News From Telecom World

Archive for January 2009

The proposed new Google GDrive could kill off the personal computer, experts have warned.

The Google Drive service, which will reportedly launch later this year, allows users to store information online on Google’s own servers rather than on the hard drive.

The process has been dubbed ‘cloud computing’ and is being seen as ‘the most anticipated Google product so far’.

The GDrive would mean users would no longer have to worry about their hard drives crashing as their data could be accessed from any internet connection, a move that could effectively make PCs redundant.

However, there are concerns over the security of storing such a high degree of personal data online rather than a PC with experts warning that Google will gain unprecedented control over users’ information.

Peter Brown, of the Free Software Foundation, a charity which helps defend computer users liberties told the Times: ‘It’s a little bit like saying, “we’re in a dictatorship, the trains are running on time”.

‘But does it matter to you that someone can see everything on your computer? Does it matter that Google can be subpoenaed at any time to hand over all your data to the American government?’

The GDrive would mark a departure from the Microsoft Windows operating system and will enable users to treat their computer as software rather than hardware.

Dave Armstrong of Google Enterprise, said: ‘There’s a clear direction…away from people thinking “This is my PC, this is my hard drive” to “This is how I interact with information, this is how I interact with the web”‘.

A Google spokesman refused to confirm if the GDrive was to be introduced soon.

Source: Daily Mail

Market sources say that the internet usage increased by just around 17% in India last year.

This figure was revealed in a report by Internet & Mobile Association of India and IMRB International.

The report said that the Indian market had 45.3 million active users at the ended of September 2008.

Majority of these users are from the urban areas.

The study said: “Urban users continue to dominate Internet use contributing to 42 million of the 45 million odd users”.

IAMAI President Subho Ray added: “The growth rate was alarming compared with the rest in past years as well as with some other countries notably China where the number of Internet users are more than 250 million.”

The report also said that quite a lot of these internet users found that they had no real use for it!

Source: sifybroadband

The caretaker government on December 22 approved an ordinance amending the Telecom Act, 2001 bypassing the telecoms ministry and in contradiction with existing laws, making BTRC extraordinarily powerful.

The approval appears surprising as earlier that month the finance ministry rejected BTRC’s proposal to amend the Act to make it more powerful and financially independent.

The finance ministry observed that many of the proposals violate the constitution.

The ordinance gives Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) authority to call law enforces for any reason and any time to arrest persons violating the Act without warrant. It also says in dealing with telecoms related crimes, the punishment outlined in the ordinance will overrule any other laws of the land.

One of the major parts of the amended ordinance styled “Amended Telecom Act-2008″ is that the telecom watchdog will have full control of inquiry and investigation of any violation and at the same time no court can execute trial without report from BTRC investigators.

It empowers the BTRC chairman is to appoint any of commission officials as an investigation officer to investigate related offences.

As per the amended ordinance (Section-18, clause-18), BTRC can recruit manpower and fix up their salary as per their wish without notifying the government concerned bodies concerned.

Besides, it dictates a maximum financial penalty of Tk 500 crore instead of earlier Tk 10 lakh for violation of any section of the Act.

Telecoms ministry sources say in the all inter-ministerial meetings the ministry officials stood against the BTRC proposals. But the commission had it approved apparently by convincing the Ministry of Law and other authorities concerned, they add.

Finance ministry insiders say the new judicial power of BTRC officials enacted in the ordinance was beyond their knowledge. In the inter-ministerial meeting they rejected BTRC’s intention to have independence in recruitment and salary.

Other parts of the ordinance could have been scrutinised by the Ministry of Law, the sources say.

“There is no scope for us to do anything about the ordinance. What we opposed was passed by the government,” says a high official of the telecom ministry who attended a series of inter-ministerial meetings.

The amended telecom ordinance is out of 117 ordinances promulgated by the immediate-past caretaker government to be tabled as bills in parliament to make them laws.

Eminent citizens say it should not be passed in a democratic parliament, as laws of the land didn’t follow its amendment.

“No government organisation can recruit manpower and fix up their salary as per their wish. Such ordinances should be dismissed,” said former adviser Hafiz Uddin Khan.

Citing an example he said some other organisations like the Supreme Court, Auditor General Office and Election Commission had also sought such independence. But it did not happen as it mismatches with the present administrative rules and regulation.

“BTRC is not so important a commission, which must have independence in recruitment and fixing up employees’ salary,” said Khan.

He also expressed disappointment to see the ordinance approved just seven days before the parliamentary elections. “There was no reason to hurry. A caretaker government can amend laws that are very necessary to keep the country peaceful.”

“It’s an unfortunate job done by the earlier un-elected government,” he observed.

Regulatory Reforms Commission (RRC) Chairman Dr Akbar Ali Khan said the ordinance should be discussed in parliament. “The concerned parliamentary committee should scrutinise the ordinance whether it is truly good for the country,” he added.

According to the finance ministry’s observation about BTRC’s proposal of recruitment and fix up salary, as no organisations in the country requires such financial freedom and the telecom watchdog cannot exclusively get the power.

Besides, a regulator’s job is to monitor whether any unlawful activities are occurring in the industry. It should not work as a revenue collector, the officials of the ministry repeatedly pointed out at the meetings.

The ministry sources say some other organisations such as the central bank had also sought such independence long ago. “But that did not happen due to constitutional obligations,” comments a high official of the ministry.

The official adds the finance ministry rejected the proposal also because if one gets it, other regulators might seek such independence.

The BTRC chairman yesterday said the commission had no scope to amend the law. “The amendment came mainly after the telecom ministry’s proposal and BTRC was present there as an audience.”

He admitted that BTRC will enjoy more independence than what it enjoys now as per the Telecom Act-2001.

He said not only BTRC, Energy Regulatory Commission enjoys full independence in recruiting manpower and fix up salary. In this case, the establishment ministry approved the proposal.

“The finance ministry denied our proposal to keep 5 percent of the total annual earnings of BTRC for its expenditure. And then we cut the proposal.”

Some salient features of the amendment to the Telecommunication Act, 2001

a) The BTRC can recruit officials or consultants and fix their salaries as per its wishes without government’s permission [section-18, subsection-(3) (a) (c)].

b) If any operator violates the Telecommunication Act, regulations or licence conditions, the BTRC can penalise up to Tk 500 crore instead of the previous Tk 10 lakh [section-46 (3) (d)].

C) The BTRC can seize equipment of any operator if it violates telecom rules and regulations and can appoint administrators to run the company [section-46 (3) (f)].

D) All offences declared in the ordinance will be treated as cognisable and no court can commence trail without BTRC report [section-77 (1) (2)].

E) Trail of offences would be conducted by magistracy instead of sessions court [section-77 (3)].

F) The BTRC shall have full control over enquiries and investigations of any telecom offence. The BTRC chairman can appoint any of his officials as investigation officer to detect offences in the telecom sector [section-78 (1) (2)].

G) The investigation officer will act as an officer-in-charge of a police station and can impose any legal action [section-78 (5)].

F) A BTRC investigation officer’s findings would be treated as a police report [section-78 (5)].

H) The investigation officer can seek necessary support from any government agencies which are obliged to provide support [section-78 (11)].

I) The BTRC can appoint its own lawyers as special public prosecutors and especial government pleaders [section-80 (1)].

Source: Daily Star

Telenor, the largest Nordic telecoms group, scrapped its dividend after bowing to shareholder pressure and withdrawing plans to fund its $1bn investment in Unitech Wireless, the fledgling Indian mobile operator, with a rights issue.

“We are taking into consideration the feedback we have received,” Trond Westlie, chief financial officer, told the Financial Times. “The cut in dividend over a two-year period [was regarded as] definitely more preferable.”

Telenor’s shares – which lost two-thirds of their value last year – fell slightly on the news, closing less than 1 per cent lower at NKr46.15.

Telenor’s shares slumped by a quarter in October after it announced a Nkr12bn ($1.7bn) rights issue to part-finance its strategic investment in the Indian market, the world’s fastest growing market in terms of subscribers. The transaction is expected to close later this quarter.

Investors expressed sceptism of the business case for starting an expensive greenfield operation in a huge emerging market where several larger rival operators, including Vodafone, are already established.

Telenor estimates that its Indian mobile operation, in which it will hold a 60 per cent stake, will not start making an operating profit (before asset writedowns) until 2012 and turn cash-positive only two years later.

Shareholders also feared a rights issue would greatly dilute their holdings because investors have turned their back on share issues in the current climate and Telenor’s shares are trading at low valuations.

Yesterday, Telenor announced it had arranged an Nkr8bn three-year loan from a banking consortium to finance the transaction.

It said it would withhold the dividend for the current financial year and indicated it was likely to do the same next year.

Analysts said this year’s dividend had been expected to be about Nkr6bn.

Telenor, which had Nkr39bn in net debt at the end of the third quarter, had originally rejected debt finance because of the potential impact on its cash flow and ratings.

In October, it forecast that the Unitech investment would dilute operating cash flow by 90 per cent this year and 40 per cent in 2010.

Mr Westlie said that cancelling the dividends would alleviate the liquidity constraints and the rating concerns.

“This will get us a rating level that we feel is comfortable to do the necessary refinancing in the years to come,” he said.

Telenor has Nkr9bn of debt maturing this year, although it has two back-up facilities totalling €2.5bn.

Ratings agency Fitch yesterday said Telenor’s announcement did not affect its BBB+ rating, which remains on negative outlook.

“Fitch remains concerned about the strategic rationale, overall cost burden and long-term profitability prospects of this investment,” the agency said.

“Further, the economic slowdown and growing currency devaluation risk within the company’s emerging markets are also putting pressure on the ratings.”

Source: http://www.ft.com/telecoms

“It’s hard to imagine an industry that generates US$200 billion in global revenues – a figure that’s growing 35% a year – as anything other than an outstanding success story. But for some time there has been a widely held view that the mobile content sector is failing to live up to expectations, 3G has disappointed and mobile operators have thrown away an opportunity to develop a revenue stream that could ultimately surpass the voice business.”

If 2008 is remembered for one thing, it should be for being the year that this notion was dispelled. Until last year, the nonvoice business was dominated by SMS. For a typical European operator, SMS accounted for up to 80% of nonvoice revenues in previous years. But this figure has started to fall sharply. Operators such as Vodafone are seeing non-SMS services generating up to half of nonvoice revenues. Investment in 3G – or 3.5G – is now generating payback.

2008 was also the year that the debate moved on. It’s no longer a question of whether there will be mass-market take-up of non-SMS data services but of what role operators will play in providing these services. And the focus is on how such services will break down between value-added ones and those based on Internet access. Operators are carving out a strong revenue stream in providing Internet access – via both smartphones and dongles – but are eager to add some value, either for their own users or for the Internet-service companies themselves.

Nonvoice revenues totaled US$157 billion in 2007, according to data collected by Informa Telecoms & Media, up from US$116 billion in 2006. In 2Q08 nonvoice revenues surpassed US$50 billion for the first time in any quarter. For 2008 as a whole they are expected to exceed US$200 billion.

Revenues are heavily skewed toward emerging markets. Asia Pacific captured 39% of global data revenues in 2Q08, but the region is dominated by China – as a function of its sheer size – along with Japan and South Korea. Europe was the second-largest region, with 25% of global revenues, followed by North America (19%). Other regions contributed just 17% of global revenues.

The US tops the world in mobile data ARPU. In 2Q08, data ARPU was US$10 a month in North America, compared with a global average of just under US$5.

These figures make a mockery of the idea that the US mobile market lags behind Europe’s. It is true that it took a long time for the US to adopt SMS, but it has been way ahead of Europe – though still some way behind Japan and South Korea – in its enthusiasm for other data services.

The ratio of prepaid subscribers to postpaid goes a long way toward accounting for the differences among markets in mobile content adoption and usage. Postpaid subscriptions account for 99% of all subs in South Korea, 94% in Japan and 90% in the US. And these are the countries with the highest mobile data ARPUs. It has been the introduction of flat-rate mobile data price plans – a concept that fits better in a postpaid market than a prepaid one – that has driven the non-SMS data market globally.

Devices have played a huge role in the growth of mobile data revenues. Usage figures for the iPhone have demonstrated that there is a huge appetite for Internet browsing on mobile phones, provided that the user interface can overcome the problems inherent in small screen sizes. But it is not just the iPhone that has built the market for mobile Internet. The usability of all midrange and high-end handsets has improved significantly, and the operators themselves are positively encouraging their customers to navigate off-portal rather than keeping them inside walled gardens. In the case of mobile broadband, all services are off-portal, and customers use dongles simply as a way to connect to the full Internet.

The influence of the iPhone can be seen not just in the device market but in the relationship between operators and handset manufacturers. Apple has negotiated exclusive relationships with mobile operators, and those that are not distributing the iPhone have been eager to counter with their own devices. For example, Verizon and Vodafone both have exclusive distribution agreements in their respective markets with RIM for the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm. In Europe, T-Mobile has been the exclusive distributor of the G1 Google Android device.

When Apple first attempted to negotiate distribution agreements for the iPhone, it came up against resistance from operators reluctant to put their backing behind a handset offering services – such as music, Internet browsing and applications – in which they had no role and which, furthermore, competed with their own offerings. But the take-up of the iPhone and its ARPU figure – more than US$90 a month – are so impressive that its operator partners have been happy to take a backseat.

As Internet brands continue to expand into the mobile space and develop handset or handset-software strategies, mobile operators will find it harder to find a market for their own services. And with operators looking to cut costs in the economic downturn, there will be a growing temptation to hand over responsibility for developing new services to Internet and handset manufacturers.

But operators will continue to seek ways to profit from the services adopted by their customers, even when they are offered by third parties. 2009 will see operators investing more in their API strategies, developing communities of application developers who they hope will pay to access back-office functions in their network. And even if such revenues are relatively small, there might be a way for operators to generate advertising revenues or for these new applications to drive usage of core services, such as voice or SMS.

As the recession starts to take hold in North America and Europe, mobile operators will shift their focus away from entertainment services to more-practical applications, such as mobile payments and the enterprise market. This has always been an aspiration for mobile operators, but their ambitions have tended to be halfhearted. Machine-to-machine communications has been cited by a number of mobile operators as a key focus area for 2009, and this sits well with their API and “open mobile” strategies.

Even if the most pessimistic scenarios for the economic downturn come to pass, it seems unlikely that the mobile content sector will stop growing. 2008 saw a switch to flat-rate and mobile Internet models. 2009 will see this trend continue and will see the arrival of more-affordable mobile Internet devices. Perhaps the bigger uncertainty is whether mobile operators will accept a role as dumb pipes rather than continuing to invest in their own services and smart-pipe strategies.

Source: telecoms.com

Femtocells are more likely to establish a foothold in the enterprise market, rather than in the consumer segment, according to kitmaker Andrew.

“There is room in the enterprise market for companies looking to improve in-building coverage,” said Andrea Casini, EMEA vice president for sales and marketing at Andrew.

Yet, he said even this approach raises questions about the appropriate business model operators should adopt.

“It depends on the operator’s strategy, because some enterprises might not want to be tied down to a single provider for all of their telecoms needs,” he said.

“Enterprises these days tend to prefer getting just the one bill, and having just one service provider,” he noted, but this is not necessarily a positive thing for the mobile operator, since a business might not want the increased stickiness that comes with adding a femtocells element into their relationship.

Speaking to Total Telecom in London last week Casini said he does not expect femtocells to gain much traction in the consumer market.

“It is unlikely consumers would be able to use their DSL connection to route both their broadband traffic and their 3G traffic because they won’t have the capacity to handle both at the same time,” he said.

“That’s discounting the other issues, like whether customers are comfortable having a base station inside their house for instance… I don’t see how femtocells will pick up in the residential market,” he added.

Casini also said he cannot see a viable model for deploying femtocells as a public hotspot proposition.

Separately, Andrew announced on Tuesday a contract to supply Alcatel-Lucent with wireless equipment to provide network coverage in what will be the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

The tunnel is being built by AlpTransit Gotthard, a subsidiary of Swiss Federal Railways, and when completed will stretch for 57 kilometres.

It is expected to be operational by the end of 2017.

“The physical environment in the tunnel represents a challenge because there is limited space, but you need to be able to provide high-speed handoffs because of the speed of the train,” said Casini.

Andrew’s fibre distributed antenna system and radiating cables will be deployed to provide consistent coverage throughout the tunnel.

The airwaves will be open to all of Switzerland’s mobile operators, which will purchase bandwidth from Swiss Federal Railways.

“It becomes a selling point to offer connectivity in such a long tunnel, it’s an opportunity for operators to drive fresh revenues,” said Casini.

Source: Total Telecom

Suppose every utterance and facial expression at a meeting were routinely captured and archived in high-definition digital video recordings – searchable and available in perpetuity. Would this be a godsend or a nightmare? The answer is probably HBR List 2009 logoboth, but we’re about to findout for sure. Within a few years, a synthesis of technologies from an array of companies will make possible a “total recall system,” or TRS, that can produce such recordings.

Let’s say you miss an important meeting. Instead of having to piece it together from the contradictory accounts of those who were there, you will be able to log in to your company’s TRS and search a recording of the meeting for the stuff you really care about. Or maybe you’d like to revisit discussions that stretched over a series of meetings and led to an important decision for which you are partly accountable. All the deliberations along the way – advocacy, misgivings, evolving positions – are there for your review. Of course, if the decision turns out to have been a bad one, the record will likewise be there to vindicate or implicate dissenters and promoters alike.

Indeed, TRS is a double-edged sword. A silly suggestion made in a brainstorming meeting might end up on YouTube, Yahoo Video, or MSN Video. Every thoughtless or sarcastic comment could potentially come back to haunt its maker in an HR inquiry or a lawsuit. Recorded content would be discoverable, potentially increasing the already staggering costs and complexity of litigation. Clearly, digital-rights protections that prevent the unauthorized from accessing these records will be hugely important. On the other hand, companies could use the recordings to defend themselves in court. And software programs will be able to dig through the recordings to identify people’s expertise and network ties, making it possible to find everyone who has mentioned a subject of interest, on what occasion, and to whom.

The next frontier is technology that can recognize faces and interpret gestures and expressions. (Does John Doe always twitch when he makes commitments he doesn’t keep?) These capabilities should be available in a decade. Yes, Big Brother may ultimately capture everything we say and do at a meeting, with consequences both good and bad.

Source: HBR



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