Friday, April 29, 2011

Syria - Delay in bidding for the third licence due to the present political unrest

[msnbc] Syria, grappling with political unrest which has seen at least 400 civilians killed, has delayed bidding for the country's third mobile operator license, bid hopeful Saudi Telecom said on Wednesday.

Syria's telecommunication ministry has not set a new date for the financial proposal, state-owned STC said.

STC submitted its technical proposal on March 30 and financial bidding was due to close on April 27.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops are crushing resistance in the southern city of Deraa where the revolt against his autocratic rule began on March 18.
STC was one of five firms to qualify for the Syria license auction, along with Qatar Telecom, Turkcell, France Telecom and UAE group Etisalat. The latter two have dropped plans to bid.

Syria, with a mobile penetration of about 30 percent in 2007, launched a tender to sell the third mobile operator license last September. The two current cellphone operators in Syria are South African company MTN and Syriatel, mostly owned by Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf.

STC faces increased competition from Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi in its home market, the biggest Arab economy.

Syria delays bids for mobile license: Saudi Telecom

UAE - Etisalat has deployed an FTTx network to 750,000 homes

[telegeography] The UAE’s incumbent telecoms operator Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) has announced that it has completed the deployment of its fibre-optic infrastructure in Abu Dhabi, making the city the first capital in the world to be entirely connected to a FTTx network, Arabian Business reports. According to Nasser Bin Obood, acting CEO at Etisalat, over 1.125 million households in the capital have been connected to the network, 722,582 of which are ready to use the network, while the remaining 429,801 homes are classified as ‘activated homes’. ‘The fibre-optic network is a key turning point in the development of telecom infrastructure, as this network with all its enormous benefits and features is expected to have an impact in all sectors,’ Bin Obood said. Etisalat has deployed a total of 2.8 million kilometres of fibre-optics across the UAE; the company expects to complete its rollout project by the end of 2011, making the UAE the first country in the world that is entirely covered with a fibre-optic network.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database states that Etisalat officially launched services over its fibre-optic network, dubbed ‘e-Life’, in December 2009, with triple-play packages bundling landline telephony, broadband and IP television services following in May 2010. So far, the company has invested AED7 billion (USD1.9 billion) in the network, and it plans to invest a further AED7 billion in the expansion of e-Life over the next three years. At 31 March 2011 the network served more than 230,000 subscribers.

Etisalat connects entire Abu Dhabi to FTTx

North Africa - Trade body wants to boost broadband in the region

[it news africa] With the opening of SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s Beyond Connectivity 2011 meeting, the focus on broadband Internet and the importance of digitization in the Middle East and North African region were at the top of the agenda. Experts at the conference said that the MENA region is well-suited to continue its broadband and data expansion this year.

The conference explores the evolution of technology in the region and sees leading experts and companies come together to help build further relationships that they hope will lead to “expediting the digitization of the economy, and the socio-economic benefits of spectrum reshaping.”

CEO of SAMENA and chair of Saudi Telecom Saud al-Daweesh said that “the economic role played by the regional telecommunications industry in enabling growth has been overwhelming in the last few years. Telecom and ICT indicators continue to grow. The greatest value offered however, is the transformation of the lives of the people. The social and cultural implications of connectivity have been tremendous so far and hence SAMENA has been doing groundwork for the elaboration of region-wide ICT policies that could have significant social, economical and cultural benefits.”

In Egypt and Tunisia, the two countries that recently saw revolutions topple their decades’ old dictatorships, analysts believe the IT sector can benefit greatly from regional discussions on the future of technology and telecommunications.
“It is an amazing moment for Egypt and Tunisia, both countries that had positive growth already in the IT sector,” said Yussif Badrawy, an Egyptian telecom expert. He argued that companies see the massive potential in the MENA region and this has spurred discussions on a regional level to increase growth.

“There is much to be done in the MENA region in terms of telecommunications and sector infrastructure development, so to see company executives come together and discuss partnerships is a sign of the overall health to the sector,” he added.

SAMENA to push broadband in MENA

USA - Trade body criticises India and China for barriers to satellite service providers

[space news] The U.S. government has again singled out China and India as nations that maintain barriers to foreign satellite service providers in order to protect domestic, government-owned satellite operators.

In its annual report on telecommunications trade agreements, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) pays special attention to the state of the satellite services markets in the world’s two most populous nations, both of which are fast expanding their satellite telecommunications sectors.

The report concludes that not much has changed in either nation despite regular promises from their government agencies that trade barriers would be eased.

The USTR report says U.S. organizations asked to provide an update on the situation in China and India found a continued “lack of transparency in rules governing the provision of satellite capacity” in both nations. “The requirement to sell capacity only through government-owned satellite operators is problematic.”

In both nations, the end result is the same — a government roadblock to access to end users of satellite services that gives government-owned satellite operators a de facto monopoly on the business except in exceptional circumstances.

But China and India achieve this result in different ways.

The China Direct Broadcast Satellite Co., China DBSat —which was created in 2007 to merge China’s three domestic satellite fleet operators — is the sole company that has a satellite services operating license. Two Hong Kong companies that are partly owned by the Chinese government — APT Satellite Holdings and AsiaSat —have access to the Chinese market. But both have reported difficulty in maintaining their market shares in recent years for reasons that may reflect Chinese government policy more than decisions by customers.

In the case of India, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which is the nation’s space agency, operates a fleet of Insat telecommunications satellites. ISRO has had trouble maintaining sufficient Insat capacity to meet India’s exploding demand for satellite television, and in these circumstances it has permitted non-Indian satellite fleet operators into the market.

But the market entry is done only through ISRO, meaning a foreign satellite operator must come to terms with its ostensible competitor, ISRO, in order to reach Indian customers. ISRO purchases the satellite bandwidth at prices it deems acceptable, and then resells it to customers.

In one of a dozen industry submissions that informed the USTR report, the U.S. Satellite Industry Association (SIA) said ISRO then adds its own charges to the initial satellite bandwidth price, making that capacity more expensive than what it would be without ISRO acting as a middleman.

“ISRO may structure contracts with the goal (explicitly stated at times) of moving the service to one of ISRO’s satellites once capacity is available,” the SIA said in its statement to USTR. “ISRO determines the rate at which the market grows.”

All this would appear at variance with India’s New Telecom Policy of 1999, which grants access by Indian customers to Indian and foreign satellite bandwidth, in coordination with India’s Department of Space. ISRO is part of the Department of Space.

SIA said that once Indian authorities have determined that the foreign satellite operator has completed broadcast frequency coordination with the Insat system — a procedure handled through the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. affiliate — “there are no technical or commercial reasons why foreign satellite capacity should need to be procured through [ISRO], a direct competitor of foreign satellite operators.

“Local users in India should be allowed to contract directly with any satellite operator that has the ability to serve India,” SIA said in its statement.

Another curiosity in India’s regulatory regime, SIA said, is its ban on the use of Ku-band frequencies for broadcasts to cable head ends. With Ku-band globally accepted as suitable for these transmissions, “[t]here is no technical or logical policy reason for this restriction,” SIA said.

Finally, Indian regulations on mobile satellite services include a security-related requirement that, in order to receive an operating license in India, mobile satellite operators must deploy gateway infrastructure within India. For a system such as Iridium, which uses links between satellites to bypass the need for an elaborate network of gateway Earth stations, the regulation is an obvious handicap. SIA said “more-advanced technologies other than locally established gateways can fully meet security concerns. This requirement should be removed.”

The principal commercial satellite fleet operators have long adopted a do-not-make-waves policy with respect to the barriers in India and China, hoping that over time, the evolution of demand in these two nations will be sufficient to crack open their markets.

USTR said, as it has previously, that it will “continue to raise the … concerns regarding the barriers to supplying satellite services in China and India and will encourage these countries to consider changes to their respective frameworks.”

The USTR report, “2011 Section 1377 Review on Compliance With Telecommunications Trade Agreements,” is dated April 2011 and reflects industry and trade association comments submitted at the end of 2010. The report is mandated annually as part of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of1988.

USTR Report Cites Continued Satellite Market Protectionism in China, India

USA - Technical Advisory Council offers regulator a range of advice to improve broadband deployment

[urgent comm] Coordinating trenching efforts and streamlining approvals of site co-location requests are two of eight recommendations that the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC) released today for the commission to pursue in an effort to encourage broadband deployment in the near term.

“What the TAC has been doing is saying, ‘What is it that we can recommend that the commission can do now that can use their existing authority and leadership pulpit of the commission to move things ahead … rather than have some long, drawn-out administrative procedure?’” TAC Chairman Tom Wheeler said during a press conference, noting that none of the proposals will require a notice of inquiry or similar procedure.

One of the recommendations would have the FCC establish an online database for all planned trenching work — whether it is for communications, utilities or other endeavors. By making this information public, the hope is that all of the needed work can be completed at once in a given location, instead of having the area impacted by multiple trenching efforts.

“It will reduce the cost of construction, because you only dig once; it will reduce the cost of disruption; and it will spur getting things out there in a coordinated way,” Wheeler said.

In a related matter, the TAC recommended that FCC officials conduct a “road show” throughout the country to educate state and local governments about new technologies such as microtrenching that can make deployment of broadband infrastructure less disruptive for a given location.

Another recommendation calls for the FCC to encourage permitting entities to streamline the process used to consider requests for additional antennas and infrastructure to be added to existing cell sites. The proposal would not impact the processes associated with deploying infrastructure at a new site.

“Hanging another antenna on that [existing] cell site should be a fast decision — not a decision that requires as long as the initial decision took,” Wheeler said. “How do we have a shorter shot clock and do it voluntarily, in the anticipation that, if the municipalities step up to that challenge, it won’t be necessary to do it mandatorily?”

Other TAC recommendations call for the FCC to:

Establish a program to recognize governmental entities that use best practices to encourage broadband-infrastructure deployment;
Request that President Barack Obama issue an executive order that would mandate a streamlined approval process for antennas to be located on federal buildings and rights of way;
Create new metrics to measure broadband network quality beyond cumulative data throughput speeds;
Promote the deployment of small-cell technologies, such as femtocells and picocells, to improve spectrum utilization; and
Initiate dialog about the transition from legacy telephony services to IP-based technologies, including the associated policies and codes that need to be established for the deployment of the new technologies.
Wheeler said the TAC has not established any of the recommendations as having priority over others.

“I think you start with all of them. Our recommendation to the commission is that all of these recommendations are worthy of pursuit and that we hope the commission will pursue them,” he said.


Mobile - Global mobile broadband revenues will rise to USD 223 billion by 2015, driven by smartphones

[wireless federation] A recent research study has unearthed that the global mobile broadband market will hit revenues of US$223 billion in 2015, driven by continued demand for internet access on small-screen devices such as smartphones.

However, it was found that revenue growth is not keeping pace with connections, highlighting the need for service providers to develop improved monetization strategies.

Researchers state that revenues from the global mobile broadband market will more than double from US$100.5 billion in 2010 to US$223 billion in 2015, growing at a CAGR of 17%.

Meanwhile, total worldwide mobile broadband connections will grow at a CAGR of 28%, reaching 3 billion in 2015 from 899 million in 2010.

Of those 3 billion connections, 82% will use small-screen devices such as smartphones and feature phones. Big-screen mobile broadband connections (laptops, netbooks and tablets) will grow at a CAGR of 28 percent from 2010 to 2015. However, this segment will only have 554 million connections by 2015. In terms of revenues, small-screen devices will reach US$120 billion in 2015.

However, there will be a smaller gap between big-screen mobile broadband revenues, which will be US$102 billion. This reflects the premium that operators can charge for dedicated big-screen mobile broadband services as opposed to the bundles of minutes, messages and data seen in the small-screen segment. From 2010 to 2015, connections will grow at a CAGR of 28%, while revenues will increase by 17%.

Global mobile broadband revenues to reach $223 bln in 2015

Australia - Internet access in the nation is increasing social interactive and politically engaged

[computer world] Increased internet usage in Australia has put it on track to become a more socially interactive and politically engaged nation, according to a recent poll by the Australian National University.

The poll, titled The Internet and Civil Society, interviewed 1200 people and examined the use of broadband in the lead-up to the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), indicating how many Australians have internet access, how often the internet is used and the purpose it is used for. It asks the question of whether virtual contacts made or maintained via the internet are less important than personal contacts and what effect this has on society.

The findings show that contrary to the popular belief that the internet is eroding social relations and community engagement, the internet is not actively isolating individuals but instead, has a positive affect.

“The ANUpoll shows that just 12 per cent of the respondents who were interviewed said that their household did not have internet access," the findings read.

"Of those with internet access, 82 per cent say they have broadband access and only two per cent say that they still have dial-up."

The poll noted the role broadband has played in fostering social interaction. 54 per cent of those surveyed said that the internet helped them interact with people from all over the globe.

“The results from the ANUpoll show that the internet helps people to not only participate in social groups that they already belong to, but also to interact with people from different ages, race and national backgrounds," the findings read

"The internet is therefore a medium that is conducive to building bonding and bridging forms of social capital.”

35 per cent of respondents said the internet had helped them interact with people of a different race, while 54 per cent said the platform has assisted in engaging with people countries other than Australia.

It also found that high usage does not result in isolation of individuals, with those who are frequent internet users are just as likely as infrequent internet users to understand the importance of helping others worse off.

According to the poll, one in four respondents said they have visited the websites of political organisations or candidates, and one in five said they had forwarded electronic messages with political content.

Aussies more socially and politically engaged through broadband: Poll

New Zealand - Minister rejected a compromise on broadband policy because of the likely delays in delivery

[stuff] Communications Minister Steven Joyce has rejected a "compromise" put up by the Telecommunications Users' Association over its broadband policy, saying a proposal by Tuanz would unnecessarily delay building its ultrafast broadband network.

Tuanz, consumer groups and several telecommunications firms have criticised a proposed law change that would prevent the Commerce Commission regulating the access price of the UFB network until 2019.

Prices will be set by contract between the Government and firms that win bids to build and run the network.

Mr Joyce has said the approach would reduce the regulatory risks for UFB network operators, which would allow them to put forward cheaper bids.

Tuanz chief executive Paul Brislen suggested that the prices be set in advance, but by the Commerce Commission rather than the Government. The commission could approve UFB terms, conditions and prices through a "special access undertaking".

That would provide certainty over prices while maintaining regulatory oversight, he said. Tuanz, Consumer New Zealand, InternetNZ and telcos had proposed the idea in a joint letter to finance and expenditure select committee chairman Craig Foss. The committee is considering amendments to the Telecommunications Act that will pave the way for the UFB scheme.

Labour communications spokeswoman Clare Curran gave "qualified support", saying she supported any added protection for consumers and fair pricing.

But Mr Joyce said two obvious problems existed. Assuming the commission did not have the ability to review the undertaking once set, it would have the same effect as the "regulatory forbearance period" that the group had criticised.

If the commission could override the undertaking, it would not provide the required price certainty during the "crucial build period of the network". It would also significantly delay the UFB scheme for no particular benefit, he said.

"My understanding is that it would involve a minimum period of a year from start to finish, including submissions and cross-submissions. This would all need to happen before contracts could be confirmed."

Mr Joyce said he was happy to consider different ways of achieving the same outcome as the regulatory forbearance period. "But it is important to note that however it's done, infrastructure builders will need to have certainty as to the maximum prices they are able to charge in the early years of a new fibre access network."

Minister rejects broadband proposal

Australia - Complaints at the regulator's decision not to regulate prices on Telstra's copper network

[the australian] THE competition watchdog's failure to regulate pricing on Telstra's copper broadband network has been described as "shoddy".

Smaller telcos are warning that it presents an inconsistent approach to the NBN and could limit the growth of competitive internet services.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's decision not to regulate pricing on Telstra's wholesale ADSL services has surprised many in the industry, who fear the incumbent telco will continue to charge higher prices to competing carriers for access.

Telstra's largest customer for ADSL services is iiNet, yet its chief technology officer, Greg Bader, said it did not get the best rates, especially in regional areas, where Telstra was the only provider.

iiNet places equipment such as DSLAMs (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer) in Telstra exchanges to sell broadband services to customers, but Mr Bader said the ADSL pricing regime meant there was little room left for profitable growth beyond the 400 DSLAM units it had already installed. "We've basically built everywhere that is economical to build and like everyone else we'd like to grow our layer-two broadband base in the lead up to the NBN, but in the regional areas Telstra gets a leg up by retailing below our wholesale cost," he said.

Last October, the ACCC sent shockwaves through the industry when it announced in an open letter that it would consider regulating wholesale ADSL.

But in a letter to Telstra -- published on the ACCC's website last week -- the regulator said it had now decided against an inquiry into the wholesale service.

The Competitive Carriers' Coalition slammed the ACCC's about-turn this week, saying that the regulator "did not know if it was coming or going".

The coalition's chairman, Matt Healy, said the decision was at odds with other ACCC determinations, which take into account the effect the government's NBN will have on the telecommunications sector.

"We are a bit bamboozled by the commission's stance on this. They've decided not to regulate this wholesale copper ADSL service in the regions, or even have an inquiry into it, because they want to see how the NBN unfolds before they decide if they need to regulate," he said.

"In one area of regulation they want to ignore the current state of the telecoms sector and the impact of the NBN, but then in another area they are saying they will take into account the changes NBN will bring on.

"It's shoddy regulatory work.

Telco anger as watchdog decides not to regulate wholesale pricing

Australia - Regulator has opened an inquiry into final access determination for fixed line services

[accc] The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today commenced a public inquiry and issued a discussion paper on the making of final access determinations (FADs) for the six declared fixed line telecommunications services.

The discussion paper sets out proposed price and non-price terms for each of the declared services for a proposed five year regulatory period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016.

“The proposed five year period will provide all industry participants with certainty regarding fixed line prices during the initial transition to the National Broadband Network,” acting ACCC chairman Michael Schaper said.

“Today marks a further step towards providing stability to industry in relation to wholesale access to Telstra’s fixed line network. While parties will still be able to negotiate their own terms and conditions of access, the FADs will, once they are made, establish a benchmark for Telstra and access seekers to fall back on,” Dr Schaper said.

The discussion paper follows the interim access determinations (IAD) made by the ACCC on 2 March 2011. As a result of legislative changes to the telecommunications access regime made late last year, the ACCC must hold a public inquiry to make FADs for each declared service. This must be commenced at least 6 months before the IAD expires.

The discussion paper includes the draft FADs. Prices for the five year regulatory period have been calculated using the same Building Block pricing framework as in
the IADs, carried forward over five years.

After considering submissions received on the discussion paper and draft FADs, the ACCC plans to publish a Final Report and make five year FADs for the declared fixed
line services. This approach recognises that many pricing issues have been previously subject to extensive consultation. This approach will provide price certainty and stability for the industry.

The ACCC recognises some issues may arise during this consultation process that will require further and more detailed consideration. The ACCC will adopt a flexible approach to dealing with any such issues, and notes that it has the power to vary the FADs if required.

The draft prices for the six fixed line services have been derived using a Building Block pricing framework, which is commonly used in other regulated industries. The discussion paper sets out in detail the methodology, assumptions and model inputs used by the ACCC to estimate these prices.

Consistent with the IADs, the ACCC proposes to set a single Unconditioned Local Loop Service price for the metropolitan and provincial areas where the majority of Australia’s population lives. This approach will promote industry stability and ease the transition to the NBN. Proposed wholesale prices for other services, including Wholesale Line Rental and the Local Carriage Service are lower than under the previous pricing approach, which was based on Telstra’s retail prices for these services.

The ACCC invites all interested parties to make submissions to the discussion paper by 3 June 2011.

ACCC proposes five year regulatory pricing period in final access determinations for fixed line services

Europe - EC commences consultation on state aid rules for broadband networks

[europe] The European Commission has invited stakeholders' views on the forthcoming revision of EU rules on the public financing of broadband infrastructure. The current guidelines, adopted in September 2009 provide a comprehensive framework for furthering the deployment of high and very-high speed broadband in Europe. However, fast evolving markets and rapid technological progress may require adaptations. This is why the Commission has set up a questionnaire on relevant issues, such as the development of very high speed broadband technologies or how best to design the access conditions on subsidized next generation networks. Comments should be submitted by 31 August 2011. In light of the results, the Commission will decide whether a revision of the guidelines is indicated and, in the affirmative, put forward a proposal for discussion in early 2012.

State aid: Commission launches public consultation on the revision of the Broadband Guidelines

New Zealand - Court imposed a record fine against incumbent operator for a price squeeze

[commerce commission] The High Court in Auckland has imposed a $12 million penalty against Telecom for breaching section 36 of the Commerce Act in the so-called ‘data tails’ case. The penalty is the highest imposed under the Commerce Act, which was amended in 2001 to increase the fines available for anti-competitive conduct.

In October 2009 the High Court determined that from 2001 to 2004 Telecom unlawfully leveraged its market power to charge downstream competitors disproportionately high prices for wholesale access to its network, preventing them from offering retail end-to-end high-speed data services on a competitive basis.

In the Court’s penalty judgment issued today, Justice Rodney Hansen said that the exclusionary effects of Telecom’s conduct “were injurious to competitors, brought significant benefits to Telecom and were damaging to the competitive process.” The Judge noted that “[t]he breach was the result of a deliberate strategy, apparently sanctioned at the highest levels of Telecom, to price data tails at a level that would preclude price competition between Telecom and other [telecommunications service providers]”.

In determining the proper penalty, Justice Hansen said that “[t]he penalty should reflect the size and financial circumstances of Telecom and its position of influence and importance in the telecommunications industry. The goal of specific deterrence requires that the penalty take account of the size and resources of the contravening company.”

His Honour also noted that in this case no allowance could be made for an acknowledgment of wrongdoing or the advantages of a negotiated settlement, and the penalty therefore had to “give full effect to the new penalty regime and the overriding goal of deterrence”.

Telecom has appealed the October 2009 judgment finding that it breached section 36 of the Commerce Act. The hearing in the Court of Appeal is scheduled to commence in September and will include consideration of the High Court penalty judgment if that is appealed in the interim. As the proceedings are ongoing, the Commission can make no further comment at this time.

Record Commerce Act penalty against Telecom for price squeeze
see also Penalty judgment

New Zealand - Regulator sees continuing improvement in competition with completion of NZ Telecom's XT network

[scoop] Competition in telecommunications continues to improve but challenges remain says Commerce Commission

The Commerce Commission has today released its 2009/10 telecommunications monitoring report analysing the state of New Zealand telecommunications markets.

“The report shows investment in the telecommunications industry reduced slightly compared to 2008/09, largely due to the completion of Telecom’s XT network and the first stage of 2degrees’mobile network during the previous financial year, but fixed line investment increased slightly,” said Dr Ross Patterson, Telecommunications Commissioner.

“The report also shows that competition in all telecommunications markets has continued to increase. Consumer choice and quality of service continues to improve, while prices have fallen,” said Dr Patterson.

The total number of fixed broadband connections has more than doubled in nearly five years with fixed line broadband penetration increasing to 25 percent of the population. An estimated 61 percent of households now have fixed line broadband. Wholesale broadband connections (excluding unbundled copper local loop or UCLL) have more than tripled over the same time from 100,000 to 342,000 connections.

“Despite this progress, challenges remain. In the fixed line market, while more than 100 exchanges serving more than 60 percent of subscribers have been unbundled, the impact of cabinetisation will reduce the number of lines which can be unbundled by more than 50 percent by December 2011,” said Dr Patterson.

“In the mobile market, while call minutes have increased by 5 percent, usage remains low by international standards. New Zealanders make an average of 79 minutes of calls per month compared with 120 minutes per month in Australia and 198 minutes per month in the UK. In addition, off-net prices are significantly higher than on-net prices, discouraging calls between customers of competing networks”.

Competition in telecommunications continues to improve
see also full report

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Egypt - Government is considering legal changes to remove powers used by Mubarak regime to control networks

[al masry al youm] After a cabinet statement this week explained that Mubarak's regime used Law no. 10 of 2003 to force telecommunications companies to cut off internet and cell phone service during the revolution, the National Telecommunications Regulation Authority (NTRA) said the cabinet has not yet solicited suggestions for the amendment of the law.

Suggestions will be submitted upon the government's request, said NTRA President Amr Badawy in a statement to Al-Masry Al-Youm. Badawy said laws giving the government power over telecommunications providers during emergencies will not likely be abolished because they are needed during war.

Article 67 gives the government power to "subject to their administration all telecommunication services and networks of any operator or service provider and call operation and maintenance employees of such services and networks in case of natural or environmental disasters or during declared periods of general mobilization in accordance with the provisions of Law no. 87 of 1960 or any other cases concerning National Security."

The former regime used this article during the first days of the 25 January revolution when it ordered providers to cut internet and phone services.

Badawy stressed the importance of reviewing the article to identify the mechanisms that allow it to be implemented and the people or agencies who have the authority to use it.

The cabinet pledged last week to review the article during their weekly meeting and criticized the former regime's misuse of the measure during the revolution.

The Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil) thanked the cabinet for its statement this week explaining that it was Law no. 10 of 2003 that allows the government to force service cuts.

Hassan Kabbani, managing director of Mobinil, expressed his desire to amend the Telecommunications Regulation Law to ensure the rights of Egyptians are preserved and to prevent another breach.

Badawy said the cabinet is expected to make changes to the NTRA's board of directors within days.

He said several board members would retire by the end of this session.

The NTRA board of directors is headed by the minister of telecommunications and includes representatives from the cabinet, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information, the presidency and the National Security Agency.

Telecommunication regulation changes in the works following revolution service blackout

Europe - New rules for 900 and 1800 MHz allow their use for LTE and WiMAX in addition to GSM

[pcworld] The European Commission has adopted technical rules on how the 900MHz and 1800MHz radio frequency bands should be opened up to LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and WiMax, to help spread the availability of broadband on the continent, it said on Monday.

The rules are designed to ensure that the next-generation network technologies can coexist with GSM, which is what operators today use the bands for. National regulators have until Dec. 31 to implement the rules, according to a statement.

Any regulatory action that removes obstacles for rolling out 4G networks must be a good thing for operators, said Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms and Media.

The decision is a step in the right direction because it forces countries that haven't started opening up these bands for 4G to get going, according to Urban Landmark, head of the spectrum department at Swedish regulator PTS. It also simplifies cooperation along national borders and gives an incentive for vendors to start manufacturing more equipment, he said.

Both 900MHz and 1800MHz are very attractive spectrum bands. The 900MHz band's signal propagation provides good indoor coverage and can also be used to expand LTE coverage to rural areas.

In Europe, the band will be used alongside spectrum previously used for analog TV, to better cope with growing data traffic. For example, Swedish operator Tele2 will let users with smartphones and tablets access the Internet using LTE on the 800MHz band and USB modems and routers will use the 900MHz band, the company said last week at the LTE Forum conference in Stockholm.

The 1800MHz band is also getting a lot of attention, and is being pitched as a band that can help make global LTE roaming a reality. The band offers a good compromise between speed and coverage, under the assumption that operators are each assigned two 20MHz channels of spectrum, which is what the current iteration of LTE needs to perform at maximum speeds.

However, the attractiveness of the assignments will also lead to legal battles over who gets access to the spectrum. In Sweden, the PTS' decision on how the 1800MHz band should be assigned was appealed, and is now being handled by an Administrative Court of Appeals. That is likely to happen in more countries, especially where there is heavy competition, according to Landmark.

The European Commission hopes the technical rules will help boost broadband availability and ensure that its goals are met. The aim is to ensure that all Europeans have access to 30M-bps (bits per second) connections by 2020, and that half of all households should have access to service providing 100Mbps or higher by then.

Social Networking - Large numbers of children below the prescribed age are using Facebook and similar networks

[pc advisor] Nearly two in five (38 percent) nine to 12 year olds use social networking sites, says EU Kids Online.

According to the Social Networking, Age and Privacy report by the research project, 20 percent of the age group have a Facebook account despite the fact the social network has a minimum age limit of 13 years old.

Furthermore, a quarter of kids that have a social networking profile have their privacy set to 'public', which means it can be viewed by any other web user that's a member of the social network, and one in five admitted they list their address and or phone number - compared to just one in ten of those that set their profile to 'private'.

"It seems clear that children are moving to Facebook - this is now the most popular site in 17 of the 25 countries we surveyed. Many providers try to restrict their users to 13-year-olds and above but we can see that this is not effective," said Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics and Political Science, the director of the project.

The research also revealed that 57 percent of children aged nine to 16 say Facebook is their sole or main social networking site, while one in six nine to 12 year olds and a third of 13 to 16 year olds have more than 100 online contacts.

Furthermore, 20 percent of nine to 12 years olds admit to communicating online with other web users they have no 'real-world' connection to.

"Since children often lie about their age to join 'forbidden' sites it would be more practical to identify younger users and to target them with easy-to-use protective measures. However we accept that abolishing age limits could lead to a substantial rise in the numbers using the site," added Elisabeth Staksrud from the University of Oslo, who helped compile the report.

38% of 9 to 12 year olds use social networks
see also LSE's EU Kids online

Africa - The latest undersea cable has been landed in South Africa, linking various countries to Portugal

[businessday] THE West Africa Cable System (Wacs ), a submarine telecommunications fibreoptic cable linking Southern Africa and Europe, is set to double SA’s broadband capacity when it is commissioned in the first quarter of next year, a statement from Wacs said yesterday.

Wacs aims to reduce the cost of connecting the west coast of Africa to the high-speed global telecommunications network.

It joins other submarine cables such as Seacom and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System, also targeted at increasing bandwidth capacity and reducing the cost of communication in Africa.

The 14000km Wacs cable landed at Yzerfontein in the Western Cape yesterday and promises to raise SA’s broadband capacity by more than 500 gigabits per second .

Construction of the landing station will begin soon.

The cable was "designed to support present and future internet, e- commerce, data, video and voice services", and the capacity of the entire system was 5,12 terabits per second , the statement said.

The Wacs consortium is made up of shareholders from several countries. The local partners include Broadband Infraco, MTN, Telkom SA, Neotel and Vodacom Group.

The consortium does not expect the project to cost more than $650m .

According to Angus Hay, the co- chairman of the Wacs management committee, the system will meet the demand for capacity "well into the first quarter of the 21st century".

Andrew Shaw, the interim CEO of Broadband Infraco, said the cable will provide significant capacity and lower the cost of broadband in support of economic growth and innovative applications, such as e-education and e-health.

Undersea cable to lift Africa’s connectivity

Tablets - Forecast suggests annual sales of USD 49 billion by 2015

[it pro portal] Yet another report puts fresh numbers on the plate about the constantly growing tablet market, a field that is presently led by two giants: Google and Apple. Research firm Strategy Analytics states that by 2015, tablet global revenues will reach almost $49 billion. This growth will be more significant in North America, Western Europe and Pacific Asia.

There is a mind-blowing estimation of an 800% increase in the next 4 years; resulting in a possible of 150 million units in 2015. Thus, the new-born tablet market could become the third biggest consumer electronics sector, behind PC and Televisions. There are other research firms that predict an even bigger increase; Gartner forecasting more than million pieces to be sold in 2015.

"Tablets are a high-value casual-computing segment that is creating huge growth opportunities for major brands, such as Apple and Samsung," said analyst Neil Mawston.

Apple’s iPad is the clear leader of this market and it’s thought that it will keep this position for the upcoming years. Samsung Electronics follows from behind, with its present Galaxy Tabs. There is also a software “war” going on between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. So far, Google isn’t rushing to enter the hardware business, as they seem to be content with the revenues from their well-known advertising business model.

Report Predicts Tablet Sales To Reach $49 Billion By 2015

St Kitts & Nevis - Regulator is inquiring into the quality of service of network operators following complaints

[Office of Prime Minister] Concerns about the quality of service from telecommunications providers in St. Kitts and Nevis have prompted the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) to launch an investigation into the quality of service provided to consumers.

“Consistent with its obligations under the Telecommunications Act and the relevant Regulations, - the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission has launched an investigation into the quality of service standards being offered to customers by Telecommunications Providers in St. Kitts and Nevis,” the NTRC said.

It is inviting comments from the general public on their experiences with the quality of service provided by telecommunications providers.

The NTRC said that submissions should be accompanied with “specific and relevant details, including what actions if necessary, were taken by the customer and what responses, if any were provided by the telecommunications providers.”

Submission should reach the Commission no later than May 12th 2011 and sent to:

The Chairman,
National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission
Corner Wigley Avenue and Jones Street
P.O. Box 1958,
Basseterre, St. Kitts

NTRC investigates quality of service by telecommunications providers

Zain - Sale of the Saudi Arabia unit should be completed in two months, acquisition by KHC

[bloomberg] The sale of Mobile Telecommunications Co. unit Zain Saudi Arabia will be completed two months after due diligence, according to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who’s buying a chunk of the company.

Due diligence may take as much as 45 days, Alwaleed, the Saudi billionaire who controls investment company Kingdom Holding Co. (KINGDOM), told reporters in Kuwait City today.

“We started thorough studies of all Zain Saudi books and papers which will take up to about a month, or a month and a half,” Alwaleed said. “If things go well, we expect the completion of purchasing Zain Saudi from Zain Kuwait in the two months that follow.”

Bahrain Telecommunications Co., the island nation’s biggest phone company, and Riyadh-based Kingdom agreed on April 6 to buy a 25 percent stake in Zain Saudi Arabia. Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications is better known as Zain.

Zain Saudi’s Sale Expected Two Months After Due Diligence

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Australia - The ITU has endorsed the National Broadband Network for its economic benefits

[brisbane times] THE top United Nations official overseeing telecommunications has given the government's national broadband network project a tick of approval.
Australia's unique market conditions, geography and low population make the project viable here, although few other countries are likely to copy the publicly funded monopoly model.

Meeting exclusively with The Age during a two-day fact finding trip to Australia, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) secretary general Hamadoun Toure said a minimum speed broadband network would increase economic capacity and creativity.

''The way I see it here, Australia has undertaken the largest infrastructure project ever,'' he said.

''Three to five years from now, Australia will be number one in broadband in the world. A large size country like this can be a test bed for any scenario that could happen anywhere else in the world and I can take that model to share anywhere else in the world.''

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull questioned whether those benefits were worth huge expenditure.

''Mr [Dr} Toure has been unwavering in his support of the NBN for the past 12 months, but I have seen him produce no convincing evidence to adequately answer, address this question - and neither has Senator Stephen Conroy,'' he said. ''It should also be noted that opinion within the ITU is far from unanimous.''

After meeting representatives of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australian Communications and Media Authority, and senior staff from Telstra, Optus and NBN Co, Dr Toure said he was convinced the government's project would create a level playing field in the Australian communications market.

However, he does not expect other countries will follow the Australian government's model of borrowing billions of dollars to set up a new monopoly to replace the national copper network with thousands of kilometres of optical fibre.

''No model in any country can be replicated anywhere else,'' he said. ''People [sometimes make the mistake of] comparing one country with another country … you never find two countries with the same conditions. Development level, structure, the policies and the vision of the people are different.''

The International Telecommunications Union is not a natural ally of a government-funded takeover of a functioning fixed broadband market. Now under the UN umbrella, its role over the past 145 years has been to co-ordinate the bureaucratic minutia of technical and regulatory standards that allow telecommunications to work across national borders and ensure products are standardised world wide.

''Australia is a different country, its geography and spread of the people,'' Dr Toure said. ''The level of telecommunications development and the level [of competition] between the operators - I will not say which one is a giant or not - all of those conditions, you do not find them elsewhere and therefore you need to have the guts to tackle the problem.''

The ITU encourages private sector solutions to problems over government intervention and discourages regulation that stifles investment. For example, Dr Toure said regulations should encourage profits from the internet and mobile communications to flow to the companies which build infrastructure, not just the companies that develop search engines and applications. But when the private sector fails, the ITU is ready to co-ordinate a global government solution. For example, global roaming fees remain exorbitant despite years of pressure on the private sector. This will now be a high priority for the ITU assembly meeting in November next year.

''We recommend regulators never to intervene if the operators can fix a problem. Obviously it has not been fixed,'' said Dr Toure, himself a former manager and engineer in the satellite industry in Africa.

Dr Toure also made a surprising prediction that ''the first decade of the millennium was dominated by mobile growth everywhere, worldwide. The second decade of the millennium will be broadband.

''It is not only here that they are laying fibre. The amount of fibre being laid in Africa today is higher than any other infrastructure.''

Read more:

UN's communication agency backs NBN

Australia - Telcos need chief customer officers according to one of their rivals

[it news] Telcos should employ chief customer officers alongside CFOs, CIOs and CTOs, said iiNet's general manager of customer service Paul Cahill.

Addressing the IQPC Customer Experience Event in Sydney, Cahill said that iiNet has halved complaints to the TIO coming from the customer base acquired last year from AAPT.

He said two business processes had been driving a lot of the complaints. The first was a $65 reconnection charge, even if the disconnection had followed a simple mistake. The second was an outsourced recontract campaign that saw 45 percent of customers recontracted leave within three months.

“Those are the kinds of decisions you get if you let the CFO dictate customer strategy,” he said.

The Perth ISP was the envy of many in the industry with high net promoter scores published with its financial results. Cahill revealed that these were transactional scores (taken straight after a customer contact) and relationship scores (taken from quarterly surveys).

Telcos need chief customer officers: iiNet

Gambling - US authorities are shutting down sites deemed "illegal" with business likely to go overseas

[the guardian] Shares in UK online gaming companies have soared after the websites of some US rivals were shut following a government crackdown on illegal gambling. shares shot up 30%, with Playtech and 888 Holdings up 8% and 19% respectively, as investors bet on high-value players, affiliates and processors switching to safer sites.

The big wins for the European companies, which do not operate in the US, followed moves by the US government on Friday to charge the founders of three of the world's largest online poker companies. In what amounted to the most drastic crackdown on electronic gambling since Congress banned the industry in America in 2006, the government accused the creators of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker of illegal gambling, money laundering and bank fraud.

Execution Noble analyst Geetanjali Sharma said: "The US-facing operators have been a drain on the profitability of the European operators as their US liquidity drew the non-US poker players. At the same time these operators diverted cash gained from the US operations to gain market share in the regulating territories in Europe. The closure of the main competitors' operations and the US legal proceedings initiated against them should benefit European listed operators."

While non-US players can still play poker on the banned sites, the disruption and seizure of funds could make it difficult for the operators to continue and may drive some punters to rival operators. In the world of online poker, the more players a site has, the more attractive it becomes to new players, as it is easier for them to find games with the appropriate level of stakes and payouts.

The liquidity argument has worked in favour of the sites that have operated illegally in the US since 2006. In January 2007, PokerStars and Full Tilt together accounted for about 30% of the market, but that had doubled before last week's crackdown, according to gambling data provider H2 Gambling Capital.

However, Simon Holliday, a director at H2, advised caution, saying: "The market always overshoots. There may be a transfer of accounts to the likes of ['s] PartyPoker, but this will occur over time."

Analysis by poker monitoring website suggested that traffic to PokerStars has dropped by 25% over the past week, while Full Tilt slumped 48%. Conversely, the number of visitors to PartyPoker and 888 increased by 8% and 5% respectively.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Las Vegas casino group Wynn Resorts cancelled the deal it had struck with PokerStars just three weeks ago, while Fertitta Interactive, the owner of Station Casinos, also pulled out of its recently announced deal with Full Tilt.

Analysts now expect European operators to aggressively pursue similar deals with the major casino operators in preparation for the long-awaited regulation of the US gambling industry.

Michael Caselli, editor of trade magazine iGaming Business, said: "I think for [Wynn and Fertitta] it's a case of once bitten, twice shy. I think they will do these deals, but there won't be anything until we see some serious regulation."

The US move represents a stark change of fortune for UK-listed poker operators., which was created from the merger of Bwin and Party Gaming, and whose shares began trading on the London Stock Exchange at the end of March, saw its stock slump in its first week as a combined group, on news of a proposed new betting tax regime in Germany.

Meanwhile, 888 was hit last week by the withdrawal of bookmaking group Ladbrokes from protracted takeover talks. and 888 see shares soar after crackdown on US poker sites

Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom are to experiment with joint procurement worth up to EUR 400-900 million annually

[] Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom/Orange have put months of rumours to rest with an announcement that they will combine procurement activities in an effort to save €400-900m over the next three years.

The non-binding agreement, which will form the basis for contracts to be signed in the coming weeks, is an extension of the “smart industry” partnership announced by the pair in February this year. Under that arrangement, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom agreed to work together to identify common ground on wifi roaming, M2M services, and RAN sharing, among other things. In 2009, the pair agreed to merge their UK-based mobile phone units.

Following today’s announcement, four pilot projects will see the two telcos jointly-procuring handsets, network kit, service platforms and other IT infrastructure. The jointly-owned and operated project will have units in both Bonn and Paris.

Deautsche Telkom CTO, Edward Kozel, said that, with operators increasingly expected to invest more in networks and infrastructure, the venture was an opportunity to achieve “economies of scale as well as customer benefits in technology harmonisation.” As operators come under increased pressure to keep pace with changing technologies and a growth in demand for mobile data services, there has been an increased trend towards collaborative initiatives between them. Last year, Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom were among five European carriers that met to discuss collaboration possibilities to deal with increased challenges in the wireless network space.

Operator partnerships of this type are typically and justifiably met with some scepticism, but on the surface the deal appears well thought-out, clearly structured and highly focused. The greatest risk to the success of the joint venture lies in its execution, but with both partners highly committed to the partnership and sharing well-matched motivations, those risks appear to have been recognised and mitigated.

“Nothing motivates like money and the goal of securing €1.3 billion in annualised savings by 2014 will certainly give strong impetus to the joint venture. What is more, the procurement plans announced today only cover the one-third of the two groups’ combined annual spend of around €40 billion that is deemed “immediately accessible”, a sure sign that there is scope for additional synergies further down the line,” said Thomas Wehmeier, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

The deal is very much a sign of the times. Europe’s largest operators have been cosying up to one another more and more as they seek to strengthen their hands at a time when competitive pressures have emerged from an increasingly diverse range of players, most notably from players based out of Silicon Valley and China. As they roll out smart networks, distribute smartphones to the users, this type of smart industry cooperation can only help to strengthen the negotiating hand when dealing with suppliers that in many cases are also deemed competitive threats to their business.

With FT and DT now sharing networks in some markets, carrying out joint procurement across their entire footprint and constantly talking up the benefit of scale, the question of what’s next must be asked. As the industry grows up and as operators make the migration to LTE, it’s inevitable that further consolidation of operators will take place in Europe. Whilst huge corporate mergers are off the table for now, the prospect of rational consolidation on a market-by-market basis is likely to be very much on the table as discussions take place.

Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom agree joint procurement venture

Europe - Commission has evaluated implementation of the controversial Data Retention Directive

[zdnet] On Monday, the Commission published a report evaluating the implementation so far of the Data Retention Directive, which came into force in 2006, and is now set to be revised. The report said most member states still see the directive, formulated after the 2004 Madrid bombings, as necessary.

It also said there was a great amount of variation in the way the directive is being transposed into national law, although this is to be expected as the directive was designed to allow a certain amount of leeway.

However, the report also noted that the idea of data retention remains a "significant limitation on the right to privacy", and the Commission said it may therefore strengthen safeguards to stop citizens' data being used inappropriately.

"Whilst there are no concrete examples of serious breaches of privacy, the risk of data security breaches will remain unless further safeguards are put in place," the Commission said in a statement. "The Commission will therefore consider more stringent regulation of storage, access to and use of the retained data."

The directive orders communications providers to store their records of customers' interactions for between six and 24 months — the UK chose one year — so law enforcement officials can access that data if necessary. The data includes details of who contacted whom when, rather than the contents of communications.

The Commission's report is based on member states' experiences of data retention, as gauged for more than a year through conferences, meetings and a stakeholder questionnaire.

On Monday, the Commission said it will revise the directive "in consultation with the police and the judiciary, industry, data-protection authorities and civil society, with a view to proposing an improved legal framework".

Europe to overhaul data-retention law
see also report

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mexico - América Móvil fined 12Bn pesos for monopolistic practices on call termination

[ft] América Móvil, the pan-American telephone operator controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, confirmed at the weekend that its Mexican subsidiary has been fined $1bn for “monopolistic practices”.

The 12bn peso fine, relating to the area of completing calls to mobile networks, is the largest ever handed out by Mexico’s Federal Competition Commission (CFC), the antitrust body. It was the result of a four-year investigation into Telcel, América Móvil’s Mexican mobile phone operator.

América Móvil’s Mexican arm fined $1bn

Saturday, April 16, 2011

UK - High prices and poor quality of broadband have caused customer satisfaction to fall

[scotsman] HIGHER prices and poor service have triggered the first fall in customer satisfaction in the broadband market for three years, a new survey has revealed.
The poll, by website, shows that just over two- thirds of broadband customers are satisfied with the speed of the service they get from their internet provider, even though broadband is becoming faster.

Based on responses from 7,500 users, the report reveals that, while average speeds have risen 30 per cent over the past year, this has been accompanied by a 5 per cent rise in bills and a 2 per cent drop in service levels.

Low-cost provider Plusnet was rated best overall, with 90 per cent of customers saying they were satisfied with the service they obtained. AOL, one of the first providers in the UK, was rated worst. The firm was taken over by Talk Talk five years ago but still operates separately.

"Mis-selling" - where consumers are not made aware of exactly what they are paying for - and mistakes in billing left just six out of ten customers satisfied overall with service. "With greater competition and faster speeds than ever before, the U-turn in broadband satisfaction is alarming," said Ernest Doku, technology expert at

"People have taken broadband to the next level and are now enjoying content-rich applications such as YouTube and BBC iPlayer. But their experience will be seriously affected if the speed they need - and believe they should be getting - isn't the one they experience. Broadband that doesn't deliver is incredibly frustrating.

"Plusnet has shown that the simple formula of a reliable connection, good value and excellent customer service equals satisfied customers. Its rivals should sit up and take note of this - it's not rocket science.

"In the meantime, it's more important than ever for customers to look at the whole picture when they are choosing their service, and think about what's important to them.

"If the companies at the bottom of the table don't try to address their failings, they could well see their customers vote with their feet."

The survey also shows that the average annual broadband bill has climbed 5 per cent this year to £176, up from £167 in 2010 - mainly due to the rise in VAT.

The Scottish Government says that 99 per cent of the population now has access to at least basic broadband.

But the Digital Scotland report, published last year by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, showed Scotland had the lowest percentage of households with high-speed internet in the UK, at 61 per cent, compared with 73 per cent in England.


rt by regulator Ofcom showed that the average broadband speed is still less than half the speed advertised by some internet service providers.

Polly Purvis, executive director of umbrella IT body Scotland IS, said: "Given our geography in Scotland and that broadband is increasingly being considered as a utility, this is a vital issue.

"It is worrying to see the reduction in consumer satisfaction across the board, particularly at a time when considerable investment is being made by the industry to deliver next generation broadband."

l Charges for broadband use are set to fall after Ofcom unveiled plans to cut the amount the company that owns the tele-coms infrastructure can charge providers. The watchdog is to launch a consultation on wholesale charges for telephone and broadband services delivered to homes and businesses over the copper network - which is operated by BT subsidiary Openreach.

Need for speed leaves third of broadband users dissatisfied

UK - Regulator is reducing wholesale broadband prices to improve retail markets

[zdnet] The regulator has been setting wholesale prices for Openreach since 2006, when it forced BT to create the division to manage the use of its network by other operators. The prices proposed on Thursday are the third set that will come into force since Openreach's creation. They will, in some cases, lead to a slight increase for operators despite representing cuts in real terms, as they allow for inflation.

"Ofcom expects its proposed prices to lead to real-term price reductions for consumers, as communications providers pass on savings to their landline and broadband customers," the regulator said in a statement. It added it hopes the new charges, which will run until 31 March, 2014, will come into effect "later this year".

TalkTalk, one of Openreach's biggest customers, said Ofcom's proposed prices are "broadly in line" with its expectations. Openreach said it is "encouraged" by Ofcom's recognition that it needs a fair rate of return on its copper and fibre-based network investments, but "would question some of the underlying assumptions being used" in Ofcom's formulation.

"As a result, we will be raising such concerns with Ofcom during the consultation process," Openreach said in a statement.

Affected products
The new prices will affect Openreach's two core products: wholesale line rental (WLR), which is a straight wholesale product, and local loop unbundling (LLU), which lets rival providers set up their own equipment in BT exchanges so as to avoid having to buy wholesale connectivity from the former incumbent. There are 7.59 million LLU lines in the UK today and 6.14 million WLR connections, Ofcom said.

For a fully unbundled line to a property, the current regulated wholesale price is £89.10 per year. Ofcom wants this to come down in real terms by between 1.2 and 4.2 percent below inflation. This would actually allow for a rise to £90.70, an Ofcom spokeswoman told ZDNet UK.

Shared unbundled lines, where a communications provider only uses a proportion of a line for broadband provision, currently cost £15.04 wholesale. Here, Ofcom wants much bigger real-term cuts of between 11.6 and 14.6 percent below inflation. As for WLR lines, which are priced at £103.68 per year, Ofcom wants to see real-term reductions of between 3.1 and 6.1 percent below inflation.

Fibre impact
The professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said that after accounting for inflation, Ofcom's proposals could result in some small price reductions for broadband services. However, it said the biggest impact would be on the rollout of fibre, given that BT intends to offer fibre-based, next-generation access to two-thirds of the country.

"Other broadband providers reach 90 percent of households by unbundling BT's copper infrastructure," PwC telecoms strategy chief Brian Potterill said in a statement. "As Ofcom lowers the prices that BT can charge for this, BT has greater incentive to invest further in fibre on which it has more pricing freedom. But BT still believes that there is no commercial case for fibre beyond its planned two-thirds of the population. Ofcom's proposals will certainly improve the case.

"If demand for fibre services grows, Ofcom's proposals may start to tilt BT's commercial case for more fibre investment earlier."

Ofcom aims for lower real-term broadband prices

USA - Legislators propose reclaiming unspent broadband cash

[pc world] A U.S. Congress subcommittee has approved a bill requiring two government agencies to return any unused money from broadband deployment programs that were part of a huge 2009 economic stimulus package.

The Republican-pushed legislation, approved by voice vote Friday by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee, would require the two agencies administering broadband stimulus funding to return any money from projects canceled by the recipients or by the agencies because of waste, fraud or misuse of funds.

But the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Rural Utilities Service (RUS) are already returning the unused funds, administrators at both agencies said. Some Democrats on the subcommittee questioned the need for the legislation and suggested the subcommittee had more important issues to tackle, including finding more spectrum for mobile broadband services.

"I do, with all due respect, think it's a waste of time," said Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat.

Recipients for 13 broadband projects, with funding totaling about US$70 million, have returned the money or have been asked by the agencies to return the money, according to lawmakers and the agencies. In every case, the money has gone or will go back to the U.S. treasury, said Larry Strickling, the NTIA's administrator.

But the bill is needed because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which allocated about $7 billion for broadband deployment and related programs, does not require the agencies to return the money, said Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and subcommittee chairman. Even if the two agencies are currently returning the funds, their policies could change, he said.

The bill, which now goes to the full committee, would make it clear that the funds must be returned, Walden added.

The bill also requires funds to be returned in the case of "insufficient level of performance, wasteful spending, or fraudulent spending." The bill would require the two agencies to shut down funding for projects that are in the process of being terminated, and it would require the agencies to return the funds to the treasury within 30 days of terminating a project.

The bill is "modest, but necessary," Walden said.

Lawmakers Tell Agencies to Return Unused Broadband Funds

Australia - Minister claims OECD data shows necessity for the NBN

[arnnet] The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, claims new statistics released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlight the critical need for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Senator Conroy said the latest statistics confirm Australians pay more for broadband than people in most other OECD countries.

"These OECD statistics are further evidence that Australia cannot afford to stand idly by with our ageing copper network and sub-standard broadband services," Senator Conroy said.

"The NBN will provide Australia with world-class broadband infrastructure. It will open up a genuine choice of services and drive competitive prices for consumers, whether they live in a capital city or in regional, rural or remote areas."

According to the OECD statistics regarding average broadband subscription prices, Australia is:

3rd most expensive for very low-speed connections (out of 24 countries)
14th most expensive for high-speed connections (out of 33 countries)
12th most expensive for very high-speed connections (out of 28 countries)

Senator Conroy said the recent passage through both Houses of Parliament of the National Broadband Network Companies Bills 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendments (National Broadband Network Measures-Access Arrangements Bill 2011) would help reduce broadband prices for all Australians.

Conroy claims OECD stats prove Australians pay too much for broadband

France Telecom - Bullish prospects in emerging markets in Africa and the Levant

[reuters] France Telecom aims to continue its expansion in the emerging markets of Africa and the Middle East via two or three acquisitions a year, but will not bid for Syria's mobile licence, an executive told Reuters.

Elie Girard, executive vice-president of strategy and development, said France Telecom's priority was countries with low mobile penetration and high growth potential and that recent political unrest was not derailing its ambitions.

"We want to build a real centre of activity in the Middle East but very carefully," he said in an interview on Thursday.

In Iraq he was bullish about the prospects for Korek Telecom, a mobile operator based in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in which France Telecom recently bought a minority stake.

"There is huge growth potential in Iraq," said Girard, adding that Korek would grow some 30 percent a year.

Iraq has a mobile market penetration of about 80 percent, lower than other countries in the region, and average revenue per user of around $12-$15 a month, compared with $3-$5 in India and most of sub-Saharan Africa.

To capitalise on the opportunity, Korek is embarking on a mobile network build-out to cover the entire country by the end of the year, said Girard. "Korek's network is already very good in its home region of Kurdistan, but in the rest of the country we have a lot to do."

If all goes well, France Telecom has negotiated options to buy out its partner Agility and take majority control of Korek in a few years time.

F.Telecom still bullish on Mideast, Africa

Syria - STC has submitted its bid for the third mobile licence

[reuters] Saudi Telecom (STC) submitted its technical and operational offer for Syria's third mobile licence on March 30, the firm said in a bourse statement on Saturday.

STC is one of five firms to qualify for the Syria licence auction, along with Qatar Telecom (QTEL), France Telecom (Orange), Turkcell and the UAE's Etisalat, which has dropped plans to bid.

Saudi Telecom submits offer for Syria mobile licence

Academic paper - Unbundling in Japan and the regulation of fibre optic networks

[ssrn] This paper finds that a regulation that promotes competition in one market may decrease competition in other related markets. Policy makers in the telecommunication industry currently are facing an important decision about whether to continue unbundling regulations on new optical-fiber lines. I find that unbundling regulation prevents new providers from building optical-fiber networks, by estimating a dynamic entry game with a dataset of fiber-optic network constructions in Japan from 2005 to 2009. In particular, when a new technology is introduced, unbundling regulation has an oligopolization effect on the regulated firms. This finding in the Japanese telecommunications industry suggests that unbundling regulation during periods of new technology diffusion may reduce the price of service but also decrease competition in the infrastructure market.

Prevention of Competition by Competition Law: Evidence from Unbundling Regulation on Fiber-Optic Networks in Japan

Africa - As mobile voice revenues decline, operators are looking to growth in data revenues

[computerworld] Mobile operators in Africa are now focusing on data and other value added services as voice revenue, formally a cash cow and declines. This has seen several mobile operators acquire stakes in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as they anticipate to reap from services such as fiber to the home, triple play services and opportunities in the TV segment. Value added services have had mixed reactions depending on each operators strategy, with some blamed for endless products with no value. These were the outcomes of the 2 day East Africa Com conference held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre between 5th and 6th of April 2011. Organized by Informa, the conference drew various mobile and fixed telecom industry players from the continent and beyond.

Price wars hit voice, VAS & Data new frontiers

Korea - Regulator is considering making SMS free to help reduce inflation

[telecom asia] South Korea’s regulator is pondering offering consumers free text messages as a way of curbing inflation in the country.

Choi See-joong, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), had said Wednesday that free text messages and cheaper mobile phones direct from handset vendors may be in the pipeline as a means of lowering telecommunications costs, according to the Chosun Ilbo.

Telecommunications costs per household have reached as much as 100,000 won ($91.80) per month, according to the KCC.

The hints by Choi appear to not have sat well with operators and telecoms stakeholders alike. An official from one of the country's three telecoms providers told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the firm had not been consulted before the proposal, adding the KCC's demands were 'hardly feasible'. The country’s three telecom firms are Korea Telecom (KT), SK Telecom and LG U+.

One shareholder from one of the country’s three operators told the Korea Herald that the firms were private entities, and she did not wish to see the company’s value depreciating due to the government’s laws.

The same shareholder also questioned how overseas shareholders in the country’s three telecoms firms would react to Choi’s statement.

Another industry official told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the provision of free text messages would encourage spam and limit operators' ability to innovate due to revenue loss.Data from Korea’s Information Society Development Institute had estimated that revenue from text messages would account for about 4% of an operator’s total sales.

South Korea’s carriers are currently also struggling with the popularity of free mobile messengers that use data for communication, such as Kakao Talk and WhatsApp. An SK Telecom official told the Korea Herald end-March that mobile messaging applications had impacted the firm’s network.

The country’s three carriers are also involved in a price rigging probe by Korea’s Fair Trade Commission.

A taskforce from the KCC dedicated to finding means to lower communications costs is expected to announce its finalized plans later this month.

Korea regulator ponders free text rules

Bangladesh - Regulator is reviewing its decision to close five fixed network operators for providing "illegal" VoIP services

[financial express] The telecommunication regulatory body has planned to review its decision about the five shut-down PSTN (public switched telephone network) operators that have remained closed since March, 2010 as penalty for doing illegal VoIP business.

"We will sit soon on this issue," a high official of the regulatory body told the FE, seeking anonymity, adding that the body can review any decision in response to the appeal of the victimised operators.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, told the FE Tuesday that they have asked both the ministry and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to resolve the issue.

He expressed the hope that they would get a result within less than one month.

Earlier, the same standing body suggested the BTRC and the government to review the issue for the greater interest of the local industry.

The five PSTN companies, the operations of which have been shut following their involvement in illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) business, are: RanksTel, PeoplesTel, Dhaka Phone, National Telecom and WorldTel.

VoIP is a technology that allows free telephone calls over the internet.

Industry insiders said over Tk 10 billion (1,000 crore) investments of the country's five PSTN operators out of nine remained stuck as the telecom regulator ordered closure of their operations.

The PSTN operators are counting heavy losses as the consequences as they are paying interest against their bank loans and maintaining regular office expenses like house rent and staff salaries, they said.

"We are still maintaining office internally expecting that the government will withdraw the ban on our operations shortly," head of operations of RanksTel Abul Kalam Shamsuddin told the FE.

The industry people said the same allegation was also made against some mobile operators but they were fined and their licences were not cancelled.

Criticising the BTRC, they said this discriminating behaviour has destroyed the domestic industry as a whole instead of giving them chance of correction.

Speaking on the licence cancellation issue, a BTRC official said both the PSTN and the mobile operators were fined for their illegal VoIP business during the tenure of the caretaker government but no action has been taken against anyone during the period of the democratically elected government.

He said the law is applicable to all and, as the regulatory body, we cannot discriminate between domestic or foreign operators.

Earlier, the regulatory body realised Tk 8.38 billion as fine from Grameenphone, Banglalink, AKTEL and CityCell for their involvement in illegal VOIP operation.

The private land-phone company RanksTel was also fined Tk 150 million.

RanksTel official Shamsuddin mentioned that they had an investment of about Tk 4.0 billion with 450 employees and 500 dealers.

He said that they did not get any response despite appealing to the authority.

Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WorldTel Nayeem Chowdhury told the FE that the equipment and bank loan have now become their excruciating burdens.

He expressed the hope that the authority will reconsider their decision and revive the closed PSTN operators soon.

Talking to the FE, Assistant General Manager (AGM) of PeoplesTel Mohammad Joynal Abedin mentioned about their miserable condition. The company that invested about Tk 3.5 billion has been continuing the house rent and salaries of employees.

He also added that the valuable equipment of the company was going out of order.

Among the shut down operators, RanksTel was the market leader with more than 0.3 million subscribers, followed by PeoplesTel with 160,000, National Telecom with 138,000, Dhaka Phone with 77,000 and WorldTel with 14,000 subscribers.

BTRC to review decision on ban of PSTN companies

Iraq - Asiacell has been declared the best mobile network operator

[ame] Asiacell, the largest private Iraqi company and the first and only mobile telecommunications company to provide coverage for all of Iraq, took part in the 2nd Telecommunication Conference, organized by Iraq's Ministry of Communication between 14 and 16 March 2011 at Al-Elwiya Club in Baghdad. Representatives of the public and private sectors attended the conference, where Asiacell was recognized as the best GSM operator in Iraq.

Faruq Mustafa Rasul, Asiacell Chairman, voiced the Company's pride in receiving the award for best GDM operator, saying the Ministry of Communication's recognition of the Company's performance would only serve to reassert its commitment to continue presenting high quality, modern services to the Iraqi people. "I thank the Ministry for this good gesture, which embodies Asiacell's keen interest to keep up the hard work in the service of the Iraqi telecommunication sector, while seeking to take it to further heights."

The 2nd Telecommunication Conference is a leading event in Iraq that aims to upgrade telecommunication services presented to the Iraqi market. It convened this year following the big success that the 1st Conference was able to achieve. "Asiacell's participation reflects our belief in the importance of pubic private sector cooperation in the implementation of high level projects that could contribute to economic development in the country," said Faruq Mustafa, voicing hope that the Conference would bring about positive outcome that further benefits Iraq's vital communication sector.

The Conference reviewed a variety of topics through researches and presentations with the participation of the Mosul University, Baghdad University, Babil University, Iraq's CMC and the Ministry of Science of Technology.

Two main researches were presented, one by the CMC on the effect of external interferences on mobile networks, and another by the University of Mosul on the environmental effects of EMF. Other topics included the security of telecommunication data, telecommunication networks and electronic government.

Asiacell named 'Best GSM operator in Iraq' at Ministry of Communication Conference

Syria - Govt has a choice of STC or Qtel for its third mobile operator

[bloomberg] Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) and Qatar Telecom QSC reached the final phase of Syria’s auction for a third mobile license, Deputy Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Al- Jalali said today.

Emirates Telecommunications Corp., the bigger of two phone companies in the United Arab Emirates, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS, Turkey’s biggest mobile-phone operator, and France Telecom SA (FTE), the country’s largest phone company, have pulled out of the race, he said in a interview from Damascus.

The three companies withdrew because they did not agree with some contractual issues, including the 25 percent share in revenue of the Syrian state and its monopoly over infrastructure for seven years, according to a telecommunications ministry statement today. They also objected to their requirements for certain frequencies not being available, it said.

“We are heading on with our plans and schedule without any changes for the time being,” Jalali said. “We started today the evaluation of the two offers and might complete the process before the end of this week.”

Bidders will be notified about the evaluation results on April 14 and the auction will be held on April 27, he said. The auction will open with 90 million euros ($128 million), he said.

Qatar Telecom QSC Chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani said March 27 that unrest in Syria hasn’t changed the company’s interest in the country’s third mobile license. Syria is the latest Middle Eastern country to be hit by uprisings that ousted longtime rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, and sparked armed conflict in Libya.

Syria is encouraging private and foreign investment in its state-dominated economy to provide long-term financing for development and economic reforms. To help expand the mobile market, the government last year approved an auction for a third license and decided to change the contracts of the two current operators, Syriatel and MTN Group Ltd. (MTN)’s MTN Syria SA unit, to build-operate-transfer license protocols. MTN is Africa’s biggest mobile-network operator.

Syria to Award Third Mobile License to Saudi or Qatari Companies

Syria - Etisalat (UAE) decided not to bid for the third mobile licence

[eye of dubai] Etisalat has decided not to proceed and compete in the Syrian mobile bid despite having earlier qualified to participate in the process.

Etisalat has conducted an extensive and careful study alongside financial advisors, legal experts and technicians, and has determined that the terms and conditions of the bid would not enable Etisalat to achieve its objectives regarding the technology and value it wishes to bring to the market nor for its investors and shareholders.

Ahmed bin Ali, the official spokesperson of Etisalat said: We worked hard on this opportunity especially due to the close relations with our sister country Syria, but we hoped that the terms and conditions for the license would have been more attractive.

Etisalat is renowned for its international investment strategy, which is based on selecting the right opportunity based on in depth study and analysis. It has over 30 years experience in providing various telecommunications services and this has led to the company establishing itself as a leader in its field.

Etisalat Decides not to Submit a Bid For Syrian Mobile License

Syria - Three bidders drop out of the bidding for the third mobile licence

[developing telecoms] With three potential candidates dropping out of the running in the last few days, the bidding race for Syria’s third mobile licence has come down to two competitors – Saudi Arabian STC and Qatar’s Qtel. The three high-profile international operators that have pulled out of the auctions are Etisalat, Turkcell and France Telecom.

The Syrian telecommunications ministry claimed that regulatory requirements had deterred the three operators from voting. The operators would have been required to surrender control over their infrastructure to the government under a seven-year lease, as well as pay a 25% tax on revenue.

Regulatory disputes are unlikely to have been the sole reason that the operators declined to bid – Syria is currently the scene of widespread protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been in power for 11 years. It is thought that the politically volatile environment may also have acted as a deterrent.
"Qtel confirms that it has submitted both the financial and technical bids for the third licence in Syria," read an official statement from the Qatari firm, while STC has also declared that it will partake in the bidding.

There are currently only two significant players in the Syrian mobile market: Syriatel and MTN, which respectively have 6 million and 4.9 million connections. There is plenty of room for expansion however; the relatively low penetration rate (53%) would allow for the presence of a third market player.

Three operators drop out of auction for Syria’s third licence, only two left

Thursday, April 14, 2011

USA - Regulator has required operators to share towers with competitors

[daily tech] Monopolies are getting harder and harder to maintain today

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved a measure that could force wireless operators to open their towers to competitors, including small operators, for the first time. The vote was divided directly on party lines with the Democratic majority voting to approve the measure.

Ostensibly the new rules are designed to promote competition comes at a time when America will soon have only three big wireless operators -- Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ); Sprint Nextel Corp. (S); and the merged AT&T, Inc. (T)/T-Mobile (DTE). These players tend to make decisions, including pricing in mass, forming a virtual oligopoly or triopoly -- depending on your preferred term.

The decision to force them to relinquish part of their chokehold on America's communications services isn't news that they took kindly to. But it represents the latest step in a long and reoccurring federal effort to try to break the large wireless carriers that the feds allowed, and even promoted the formation of.

I. Opening the Lines -- A Brief History

The year was 1956 and it was an important time in pop culture. Icon Jackson Pollock died in a tragic car crash; Elvis Presley introduced the controversial burner "Hound Dog"; and Bob Barker made his debut on the game show circuit. But for the corporate world it was also a landmark year.

The first major event was the passage of the Federal Highway Aid Highway Act, which gave birth to the Interstate Highway System (today known as the National Highway System). Many conservatives viewed the move at the time as an inordinate and burdensome expansion of government, but Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower's decision to break ranks left a lasting legacy that is today an integral part of our society.

Equally important was the year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case Hush-a-Phone v. United States, in which the court ruled that third parties could legally connect their devices to the telephones of the American Telephone and Telegraph company. That decision opened the doors to the possibility of competition at a time when AT&T held a monopolistic death grip on the U.S. phone market.

A following decision in a 1968 Cartfone case allowed third parties to directly attach equipment like phones to AT&T wires. And just like that, small players could enter the market, without having to worry about gathering billions in capital to build wires. The decision also somewhat lessened AT&T's ability to locally undercut nascent operators in prices in a bid to force them out of the market.

Then in 1976 the U.S. Department of Justice decided to break up AT&T (known as "Ma Bell" at the time) into seven smaller companies -- regional "Baby Bells". This approach worked -- somewhat. The resulting companies were small enough to offer some competition on a national scale. But at a local scale they were still big enough to use their power to try to force would-be competitors out of town.

Thus many of the areas of the U.S. were still stuck with a monopoly/duopoly.

In 1996, under Democratic President Bill Clinton, the Federal government yet again tried to do something about the lack of competition. It passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that forced the phone giants to clear the way for smaller third party operators to interconnect with their networks.

Before, the burden was on the carriers to figure out how to connect their devices -- now it was on the networks. And the bill gave a legislative backbone to the 1968 Cartfone decision, which had served as an early mandate for interconnectedness.

But for all that work, the efforts were largely washed down the drain. By the turn of the twenty-first century cell phones were fast looking to surpass landlines and early implementations of mobile data networks were starting.

All those rules mandating interconnectedness for landlines did not apply to cell phone towers. In other words, it was virtually impossible for a small player to enter the market and provide a decent service to customers.

Meanwhile, the wireless operators began consolidating. By 2005 there was only four players in the market -- Verizon, Sprint (who acquired Nextel and Boost Mobile), AT&T, and T-Mobile. Now it looks like there will only be three.

And the market has hardly become more open to new entrants.

Verizon, AT&T Fight Federal Plan to Open Cell Towers to Small Operators

New Zealand - Operators complain that Bill will increase incumbent's market power

[telecom asia] New Zealand's telecom industry has lashed out at proposed legislation behind the nation's Ultrafast Broadband project, stating it will drive up prices and only increase Telecom NZ's market power.

A group of operators, as well as consumer groups including the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) have signed a letter sent to local MPs in protest of the bill to set the terms of the fiber network project.

The group includes Vodafone NZ, TelstraClear, Kordia/Orcon and 2degrees, some of the largest companies in the local telecom market beside Telecom NZ.

The signatories argued that the legislation as it stands would increase broadband prices for urban consumers by over 20%.

The bill would leave the UFB - a planned wholesale-only fiber network that will cover the 75% of the population that lives in metro areas - without regulatory oversight for 10 years, the letter adds.

While the government plans to force Telecom NZ to structurally separate before it can participate, the signatories argue that the legislation as it stands would simply allow Telecom NZ to create a new wholesale monopoly once it splits into retail and wholesale divisions.

NZ telcos slam fiber project legislation