Sunday, October 31, 2010

South Africa - Cabinet reshuffle - Nyanda is out and Padayachee returns to DOC, this time as Minister

[sf gate] South African President Jacob Zuma announced a reshuffle of the Cabinet he appointed 17 months ago, firing seven ministers including Barbara Hogan who ran public enterprises and Siphiwe Nyanda in charge of communications.

Hogan, whose ministry is responsible for state power company Eskom Holdings Ltd. and transport company Transnet Ltd., will be replaced by Malusi Gigaba, currently deputy minister of home affairs. Roy Padayachee, the deputy minister of public service and administration, will take over Nyanda's post, Zuma told reporters in Pretoria today.

Zuma is facing increased pressure from labor union allies to speed up economic growth and create more jobs for the one in four people without work. Nyanda was cleared of corruption allegations by the country's Public Protector in August.

"Nyanda's move is quite understandable," Lawrence Schlemmer a political analyst and director of research company MarkData, said in a phone interview from Cape Town. "The management of his portfolio has been very controversial. Hogan's move is a little unfair. It is a great pity that she wasn't given more time in Cabinet."

Africa's biggest economy shed 870,000 jobs last year following the first recession in 17 years. The government said Oct. 26 it plans to weaken the currency, drive down interest rates and rein in spending under a new growth plan that aims to create 5 million jobs in the next decade.

'Faster Pace'

"Government has to work at a faster pace to change the lives of the poor," Zuma said. "We have taken a long and hard look at some of the departments with a view to strengthening some ministries."

Zuma also replaced Labor Minister Membathisi Mdladlana with Mildred Oliphant and appointed Edna Molewa minister of water and environmental affairs in place of Buyelwa Sonjica. He also replaced his ministers of social development, arts and culture, women's affairs, public works and sport. Two ministers switched portfolios.

"This is a serious, serious Cabinet reshuffle," said Adam Habib, a political analyst at the University of Johannesburg. "It sends an important message to the public that yes, we are worried about service delivery and are acting against corruption. I don't see this as changing the political alliances within the Cabinet."

Zuma also announced the appointment of 17 deputy ministers, including Enoch Godongwana, currently the deputy minister of public enterprises, as deputy minister of economic development. Barbara Thompson was named deputy energy minister, while Godfrey Oliphant was named deputy mines minister.

South Africa's Zuma Fires Hogan, Nyanda From Cabinet

Friday, October 29, 2010

UK - Three voted the top mobile broadband brand in YouGov survey

[epic mobiles] Mobile network Three has been rated the UK's top mobile broadband supplier for the second year running.

According to the 2010 YouGov DongleTracker survey, the Three network achieved top marks in more than half of the 15 categories. 4,000 mobile internet users were surveyed for the study, and placed Three as the best provider in terms of value for money, connection speed, reliability and ease of use.

Joe Parker, director of mobile broadband at Three, commented: "We're thrilled that our customers have rated us the number one mobile broadband provider in the UK for the second time running, but also that smartphone users, including iPhone customers, are seeing the value of our strong 3G network. It's a huge accolade and we can't thank our customers enough."

Mr Parker was referring to a separate survey in which Three was rated as providing the fastest and best-value network by iPhone owners. Rivals Orange did not fare well in either survey, with YouGov reporting that 60 per cent of Orange iPhone users believe they could get better network coverage with a different provider. 58 per cent of Orange iPhone users were disappointed with the network and 29 per cent thought that the network was too expensive.

Orange will be hoping its recent merger with T-Mobile, which also performed poorly in the studies, will boost customer satisfaction. T-Mobile achieved the lowest recommendation rating in the iPhone study, while Vodafone was the network favoured the most by users planning to switch.

Orange and T-Mobile's Everything Everywhere now sees customers roaming freely between the two networks. However, the current deal does not cover 3G, so it may be some time before users see significant improvements.

UK Votes Three as the Best Mobile Broadband Provider

Kenya - M-banking and transactions are reaching a wider population and also rural areas

[mobile money africa] Before 2008, analysts lamented that Kenya was performing poorly in financial inclusion.

But that was before M-Pesa became appreciated as a popular money transfer technology.
Research done in 2009 noted that such inclusion had risen by about six per cent in terms of people holding bank accounts, but at the same time millions had been recruited into Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile money transfer service.

Recently, Central Bank of Kenya governor Njuguna Ndung’u celebrated the coming of age of the service saying: “Mobile phone technology has in a few years of its existence demonstrated how financial inclusion can be leapfrogged on a major scale and in a short-time span using appropriate technological platforms.”
He noted that in only three years of the existence of the mobile phone money transfer service, three phone operators had launched the service and enrolled over 9.5 million customers and recruited over 27,000 agents.
He said the total transactions had reached Sh1.8 billion per day and Sh56 billion per month.
Beyond expectations
The cumulative amount transferred through M-Pesa since its inception stood at Sh405.5 billion by March, or 18 per cent of Kenya’s GDP — equivalent to 15 times the amount expected to be spent in rebuilding Thika Road.

This figure must have risen considerably since March 31 given the more vibrant economic activity as seen in higher projected growth rate of 5.2 per cent for this year.
The government had previously projected that growth would probably peak at 4.5 per cent before revising it upwards recently.
Experts now say that M-Pesa has resulted in higher remittances to rural areas leading to higher economic activity.

In a survey CGAP, an independent policy and research centre that seeks to improve poor people’s access to financial services, found that incomes of the rural recipients increased by five to 30 per cent since they started using M-Pesa.
By bypassing banking and other financial institutions that charge a premium for transfers, or having to travel long distances to deliver money, the system saves cash that can be directed to other areas of economic activity.

The World Bank estimates that reducing remittance commission charges by two to five per cent could increase the flow of formal remittances by 50 to 70 per cent, boosting local economies.
The system has drawn the interest of academics and technologists, including the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which is conducting studies on it.

Currently, Tavneet Suri, an assistant lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, along with Georgetown University economist William Jack, have been leading a research project on M-Pesa since early this year and have published Mobile Money: The Economics of M-Pesa.
The economists are in agreement that growth of M-Pesa is driven by the fast adoption of mobile phone technology noting that it “has occurred at perhaps the fastest rate and to the deepest level of any consumer-level technology in history.”

They explain that the system had been successful way beyond initial expectations.
“I don’t think anybody thought it would take off quite as fast as it did or be as popular as it’s been… The adoption has been very quick compared to almost any other technology we’ve seen,” Mr Suri said in an article on the MIT website.
The M-Pesa system has in a sense served to supplement the role of the creaky infrastructure in many parts of Kenya.

Kenyans can avoid travelling to deliver cash or make payments and having to send parcels by the largely unreliable public transport, which may not reach the targeted recipient.
Thus from that standpoint, the development may be seen as a negative indication of the failure of Kenya’s banking system to be inclusive as well as the avoidance of the hassles of travelling to deliver money.
But some analysts disagree. They see the existence of both bank accounts and money transfer services.

Neil Davidson, formerly at K-Rep Bank and now a manager of the Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) Programme at the GSM Association, is of the opinion that complementality is the key in the relationship between banks and mobile banking, noting that M-Kesho, the mobile banking product launched by Equity Bank and Safaricom in May, had grew by 176,000 people within three months of its launch.
Mr Davidson said: “I’ve come to believe that mobile money services can increase, rather than dampen, demand for traditional banking services.”

He explained that in his conversation with an M-Pesa user, the service emerged as “one of a portfolio of financial tools that he uses to manage his money, and that his bank is an indispensable part of that portfolio.”
Security issues are paramount in that the user cannot keep much money in the money transfer system lest a criminal forces him to transfer the cash. At the same time, he will need banks when it comes to borrowing cash.

The mobile phone’s quick penetration is an indication of the ubiquity of wireless penetration rates in developing countries.
In Africa, wireless penetration was only 4.75 per cent but this increased to 30.6 per cent by 2008 and is expected to rise to 50.13 per cent by year 2012.
This contrasts sharply with the situation in, for example, Eastern Europe where penetration of wireless technology was 102.79 per cent in 2008 and is expected to reach 134.72 per cent by 2012.

Researchers Jack and Suri note that since its introduction in 2007, 38 per cent of Kenyan households have at least one M-Pesa user and yet by contrast, only 22 per cent of adults have bank accounts.
There are many interested parties in the operations and success of the M-Pesa product and some have been trying to replicate it.

The situation can only get more interesting as the operators link up with banks that can handle the transactions as well as allow customers to borrow and deposit cash at some interest rate.
Several banks, including the fast-growing Equity Bank, have been linking up with M-Pesa as they try to exploit mobile phone banking solutions.
The International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, says there are four billion cellphone subscriptions worldwide up from just one billion in 2002.

About two-thirds of the subscriptions are in developing countries.
Analysts say that the growth represents the potential for commercial banking related opportunities if the Kenyan case is anything to go by.
Since the launch of M-Kesho, it is reported that the accounts on this product have been growing at the pace of 20,000 accounts a day, at least in the initial stages of registration.

Jack and Suri research data also shows that 41 per cent of M-Pesa money transfers are sent to parents, and only eight per cent to children, strongly suggesting that working children may be sending money back to help their parents whose purchasing power consequently increases boosting economic activity.
Monetary management
But for monetary management purposes, the scholars see some unchartered waters.
They note that as M-Pesa deposits enter the banking system, they reduce cash in circulation to the extent that banks comply with or exceed official reserve requirements.

They note: “But as e-float becomes more widely acceptable as an easily transferable store of value, it will adopt the features of money. The practical implication of this is that M-Pesa could increase the money supply, with possible impacts on inflation and or output.”
The essence of the argument is that the money is cellphone accounts amounts to part of that currency under circulation and has the potential to affect prices of goods and services.

As that e-float increases, it will become increasingly important for the monetary authorities to consider the service in an attempt to manage inflation and even interest rates.

Taking into account that there are corporate users with large balances, if an average of Sh500 was held in e-float by just 10 million subscribers in the money transfer system, it would amount to Sh5 billion cash, which inevitably increases money supply available for transactions.

Therefore, if the central bank were to have some leeway in the control of this money, it can tweak it in order to discourage or encourage retention of the cash in the system in a manner that would impact on inflation.
The other important finding by researchers is that money transfer services in Kenya are not insured the way bank deposits are — to the tune of Sh100,000.

In short, there are serious limitations to the system on account of that, necessitating the continued importance of the banking industry.

This is not to mention that the system has in-built transaction limits and insurance is a possible frontier for expansion of the system going forward.

Benefits of mobile money transfer trickle down to rural folk

Canada - Complaints about telecoms rose 17% year on year, mostly contract disputrs and billing errors

[vancouver sun] Canadians are continuing their love affair with digital communications, but it's a rocky relationship.

Complaints about telecommunications companies rose 17 per cent this year, according to the 2009-10 annual report of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), an independent body created by the federal government.

The report said that almost 80 per cent of the 3,747 complaints involved a contract dispute or billing error, with contract-related issues increasing to 35 per cent this year from 27 per cent in 2008-09.

"[Complaints] are up in all fields," CCTS Commissioner Howard Maker said in an interview about the report.

"And this is the first time that we've had one single line of business [wireless] that accounted for more than half of the complaints."

In its report, the CCTS said that 52 per cent of complaints involved wireless services, up from 38 per cent in 2008-09.

Another 24 per cent -- the same as the previous year -- involved local exchange or VOIP (voice over Internet protocol), while complaints involving Internet access dropped slightly to 15.2 per cent.

Bell Canada, with 21.6 million customers in total, had the largest number of complaints with 1,428.

Rogers Communications Inc., with about 14 million customers, had 540 complaints.

Telus, with 12 million customers, had 657 complaints.

Maker said he's not surprised at the surge in complaints about wireless products, because it's the area of greatest growth in terms of subscribers, and involves the greatest pace of change, and the greatest degree of complexity at the retail level.

Maker said consumers are becoming much more aware that they can file complaints to the CCTS. "Before, they didn't really have anywhere to go."

Simon Fraser University Professor Richard Smith, a telecommunications expert in the school of communication, agreed that the rising number of complaints could be because of increased awareness among consumers.

"They're not super happy with the service, and never have been, but there's a growing awareness of an ability to complain to somebody and who to complain to."

Smith said he doesn't believe service is getting worse, but the report could prompt companies to ramp up their services.

Meanwhile the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission said Thursday that Telus Communications had agreed to review its policies and make a $200,000 charitable donation as part of an agreement with the CRTC over its use of automated calling devices.

Telus was using the devices to notify prepaid mobile customers of an actual or imminent service interruption and how to purchase more minutes to avoid one, the CRTC said Thursday.

Of the Telus agreement, the CRTC's chief telecommunications enforcement officer said she was pleased Telus acted swiftly when the commission's concerns about complying with the CRTC's unsolicited telecommunications rules were brought to the company's attention.

"[Telus] had just under 100 complaints," said Andrea Rosen. "Telus agreed, and very quickly, to stop using [the automated calling devices] as a result of the commission's concerns."

Under the agreement, Telus did not admit fault and the commission had not issued a formal finding of liability.

However, the telecommunications giant agreed to several conditions, including: immediately ceasing making those types of calls without obtaining prior consent; making a charitable $200,000 donation to establish a Telus scholarship at Carleton University in Ottawa to support graduate studies in the areas of policy and regulation; and reviewing its compliance policies to ensure continuing adherence with the CRTC's rules.

Michael Hennessy, senior vice-president of regulatory and government affairs at Telus, said that Telus immediately stopped using the automated devices as soon as the company was made aware of the complaints, which were filed between October 2008 and July 2010.

Hennessey said Telus did not believe it did anything wrong by using the devices because they were only telling existing customers how to add minutes to their prepaid phones so they wouldn't be cut off.

Telecommunications complaints on the rise - Consumers unhappy with the service are becoming increasingly aware of their rights

Cambodia - TeliaSonera wrote of USD 100 million from the value of its investment in Star Cell

[phnom penh post] THE only surprise related to TeliaSonera’s Monday announcement of a US$100 million writedown at Star-Cell was that the Swedish mobile firm announced its lack of goodwill in Cambodia at all.

Within the sector as a whole, this has been obvious for some time. The high level of competition in the Kingdom and extremely low level of income per user – reported to be as low as $3.5 per month – means that smaller players like TeliaSonera’s Star-Cell have struggled to hold value. At a time when the sector should be looking to consolidate, given that nine players is simply too many, this situation promises dire consequences for investors looking to get their money back.

Few of the current operators as they stand offer the opportunity for long-term profits, meaning they are, in a sense, worth the value of their assets at most – TeliaSonera is effectively admitting that the Star-Cell brand and all of the intangibles that go with it are absolutely worthless.

For any theoretical buyer of the smaller players in Cambodia’s mobile market, it is difficult to see where potential value for money lies.

A buyer already in the market would effectively be purchasing two main assets – infrastructure and the brand name – which, given the huge overlap of towers in Cambodia and the headache of accommodating old brands into new ones (especially when they are essentially worthless anyway), means the strategic reasons for an acquisition evaporate.

No doubt that is the precise reason why consolidation has not happened – no one wants to buy. Excell, the smallest operator by subscribers in Cambodia, has explicitly been seeking a “strategic investor” since around mid-2009. How many other operators in the Kingdom would sell up tomorrow if they were offered a price that reflected the value of their assets? Probably half the sector, but then there doesn’t appear to be anyone willing to buy.

That TeliaSonera publicly acknowledged its lack of goodwill is surprising because many in the sector would be afraid to admit just how little their companies are actually worth to potential buyers.

On the flip side, TeliaSonera’s announcement of a write-down is refreshing for investors given the move offers greater insight into the real value of Star-Cell.

Accounting rules FAS 141 and FAS 142, which relate to the allocation of goodwill and therefore company value, are by their very nature open to artful interpretation. How exactly do you assign monetary value to a commercial intangible? Companies can assign any value they like and in reality most usually avoid the truth.

By issuing a large number of licences, the government has effectively created a race to the bottom. Whoever has the deepest pockets will last the longest. We are still in the wait-and-see stage, but the end result is not in doubt.

Many of the remaining companies in the sector may not have been as transparent as TeliaSonera yet, but they are only kidding themselves.

Star-Cell writedown a reality check for the telecommunications sector

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Canada - Hearings on the rural Internet held by the regulator

[globe and mail] The future of the Internet in Canada is being shaped in Timmins, Ontario.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission began a hearing into whether to make broadband Internet a “basic service” like dial-up Internet in rural and remote areas, where the cost of delivering high-speed Internet is too high for profit-conscious companies.

You can listen to the ongoing discussion here: (starts at 9 am, for the next few days, and then again starting on Nov 1.)

“The burning question now becomes whether the Commission has a role to play in the provision of broadband Internet services where it is currently not available,” said Konrad Von Finckenstein, the CRTC's chairman.

The issue is of huge consequence: Although urban Canadians can enjoy relatively competitive broadband service, those in rural and remote communities have little if any choice at all. Services being provided are already subsidized by fees collected from telecom companies, which goes to offsetting the cost of subsidizing service delivery. And service is generally much slower, and much less reliable.

But the issue is also highly complicated: The free market (which companies love) has already resulted in the expansion of broadband services to more than 90 per cent of the population. My guess is many of the largest companies – like Bell, Telus and Rogers – will argue that their advanced wireless networks are good enough, are expanding, and that any households not reached by that will be able to take advantage of improving satellite technology (new satellites are being launched in the next few years that will greatly improve the quality and capacity of existing satellites, which are generally pretty feeble, and expensive).

The real problems revolve around how to reach the remote communities beyond Canadian companies' existing footprint, while also recognizing that mandating certain “broadband” Internet speeds is difficult, since technology is rapidly changing – making any speed definition a moving target. Traditional broadband is defined as 1.5 megabits per second download speed, but that is far below what Canadians in cities already enjoy, and may be far slower than what companies eventually provide.

Essentially, telecom companies usually hate additional regulation. And this hearing represents a significant source of new, potentially very onerous obligations on these companies. Bell Aliant's vice-president of regulatory and legal affairs, Denis Henry, was up first at the CRTC hearing. He argued against more regulation and said - unsurprisingly - that increased regulation would harm the industry. “The commission does not need to regulate broadband, such a notion seems to ignore Canada’s track record in expanding broadband without regulation,” Mr. Henry said.

Mr. Henry said the government should focus on digital literacy, since many more people have access to broadband Internet than actually sign up for the service and use it. “Adoption lags availability by a wide mark,” he added. Mr. Von Finckenstein, pushing back, read off a long list of countries that have mandated broadband targets.

Some countries have set targets for 100 per cent availability (at speeds beyond what's being discussed in Timmins, though in smaller countries), essentially defining it as a human right, as well as something a country needs.

“They all recognize that this is something that a modern economy needs,” Mr. Von Finckenstein said.

CRTC holds hearing on fate of rural broadband

UK - Prime Minister is "incredibly excited" by faster broadband in the UK

[top10] Private sector broadband providers are playing their part in improving access to high-speed web services across the UK, David Cameron has claimed.

The Prime Minister said that with the government investing in broadband for rural areas, and internet service providers Virgin Media and BT continuing to invest in super-fast infrastructure, the future looks bright for UK consumer and businesses.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference, Mr Cameron noted that 13 million homes and businesses will soon be hooked up to "some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world".

He commented that this is not only "incredibly exciting", but also a clear demonstration of how determined the government is to develop the right framework for growth in Britain.

During his speech, Mr Cameron suggested that an announcement on the launch of 100Mb broadband may be imminent from Virgin Media.

Writing in his BBC technology blog, Rory Cellan-Jones claimed that the broadband provider may provide details of its super-fast broadband deals as early as Wednesday October 27th.

Prime Minister "incredibly excited" about broadband Britain

USA - Chief Scientist supports the national broadband plan for productivity benefits

[pcworld] The White House's top science and technology adviser, John Holdren, is putting his weight behind the development of the controversial national broadband plan.

Holdren, speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston Monday night, said the national broadband plan has a lot to recommend it.

"I am convinced that it would be of benefit in many different respects," he said. "There would be an improvement in the productivity of the science and engineering enterprises, but I can't say by how much and I don't know if anybody can."

The FCC's national broadband plan, released in March, sets aside US$15.5 billion over 20 years from the Universal Service Fund (USF), which has been used to subsidize traditional telephone service, for broadband deployment.

Holdren's comments come on the back of a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said any attempt to implement the national broadband plan would be "challenging" despite other countries having similar goals.

"Actions will be required by governments at all levels and the private sector," the report said. "Implementing the plan's recommendations will require coordinating the work of multiple stakeholders and obtaining sufficient funding, among other actions."

While Holdren said the plan would boost the populations and productivity levels of rural and regional areas, he said he was unable to provide quantitative estimates as it wasn't his field of expertise.

"I would guess it is [worth billions of dollars] because the leverage is probably very substantial," he claimed. "But when it comes to budgets, this is a delicate matter because we have very difficult financial constraints and I don't want to endorse a particular number or version of the plan. "

The White House adviser said the best solution was to pursue a national system that didn't involve the federal government spending large amounts of money.

"This is an area like many others where we have to have some sort of public/private cooperation and partnership," he said. "But clearly the private sector must do a lot of it, it has to."

Obama's Chief Scientist Pushes National Broadband Plan

Sunday, October 24, 2010

UK - Govt has announced superfast broadband piles in rural areas

[isp review] The UK coalition government has revealed some new bits of information about its recently announced "superfast" Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband pilots in the Highlands and Islands (Scotland), Cumbria, North Yorkshire and the Golden Valley, Herefordshire (England). The projects were officially revealed on Wednesday as part of the Chancellor's Spending Review.

The pilot exercise aims to help establish the commercial costs and challenges involved in rolling out superfast broadband across the UK. It's now understood that each pilot area will receive between £5m and £10m in funding from the £530m being set aside.

UK Government Statement

Work will begin on upgrading the broadband infrastructure in the four areas following further definition of the pilots and a procurement process. It is hoped that suppliers will start rolling out upgraded infrastructure within a year. The pilots will be paid for with a combination of public and private investment.

UK Government Reveals Additional Superfast Rural Broadband Pilot Details

UK - Users owed STG 10 million by telephone companies

[this is money] Customers of telephone and mobile firms are being urged to reclaim money owed to them when they switch contracts.

Industry regulator, Ofcom claims that over the past two years at least £10m has been left in mobile, landline, broadband and TV accounts.

Ofcom say that some accounts are in credit when they are closed during the process of switching to an alternative provider.

The cash is from line rental which has been paid in advance or promotional credits paid at the beginning of a contract.

The regulator said all companies should automatically refund all money owed, but until now only three had done so.

BT, Orange and the Post Office were the only companies who had an automatic refund policy on outstanding credit in their customers' accounts.

Since Ofcom's investigation, T-Mobile has now agreed to do so and Vodafone is now doing so for its direct debit customers.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile have agreed to do so from 1 December for sums greater than £1, and O2 will now automatically credit sums of more than £20.

But Ofcom said Sky, Talk Talk and Three are still insisting on customers contacting them first.

However, Ofcom criticised this, saying everyone in the industry should refund customers with all the outstanding credit they were owed, without customers having to ask first.

Ofcom's Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: 'Consumers were telling us that they found it difficult to claim unused credit from their providers when they left their contracts. Taken together, people have been millions of pounds out of pocket as a result.'

'We hope that automated refund processes, clearer signposting by providers and our new consumer guide should help consumers claim back money that is rightfully theirs.'

Phone users owed £10m in unused credit

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Broadband - Seen as a stimulus to economic growth

[tmc] It would come as no surprise that people working in the economic development business for local government think broadband promotes or even causes some amount of local economic development. Most of us likely would agree that lack of broadband can discourage economic development, at least in the form of business relocations to an area, or housing growth that brings in new residents from outside the region.

You might not be surprised to learn that such officials have views wildly out of sync with what federal policymakers or service providers believe is possible.

Over 55 percent of the respondents surveyed on behalf of the International Economic Development Council believe speeds of 100 Mbps (the FCC’s goal for 100 million mostly urban and suburban households) or more are needed, but within three years, not 10 years.

Over 90 percent of those surveyed found government-recommended goals of four Mbps for rural areas inadequate for spurring economic development outcomes.

Support of the private sector also is mixed. About 37 percent of rural respondents say they do not have sufficient broadband to reach the economic outcomes presented, with over half of this group believing they may never have the broadband they need. Some 58 percent of respondents from all areas believe Universal Service Fund reform should enable communities to determine where such funds are spent.

Fully 50 percent believe the community should own the network in whole or in partnership with private sector companies.

Wireless has a role to play in economic development, the respondents believe, but only 37 percent of survey respondents believe it directly impacts new business attraction to a community. More respondents believe fixed-line broadband in the form of fiber access networks do have a direct effect in economic development.

Some 52 percent of respondents believe the technology can help harness home-based businesses into a strong economic development force, and 43 percent believe broadband can be used to influence underserved individuals to become entrepreneurs.

The survey commissioned by the International Economic Development Council found that 36 percent of economic development executives believe wireless broadband has a direct impact, while 23 percent have experienced or expect it to have an indirect impact.

About nine percent expect wireless broadband to have no impact on business attraction and another 14 percent say it is tough to assess the value, one way or the other.

On the question of convincing businesses to stay in an area, 24 percent expect wireless broadband to have a direct impact on retention, while 33 percent believe there’s only an indirect impact.

There is not so much optimism where it comes to wireless improving conditions within depressed business districts and residential communities. Only 11 percent to 13 percent believe there will be a direct impact. About 20 percent believe there will be an indirect impact.

Some 55 percent of respondents believe broadband has had (or will have) a direct impact on attracting businesses to a community as opposed to 37 percent who believe wireless will do the same. Only five percent believe fiber networks will have no impact and seven percent believe this outcome will be difficult to measure.

About 40 percent of respondents expect fiber to have a direct impact on improving the competitiveness of local companies, and 30 percent expect an indirect benefit. In rural areas, about 35 percent believe new fiber access networks will enhance local competitiveness while 32 percent think there will an indirect impact.

Policymakers should take note that less than nine percent of respondents believe two Mbps to four Mbps services, available by 2013, will be adequate for any of their five top economic development goals.

Approximately 55 percent of respondents expect that 100 Mbps or more is needed by 2013. Furthermore, if a community’s goal is to use broadband as a main incentive to attract new businesses, 34 percent of respondents believe this requires a minimum of one gigabit speed.

Those beliefs notwithstanding, few in the service provider community would likely agree that a market for speeds that high actually exists, or will exist, by 2013. Others might argue that broadband is an important infrastructure amenity, but that the evidence for a causal link to development is weak. "Necessary but not sufficient" is probably how some would see it.

Still, there is little doubt that economic development planners believe broadband helps development, though there might be some disagreement about whether it can cause such development, and if so, how much incremental development is possible.

The survey does show a huge gulf between local government and service provider expectations about how much broadband capacity is needed.

Economic Development Execs Think Broadband Promotes Development

Lebanon - Broadband is lagging other countries and its own mobile market

[daily star] Lebanon’s ICT market grew by 30 percent at the retail level over the past two years, but, like many other Arab countries, it is unfortunately still lagging behind in broadband, said a senior World Bank official Tuesday.

“Lebanon was able in the past couple of years to narrow its mobile penetration gap with other countries where it has reached a 70 percent penetration rate,” said Hedi Larbi, country director of the Middle East department at the World Bank in the MENA region.

But as of June 2010, he said, Lebanon had only 225,000 broadband subscribers and therefore the potential of market growth was huge in this country.

Larbi said Lebanon was blessed with skilled human resources, a sophisticated and multilingual human capital, a strategically geographic location and a competent and well-educated diaspora. “This is a unique mix that gives the country a competitive advantage in the ICT sector, especially since Lebanon is heavily dependent on the services economy.”

Larbi’s remarks came during a session held in the framework of the EMERG conference at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut to discuss the future of the ICT sector in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) region and the measures that must be taken to improve its performance in the coming years.

Larbi gave an overview of the worldwide evolution of the ICT sector over the past two decades.

He said that ICT revenues in 1994 reached $517 billion, but that 10 years later, the figure had topped $1.2 trillion and is estimated to increase to $2.4 trillion by the end of 2010. “This quick look at our recent past provides the strongest evidence of the dramatic explosion of the ICT sector,” he added.

He continued by saying that the number of mobile-telephone subscribers and internet users more than doubled from 2008 to 2012. “Mobile subscribers increased from 700 million in 2000 to 1.75 billion in 2004, while we are expected to reach around 2.5 billion subscribers by the end of 2010.”

As for the number of internet users, he added, these also increased from 400 million users worldwide to 800 million in 2004 and are expected to reach around 2.5 billion internet users.

“In terms of economics, it is estimated that ICT contributed to between 0.6 percent and 1 percent growth of GDP for every 10 percent additional penetration,” he added. “Moreover, in terms of jobs, ICT contributed to between 3 percent and 5 percent of the employed labor force, while the cost per additional job is one of the lowest compared to other sectors.”

Larbi urged nations to work on enhancing and further bolstering the regulatory policies of the ICT sector and to exploit the tremendous potential growth that this sector will provide.

“This is essential to maximize the returns of an economically viable and stable sector which stands out in our world today where volatility and uncertainty slowed the global economy,” he said.

He also noted that a recent study prepared by the World Bank showed that the only sector that would sustain in a way and overcome the global crisis today was the ICT sector and this was mainly due to the progress seen in the mobile-phone sector. “We are far behind in terms of new technologies and broadband in addition to our capabilities of exploiting the growth wealth and reserves that lie in this sector, and this surely affects the growth of a wide range of economic sectors,” he said.

For his part, Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas stressed the need for a wise formulation of suitable IT regulations in order to better serve national interests. He said the progress seen in the ICT sector was having a very positive impact on the social level, especially that it provided many Lebanese living abroad a way of keeping in contact with their relatives everywhere.

But Nahhas warned against the misuse of telecommunications in a way that could harm the people’s freedoms or national sovereignty, noting that this sector has been previously subject to constant spying operations by Israel. Nahhas was hinting to the arrest in June 2010 by Lebanese security authorities of a senior executive at state-owned mobile telecom firm Alfa on suspicion of spying for Israel.

Meanwhile, Charge d’Affaires of the delegation of the EU to Lebanon Cecile Abadie said that ICT played a strategic role everywhere, accounting for 40 percent of EU productivity growth, driving innovation and creating jobs throughout the economy. “The EU ICT sectors are now worth around 8 percent of EU GDP – double the value of the early 1990s – and employ over 13 million people,” she said.

Abadie noted that the EU was supporting the modernization of electronic communications regulations in the region. “The EU delegation to Lebanon has been providing since 2007 over 2 million euros ($2.78 million) in technical assistance and equipment to reinforce the capacities of the Lebanese Telecom Regulatory Authority and allow them to fully develop their mandate according to national law.”

Lebanon lagging in broadband despite healthy cellular sector

Broadband - 1 in 4 lines comes with VoIP and growing rapidly

[realwire] Voice over IP is becoming increasingly important to service providers and achieving significant penetration of the consumer market according to the latest figures from leading industry analysts Point Topic.

“Over 22% of consumer broadband lines worldwide now come with a Voice over IP service. Passing 100 million subscriptions by the end of 2009 VoIP has continued to grow adding another 12 million subscribers in the first half of 2010,” said Point Topic’s Senior Analyst John Bosnell.

There are some markets now where it is very difficult and not generally cost effective to subscribe to broadband without a VoIP service thrown in. France Telecom for example offer one relatively low speed consumer stand-alone broadband subscription but a wide range of higher speed bundles.

“France is a stand out example. Fierce competition has been encouraged and ISPs like Free, who only offer bundled services which include VoIP, have helped drive consumer perception towards the expectation of low cost add on services from their ISPs and VoIP is relatively easy and cost effective solution,” said Bosnell.

This trend has meant that over 70% of French households now have a VoIP service available to them and saturation is now a significant factor. Other markets have more headroom.

While there are not many targets left amongst French broadband subscribers and other markets are quickly converting much of their remaining subscriber base there are significant absentees from the ‘top 10’ chart above.

“China, the largest broadband market, has only one in 20 broadband subscriptions with a VoIP bundle. The US which is currently the largest VoIP market in absolute terms is closing in on one in three mainly due to cable companies offering their customers a voice service based on VoIP. So there’s plenty of headroom there and around the world,” added Bosnell.

At the end of 2009 just under $15 billion a year was being generated by VoIP most often as part of a bundled subscription. This is almost double the revenue generated by Security, the next nearest value added service.

“VoIP has come a long way in a short time. It’s attractive to consumers as it is priced very competitively in terms of subscription and call charges. It’s attractive to operators as it’s a straightforward implementation that offers a chance for them to differentiate their services. There’s no reason to believe growth is going to slow significantly until a market reaches saturation and we could reasonably expect to see 200 million subscribers by 2015,” concluded Bosnell.

Point Topic is the primary websource for DSL, FTTx, cable and other broadband supplier and user statistics, databases, information and reports. Our data is in use worldwide amongst governments, commercial organisations and as general reference. A range of online services provides the most up-to-date, accurate and cost effective worldwide and UK specific broadband data sets available.

More Than One in Five Consumer Broadband Lines Now Come with VoIP

India - Govt has set up a committee of department secretares to devise a new action plan

[times of india] Troubled by low levels of broadband penetration in India, the government has constituted a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to find a new route for increasing broadband access.

According to a DoT note, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekar has directed that "a time-bound action plan for ensuring broadband connectivity to all Gram Panchayats in the country be drawn up".

He has also suggested that labour-intensive activities of the project could be taken up under NREGA, to complement the rural connectivity. Further, state governments should be engaged through proper linkages with the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY). The outlay to improve broadband access has been pegged at over Rs 18,000 crore.

It is learnt that the CoS is meeting on October 28 to discuss and outline the best way to achieve its broadband ambitions. A World Bank report says that a 10% increase in broadband penetration accounted for a 1.4% increase in per capita GDP growth in developed economies. This is much higher than the impact of mobile telephone growth on GDP.

However, India's telecom success story has bypassed the broadband sector. At July 2010-end , India had only 9.7 million broadband connections , against 20 million target set up by Broadband Policy, 2004. India's broadband penetration is less than 1% compared with its near 59% teledensity. This compares unfavourably not just with developed countries, but also with developing nations in Asia.

The irony is that 2010 is christened as the year of broadband, but performance has not improved even as the year comes to a close.

The CoS has identified many reasons for this failure, including lack of supporting infrastructure, nonavailability of back-haul connectivity, low penetration of fixed line, high cost of rollout and unviable business models. India currently has 11,50,000 km of optic fibre. Of this 6,46,000 km is owned by BSNL.

Trai is also concerned over the performance of broadband and had made a presentation to the Cabinet Secretariat nearly a year ago. Trai is now in the final stages of a consultation process on broadband with the industry and its next meeting is scheduled for October 19.

"A plan for broadband is in progress within the DoT. Trai is expected to send its recommendations by October-end, after which we will fine tune our report and announce a detailed programme," DoT secretary R Chandrashekhar told ToI. "The final blueprint has to combine several technical options. We need all capabilities," he added.

Govt sets up panel to push broadband

India - Regulator to complete broadband policies by end of year

[mydigitalfc] To increase broadband penetration in the country, telecom regulator TRAI today said it will come up with regulations on broadband in next two months.

"We have already issued a consultation paper on National Broadband plan this month. We are planning to schedule more open house discussions on the issue and come up with the National Broadband Plan by December this year," TRAI Chairman J S Sarma said on the sidelines of the first open house discussion on National Broadband Plan.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued a consultation paper on the "National Broadband Plan" to initiate a discussion on all the pertinent issues regarding the growth of this segment and has invited comments on it from all stakeholders.

Broadband penetration in India is still low in spite of the fact that 104 telecom service providers are providing broadband services.

The broadband penetration is just 0.74 per cent when compared with teledensity of 52.74 per cent.

A need is being felt to identify impediments and create an environment to encourage broadband growth.

The net broadband addition per month is just 0.1 to 0.2 million in contrast to about 18 million mobile connections per month.

As per the subscriber data made available by TRAI, total broadband subscriber base has increased from 9.77 million in July-2010 to 10.08 million in Aug-2010.

TRAI to frame regulations for national broadband plan by Dec

Arab states - ADSL is prevalent broadband technology with the lowest prices in GCC and Morocco

[rapid tv news] ADSL remains the prevailing broadband internet technology in the Arab world, with rates in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Morocco being the cheapest in relation to GDP per capita – according to a new report from the Arab Advisors Group.

Uptake is strong in most of the nineteen Arab countries analysed, as internet service providers (ISPs) wise up to the power of promotions such as waiving connection fees and offering rate reductions. The most common speed of service in the Middle East and North Africa is 1024Kbps, according to the report, with an average yearly bill to the consumer of US$736.4.

The report compares the rates for the speeds of 512, 1024 and 2048 Kbps, and analysed the availability of the download speeds in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen.

“It is noteworthy that Morocco’s total annual cost for 1024Kbps speed is lower than Egypt’s 512 Kbps annual cost. Accordingly Morocco has the lowest ADSL rates for the common speeds this report tackled although the 512Kbps speed is not offered in Morocco,” said Alaa Numair, research analyst at Arab Advisors Group.

Although ISPs in Morocco and Tunisia offered the lowest rates for ADSL services, the analysts also built an affordability model whereby the total annual cost of ADSL in any one country was calculated as a percentage of that country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. So, the higher the ratio, the less affordable the service is in that country.

“The countries that led the ADSL affordability measure were the GCC countries,” said Zeena Al Borgan, senior research analyst, Arab Advisors Group. “Although they do not have the lowest rates, they do have the highest GDP per capita; this is one reason why operators do not reduce rates drastically as demand is guaranteed even at relatively higher rates.”

ADSL still prominent for broadband in Arab world

Australia - Debate continues over the possiblility of a cost benefit analysis of the NBN

[the australian] Julia Gillard could be forced to subject her $43 billion National Broadband Network to a cost-benefit analysis.

The Coalition is seeking cross-bench support for a Productivity Commission examination of the plan.

But while the Greens have refused to rule out backing the move, the government has dismissed it as a political stunt designed to delay the rollout of benefits for all Australians.

Labor first promised the NBN in 2007 and made its potential use in health and education central to its campaign for the August 21 election.

However, while the economics of the proposal were examined in a $25million implementation study, it has never been the subject of a formal cost-benefit analysis.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull yesterday produced a private member's bill that would require the Productivity Commission to examine the project and for the government's NBN Co to publish a 10-year business plan.

"What (Communications Minister Stephen) Conroy has been doing is selling the idea of the NBN and he doesn't want any scrutiny of the financials or any of the details because it would spoil the vision thing, the grandeur of it," Mr Turnbull told The Australian last night. "But the wastefulness of its conception is quite extraordinary."

Mr Turnbull said existing Telstra and Optus cables already passed 30 per cent of the nation's households and they could be upgraded for the cost of several hundred million dollars to deliver speeds in line with the NBN.

"Why would you overbuild a piece of infrastructure that can deliver those speeds now," he said.

"If you are genuinely committed to competition, why would you contractually compel Telstra and, he plans, Optus, not to use that HFC cable to compete with the NBN?"

Under Mr Turnbull's bill, likely to be introduced in the house next week, the Productivity Commission would report by the end of May next year. Mr Turnbull will require cross-bench support for his bill.

Key independents were keeping their intentions quiet last night, but Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said "The Greens will consider whether this is a serious bid for transparency or another in a long line of Coalition delaying tactics designed to destroy the network".

Senator Conroy said a $25m NBN implementation study conducted by McKinsey and KPMG had included a detailed financial analysis, which found the project could cost less than $43bn and revenue produced would mean commonwealth investment would peak at $26bn, of which $18.3bn would be required over the next four years. The NBN Co would produce a business plan soon.

"If the (Coalition) were serious about world-class telecommunications infrastructure, they would support the rollout," Senator Conroy said.

Secretary of the Finance Department David Tune defended the decision to proceed with the NBN without a cost-benefit analysis.

Malcolm Turnbull wants Productivity Commission analysis of NBN

UK - Cyber-attacks raised to a major national defence threat

[daily mail] A new breed of ‘cyber criminals’ has the capability to cause a British airliner to ‘fall out of the sky’, security sources have warned.

The computer hackers would be engaged by terror cells and hostile foreign states to crack sophisticated on- board computer systems and force a plane packed with people to crash.

They could also target critical infrastructure such as nuclear power stations and electricity supplies.

The warning of a new threat to our skies – which would avoid the need for any potential murderer to board a plane – was highlighted on the day of the publication of David Cameron’s long-awaited National Security Strategy.

The document – which says Britain is living through an ‘age of uncertainty’ – also warned of a reborn dissident threat from Irish Republicans. The IRA splinter groups rank alongside Al Qaeda sympathisers as having the potential to carry out a major terrorist ‘spectacular’.

However, the prospect of Britain being embroiled in a military conflict with another state was downgraded in the list.

But the strategy points out ‘huge’ internet-based potential risks because of the on-line dependence of Whitehall, businesses and individuals.
Liam Fox arriving in Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting

Liam Fox arriving in Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting today

Officials confirmed that these computer-generated assaults, which involve individuals creating software viruses or rogue computer programs and emails, could even bring down passenger jets. ‘We don’t want to wait until planes are falling out of the skies before we address it,’ one said.

The strategy said: ‘Attacks in cyberspace can have a potentially devastating real-world effect. Government, military, industrial and economic targets, including critical services, could feasibly be disrupted by a capable adversary.’

Last week Iain Lobban, director of the GCHQ eavesdropping centre, warned that Government computers were being targeted by 1,000 ‘malicious’ emails a month.

Mr Cameron has been persuaded to spend at least £500million to fight cyber attacks.

But the document also accepts that the danger of Al Qaeda carrying out a murderous attack on Britain using chemical, germ or nuclear weapons has ‘not diminished’.

This has paved the way for ministers to axe outdated Cold War equipment including warships, fighter jets and tanks today as part of cuts to the Ministry of Defence’s £37billion budget.

The report said: ‘During the Cold War we faced an existential threat from a state adversary through largely predictable military or nuclear means. We no longer face such predictable threats.’

It also said there needed to be ‘much more emphasis on spotting emerging risks and dealing with them before they become crises’.

The five-year strategy makes it clear that Britain does not expect to be drawn into another Afghan-type conflict. The threat is relegated to ‘Tier 2’.
The dangers of illegal migrants

A new wave of attacks by Irish splinter groups is considered a ‘Tier 1’ threat – the most serious.

Dissident Republicans have carried out several attacks in Northern Ireland this year, the most recent a car bombing in Londonderry on Monday night. The report said that Irish terror groups posed a ‘serious and persistent’ danger.

There have been 37 attacks in Ulster so far this year, compared with 22 in 2009. A senior security official confirmed that Irish dissidents were believed to be capable of carrying out a major ‘spectacular’ on the mainland but declined to discuss the intelligence behind that claim.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates still represent the ‘principal’ terrorist threat to the UK’s shores. Extremist cells and training camps have been identified in failed states such as Yemen and Somalia, as well as Iraq.

The threat of militants carrying out a machine gun assault – such as the one in Mumbai in which 175 people were murdered in 2008 – in Britain is now rated so severe that the U.S. has warned its citizens they could be in danger.

But the strategy also warned of an increasing risk from ‘lone terrorists’ who would carry out smaller attacks against ‘soft’ targets such as restaurants and bus stations.

It is the first time a National Security Strategy has drawn up a priority list of threats facing the UK.

A large-scale conventional military attack on the UK is rated only in ‘Tier 3’, alongside disruption to oil and gas supplies, a large-scale radioactive leak from a nuclear power plant and an attack on a British overseas territory, such as the Falkland Islands or Gibraltar.

Our No.1 threat: Cyber terrorists who can knock a jet out of the sky

India - Abolition of national roaming charges may push up other call rates

[financial express] Mobile subscribers may have to pay higher rates if the government enforces the recommendation of a DoT panel to look at the country as a single telecom circle and scrap roaming charges.

Long-distance calls cannot be charged at the same rate as local calls, Rajan S Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India said.

Equating long-distance calls — referring to roaming rates — with local calls would force mobile companies to raise local call charges to recoup losses from abolition of roaming charges. “We don’t think that (treating India as one telecom circle) is appropriate,” he said, explaining roaming facilities are subscribed by only 20% mobile users.

“It means, should we raise prices for 80% of mobile phone users because 20% feel the need for lower roaming rates,” he said. Roaming calls and local calls are in the ratio of 1:4, a COAI analysis showed.

Calls could cost more if roaming rates scrapped

UK - in response to Virgin offering 100 Mbps, BT will offer 110 Mbps early in 2011

[think broadband] With Virgin Media expected to announce a launch of 100Mbps broadband to its users before the year is out, BT Openreach have come forward with a new offering that will bring 110Mbps broadband to the country from March 2011. The new product, to be part of Openreach's Generic Ethernet Access (GEA) fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) options, will be available from £258 a year (£21.54 per month) at wholesale cost.

The figure of 110meg is a bit of a strange one, but is obviously an attempt to hamper Virgin's ability to market their new 100meg broadband as the fastest broadband service in the UK. With BT's fibre-to-the-home/premises services (FTTH/P) only being available on a small scale, Virgin will definitely have the lead on numbers of people who are able to connect at faster speeds. Whether people will actually opt for these new products is another question. Lets also not forget that Virgin are also currently undertaking trials of 200meg broadband so the speed-wars will not end here.

Openreach to offer 110Mbps fibre broadband from March 2011

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kenya - Safaricom has cut its international callingrates by 90% to try to retain its market share

[business daily africa] Safaricom has cut its international calling rates by nearly 90 per cent in an effort to defend its market share after its rivals made similar reductions in a move that looks set to further pile pressure on its profitability.

Kenya’s largest mobile telephony operator reduced its international call tariffs to Sh3 a minute from Sh25 for calls headed to USA, China and India, putting it at par with rivals Zain, Orange and YU.

Zain Kenya threw the first salvo by reducing its international tariffs by 70 per cent to Sh3 per minute on October 1 to be followed by Essar’s Yu that reduced its by 98 per cent to Sh2.50 a minute on October 5.

Orange followed suit on October 7 by lowering its charges for the three markets to Sh3 per minute from Sh8—putting Safaricom on the spotlight.

US, China and India accounts for the industry’s largest international traffic, making calls headed to these market a key battle front for the operators.

Analysts say the move by Safaricom will not hurt its earnings significantly given that international traffic accounts for a smaller share of its revenues.

“Safaricom must have taken longer to negotiate with the rest of international operators for a termination rates, but we don’t expect the international price cut to significantly affect Safaricom,” said Eric Kimathi, senior research analyst at African Alliance Kenya.

“The company must, however, protect its share of the market and be at par with the competition, and ignoring any front will be costly at this time.”

Safaricom’s rivals have operations in other markets and this made it easier for them to cut the international tariffs speedily compared to the market leader which only operates in the Kenyan market.

Zain Kenya, for example, said its international tariff cuts have been made possible by Bharti Airtel’s lower roaming rates in foreign markets.

Bharti Airtel — India’s largest mobile operator by subscribers — bought Zain Africa for $10 billion in June.

However, the operators have made minimal price cuts on traffic heading to Europe and Africa, save for Orange’s cut on calls for Sudan, hoping to tap into the growing traffic between Kenya and Juba—which now hosts a number Kenyan companies and business people.

Orange is charging Sh20 per minute down from Sh30, compared to Safaricom’s Sh50, Yu’s Sh40, and Zain’s Sh30.

Safaricom slashes international call charges by 90 p.c.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

India - Mobile operators ordered to store SMS for 6 months, about 900 million in total

[economic times] The home ministry has asked all mobile phone companies to store all text messages for six months, against the current practice where they are usually saved for just a couple of days, a step telcos say will considerably increase their operational costs.

Indians send between 130 and 150 billion SMSes, or text messages, a month. Storing text messages will require operators to invest in data centres, and telcos fear that the government may soon extend demands for storing voice calls.

At present, lawful interception is only done for calls and text messages from specific numbers on the instructions of security agencies. Intelligence agencies are of the view that archiving all SMSes over a six-month period is vital to meet security requirements of the country, and this proposal was outlined to telcos during a recent meeting, said an official with direct knowledge of the developments.

Telcos that ET spoke to confirmed the home ministry’s requirement and said that the industry would jointly take up this issue with the Centre. Telcos said that the Center must first spell out privacy issues and frame laws that will address concerns related to storing text messages for a six-month period.

This comes even as telcos are lobbying with the interior ministry for a delayed or phased implementation of a proposal that will require all operators to install advanced tracking devices on every cell tower in the country to pinpoint the location of any individual within 50 meters of accuracy.

India has over 700 million cellular connections and customers enjoy the lowest call rates in the world. Operators say that setting up data centres for SMS storage will force them to pass on the costs to customers. They also add that operating costs per tower will be up by 50%, unless the government agrees to their demands for a phased implementation of tracking devices on cell towers.

The home ministry had recently asked mobile firms to upgrade their networks infrastructure to implement a system similar to that of Enhanced 911 or E911 in the US.

This telecommunications-based system automatically associates a physical address with the calling party’s telephone number, and routes the call to the most appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for that address. This provides emergency responders with the location of the emergency without the person calling for help having to provide it and is useful in times of fires, break-ins, accidents, kidnapping and other events where communicating one’s location is difficult or impossible.

The positional accuracy is calculated by taking the triangulation from the three towers closest to the caller. In the US, laws require that carriers be able to get the location of a caller to within 50 meters for 67% of the calls and 150 meters for 95% of calls.

“India has over 4,50,000 cell towers and it will cost anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 per site for location measuring units,” explained an executive with leading telecom company.

Executives also pointed out that since population density and amount of traffic carried by a cell tower were far greater compared to the US, replicating the E911 would lead to interference issues.

“All the data collected by location measuring units will have to be hauled back to the network operating centre either on fibre on backhaul increasing the operating costs,” said a top executive with a firm that offers both GSM and CDMA-based telecom services.

Telcos told to archive text messages for 6 months

Australia - Continuing debate over the need for a cost benefit analysis for the NBN


The Greens today released a wary statement in response to Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull's push for a National Broadband Network (NBN) analysis.

"The Australian Greens Party Room will consider whether this is a serious bid for relevance and transparency, or another in a long line of coalition delaying tactics designed to destroy the network," said Greens Communications Spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.

Turnbull has proposed a coalition private members Bill in order to force an NBN cost-benefit analysis. In response, the government accused the Opposition of engaging in delaying tactics.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy claimed that NBN Co would submit a publicly released business plan to government shortly.

Greens sit on fence for coalition NBN Bill

Australia - NBN is creating a skills shortage driving up wages in ICT sector

[the australian] THE National Broadband Network could affect IT salaries in the next three to six months with a skills shortage looming in the industry.

The September Clarius Skills Index, released yesterday, revealed a skills shortage of more than 2800 computing professionals across Australia.

Candle executive general manager Linda Trevor said there was an emerging skills shortage, particularly for project managers and business analysts. "It depends on what happens with the NBN because that is going to drive the salaries up further," she said.

"It is going to push up contract rates higher, which will mean more churn in the permanent market, because when people see a lot of money to be made in contract they leave their permanent roles.

"I think we will start seeing things in the next quarter."

Ms Trevor said, while many of the skilled staff working on the NBN would come from overseas, they also would be sourced from local telcos and vendors.

She said the biggest concern for employers in the next three to six months would be retention.

"When people were setting their budgets last year, they didn't realise that the salaries were going to be pushed up so high -- so budgets are not very realistic for what it is now," Ms Trevor said.

She said there had been wage increases of between 5 and 10 per cent across the industry, with evidence of 20 per cent hikes in Western Australia.

Ms Trevor said the combination of the shortage of some skills and budgetary restraints saw many organisations recruit less experienced IT professionals and develop their skills into the vacant roles.

The index, which measures demand and supply, found there was a turnaround from an oversupply in the March quarter of 1525 to just 319 in the June quarter.

The Clarius Skills Index figures are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations data.

The latest Hudson Report, Employment Expectations survey, involving more than 4000 employers, also found confidence in the IT industry continued to increase, with 44 per cent now indicating an intention to lift their permanent staff levels in the October-December quarter.

The recent October-December Hays Information Technology Quarterly Report described the labour market as tight, with a growing list of IT skills now in short supply. It found employers had started to increase salaries and contract rates.

National Broadband Network set to lift pay as skills crisis bites

Jersey - Regulator has licensed a 4G/LTE service to be operational within a year

[top 10] Businesses and households in Jersey are set to gain access to faster broadband speeds courtesy of new 4G technology, it has been reported.

Communications regulator Ofcom has granted permission to Clear Mobitel to provide a 50Mb broadband service on the island, delivered via radio technology.

According to the BBC, the long-term evolution (LTE) broadband network should be fully operational within a year, making Jersey residents some of the first in the UK to benefit from the technology

Andrew Elston, Director at Clear Mobitel, told the news provider that the announcement was a major stride forward for the Channel Islands.

"It's good news for Jersey in terms of enhancing the economic opportunity for everyone at a time when jobs and incomes are in sharp focus," he claimed.

In related news this week, Clear Mobitel announced plans to trial 4G LTE technology in rural Cornwall, a move Mr Elston described as "another significant milestone".

Jersey consumers set for 4g broadband speed boost

Isle of Man - 16 Mbps broadband service to be introduced by Sure (C&W)

Consumers and businesses on the Isle of Man could be set to gain access to enhanced mobile broadband deals courtesy of network upgrade work.

Internet service provider (ISP) Sure has announced plans to enhance its 3G coverage in November, allowing customers to access 16Mb broadband services.

The firm said it would be offering the download speeds - the fastest available to Manx households and company premises - for the lowest price on the island.

Sure's Chief Commercial Officer Andy Bridson commented: "This is a very exciting time for Sure and for broadband users in the Isle of Man.

"Islanders will soon be able to benefit from the same reliability and value for money in their broadband as they have come to expect from existing Sure mobile services."

The ISP has confirmed that 16Mb broadband services will be available for a monthly fee of £14.95 to existing mobile customers, and £21.95 to non-customers.

Consumers are able to make pre-orders for the new service from October 8th 2010

Sure to launch 16Mbps broadband deals on the Isle of Man

Jamaica - Flow is introducing 100 Mbps broadband cable service

[jamaica gleaner] The telecommunications fight should heat up by the end of the month when Flow introduces wideband Internet connection of up to 100Mbs to its residential customers.

According to president and chief operating officer of Flow, Michele English, this will be 10 times faster than the 4G Internet connection which is now the fastest available in Jamaica.

Flow's customers in the tourist capital, Montego Bay, St James, will be the first to receive the service, with Kingston, taking a rare second position. However, once up and running, both cities will boast the speed and capacity that very few countries in the region have access to.

Portmore, St Catherine, is next in line, with Ocho Rios, St Ann, taking centre stage by February 2011, English said.

She was speaking at the VIP launch of the company's new 3,000 square-foot flagship store at Fairview Plaza, Montego Bay, Friday night.

Addressing an audience that included Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett; Minister of Education Andrew Holness; Minister of Water and Housing Horace Chang and Member of Parliament Clive Mullings, English argued that Flow continues to make good on its promise to introduce new broadband products and services in Jamaica that are on par, or even surpass international best practices.

"This latest initiative will benefit power users and multi-online gamers," said the Flow COO.

Describing the company's US$250-million infrastructure, she pointed out that unlike many other communication options on the island, Flow's systems are designed to meet future demands with minimal adjustments to the existing infrastructure.

She boasted, "Unlike wireless broadband providers of 3G, 4G and WiMax, Flow is not hindered by the capacity and speed issues."

Lauding the initiative, and state-of-the-art First-World facility that the wideband provider had unveiled in the second city, Chang said Flow had brought Montego Bay into the picture with its investment.

"With the type of technology that Flow is bringing to the tourism capital, there is no need to fly to China on a 747 to do business," added Chang.

Flow Internet to blaze faster

Guam - US Govt has awarded USD 1.5 million for broadband mapping

[guam news watch] The US Department of Commerce has awarded $1.5 million for a broadband mapping program on Guam, this according to Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's office.

The purpose of the program is to assess the broadband capabilities on the island.
Results will be made available to the public online once the map is completed in February.

This program is part of the Obama administration's push to increase the availability of broadband technology worldwide.

The grant is funded by ARRA, or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Guam Receives Grant from US Dept. of Commerce for Guam's Broadband

Antigua - Broadband for schools and homes will be provided using Wi-Fi

[caribarena] Digicel, in partnership with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, announced details of a new initiative which will deliver broadband internet service for free to communities and schools across the twin-island nation at a gala launch at the Multipurpose Cultural & Exhibition Centre.

The initiative – entitled “Technology for Communication, Education and Empowerment” – is a joint initiative between Digicel and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and will use Wi-Fi technology to bring Broadband Internet into 3,000 homes across the communities of Grays-Green, Yorks, and Lower Gambles, as well as more than 5,000 secondary school students.

Digicel is partnering with the government to provide community computer access centres in 12 secondary schools, which will include the physical infrastructure as well as the furniture and air-conditioning. Each of these community access centres will accommodate at least 20 students.

The initiative will significantly increase the number of households with regular access to the Internet as schools, homes, and villages get connected for the first time.

With the results of a recent study undertaken by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) stating that more effort was needed to increase Internet access in homes and schools throughout the world, this latest move will prove momentous for Antigua and Barbuda.

In support of the development of information and communication technologies in Antigua and Barbuda, Digicel will also be the platinum sponsor of the annual ICTFest for the next five years, until 2014.

In a brief message to mark the occasion, Prime Minister Dr Baldwin Spencer said that the new initiative represents his Government’s “unswerving commitment to ensuring that every citizen is equipped with ICT skills”, while Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology Dr Edmond Mansoor said that, “in building a truly Intelligent Nation, the Government is working towards ensuring that every home and every office is equipped with a personal computer and high-speed Internet.”

Minister of Education, Sports, Youth and Gender Affairs, Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, said, “We are delighted to be announcing the details of this groundbreaking joint initiative between the Government and Digicel. The importance of bringing people online is widely recognised and where access to the internet is low, it is particularly important for countries to invest in public access. As such, we are proud to be leading the way in connecting 15,000 Antiguans in their communities and schools for the first time.”

Digicel General Manager for the North-Eastern Caribbean, John Delves, said, “Digicel is continually looking at ways to give back to the communities in which it operates and this latest initiative is a perfect opportunity to do just that. We are very excited to be rolling out Wi-Fi technology and connecting the schools, homes and villages of Antigua and Barbuda to the internet for the very first time.

Digicel has long recognised the positive impact to the economies of countries of improving ICT services. Indeed, recent research from the Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich supports this, stating that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can help to raise annual per capita GDP growth by 0.9 to 1.5 percentage points.

With that, we are very excited to see how this development will change and enhance the way people communicate at home & how teenagers learn at school. This joint initiative will have a very positive impact for the people of Antigua and Barbuda as a whole.”

Commencing in October, the roll out of the services is set to be completed by December.

Digicel will provide and install 12 Digicel internet access centres in the following schools:

Digicel and Govt Spread Internet

Jamaica - Broadband is now 17% and rising, but speeds badly lag those of Trinidad

[jamaica observer] The liberalisation of Trinidad and Tobago's telecommunications sector may have lagged Jamaica's, but residents here already have access to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) speed while in Jamaica -- where Internet penetration in homes come in at 17 per cent — users may have a long wait yet.

"Businesses are already getting those speeds... We definitely will bring 100 Mbps to households but our priority right now is to get broadband Internet into as many Jamaican households as possible," said Flow Jamaica's marketing director, Sharon Roper.

Like with computers, and all other things, low demand, as measured by the level of penetration in Jamaica, means that Flow, or other Internet service providers, won't be able to benefit from economies of scale that result in lower prices for modems, offerings of cheaper laptops and PCs and eventually the offering of 100 Mbps service to Jamaican households. In other words, the number of households with Internet access will have to dramatically increase before the speed offerings will jump significantly from the present highest offering (Flow boast 15 Mbps service as being the highest in Jamaica).

By Roper's reckoning, the cost of Internet service doesn't factor heavily in the sluggish growth in penetration into homes.

Placed against a long list of OECD countries, Flow says the cost to consumers in Mbps ranked fourth, only behind Korea, France and the UK, while competitors in Jamaica, such as LIME, which now offers up to 8 Mbps to residential users, have been pricing its service to be more competitive.

The 100 Mbps offering to residents launched in August in Trinidad, where over 60 per cent of the island (Flow has no presence in Tobago) has broadband Internet access, is priced at US$120 (J$10,320) per month or about US$1.20 per Mbps making it roughly the cheapest in the world.

Certainly, the infrastructure exists to accommodate higher penetration.

Flow Jamaica's president and COO, Michelle English says that Flow now has full digital service running past 40 per cent of all households, even though rollout has been slowed by significant devaluation of the dollar, among other things. LIME boasts even higher coverage and claims 80 per cent of the broadband market, which it includes service offering upwards of 256 kilobits per second. While Digicel says that its 4G wireless service covers 60 per cent of the population, or 410,000 households, with further roll-out planned.

English says Flow is looking at a new timetable for reaching most Jamaican household but hopes to reach the majority of residences within three years.

Roper believes the solution to driving growth in penetration lies in getting cheaper computers for consumers.

"We currently petition manufacturers to get cheaper laptops and PCs or to look at providing a solution for developing countries," she told the Observer. "We also petition the Government to reconsider the tax on computers. When they removed it they found that retailers weren't necessarily passing on the savings on to consumers but there may be other ways to address that challenge."

Low demand for Internet in the home aside, the telecommunications sector's push to get cheaper devices to further infiltrate a market yet to realise penetration as deep as mobile phone companies, the technical impact also has to be considered, Roper added.

"Modems have to be changed out to accommodate the higher speeds... even web browsers have to be changed on users' computers."

Internet penetration lagging broadband speed

Australia - An operator is challenging the procedures of the telecoms ombudsman in handling complaints

[cio] The procedures used by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) to deal with customer complaints could soon be scrutinised by the Federal Court, after telco Exetel served the ombudsman with a statement of claim, alleging a number of breaches.

Exetel is seeking damages for losses incurred as a result of alleged breaches in the way the TIO investigated customer complaints and enforced financial undertakings, according to a statement of claim issued on 12 October to lawyers representing the ombudsman.

The telco has also demanded the TIO cease the behaviour which led to the alleged breaches of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Services Standards) Act, breach of contract and also breach of duty of care.

The statement of claim - viewed by Computerworld Australia - said the TIO has 14 days to respond to the claims after that Exetel’s lawyers can file the action with the courts.

A spokeswoman for the TIO declined the opportunity to comment for this article, and said that “as the TIO is in communication with Exetel’s lawyers, we cannot comment at this time”.

Exetel chief executive, John Linton, has previously said the dispute over costs and the complaints handling function was raised almost nine months ago and legal proceedings would be initiated if a satisfactory resolution could not be reached.

The statement of claim alleged the TIO breached section 128 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Services Standards) Act, which specifies the type of complaints that can be investigated. It is alleged that the TIO investigated complaints which do not concern services provided by Exetel, including complaints which relate to an end user’s privately owned equipment.

It also claimed the TIO had committed multiple breaches of its own constitution - governing the manner in which complaints are investigated - including allegations Exetel wasn’t given a reasonable opportunity to respond to a customer complaint, the TIO investigated complaints outside its jurisdiction, the TIO accepted hypothetical complaints, and the TIO declining to investigate complaints that were “frivolous”, “vexatious” or “not made in good faith”.

There are also alleged breaches of section 140 of the Corporations Act 2001 because Exetel was over-charged for volume related costs and operating costs, which include cases where a complaint was not correctly categorised, as well as a complaint registered as an enquiry.

Exetel is seeking loss and damages for the alleged breaches of contract, the over-charging of volume related costs and operating costs, and also legal costs.

The TIO accepts and investigates complaints lodged by customers of telcos, and it can enforce undertakings, including financial payments for associated costs for the investigations.

Exetel initiates legal action against telco ombudsman

French Polynesia - Honotua cable links to Hawaii and local islands to support broadband

[islands business] High speed internet in French Polynesia is now a reality with the launch last month of the much-awaited Honotua cable.

The cable provides direct international connectivity from French Polynesia to Hawaii and domestic links to Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Bora-Bora.

“This is the first step for providing French Polynesia with broadband services not only for the main populated islands but also to remote communities using satellite technologies,” said Maui Sanford, International Relations manager for the telecom company OPT French Polynesia.

The project, by OPT French Polynesia, started in December 2007 and costs US$110 million.
According to Alcatel-Lucent, the company that built the cable, Honotua has an ultimate capacity of 32 x10 Gbit/s.


Angola - Govt issues policy document on ICTs to boost economic growth

[angola press] The angolan minister of High Education Science and Technology, Candida Teixeira, on Monday considered that the White Paper on Telecommunications aims to enhance the social and economic development of the information society and contribute to poverty reduction and hunger erradication.

Opening the seminar on the "High Level of the White Paper on TICs and the Legislative Reform of the Sector of Telecommunications and Information Technologies" the minister stated that the White Paper is also aimed to coordinate and articulate the actions of the heads of the sector, rationalize resources and maximize its impact so as the better use of the technologies.

The creation of the White Paper proposes the viability of integrated services of electronic communications of the information society, promote the need for policies and actions leading to the development of the sector for 2010-2015 - the minister said, adding that TICs are determinant for the competitiveness of the organizations in a globalized world and for the creation of the information society for all.

On the legislative reform of the sector, the minister said that the initiative aims at a more flexible regulatory framework accordingly to changes of technological convergences and services and to take advantage of the technological development tendencies to provide quality services at affordable prices.

White Paper on TICs enhance development - minister

Monday, October 18, 2010

Australia - Prime Minister says NBN will help keep jobs from going offshore

[it wire] Australia risked losing jobs to offshore markets if it failed to invest in the National Broadband Network as a critical piece of economic infrastructure, Julia Gillard has told Parliament.

The Prime Minister said the nation had emerged from the global financial crisis with opportunities for new growth and the NBN would play a "pivotal role" as the underlying infrastructure to exploit those opportunities.

In addition to returning the budget to surplus, which Ms Gillard remains committed to doing by 2012/13, she said Government was working to “expand the supply side of the economy.”

Picking up on the reform narrative she has been pressing in the run up to this parliamentary sitting period, Ms Gillard said Government was working on "human capital" initiatives, on tax reform through the promised cut in company tax rates, and on growing the national savings pool through the planned superannuation reforms.

There reforms were vital, she said, "as is having the infrastructure we need for the future and the National Broadband Network is pivotal to that so that we do not end up as a nation exporting jobs to other economies that have (such) infrastructure."

"The National Broadband Network is pivotal to the future."

The Prime Minister's comments underline a theme she has pressed hard since the election, painting the National Broadband Network and the telecommunications regulatory reforms that will usher it into the market as signature pieces of economic reform – rather than simply infrastructure investment.

In Brisbane last week Ms Gillard said the changes to the telecommunications regime that will structurally separate Telstra "represents real unfinished business in our economic reform agenda."

"Successive Governments left Australia with a privatised vertically integrated monopoly; inadequate competition; consumers paying higher prices," Ms Gillard said.

"The Government's legislation and National Broadband Network will achieve the structural separation of retail and wholesale arms in the telecommunications sector - driving competition and a better deal for consumers," she said.

NBN helps stop 'export of jobs': Gillard

UK - 40% of customers put reliability ahead of speed for broadband

[broadband choice] More than two in five broadband customers are more concerned about the reliability, rather than the speed, of their connection.

Sky study shows many are unconcerned about broadband speeds
New research from Sky Broadband has revealed consumer attitudes towards the speed of their home internet connections.

The study, which was carried out for the fixed-line broadband provider by YouGov, revealed that 30 per cent of customers in the UK are frustrated at the stability of their browsing speeds.

In contrast, more than two in five respondents said they do not know - or do not care - about the speeds they receive, provided their broadband connection works.

Director of broadband and telephony at Sky Delia Bushell claimed that customers are choosing which internet package to sign up for based on a "wide range of factors".

"What this research has done is to cut through the noise around broadband speeds and listen to what the majority of broadband users say about what matters to them," she added.

According to figures from Ofcom, the average broadband download speed in the UK in May 2010 was 5.2Mb/s, up from 4.1Mb/s in April 2009.

Sky study shows many are unconcerned about broadband speeds

Australia - Legislation on the NBN will also control the prices charged by rivals

[arn net] Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has confirmed to ARN that his proposed legislation to regulate NBN Co rivals will include controlling their prices.

The information all but confirms industry fears that creating rival networks may soon become unfeasible and unprofitable as the Government seeks to ensure the financial viability of its National Broadband Network.

According to a statement from Conroy’s spokesperson, the legislation aims to reduce overbuilding of fibre networks that compete with the NBN. The announcement comes days after Brisbane Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman, launched a fibre network to rival the NBN.

“The legislation will ensure any new or upgraded networks will have to meet NBN standards and offer a wholesale service on an open and non-discriminatory basis,” the spokesperson said. “Non-discrimination includes in relation to price.

“These arrangements will ensure all future networks will support effective retail level competition and deliver NBN-consistent outcomes for everyone.”

ARN has repeatedly asked the office of Minister Conroy if the move will mean private companies must peg their fibre network wholesale prices to whatever the NBN offers.

Ovum research director, David Kennedy, said such a move would signal the end of private investment in telco infrastructure.

“It’d pretty much mean the Government declaring an end to infrastructure competition in that segment of the market,” he said. “That’s a huge deal because it’s a reversal of the market trend of the last 30 years.

“The effect would be that the capital expenditure bill is picked up by taxpayers as it would stop private investment.”

Kennedy said the move would increase the commercial viability of the NBN, a point agreed to by telco analyst, Paul Budde. He claimed the Government’s proposal brought fibre into line with other utilities and infrastructure.

“A fundamental decision has been made that we treat the very basic telecom infrastructure as a utility,” Budde said. “For the last 20 years we’ve tried to come up with facilities-based competition…and for 20 years nobody wanted to [build a national system].

“We don’t have issues with governments organising the electricity or the roads.”

But Budde said opposition would arise if the Government did not pay a reasonable sum to existing infrastructure-owners like Optus and TransACT. Conroy recently signalled that Optus was in talks to provide its cable services over the NBN.

“The companies that do want to participate in the NBN want to get the best possible price,” he said. “If this legislation stops them from competing then the Government has a very strong position with lots of pressure.

“There should be compensation for the use of the network that is similar to what Telstra received.”

Government to control the prices of NBN rivals