2008 June


The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka,  June 08 2008. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/080608/FinancialTimes/ft331.html Norman Gunawardene was one of the three part-time members appointed to the reconstituted Telecom Regulatory Commission in 1997.
Bangladesh is a country that is constantly hammered by cyclones and other severe weather hazards. While Cyclone Nargis threatened to hit Bangladesh but deviated from its original path devastated Myanmar instead. However, it was not the same with Cyclone Sidr, in September of 2007. Policy makers, practitioners, and researchers, in Bangladesh, are focusing on satellite technology to reduce the risks associated with natural hazards. It is logical to use satellite technology because during a cyclone terrestrial infrastructure is bound to be destroyed by the powerful natural forces; where the satellite technologies will remain functional.
An article, co-written by Anu Samarajiva, and LIRNEasia researchers Ayesha Zainudeen and Harsha de Silva, has been published in the Information for Development (i4d) magazine, on the efficacy of telephones in expediting socio-economic development and buttressing accessibility. Based on findings from the Teleuse@BOP study conducted in 2006, the article illustrates that while previous studies have provided strong evidence for the connection between phone access and development at a macro level, the link is less clearly visible at a micro-level, with low income users at the BOP failing to perceive the potential financial and economic benefits arising from access to telephony. The PDF version of the article can be accessed HERE. Results from the survey responses of 8,660 households do not manifest a strong correlation with the macroeconomic evidence that access to phones carries significant economic benefits. Where then is the disconnect coming from between what households perceive as the limited economic benefits of phone use, and the significant increases in macro-level output?
Indonesia’s telecommunication giants have demanded the government limit the number of new entrants to the industry, citing limited resources and growing investment risk, local press said. The Indonesian Cellular Telephones Association (ATSI) argued limited frequency allocations and phone numbers meant there was no room to accommodate new players. Unlimited entry to the industry would crowd the market, increase competition and generate greater investment risk for existing players. “The government must regulate the number of players so as to ensure the sustainability of the industry,” ATSI chairman Merza Fachys was quoted by English-language daily The Jakarta Post as saying. Read the full story in telecomasia.
The New York Times documents a recent study conducted by Nielsen Mobile among 30, 000 wireless customers, that estimates over 3.6% of all mobile phone users in the United States have used their phones to pay for goods and services. This figure is expected to grow in the future, with nearly half of all users of text messages and mobile internet, stating that they hope to make a mobile phone purchase in the future. However, security concerns remain. 41 percent of the consumers who transmit data said security was the reason they didn’t buy things via their mobile phone.
Where exactly the line that segregates ‘Broadband’ from ‘Narrowband’? Interestingly every country and every organization seems to have one’s own definition. 256 kbps is adequate ‘broadband’ for some countries to claim to be at the top of the broadband map. More ambitious have kept the level at 1 Mbps or even 2 Mbps. FCC too was happy with 200 kbps (on either direction) for some time, but apparently has apparently realized that outdated.
Indonesia’ competition watchdog found six mobile phone providers guilty of price fixing, which may have cost consumers more than $300 million in additional rates. The Business Competition Supervisory Commission says the companies formed a cartel to keep tariffs for text messaging artificially high. The companies include Telkomsel, Telkom and Smart Telecom. They were given fines totaling more than eight million dollars. Source: Voice of America
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to review termination charges, a major component of telecom bills. The charges are paid by the operator, from whose network the call is made, to the operator on whose network the call terminates. The DoT has asked TRAI to review these charges on a priority basis so that consumers benefit at the earliest. “Given that the central aim of the telecom policy is to provide services at affordable rates, it is suggested that a review of mobile termination charges, based on present and projected costs and traffic, be undertaken by TRAI in a time-bound manner,” the DoT said in a letter to the regulator. In 2003, Trai had recommended a termination charge of 30 paise per minute.
An interesting article on the use of ICTs among those at the BOP, has been written by Syed Mohammed Ali, a participant at the 12th Executive Course on Telecom Reform, held recently in Singapore. The article explores the potential benefits users at the BOP can enjoy from the use of mobile telephony, as well as the current gender divide that exists in some developing countries. Development through mobiles | Daily Times, Pakistan Unless the prevailing range of gender-related hurdles in availing the opportunities being provided by communication technologies, it is likely that women may become further marginalised from the economic, social, and political mainstream of their countries. Citing LIRNEasia research, he argues that that the simplicity and affordability of mobile technology has allowed it to penetrate developing markets fairly quickly. However, an evident gender divide exists with regards to mobile accessibility in both Pakistan and India, and to a lesser extent in Sri Lanka.
An Expert Forum on ICT Sector Indicators and Benchmarks Regulation for SAARC Regulatory Authorities, co-organized by LIRNEasia and Connectasia, and funded by the IDRC, was held from June 14 – 15, 2008 at the Changi Village Hotel, Singapore. The forum brought together representatives from National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs), in addition to participants attending the 12th Executive Course on Telecom Reform, held prior to the event, at the same venue. Photos taken of the event can be viewed HERE. The presentations made are available for download below; a report outlining the day’s proceedings will follow shortly. 14 June 2008 Setting the Stage: Intelligent Regulation – Rohan Samarajiva (Dinner speaker) 15 June 2008 Collecting & Reporting Indicators: Problems & Potential –  Helani Galpaya Broadband Quality of Service – Rajamanickam Thirumurthy Broadband QoS Test Results Illustration – Chanuka Wattegama NRA Website Survey: Asia- Pacific – Chanuka Wattegama and Lara Alawattegama Benchmarking broadband/data prices – Helani Galpaya Benchmarking telecom prices: The South Asian case – Tahani Iqbal Asian ICT Indicators Database: An introduction – Sriganesh Lokanathan
Couldn’t Financial Times be more careful?  This 10.7 million is neither the number of telephones nor the number of subscribers. It is the ‘access paths’: Number of connections in case of ‘fixed’ lines (including the dissent CDMA) plus SIMs in case of mobile (including ones not used, issued to tourists for short term use and perhas as sales promotions too) Many subscribers have used more than one SIM. So certainly it cannot be the number of telephone subscribers (or owners) which has to be less.
Twenty two participants from across the world, from Fiji to Ecuador and from Brazil to Kyrgyzstan, participated in the course (plus the 1.25 day expert forum of regulators from the SAARC region) at Changi Village Hotel  in Singapore, June  10-15, 2008.   The topics covered included challenges of NGN and mobile payments, how to make the spectrum management process more efficient and the pros and cons of general competition regulation versus sector-specific regulation.   The two keynotes were delivered by Lai Kok Fung, CEO of Buzz City and Sherrill Ismail, senior official at the FCC (speaking in a personal capacity).   A more detailed report will be posted shortly.
Grace Mirandilla, ICT4D researcher from the Philippines, has been a frequent face at LIRNEasia’s capacity building programs since 2005.  Currently an Economic Policy Associate at the Policy Reform Program (PRP) of The Asia Foundation – Philippines, Grace’s research interests include community telecenters, ICT applications for rural areas, and policy reform in general. Her commitment to making an impact on the policy process has paid off significantly. Through consistent effort, she has established herself as a high-quality policy researcher. Grace exemplifies the success of LIRNEasia’s capacity building efforts.
How would a small island nation Barbossa, (population 540,000) with limited regulatory resources and limited competition mange its telecom prices without becoming a burden to its consumers (who are dissatisfied over high prices) simultaneously without making them too prohibitive for new investors? This was the question the five participant groups at the 12th Executive course on Telecom Reform had to answer, from five different points. Authority for Regulating Rates (ARR) is the Regulatory unit in charge of prices within the Barbossa Regulatory Authority (BRAT), PinTel is the incumbent, Sparrow Com and CalypsoNet are the relatively new entrants who struggle hard to increase their market share. SCAB (Society for Consumer Action Barbossa) is the active consumer group driving the regulators to re-think their telecom regulatory strategy. The photo shows the judges and audience deliberating during the ‘public hearing’, Saturday morning.
An Expert Forum on ICT Sector Indicators and Benchmark Regulation for SAARC Regulatory Authorities will be held in Changi Village Hotel, Singapore on 14 – 15 June 2008 following the 12th LIRNE.net course on Telecom Reform. Photo by: olduvai
Mobile broadband could be bundled with standard contracts as early as 2009, a broadband comparison site has claimed. If the current rate of price-cutting continues, mobile broadband will soon be perceived as free of charge, according to Top 10 Broadband. “Competition is reaching its zenith in the mobile broadband market,” said Jessica McArdle, a spokeswoman at Top 10 Broadband. “It is only a matter of time before mobile broadband modems are offered for free in conjunction with mobile phone packages in the same way as ISPs such as TalkTalk currently offer ‘free’ home broadband with home phone deals.” Read the full story here.
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