2009 July


Bangladesh is currently conducting a public consultation on proposed Significant Market Power regulation.  The recommendations made by an ITU consultant proposes Significant Market Power (SMP) regulation.   This is not something many regulators in our region have focused on, at least not recently (though very light flavors of SMP determinations can be found in some countries such as Pakistan).  So we sought the help of our sister research network RIA.  Using the recent experience of South Africa in using SMP in regulation (and contrasting with Namibia and Botswana which do not use SMP), Allison Gillwald of RIA gave us useful input on the pros and cons of the approach.
Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, which, now also regulates pornographic content, today created telecom regulatory history by appointing perhaps the world’s first Pornographic Monitoring Committee. While congratulating the newly appointed Chairman and his proud family (“Amma, you are never going to believe this! Hubby is now getting paid for watching nude girls”) we, in our own humble manner like to suggest a mission statement. (above) Reports Daily Mirror Online: The Sri Lanka Telecommunications Regulatory Commission has appointed a monitoring committee to be on the alert for pornographic websites in the island. The TRC had said that telephone and internet services companies have agreed to be constantly on the alert for pornographic websites and to control access to them in the island, with twelve such websites already having been banned.
A story that extensively draws on LIRNEasia research by Voice and Data has coined a new and probably more appropriate term for MNP: not mobile number portability but multiple number possession. MNP seems to be another case of applying Western regulatory instruments without looking at the actual context and needs. In the interview, I said that I too had favored MNP in the old days, but that the results of the Teleuse @ BOP surveys, especially the qualitative studies shows we need to rethink. If we are implementing number portability (which could be useful for corporates and high-end customers) we need to ensure that the costs of portability are assigned to those who cause them and not the operator who is losing the customer. The simple fact that multiple SIM ownership has increased in Pakistan which was the first in the region to implement MNP should suggest something.
This was not a representative sample survey like Teleuse @ BOP, but still it was conducted in a remote village in the Polonnaruwa district in Sri Lanka as part of a community communication effort. The numbers they came up with were much higher than ours. We also spoke about the advantages of using mobile phones to complement the radio productions. 3G was not present in all areas, and in any case, few of the handsets supported audio streaming. That said, the production team said that upwards of 95% of all households owned at least one mobile.
“I am the teacher; you are the student; but still we are in the same class” (guruthumee mama, sisuviyayi numba; eath api eka panthiye) This line from the popular Sinhala song ‘Saroja’ (sung by the wife of a powerful minister of the current regime) tells it all. First it was for students, but now the government wants to extend the mobile phone ban for teachers too. Not a surprising move by a government that wants to block  ‘Adults Only’ films watched by…er, adults. Reported Daily Mirror: “I have heard that the Nuwara Eliya incident had taken place involving a teacher and the other incident was connected to a female student. Education Minister Susil Premajayantha has taken measures to prohibit the use of mobile phones at public schools.
This colloquium was conducted by Erwin Alampay. E-Banking refers provision of retail and small value banking products and services through electronic channels. This includes deposit taking, lending, account management, the provision of financial advise, electronic bill payment and the provision of other electronic payment products and services such as electronic money. = M-banking: financial services delivered via mobile networks and performed on a mobile phone. may or may not be defined as banking services by the regulator, depending on the legislation of the country in question, as well as on which services are offered.
  Anybody could have guessed this. It is unimaginable that entire world will go through a recession simultaneously. Not everyone can be losers for too long. There should be winners somewhere. For example, what would the US firms that find their human resources costs, logically do?
Both India and Pakistan had negative growth in fixed wireline 2003-2008: -3.5 for India and -0.4 for Pakistan.   Sri Lanka has too, but this is masked by the rapid growth of CDMA, which in this country is called fixed.
Russia’s most powerful business lobby has moved to clamp down on Skype and its peers this week, telling lawmakers that the Internet phone services are a threat to Russian businesses and to national security. The lobby (Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs or RUIE) says that 40% of calls could be made through VoIP services by 2012. In partnership with Vladimir Putin’s political party, RUIE has created a working group to draft a new law to ban Skype and other VoIP telephone services from September. Interestingly, both New York Times and Pravda have referred to the isolated initiatives of blocking Skype by few West European carriers. Neither publication has, however, said how strongly the European Commission has been fighting back such anti-consumer steps.
Research on Peruvian demand for telecom services by Aileen Aguero, a researcher from DIRSI, who is current working at LIRNEasia for six months, has made it to the leading newspaper in Peru. The article, which documents the introduction of bundled services by telecom companies, uses Aileen’s research on the demand for telecom services in Peru to explain the provision of varied packages by operators to suit different socio-economic groups. Her study shows that the lowest socio-economic group spends only 5% of family income on telecommunications; however, for every 10% increase in family income, Peruvians increases their spending on telecommunications by 19.7% on average. The full (local language) article is available here.
LIRNEasia and the International Telecommunications Union are organizing a 5 day training course on “Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals” in Bangkok, Thailand from 19 – 23 October 2009. The local host of the meeting is the Ministry of Information Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Thailand. The training targets staff of National Statistical Organizations (NSO)s. Interested NSOs can find more information on the ITU website or here. Through support from IDRC (Canada) and DFID (UK), LIRNEasia is able to provide funding for NSOs from SAAR and ASEAN countries who qualify to attend.
South Asian and Middle Eastern telecoms sector has shown resilience not only in the revenue generated by operators but also in their spending capacity. According to a recent study of Frost & Sullivan, the sector will see investments in developing markets like India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh as well as in mature markets like the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia. India, with its sheer size, will continue to dominate the spending in South Asia.
In April 2009, we reported that even though leased line prices in Bangladesh had declined by 74% in 6 months, the retail price paid by consumers had not changed. This was based on the broadband benchmarking data LIRNEasia publishes every 6 months. We are thankful that the Bangladesh regulator (BTRC) has taken note of our post and the complaints of many broadband consumers in Bangladesh. A recent article in the Daily Star reports that the BTRC has decided to check if the retail prices are dropping in line with whole-sale (leased line) costs. But what about broadband quality?
The obvious has been confirmed by science. It is not possible to text and drive at the same time (or text, drive and not kill other people and/or yourself at the same time) The first study of drivers texting inside their vehicles shows that the risk sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research — and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions. The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.
British broadband customers subscribe high-speed connections but they get low-speed service instead. The media and telecoms watchdog, Ofcom, examined the most popular broadband product advertised as offering speeds of “up to” 8 megabits per second and used by 57% of homes. Its report says, on average, users are getting speeds of just 3.9Mb. That means a DVD-quality film would take more than two hours to download – longer than it takes to watch it – compared to just over an hour at the faster speed.
Priyantha Kariyapperuma, Director General of Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka, is in ‘banning’ mode these days. Having ‘banned’ twelve sex sites on the initiation of IGP, now he plans to ban the mobile phones at private schools. For government schools, Susil Premajayantha, Education Minister has taken a similar move. Minister Premajayantha said that he has taken this decision to avoid the harmful situations that had led to a ‘number of unfortunate incidents’ in schools recently. The incident that triggered this move was the suicide of a fourteen year old girl of a leading school in Colombo, whose mobile phone, with personal information, has been confiscated by the prefects.