2007 May


We have periodically carried stories on non-traditional uses of mobiles.   Here is one about buying accident insurance that are bought and paid for through the mobiles. LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE – LBO The accident insurance cover package premiums are priced between five and 20 rupees which can be paid at any Dialog reload centre in Sri Lanka that entitles the connection holder up to 50,000 rupees worth of claims. The accident cover targets the population who does not have comprehensive knowledge of insurance and low-income families. Customers can apply for the ‘eZ insurance’ cover at the time of a reload and the cover expires when the credit of the reload finishes.
The Indian mobile market has added 20.55 million new customers in the first four months of 2007 – less than the 20.96 million recorded in the same period in 2006. There are two reasons for this shortfall. Firstly, in April 2006 Reliance Communications made an adjustment to the way it counted mobile subscribers, including its fixed-wireless customers in the figures for the first time and boosting its ranks as a result.
The usually well-informed LBO.LK appears to have gotten confused in the “fog of war” created by interested parties seeking to extract rents from the sale of 25% of SLTL shares by NTT to GTH, both private companies, and by the unfortunate opacity of the transaction (something that is quite surprising because SLTL is a publicly traded company and the interests of thousands of shareholders are affected by the transaction). The source quoted by LBO below appears to have been quite familiar with the ORIGINAL shareholders agreement signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and NTT in 1997, but appears to have been comatose since then. Provisions regarding no universal service obligations (USO) and international exclusivities were in that agreement and did bind the Government of Sri Lanka. The no-USO provision continues to date, though the international exclusivity ended with the issuance of external gateway licenses in March 2003.
China and India are emerging as powerhouses of innovation and creativity. “In 2005, the number of patent filings in China outnumbered those in the US,” said Partha Iyengar, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Slightly less than one-tenth of world intellectual property organisation international patents were attributed to emerging markets. If the growth rates remain constant, the emerging market share could reach almost one-fifth in 2012.”
The government of Pakistan seems set to issue three 3G licences by the end of this year, according to recent Reuters reports. Pakistan is one of a number of populous Asian nations whose hunger for more widely available communications services are proving to be a major growth engine for telecoms groups with global ambitions. However, it does remain to be seen if there exists a solid business case for investment in third generation networks in a region where the most basic prepaid voice and SMS services are stimulating economic activity by providing consumers and businesses with connectivity. This has not deterred the state-owned GSM operator in Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, from launching 3G services. The 3G SIM card reportedly costs about US$64.
BSNL, the former incumbent fixed line and mobile carrier in India, is finalizing a $4.5-4.7 billion deal with Ericsson and Nokia Siemens to deploy 45.5 million GSM lines. Ericsson’s share of this deal is about $2.
Mobile phone production in China is expected to rise by nearly 17% during 2007 – to reach 560 million units, according to information released by China’s Ministry of Information Industry. In 2006, handsets produced in China totaled 480 million units, accounting for a 47% share of global production. During Q1 of this year, handset production had totaled 134 million units – a rise of 34.5% on the same quarter the previous year. The report states that the primary production areas in China are Tianjin, Beijing and Shenzhen – each capable of producing over 100 million handsets per annum each.
The report examines the untapped potential that the mobile / wireless devices have in provisioning of next generation of business and public services. This report , prepared and published by Mckinsey and Company, can be a very valuable tool for the professionals in the public sector as well as the industry. It makes a point that the next generation of services for the evolving knowledge society would be provisioned through mobile / wireless devices.  http://mckinsey.com/clientservice/telecommunications/WirelsUnbnd.
The title of the article “Sri Lanka to de-regulate payphone business,” is a little deceptive, but then that is probably not the fault of the Director General, but of the editor of LBO. LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE – LBO Sri Lanka plans to allow third parties to operate payphone booths in an attempt to popularise them in far flung areas outside the city of Colombo, a top official said.The island’s eight public switched telephone network (PSTN) operators will now be allowed to appoint a third party to operate and maintain a public phone booth on a revenue sharing model. “Its a scheme similar to selling lottery tickets, where the lottery operator does not undertake the burden of running, maintaining and collecting the money,” the head of Sri Lanka’s telecom watchdog, Kanchana Ratwatte said.
Google has proposed to the FCC that instead of getting into long-term contracts for allocating spectrum, companies buying spectrum should be free to resell the spectrum in real-time auctions. This would probably not involve human beings in protracted auction negotiations but rather negotiations between devices in real-time. Since FCC’s auction is done at the wholesale level it would probably involve companies reselling spectrum that they won to consumers on real-time basis. NYT: “The driving reason we’re doing this is that there are not enough broadband options for consumers,” said Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for Google’s policy office in Washington. “In general, it’s the belief of a lot of people in the company that spectrum is allocated in an inefficient manner.
A British climber has set a world record by making a mobile phone call from the top of Mount Everest.In the early hours of 21 May, Rod Baber made two calls from the mountain’s north ridge.  In the first call Mr Baber described the view, how cold it was and what he wanted to do when back at base camp; he then rang his wife and children. The calls were made possible when China set up a mobile base station with a line of sight to the north ridge.   Mr Baber set off from the UK for the Himalayas on 30 March and since mid-April has been getting used to living at high altitude.
It is learned that a fiber optic cable has been laid to connect Thimphu, the capital with the Indian backbone network, that an IT park is being established in Thimphu, and that Bhutan will soon be undertaking BPO work. If any of our Bhutanese readers (or other knowledgeable persons) can shed additional light on this subject it will be much appreciated.
Hindu Businessline  ICICI Bank is gearing to conduct a test run next month. The bank has tied up with Airtel and mChek for the purpose, said Mr Sachin Khandelwal, Head – Cards Product Group of ICICI Bank. “A virtual card will be created on the phone through which an individual can carry out complete banking transactions.” Mr Khandelwal said all a customer had to do was to give his mobile number and the payment to be made to the merchant. The merchant will furnish the information given via his mobile to mChek, a mobile payment platform, which in turn will channel it to the bank for authorising the transaction, before which mChek will seek customer authorisation (PIN entered authorisation) to carry forward the transaction.
Rohan Samarajiva examines what is required to connect families at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) in South Asia, drawing from the findings of a five-country Teleuse@BOP study that included the elicitation of responses from around 9,000 teleusing households (respondents were between the ages of 18 and 60) in Socio Economic Classifications D and E (SEC D&E). His article was published by bdnews24.com on World Telecoms day.
It is good to have a confident Minister. Of course, we would sleep better if we were shown the results of some on-the-ground simulations, rather than given bland assurances. After all some of us remember his statements about the large number of warning towers that would be erected and operational by the second anniversary of the tsunami (and the actual outcome was . . .
Bangladesh government seems to be convinced to open its last monopolistic area of telecommunications; international telephony. This is a good initiative, which needs to be supported as it would bring quality and cheap international telecoms services. However looking at the on-going debate on various aspects of this subject in the name of “VoIP Licensing” no one seems to focus on the most important area: Whether Bangladesh will come out as winner or loser after liberalization in terms of valuable foreign exchange? Pakistan’s Regulatory Consultant M. Aslam Hayat writes.