply.

He proposed that a cost service survey is needed in order to address the issue, which would cost around US $1 million.

He also specified that the dominance of foreign players in Zambia’s telecom sector, due to sound financial support from their countries of origin, is affecting the telecoms industry, resulting in high telecom costs and less prospects for local players.

Mwanza added that local telecom and Internet providers lack financial support from the Government and should be given incentives to support them and benefit consumers.

Member of Zambian parliament, Ng’andu Magande, who chaired the meeting, confirmed that the high number of foreign telecom companies in the country was an issue that must be addressed.

“The problem is that in this area, we have too many foreigners and there is a likelihood that money is not staying in the country. There is need to monitor just how much of the money being made is circulating within our economy,” he said, adding that local players need strong capital to compete with foreigners.

Unfortunately, not many Zambian companies are interested in investing in ICT sector, even being given incentives, he concluded.

Foreigners responsible for expensive telecom services

Thailand - Poll: Thaksin should accept the verdict

[bangkok post] Nearly 57 per cent of the people polled by Abac poll said former prime minister Thaksin shinawatra should accept the Supreme Court’s ruling to seize his 46 billion baht in assets.

They said the ex-premier should accept it because the court had justly made the verdict. Thaksin should also accept if in order to help restore peace and order in the country.

However, 32.6 per cent of the respondents disagreed with the court’s ruling, saying Thaksin should continue fighting for justice.

In addition, 81.5 per cent of them said Thaksin should use his remaining 30 billion baht money for the development of the country’s education system.

Meanwhile, 75.1 per cent wanted the ousted premier to give away the remaining wealth to poor people.

As many as 69.3 per cent of the respondents believed the court’s verdict would help curb politicians from using state authority for self-interest.

Poll: Thaksin should accept the verdict

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thailand - AIS benefitted from royalty changes

[bangkok post] Supreme Court judges agreed that the telecom company then owned by ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra benefitted from changes to industry rules which were made during his tenure.

The rules included a cabinet resolution and regulations issued by the Finance Ministry.

Judges said that changes to royalty payments made by Advanced Information Service (AIS) to a state-owned telecoms operator benefitted the company.

Thaksin's Shin Corp owned AIS.

AIS benefitted from royalty changes

Thailand - loans to Myanmar for Thaksin's benefit

[bangkokpost] The Supreme Court judges said that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra benefited from a low interst government loan made to Burma during his time in office.

Judges found that Thaksin abused his power in ordering the approval of Export-Import Bank of Thailand loans worth 4 billion baht to Burma.

The action benefited Shin Satellite, a company which he controlled.

Loans to Burma benefit Thaksin

Thailnad - Thaksin's THB 46 billion seized

[the nation] The high court rules Thaksin's wealth was ill-gotten gains. The earnings from the Shin Corp deal to Temasek of Singapore was ill-gotten, hence can be confiscated by the state.

The high court then addresses the ground on asset seizure related to the wealth held by Thaksin's ex-wife.

The judges ruled ill-gotten gains in the name of the spouse can be seized.

The judges outline two grounds to seize assets - unusual increase in wealth and abuse of office to beget the wealth.

The judges moved to address that the dividend payments can be seized.

The judges said the original stakes owned by Thaksin before assuming office can not be seized.

By a majority decision, the seizable assets confined to dividend payment worth Bt6 billion and the capital gains worth Bt39 billion. The total seizure is Bt46 billion.

Thaksin's Bt46 billion seized

Thailand - judges say Thaksin abused power for gain

[reuters] Judges reading a lengthy verdict on whether to seize $2.3 billion of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra family's assets said on Friday his policies benefited his family business, raising the likelihood his money will be confiscated.

Authorities say major violence is unlikely but have mobilised thousands of police and troops to pre-empt any backlash by supporters of the 60-year-old fugitive at the centre of a 5-year political crisis in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

Analysts expect the nine-judge Supreme Court to either seize all of the frozen wealth or to allow Thaksin to keep a portion of the assets. The latter scenario is seen as more favourable for markets in the short-run as it lessens the risk of an imminent showdown in Thailand's divisive colour-coded crisis.

"The partial seizure of the assets should be what financial markets prefer because both sides can claim victory," said Prapas Tonpibulsak, chief investment officer at Ayudhya Fund Management.

(For possible market reactions click on [ID:nSGE61I05K])

Prosecutors say Thaksin and his former wife, Potjaman na Pombejra, concealed ownership of shares in his family business Shin Corp SHIN.BK while in office from 2001 to 2006, and that he abused power by tailoring policies to benefit the company.

Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup and convicted in absentia of graft, has denied the charges from self-imposed exile in Dubai.

One judge said a Thaksin-era government policy to convert part of a telecommunications concessions fee into an excise tax "favoured Shin Corp at the expense of the state".

A judge also said Thaksin concealed his ownership of stock in Shin Corp, an argument seen as a main precondition for deciding there was a conflict of interest in government policies benefiting Shin Corp, a major telecommunications business.

"The way it's going, it looks highly likely he will have the whole lot confiscated and he'll not get anything back," said Jade Donavanik, dean of the faculty of law at Siam University.

"The judge has repeatedly said the stock was Thaksin's property. Him concealing assets is the entire foundation of this case, so it's likely they'll take it all."

A final ruling on whether to confiscate any or all of the assets was due later on Friday. Thailand's stock market reopens on Tuesday after a long weekend holiday.

Some analysts say a court verdict unfavourable to Thaksin, could add weight to allegations he is the victim of a political vendetta and may spark an angry response from supporters.

Thai judges say Thaksin abused power for gain

Thailand - Court: Thaksin family conceals shares

[bangkok post] The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra illegally hid his ownership of telecom shares, as it delivered a ruling on whether his 76.6-billion-baht frozen fortune would be seized.

Thousands of troops and police were deployed across the country for what the local media have dubbed "Judgement Day", amid fears that Thaksin's supporters could react violently if the verdict does not go his way.

The Supreme Court is deciding the fate of the proceeds from the sale of the fugitive tycoon's Shin Corp telecommunications giant, which have been frozen since the 2006 coup that toppled him.

Authorities applied for the seizure of Thaksin's wealth on the grounds that he abused his power while at the head of government from 2001 to 2006 to become "unusually rich".

The final ruling on the confiscation was yet to come, but after five hours of reading out their findings the judges made several rulings against Thaksin, who is living in exile in Dubai to avoid a jail term for corruption.

"The court ruled consensually that Thaksin and his then-wife Potjaman held Shin Corp shares through his two terms as prime minister," the judges said in the ruling, which was read out on national television and radio.

Thaksin had also issued a cabinet resolution in favour of his company, the judges said.

Shin Corp was sold to Singapore-based Temasek Holdings in January 2006, sparking protests. The defence had argued that the shares had been transferred to his children and his ex-wife's stepbrother.

The judges unanimously rejected arguments by Thaksin's lawyers that the attorney-general was not authorised to bring charges against Thaksin and that the court was unqualified to deal with the case.

No members of the Shinawatra family were at court, being represented instead by defence lawyers.

About 450 police in riot gear guarded the court but there were only around a dozen protesters from his so-called "Red Shirt" movement outside, and fewer than 100 at another protest site in the capital.

The government says up to 35,000 police and soldiers are on alert. Security was also tight around Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's office and the government said it had prepared several safe houses for him.

Thaksin, the former owner of Manchester City football club, earlier denied the accusations against him.

"I want to reaffirm that I and my family earned all of the money with our hard work, brains, and sweat. We have never been corrupt as accused," he said on Twitter early Friday.

In a video speech to hundreds of Red Shirts at the headquarters of the Puea Thai opposition party, he said: "My morale is high now."

"Today is a very significant day and a turning point, not only for my family but for Thailand's judicial and political history," he said.

Media has whipped up a frenzy ahead of the verdict, counting down to the day and reporting rumours of a possible coup against Abhisit.

The judges have various options, such as ruling that the government should confiscate all or none of Thaksin's wealth, or that it should take only part of the money, for example the portion he earned after taking power.

The case goes to the heart of the rifts that have opened up in Thai society since the coup.

The red-shirts, largely from his stronghold in the rural North and Northeast, loved his populist policies and accuse the current government of being an unelected elite that has hijacked their democratic rights.

Court: Thaksin family conceals shares

SADC - Phone Operators Urged to Reduce Trunk Call Cost

[tmc] Southern Africa fixed and mobile phone operators should seek to reduce international call costs by cutting down or scrapping termination and roaming charges between countries in a bid to increase traffic flows and revenues.

Speaking at the 10th SADC Telecommunications Operators Bilateral Meeting (STOBM) in Gaborone yesterday, newly appointed Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications Mabua Mabua said scrapping of these charges will benefit not only the operators through higher revenues from increased traffic flows but the consumers as well through lower tariffs.

Mabua who was the guest of honour at the meeting hosted by Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) under the auspices of Southern Africa Telecommunication Association (SATA), said a large component of the trans-border calls costs is mainly in the form of roaming or terminations charges, which have no bearing on the actual true costs of the calls.

"A lot of the roaming and termination rates are artificial costs as they are not true costs of the communication. A call from Gaborone to Shakawe which is 1300 km away is a lot cheaper than a call to Mafikeng which is very near, but the infrastructure used to communicate between the two destinations is just the same, so where does the extra costs come from? This is what the mobile operators from SATA should deliberate on and aim to reduce or terminate just like they did in the East African Community. We should seriously deliberate on this option particularly within the SACU region," he said.

The PS went on to say that telecommunication and ICT is vital not only for growth but also helps countries to remain competitive within the increasingly information-oriented global economy. " Failure to develop communications will only increase the development gap between our countries and the developed world commonly known as the Digital divide," he added.

Mabua also commended the government of Botswana for having invested heavily in the development of the ICT sector, which has led to a 100 percent mobile phone penetration since 1998 while Internet penetration is also expected to increase from the current 6 percent to about 30 percent in a few years' time. " The government has also invested a lot of funds in backbone infrastructure which has proven to be a cash cow for BTC," he said.

SATA executive secretary Jacob Munodawafa also added his voice on the need for adequate investment in ICT infrastructure particularly in the developing world. " For the developing countries, the biggest impediments to development are the lack of appropriate and adequate infrastructure and services. "This deficit is not only in the information and communication technology, but other developmental areas as well," he said.

Munodawafa urged participants at the four-day conference to also cement strategic and operational mutual relations in technical and commercial issues.

The SATA meeting will see SADC telecommunications operators negotiate on various issues including interconnection rates, technology and infrastructure connectivity, invoicing and prompt payments, bilateral traffic report and issues concerning ICT fraud among others. Countries that are attending the conference include Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.

Phone Operators Urged to Reduce Trunk Call Cost

Japan - NTT DOCOMO to Reduce Interconnection Fees

[ntt] NTT DOCOMO, INC. announced today that it has notified the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications that the fees it charges other telecommunications operators to interconnect with its network have been reduced, effective from March 4, 2010 and applied retroactively to all interconnections since April 1, 2009.

NTT DOCOMO to Reduce Interconnection Fees

USA - Mobile Carriers' Growth to Come from Existing Customer Base

[prnewswire] Due to consumer mobile penetration near saturation, soaring retention costs, consumer price sensitivity and surging data traffic demands, mobile carriers must look beyond market share to advance their growth and profitability, according to analysis in PricewaterhouseCoopers' new report: Change is in the Air: 2009 North American Wireless Industry Survey. According to PwC, growth will be driven by making existing customers more profitable and less by finding new customers. Accompanying this report, PwC also released its Point of View: Wireless Customer Profitability.

"The U.S. mobile market is entering an era during which margins and profitability will trump penetration and volume. Where customer experience had been the focus, the emphasis is now shifting to price, across range of customers – including premium users, value-oriented family plans, and the pre-pay market," said Pierre-Alain Sur, U.S. wireless industry leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Now, mobile carriers must dive deeply into the profitability profiles of all their existing customer categories. And with today's enhanced visibility, carriers have a far more robust set of tools to increase their bottom lines across every kind of customer interaction."

According to the report, focusing on subscriber retention remains a critical issue due to escalating retention costs. Large carriers invested more than $160 per subscriber in their networks in the 2009 survey – a more than 30 percent leap over the 2008 survey. Furthermore, U.S. wireless companies reported an increase in customer retention expenses of more than 50 percent in 2008 compared to 2007.

The survey finds that the downturn in the economy triggered an increase in consumers moving towards prepaid plans. On average, use of prepaid minutes increased more than 147 percent in the past four years, from 270 minutes in 2006 to 667 minutes in 2009.

Change is in the Air finds that smart phone sales are increasing and represent significantly higher average revenues per user (ARPU). As of June 30, 2009, 21 percent of all mobile device sales were smart phones, and an average of 12 percent of overall subscribers use smart phones. The average revenue per user for smart phones is $74 compared with total postpaid average revenue of $54.

Despite the difficult economy, carriers are continuing to invest in the network and infrastructure to address increasing data demands and are beginning to migrate towards 4G technology. The survey cites on average, capital expenditures as a percentage of service revenues increased to 21.5 percent in the 2009 survey from 18 percent in the 2008 survey.

As carriers seek to reduce costs and exert an impact on environmental issues, electronic payments are becoming more significant. The survey reports that average percentage of postpaid subscribers receiving paper invoices decreased from 81 percent in the 2008 survey to 72 percent in the 2009 survey, and the average percentage of subscribers that received electronic invoices increased from 6 percent to 14 percent during the 2008 to 2009 survey period.

PwC's analysis concludes that every customer from the premium smart phone user to the pre-pay consumer can contribute to profitability and growth. According to Point of View: Wireless Customer Profitability, mobile carriers will need to adopt a granular point-of-view to:

* Gain more clear insights across the customer base into who contributes to (and detracts from) profitability.
* Adopt targeted and scaled strategies to 'go the extra mile' for high-performing customers and to more carefully mitigate the costs of unprofitable customers.
* Develop customized tools that ensure every touch point — initial contract, handset subsidies, service and retention efforts — keep the bottom line of that unique customer in mind.
* Craft tiered pricing options based on the cost profiles of different customers (e.g. smart phone users v. less data-intensive customers).

Mobile Carriers' Growth to Come from Existing Customer Base, Finds PricewaterhouseCoopers Report

2010 Predictions for Telecom Services Markets in Latin America

[PRNewswire] The year 2009 is over and though every initiative was judged in the shadow of the economic breakdown, we can see now that telecoms entering the IT space was a trend that was solidified in many of the most important Latin American markets.

3G networks were deployed in the region, commercially operating in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The arrival of the iPhone in regional markets triggered Internet usage and other services, such as application stores. On the other hand, the pay-TV market still holds promise. IPTV did not become a reality yet due to regulatory restrictions, and its slowness has yet to be resolved in many countries. Instead, video on demand has witnessed great advances.

In this scenario, 2010 brings both hope and anxiety. The following are Frost & Sullivan predictions for the year:

#1 Ultra broadband will gain traction.

The new digital lifestyle, which connects cameras, videogames, television sets, and a series of other home appliances into a single management device will require increasingly more bandwidth for producing, editing and playing files. New solutions and applications, such as intelligent homes, IPTV and Video on Demand will also drive demand for ultra broadband in Latin America.

It's expected that competition and the scale of clients will erode prices. As ultra broadband technologies were already in the market in 2009, it is likely that prices will start to decline slowly in 2010 for connections above 20MBps, which will also help to gain traction.

Bundling ultra broadband with other services will help increase the benefit perception of shifting bandwidths to the next level, as many other complimentary services will be offered for the premium-price charged for this new service.

#2 WiMAX is not dead!

"As many comments about the commercial failure of WiMAX as a broadband technology arise, I prefer to see it as a complimentary technology for ADSL, cable modem and 3G in Latin America, mostly for areas without coverage of these traditional services, such as rural, low competition, or low income areas" says Jose Roberto Mavignier, Frost & Sullivan industry manager.

The entry of specialized players, such as the Russian Yota in Nicaragua, and soon in Peru, clearly shows the market potential for these referred niches, and it will help to push WiMAX technology to these areas.

Also, small successful deployments, such as the cases of Entel in Chile and Telmex in Peru, will be strong references to new commercial initiatives.

#3 Mobile Marketing will timidly take off.

The great volume of iPhones and smartphones sold in the region over the last 2 years, along with the extensive rollout of 3G networks, created the foundation to leverage mobile marketing initiatives this year.

In addition, we will see new business models to leverage 3G adoption in the region, pushing on mobile marketing: iPhones given at no cost, for example, as long as subscribers agree to be hit by mobile advertising while in motion.

As operators and service providers develop the ability to increase the segmentation of customer bases in Latin America, the 1-to-1 marketing will be more successful and popular in the mobile marketing arena.

"Additionally, major Latin American and multinational brands and companies see the mobile phone as an opportunity and powerful interaction tool with users. Because of this, Frost & Sullivan believes that mobile marketing will begin to take off in Latin America in 2010, even if in a timid way," explains Jose Roberto Mavignier.

#4 Value-added services on broadband connections will become more popular in Latin America.

Given that competition is getting stronger for ADSL, with plenty of cable modem and 3G offers, all broadband connections will have to differentiate themselves with enhanced value-added services to raise ARPUs and maintain clients. Those VAS go from the following: firewall, antivirus, Internet filtering web hosting, limitless emails, content portal access, to video surveillance and speed connection verification. Hardware-based VAS will also be a stronger offer differentiator, as it is happening with Telefonica's Puesto de Trabajo in many countries of the region.

Mobile broadband in Latin America has already shown that it needs VAS to increase the benefit perception from its users. Besides traditional VAS such as antivirus, for instance, the offers of free USB modems, along with the sales of netbooks, will be important highlights for 2010.

#5 More MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) will be created in the region.

It's likely that, after some success cases in 2009, a wider range of service providers as well as other companies and businesses may start to analyze and invest in similar MVNOs in the region. In addition, the imminence of a new regulation for MVNOs in Brazil, the largest market in the region, will become more attractive for other national and international investments, and may serve as well as an economy of scale to leverage other investments in the region.

Also in Brazil, recent unblocked handset regulation will also help to leverage investments, as client-acquisition costs will be fairly diminished, reducing barriers to new entries in the market.

Recent fixed mobile merged operations in the region will increase the competition in bundle of services - a key for fixed and cable service providers to opt for this business model to gain competitiveness in its bundles.

Furthermore, retail chains, football clubs and TV channels are non-Telecom related businesses that already showed interest in launching their own MVNOs operations, which is another assumption to reinforce this prediction.

2010 Predictions for Telecom Services Markets in Latin America

Mobile World Congress in 2010 - a more positive view

[prnewswire] This year's edition of the largest mobile communications trade show in the world, Mobile World Congress (MWC), which took place in Barcelona February 15-18, 2010, had a more positive tone compared to that of 2009. Given the start of the economic recovery, there was an increased focus on such topics as the migration to the NGN, 4G/LTE, and innovation for applications, operating systems and the wireless ecosystem.

Ronald Gruia, Program Leader and Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, covering Emerging Communications Solutions, summarizes some of the key themes from the show that will continue to unfold as the year progresses:

* Fewer new handset models introduced: Nokia and RIM had none, Motorola had one and Apple was not even at the show; other vendors such as Sony Ericsson (Vivaz Pro, Xperia X10 Mini and Xperia X10 Mini Pro) and Samsung (Wave) introduced new models.
* Increased focus on applications and their environment: Microsoft (Windows Phone 7), Nokia (Symbian^3 and MeeGo) and Samsung (bada) introduced or announced new operating systems; RIM showcased new UI features and a new browser (Torch, to be available in 2H 2010); Android continues to gain more OS mindshare (Huawei, Motorola and other Android sets were introduced).
* Mobile application fragmentation: The ongoing proliferation of various OS environments is an issue that was brought up by the BBC news organization at the show, as it struggles to reformat its apps for all different device types.
* Data growth monetization more difficult: The introduction of flat rate, "all-you-can-eat" plans is making operators struggle as they attempt to reconcile the gap between traffic and revenue growth.
* CAPEX shift from radio to core: Core (including backhaul and packet core infrastructure) investments will continue to grow, as will IT systems to manage the changes in telecom service dynamics brought by the data explosion.
* Operators seeking a host of alternatives to manage traffic growth: Capacity upgrades (HSPA and LTE deployments), cellular offload (Wi-Fi and femtocells) and policy control (introduction of caps, toggling down of throughputs, off-peak versus on-peak usage) are all in use.
* Ongoing pricing pressure: Chinese vendors (Huawei and ZTE) are fueling most of the price erosion, with equipment cost pricing falling dramatically (e.g. Telenor's 6 year LTE overlay contract of $200m is just 1.1 years of Telenor's current Norwegian CAPEX outlay).
* Ecosystem changes: Operators recognized the need to achieve a higher level of cohesion in a fragmented marketplace and, led by the GSMA, a group of 24 carriers (including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Vodafone, China Mobile, China Unicom and Deutsche Telekom) formed an alliance (Wholesale Applications Community) to create an open industry platform. However, the presence of some fiercely competing operators within the alliance and the less than stellar results of other similar initiatives in the past cast some doubt on this effort.
* The advent of RCS: Another GSMA-led initiative, the Rich Communication Suite actually has a better shot of panning out, with various activities being undertaken as part of this effort, including a trial in France involving the country's three mobile operators (Orange, SFR and Bouygues).

In summary, this year's MWC was a more optimistic one, given the fact that global recession is less of a worry and that the industry continues to firmly march on its path towards the NGN. More importantly, the show also offered many interesting insights into the future, with innovation being shown in areas such as Ultra Low Cost Handsets (with the introduction of a $15 phone to be offered by Vodafone in some emerging markets and powered by Mediatek – that is $15 unsubsidized), augmented reality (Comverse's "Social Augmented Reality" demonstration was one example) and interfaces (NTT DoCoMo demonstrated an eye-controlled headset that can control a handset with the movement of a user's eyeballs).

Frost & Sullivan Finds a More Positive Mobile World Congress in 2010

USA - Cost, Crotchetiness Keep Broadband Out of 1/3 of U.S. Homes

[wired] More than a third of American adults don’t have a fast internet connection at home, leaving some 80 million adults and 13 million children at a distinct disadvantage in a wired world, according to an FCC report released Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by phone last fall, comes less than a month before the FCC gives Congress the country’s first comprehensive plan to make broadband ubiquitous and affordable. The survey, Broadband Adoption and Use in America (.pdf), was intended to help the agency figure out why broadband adoption is so low and what it can do to bring the wonders of Facebook, Twitter, online education and sophisticated time wasting to millions more.

Not surprisingly, more than a third of broadband laggards, 36 percent, cited the high cost of broadband and technology, even as entry-level computers and laptops have become very affordable. But survey users report they spend an average of $41 a month on broadband — which comes to nearly $500 annually.

Others say they lack the skills to get online (10 percent) or think it’s too dangerous to either their financial security or their morals (also 10 percent).

Nearly 20 percent without broadband say they don’t bother to subscribe, because there are 800 million web sites, but nothin’s on — or if they have dial-up, that there’s nothing worth getting faster.

Cost, Crotchetiness Keep Broadband Out of 1/3 of U.S. Homes

Mobile phone market to rebound in 2010

[ame] A new report by research firm Gartner predicts that the global mobile phone market will rebound more strongly than expected this year as improving economies boost spending on new gadgets and handset vendors push cheap smartphones. The market fell 1% in 2009, the first decline in eight years. But Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said she now expects the market to grow 11-13% this year, compared with the firm's December forecast for a 9% increase.

Mobile phone market to rebound in 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

South Asia and Middle East - Growth in the passive infrastructure

[zawya] The passive tower infrastructure of telecom operators and infrastructure service providers has continued to accelerate, as the demand to support network infrastructure is boosted by a growing subscriber base and expansion of geographical presence by telecom service providers (TSPs). South Asia, with its low telecom penetration, will lead the growth in the South Asia and Middle East (SAME) region.

Tower growth in Bangladesh, India and Egypt will be rapid due to the rising number of subscribers and need for greater geographic coverage. However, tower growth in the Sri Lankan, Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates (UAE) markets will be at a steady level for the next 2-3 years, as operators are planning to invest in infrastructure for technology upgrades and attempting to expand coverage in new geographic areas.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (, Telecom Passive Infrastructure Market - SAME, finds that the passive tower infrastructure market is expected to grow steadily in the markets of India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sri Lanka and Egypt. This growth will be driven by the rapid expansion of the subscriber base in South Asian countries and the growing geographical presence of TSPs in the Middle East. The technologies covered in this research service are wireless infrastructure, mobile and broadband infrastructure, fixed and cellular services, broadband and carrier services and passive infrastructure services.

"An increasing subscriber base and the expanding geographical footprint of operators in South Asian countries will drive the installation of towers in the region," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Manish Dixit. "The entry of new operators and technological upgrades from 2G/3G networks will boost the deployment of additional towers in mature markets such as Saudi Arabia and UAE."

The steady rise in subscriber base and adoption of newer technologies such as 3G/wirelessintegrated multiple access (WIMAX) have put immense pressure on the existing infrastructure, thereby presenting an opportunity for telecom operators and infrastructure vendors. It has become necessary for TSPs to support the momentum by matching growth in tower infrastructure to host active and passive components.

Millions of new subscribers are added every month in South Asia and with a comparatively large untapped geographical area, an increased network footprint is essential to maintain high growth rates. At the same time, TSPs in the Middle East are continuously expanding their geographical presence and upgrading their networks, which are requiring additional deployment of towers.

Dwindling average revenue per user (ARPU) and global economic slowdown have impelled operators to curtail their capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expenditure (OPEX), resulting in innovative and cost-effective models such as infrastructure sharing. Such models are likely to be a key trend in the SAME markets. In mature markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the saturation of the mobile services market has curtailed the network expansion spree, resulting in an overall decline in tower deployments.

"A continuous rise in tower prices, coupled with falling ARPUs, is exerting further pressure on telecom companies to optimize their OPEX spending and rationalize capital deployments," explains Dixit. "This could hamper the growth of towers in the short term."

In the South Asian markets, service providers will continue to concentrate on acquiring customers as well as expanding their geographical presence. Infrastructure sharing is the key to penetrate into rural areas. In the Middle East markets, service providers will keep upgrading their network infrastructure to support new technologies, resulting in additional deployment of towers. While infrastructure sharing could be considered, it is yet to gain traction.

"To overcome existing challenges, TSPs are optimizing costs by outsourcing and centralizing equipment along with infrastructure sharing to convert CAPEX into OPEX," concludes Dixit.

Growth in the South Asia and Middle East Telecom Passive

Kuwait's Zain To Focus On Middle East, Eyes Expansion

[zawya] Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. (ZAIN.KW), or Zain, will focus on expanding in the Middle East as part of its new strategy and is eyeing opportunities after the telecom operator entered exclusive talks to sell its Africa operations, the company's chief executive said Tuesday.

Zain sees growth from its operations in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Sudan and is interested in a long-term license agreement in Lebanon once the government privatizes the telecommunications sector, Nabil bin Salama said in an emailed statement.

"Zain Group has big growth opportunities in the markets of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Sudan," said Salama, who was appointed chief executive earlier this month.

"The group is not only interested in the Lebanese market, it is also interested in any other opportunities to expand if it gives good returns and conforms with the group's strategy for the new phase," said Salama.

Zain is in exclusive talks until March 25 with India's Bharti Airtel (532454.BY) to sell its Africa operations, excluding Sudan and Morocco, for $10.7 billion, including debt. Zain expects net proceeds of up to $5 billion from the Africa asset sale after paying certain liabilities and any realized returns will be added to the company's second quarter accounts.

The Africa asset sale will help Zain clinch new investment opportunities, Salama said.

Zain's new Middle East focus reverses the company's aggressive expansion strategy, spearheaded by former chief executive officer Saad Al Barrak, which was aimed at turning the company into a top-ten global player by the end of 2011.

"The assets they have got in the Middle East are higher return assets, but the growth levels will clearly be lower than what they would have been with Africa in the portfolio," said Martin Mabbutt, a London-based telecom analyst with Nomura International.

Zain announced earlier in February Al Barrak's resignation, without citing a reason for the move.

Salama, who served briefly as communications, water and electricity minister in 2009, assumed his duties on Feb. 14. The sale of the Africa assets will trim Zain's operations from 23 countries to eight markets in the Middle East and North Africa.

Kuwait's Zain To Focus On Middle East, Eyes Expansion

Mobile Location-Based Services Market to Exceed $12bn by 2014 Driven by Apps Store Usage, Smartphone Adoption and New Hybrid Positioning Technologi

[prweb] The combination of smartphone proliferation, a surge in application storefront launches and new developments in hybrid positioning technologies are expected to help drive revenues from mobile location-based services (MLBS) to more than $12.7 billion by 2014, according to a new report from Juniper Research.

The Mobile Location Based Services report found that while MLBS had experienced in number of false dawns over the 2000-2007 period, improvements in handset user interfaces – exemplified by the iPhone – together with easier consumer access to an array of app distribution channels had led to greater interest from service providers in providing MLBS applications. In addition, growth was being further facilitated by the deployment of high capacity network infrastructure and attendant increases in mobile Internet adoption, providing greater opportunities for browser-based services.

Furthermore, the Juniper report noted that advertising was likely to form an increasing share of MLBS-related revenues over the next five years. According to report co-author Dr Windsor Holden, “Location-based applications are extremely interesting for brands and retailers in that they allow those companies to direct consumers to outlets in their vicinity while simultaneously providing information about the products on offer. When these are allied to measures such as mobile coupons and vouchers, you have the combination of information and financial incentive which can be compelling for consumers.”

Other findings from the Mobile Location Based Services Research include:

* Improving the user experience of MLBS on feature phones will be key in driving usage beyond the core smartphone base
* Despite the confluence of factors driving growth, deployments may still be affected by constraints including privacy and information security
* While service usage will be highest in Far East & China over the next five years, greatest revenues will come from Western Europe

Mobile Location-Based Services Market to Exceed $12bn by 2014 Driven by Apps Store Usage, Smartphone Adoption and New Hybrid Positioning Technologies

Global Smartphones Market to Reach 804.42 Million Units by 2015

[prweb] Consumers' desire to stay entertained and be constantly informed is propelling smartphones to new levels. The market for smartphones posts sanguine growth patterns for the upcoming years, backed largely by the wide availability, greater affordability, and higher data attachment rates for smartphones than conventional handsets. Relative resilience of the Smartphones market to economic cycles is higher than in comparison with other electronic gadgets, given its growing indispensability as a smart communication tool, and competitive prices. The propensity to spend on smartphones is not hugely impacted by a slowdown, rather consumer preferences during these periods tend to shift towards lower priced mass-market products.

Apple's iPhone 3G, launched in July 2007, was the major reason for smartphone record growth in 2007 and 2008. The industry has another coat of recession-proofing as its largest consumer base are typically young executives with high disposable incomes who regard mobile communication as an important part of their lives. Smartphone vendors are also catching-up in the App department, which has not only turned out to be a key revenue generator for vendors and their wireless carrier partners but also a decisive factor in consumers' buying decisions. The demand for smartphones from wireless carriers has increased tremendously since 2007, as smartphones are easy way to increase ARPU (Additional Revenue Per User) and revenue by means of data plans. Benefiting from significant investments both in terms of product innovation and marketing, worldwide market for smartphones has emerged into a lucrative industry churning out top dollars for market participants.

Until recently, Japan and other developing nations have witnessed some truly remarkable sales for smartphones category. India and China saw increased mobile adoption, particularly Nokia N-Series devices, due to strong brand reputation, and distribution network. However, harsh economic environment in developing nations shifted the momentum of the industry from the Asia to North America and Western Europe. Mobile operators are targeting smartphone users in developed nations with heavy subsidies, more-sophisticated mobile games, and even differentiated service offerings in order to increase usage.

World market for smartphones is dominated by the US and Europe, as stated by the new market research report on smartphones. Symbian and Research in Motion are the most used operating systems for smartphones.

Contrary to the forecasts of certain industry gurus, smartphones will not take over the mobile phone market. Growth in smartphones market will likely moderate despite the launch of compelling new smartphones. Price continues to be the center of attraction for many players, as competitors aggressively slash prices and lower their product margins to maintain or gain market share. The industry is also characterized by constant product introductions, evolving technologies and design approaches, short product life cycles, aggressive pricing practices, rapid imitation of product and technological advancements, and price sensitivity of consumers.

Key players dominating the global smartphones market include Apple Inc, High Tech Computer Corporation, Motorola Inc, Nokia Corporation, Palm Inc, Research In Motion Limited, and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, among others.

Global Smartphones Market to Reach 804.42 Million Units by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts

FTC warns nearly 100 firms of P2P data leaks

[network world] In what appears to be a warning shot, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent out letters to about 100 companies, informing them about sensitive and confidential data from their networks being found on publicly available on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.

The letters stem from an FTC investigation during which the agency discovered numerous examples of health-related information, financial records, drivers' license and Social Security numbers and other data leaked on P2P networks, according to a statement released today .

The letters urged the companies to review their security practices and warned them that their failure to prevent such information from being shared on P2P networks may be in violation of laws enforced by the Commission.

"The Commission has brought a number of cases against companies that allegedly failed to implement reasonable and appropriate security measures to protect sensitive personal information," the letter noted. It goes on to remind each of the recipients that it is their responsibility to control the use of P2P software on their networks and on those of their third-party service providers.

In addition to the letters, the FTC has also opened private investigations against an unspecified number of other companies over inadvertent data leaks involving sensitive customer and employee data.

FTC warns nearly 100 firms of P2P data leaks

USA - 3rd Circuit weighs validity of fines in 'Wardrobe Malfunction' case

[] Like the truth that is sometimes found in jest, a moment of levity in a court proceeding can sometimes help to crystallize a legal argument more cogently than the lengthy and serious discussion that preceded or followed it.

Such was the case on Tuesday afternoon as the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took up for the second time the issue of decency standards for television broadcasters.

Specifically, the three-judge panel is deciding whether to uphold the hefty fines imposed on CBS for Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl.

In the first round of litigation, CBS prevailed when a 3rd Circuit panel overturned the $550,000 in fines that the Federal Communications Commission imposed on CBS over Jackson's breast-baring performance.

But the U.S. Supreme Court later vacated that ruling and ordered the 3rd Circuit to study the case anew in light of the high court's decision in FCC v. Fox Television Stations -- a case that focused on the related issue of celebrities uttering dirty words during live telecasts of award shows.

Supplemental briefs were filed along with a flurry of amicus briefs that offered competing interpretations of whether the Supreme Court's Fox decision requires the 3rd Circuit to reverse course and uphold the fines.

3rd Circuit Weighs Validity of Fines in 'Wardrobe Malfunction' Case

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thailand - 3G services this year - regulator

[bangkok post] The 3G mobile services should be fully launched in Thailand before the end of this year after four new commissioners of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) have been royally endorsed, NTC member Prasit Prapinmongkolkarn said on Tuesday.

The four new commissioners are former Budget Bureau director Bandhoon Supakavanich, NTC's cable TV working committee chairman Pana Thongmeearkom, ex-TOT executive Natee Sukonrat and former NTC secretary-general Suranan Wongvithayakamjorn. Mr Prasit, Mr Sudharma Yoonaidharma and Mr Suchart Suchatvejapoom are three existing commissioners.

Mr Prasit said the next step was for all seven commissioners will select a chairman.

"The new NTC team will continue working on the remaining tasks such as frequency allocation in an effort to put the 3G services in place within this year.

"Radio frequencies are national property and if they are not being used no benefits or developments would be produced," Mr Prasit said.

The WIMAX broadband access project will also be continued, and will replace cable and DSL services in many areas of the country, he said.

NTC: 3G services by this year

New Zealand - Cutting charges will cost us $80 million, says Vodafone

[nz herald] Vodafone and Telecom have welcomed the Commerce Commission's recommendation to avoid regulation and allow the two companies to reduce mobile termination prices on their own, but Vodafone says it stands to lose a big proportion of its annual revenue through the changes.

After a 15-month investigation, the commission yesterday rejected regulation as a way of reducing the termination prices Telecom and Vodafone charged.

Instead, the commission recommended Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce accept Vodafone and Telecom's undertakings to reduce the charges on their own accord.

Under the 2001 Telecommunications Act providers can submit undertakings as an alternative to regulation.

However, a split has appeared in the commission, with one of the commissioners involved in the report, Anita Mazzoleni, disagreeing with the recommendation given to the Government.

"The barrier arising from the prices in the final undertakings continues to ensure an uneven playing field, and this will impede the benefits competition will otherwise deliver to New Zealand consumers," she said.

Cutting charges will cost us $80 million, says Vodafone

Mobile - SK Telecom Crams Android, Processor Inside a SIM Card

[pcworld] The SIM cards in cellular telephones might be smaller than a postage stamp and less than a millimeter thick but that hasn't stopped South Korea's SK Telecom from cramming all the major components needed to run Google's Android OS inside one of them.

The carrier's Android SIM, a prototype of which is on show at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, includes an ARM-based processor, companion memory and 1GB of flash memory to store the OS and other data.

SK Telecom envisages such a SIM card could be used between a number of "dumb" terminals -- devices that have ancillary peripherals such as a screen and keyboard but lack a processor and pre-installed OS. The SIM card uses the USB 2.0 interface to communicate with the terminal.

All of the user's applications and data are stored alongside the OS in the SIM card, so the user's desktop could be transported between devices by switching the SIM card between them. For example, a PC desktop could be switched into a cell phone for a commute.

SK Telecom said it's only a prototype at present and there are no plans to bring it to market but its development shows the level of miniaturization and amount of hardware that can be crammed inside a cell phone SIM card.

In April the carrier, which is South Korea's largest mobile operator, will roll out a series of customized SIM cards preloaded with applications and other data. Several "smart SIM" cards are being demonstrated at Mobile World Congress. They include a financial SIM that includes an application to monitor markets, a SIM branded by a pop group that includes their music videos and a sports-themed SIM from a soccer club.

SK Telecom is also experimenting with a SIM card with built-in wireless electronic money function. The card could be used to add wireless e-payment to handsets that don't have such a feature built-in.

Also this week at Mobile World Congress, SIM card-maker Sagem Orga showed off its SIMFi -- a SIM card with built-in Wi-Fi hotspot so that computers and other devices can connect to the Internet through the SIM card and phone's wireless connection.

SK Telecom Crams Android, Processor Inside a SIM Card

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Zealand - Commerce Commission on Mobile Termination Rates

[comcom] The NZ Commerce Commission has completed its investigation into Mobile Termination Access Services and has published its Final Report (a mjority decision), an the supporting report from WiK.

The Commission has concluded that a combination of wholesale mobile termination rates
(MTR)5 that are significantly above cost, with significant on-net discounting, creates a
barrier that restricts the ability of a small entrant MNO to compete with the larger MNOs.
This conclusion applies to both MTM voice and SMS services.

Mobile Termination Access Services

India - PMO wants DoT to complete 3G auctions by Mar 31

[economic times] The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is unhappy with the delay in the multi-billion-dollar 3G spectrum auction. It has asked the Telecom
Commission, the apex policy-making wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), to take all necessary steps to conclude the auction of 3G airwaves by March 31, 2010. It also wants DoT to ensure that such 3G spectrum is made available to four private service providers in all 22 circles, in addition to the slot reserved for state-owned BSNL and MTNL (only Delhi and Mumbai).

“The PMO is unhappy about the uncertainty in the 3G spectrum auction, especially since the nine-member empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has already fixed a definite timeline for concluding allotment of 3G airwaves by September in a specified number of slots per circle. Which is why it has written to DoT to speed up the process and conclude the auction by March 31, 2010, in step with the spectrum auction-cum-allotment timeline approved by EGoM,” a senior government official familiar with the matter told ET.

“The PMO has also sought a detailed explanation from DoT about why the 3G spectrum auction has been delayed, especially when the EGoM has called for the auction in financial year 2009-10,” he added. There is also a view in sections of the government that the Union communications ministry’s recent decision to postpone the 3G spectrum auction on the spectrum non-availability ground is not convincing, especially since the same ministry had not hesitated in the past to distribute 2G licences (that came bundled with 4.4 MHz of 2G airwaves) back in January 2008 by inserting a clause that “such spectrum would be made available when available”. Ironically, this 2G spectrum was also distributed at 2001 prices in calendar 2008 without any indexation despite a finance ministry advice in November 2007 calling for an indexation to the 2001 pan-India spectrum price by factoring in inflation, cost of money and relevant opportunity costs. A decision that many in the government and telecom industry circles believe robbed the Centre of nearly Rs 60,000 crore of potential revenue.

Significantly, the PMO communiqué also comes on the heels of the Union law ministry’s suggestion to drop the crucial compensation clause that originally required the government to refund the bid money (with interest) to the winner in the event 3G airwaves could not be allotted by the September 2010 deadline. “While the decision to drop the compensation clause is to pre-empt any possible losses for the government, there is a view that the government can easily allot 3G spectrum to five service providers (including one slot reserved for either BSNL or MTNL) since the defence ministry is slated to release the requisite airwaves by then.

The ball is now clearly in DoT’s court since it has been asked by the PMO to compress the timetable to conclude the spectrum auction in this fiscal in keeping with the timelines fixed by the EGoM. More so, since the finance ministry is also insistent on maximising the government revenue from the auction to contain the fiscal deficit. While presenting his last budget, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had indicated that the 3G spectrum auction would generate some Rs 35,000 crore for the central exchequer.

With less than a week to go before he presents his next Union Budget, both the finance ministry and the PMO are keen to get some clarity on 3G spectrum auctions road map from DoT.

PMO wants DoT to complete 3G auctions by Mar 31

Mobile - In-car 3G comes one step closer to standard

[independent] Audi has become the latest automaker to announce that it is to introduce 3G connectivity into its vehicles.

The firm confirmed February 15 that high-speed 3G internet access will be available on select versions of its top-end A8 model from this year, enabling drivers and passengers to go online at near-broadband speeds whenever they are in a 3G enabled area.

The Audi Mobile Media Interface was demonstrated today at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, showcasing its high-speed internet connectivity and simultaneous voice connection. Audi announced last year that it would integrate Google Earth to provide high-resolution, 3D satellite and aerial imagery to the vehicle's onboard navigation system.

The MMI will also provide a shared connection, effectively turning the vehicle into a wifi "hotspot" so that passengers can use WiFi enabled devices. The A8 is expected to hit showrooms from July 2010.

In 2008, Chrysler launched "uconnect web", making it the first manufacturer to offer a 3G wifi system available as a dealer-installed option. Last year, Ford announced that it would integrate 3G WiFi into some models using its "MyFord" system as standard.

In-car 3G comes one step closer to standard

India - 3G-spectrum auction issue likely to be resolved within a week

[sify] Telecom Minister A. Raja has said that the issue of auctioning 3G-spectrum to telecom companies is likely to be resolved this week.

Earlier, Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla had said that the government was not sure if it could conduct a 3G wireless spectrum auction before the end of the current fiscal.

The current fiscal ends on March 31.

"I hope everything will be resolved this week. It is not the question of money alone. It is the question of utilising the technology. We should not be lagging behind the international community," Raja announced on the sidelines of the launch of BSNL 3G mobile services in Bangalore.

"Government of India is committed, whether it is finance, whether it is law. As a whole, Government of India is committed to have this technology at the earliest possible," Raja added.

The government was expected to complete the 3G-auction by March, and it had estimated in July last year the spectrum allocation could raise up to 350 billion rupees.

If the auction is delayed beyond March 31, India's fiscal deficit might go beyond the currently projected 6.8 percent of the 2009-10 GDP.

3G-spectrum auction issue likely to be resolved within a week: A Raja

Mobile - Orange and T-Mobile merger finds favour in Brussels

[the guardian] The merger of Orange and T-Mobile looks set to get the go-ahead from the European commission after a last-minute deal was thrashed out over the weekend to secure the future of 3, the UK's smallest mobile phone network.

The merged business would be the UK's largest mobile phone company, with almost 30 million customers, and Orange and T-Mobile have agreed to hand back some of the mobile phone spectrum it would own in order to allow this to be used by rivals to run super-fast wireless broadband services.

The commission has yet to inform the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) about its decision, and the merger could still face a challenge from Vodafone and O2, which are understood to be "lukewarm" about the concessions made over spectrum.

The commission's decision is a blow to consumer groups that had been campaigning for authorities in the UK to investigate the deal.

This month the OFT formally requested jurisdiction to investigate the merger from the commission, which had until 1 March to give a decision. The OFT will tomorrow publish the reasons why it had asked to be allowed to run its own investigation, although the commission now believes it has dealt with any concerns. It was the OFT's request that spurred Orange and T-Mobile into action.

Fears that the merger, announced last September, would become clogged up in the UK's lengthy competition procedure led both companies to come up with a solution that met the concerns of the commission about the deal. The OFT and Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, were extensively consulted by the commission during the process.

The main concern was about the merger's effect on the future of 3, which has driven price competition in recent years. However, over the weekend, 3, which is owned by the Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, signed a new deal with T-Mobile and Orange, which will give it access to 3,000 more mast sites across the UK over the next few years, bringing the total to 16,000, the largest 3G network in the country.

Second, the UK authorities and Brussels were concerned about the level of control that the merged company would have over the scarce resource that is wireless spectrum. Specifically the merged group would have the vast majority of the spectrum granted in the 1990s, when Orange and One2One were launched, at 1800MHz. As reported by the Observer a week ago, T-Mobile and Orange have agreed to hand back a quarter of the spectrum the merged group would hold.

Neither 3, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 nor the OFT would comment.

The OFT will tomorrow give its reasons for asking the commission whether it could have jurisdiction over the case, in a stock exchange announcement.

A copy of its reasoning, seen by the Guardian, makes it clear that the OFT's main concern about any deal was also the future of 3. "The OFT considers that any weakening/elimination of Hutchison 3G would effectively result in a reduction of vertically integrated competitors from five to three and cause significant detriment to competition in mobile retail telephony," the document reads.

Orange and T-Mobile merger finds favour in Brussels

Nokia Booklet 3G goes on sale

[zdnet] Nokia's first netbook, the Booklet 3G, has gone on sale in the UK through the company's website.

The Nokia Booklet 3G has a high-definition glass screen and HDMI-out, and is powered by last year's Intel Atom Z530 processor. Nokia claims a battery life of 12 hours for the device, which has embedded 3G and GPS capabilities.

The Windows 7 machine was first announced in August last year. In the intervening six months, a newer generation of Atom processors has come out, and the battery life and multimedia capabilities of the Booklet 3G have become features of other netbooks on the market.

Nonetheless, Nokia is charging £649 for the Booklet 3G — a price that could buy two netbooks from most other manufacturers.

A Nokia spokesperson also told ZDNet UK that no mobile operator has signed a deal to bundle or subsidise the device.

Nokia Booklet 3G goes on sale

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Skype Becomes the Largest Provider of Cross-border Communications in the World

[prweb] Skype's international phone-calling traffic has accelerated at a time when international telephone traffic has slowed, according to a new report by TeleGeography.

Skype traffic has been soaring despite the background of slowing growth by conventional phone companies, according to the report. Where international calling volumes from telephones was growing at a compounded annual rate of 15% for the past 25 years, over the past two years it has slowed down to only 8%. Skype however has seen its international cheap calls volume sky rocket.

In a press statement from TeleGeography, analyst Stephan Beckert commented, "Demand for international voice has been remarkably robust, but it's clearly not recession-proof". However the statement went on to highlight that Skype was managing to very successfully buck the trend, with on-net international Skype-to-Skype traffic growing by 51% in 2008, and a projected growth of 63% in 2009, to a massive 54 billion minutes. "The volume of traffic routed via Skype is tremendous," said Beckert.

This increase in international calling minutes experienced by Skype has brought its market share up to 12% in 2009, and made Skype the "largest provider of cross border communications in the world, by far", according to Beckert.

The success experienced by Skype can be further demonstrated by a recent company journal report which showed that on the 19th January 2010 the service experienced an all-time record number of concurrent logged on users with over 22 and a quarter million clients signed in to Skype at the same time. This record comes only shortly after the previous record of 21.5 million concurrent users was logged the previous Monday.

Skype Becomes the Largest Provider of Cross-border Communications in the World

Kuwait's Zain Faces Revenue Growth Battle After Africa Ops Exit

[zawya] Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co., or Zain, is likely to struggle to grow revenues after deciding to offload most of its Africa assets, quashing previous aspirations of becoming a top-ten global player by the end of 2011, analysts said.

Zain, the third-largest Arab telecom company by market value, Monday said it has entered into exclusive talks with India's Bharti Airtel (532454.BY) to sell assets in 15 African countries, excluding Sudan and Morocco, in a deal valued at $10.7 billion.

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval and due diligence by Bharti, would be one of the biggest asset sales by a Gulf company and the largest by a Gulf telecom operator.

Zain said on Tuesday it expects net proceeds of up to $5 billion from the deal. Money from the sale, if realized, would be included in the company's second quarter earnings.

The Africa asset disposal could however consign Zain to life as a regional mobile company operating in just two African countries and six Middle Eastern states with a focus on big markets like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"Because of the maturity of the Middle East operations, and strong competition in Zain's home market of Kuwait, we expect revenue growth to ease," said Irfan Ellam, an analyst at Dubai-based Al Mal Capital.

The resignation of chief executive officer Saad Al Barrak earlier this month opened the way to the Africa exit, ending nearly a yearlong shareholder-management feud over the future of the company, analysts said.

Kuwait's Kharafi Group was seen as the main catalyst behind the Africa asset sale after an attempt to sell a controlling 46% stake in Zain to an Indian-Malaysian consortium for about $13.7 billion stalled. The process wasn't backed by Al Barrak, analysts said.

"This (2011 target) was Dr. Barrak's goal, but the financial crisis came and a major shareholder required some cash and they needed to sell some assets," said Simon Simonian, a telecoms analyst at Dubai-based Shuaa Capital.

When he took the helm of Zain in 2002, Al Barrak spearheaded an aggressive acquisition drive in an attempt to turn the local mobile operator into a global company. It snapped up assets like Netherlands-based Celtel International for $3.4 billion in 2005 which gave Zain a foothold in the then underdeveloped Africa market.


Zain's acquisition spree emulated a wider trend among other state-run Gulf telecom operators flush with petrodollars who ventured abroad to nurture new sources of income as domestic monopolies ended.

Zain's strategy reversal started with last year's announcement of a strategic review of its Africa operations, two public attempts of selling the Africa assets and later a push by the Kharafi Group to sell a controlling stake.

Zain will now likely focus on cost cutting, improving efficiency and boosting income from data, one of the prime sources of revenue growth in the energy-rich Gulf region where penetration rates in some countries tops 100%, analysts said.

Proceeds from the sale of the Africa assets will also help prop up Zain's finances, analysts said. The company struggled to boost income in 2009 due to the global financial crisis, foreign exchange fluctuations and increased capital expenditure.

"We expect Zain will pay a dividend to shareholders, use some of the cash to invest in operations such as Iraq and Saudi," Al Mal's Ellam said. "They could potentially also lower their debt level."

Zain's Africa operations provided room for growth, but became a drag on earnings as investment costs rose and competition intensified, according to analysts.

"When they first entered Africa, there wasn't as much competition as there is now, especially from well financed international operators such as Vodafone, France Telecom and MTN," said Al Mal's Ellam.

Disappointing results from Zain's Africa operations contributed to the company's lackluster third-quarter performance, which included a 53% slump in profit from the year earlier due to higher financing costs and currency fluctuations.

While Africa users represented about 58% of Zain's total 71.8 million active subscribersat the end of September 2009, the Africa operations, excluding Sudan, only contributed to about 33% of its nine-month earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, according to analyst estimates.

"One of the drags for the company's net income has been the large depreciation charges from investments in Africa," said Sean Gardiner, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in Dubai

"This (Africa asset sale) deal could help net income to grow better."

Kuwait's Zain Faces Revenue Growth Battle After Africa Ops Exit

Zain wins the inaugural GSMA's 2010 'Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service'

[business intelligence] Zain has won the inaugural GSMA’s 2010 ‘Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service’ award for ‘Zap’, its mobile commerce service.

The announcement was made at the Global Mobile Awards, the industry’s leading annual prize ceremony, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that runs from 15-18 February 2010.

The 'Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service' is a new award, established to recognise innovative mobile banking around the world that pioneers the roll out of low-cost financial services to millions of people, in countries where traditional financial services are either not within easy reach or unavailable.

It is aligned to the GSMA's Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) initiative, which was created to connect the unconnected and improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of the world's population living on less than US$2 a day by supporting and encouraging the development of sustainable mobile money solutions.

“This is yet another indication that Zain is at the cutting edge of technological development,” said Zain Africa CEO, Chris Gabriel.

“Not only are we pushing the boundaries of where the mobile phone can take us, we are showing that we can improve lives and make sustainable economic contributions in the countries where we operate. Time and again Zain is showing that when it promises ‘A wonderful world’, it is more than a slogan.

Zain wins the inaugural GSMA's 2010 'Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service'

Mobile - Demand for dual-mode/dual-SIM handsets spreads from China

[digitimes] Demand for dual-mode and dual-SIM handsets – mostly GSM plus CDMA, PHS or WCDMA – offered by China-based and white-box vendors is gaining momentum in markets outside China, according to industry sources.

Seeing the increasing demand, US-based chipset vendor Qualcomm reportedly plans to launch chipset solutions supporting dual-mode and dual-SIM standards, a segment that has been dominated by Taiwan-based rival MediaTek, the sources noted.

Korea-based vendors Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics (LGE) have already launched dual-mode handsets for global markets, and Apple's next-generation iPhone may also support both CDMA and WCDMA standards, the sources indicated.

Taiwan-based handset vendor Inventec Appliances, which has offered dual-mode handsets since 2007, has started marketing its first 3.5G/GSM dual-mode handset, the C-910, in the Taiwan market in cooperation with Chunghwa Telecom (CHT). The C-910 can also be used as a 3.5G data card, the company said.

HTC (High Tech Computer) is also expected to launch dual-mode models in 2010, the sources added.

Demand for dual-mode/dual-SIM handsets spreads from China

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mobile - Silicon Valley takes helm in wireless world

[ap] Silicon Valley is looking like a winner in the tug-of-war with wireless carriers over who will control the new world of Internet-connected phones.

The tension between the largely U.S.-based PC and Internet industry and the world's wireless carriers was palpable this week at the world's largest cell phone trade show, Mobile World Congress. Google Inc. was one of the headliners, and Apple Inc. was the ghost hovering over it all. While many wireless carriers are cooperating or working with Google and Apple, many are also signaling that they don't want to cede power and be reduced to simple utilities.

For consumers, the reduced power of wireless carriers could mean more choices. Traditionally the network operators tried to limit the content people could access on their devices, before the rise of "app stores" and Web-based services dramatically expanded ways for us to customize our phones.

On the other hand, Internet companies such as Google might crowd out other services, the way it already dominates Web searches.

Phones are becoming more sophisticated and wireless Internet access is spreading across the globe. These trends play directly to Silicon Valley's strengths in software and the Internet. Meanwhile, voice service, the mainstay of the wireless carriers, is becoming less lucrative and less important.

Carriers are losing control over other phone functions as well. Ringtones are one example: Wireless network operators used to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling those in the U.S. alone. But sales are declining as smarter phones allow their owners to use their own audio snippets as ringtones, bypassing the carriers.

Advertising keyed to Web searches is a small but growing business, and one Google dominates, along with Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. This worries the CEO of British-based Vodafone Group PLC, part owner of Verizon Wireless and one of the largest carriers in the world. Vittorio Colao said in a speech at the show that regulators such as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission should examine Google's power over this market and see whether more competition is needed.

Sales of downloadable programs known as applications for smart phones are also growing — and forcing carriers to struggle to stay relevant. When Apple took skills honed in the computer industry to create the iconic iPhone, it also created an application store where it gets a 30 percent cut of the sales, and the carrier gets nothing. Google has followed the same path with its application store for phones that run the Android software it's created.

Two dozen of the world's largest wireless carriers struck back at the show, announcing that they would create a "Wholesale Applications Community." The idea is that software developers will write their applications once, following a standard set by the community, which can then distribute them to carrier-run applications stores across the world.

U.S. carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA are part of the group, which has 3 billion customers globally. Phone makers LG Electronics Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and Sony Ericsson, none of which have significant applications stores, also said they would support the group. It remains to be seen whether it will have a significant impact.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave a keynote speech that emphasized how important the mobile market is to Google. Afterward, an audience member told him it appears Google wants to turn carriers into "dumb data pipes" — simple conduits to the Internet that don't get to sell any added services. How will carriers afford to upgrade their networks to increase data capacity if they can't be "intelligent pipes?" he wondered.

Schmidt acknowledged that wireless carriers have to invest in network upgrades in order for them to profit from increased data usage.

"But I can assure you that you will get that money back in many, many ways," Schmidt said.

While some carriers are indicating that they won't go gently into that dumb pipe, they also want to keep their customers happy. They may not like Apple's terms, but they can't afford to pass up the chance to sell the iPhone. At AT&T Inc., iPhone customers pay about twice as much in monthly service fees as other phone users.

Skype, the Internet-based calling and videoconferencing service, has complained for years that carriers have locked it out of cellular broadband networks, restricting Skype applications to working when the customer is in a Wi-Fi hot spot. But at the show, Verizon Wireless announced that it's working with Skype to enable Skype calls over its cellular network for BlackBerry and Android phones by March. That means free calls between Skype users, as long as the phones have data plans — exactly the sort of thing the industry has struggled to avoid.

Of course, Verizon Wireless is counting on making the money back, if not in the "many, many ways" promised by Schmidt, then at least in data fees.

In another sign of Silicon Valley's influence, the GSM Association's prize for "Mobile Industry Personality of the Year" went to a man who wasn't there, and doesn't appear at trade shows at all: Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Notably, the jury for that prize doesn't consist of wireless industry professionals, but journalists.

Silicon Valley takes helm in wireless world