Thursday, March 31, 2011

South Africa - Forecasts of consolidation over next two years

[iol] The South African telecoms sector will see more mergers and acquisitions as the market consolidates over the next 18-30 months, according to a telecoms expert.

At the sixth annual Broadband Summit in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Monday, John Holdsworth, CEO of ECN Telecoms, said: “Consolidation is starting to happen already, but you have to have the breadth of services. Those with limited services...their days are absolutely numbered.”

Holdsworth, who earlier this month sold his business to JSE-listed Reunert (RLO), said: “You are going to see a wave of consolidation over the next 18-30 months. I think you will see a host of mergers and acquisitions and a combination of smaller companies disappearing and some being bought out.”

Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, CEO of investment company World of Avatar and a former MD of broadband provider iBurst, told the audience: “The future is data. It is Africa where the opportunities lie; if you are thinking SA you are thinking too small - sub-Saharan Africa is the sweet spot. Sub-Saharan Africa is the play and data is the play.”

Knott-Craig Jnr pointed out that infrastructure was key. “Go and build and they will come. Preferably use your own money - that will focus you.”

He said that whoever provided effective infrastructure over the next five years would be the most powerful. If they did not continue to invest, they would not be the most powerful.

Knott-Craig Jnr noted that Telkom (TKG) continued to be the “crown jewel in the South African telecoms market”, but added that Cell C was making a big play at success through its broadband strategy.

He said that, while Vodacom (VOD) led the pack, “it's difficult to dislodge Vodacom because they have the market share. If you want to challenge them you have to go out and build stuff.

“The crowd that still has the biggest opportunity is Telkom, particularly through 8ta and voice,” said Knott-Craig Jnr.

SA telecoms set for M&A activity

Estonia - European funds are available to bring broadband at 100 Mbps to rural areas

[estonian public broadcasting] Enterprise Estonia has opened a round of European Regional Development Fund backed funding worth over 12.7 million euros for bringing broadband Internet to all points in the country.

The most costly part of the investment into establishing high-speed internet connections of 100 megabits per second in 100 percent of homes - as stated in the Estonian information society development plan - is building a network based on high-speed optic cables.

Communiations operators have little opportunity and incentive to set up networks in areas with a lower population density. After the basic network is completed, free competition will be allowed to take over.

"We support the establishing of around 1,200 kilometers of optic cable network," said Minster for Regional Affairs Siim-Valmar Kiisler. "This makes it possible to telework from smaller rural areas, which results in more freedom to choose a place to live and work. A high-speed internet connection will also contribute significantly to development of local enterprise and increase the general quality of life."

The maximum amount of assistance per project can be up to 639,116 euros. Applications are to be subnitted to Enterprise Estonia by May 30.

Universal Broadband Network Measure Declared Open

UK - Parts of Cornwall are to get superfast broadband with support of STG 13 million

[bbc] Villagers in parts of Cornwall can now surf the internet at the same speed as business leaders in some of the world's financial hotspots.

Chacewater and Blackwater near Truro are thought to be the first rural villages in the UK to get so-called "superfast" broadband.

In September 2010 British Telecom announced it would provide the service to up to 90% of homes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

It is the biggest rural fibre optic roll-out in the UK to date. The final cost is expected to be £132m.

The project, due for completion in 2014, could provide a blueprint for future rural broadband projects.

The telecoms giant will provide £78m in funding, with the European Regional Development Fund contributing around £53m - the largest investment of its kind made by the EU.

One of the places already seeing the benefit of the faster broadband links is the Britannia Hotel in Chacewater.

Robin Mackay, a local businessman from the village, held a business meeting from the Britannia with a colleague in New York via the internet.

Mr Mackay said: "This is the first time we've overtaken the rest of the country. It's quite impressive."

"Business opportunity"
Michael Owen, the landlord of the Britannia Hotel, said: "Village pubs are closing at an alarming rate.

"This is a business opportunity that can't be missed. People will use the hub of the community once again."

BT has already layed more than 100 miles of fibre optic cable which it says will make the service available to 14,000 customers by the end of March.

The arrival of the fast broadband has been welcomed by the business community in Cornwall.

Nigel Ashcroft from the Cornwall Development Company said: "This is the best piece of infrastructure that Cornwall is going to have in the next 20 years.

"We really do need this connectivity. We need to compete in a global economy.

"Our businesses, albeit small and in rural areas, are going to need the best connection to compete for the future."

Within three years up to 90% of Cornwall will have access from fibre optic wires. BT says the remainder of homes and businesses will receive the same service through new satellite and wireless links.

Superfast broadband arrives in Cornish villages

South Africa - Telecoms market will be affected by services bundled with tablets, but a need for spectrum to be released to allow in new entrants

[it web] The South African telecommunications market is part of a global market that is being driven by technology and advancement, with new gadgets and technologies changing the industry almost overnight.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2011, some of what we know will change and be replaced by newer technologies, while other existing telecommunications tools will expand and gain market share in the year ahead.

2011 might become known as the year of the tablet computer, following the breakthrough success of Apple's iPad launch in 2010. “The tablet is set to outpace laptops and notebooks, becoming the most important communication tool in business,” says Managing Director of Alvarion Southern Africa and Nigeria, Winston Smith.

“During the course of the year we are likely to see data, fixed line operators and voice technologies all bundled with tablets. Currently limited to only supporting WiFi and 3G technology, tablets will soon be able to support multiple radio technologies, including embedded WiMax chips, 4G, and high-speed radios. This will be the key to the tablet's continued growth,” says Smith.

“In the cellphone market, the variation between the different smartphones is becoming blurred,” says Smith. Players such as Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, the BlackBerry, and a new offering from an alliance of Nokia and Microsoft is set to be released soon.

“However, the Android, with its open operating system and multi-vendor support looks to continue to outpace the others,” says Smith. The Android operating system has already seized 25% market share across the world and looks likely to grab market share from the likes of Nokia and BlackBerry smartphones in South Africa this year.
Wireless technologies such as 3G, high-speed mobile, WiMax, WiMax enhanced and LTE (long-term evolution) are all set to grow in 2011, says Smith. The various technologies are moving towards converging on each other to all become LTE or 4G, he explains. “The subscriber numbers and uptake of broadband for wireless users is much higher than in cabled options in South Africa, and this trend is set to continue during 2011,” says Smith.

However, one inhibitor to this growth is the regulatory environment in the country. There is still the need for a reviewing of and an auctioning off of the frequency spectrum to new operators, enabling new entrants to participate in the mobile and fixed line environment.

This will allow new operators to supply their own infrastructure instead of selling that of existing operators and increasing competition in the industry. Timelines for this process are continually being extended and the process delayed. These continuing delays are the single biggest inhibitor to the growth and development of this industry at present, stresses Smith.

“Traditional telecommunications technologies such as e-mail are set to stay as one of the main tools used by organisations to stay in contact with people, but the location on which we access it is changing,” says Smith. “The desktop is rapidly being replaced by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers,” he explains.
Social networking tools are also set to increase their impact and spread within the telecommunications market, being used anywhere from HR and management, to personal contact tools. “The likes of Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all growing to be part of the tools used by organisations to contact people, hire staff, market their products and increase brand awareness,” says Smith.

Connectivity options, providing larger amounts of data at faster speeds at a decreased price, are also going to increase in 2011. While connectivity options will become more affordable, consumers will choose to spend the same amount of money to get more data at faster speeds, Smith explains. Broadband technologies are currently capable of 10 megabits per second and above; however, the majority of broadband users are still only experiencing 356 kilobits per second on ADSL connections.

What to expect in the South African telecommunications market in 2011

Australia - calls for a law to reduce customers exposure to roaming "bill shock"

[australian business traveller] Consumer groups are calling for new Australian laws to force mobile phone companies to limit consumers' exposure to global roaming internet fees.

Smartphones such as Apple's iPhone and Google Android-based phones use the mobile network constantly, accessing the internet to update apps, receive email and so on, causing many users to run up huge global roaming bills overseas without making a single phone call.

Global roaming charges internet access at $10 - $20 per MB, with a single smartphone photo sent to a family member, or a short session using Google Maps on a smartphone able to use 1 MB.

The Singapore government is currently introducing similar legislation, which would compel phone companies to allow consumers to set a spending limit on global roaming internet access.

For example, a Singapore mobile phone user travelling abroad could tell their phone company that they didn't authorise charges for internet data usage beyond $100 in any month.

It would then be the mobile phone company's responsibility to cut the user's internet access off once fees reached $100.

Singapore government-owned Optus said it would need time to study the legislation and consider the merits of something similar being introduced in Australia.
"Optus would like to review this proposal in more detail before making any further comment," an Optus spokesperson said.

Optus is the most expensive network in Australia for internet usage while global roaming, charging $20 per MB. Telstra charges $15 per MB for casual usage, and Vodafone charges $10 per MB.

As Australian Business Traveller reported last week, Telstra announced it was introducing a system to send warning SMSes to travellers when they passed $300 worth of data usage while overseas.

Vodafone Australia did not respond to requests for comment.

Rosemary Sinclair, Managing Director of the Australian Telecommunications User Group, said, "We support this initiative from the Singapore Government and encourage the Australian Government to consider taking similar action."
"Data roaming fees are a problem and we have seen cases of customers getting bills on their return of some thousands of dollars.
"Some customers have argued that the extension of such large amounts of credit without prior specific approval brings into question the ability of the carriers to demand payment. These cases have been "settled" in favour of the customers.
"Carriers say they are not big enough to negotiate better data roaming prices - however ATUG and INTUG note that every carrier claims to be too small to negotiate competitive roaming prices.

"Customers are left with inexplicably large data roaming prices, which is why ATUG sees a role for government and regulators in intervening in this market to produce fair prices for customers."

The European Union has moved to create a "single market" for roaming charges across all EU countries, which has seen dramatically reduced roaming rates across Europe for users of European telcos.

Sinclair said a good starting point for Australia would be to involve Asia Pacific countries in creating a multi-country roaming pricing scheme.

Many companies are springing up to provide cheaper global roaming options for smartphone users while travelling. We looked at Xcom Global this morning, which provides a MiFi personal Wi-Fi hotspot to keep in your pocket for each country you travel to, with unlimited internet usage for a flat daily fee.

We also recently covered Tru SIM -- a SIM card that provides both cheap voice and data rates in both the UK and US and Bridge AsiaRoam - a SIM that provides cheap roaming data in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand or India.

Calls for new laws to reel in data roaming rip off

Syria - Qtel is interested in the third licence, despite the political unrest in the country

[rapid tv news] Qtel will continue in its bid for Syria’s third mobile licence in spite of the political unrest in the country, according to the chairman of the Qatari telecommunications company.

“Our board has taken the decision to pursue the third license in Syria. We are going into Syria…and we think it is an important country to be in,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani said after his company’s annual general meeting on Sunday (27 March), according to the Gulf Times.

When asked whether the current unrest in the south of Syria has had any bearing on the group’s plans, Sheikh Abdullah reportedly said: “Absolutely not.”

The Syrian Government has stipulated the licence will be awarded “by way of a multiple round auction with confidential bidding” from applicants who got through the initial phase. As well as Qtel, the remaining players are thought to include Etisalat of the UAE, Saudi Telecom (STC), France Telecom and Turkey’s Turkcell.

The chairman said Qtel has not yet taken any decision on whether to issue fresh bonds to raise capital to fund such a bid, which if successful would see the Qatari company compete for mobile subscribers with Syria’s existing operators SyriaTel, majority owned by local businessman Rami Makhlouf, and South Africa’s MTN.

Between them, these two operators have a mobile subscriber base of about 10.4 million, according to Syria’s Ministry of Telecommunications. Syria’s total population is currently estimated to be about 22 million.

Addressing the general assembly at Qtel’s AGM, Sheikh Abdullah said: “We are investing in the infrastructure that will develop our offering across all markets by focusing on diversification and advanced services like home and mobile broadband which will realise high value for our operations.

“At the same time, we are enhancing and expanding our capabilities around several defining areas that show potential for growth and profits, including digital services, social media and mobility. We will continue to invest in assets and innovations that will set Qtel ahead of its competitors,” he added.

Read more: Qtel set on Syria expansion | News | Rapid TV News

USA - Leap Wireless has a roaming agreement with LightSquared for data capacity

[reuters] Leap Wireless International has entered a roaming agreement with broadband and satellite company LightSquared, it said on Tuesday.

The new agreement will add to the high-speed coverage provided by Leap's Cricket business, giving it extra capacity to handle the demands of data-hungry products like smartphones. Cricket is planning to deploy more high-speed LTE coverage across its own network over the next few years, it has said.

As it does so, Leap, a low-cost carrier, will be able to access more network capacity from LightSquared, a start-up funded by private equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The agreement comes on the heels of AT&T Inc's $39 billion move to scoop up Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA, a deal that has drawn further attention to the rising demand for networks capable of handling demands of popular new gadgets.

In light of the AT&T deal, some analysts and bankers have speculated that Leap Wireless or LightSquared could themselves become takeover targets, potentially of Sprint Nextel Corp.

UK - Government promises superfast broadband in its new enterprise zones

[pc pro] The Government has promised superfast broadband to 21 business-friendly zones under the new budget.

Unveiling the budget, Chancellor George Osborne revealed the Government would create 21 urban "Enterprise Zones". Aside from tax breaks and planning considerations, the zones will all feature superfast broadband, Osborne said.

The budget promises "Government support to ensure superfast broadband is rolled out in the zone. This will be achieved through guaranteeing the most supportive planning environment and, if necessary, public funding."

It wasn't made clear whether that money would come from previously promised funds, or how the Government would define superfast broadband. As the first zones are largely urban, they will likely already have solid broadband connections.

The first Enterprise Zones will be established in Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, and the Tees Valley, as well as the West of England, North East, and the Black Country. The London location is yet to be named, while the other 10 will be open for bidding from interested communities.

The Government also boosted the R&D tax credit for small businesses to 200% from April 2011, and 225% from April 2012, to encourage investment.

From an education standpoint, the Government will fund 80,000 work experience placements and 50,000 apprenticeships over the next four years, and establish 24 new technical colleges by 2014.

Government promises superfast broadband business zones

UK - Cumbria is tendering for a next generation broadband network and ICT services

[computer weekly] Cumbria County Council has issued a tender for two projects worth £121m over five years, one to supply a next generation broadband network and the other IT services to the UK's most sparsely populated county.

It said that it could seek to use the council's private network as the "spine" through which to connect residential and business services at a minimum of 2Mbps, the current national universal service commitment advocated by the central government.

"The project must support the needs of rural communities keen to make their own contribution," it said. "Special provision is made for this in the BDUK funding being made available for next generation network access (NGA) pilots."

The council is using the managed IT contract (Lot 1), worth up to £59.4m, to drive the network acquisition (Lot 2), worth up to £61.6m. The precise inter-operating model between the winners of lots 1 and 2 will be explored and determined through the competitive dialogue process, it said.

The network contract is in two parts: provision of a wholesale broadband network (Accessible Cumbria) (£44.0m), and a managed enterprise network service for the council (£15.4m).

"Partner organisations" such as police, health, and teaching bodies could together add £110m to the contract value. Bidders can bid for either or both lots.

The managed IT contract covers an average of 40 change projects a year that cover finance, HR, payroll, social care and customer service.

The council intends to emphasise virtualisation and knowledge management over the next three years. Beyond that it will look at virtualisation of desktops and servers as a stepping stone on to its ultimate goal of "utility computing".

The council wants the wholesale broadband network to deliver "optimum geographic coverage, aiming for 100%", at a minimum speed of 2Mbps. It must be "open to all service and communications providers on a non-discriminatory basis" and deliver the greatest access speeds (data throughput) to as many businesses and consumers as possible.

"The contractor will be expected to work with a county council approved supply chain to assist community groups to secure a connectivity upgrade for very rural areas," it said.

The tenders calls for the network, partly funded by the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), to be built within 30 to 36 months, with open wholesale access guaranteed for at least seven years.

"The contractor will be expected to own and manage the risks associated with developing and operating a wholesale broadband network, including but not limited to take-up risk. It is therefore anticipated that the contractor will either have a retail capability, or will partner with retailer businesses," it said.

The contractor will also provide logically separated network connectivity and ancillary services to Cumbria's enterprise managed ICT service and connect offices, schools, libraries and other premises, and potentially police, hospitals and clinics, fire and rescue service locations.

"Establishment of a flexible contract open to other public sector bodies is paramount," Cumbria said. "The potential use of that network, to act as a spine for superfast broadband for communities across Cumbria is also a possibility."

India - Forecasts of substantial growth in broadband to become one of the top ten markets

[sify] India's phenomenal growth in broadband in 2010, second only to China and the United States, is leading towards the country soon becoming one of the top ten users of broadband in the world.

That was the message delivered at Convergence India by Broadband Forum Chief Executive Officer Robin Mersh as the Forum staged its first ever news conference in India.

India added more than 2.5 million new lines of broadband last year and now stands at No.13 in the world - having been barely in the top 50 of broadband countries just six years ago.

"There has been tremendous and consistent growth in broadband across India in recent years, yet this is just the tip of the iceberg," Mersh said.

"Both fixed and wireless broadband options abound, and the Broadband Forum is doing all it can to help India's providers engineer smarter and faster networks," he added.

Looking at the global picture, international IPTV subscription had a record 34.6 percent growth in 2010 according to the figures prepared by Point Topic and announced by the Broadband Forum.

Last year was also a landmark year for broadband subscriptions - following the milestone half billion lines achieved in July 2010, subscriber figures continued to climb steadily and ended the year at 523,066,022 - a net addition of over 55 million lines during the year.

With more and more devices coming online and broadband growing at such a steady rate, the timing could not be better for the release of BroadbandSuite 4.0, the IPv6 Toolkit of the Broadband Forum.

The final quarter of 2010 followed a similar pattern to the rest of the year in terms of percentage growth in broadband subscribers, reflecting a steady and sustained increase, which was broadly in line with the previous two years.

Asia is set to overtake Europe during 2011 with China still dominating the rankings both for total subscribers and net additions, as well as in percentage growth terms.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2010, the total number of IPTV subscribers had reached almost 45.4 million, representing over 11.5 million new subscribers over the year and an annual increase of 34.6 percent.

The fourth quarter was the strongest quarter for IPTV growth, adding more than 3.4 million new subscribers and accounting for eight percent of the total growth.

With great broadband commercial success comes real world logistical problems - the surge of new devices coming online will soon exhaust the IPv4 address pool.

To address this looming problem, the Broadband Forum has been focusing its resources to ensure specifications are in place for a smooth integration of the new Internet protocol, IPv6 into network and device management around the world.

The BroadbandSuiteT 4.0 IPv6 Toolkit defines the network support of IPv6 from core to user, brings IPv6 to all TR-101 based network deployments, allows remote management of IPv6 devices, is scalable to address trillions of devices, and future enhancements have the potential to enrich the user experience (supporting secure, mobile and nomadic applications) and enable the proliferation of connected user devices.

"Most importantly, this IPv6 toolkit will help service providers reduce the impact of IPv4 protocol exhaustion on their services today while ensuring the growth of new users, devices and applications continues unhampered," Mersh said.

India set to be one of top ten users of broadband in the world: Broadband Forum

Norway - Younger people expect higher quality Internet service and are willing to upgrade to faster services

[broadband tv news] Norwegians under the age of 30 expect a much higher quality from their internet service and have a greater willingness to upgrade to a higher speed than their older counterparts.

The findings of the survey conducted on behalf of Kabel Norge by research organisations Norstat and Madigan found the under 30s to be generally more discerning. “We see that the Norwegians’ broadband use increases very sharply and annual growth is now over 60%. This means that the whole industry is facing major investments to deliver high enough bandwidth for everyone,” said Kabel Norge chairman Øyvind Husby.

The survey was taken following the recent online coverage by public broadcaster NRK of the World Skiing Championships. The webcasts came in for criticism over concerns it was slowing down access to the internet in Norway.

44% of all Norwegians saw some of the webcasts during the championship. Among Norwegians under 30 the share was 54%, while the percentage decreased to 38% among Norwegians over 50.

While 61% aged over 50 found the quality of the broadcasts were “good – as good as regular TV,” was less than half (47%) of those under 30 were just as happy. The group found that the majority of the connections were of “variable” or “poor quality”.
One surprise is the greater willingness of Norwegians under 30 to pay for good quality broadband, this despite the fact that younger people predominantly have lower incomes. 22% say they are willing to pay more to secure increased broadband capacity, compared with only 15% of Norwegians over 50.

“This shows that the younger ones are both more critical of quality and value broadband higher,” commented Husby. “At the same time it shows that increased investment in networks and infrastructure to deliver higher capacity and better quality can not solely funded by end users, “says Husby.

While 52% of the population says there demand on the internet is increasing, the proportion of the group under 30 is at 62 per cent. The need decreases gradually with age. 45 per cent aged over 50 years sees there need for the internet will stay unchanged.

Younger Norwegians demanding more from broadband

Wales - The government promises to provide C21st networks

[wales online] A PLAID Cymru government would “connect Wales for the 21st century”, boosting mobile signals, Wi-Fi and broadband coverage and delivering a modern transport system, the party’s spring conference was told yesterday.

Rural affairs minister Elin Jones told the conference in Cardiff that the party would pioneer major improvements, including Wi-Fi on public transport and in hotspots across the country and every business and home linked to fast broadband.

She also claimed that Plaid would move to electrify more railways across Wales and improve bus services.

She told delegates at the Wales Millennium Centre: “Plaid Cymru’s plans to ensure that we are leading the way in terms of mobile phone, broadband and Wi-Fi technologies show our commitment to building a contemporary Wales. We know that we have areas in rural and urban Wales that suffer from poor mobile coverage, even along the M4.

“Some communities are so frustrated they are erecting their own community masts. Plaid Cymru wants to develop this approach further and for more communities.”

The party is proposing installing masts on publicly-owned land for use by mobile operators.

In his speech to the conference, former Labour Welsh Secretary Ron Davies – now Plaid Cymru candidate for Caerphilly – launched a scathing attack on his former party, saying it had not stood up for Wales in the last 10 years.

He said: “They couldn’t even stand up to their own backbenchers and get us a proper parliament.”

South Africa - Sentech is once again to try a new strategy, building a national broadband network

[tech central] State-owned broadcasting signal distributor Sentech on Friday provided the first insights into its plans to have another go at building a national broadband network. Sentech outlined its plans to parliament’s portfolio committee on communications as part of its strategic plan for 2011 to 2014.

CEO Setumo Mohapi says the new plan is not meant to compete with private-sector players but rather to provide coverage to areas the private sector has missed.

Sentech wants to provide Internet access to schools, clinics and underserviced rural and municipal areas, and Mohapi has set a deadline of five years to get the network built. “It is certainly doable in three years,” he says.

The company is hoping the department of communications and national treasury will come to the party with additional funding for the plan, with Mohapi saying it needs more money to finance the project.

“There is a deficit on capital and operational funding for the national broadband project, but we believe that a renewed focus on our mandate and the benefits we can show will encourage the shareholder [government] to give us the funds,” he says.
Sentech already has an allocation of R500m for broadband, which was given to it in the 2007/2008 financial year. There’s now more than R580m in the kitty thanks to interest accrued.

However, news that Sentech is gearing up to roll out a new broadband network is likely to met with derision in many quarters after its first attempt at building a wireless broadband business failed hopelessly. The company pulled the plug on its MyWireless business in 2009 after demonstrating it was incapable of running a retail consumer-facing business.

Mohapi says he is aware of Sentech’s poor reputation in the telecommunications industry. Despite this, he says Sentech still has an important role to play in SA’s broadband market — as long as it’s not perceived to be in competition with the private sector.

He says as a government entity, drawing its mandate from the department of communications, Sentech does not have the same pressures as private-sector players to recover capital investment in infrastructure in rural areas.

“We will still make the project sustainable operationally,” he says. There will also be greater infrastructure available to private companies wanting to target higher-risk areas without them having to fork out for their own networks.
Mohapi says Sentech’s own research shows that connectivity to schools in SA is poor. In KwaZulu-Natal, 94% of schools do not have Internet access, from 84% four years ago, he says. In SA’s economic hub, Gauteng, only 59% of schools are connected to the Internet.

“These figures show that the deprivation of broadband access is increasing and, unless there is specific intervention, private companies will not work towards connecting the underserviced.”
Mohapi says Sentech also wants to connect clinics and Thusong (government computing centres) within the next five years.

Sentech outlines new broadband plan

Audi - A new model A8 car is available with LTE at 100 Mbps

[carpages] Audi has unveiled an even more technologically-advanced edition of the long wheelbase Audi A8 luxury saloon, which has been engineered to feature broadband internet with long-term evolution (LTE) technology. LTE technology offers data transfer speeds of up to 100Mbps, which is similar to a fixed-line broadband connection. This means passengers in the prototype can use the LTE broadband connection to stream music, high-definition videos and other data on up to six computer or mobile phone devices with ease. Current 3G connections can only offer data transfer speeds of around 14.4Mbps.

Developed in collaboration with communications pioneer Alcatel-Lucent, the car's mobile broadband connection is a fourth generation ('4G') technology that is hotly-tipped to replace the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard (UMTS) systems that underpin 3G. LTE allows data to be transferred faster than conventional 3G-technology and modern digital subscriber line (DSL) connections - wired landline broadband. LTE can also cope with large numbers of users streaming data, even at peak times, because of its extra bandwidth.

"We will use LTE technology to extend our advantage in automotive networking and further consolidate the Audi connect strategy," explained Michael Dick, Audi Board Member for Technical Development, during the presentation of the Audi A8 L prototype.

Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, announced that LTE technology would be used in cars by early 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year. Just eight weeks into the year, Audi and Alcatel-Lucent have revealed a fully-functioning prototype.

With its quick connection speeds, LTE technology offers more dynamic and reliable internet access, particularly when large amounts of data need to be uploaded or downloaded. Audi technicians have tested the capabilities of LTE by streaming high-definition videos - which have notoriously large data streams - live to the prototype.

The Audi A8 Saloon To Feature A Wireless Broadband Internet Connection

USA - The Enron Broadband case has ended with a 10 year sentence for the inside trader

[business week] Former Enron Broadband Services executive Rex Shelby was sentenced today on an insider trading charge linked to the investment fraud that destroyed the world’s largest energy trader 10 years ago.

Shelby, 59, pleaded guilty to one count of insider trading and was sentenced to three months in a federal halfway house and three months of house arrest. Shelby will also forfeit about $2.6 million in profits from the illicit trade.

Shelby’s lawyer Ed Tomko told a judge that Shelby has also agreed to forfeit another $1 million to resolve related Securities and Exchange Commission charges. He faced a maximum of 10 years and a fine of $1 million on the one count before reaching his plea deal. He’ll be in probation for two years, including the six months of combined confinement.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and all the decisions I made at Enron,” Shelby told the judge today. “No one forced me to do those things.”

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore sentenced Shelby to half the number of months confinement that he’d agreed to in a plea deal. “Mr. Shelby’s actions ultimately did not cause the downfall of Enron,” she said. “Only a few individuals at the pinnacle of Enron knew of the fraud.”

Gilmore said she moderated the sentence to fit Shelby’s role and the punishments given to others in the Enron fraud scheme. She said the fact Shelby has for the last eight years devoted himself exclusively to working on his defense, in “self-imposed home confinement"”, was also a consideration in her decision.

Halfway House

Shelby must report to a federal halfway house in Houston in about a week to begin his sentence, which requires him to complete 230 hours of community service during probation.

Shelby was senior vice president of engineering and operations at Enron Corp.’s internet unit in December 2001, when the energy trader plunged into bankruptcy on revelations of widespread accounting fraud.

Shelby and six other EBS executives were indicted in 2003 on charges they helped the parent company’s senior management, including Enron’s former Chairman Kenneth Lay and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling, deceive analysts and investors about the unit’s capabilities and financial performance.

The executives were accused of misrepresenting EBS at a January 2000 analysts’ conference, where they portrayed it as one of Enron’s “core’’ units, worth about $50 billion. In reality, the division struggled to launch products and never earned a profit.

Enron’s stock soared from $54 a share the day of the analysts’ conference to $72 a share the following day. Shelby sold 150,000 shares on the price increase, reaping gross proceeds of just under $10.7 million, according to his plea.

Avoiding Trial

Shelby had long maintained he sold the shares to diversify his portfolio and not based on any inside knowledge of an alleged conspiracy to inflate Enron’s stock price. To avoid a trial on broader conspiracy and fraud charges, which had been set to begin this past January, Shelby pleaded guilty to one count of insider trading in November.

“The engineers were still working on it, but we left the impression that the technology was complete,’’ Shelby told U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore when he enter his plea Nov. 22. “The next day, I exercised some stock options when I had knowledge that technology was not complete.’’

Shelby’s sentencing marks the end of the Enron Broadband case, which yielded mixed results for the government.

Guilty Pleas

Two of the seven originally indicted EBS executives -- Kenneth Rice and Kevin Hannon, who each served as president of the division at one time -- pleaded guilty before trial and testified against former colleagues.

The remaining five executives, including Shelby, were tried together in Houston federal court in 2005. That trial ended with no convictions and a smattering of acquittals, as jurors failed to reach verdicts on scores of counts.

None of the men were completely exonerated at that trial, and the government vowed to streamline its case and retry them all on narrower charges.

To avoid that retrial, former CEO Joseph Hirko pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in late 2008 and served about 16 months in prison, forfeiting $7 million.

Ex-strategy chief F. Scott Yeager appealed the government’s retrial attempts and in 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he couldn’t be retried based on his partial acquittal by the first jury.


In 2006, prosecutors retried former EBS finance chief Kevin Howard and senior accountant Michael Krautz, resulting in Howard’s conviction and Krautz’s acquittal.

Howard’s verdicts were overturned a year later, after an appellate ruling in a related Enron case found that prosecutors used an invalid legal theory. Howard ultimately pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in June 2009 and accepted a one-year term of house arrest and a $25,000 fine in order to avoid a third trial.

Hannon, Rice and Hirko have since completed their sentences and been released from prison.

The case is U.S. v. Shelby, H-03-093, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

Australia - Parliament has passed the law for the NBN through a deal between Labour and the Nats

[the australian] LABOR has secured the passage of its National Broadband Network laws through an eleventh-hour deal that the Nationals claim could force rural and regional Australians to pay more for future internet services.

Country independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor yesterday agreed to a deal that stopped short of guaranteeing uniform pricing for higher speeds under the $36 billion NBN.

In a frantic bid to salvage support for the NBN, Labor wooed the pair with a written guarantee that the NBN Co would continue to offer - where possible - uniform pricing across fibre, satellite and wireless technologies for speeds above the standard 12 megabits per second. However, the Nationals accused the independents of selling out the bush because they took the government at its word and did not back an opposition amendment to enshrine uniform pricing in legislation for future higher speed broadband access.

The government's assurance to the regional independents came despite Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy last week warning parliament it "could potentially bankrupt the NBN" if the NBN Co was forced to charge the same wholesale prices across all platforms to access the same speeds above the entry-level package.

Seven per cent of all Australians, who live in outer regional and rural areas, will receive their NBN services via satellite or wireless services. These technologies are unlikely to deliver the same ultra-fast speeds in the future at the same cost available on the fibre network.

Anthony Albanese, Senator Conroy's representative in the House of Representatives, said the government had offered a guarantee to the independents that "with regard to future technologies, the principle of uniform wholesale national pricing will be applied where possible".

Senator Conroy said last night the deal cut with the independents was "entirely consistent" with the comments he made in parliament.

While the government was negotiating its deal with the regional independents, the Nationals tried to force their hand by moving an amendment in parliament to change a key piece of NBN-related legislation so all users pay the same for higher broadband speeds. Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker, who moved the amendment, accused the independents of being duped by a government that could not keep its word over a carbon tax.

"It is vital that this uniformity be enshrined in legislation and not depend on a promise from a government that has a track record of not keeping those promises," Mr Hartsuyker said.

The regional independents hit back at the opposition, saying it had never supported the massive government-owned fibre network and was only making political mischief by entering the fray on the day parliament was recalled to force the bills through.

Mr Oakeshott said yesterday the Coalition was "dripping with shameless hypocrisy and inconsistency". He accused the opposition of moving an amendment that would push up the cost of the $36bn network despite having long argued the government was already spending too much on broadband.

Mr Windsor accused Mr Hartsuyker of trivialising the debate over the NBN, saying the network had the potential to overcome the "disadvantage of distance".

"I cannot believe that any member who represents, or purports to represent the country areas of this nation, would actually find arguments to vote against it," he said. "My question for the member for Cowper is: if I support this amendment, do you support the National Broadband Network: yes or no?"

Fellow rural independent Bob Katter also attacked the opposition's position. "I haven't heard the opposition put forward a single solitary piece of technology, and yet they think we should wait for some sort of science fiction fantasy to jump out from behind a bush and provide a service," Mr Katter said. "Well, too bad for you. We've got an offer on the table and we're going to take it."

Senator Conroy said last night: "With the agreement of independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor, Andrew Wilkie, and Greens MP Adam Bandt, the government has committed to prepare a community impact statement on all future policy decisions on technology, speed and/or price, with a view to continue the application of uniform wholesale national pricing where possible.

"It is outrageous that the opposition blocked consideration of this resolution by the house."

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull attacked the commitment made to the independents as doing "little more than assure NBN customers of the level playing field that they have been promised since the start of the project".

Mr Turnbull said Senator Conroy's claim that uniform pricing for all higher speeds across technologies could bankrupt the NBN was an example of "such outrageous and utterly false hyperbole" that has been a "commonly used bow in his rhetorical quiver".

Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce said the government was hypocritical for cutting an agreement with the independents in the House of Representatives when it had panned a similar amendment moved by him in the Senate.

Senator Joyce also accused the independents of being "gullible" for taking the government at its word rather than forcing it to be drawn into the legislation.

"They could have forced it, but they didn't," he said. "Today the independents have failed on behalf of regional Australia."

Senator Conroy said last night the passing of the bills would ensure structural reform of the telecommunications industry and promote competition.

A spokeswoman for the NBN Co said yesterday the debate on the floor of parliament about future high-speed technologies was entirely hypothetical.

Thailand - An operator has proposed new licences all round as the solution to spectrum disputes

[bangkok post] True Move, the country's third-largest mobile operator, has reiterated its call for the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to issue new 15-year mobile licences for all operators to end disputes over concession amendments.

Without a change in the concession system, negotiations over past amendments between private operators and the two state enterprises: TOT Plc and CAT Telecom, could not be settled, said Suphachai Chearavanont, the chief executive of True Corp.

"We will not compensate CAT for damage claimed as a result of concession amendments. We would rather negotiate under new conditions," he said.

Mr Suphachai is scheduled to meet this week with the negotiation committee, chaired by Jeerawan Boonperm, the permanent secretary of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry.

He acknowledged that True Move's concession differed from those of Advanced Info Service (AIS) and DTAC. The company operates on the 1800 MHz spectrum similar to the AIS subsidiary Digital Phone Co (DPC). The state enterprises claim the frequency allocation to True Move breached the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act.

AIS and DTAC, meanwhile, are being asked to pay compensation claimed by the state enterprises for extensions of their concessions, even though the state enterprises approved the changes.

"Our standpoint on the negotiation is that we will pay compensation as the state demands if the state or the NBTC issues us a new licence for 15 years, giving us the rights to the frequency and to operate the business legitimately," said Mr Suphachai.

He said that in any case, he believed the current negotiations would not lead to a conclusion as the country is now preparing for an election in late June or early July. Consequently, politicians and civil servants alike might be reluctant to make any decision in the current political climate, he said.

True Move has reportedly submitted a proposal to compensate the state under one of the following conditions: conversion of its concession, replacing existing concessions with a new licences, extending its concession period for an additional 15 years to 2028; scrapping the condition requiring True Move to transfer all assets built from 2013-28 to CAT; and a three-year grace period before beginning revenue-sharing payments in September 2016.

True proposes new licences for all firms

Thailand - There is deadlock between parties over compensation about spectrum

[bangkok post] Preliminary negotiations on compensations for concession amendments between private mobile operators and the state telecom enterprises have ended in deadlock with key facts still in dispute.

There has been no clear indication that private telecom companies were responsible for causing damage to TOT Plc and CAT Telecom in terms of lost revenue, said Wichian Mektrakarn, the chief executive officer of Advanced Info Service.

"Following a few negotiation meetings with the state representatives, we have not been given any clear explanation of how the concession changes in past had caused damage in revenue losses to the two state telecom enterprises," he said.

"They also gave us no precise damage costs resulting from the concession amendments."

Digital Phone Co, the 1800-MHz mobile unit of AIS, has been asked to submit compensation proposals to a committee tomorrow. AIS is required to submit all of its details on April 1.

Last Tuesday, the investigative committee chaired by Jeerawan Boonperm, the ICT ministry's permanent secretary, asked CAT's president to identify compensation figures related to concession amendments of DTAC and TrueMove.

CAT is demanding 22.44 billion baht from DTAC for revenue losses and 8.2 billion baht from TrueMove.

But the talks failed to reach an agreement on the compensation figures.

All three major mobile operators _ AIS, DTAC and TrueMove _ have insisted that they will not compensate state telecom enterprises for damages claimed as a result of concession amendments, as they fear a legal domino effect that could trigger more demands.

However, the operators said they were willing to negotiate under new terms, with a possible focus on compensation for revenue losses from changes to concessions after the original pacts expired.

The original contract of AIS with TOT expired on Sept 30, 2010, while DTAC's original concession with CAT Telecom ended in September 2006. Both received extensions in 1996: AIS to 2015 and DTAC to 2018.

Concession compensation talks at impasse

Thailand - Continuing disputes amongst operators and concession holders over fees and compensation

[bangkok post] Rival mobile phone operators should take legal action to block a contentious deal reached between True Move and its concession holder, state-owned CAT Telecom, says the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Advanced Info Service and DTAC should target the acting National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) for failing to properly scrutinise the deal, said Somkiat Tangkitvanich, the TDRI vice-chairman.

He said the operators could claim the regulators were negligent under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, which deals with actions by government officials that cause damage to the state.

The True contract, hastily arranged after the company acquired the small Hutch mobile business in which CAT had been a shareholder, runs for 14 years and removed huge uncertainty about what would happen when True's existing concession with CAT expired in 2013.

Sudharm Yoonaidharm, a member of the acting NBTC, maintains it has no authority to decide on the True-CAT contract, pending a legal interpretation from the Council of State.

The acting regulator has only five members and the formal selection of the 11 members who will sit on the NBTC could take months or even years.

The NBTC law passed last year says that any decision must involve at least six members of the body.

The NBTC tentatively concluded that the True-CAT deal might fall under the 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act.

"The contract was considered unusual. It violated the NBTC law 2010 and Section 46 of the Spectrum Allocation Law, which says frequencies could not be transferred to other parties to operate instead," said Dr Somkiat.

AIS and DTAC had the right to petition against the acting NBTC as they stood to lose opportunities if True gained an edge in 3G mobile development, he said.

Col Natee Sukolrat, a member of the acting NBTC, said the True-CAT deal was very complicated _ involving four companies overseen by two new True subsidiaries _ and it was hard to reach a conclusion in a short time.

He said his personal view was using other frequencies to sell or provide service without developing applications would not breach Section 46 as it did not involve any management change.

TDRI urges mobile rivals to sue over True-CAT pact

UK - Regulator is to cut BT Openreach's wholesale prices by up to 9 per cent

[computer weekly] Ofcom proposes to impose real cuts of up to 9% on the wholesale price of a range of BT Openreach's products.

These products cover areas where Ofcom has found that Openreach has significant market power and therefore must accept price regulation. This consultation covers wholesale charges for BT's copper-based telephone and broadband services delivered, local loop unbundling (LLU) and wholesale line rental (WLR).

LLU allows communications providers to install their equipment in Openreach's telephone exchanges to provide broadband and telephone services to their customers; and WLR uses lines and equipment rented from Openreach.

Ofcom said the number of "unbundled" lines has increased from 123,000 in September 2005 to 7.59 million today, and there are 6.14 million WLR connections in the UK.

Ofcom to cut Openreach prices up to 9% in real terms

South Africa - i3 Africa promises FTTH to 2.5 million homes by 2016 in six major cities

[telegeography] According to TechCentral i3 Africa, a new company backed by the National Empowerment Fund, has announced plans to build a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network connecting up to 2.5 million homes within the next four to five years. The network, which is set to be built in six cities — Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Pretoria — promises to provide customers with minimum connection speeds of 100Mbps. The network will operate on an 'open-access' principle, allowing third-party internet service providers (ISPs) to sell services to consumers; i3 Africa will not sell services directly to customers.

CEO Cornelius Groesbeek told TechCentral that the company will spend between ZAR5 billion (USD725.4 million) and ZAR6 billion on the network — approximately one-third of the cost usually associated with a FTTH rollout. i3 Africa plans to make savings by utilising metropolitan sewerage and water networks, negating the need for expensive civil works. i3 Africa has selected Durban to house a pilot network, and work on a 100km stretch is already underway. Upon completion, the Durban leg will consist of 2,500km worth of access fibre and a further 7,500km of FTTH/FTTB. Groesbeek commented: 'We’ve decided to focus first on Durban, which has a history of being an early adopter of innovative technologies, but we are engaging with everyone. We will have all that done during 2012, and sometime next year we will start on the core network in a second city'. A commercial rollout is planned from mid-2011.

i3 Africa announces plans to connect 2.5 million homes to fibre within five years

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India - Ministry expects to send national broadband plan to cabinet in coming weeks

[the hindu] The Telecom Ministry has said that it will send the national broadband policy, aimed at setting up networks estimated to cost Rs 60,000 crore to facilitate high-speed data and e-governance, to the Cabinet in the next few weeks.

“The Telecom Department will send the national broadband policy to the Cabinet in the next few weeks before which it will be cleared by the Telecom Commission,” the Secretary, Department of Telecom, Mr R. Chandrasekhar said at a FICCI event here today.

Earlier during the day, the Telecom Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, met various operators to discuss the national broadband policy.

In December last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India came out with its recommendations to set up a national broadband network which is estimated to cost about Rs 60,000 crore.

TRAI, which came up with its recommendations on the ‘National Broadband Plan’, had said the project would be financed by Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund (under the DoT) and the loans provided by the Government.

The recommendations from TRAI came amid the Government’s failure to meet its target of 20 million broadband connections by 2010.

Besides, the recommendations on ‘National Broadband Plan’ is expected to facilitate inclusive growth of the country by including large rural population in governance and decision-making process and extend to the rural areas better education, health and banking facilities.

Established in two phases, this network would be an open access optical fibre network connecting all habitation with a population of 500 and above and would be completed by 2013.

The network will provide easy access to high-speed data and information to citizens, promoting thereby efforts in the field of education, health and others, the recommendations added.

To roll-out the nationwide networks, TRAI has also recommended formation of a government-owned holding company — National Optical Fibre Agency (NOFA).

Besides, the centralised holding company, the authority has also recommended formation of — State Optical Fibre Agency (SOFA) — in every state with 51 per cent equity held by NOFA and the rest by the respective state governments. Both the government holding companies are expected to ring in an annual revenue of Rs 26,000 crore.

National broadband policy to go to Cabinet soon

USA - Kickbacks and bribes were paid in a programme for reduced Internet rates for schools in Illinois

[pc world] The former owner of an Illinois technology firm has pleaded guilty to providing bribes and kickbacks to school districts in exchange for networking contracts that were part of a U.S. government program designed to bring Internet services to schools and libraries in poor areas.

Tyrone Pipkin, a former co-owner of Global Networking Technologies in Illinois, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Federal Communication Commission's E-Rate program, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Pipkin, acting on behalf of his own company and Computer Training Associates, told schools that if they chose one of the two companies for E-Rate contracts, their matching fees required by the FCC would be waived, according to court documents. Pipkin and a co-owner at Global Networking Technologies also offered bribes to school officials and employees if they circumvented the required competitive bidding process required in the E-Rate program in favor of one of the two companies, the court documents said.

Pipkin also submitted E-Rate applications to the FCC containing forged signatures of school employees, according to court documents.

Tech Firm Owner Pleads Guilty to E-Rate Conspiracy

Mauritius - Orange is testing FTTC and GPON to resorts, hotels and government offices

[balancing act] Fibre-To-The-Home is beginning to be announced in Africa's larger markets: Jamii Telecoms in Kenya, i3Africa in South Africa and Algerie Telecom has been piloting it. But for most telcos, the next stage after fibre metronets is rolling out Fibre-To-The-Cabinet.

Both offer a route for fixed line telcos to re-invent themselves and position themselves ahead of the competition but there is a need for a good combination of a strong fibre network investment and content services to deliver over the newly created network.

Mauritius is part of Africa but is very different from it. There are higher wealth levels and it is a geographically compact island with good infrastructure, including a high level of fixed line penetration.

Orange Mauritius started investing in Fibre-To-The-Cabinet with a pilot test in the west coast resort of Wolmar as far back as 2006 and by 2007 it had 15 cabinets in place and that has been built up to 77 cabinets this year. According to CEO Sarat Lallah:"We're still rolling out and want to increase the coverage so that it's island-wide. We place the cabinet on the street and the last mile is copper."

The overall objective is to give fibre coverage to all but a very small percentage of the population by 2015. Alongside this network, it has rolled out Fibre-To-The-Company:"We've deployed fibre to hotels using our GPON network and to companies in Cyber City in Ebene. All Government offices have four 100 mbps connections."

Orange Mauritius Turns IPTV And Fibre-to-the-Cabinet Into 'A Driver for Growth'

Jamaica - O'Brien's Digicel is to acquire the Claro network of Carlos Slim

[ict pulse] On March 11, it was announced that Digicel had purchased Claro, the third mobile operator in Jamaica. The transaction will effectively reduce the number of mobile operators from three to two.

The extent to which competition in the mobile market will be affected by the purchase is expected to be the most crucial consideration of the regulatory review process. In any market where fair competition is desired, it is important that no one player controls the market or is unaffected by the actions of its competitors or of consumers. Currently, Digicel is reported to have the largest share of the mobile/cellular market in Jamaica. Although Claro had the smallest market share of the three operators, Digicel’s market share will undoubtedly increase thanks to the acquisition. Hence the regulators should consider the impact of this change with regard to (among other things):

- the extent to which Digicel’s market power will change
- how the market concentration will change
- the possible effects of the purchase on other operators in the market and on competition in general.

Secondly, one of the primary objectives of competition and regulation is to realise benefits to consumers. Competition is generally expected to drive down rates, and to improve access to and the availability of a broad range of telecoms services. Hence another matter that must be considered is whether or not, or the extent to which, the acquisition is in the long-term interest of end-users.
Further, the regulators should attempt to determine whether competition in the mobile market will be substantially lessened if the purchase were approved. Digicel’s acquisition of Claro will decrease the number of players on the market from three to two.

Finally, there has been a history of rivalry between the two mobile operators from which consumers have benefitted, but that will no longer obtain. The regulators will need to examine these and other markers of competition to better inform their decisions and recommendations.

Is the Claro sale to Digicel good for competition in Jamaica?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Syria - Attacks on offices of Syriatel, the down side of being the cousin of the President

[bbc] Syrian forces have fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters in the southern city of Deraa, reports say.

At least 61 people have died in 10 days of protests in Deraa, amid a wave of unrest that has shaken the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, troops are out in force in the northern city of Latakia, after 12 people died in clashes this weekend.

An Associated Press photographer said two police cars had been smashed in the main Sheikh Daher square. The offices of SyriaTel, the mobile phone company owned in large part by a cousin of President Assad, had been burned, he said.

Syria protests: Tear gas in Deraa as army takes Latakia

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Australia - Developers are to be required to make new homes network ready or face fines

[zdnet] Developers will have to ensure that their new developments are National Broadband Network-ready or risk facing penalties under legislation discussed in parliament today.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese told Parliament this morning that, if passed, the new rules will apply to all new developments, including broadacre estates, urban infill and urban renewal projects.

Generally, the rules that require developers to install fibre into new premises will apply to any new development in the National Broadband Network (NBN) Co's "long-term fibre footprint". It is expected to affect around 1.9 million new premises in the course of the NBN roll-out.

Albanese said developers will have to meet the cost of trenching and "passive infrastructure".

Developers are free to use other telecommunications providers, as NBN Co will remain the "fibre provider of last resort".

Telstra will be playing a transitional role to provide services to places where NBN Co may not yet have fibre.

Albanese said penalties will apply to developers who lease or sell land or a building in a new development that do not have fibre-ready facilities.

However, the actual sale or lease transaction will remain valid.

NBN Co has been the fibre provider of last resort since 1 January this year in response to industry concern over how the roll-out of the NBN will affect businesses providing fibre to new housing developments.

NBN Co will establish a panel of providers who can bid to install the fibre at these developments.

The legislation was first introduced into Parliament a year ago, but failed to pass prior to the 2010 Federal election.

Debate on the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2011 has been adjourned.

New NBN Bills impose developer penalties

New Zealand - Regulator has retained regulation for backhaul links used for unbundled bitstream access

[comcom] The Commerce Commission today announced that no competitive services have developed for unbundled bitstream access (UBA) backhaul links. This means all UBA links will remain subject to the terms of the UBA backhaul Standard Terms Determination (STD). The decision is a result of a review by the Commission into whether Telecom faces competition for providing these services.

UBA backhaul service allows other telecommunications companies to supply broadband services to customers without the need to replicate Telecom’s copper local loop. UBA backhaul allows access to, and interconnection with, the part of Telecom’s fixed public data network that connects the customer’s building to Telecom’s first data switch (or equivalent facility).

“Competitive UBA backhaul markets have not developed because of the small number of enhanced UBA services that are being purchased from Telecom. In addition, unlike the unbundled copper local loop (UCLL) backhaul, there is no appropriate commercial service that would allow alternative backhaul providers to aggregate backhaul traffic inside the exchange,” said Dr Ross Patterson, Telecommunications Commissioner.

Where the Commission finds that there is competition on a link, the terms of the UBA backhaul STD will not apply. By contrast, where Telecom is found to face limited competition on a link, the terms of the UBA backhaul STD will apply.

The Commission intends to complete a review of all UBA backhaul links annually.

Competitive services have not developed for UBA backhaul links, says Commerce Commission
see also full report

South Africa - Telkom continues to see strong links to the Government as a major shareholder

[times LIVE] Government will continue to be consulted on key issues regarding Telkom because it remains a significant shareholder in the listed telecommunication company.

Telkom chair Lazarus Zim said this week, following the announcement that Nombulelo "Pinky" Moholi had been appointed as CEO, that the company was run by its management and board, but that government was a "strong ally'' in the process.

Government is the biggest shareholder in Telkom, with a direct interest of 39.8%. However, government's special class-A or "golden" share, which gave it the right to appoint five of the company's 12 directors, including its chairman, expired on March 5.

Zim was appointed shortly before the expiration, leading to speculation on his appointment being an attempt by government to retain some influence over the board.

When asked about the speculation, Zim questioned why he was suddenly seen as a representative of government.

"I have been in the telecommunication sector before, I spent most of my career in the ICT sector and I am not new to Telkom," he said.

Regarding the timing of his appointment, he said government had to appoint a new chair at the time as the term of the previous chair (Jeff Molobela) has expired.

"We now have a CEO who was appointed after the golden shares expired."

Zim is reported to have close business ties with the Gupta family and Duduzane Zuma, President Jacob Zuma's son.

He said rumours about these relationships helping him to clinch deals did not bother him.

"Why should it bother me?" he asked.

"I am here to do a job at Telkom and my track record speaks for itself."

Moholi's appointment comes after acting CEO Jeffrey Hedberg said in January he would not renew his contract when it expired at the end of this month.

He will stay on in an advisory capacity until the end of June. When Moholi takes over on April 1 she will be the company's fifth CEO since its listing in 2003.

Hedberg's decision not to stay on at Telkom was seen as a blow for the troubled company, but Moholi's appointment was widely welcomed.

As a telecommunications and Telkom veteran she was seen as a the front-runner for the job for the past two weeks.

Zim said this week the process to appoint a chief financial officer was on the go and that a "good shortlist" had been compiled. "We had to wait for the CEO to come into place as we have to make the decision with her," he said.

"We cannot appoint a CFO without a CEO. The normal business rules apply. I do not know why you would expect Telkom to behave differently."

Moholi said there was no denying the challenges at Telkom, especially with regard to leadership. The challenges were the consequences of some bad investments by the company, she said.

"But there is also a lot of value in the company, the biggest of which is its world-class network," she said.

"The economy of this country runs on Telkom networks. Therefore if Telkom fails, the country fails."

On retrenchment plans - Telkom is said to be up to 20% overstaffed - Moholi said Telkom had offered voluntary separation packages. She said as there were areas in the company with skills shortages, a "responsible citizen would have to look at retraining people and move them into the areas of the future".

State a 'strong ally' to Telkom - Zim

USA - The regulator has approved Qwest's purchase of Century-Link

[omaha] The Qwest-CenturyLink merger took a big step toward becoming official Friday as the Federal Communications Commission approved the deal.
In doing so, the FCC imposed a number of broadband requirements, including access for low-income consumers and increased capacity, along with protections for competitors. The combined company will be required to offer qualifying households in its 37-state footprint broadband access for less than $10 per month, and a computer for less than $150.
The company also will need to spread broadband speeds of 4 megabits per second to 4 million homes and businesses and 20,000 institutions like schools and libraries.
Oregon is the only remaining state yet to give the deal the go-ahead.
The companies expect to close the merger on April 1.

FCC approves Qwest merger

Internet - a new gTLD is to be created for sex sites as .XXX

[LA Times] Call it the red light district of the Internet.

The aptly named .xxx domain for adult-content websites was approved Friday by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, the group that manages the creation and distribution of Web addresses, despite fierce opposition from established porn stars and others in the industry who argued the decision would lead to censorship.

Florida-based company ICM Registry proposed the domain name .xxx in 2004 with plans to sell Web addresses, and a horde of adult-content websites and publications are now expected to register their brands lest they get snapped up by others. The triple-x domain suffix will not, however, be required by law for websites featuring ribald material.

“For the first time, there will be a clearly defined Web address for adult entertainment, out of the reach of minors and as free as possible from fraud or malicious computer viruses,” ICM Chief Executive Stuart Lawley said in a statement.

Lawley said that his company has already been flooded by thousands of requests to reserve more than 200,000 domain names.

Critics of the move, which include Los Angeles-based adult video producer Vivid Entertainment and the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult industry, have argued that the domain-suffix would create a virtual, stigmatized section of the Internet that would ultimately curb free speech and be easier to censor.

Lawley has previously talked about his plans to build a "PayPal for porn" system that could process more than a $1 billion in transactions a year.

Adult content websites get .xxx domain

USA - The Economist comes down against the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA

[the economist] BEWARE of habitual monopolists bearing gifts—especially if they operate in shamefully uncompetitive markets. AT&T’s proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA would create a dominant mobile-phone operator, with a 39% market share in America, and a near-duopoly with Verizon, the current market leader: together their combined share would be 70%. It is a mark of the mess that the United States has made of telecoms not just that such a deal is being considered, but also that a duopoly might actually bring genuine short-term benefits. All the same, it would be far better if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice blocked the T-Mobile merger—and tried to reform the market instead.

Not so fast, Ma Bell

Africa - Increasing competition in international links with more cables coming into service

[business daily africa] Competition within the international fibre optic segment is set to intensify in coming months as new players enter the market and existing projects move to consolidate on their regional presence.

Kenyan firms will soon enjoy increased access to the Internet through an expanded number of fibre optic cable providers within the next six months, a factor that analysts say could push pricing for data products down in the next year.

The privately owned Seacom project is one of three international fibre cables that connects directly to Kenya’s coast, carrying high-speed data connectivity to the countries within the region.

“The latest developments are integral to the continued development and expansion of networks in Africa and in particular to countries that have had limited access to broadband connectivity,” said Suveer Ramdhani, Seacom’s Head of Product Strategy.

Seacom, alongside the government-led TEAMs and operator-run EASSy projects, provide the region with cheaper and more reliable internet and telephony connectivity.

International fibre operator Seacom recently announced that it has extended its network deepening competition in the fibre segment as operators race to connect the eastern seaboard of Africa.

The company said it had added Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe to its network, saying the move was part of an ongoing focus to connect the continent.

All three projects are likely to compete with a new entrant in the form of France Telecom, which recently announced that it was committing Sh1.5 billion (14 million euros) to extend the “Lower Indian Network 2” (LION 2) submarine cable to the LION cable to Kenya via Mayotte.

With the LION and LION2 cables, France Telecom will have access to three telecommunication highways, enabling it to route voice and data telecommunications via La Réunion and Mauritius.

Fibre optic firms flood Kenyan coast

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Zealand - Leaks about the faster broadband network reveal wholesale prices

[NZ herald] Leaked documents show that New Zealand's new ultra-fast broadband network will come with a variety of options and moderate prices, with connections starting at an estimated $47 a month.

The Herald has obtained a "price book" revealing the wholesale charges set by the Government agency in charge of the UFB, Crown Fibre Holdings.

The wholesale charges are for the Local Fibre Companies bidding on UFB contracts around the country, and will be set at different levels for the next ten years.

While retail costs for UFB plans remain unclear as of now, they can be estimated by adding an 18 per cent retail margin as defined by the Commerce Commission previously, and GST.

Leaked Govt broadband plan comes in for criticism

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Internet - 300 TB of data on real connection speeds with locations provided by Google

[ars technica] How fast is your broadband? M-Lab, a partnership between the New America Foundation and Google meant to measure Internet connections, has given Google two years worth of actual broadband connection data, as measured by users. That's more than 300TB of data, which Google has imported into its Public Data Explorer for easy viewing and analysis. The results are remarkable.

Measuring Internet access has been tricky for years. Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation told Ars back in 2009, when M-Lab got underway, that detailed network data about speeds, latency, jitter, and more used to be in the public domain until the government-run NSFnet was privatized in the earlier 1990s. Today, though, it's hard to know what speeds ISPs are actually offering (knowing what speeds they advertise, by contrast, is simple).

M-Lab has distributed testing tools for two years now and its servers have recorded data on the results. One of the most basic measurements is pure speed, measured in megabits per second. When these real-world speeds are charted on a map, they make Internet speed differences obvious in a way often obscured by simple lists and numbers. For instance, the two images below compare Internet download speeds in US states to Internet download speeds in European countries (many of which are the same size as US states). Speeds are medians.

Google maps 300TB of real-world Internet speed data

Monday, March 21, 2011

Solomons Islands - New licences to be issued by the regulator

[radio australia] A new type of telecommunications licence is to be introduced in Solomon Islands allowing local businesses into the industry for the first time.

The class licences, as they are called, will be available by the end of April.

The authorities hoped the licences will lead to big improvements in the availability of internet services, especially in the rural areas.

New telecommunications licences for Solomons business

UK - Regulator has slashed mobile termination rates of the four mobile operators

[reuters] British telecoms regulator Ofcom will reduce the amount mobile operators can bill for connecting to their networks, cutting charges by 80 percent over four years among the main players.

Ofcom said that from April 1 the four national network operators 3UK (0013.HK), O2 (TEF.MC), Everything Everywhere (DTEGn.DE)(FTE.PA) and Vodafone (VOD.L) faced a reduction in so-called termination rates -- the wholesale charges that mobile operators impose to connect calls to their networks.

The changes would, among other things, reduce the cost to landline companies of connecting calls to mobile networks, the regulator said on Tuesday.

"Ofcom expects these savings to be passed on to consumers in the competitive UK landline market," it said in a statement. "Some operators have already promised to lower their charges."

Ofcom said the new rules should also result in more choice, introducing more pricing flexibility into the market and resulting in a greater range of packages available to customers.

For the four main operators, Ofcom said it would set rates by only taking into account the costs incurred directly from accepting calls from other networks. For 28 other smaller providers or new-entrants, Ofcom said it would set rates on a "fair and reasonable" basis.

For the leading operators, the current cap will drop from as much as 4.48 pence per minute to 2.66 pence per minute from April 1 and to 0.69 pence by 2014/2015.

UK cuts cost of connecting calls across networks

UK - Inflation calculations now include the cost of smartphones in the basket of prices

[bloomberg] The price of smartphones and dating-agency fees will help determine Britain’s inflation rate after the Office for National Statistics added them to the list of goods and services it monitors to gauge living costs.

They will be included for the first time in the basket of about 650 goods and services that make up the consumer prices index and the retail prices index, the agency said in an e-mailed statement released in London today. The revised basket will be incorporated into February’s inflation data, due to be released on March 22.

The list is reviewed annually to ensure it represents consumer spending, with changes made for reasons ranging from improved technology to popularity. The changes announced today reflect “new trends” in spending habits, the ONS said. As well as smartphones, the software applications that run on them will replace mobile-phone downloads such as ringtones and wallpaper images, it said.

“Many of these new items show the way technology is changing our lives,” ONS statistician Phil Gooding said in the statement. “Powerful smartphones and the applications that run on them have become essential for many when communicating or seeking information. Likewise, increasing numbers of people now seek a partner via internet dating sites.”

The ONS will also add sparkling wines and remove vending- machine cigarettes and replace pork-shoulder joints with oven- ready joints. Television prices will now be collected differently, with the price of televisions bigger than 32 inches (81 centimeters) being measured separately to reflect the trend of households now setting up “home-cinema” systems, it said.

Germany - Telekom's boss praised for selling US subsidiary

[reuters] Rene Obermann can finally bask in rare praise, after more than five years trying to get investors on his side.

Obermann's decision to draw a line under Deutsche Telekom's global ambitions by selling T-Mobile USA -- a quarter of the company -- to U.S. operator AT&T for $39 billion appears to have redefined external perceptions of him overnight.

As chief executive his image has been of a low-key and somewhat uninspiring leader, eager to keep unions and politicians happy and wary of taking big strategic decisions.

The AT&T deal has forced people to revise that view of Obermann, a German born in March 1963, not least because few had expected such a decisive break with the past.

"You could say he has put his mark on the company," Silvia Quandt analyst Jacques Abramovicz said.

Ending Telekom's U.S. odyssey earns Obermann praise

USA - Consumer groups see AT&T/T-Mobile merger as unthinkable

[the hill] There is no ambiguity about how consumer groups will view the proposed merger of T-Mobile USA and AT&T: "Unthinkable," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn.

"We think that U.S. regulators should take a page out of Reed Hundt's playbook and declare this merger 'unthinkable' (as he did when it was rumored that AT&T would merge w. SBC in 1987)," Sohn said.

"The proposed merger shows how desperately the U.S. needs both strong network neutrality rules and competition policy that requires dominant broadband providers to make their networks available to competitors," she said.

Further statements from consumer groups are on the way, and the general tilt of those comments can be expected to reverberate in remarks from congressional Democrats.

AT&T will likely have to look to House Republicans to hold the torch for this merger, but even ubiquitous backing from the GOP is hardly certain as the party has repeatedly turned to antitrust as a way to ensure healthy competition.

Consumer groups: AT&T + T-Mobile is 'unthinkable'

USA - Chairman of regulator says it has a laser focus on broadband, despite distractions

[executivegov] Despite being mired in mud fights with Congress over net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission main point of focus may well be its national broadband plan.

A National Journal report evaluating the plan’s goals against what the agency has implemented after about a year finds room for both those who tout success as well as those who discuss their doubts.

About 10 percent of the plans 200 proposals are complete, about 56 percent are “in progress” and 34 percent remain “untouched,” according to National Journal.

Factor in the 10-year timeline for reaching those goals and “that puts the FCC roughly on track,” National Journal said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has sought to pivot from the red-hot net-neutrality debate to focus on the broadband issue, which is more likely to foster political consensus.

At a recent conference, Genachowski said the agency was “focused like a laser” on the issue, National Journal reported.

Successes include the FCC’s spectrum auctions, which leverage unused broadcast TV spectrum to bolster wireless networks as well as the E-rate program extending access to schools and libraries.

However, skeptics argue FCC is moving too slowly on its initiatives, such as a national public safety communications network and a restructuring of the Universal Service fund to bring broadband coverage to rural areas.

Genachowski: FCC ‘Focused Like a Laser’ on Broadband

USA - Obama's regulators face significant challenges in deciding the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA

[wsj] AT&T Inc.'s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA is as much a wager on the political environment in Washington as it is a bet on the future of the U.S. wireless market.

The phone giant's proposed acquisition represents a challenge to the Obama administration Justice Department, which has signaled it will police mergers more aggressively than under the prior Republican administration.

It also comes as the Federal Communications Commission, which also can effectively veto the deal, is wrestling with how to widen access to mobile broadband services, and preparing to issue a report that raises fresh concerns about competitiveness in the wireless market.

On AT&T's side of the ledger is a long history as one of the top-spending lobbying operations and campaign contributors in Washington, ties to influential lawmakers and policy makers in both parties, and the backing of the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents thousands of AT&T workers.
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Since 1989, AT&T has been the top corporate donor to members of Congress, shelling out more than $46 million in campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last year, the company spent $15.4 million on lobbying in Washington. It had 93 lobbyists working on its behalf, federal lobbying records show.

The head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, Christine Varney, promised early in her tenure to more aggressively review mergers to assure they don't hurt competition. Before taking her current job, Ms. Varney was a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, and specialized in technology antitrust matters.

But so far, the Obama Justice Department hasn't blocked a large, high-profile deal outright. Two controversial deals—Ticketmaster's acquisition of Live Nation Inc. and Comcast Corp.'s purchase of NBC-Universal—were both allowed to proceed, albeit with significant conditions.

Antitrust lawyers say AT&T's bid is riskier because it's largely a "horizontal" deal in which a company buys a direct competitor. The deals for Live Nation and NBCU were largely "vertical" deals involving companies operating at different stages of the distribution chain.

"This is the standard horizontal merger where, unless they can spinoff enough market share, I would expect a challenge," said Spencer Waller, an antitrust law professor at Loyola University Chicago

AT&T Deal Is Key Test for Obama Regulators

USA - AT&T CEO claims LTE infrastructure is "critical" to success of economy

[wsj] AT&T Inc. (T) Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said that a super-fast wireless network covering a majority of the country is critical to the U.S. economy, making a case for why his company should be allowed to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG.

Stephenson, speaking to analysts on a conference call, said that he plans to work closely with regulators to get approval for the deal, and is confident of its prospects.

Stephenson said his early read on the deal is that no divestitures are required to complete the deal, but noted that the stance may change after discussions with regulators.

AT&T CEO: LTE Infrastructure Critical To US Economy

Hong Kong - PCCW may spin off telecoms business because of poor performance on stock exchange

[bloomberg] PCCW Ltd. (8), billionaire Richard Li’s flagship listed company, is considering spinning off telecommunications assets after its shares lagged behind other Hong Kong phone operators this year.

PCCW has started talks with regulators in Hong Kong on the possible spinoff, it said in a statement to the city’s stock exchange today. Plans for the possible transaction are at a preliminary stage, it said.

SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings Ltd. and Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings Ltd. (215) have outperformed the city’s benchmark Hang Seng Index this year, while Li’s phone unit has fallen 4.7 percent. Telecommunications generates most of the company’s revenue and earnings.

PCCW spokeswoman Anita Choi couldn’t immediately comment on which of the company’s telecommunications businesses will be included in the proposed business trust.

PCCW shares rose 3.7 percent to HK$3.40 in Hong Kong trading as of 9:34 a.m. The stock has declined 1.7 percent this year.

SmarTone, controlled by Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. (16), has surged 79 percent this year, while Hutchison Telecommunications has gained 13 percent

PCCW may list the telecommunications operations as a business trust, the company said. Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man and the PCCW chairman’s father, spun off some container-terminal operations from Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (13) earlier this month. The newly-formed entity, Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, fell 5.9 percent on its first day of trading on March 18.

In October 2008, PCCW scrapped the proposed sale of as much as 45 percent of its HKT Group Holdings Ltd. unit, owner of the company’s main telecommunications and pay-television businesses, citing a lack of attractive offers.

Richard Li’s PCCW May Spin Off Telecommunications Business

Australia - Govt is to introduce legislative amendments to address problems with potential "cherry picking" with NBN

[zdnet] The Federal Government has announced plans to introduce a number of amendments to National Broadband Network legislation to address industry concerns around cherry-picking provisions for fibre network providers.

In the Senate this morning during debate on the National Broadband Network Companies Bill 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (NBN Measures — Access Arrangements) Bill 2010, Labor Senator Mark Arbib, speaking on behalf of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, indicated that the Federal Government would introduce amendments to cherry-picking provisions in the legislation after engaging with industry.

"[The government will introduce] a series of amendments [that] clarifies the operation of the level playing field provisions, ensuring they are focused more tightly on local access networks targeting residential and small business customers and that minor extensions to existing super-fast networks and connections of new customers to existing networks will not be subject to the provisions," Arbib told the Senate. "As indicated last December, the government will also propose amendments to the level playing field provisions to add a wholesale-only requirement."

NBN Co cross-subsidises the cost of providing access to regional and remote areas, with the lower costs of providing access to metropolitan areas. The anti-cherry-picking provisions in the access legislation are designed to prevent fibre providers building new networks in areas of the country with a high population and then providing access to consumers at less than that offered by NBN Co.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the two Bills, fibre network provider TransACT raised concerns that its existing network would be subject to the cherry-picking provisions in the legislation, which would adversely affect its business.

Telstra proposed in its submission that the provisions be removed entirely. Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam said that this proposal showed why the provisions should stay.

"It's the strongest confirmation that we have yet that the provisions should stay as they are," he told the Senate this morning.

Ludlam had, just prior to the government announcement, expressed concern about the cherry-picking provisions, but said that the Greens could not give full approval to the Bills until the party had a chance to examine the detail of the government's proposed amendments.

Coalition Senators Simon Birmingham and Mary Jo Fisher both raised other matters, airing concerns that the NBN would never be privatised under the legislation and NBN Co might be engaged in mission creep if it is able to offer services directly to utilities as set out in one provision.

Arbib said the government rejected all of the Coalition's proposed amendments around these issues, stating that the proposals would "allow a future coalition government to sell off the NBN as soon as possible" and that removing the cherry-picking provisions as suggested would result in many communities only being able to get a "non-NBN" broadband service from a single vertically integrated provider.

Arbib also rejected the proposal to prevent NBN Co from offering services directly to utilities.

"Banning this, as the Coalition proposes, could inhibit the deployment of smart infrastructure," he said.

Govt to change NBN cherry-picking law

Sunday, March 20, 2011

USA - Merger of AT&T and T-Mobile (pre-empting a bid by Sprint) means only three big operators

[the economist] COULD this be the end of the line for T-Mobile USA? On March 20th AT&T, an American telecoms giant, launched an eye-watering $39 billion bid for its smaller competitor, which is owned by Germany's Deutsche Telekom.

If approved, the acquisition would leave America with only three sizeable operators in the wireless-telecom business: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. For this reason, the deal is likely to meet stiff opposition from consumer groups and other telecoms firms, who worry that AT&T will use its extra muscle to crush competition further. A study by the General Accounting Office (GAO), an arm of Congress, found that America's four big wireless carriers already control 90% of the national market. Indeed, there had been much speculation that AT&T would buy a big company in a foreign market such as India rather than splash out at home, given the risks of a prolonged anti-trust investigation there. But rumours that Sprint was also sniffing around T-Mobile probably encouraged it to make its move.

AT&T bids for T-Mobile USA - A very big call