2011 March


Mergers. mergers, everywhere. We’re told there are merger reviews on in Pakistan and the Philippines. But it’s the AT&T acquisition of T Mobile that’s getting the media play. Sam Paltridge, Member of the Scientific Advisory Council of LIRNEasia, is quoted on the implications of the merger for visitors: Mr.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, recently published an article appearing in the Daily Mirror on the potential health threats of mobile phone use. He argues that while it is true that electromagnetic radiation from handsets does pose a potential threat, studies by the Indian government  and the WHO argue that: to date, no adverse health effects have been established for mobile phone use; that studies are ongoing to assess long-term effects of mobile use; and that there is increased risk of traffic injuries when drivers use mobile phones while driving. However, we, as responsible consumers, need to take the necessary precautionary measures such as buying safe handsets, among other things. Click here to read the full article.
TVE Asia Pacific is looking for an answer to this question: What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Internet’? If you’re a techie or geek, you’ll probably come up with a detailed answer that is technically accurate or precise. But most of the 2 billion plus people who use the Internet worldwide are not techies. They don’t know – or care – about the back-end technicalities. A good icon is simple, language-neutral, and can be understood across different cultures and by people with very different educational backgrounds.
Consumers at bottom of the economic pyramid have been fueling the growth of mobile across Asia and elsewhere. Sharing mobile phones have been business as usual at this segment. Profitably serving the low-ARPU yet vastly expandable clientele became a challenge for the mobile industry of India. Operators became innovative and “constraint optimization” became central to their business plan. Outsourcing various segments of operations was the first step.
When discussing our Telecom Regulatory Environment (TRE) indicator, we first introduce the concept of regulatory risk. I emphasize that it is not limited to the regulatory agency’s actions, but to all government actions that have a bearing on the operation of the company. The list of woes afflicting Vodafone in India is illuminating. “The combination of the capital gains tax, uncertain regulation and the very tough competitive environment has caused investors to say it wasn’t great timing” to do the deal, said Robert Grindle, an analyst with Deutsche Bank in London. Still, he said, “India is one of the fastest growing assets in Vodafone’s footprint, and without the contribution from India the company would have much lower top line growth than it does.
Paul Baran. The history of the Internet cannot be told without mention of his name. I remember reading him while still in grad school. I was reminded of what he wrote about information utilities when engaging in debates about cloud computing in recent times. In my book, if you can have readers think about what you wrote 30 years down the road in relation to contemporary debates, you made an impact as a scholar.

Design for government

Posted by on March 27, 2011  /  0 Comments

Last week I attended a day-long seminar on applying design thinking to government. I wasn’t fully convinced that this was truly novel. But there is no doubt that government does not adequately research the end user of its services. A write up about the event in Mint highlights that aspect: Design thinking denotes an approach to problem-solving, with three distinct aspects. First, users are studiously followed and analysed employing ethnographic tools.
This should be of relevance to the ongoing debate on the net benefits of mobile networks for liberty. But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts. The results were astounding.
The US State Department is developing an application called “Panic Button” for the anti-government activists. A demonstrator will hit this button and the address book, call records and other information of mobile phone will be deleted when the device is confiscated. Subsequently the device will emit an “Alert Message” to inform the comrades about looming attacks. The panic button is one of the new technologies the U.S.
Auction design is hot. The Economist reports on 4G auction design in the UK: The government will want to squeeze as much revenue as it can from the sell-off, but it must also preserve competition in a consolidating industry. The recent merger of Orange and T-Mobile has left Britain with four mobile-phone operators: Everything Everywhere (the imperious name for the newly merged company), Vodafone, O2 and Three. That is a healthy number compared with some countries, such as America, where AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA would create what some regard as, in effect, a duopoly. But Three warns that it would struggle in an unrestrained bidding war with its larger rivals for the new spectrum.
I was asked about charging different amounts for spectrum when I was in Dhaka recently and I said it was like pricing jet fuel differently for competing airlines; it did not make any sense. Now we have the full argument laid out. It’s very peculiar. On what basis was this utilization factor calculated? I asked Dr Harsha de Silva who prepared the comments on the consultation paper; he said it was fully opaque.
We thought up the idea of crowdsourcing broadband QoSE, but could not make it work because the AT Tester was too complicated. In the US, they came with the idea two years later but made it work. Now someone has added value to that product. Given many governments in the region (e.g.
Evidence from LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP3 survey of mobile use at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) suggests that by late 2008, 78 percent of BOP mobile owners in the study countries were using the functions of the Internet through their mobiles; nearly one third of them have never even heard of the Internet. For the last three years, LIRNEasia has been arguing the case that many people in developing markets will have (if they already haven’t had) their first “Internet experience” through a mobile. Most of our 2008-2010 research program was based on this premise. It seems that the general discourse in the mobile research field is converging on this point, as evidence of growing mobile Internet use in these markets emerges. In addition to this, LIRNEasia’s argument (which in fact CEO & Chair Rohan Samarajiva has been making from as early as 1999: written up in Samarajiva, R.
Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said that 11,400 mobile base stations and 880,000 fixed lines went out of service in the  northern region. Progress in restoring mobile communications has been faster than fixed communications. It is presumed to be due to the operators’ prioritization. Because the fixed lines have been vulnerable to frequent power cuts. Therefore, the  VoIP terminals and broadband modems get impaired.
We work with data, so we see the evidence: more people have phones, more houses have permanent roofs, more homes have refrigerators, and so on. Yet, the everyday conversations harp on the failures. We too talk about them, because we must, but we do so in the form of “what could have been better” rather than failure. Charles Kenny, an economist whose work we have been following for some time, has written a new book called Getting Better, dealing with this problem. Here is an excerpt from the review: Among the seven major regions into which the World Bank divides the planet, life expectancy has grown more since 1980 in the Middle East and North Africa than anywhere else (12.
I have been writing about the lessons that can and should be learned from the Japanese experience with the devastating local tsunami which in addition to its normal destruction, also triggered the failure of the nuclear stations. Those writings were intended for general Asian audiences, rather than any particular country. In the slideset here, I focus on one country, the one that I know best, my own.