Monday, February 28, 2011

South Africa - Govt considering local loop unbundling in urban areas this year to accelerate broadband roll-out

[fin 24] Government could possibly unbundle the local telecommunications loop (last-mile network) only in urban areas, in order to focus on better service delivery in rural areas.

This is according to Communications Minister Roy Padayachie, speaking in discussion with top business executives in the local ICT industry.

This was the first of the minister’s discussions with industry to improve cooperation between the industry and government, as well as negotiate on sticking points.

Open dialogue between the department and the private sector might have previously seemed unlikely. There was a tendency for industry to move in one direction and government in another, said Pa¬dayachie.

The minister told the media that government regarded the unbundling of the local loop as essential.

The local loop is used by Telkom [JSE:TKG] to deliver telephone and internet services to users. Its unbundling will give other companies access to the network, increasing competition and lowering prices.

Government plans to unbundle the loop by the end of this year, after delaying it for a year.

Padayachie reported that government was still in discussions regarding the best unbundling model, but the project would be completed before deadline.

However, there could be surprises in the type of unbundling model adopted, he said.

When Sake24 asked the minister to explain, he said government wanted to assess the impact of the unbundling very carefully. Questions needed to be asked about who would benefit most, and whether unbundling would really give rural areas the best access. It might be suited to urban areas, but not necessarily rural areas.

According to the minister, the department’s first priority was to improve and broaden the country’s telecommunications. It should be more inclusive, and expanding it into rural areas was very important.

Accelerated implementation of broadband was a core issue for the department, he said. The faster the cost of broadband could come down, the better it would be for the country.

Padayachie also stressed government wanted to work with the private sector to expand the industry and develop skills.

The country had to work together to stop the brain drain. Opportunities existed here in South Africa, not overseas, he said. Without skills the industry could not grow.

Government wanted companies to become international businesses and seize opportunities, particularly in Africa. European or American companies could not be allowed to snatch Africa from under South Africa’s nose.

The minister stressed various initiatives to overcome the difficulties, including the establishment of an e-skills institute.

Government and the industry had set up work groups to draw up a programme for the improvement of the country’s telecommunications. These groups comprised some of the foremost business executives, with the minister chairing each group.

A number of these business executives had lauded the minister’s discussions.

Allied Technologies chief executive Craig Venter said that from an industry point of view it was very refreshing to see the minister taking the reins.

Previously there might have been a lack of dialogue, he said, but current initiatives were not mere talk. Things were being done.

Govt to unbundle local loop in 2011

South Africa - The CEO of state-owned Infraco has resigned after three months

[telecoms] The sudden departure of Broadband Infraco CEO Dave Smith on Friday last has left the South African stated-owned network infrastructure company’s future in doubt. Smith’s resignation comes just three months after the company launched its first commercial services.

With the firm already staggering under the weight of allegations of poor governance and dodgy procurement practices (which the company conceded had some substance and were under investigation), local industry players are now questioning the operation’s ability to come good on its mandate to deliver efficiently high-capacity, long-distance bandwidth to the country’s fixed and mobile operators.

Formed five years ago, when the SA government combined state electricity provider Eskom and railway operator Transnet’s ICT infrastructure, Broadband Infraco was tasked with providing a fibre-optic backbone aimed squarely at reducing costs and expanding the reach of the country’s communications networks. More than 12,000 km of fibre-optic cable was laid and the company is an anchor investor in the West African Cable System (WACS), due online this year and promising to link the south and west coast of the continent with Europe via 5.12 terabits of international bandwidth capacity.

With speculation regarding the organisation rife, there’s no mistaking the opportunity any potential privatisation of the entity would represent to a telco that was better positioned to take advantage of the infrastructure on offer.

In the face of mounting losses, Infraco launched last November – just in time for the biggest price slump in South African broadband history. In its first months the firm has had little impact, particularly as its mandate to enable low-cost broadband services has been stunted by its inability to move quickly enough to keep pace with the market. Nokia Siemens Networks oversees the 24x7x365 operations of the network.

SA’s Broadband Infraco in turmoil as CEO quits

UK - The strangely named Public Bodies Bill is being debated in the House of Lords

[parliament] The committee stage of the Public Bodies Bill will resume in the House of Lords on Monday 28 February. This seventh day in committee – detailed scrutiny of the Bill – was postponed following the all-night sitting of the House during committee stage debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

The Lords are concerned over several provisions of the Bill and seem likely to amend or delete them.

Public Bodies Bill committee stage: day seven

USA - Analysis of the govt's national broadband map shows many schools lack sufficient broadband

[marketwire] The National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, recently released the National Broadband Map, the first searchable map of broadband availability across the country. The findings are particularly relevant for federal and state policymakers and point out that while virtually all schools are connected to the Internet, the speed of connection is woefully inadequate.

According to the press release from the NTIA, "...based on studies by state education technology directors, most schools need a connection of 50 to 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. The data show that two-thirds of surveyed schools subscribe to speeds lower than 25 Mbps, however."

"Ensuring high-speed broadband access for all students is a critical national issue and foundational to realizing our education reform and improvement goals," noted Douglas Levin, Executive Director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the organization cited in the press release.

"And, high-speed broadband access is particularly important in rural and remote areas where opportunities for a wider variety of courses, especially in science, are fewer. Students everywhere need access to rich educational tools and resources; teachers need access for professional development and to engage in professional learning communities; administrators need high-speed broadband access to conduct online assessments and to access data for effective decision-making. Simply put, without continued and direct investment in broadband and educational technologies, education reformers are asking schools to improve, innovate and compete with one hand tied behind their back.

"We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to ensure that all students have access to the tools and information necessary so that they can graduate fully prepared for college and 21st century careers," concluded Levin.
The SETDA report cited by NTIA is entitled, High-Speed Broadband Access for All Kids: Breaking through the Barriers, and is available online at:

National Broadband Map Reveals Quality of Schools Internet Connections Woefully Inadequate to Meet Education Goals
see also the National Broadband Map
and High-Speed Broadband Access for All Kids: Breaking through the Barriers

South Africa - Government recommitted to providing broadband for all, to boost the economy

[business live] The Department of Communications has reiterated its key policy of providing broadband for all in an effort to fast-track economic development, including job creation.

On Friday, Communications Minister Roy Padayachie outlined a strategy to create a R250 billion telecommunications industry in SA by 2020.

At a meeting with the country's top 30 information and communication technology (ICT) companies on Friday, he said that the Cabinet had called on the department to initiate programmes and activities to support the building of the New Growth Path. "We seek to guarantee that ICTs will make a substantive contribution as an enabler for economic growth and the creation of new jobs and skills among our people as we strengthen the foundation for a knowledge-based economy," Padayachie said.

The minister highlighted broadband access as a key policy priority. He said that the department aimed to improve broadband penetration to match countries including India, Brazil and Chile. "Our immediate activity will be to develop an Integrated Broadband Plan that will facilitate capital investment, innovation and rural access by 2020," he said.

The minister said that plans for connecting schools, health centres and government centres would not only improve service delivery but would also improve the uptake and usage of broadband by government and individuals. "To increase broadband penetration in schools and other public institutions, we will ensure that all outstanding universal obligations are implemented by industry by the end of 2011," Padayachie said. Policy and regulatory reform for convergence

The Department of Communications said that, by working with the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), it would ensure that a pro-competitive regulatory framework was put into place in the telecommunications subsector. Padayachie added that, in its quest to reduce the cost of communication, it would implement "pro-competitive remedies an all anti-competitive markets".

He said: "To achieve this, we will review the current funding model of Icasa to ensure that it is equal to the task while regulating competitively."

On Friday, the department announced the formation of a panel consisting of some of the leading private organisations in the ICT sector to tackle issues related to job creation, skills development, the adoption of forward-looking policies embracing convergence, and more work on the rollout of universal services.

The panel includes Andile Ngcaba, executive chair of Dimension Data SA, Craig Venter, CEO of Altech, Atul Gupta, chair and MD of Sahara Computers, Nolo Letele CEO of Multichoice, Pieter Uys, CEO of Vodacom, Sifiso Dabengwa, CEO of MTN, and Jayendra Naidoo, director and chair of J&J Group.

State reaffirms 'broadband for all' pledge

Oman - The third mobile licence has been issued by Sultan Qaboos to Sama, a Jordanian firm

[reuters] Sama Telecommunications has won Oman's third telecom licence, according to a decree issued by the Gulf Arab state's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, which was published on Sunday.

"Issuing a first grade licence for Sama Telecommunications LLC for the setting up and operation of a system to provide general international telecommunication services for 15 years," said the decree, carried by the state news agency ONA.

The agency did not give the value of the licence or other details.

State-controlled Oman Telecommunications Co. (Omantel) lost its monopoly in 2006, with the launch of Nawras, a unit of Qatar Telecommunications.

Sama Telecom wins third Oman licence - decree

Egypt - Human rights group is suing operators for cutting off services denying access to emergency services

[it news africa] The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) is suing mobile phone companies and Internet providers in Egypt for cutting off their service during the recent unrest in the country, the NGO said in a press release.

ANHRI, which defends freedom of expression in the Middle East and North Africa, filed a complaint to Egypt’s Prosecutor General last week, demanding that the minister of communications, chairman of the National Telecommunications Authority and CEOs of Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat companies, along with the country’s Internet providers, are put under investigation for the communication blackout that hit Egypt from January 28 through February 2.

During the 18 days of protests, which finally brought an end to the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, the regime tried to cut communications in the country in the hopes that protesters would leave.

ANHRI said many lost their lives as a result of the cut in communications, not being able to call an ambulance or get urgent medical supplies to injured demonstrators.
The rights group said one of the victims of police brutality, Ahmed Abdel-Rahim Ahmed, 18, was shot in the chest by officers from the interior ministry while taking part in the peaceful demonstrations. His friends tried to reach an ambulance, but “the interruption of telecommunications denied Ahmed of the right to treatment.”
Shortly after Ahmed reached a hospital, carried by his friends, he died from massive blood loss.

“The criminality of telecommunications companies and ISPs during the revolution of January 25 did not stop at the violations of Egyptian citizens in communication and their right to free expression, but the criminality extended to participation in the siege of peaceful demonstrators and the deliberate denial of medical aid, which holds them criminally responsible and that the General Prosecutor has to open an urgent investigation so these criminals would not enjoy impunity,” the group said in a statement.

Egypt group sues over mobile blackouts

Sierra Leone - Libyan-owned Green Network has said it will launch it service in April

[tmc] Chief executive officer of Green Network Sierra Leone has said that once his company launches its commercial service in April this year, the network will offer affordable products that will meet the demand of their intended customers and the wider public.

Elmabruk S. Elgembari told dignitaries at the first official call on the company's network in Freetown that they were very much committed and determined to partner with the government to bring world class telecommunications services to the country.

"The products we will be offering after our commercial launch in April will meet the needs of our intended customers and Sierra Leoneans as a whole. Making the first official call to our network is a milestone for us," he said.

Mr. Elgembari thanked the government for their support and his team for working tirelessly to making the occasion a reality, while noting that their vision was connecting Africa for the future. He said one of their objectives was to contribute immensely towards national development and make the aspirations of the people become a reality through the quality telephone services they would be offering.

Answering to questions from the press, the chief executive officer disclosed that they currently have approximately 86 sites in the city and 42 in the provinces.

Minister of Information and Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo assured the company of his government's fullest support in ensuring that they succeed in the telecom business in the country.

"I want to pay special tribute to the leader and people of Libya for identifying Sierra Leone as a place for investment. We will continue to be friends with Libya and support them to invest in this country," he said.

Minister Kargbo reiterated government's commitment to develop the telecommunications sector since it plays a pivotal role in the country's development.

Libyan Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Dr. Al-Harari, commended the ministry of Information for the efforts made in facilitating the establishment of Green Network in the country.

He assured of the company's determination to provide job opportunities for many Sierra Leoneans and the best services in mobile communications.

Greennet to Offer Affordable Products - Chief Executive Promises

Libya - State-owned Libya Telecom & Technology has launched a third mobile phone service

[bikyamasr] State-owned broadband provider Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT) has confirmed that it has launched Libya’s third mobile phone network, under the brand name LibyaPhone Mobile. Although no precise rollout details have been confirmed by the operator, it claims that its network has capacity for around 100,000 customers during the first phase of its operations.

LibyaPhone Mobile has pledged to extend coverage to areas under-served by fellow state-owned cellcos Libyana and Al Madar Telecomm Company. LTT claims that LibyaPhone Mobile will offer both 2G and 3G connectivity.

Although speculation regarding the launch of a third mobile phone operator in Libya has been rife for some time, in July 2010 it was confirmed that UAE’s Etisalat and Turkcell of Turkey had both been overlooked for a new LYD1 billion (USD825 million) concession. The General Telecommunication Authority (GTA) had previously launched an international tender for a combined fixed and mobile licence in February 2009, although its final decision was severely delayed, and no clear reasons were given for the lack of progress, merely that the international telcos were “unsuitable.”

According to TeleGeography, state-owned Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT) is the country’s dominant ISP and also acts as a moderator for the internet sector. The operator launched a commercial WiMAX network – operating in the 2.5GHz band – under the ‘LibyaMax’ banner in February 2009. Services have subsequently been expanded to over 25 locations, predominantly along the coast, covering around 65% of the population.

LibyaPhone Mobile enters Libyan wireless sector

Rwanda - Regulator has threatened to withdraw the licence of Libyan-owned Rwandatel

[east african business week] Rwandatel is at risk of losing its telecom license for failure to fulfill its license obligations, Rwanda telecom regulator has warned.
Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) said the internet service provider and mobile services operator failed to meet its licence obligations. RURA said that Rwandatel failed to implement its investment plan, coverage, rollout plan and quality of services.

Rwandatel is a subsidiary of Green Network, which is part of Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAP), a US$5 billion Libyan foreign investment. LAP Green owns 80% of stake in Rwandatel while Rwanda Social Security Fund (RSSF) controls the rest.
Rwandatel was initially a public telephony firm and it was sold to LAP Green on November 18, 2008.In an enforcement notice issued on February 4, RURA gave Rwandatel only 30 days from the date of publication of the notice to meet its license obligations or lose its license.Before issuing the notice, RURA had been trying to persuade Rwandatel to implement its license obligations but in vain, the notice said.
RURA requested Rwandatel to meet its license obligations and submit an implementation report to the regulatory board at the end of the one-month notice.

Rwandatel was given seven days to appeal against the decision taken by the Regulatory board.

Attempts to seek comment from Rwandatel were futile its former Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Mr. Francis Egbuson declined to comment.

Rwandatel at risk of losing telecom license

Rwanda - Regulator threatens to revoke licence of Rwandatel - owned by Libya Africa Investment Portfolio

[the east african] The licence held by Rwandatel, the country’s second telecom operator, is at stake following an enforcement notice issued by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency over failure to meet its obligations.

Rwandatel is a subsidiary of Green Network, which is part of the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAP), a $5 billion foreign investment.

LAP Green has an 80 per cent stake in Rwandatel while the Social Security Fund of Rwanda has the remaining 20 per cent.

Through a legal enforcement notice signed by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) chairman Eugène Kazige, Rwandatel has been notified of its failure to implement its licence requirements, including coverage, rollout obligations, quality of services and investment plan.

The notice, seen by The EastAfrican, underlines Rwandatel’s non-compliance with the agreed investment plan as a telecom operator.

“During their licence acquisition — when we privatised Rwandatel in 2007 through a competitive process — LAP Green came up as the best bidder because of its technical proposal and financial proposal,” said Regis Gatarayiha, the acting director general of Rura.

Lap Green paid the $100m for the financial proposal, but Mr Gatarayiha said it has not fulfilled its technical proposal obligations.

“We found it (technical proposal) very good if implemented. The technical proposal is the annex to the licence that they get, with clear deliverables per year,” he said.

LAP Green was selected from four bidders, including South African giant Vodaphone, as it presented the best offer, including the highest purchase price.

It was the second time the government was privatising the telecom company after Terracom, an American firm that had initially taken over in 2005, failed to meet its licence obligations.

The Libyan company committed itself to invest $87 million in the first year, and another $177 million spread over five years from 2007.

“Now they have been in the market for almost four years yet we see something like 40 per cent of what was supposed to be invested,” said Mr Gatarayiha.

Rwandatel’s commitments also included upgrading the network, but this has not been done for the data and mobile segments.

“When we privatised, they were on CDMA. They had to change to GSM, with a clear rollout plan to cover the whole country. The target by 2010 was 70 per cent coverage in urban areas and 60 per cent in rural areas. Today, they have about 50 per cent for both,” Mr Gatarayiha said.

The regulator has also received a series of complaints from the company’s subscribers regarding the ineffectiveness of the company’s Internet modems and high rate of dropped calls.

Second telecom operator may lose licence

Libya - Thuraya's satellite services are being jammed by Gaddafi's residual government

[reuters] Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co's services are being jammed by Libya, the UAE-based firm's chief executive said on Thursday, as a revolt continued against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"Unfortunately there is deliberate jamming by Libya ... which is illegal," CEO Samer Halawi told Al Arabiya television.

"Jamming started on Feb. 17 and it continues today. Our equipment is reducing the effects of the jamming so that we have coverage in 70 percent of Libya," Halawi said.

Based in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, Thuraya provides satellite telephone and other services across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) is a main shareholder of the company.

Forces loyal to Gaddafi launched a fierce counter-attack on Thursday, fighting gun battles with rebels who have threatened the Libyan leader by seizing important towns close to the capital.

On Monday, Al Jazeera television said Libya's intelligence agency was behind the powerful jamming that has disrupted the widely watched Arab satellite broadcaster's signal across much of the Middle East and North Africa.

On Saturday, Arbor Networks, a U.S. company that monitors Internet traffic said Internet service had been cut off in Libya for a second consecutive day.

Thuraya satellite telecom says jammed by Libya

Libya - Thuraya says that its service is being subject to unlawful and intentional jamming

[tmc] The mobile satellite communication services of UAE's Thuraya Telecommunications have been subjected to harmful and intentional interference in Libya over the past seven days, affecting both data and voice communications over Libya and some surrounding areas.

In a statement issued on Friday, the company stated that it had conclusive evidence showing that the interference came as a result of unlawful and intentional jamming activities.

The company alleged that the reason for being a target of this jamming is likely to be the success of the company's products and services in the country and the wide availability of those in the market.

Thuraya also said it would be looking for legal recourse, but in the meantime, its technical teams have worked tirelessly to mitigate the impact of the interference. The voice services were restored over much of the country.

Thuraya-2 network is operational as normal in most of the coverage area. Thuraya is a leading provider of mobile satellite services in more than 140 countries in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Thuraya services affected in Libya

Air - Lufthansa is reporting success with its broadband Internet access services in planes

[breaking travel news] The inflight broadband connectivity offered by Lufthansa has been very well received by customers. Since the launch of Lufthansa FlyNet in December, many passengers on longhaul flights to the United States have used the new service. “Email accessibility is immensely important, particularly for business travellers, but many leisure travellers are also taking advantage of the service,” says Christian Körfgen, Vice President Product Management and Innovation. “Meanwhile our surveys show that passengers are very interested in browsing the latest news on the Internet and accessing social networks.” Lufthansa is well on schedule and has already equipped 17 of its long-range aircraft with Lufthansa FlyNet, Körfgen explains. “Only two months after the introduction of this service, almost 20 per cent of our long-haul fleet is WiFi equipped.”

Through a hotspot, passengers have high-speed wireless access to the Internet via their laptop, iPad or smartphone. Thanks to the high bandwidth connection, e-mails – even with file attachments – can be sent and received without any time delay. Furthermore, FlyNet enables business travellers to connect to their corporate server via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Data communication using the GSM and GPRS international cell phone standards will soon also be possible. In addition to WLAN, the communication options on board will then include cell phone text messaging and data transfer with smartphones such as the iPhone or BlackBerry. As before, however, passengers will not be permitted to use their mobiles phones to make calls.

Lufthansa offers the service in cooperation with its partners Panasonic Avionics Corporation and Deutsche Telekom. FlyNet is extremely easy to use. From any point in the aircraft cabin, passengers with a WLAN-enabled device can log on to the Internet in the same way as they would do at a public hotspot. After opening up their browser, they are automatically connected to the exclusive, free of charge Lufthansa FlyNet portal, which provides constant updates on business, political, sports and entertainment news. For Internet use various different billing options are available: passengers can pay by credit card or by redeeming Miles & More award miles. Alternatively, they can choose to be billed by Deutsche Telekom if that is their mobile service provider, or by an affiliated roaming partner. The one-hour flat rate is 10.95 euros or 3,500 miles; a 24-hour flat rate is available for 19.95 euros or 7,000 miles. Within the 24-hour period of validity, passengers can surf the Web on any connecting Lufthansa flight equipped with a hotspot or at a Lufthansa lounge after their flight.

Lufthansa FlyNet receives very positive response

India - A month into mobile number portability, Vodafone has been the biggest winner

[economic times] Nearly a month after the nationwide rollout of mobile number portability services, Vodafone Essar has emerged as the biggest gainer, notching up 1.9 lakh new subscribers, whereas state-owned BSNL lost more customers than it attracted from other service providers.

Since the launch of MNP services, nearly 20 lakh mobile subscribers have switched service providers using the facility.

MNP allows users to change service providers while retaining their phone numbers.

"A total of 19,79,600 numbers of subscribers have ported their numbers so far using the MNP facility," according to official figures provided in the Rajya Sabha by the Department of Telecom ( DoT )).

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had launched nationwide MNP services on January 20 this year. It has been a month since the service was started and as expected, older GSM operators like Vodafone Essar, Airtel and Idea Cellular continue to lure the bulk of subscribers to their networks.

According to latest available figures, Vodafone Essar gained as many as 1.9 lakh customers, followed by Idea Cellular, with a net gain of 1.5 lakh subscribers.

The figures denote the difference between the number of customers porting in and porting out.

The country's largest operator, Bharti Airtel remained at number three with a net gain of about 1.48 lakh subscribers till date.

However, most operators stick by the theory that MNP will not be a game-changer for the industry.

CDMA operators are facing a huge exodus of subscribers, with RCOM, Tata Teleservices and BSNL losing subscribers to old and established GSM service providers.

In the case of RCom (CDMA), as many as 1.34 lakh subscribers ported out, while 5,717 ported in. Similarly, TTSL (CDMA) lost over 1.04 subscribers while attracting only 8,298 subscribers to its fold.

All that a customer needs to do for changing his telecom operator is pay a maximum of Rs 19. He/she will get a new service provider within seven working days as per the guidelines of the sectoral regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India .

Among the new operators, Uninor and Sistema Shyam attracted more subscribers than they lost, but others were hit by the facility as they lost more subscribers, the data revealed.

To combat this, these operators had lowered tariffs along with doling out freebies. Regional operators have also upped the ante, as they feared losing customers.

MNP services were first launched in Haryana in November last year and according to industry estimates, less than one per cent of subscribers opted for changing their operators.

Both pre-paid and post-paid consumers can use the MNP service.

Vodafone emerges biggest gainer of MNP,adds nearly 1.9 lakh users

Ethiopia - The dead and the retired assigned new posts in reshuffle of the telecoms monopolist

[ethiopian reporter] Prime Minsiter Meles Zenawi has assigned Arkebe Oqubay, advisor to the Prime Minster with the rank of minister, to investigate and take appropriate action over the mishandling of the reassignment of the staff of the former Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) following the takeover of its management by France Telcom in December 2010. Out of the 12,000 employees only about 4,000 have been assigned to new posts in the newly formed company called EthioTelecom while the fate of the remaining still not yet known.

Employees of ETC had complained that the committee set up by France Telecom and the Ethiopian government made grave mistakes while assigning the employees to new positions like assigning deceased employees of ETC and former employees who now reside abroad. The employees also said that the assignments were not based on merit but were rather driven by favoritism and political considerations.

The disgruntled employees have lodged a letter detailing their grievances to the premier. Accordingly, the Prime Minister assigned Arkebe to investigate the mishandling and seek solutions for the mishap. Sources told The Reporter that four executives of EthioTelecom who were tasked with carrying out the reassignment have been removed from their positions.

Following the announcement by France Telecom that it will need only 4,000 employees EthioTelecom is in a total disarray. Observers say this has led to a deterioration in the quality of the mobile phone and internet services.

Arkebe to probe mishandling of staff assignment in EthioTelecom

Australia - Operator calls for an independent board to govern the NBN to ensure competition

[the australian] OPERATION of the $36 billion National Broadband Network should be put out to competitive tender if the project is to have a chance of being a commercial success, a senior industry figure has warned.

Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan said tenders for operation of the giant fibre network should be issued on a state-by-state basis to enhance competition and ensure the NBN has the best chance of delivering acceptable levels of customer service.

"These contracts should be reviewed every (few) years, based on the quality of service and efficiency of each of the operators," he said. "By having a variety of operators it will be possible to do comparisons between them.

"What's also important is that no retail carrier is able to take control or have a strong say in the operation of these companies."

Delivering a keynote presentation to a gathering of technology media on the Gold Coast, Mr O'Sullivan said the NBN should also be overseen by an independent board to ensure its operation remains at arms' length both from government and existing telecommunications players.

He likened such a body to Australia's Reserve Bank which is free to set monetary policy without direct government influence or intervention.

"Whatever the model it is important we have a structure in place to ensure we don't create another lumbering monopoly. We can't afford for the NBN to become the British rail or Telstra of the 21st century," he said.

Mr O'Sullivan, who has maintained a relatively low profile in the ongoing debate surrounding the NBN, said it was time to move on from the arguments about whether it should be built and instead focus on how it can best serve Australians.

"I want to take the view that the NBN is almost certainly going to be built," he said. "We can see that in the way that the Government is rolling (it) out now."

However he believes the ongoing debate has "shrunk" and many of the issues that should be being discussed are disappearing under arguments about things such as funding and fixed verses wireless networks.

Mr O'Sullivan also called for greater transparency over the agreements being Telstra and NBN Co around the migration of customers from the carrier's ageing copper phone lines onto the new network.

He cautioned that Telstra should be prevented from using the $11bn in payments it will receive for its customers as a way to subsidise their transfer to the NBN.

He said this will create an "uneven playing field" where other service providers will be disadvantaged as their costs of customer acquisition will be significantly higher.

"There will be a land-grab in the first years of the NBN," he said. "It will in fact be ‘stickier' for customers than any previous service, as it will be carrying television, broadband and (things like) cloud services. It will be difficult to churn."

Mr O'Sullivan also highlighted another area of concern around content and how steps need to be taken to ensure competition in this vital area remains strong in the era of the NBN.

He said a key concern is the rise of a "winner takes all" organisations which could potentially limit people's access to different sources of content.

Mr O'Sullivan pointed to companies such as Google and eBay which have reached such critical mass that other companies find it difficult to compete.

"There is a huge cliff edge for any second entrant who wants to be a challenger in those application areas," he said. "I don't have the answers, but I think it's a debate that needs strong discussion if we're to avoid the development of monopoly-type providers in the application world."

Independent board should run NBN, says Optus chief

Saturday, February 26, 2011

USA - Report slams waste in spending billions from the Universal Service Fund

[ars technica] A new study issues a stern warning to the Federal Communications Commission as it embarks upon transitioning its Universal Service Fund from phone service to broadband. First, the government must address the fact that a big percentage of USF cash currently goes to "inflated overhead expenses," rather than to making a call more affordable.

Here's the bottom line, according to the Technology Policy Institute's report. Of each dollar distributed to the USF's High Cost Fund, which subsidizes phone carriers in mostly rural areas, 59 cents goes to "general and administrative expenses"—personnel, government relations, planning—rather than to the actual business of making telephone service cheaper. The study is based on a review of 1,400 receivers of these subsidies from 1998 to 2008.

"These results, consistent with a large body of economics literature, suggest that the Universal Service Fund's method for subsidizing service in high-cost areas should be radically overhauled as a key component of the current desire to shift USF support from voice to broadband," concludes the report, authored by the TPI's vice president for research Scott Wallsten.

This finding can't be a complete surprise to the FCC, which is in the process of managing that shift. The USF was designed "for a world that no longer exists," FCC Chair Julius Genachowski told the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation last month. It was created "for a world with separate local and long-distance telephone companies; a world of traditional, landline telephones before cell phones or Skype; a world without the Internet."

Report: huge chunks of your phone bill's USF fee wasted
see also Full text of report

China - Allegedly Govt is preparing a trade dispute against EU for subsidising EU manufacturers

[telecoms] An internally distributed study undertaken by China’s Ministry of Commerce reportedly suggests imminent action against the EU for its subsidisation of major telecoms infrastructure companies.

A “person familiar with the matter” has told the Wall Street Journal that China views EU subsidies for telecoms companies as a breach of WTO rules and is ready to retaliate in the event that Europe acts on its recent findings that Chinese giants such as Huawei and ZTE benefit from significant government financial backing.

Earlier this month, the EU Commission distributed findings that Huawei and ZTE are state-controlled and receive cheap government loans that give them an unfair advantage over European competitors. Huawei has strenuously denied the allegations, stating that its receipt of a $30bn credit line from China Development Bank was for customers buying the company’s equipment, not the organisation itself, and therefore complied with OECD standards. ZTE received a $15bn credit line from the China Development Bank and $10bn from the China Export-Import Bank in 2009.

On the other side of the fence, China points to EU research and development grants to telecom manufacturers totalling €9.1bn for 2007-2013 as well as $2bn-worth of loans on non-commercial terms from the European Investment Bank to three unnamed European telecom equipment makers as evidence of European hypocrisy.

The EU report arose from a complaint last year by Belgian wireless device manufacturer Option that has since been withdrawn, following an agreement with Huawei last October. The EU has proposed dropping the case, stating in a document issued to member-state governments that “It would be disproportionate to continue the investigation and impose measures following the withdrawal of the complaint.” Whether the Chinese government will feel the same about its findings on European big-guns such as Nokia and Ericsson remains to be seen.

EU-China spat brewing over telecoms subsidies

UK - Consumer panel calls for a ban on "up to" speeds for broadband

[isp review] The Communications Consumer Panel (CCP), an independent watchdog for the communications sector that doesn't really engage with consumers directly, has yet again called upon ISPs to stop using the "up to" expression in their broadband speed advertising. Instead they want providers to show a "typical speed".

Today's move came as part of CCP's official submission to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and its current consultation on clearer broadband ISP advertising of internet access speeds and "unlimited" usage allowances.

The UK Consumer Panel Calls Upon ASA to BAN up to Broadband ISP Speeds

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mauritius - NCA is investigation triple-play offer because of possible abuse of monopoly position on ADSL market

[telecompaper] The Competition Commission of Mauritius (CCM) has opened an investigation into Mauritius Telecom's MyT triple-play product due to concerns that the operator could be using its effective monopoly of the ADSL market to gain an advantage in the sale of TV services and international calls. It will look into whether Mauritius Telecom refuses to supply the higher-speed ADSL products except as part of a package, or prices the MyT bundle against the "ADSL-only" service in a way that influences customers to choose MyT. If the CCM finds that Mauritius Telecom's actions have restricted competition, it can impose remedial measures, but not financial penalties, which can only be applied for collusion between competing companies

Competition Commission investigates Mauritius Telecom

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

India - Govt has conceded a parliamentary inquiry into the 2G spectrum licence scam

[reuters]Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave in on Tuesday to opposition demands for a parliamentary probe into a multi-billion dollar scandal over sales of telecoms licenses for kickbacks, a setback for his embattled government and a victory for the opposition.

Singh, wary that a parliamentary probe could drag on for months and overshadow his Congress party-led coalition, only bowed to pressure after months of opposition protests stalled the last parliamentary session and threatened to block passage of the Feb. 28 budget.

"Our country can ill afford a situation when parliament is paralysed," Singh told parliament.

The Hindu newspaper on Tuesday called the scandal, in which the state auditor said up to $39 billion was lost in revenues, "the biggest scam in the history of independent India."

The government will likely stay in power, but is wary of a repeat of 1989 when Congress lost a general election due to the Bofors scandal over gun contracts involving associates of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who were accused of taking bribes.

The latest controversy has halted the progress of reform bills and worried some investors in Asia's third biggest economy. Concerns about security of contract, combined with the global slowdown, have hit foreign direct investment and contributed to the Mumbai stock exchange's recent performance, the worst of the world's major share markets.

India PM bows to opposition

India - In the face of corruption scandals, notably in telecoms, the Govt is now to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption

[indian express] The government's preoccupation with how to tackle the allegations of corruption which have dogged it in the last few months were reflected in President Pratibha Patil's address to both Houses of Parliament at the start of the Budget Session. The President announced that India would be finally ratifying a United Nations Convention against corruption, among other measures to “address frontally the concerns regarding the lack of probity and integrity in public life.”

Measures which the government appeared to have committed on include a partial public funding of elections, and a renewed commitment to bringing back Indian black money stashed abroad. She also detailed at length the direction in which a Group of Ministers on corruption will be working on. “The Group will consider issues relating to the formulation of a public procurement policy and the enunciation of public procurement standards., review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers, introduction of an open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources, fast tracking of cases against public servants charged with corruption, and amendments to the relevant laws to facilitate quicker action against public servants,” Patil said.

Corruption and inflation top govt priorities, says President

Monday, February 21, 2011

Europe - EC has surveyed citizens on their use of roaming and attitudes to charges

[ec] Mobile phones are increasingly becoming not only the most important but also the only means of voice telephony for Europeans. 87% of respondents have a mobile phone compared to 80% in 2006 while 26% now use it exclusively in comparison to 20% in 2006.

Consequently, the group of potential users of roaming services is also constantly growing, both in terms of size and heterogeneity. The differences in mobile phone penetration between countries are shrinking and even the oldest age group, which showed significantly lower levels of mobile phone usage in 2006, are quickly catching up with their younger counterparts, with 71% now having a mobile phone compared to 57% in 2006.

Significantly fewer Europeans report having travelled in the EU in this present
survey than in 2006. This is undoubtedly a consequence of the economic downturn. In
2010, 48% of mobile phone users say they have travelled within last 4-5 years and 28%
have travelled both prior to and since the Roaming Regulation.

The results do not show significant evolutions in the proportion of respondents using different types of services, with the exception of Internet-related services, which seem to be used more now than in 2006. European mobile phone users continue to favour voice calls (55%) and text message services (52%) while abroad with 10% making use of Internet related services. The increased usage of roaming internet-related services reflects the recent market uptake of mobile data services.

While overall the proportion of roaming service users has remained stable since 2006, a higher proportion of frequent travellers are now using their mobile phones while abroad, possibly because they have first-hand experience of the recent price decreases.

Furthermore, the respondents are using roaming services to a greater extent
than in 2006. Significant increases can be observed in the frequency of making
(32%) and receiving voice calls (31%) and in particular of sending text
messages (43%) since 2006. Young people in particular are significantly more likely
to use these roaming services now than in 2006.

However, an overwhelming 72% of mobile users continue to limit their mobile voice calls while abroad because they are concerned about the costs. It is also implied that some respondents substitute their voice calls by text messages and Internet-related services while abroad, i.e. they change their user pattern in terms of the type of services they use. Young respondents are particularly prone to cut down their voice calls while travelling. Among the 10% of mobile users who reported currently using data roaming services while abroad, the general tendency appears to be that the price of using data services is not regarded as fair.

The perceived excessive roaming costs still appear to discourage Europeans of using roaming services, even if a majority of mobile phone users agrees that these costs have decreased. Among frequent travellers, 61% are aware of the positive price developments that have occurred over the last four years.

Awareness of lower roaming prices is obviously strongly linked to first-hand experiences during the period of change: those who travel frequently and use any of the roaming services are significantly more likely to believe that costs have fallen than those who have not travelled both prior to and since the Regulation and those who avoid using their mobile phone while abroad. The oldest age group in particular tends to be less knowledgeable about recent developments.

SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 356 - Roaming in 2010

Europe - Survey of 112 emergency services number shows much work remains to be done

[ec] The survey’s fieldwork was carried out between 3 and 7 January 2011. Over 40,500 randomly selected EU citizens, aged 15 years and above, were interviewed in the EU’s 27 Member States. Interviews were predominantly carried out via fixed-line telephones, with approximately 1,500 in each of the Member States.

More than 9 in 10 (96%) EU citizens thought that it was very useful to have a European emergency number available throughout the EU (83% totally agreed and 13% tended to agree).

Just over a third of EU citizens agreed that people in their country were adequately informed about the existence of the European emergency number 112

The current survey results showed that EU citizens remained relatively unfamiliar with the European emergency number 112: only about a quarter (26%) of respondents could spontaneously identify 112 as the number to call for emergency services from anywhere in the EU. Awareness of 112 as an EU-wide emergency number has slowly increased from 22% in 2008 to this current figure in 2011 (+4 percentage points).

The European Emergency Number 112 - Analytical report

Thailand - True-CAT pact advances restructuring of the industry, with more to follow

[bangkok post] The government is embarking on an overhaul of the troublesome mobile phone concession regime, with the recent pact between True Corp and CAT Telecom seen as a model for restructuring the industry.

Officials have also been in talks with SK Telecom of South Korea and NTT DoCoMo of Japan to carry Advanced Info Service's mobile business in the worst-case scenario of the top-ranked operator failing to pay 74 billion baht compensation demanded by TOT Plc for damages resulting from changes to past contracts, a government source said.

The source said the overhaul was aimed at resolving the chronic problems impeding industry development, notably the inability to offer 3G wireless broadband service at a time when most other countries offer it and many are now preparing to launch 4G.

The present problems are rooted in a series of amendments _ some of them dating back as far as 15 years _ made to concessions between major operators and the two state telecom enterprises, TOT and CAT Telecom.

The Council of State, the government's legal adviser, concluded in 2007 that many of the changes, such as contract extensions and revisions in revenue-sharing terms, breached the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act.

The Act requires special scrutiny of agreements for ventures worth one billion baht or more, with cabinet approval in some cases.

An investigative committee looking into all of the amendments forwarded its recommendations to the Information and Communications Technology Ministry.

The ministry last week opened talks with the private operators and state telecoms in an attempt to arrive at compensation figures.

The ICT Ministry committee overseeing the talks has asked the operators to propose a compensation formula by Friday.

The final compensation payment would not necessarily be the same as that proposed by the investigative committee or claimed by the state telecoms, said the government source, who has been part of a team looking into industry reform for the past three months.

"Compensation could be settled between the state telecoms and operators," he said.

"The payments could be spread over 15 to 20 years to ease the financial burden on operators."

TOT wants AIS to pay it 74 billion baht, including 40 billion in losses from the reduction of prepaid revenue-sharing.

For CAT, it is estimated that amendments for second-ranked mobile phone operator DTAC cost the state enterprise more than 20 billion baht, True Move 6billion and Digital Phone Co 3 billion to 4 billion baht.

The source said the reform plan was intended to solve private companies' problems and also help TOT and CAT survive as viable businesses in the future. They presently depend heavily on concession revenue payments.

"For a way out, we are looking to demand that private operators compensate

[TOT and CAT] for losses from past concession amendments, to end the old concession system and shift to a new business model," he said.

The source said that if the state enterprises and private operators failed to negotiate payments, the issue would go to the cabinet.

Another option is to take the case to the Civil Court, which would decide whether to accept it or recommend arbitration.

The study team has outlined a plan to draft a new contract model based on a wholesale-resale agreement, under National Telecommunications Commission regulations.

The source acknowledged that True Move was seen as a test case because of the urgency of its situation.

Its concession is due to end in 2013, while AIS's concession will end in 2015 and DTAC's in 2018.

When True acquired the small Hutch mobile business, in which CAT was also a partner, an opportunity arose for True and CAT to draw up a new working arrangement, resulting in a 3G service wholesale-resale contract lasting 14 years.

The source said top executives of the three major mobile operators had acknowledged the government's intentions. If they agreed with the plan, they would have to return their frequency rights to CAT and TOT.

They would then enter rental contracts to use the state telecoms' equipment and networks under new business conditions.

True-CAT model is a wake-up call

Ghana - MPs have yet to register their own SIM cards - required by June 2011

[My Joy] Most Parliamentarians are yet to register their SIM cards almost one year after the National Communication Authority made it mandatory for all to do so by June this year.

Information available to Adom News says an exercise to that effect was started last week but was suspended owing to the state of the Nation Address on Thursday February 17 but will continue this week.

A highly placed source at the National Communication Authority (NCA) said telecom operators have reported between 75 per cent and 90 per cent registered SIM cards between June 2010 and now.

The source fell short of mentioning the specific numbers or percentages that each operator reported saying that the NCA was yet to verify the figures and come out with actual numbers of valid SIM cards registered by each operator.

The verification would involve cross checking records of individual SIM card owners against the ID type they used in registering the SIM card.

“We will go to the respective institutions and verify the records of those who used their passports, drivers’ licenses, National Health Insurance card and Voters ID to register their SIM cards” the source said.

The source noted that there was a possibility that some records may not be check with the ID of the SIM card owners and that would mean that SIM card would be considered unregistered, even though telecom network may have counted it as registered.

Last year, almost all the operators posted lower subscriber-base than they expected and they blamed it on customers’ lackadaisical attitude towards SIM card registration.

Meanwhile, all the telecom operators have been instructed by the NCA to keep the provisional figures under wraps pending the verification slated for next month, March 2011.

But some of the telecom operators said most of the SIM cards registered are mainly from the rural communities and northern part of the country, and that most residents of Greater-Accra, Central, Volta and Western regions are still not registered.

“We want to take advantage of the debate of the Presidential State of the Nation Address in Parliament to register the MPs, since there is usually a full house during these kinds of debates,” they said.
The CEO of Tigo Ghana, Carlos Caceres had told Adom News that he expected a mass rush for SIM card registrations from next month, particularly in the southern sector of the country.

Vodafone Ghana CEO, Kyle Whitehall had also expressed similar sentiments in a chat with journalists.

Whiles some the telecom operators say they are confident that by the June 31, 2011 deadline, they would have registered all their customers, some expressed doubts about meeting the deadline.

Meanwhile the NCA has not given any indication of plans to extend the deadline, which means anyone whose SIM card is not registered by June 31, 2011 would lose his mobile phone number and all information on it for good.

Network operators have therefore been using separate interactions with the media to urge their customers to get their SIM cards registered and avoid losing their phone numbers and vital information.

SIM Card Registration-MP’s yet To Do So

Roaming - African Union has again raised the possibility of a single African SIM card as a way to cut roaming charges

[the citizen] The African Union (AU) has unveiled its plans for a single standardized SIM card for all African mobile phone operators. According to AU commissioner for infrastructure and energy, Mr Elham Ibrahim, a study on the introduction of a single African SIM card has been underway and is expected to be completed within a month.

The commission would then hold a validation workshop with the key industry players in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to agree on the technical details for the SIM card, which it hopes would reduce the cost of roaming phone services.

According to AU’s head of telecommunication division, Mr Moctar Yedaly, funds for the assessment of the technical requirements to be fulfilled before the launch of the SIM are estimated at $100,000.

He added that the plan includes an agreement on revenue-sharing and the validity of prepaid airtime if the users of the single SIM card migrate to other operators in the various African countries. The AU is looking at the networks operated by the South African multinational MTN Group, which has operations in over 16 African countries.

The AU is also working on the registration of the domain name dot Africa, which it hopes to register. Mr Yedaly noted that a taskforce has been established to work out the modalities of registering the dot Africa internet domain.

African Union plans for single standardized SIM card

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Syria - Formerly 2nd most repressive on Internet access of the Arab States has opened access to Facebook, Blogspot and YouTube

[al jazeera] Until recently, Tunisia held the worst record for Internet filtering in the Arab world, blocking everything from political opposition to video-sharing sites.

But along with Tunisia's revolt came increased Internet freedom: The interim government now blocks far fewer sites, mainly those considered "obscene", and Internet users attempting to access such sites now encounter a block page rather than a blank one, demonstrating an increased degree of transparency.

Syria, formerly the runner-up to Tunisia, appears to be taking a similar turn. On Wednesday, Syrian authorities granted access to Facebook, Blogspot, and YouTube, and for the first time since 2007, users of those sites could get to the social networking sites freely, without use of a proxy.

The Internet in Syria has long been censored. Frequently named an "enemy of the Internet" by watchdog group Reporters Sans Frontières, the country blocks not only social media sites but political opposition, sites with human rights information, Kurdish sites, anonymisers, and the website of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Tech-savvy Syrian Internet users utilize VPN services, web-based proxies and other tools to circumvent the blocks, though the export of those tools from the United States is also prohibited without a license from Treasury and Commerce departments, due to long-standing sanctions.

Western sanctions

The sanctions on the country also affect Syrian censorship, as US companies like Google are prohibited from marketing their products within the country. Syrians cannot download tools like Google Chrome and Google Earth, nor can they buy licensed versions of Microsoft and other software.

Though the unblocking is only a small step--Syrians have reported that the keywords "facebook" and "proxy" are still blocked on some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as are and the Arabic version of Wikipedia--it may be a step in the right direction for a regime that is trying to garner further popular support in light of the recent events in the region.

The move could also curry favor for Syria in Washington. In 2010, the State Department sent a delegation of executives from major US tech firms--most of which are constrained by US export control policy from doing business in Syria--to meet with the Syrian president and his cabinet.

The meeting was focused on a number of issues, including intellectual property, but undoubtedly also involved talk of Internet freedom.

Of course, free access to these networks is not without danger: Though the average Syrian user may have little cause for concern, the newfound freedom could pose risks to activists.

Despite promised reforms from President Bashar al-Assad, Syria remains a repressive political climate. Though the Syrian constitution guarantees freedom of expression, the country’s emergency law--in place since 1962--strips citizens of most constitutional protections.

While the ban on Blogspot was still in place, no fewer than four bloggers using the service were arrested for content published on Blogspot blogs, including 19-year-old Tal al Mallouhi, charged with espionage in December 2010 for her writings on Palestine and local affairs.

Access versus expression

Activists should remember that free access does not mean freedom of expression. Social media tools have been used for surveillance in a number of countries, and are easily exploited.

In Tunisia, reports that the government had phished user passwords for Facebook and Gmail emerged in December, while in the United States, Facebook has been used by creditors to track down people with outstanding debt.

Though phishing may be uncommon, and can be prevented by using HTTPS to connect to Facebook (a feature just rolled out to all users), activists who accept friend requests from people they don’t know personally are taking a risk. Creating a profile is an easy process, and Facebook's platform allows anyone to add any individual as a friend, unless they've adjusted their security settings to avoid it.

Some Syrian Facebook users have speculated that the move could make it easier for the government to monitor their usage of the site. For its part, the State Department has commented on the concern as well, with Secretary of State Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross tweeting: "Welcome positive move on Facebook & YouTube in #Syria but concerned that freedom puts users at risk absent freedom of expression&association."

Others, such as Mazen Darwish, from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, see the move as a positive step. Speaking to the Guardian, Darwish stated that: "After what happened on the 4th and the 5th, the authorities now know that the Syrian people are not the enemy."

M-payments - Europeans are the least interested because of privacy and security concerns

[mobile europe] European users are amongst the most cautious when it comes to expressing interest in mobile payments technology, according to research from Accenture.

Accenture surveyed early adopters (who use at least four Internet-connected devices and at least four Internet services) in 11 countries. Overall it found that nearly half (45 percent) of the most active mobile device users would welcome the opportunity to pay for goods and services using their mobile phone, but in Europe that number fell to 26%.

Consumers in Asia were the most enthusiastic about mobile commerce. Overall, 69 percent of survey respondents in Asia indicated they favored using mobile phones for most payments, led by Chinese consumers (76 percent) and India (75 percent), followed by Korea (56 percent) and Japan (47 percent). Outside of Asia, the next highest positive response was in Brazil, where 70 percent of consumers favored using mobile phones for most payments.

When survey participants were asked if they had used a mobile phone to make purchases in the past six months, nearly half (47 percent) of tech forward consumers in China indicated they had, followed by Korea (42 percent) and Japan (33 percent). Depending on the geographic region, tech forwards are also in the early stages of using barcode or near field communications (NFC) technology to interact with their shopping environment. In Asia, 38 percent of consumers surveyed had scanned a product’s barcode while shopping to get additional information; 36 percent had displayed a “digital ticket” for admission to an event or to board a flight; and, 31 percent had purchased an item or received a coupon from a “smart poster” containing an electronic tag or barcode.

A majority (64 percent) of consumers surveyed indicated they would use gift cards and coupons delivered directly to their mobile phones, led by Chinese respondents (94 percent) Korean respondents (91 percent) and Indian respondents (76 percent). Globally, 79 percent of the consumers surveyed indicated they would redeem those coupons when checking out of a store, compared with 77 percent who said they would use coupons that had to be clipped from magazines.

Asked what they would do if they received a coupon on their mobile phone for the equivalent of a US$10 gift card (expressed in the local currency) for a store where they do not usually shop:
77 percent of all respondents indicated they would redeem the coupon at the store that issued the card account;
68 percent would exchange the card for $7 in mobile voice minutes or reduced phone charges; and,
67 percent would exchange it for a $7 gift card for use in a store where they usually shop.
Fraud and privacy concerns

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the global respondents indicated that using a mobile phone for payments makes them worry about their privacy. Seventy percent said that mobile phone payments increase the risk of identity theft and fraud.

Regardless of these concerns, 62 percent of consumers surveyed who typically use a credit card for non-telco-related monthly payments said they would use their mobile phone to pay their bill, if they were to receive a 20 percent discount. More than half (59 percent) said they would welcome receiving money-off promotions based on their past purchases. Forty-seven percent said they would welcome receiving personalized mobile phone ads when they are within a few steps of the promoted product or service. And, 69 percent indicated they would gladly accept mobile phone ads sent to their phones as part of their service contract in exchange for lower mobile phone usage fees.

When asked what types of companies would play a significant role in enabling consumers to make payments or process coupons by mobile phone, most respondents (59 percent) thought that role would fall to credit card companies, followed by wireless operators (54 percent), software companies (52 percent), large retailers (52 percent) and device makers (48 percent).

“Mobile commerce – which encompasses mobile banking, such as checking balances or paying bills over a mobile phone, plus coupons, promotions, redeemable gift cards, loyalty points, and more – is poised to drive huge changes in the way we shop and pay for goods and services,” said Andy Zimmerman, director, mobility services, Accenture. “We can expect a convergence of traditional and alternative currencies, and it has huge implications on the entire in-store retail experience.

"While the survey indicates there are issues to address in terms of privacy and security, these findings are good news for mobile network operators because consumers have requirements they look to operators, technology vendors, or financial institutions to address.”

European mobile users least interested in mobile payments

Apple - Its own report found child workers, bribes, "involuntary labor" and bribery in its suppliers

[ars technica] Apple discovered underage workers, "involuntary labor," worker endangerment, and bribery at some of its supplier facilities over the course of 2010, the company revealed in its 2011 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report.

The updated report offered details on Apple's regular audits conducted on foreign manufacturers as well as Apple's response to the discoveries. In addition to terminating business with facilities with the most egregious violations, Apple also investigated the so-called Foxconn suicides, agreeing that Foxconn's actions to address worker unrest had "definitely saved lives."

Over the course of 2010, Apple found 37 "core violations" across 127 supplier facilities located across Asia—Apple defines a "core violation" as a serious breach of Apple's code of conduct, which prohibits worker abuse, the use of underage labor, intimidation of workers, and so on. According to the report, Apple discovered one facility that was exposing workers to toxic chemicals, four facilities that either presented false payroll records to Apple or gave misleading answers to Apple's audit team, one bribery attempt, one attempt to coach workers to give positive answers to Apple's audit team, and a total of 91 underage workers across 10 facilities.

Apple's responses to these violations largely involved the company telling the manufacturers to tighten up their practices—in the case of toxic chemicals, Apple required the companies to discontinue their use and improve their ventilation systems, for example. Some facilities with underage workers were found to have poor ID check systems, so they were told to send the kids back to school and improve management so that such a thing wouldn't happen again in the future. (Sending the kids back to school doesn't just mean kicking them out of the factory, either—Apple says that suppliers must pay for educational expenses and lost wages for six months or until the worker turns 16, whichever is longer.)

Facilities that were found to be underpaying workers were told to start paying the appropriate amount and to respect local law.

There were a handful of cases, however, where Apple decided the violations were too much and severed its connections with the firms in question. For example, one facility had apparently falsified its payroll records multiple times with Apple in the past and was found to be doing so yet again, resulting in the loss of Apple's business. The same happened to one facility whose manager attempted to bribe Apple's audit team into giving a good report.

Another facility that employed an unusually large number of underage workers (42) apparently had no interest in remedying the problem. "Based on the poor likelihood of improvement, we terminated business with the facility," Apple wrote in its report. Apple didn't name which specific manufacturers made which violations.

Apple's 2011 supplier report: child workers, bribes, "involuntary labor"

Mobile - 87% of operators at Mobile World gave 4G transition and "policy" control as the top means to solve congestion

[mobile europe] Bridgewater Systems, specialist in intelligent broadband controls, today announced immediate results from a survey conducted live on the show floor at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. During the first two days of the show, Bridgewater surveyed mobile operators to uncover their opinions on how to manage mobile data growth in the next 12 months.

Indicators from show floor reveal 87% of mobile operators surveyed ranked 4G transformation and /or policy control as key solution approaches to solving mobile data network congestion.

In comparison, service providers are increasingly reluctant to simply add costly network capacity, with only 18% of the operators surveyed indicating that this would be a primary tool for managing network congestion in the next 3 years.

David Sharpley, Senior Vice President, Bridgewater Systems said: “This live research on the show floor at ‘the must-attend annual gathering of the mobile industry’ validates the importance of policy and 4G network transformation as key topics of interest at Mobile World Congress 2011. Policy control continues to remain a key capability for operators to manage mobile data growth, while the introduction of 4G is regarded as a key and complementary strategy as operators evolve their networks.”

Survey indicates 87% of mobile operators view 4G transformation and policy as critical to resolving mobile data congestion

South Africa - Telkom is trying to reduce its labourforce by voluntary redundancies

[engineering news] Trade unions have responded with vehemence towards news that telecommunications (telecoms) provider Telkom would again be offering voluntary separation packages, this time to trade union members, but Telkom emphasised that it was not retrenching employees.

“The word ‘severance’ used by Solidarity is misleading as it gives the impression that Telkom is laying people off (retrenchment). Telkom did not consult organised labour about retrenchments on Tuesday - the whole discussion was about ‘voluntary separation packages’ that the company intends to offer to its bargaining unit employees who may voluntarily want to take them,” the company explained.

Solidarity stated that Telkom said it would not give reasons for accepting applications for packages, nor would it negotiate with unions on the content of the packages. “The process is therefore not transparent and discrimination on the basis of race and gender is a real possibility,” said Solidarity spokesperson Marius Croucamp.

Telkom said that the company was “mindful of the fact that a transparent process will be followed with clearly defined criteria”.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) said that, as a matter of principle, it would discourage workers to take Telkom’s voluntary severance packages.

“CWU regards this move by Telkom as pursuance of the neo-liberal agenda that is repugnant to everything that the ANC-led tripartite alliance stands for around the issue of job creation,” emphasised the union.

Solidarity explained that the packages would take effect on April 1, which was a day after the expiry of an agreement concluded in 2009 between trade unions and Telkom, in terms of which, employees job security was guaranteed until March 31, 2011.

The telecoms giant came under particularly sharp criticism from the unions as the company has recently been under the spotlight for irregularities at the top management level.

“South Africans are still reeling from recent allegations that the entity is encircled by a lot of corruption, nepotism, bribery and fraud by its top management,” reiterated the CWU.

“It does not make sense to get rid of skilled employees to the detriment of service delivery,” Croucamp said.

Telkom stated that voluntary packages were offered to management in 2010, and now a similar offer was being made to trade union members within the company.

For the half-year ended September 2010, Telkom said 186 managerial employees accepted the packages, at a cost of R144-million.

The benefits of the reduction in employee expenses on Telkom’s financial statements were expected in the second half of the 2011 financial year.

During the same six months, Telkom said that employee expenses increased by 8,5% owing to higher salaries and wages as a result of average yearly salary increases, as well as workforce reduction expenses of R103 million incurred for management employees, partially offset by lower headcount.

Telkom offers voluntary packages to workers

South Africa - Competition Tribunal dismisses Telkom's attempt to quash a case against it by Internet Solutions

[competition tribunal] On Friday, 4 February 2011, the Competition Tribunal dismissed Telkoms attempt to quash the competition case brought against it by the Competition Commission. Regarding the case that Internet Solutions (IS) brought against Telkom, the Tribunal gave IS time to bring an amended case for Telkom to answer. In its judgment the Tribunal found that all of Telkom’s objections, to the Commission’s allegations that it had abused its market dominance, were without merit. The Tribunal said that Telkom’s objections to the Commission’s case were either “misconceived” or “without substance”. The Tribunal also found that Telkom’s arguments on various points of law, including that the allegations against it were unconstitutional, should more appropriately be argued in the main case when that is heard. *Background * The Tribunal’s finding follows a hearing on 11 October 2010 where Telkom argued for the dismissal of the Competition Commission and Internet Solution’s (IS) cases both parties brought against it. On 26 October 2009 the Commission referred its case against Telkom to the Tribunal for adjudication, alleging that Telkom had abused its dominant position in the market for the provision of telecommunications network facilities. IS also referred its own complaint against Telkom and asked the Tribunal to consider it together with the Commission’s referral. In its investigation the Commission found that Telkom abused its near-monopoly position in the market for the provision of telecommunications network facilities. It did this by charging excessive prices for the basic infrastructure needed by its downstream competitors, the internet service providers or ISP’s, to access a range of telecommunications services, while keeping its own ISP service charges low. In this way, Telkom also raised its downstream competitors costs, making it difficult for them to on-sell cost effective...

Telkom SA Limited vs The Competition Commission and Dimension Data (Pty) Ltd t/a Internet Solutions

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mobile broadband - Survey finds "63% of global consumers willing to pay for mobile broadband VAS" including video optimization

[newswire today] Acision, a world leader in mobile data, today announced the launch of its global consumer research report on mobile broadband, titled 'Seizing the Opportunity in Mobile Broadband'.

The research, which was conducted between June and November 2010, provides a unique insight into consumer perceptions of mobile broadband use in the United Kingdom, North America, Brazil, Australia and Singapore. The research explores consumer observations including Quality of Experience (QoE), customer satisfaction and video quality as well as acceptance of fairness policies and willingness to pay for possible Value Added Services (VAS).

Steven van Zanen, SVP Marketing, Mobile Data Control, Acision said: “The motivation to undertake this global research has been the phenomenal uptake of mobile broadband worldwide and the rumoured Quality of Experience issues accompanying its steady rise. One of the key objectives of the research has been to quantify this and determine whether global parallels exist in its development lifecycle. We have been surprised by the remarkable resemblance between these different markets and see a clear basis for pro active operator strategies to seize the opportunity that exists in mobile broadband.”

The Acision research shows that 71% of consumers use mobile regularly throughout the week and are simply asking operators to further develop the mobile broadband service from where it is today with 63% of global consumers willing to pay for mobile broadband VAS. Another great area of opportunity is Quality of Experience. There are of course issues to solve here, but to improve Quality of Experience, 67% of consumer’s support the application of fairness principles and another 60% would like video optimization to be applied. These are key capabilities that operators can apply to compete at an entirely new level; Quality of Experience.

These opportunities cannot be ignored with QoE issues being widespread, with 79% of global consumers suffering issues of some kind including experiencing slow speeds (62%), network coverage issues (39%) and connection drops (36%). 74% of video consumers are stating regular issues like frequent pausing and long waiting times. Worldwide this is driving a churn potential of 31% which is nearly equivalent in all countries.

“Operators are already doing all they can to expand bandwidth but our research shows that some of the QoE issues are intrinsic even in best practice networks, ” continued van Zanen. “A further investment in capability is required to reach to the next stage of mobile broadband evolution.”

To address challenges with mobile broadband services and seize the potential revenue opportunity, changes in operator capabilities are required at three main levels:

• Data layer: High performance and reliable components that handle network traffic.
• Content layer: Best-in-class components which are able to optimise specific content services such as video or browsing.
• Control layer: Highly intelligent components which enable real-time, complex and rich decision-making.

“Operators will then need to develop rich service offerings to address individual consumer requirements and support paid-for optimized or premium services, delivered via a bundle or transaction-based offering that consumers both understand and can relate to, ” concluded van Zanen.

Global consumer research key findings

Customer satisfaction and loyalty: Mobile broadband is seen as an important and valuable service by the majority of users. A significant amount of consumers, however, are dissatisfied with certain of the aspects of the service:

• 60% of global consumers stated reliability, coverage or speed as the most important service aspect. Other aspects like price, usage allowance or usage control are perceived as most important by 40 % of consumers.
• Significant levels of dissatisfaction exist with coverage (29%) and pricing levels (28%) being the most important areas.
• 79% of customers globally have QoE issues of some kind including slow speeds (62%), network coverage (39%), connection stability and unable to connect (both at 36%). Only 21% of respondents state that they haven’t experienced any issues.
• Video QoE issues are experienced by 74% of the 37% of consumers watching videos. Issues such as waiting time for the video to play and frequent pauses both affect 54% of video viewers.
• Churn potential is considerable at 31%, with remarkably low variance between countries.

Consumer support for fairness, optimisation and VAS: Operators can seize the opportunity in mobile broadband through high levels of consumer acceptance:

• Fairness policies - Consumers, once they understand the need for resource management, have a high acceptance of policies (67%) that enable a fair allocation of the available capacity. Many consumers (35%) are even prepared to pay a premium for the service if it provides an improved QoE.
• Video optimisation – 60% of respondents are willing to accept video optimisation as long as they benefit from an improvement of those aspects they find most important in their service experience, especially less stalling of videos.
• Paid Value Added Services – 63% of consumers state a clear need for some kind of VAS service and a willingness to pay an additional fee for services like notifications (41%), fair bandwidth management (35%), spend control (35%), roaming (34%), shared bundle (33%), customisation (30%), content compression to save on bundle (29%) and priority (26%). This provides a clear marketable consumer segment where operators worldwide can build a more diverse and long term revenue model.

Acision Launches Global Consumer Research Report - 'Seizing the Opportunity in Mobile Broadband
see also Acision Full report is free but requires registration

Sao Tome - Portugal Telecom is to invest in ACE the first undersea cable to connect the island

[telecom paper] Portugal Telecom's subsidiary Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações (CST) is investing in the first undersea fibre cable linking Sao Tome and Principe to the international data network. In a statement issued on 18 February, Portugal Telecom announced that the submarine cable, called "Africa Coast to Europe", is the result of a consortium of 19 international operators and should enter service in 2H 2012, allowing the introduction of fibre optics for business and residential customers. The project is being co-financed by the World Bank.

CST to invest in undersea fibre cable

Comoros - Workers on strike against transfer of international traffic to foreign VoIP provider

[afrique en ligne] Workers of the Comorian telecommunications company (Comoros Telecom), Thursday embarked on a 24-hour strike action to protest against the decision of the government to grant the management of international calls to Vocalpad, a foreign operator.

'We will fight for the withdrawal of the decree that granted the management of international calls to Vocalpad,' declared a spokesperson of the company, Amerdine Saad.

According to Saadi, 'Contrary to the declarations of the authorities, Comoros Telecom was not consulted over this decision.'

He said that Comoros Telecom had the required capacity to handle international calls.

Comoros Telecom workers on 24-hour strike
see also Vocalpad

Friday, February 18, 2011

USA - Secretary of State warns [other] governments that blocking the Internet will backfire

[washington post] Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned governments from China to Syria on Tuesday that blocking the Internet would ultimately backfire, damaging their economies and creating pent-up demands that would boil over in demonstrations like those that have swept the Middle East and North Africa.

Clinton's speech, planned weeks ago and billed as a major address on Internet freedom, came against the backdrop of the mass protests that toppled the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia. Aides said Clinton wanted to take advantage of the attention being paid to the protesters' use of Facebook and Twitter in order to highlight broader issues.

"We believe that governments who have erected barriers to Internet freedom . . . will eventually find themselves boxed in. They'll face a dictator's dilemma and have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price to keep them standing," Clinton said.

Clinton has been a sometimes breathless champion of technologies such as cell phones and the Internet, urging audiences around the globe to use them to expose government corruption and help the poor.

But her speech Tuesday was sober, noting the challenges of balancing Internet freedom with the threats posed by cyber-crime, on-line hate speech and the disclosure of confidential information.

"To maintain an Internet that delivers the greatest possible benefits to the world, we need to have a serious conversation about the principles that will guide us," Clinton told the audience at George Washington University.

She did not lay out specific rules; her aides said Clinton's goal was to create a framework to discuss Internet freedom. She also was trying to respond to leaders who say control of the Internet is necessary for security or to avoid the use of incendiary speech, aides said.

Clinton said that governments that arrested bloggers or limited the Internet "may claim to be seeking security . . . but they are taking the wrong path." She added that they might be able to "hold back the full expression of their people's yearnings for a while, but not forever."

Clinton's speech reflected the increasing attention being paid to Internet freedom in U.S. diplomacy. She announced the creation of a new office - coordinator for cyber issues - to be filled by Christopher Painter, a former White House cyber expert.

She also noted that the department began sending Twitter messages in Arabic and Farsi last week, and would soon produce them in Chinese, Hindi and Russian, in addition to Spanish and French.

In interviews, Internet freedom advocates gave Clinton's speech high marks for its nuance and its support of "the freedom to connect." But Ethan Zuckerman o f Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society said he was disappointed she didn't call on social-media companies to take more responsibility for keeping the Internet open and safe for activists.

Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch panned Clinton's defense of the U.S. government response to the WikiLeaks disclosure of State Department cables. Clinton said the U.S. denunciation of the leaks wasn't at odds with the Internet freedom campaign, explaining that the scandal "began with an act of theft" of U.S. documents.

"That was never the controversy," Ganesan said. "The controversy is, was it appropriate for lawmakers to threaten grievous harm against WikiLeaks and some of their staff, because they were putting information out there?"

Clinton's speech coincided with the release of a report by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) that criticizes the State Department for not moving faster to spend $30 million provided by Congress last year to help citizens to break through government firewalls in countries such as China and Iran.

Lugar, the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for that funding to be administered instead by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

State Department officials say that the window for spending the money runs until the third quarter of this year. Clinton said the funds should not be spent on a single firewall-piercing technology, as some lawmakers have urged, but instead go to a variety of tools, "so if repressive governments figure out how to target one, others are available."

Clinton warns governments that limiting Internet will backfire

USA - Citizen complaints about the level of taxes on mobile phones, comparable to tobacco

[] A couple of years ago Bob McIntyre bought his daughter a mobile phone. She was living in Oakland, Calif., at the time, and McIntyre lived in northern Virginia. He told her to buy the phone in Oakland and to send him the bill. With rebates and discounts the phone ended up costing about $25. But when McIntyre got the bill, he hit the roof.

McIntyre, I should point out, is director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal nonprofit. CTJ has a well-established reputation for scrupulously honest research—McIntyre's been tutoring me about tax distribution tables for three decades—and the man doesn't waste a lot of time griping that our wallets have been picked clean by the gol-durned guv'mint. (That's Grover Norquist's racket.) But McIntyre was flabbergasted to receive a bill of nearly $60 for his daughter's cell phone, of which the majority was taxes. The city fathers of Oakland had calculated their tax based on the phone's sticker price of about $300. Consequently, McIntyre ended up paying more for the tax than he did for the phone.

Taxes on mobile phone use are so high that you might wonder whether the government considers their use a vice, like the consumption of alcohol or tobacco. A pack of smokes costs about $5, on top of which state tax will add, on average, $1.45. That's an average tax rate of 22 percent. In the states of Nebraska, Washington, or New York—where taxes on cellular service are highest—the combined state and local tax is 18 or 19 percent, which isn't too far behind. Nationwide, the average state-local tax burden on cell phone service is 11 percent, compared with an average general sales or use tax of only 7 percent.

Cellular Sin Taxes - Why are mobile phone taxes so ridiculously high?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jamaica - the undersea cable from Cuba has been landed, opening the way to improved communications

[jamaica gleaner] JAMAICA ACHIEVED another milestone in its telecommunications industry with the landing in St Ann on Monday of a 240-km undersea fibre-optic cable between the island and Cuba.

The occasion, which took place at Golden Sands in Ocho Rios, was part of a joint agreement between Jamaica, Cuba and Venezuela, with Lime serving as landing partner on the Cuba-Jamaica leg of a plan to link Cuba and Venezuela.

The first leg of the connection, a 1500 km cable from Venezuela to Cuba, was concluded last week. Because of an embargo, it marks the first time in decades that an international telecoms cable was being connected to Cuba.

Installation of the cable should be completed by June this year. The cable will provide direct connectivity between Venezuela, Cuba and Jamaica for voice and data traffic.

Under the agreement signed late last year between LIME and its parent company, Cable and Wireless, and Telecommunicaciones Gran Caribe - which is a joint venture between Cuba (Transbit SA) and Venezuela (Telecom Venezuela) - Lime will carry voice and data traffic from Cuba to Europe, an arrangement which means significant income for Jamaica.

The ultra-high bandwidth infrastructure will provide data download at a speed of 3,000 times faster than the satellite technology which Cuba currently uses, said a release from LIME. The upgraded facilities are also expected to result in lower cost for international calls into and out of Cuba.

Boostig all sectors

Apart from developing communications in the Caribbean, the project is expected to boost other sectors, including business, tourism, education and finance.

Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, who represented Prime Minister Bruce Golding, said the project means increased job opportunities and will facilitate the sharing of information, but cautioned about the approach to the future.

"While we recognised this shared path, it is our approach to the future that will determine the long-term prosperity and development of our country," the senator said.

Cuban ambassador Yuri Gala Lopez said the undersea cable from Venezuela reached Cuba just a few days ago, on the south coast at the eastern end of the island. He said the arrival of the cable to Jamaica renews the bonds between the people of both countries.

Venezuelan minister of science and technology, Ricardo Mendez, speaking through an interpreter, underlined the importance of the occasion by recounting the day, October 6, 1815, when Simon Bolivar landed on Jamaican shores.

He said the venture would have benefits for the countries involved, inasmuch the same way the Petro Caribe initiative is benefiting Caribbean countries.

"Venezuela is completely committed to offer all the support because of its geographical position, to benefit the entire area of the Caribbean," Mendez said.

Meanwhile, former ministers Phillip Paulwell and Anthony Hylton, who, along with Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, were present, said the occasion was a culmination of efforts started years ago.

Undersea Cable Connects Jamaica To Cuba

Australia - Politicians in continuing disagreement over the merits of the NBN and wireless services

[abc] North coast politicians are in disagreement over the threat posed to the National Broadband Network by new wireless technology.

The member for Page, Janelle Saffin, says she's not concerned by Telstra's to upgrade its wireless network.

She says there are major shortcomings with wireless technology, particularly on the north coast.

"When Telstra rolled out 3G, that doesn't provide universal access and in our area we still have some places where mobiles and internet access is patchy," Ms Saffin said.
"So Telstra is not about providing for the whole of Australia, government is and that's what the NBN is about," she said.

But the federal member for Cowper says experience overseas shows next-generation wireless technology could seriously undermine labor's plans.

Luke Hartsuyker says the government has been using comparisons with South Korea's high-speed broadband to show Australia was slipping behind the rest of the world.
He says it's now emerged that only about one third of Koreans have signed up for fixed-line connections.

Mr Hartsuyker says the NBN plan depends on a 70-percent take-up rate.

Pollies in broadband disagreement