2012 May


It has been a long time coming, but it appears, finally, that India will have new National Telecom Policy. Unless the hesitance to take decisions which is an after-effect of the 2G crisis, stalls the process again. LIRNEasia was among those who made comments. Among other things, we’d be interested in whether our comments had any effect. The Planning Commission has objected to provisions in the National Telecom Policy 2012 and the Unified Licensing Regime (ULR), which comes up for cabinet approval tomorrow, on the grounds that it could lead to a repeat of the 2G scam.
The acquisition of Skype by Microsoft was a big story. So was Nokia’s tie-up with Microsoft. But now comes the question of how to realize the synergies. Good piece in the NYT. Stephen Elop, the chief executive of Nokia, a maker of Windows Phones, told an audience at a recent conference that “the feedback from operators is they don’t like Skype” because its cheap and free phone calls can steal revenue from traditional phone businesses.
The short answer is that India has done quite well without extensive tariff regulation and should continue the policy of forbearance. But the students at the National Law School of India University wanted to know more, so this is what they got.
One hopes that the new law takes into account all the lessons we have learned in telecom reform in Asia in the past few decades. According to Nomura, a new telecom law, which could allow for more licenses (up to 5) and direct or indirect foreign operator participation, is currently in final stages of drafting.The telecom sector in Myanmar is likely to be on the radar for most telcos for incremental investment. Unstable politics and bottlenecks, including: 1) high handset prices ($45-600); 2) SIM registration cost of $150-200; 3) long waiting periods (up to 2 years) and connection hurdles; 4) poor networks and coverage; and 5) lack of competition have hampered growth. The government is now targeting 50 percent wireless penetration by 2015, implying a 50 percent CAGR.
Patrick Gannon (President & CEO, Board Director at OASIS), in an email, “You provide some very interesting information on the open source Sahana effort and examples of using citizen volunteers for disaster situation reporting. The issue is being highlighted in the 2012 CAP workshop FINAL REPORT.” Get more details on the voice-enabled alerting and situational reporting project from the video: “Do you hear me?” The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) community has nick named us “CAP early adopter” (lol & \0/). This is because in 2005 when the CAP content standard was first released, LINREasia was quick to test it in the HazInfo project.
The oldest Department of Mass Communication in Sri Lanka (University of Kelaniya) is running a national conference on the future of media studies in Sri Lanka. I know this from the newspapers. I cannot provide links to any information on the event because none seems to exist, including information on the Department. However, they had invited Nalaka Gunawardene, a friend and colleague, to speak on new media. He was kind enough to share his slides with us.
The Indian Journal of Law and Technology in association with the Centre for Internet and Society (IJLT-CIS) , Bangalore is organising the 3rd IJLT-CIS Lecture Series at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The lecture series will be spread out over the course of the year and will include eminent speakers who will talk with the students and other interested persons on their topics of expertise. Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO of LIRNEasia will deliver the inaugural lecture on Tariff Regulation in South Asia. Tariff regulation has in the recent past attracted the attention of both the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as well as the Telecom  Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal, as well as the Department of Telecom at the Union Ministry of Communications. India has a burgeoning and competitive cellular services provider market, and tariff regulation has far-reaching impact on this industry.
How can peer review be effective when the underlying data cannot be shared? When scientists publish their research, they also make the underlying data available so the results can be verified by other scientists. At least that is how the system is supposed to work. But lately social scientists have come up against an exception that is, true to its name, huge. It is “big data,” the vast sets of information gathered by researchers at companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft from patterns of cellphone calls, text messages and Internet clicks by millions of users around the world.
One thing we know about “big data” in developing countries is that the only data stream that covers the poor is that which is generated by the mobile operators. Here is an account of an interesting application of mobile big data: There’s a vast market of consumers in countries like Brazil, China, India, and the Phillipines who want access to financial services like credit cards, loans, or insurance,” says Jonathan Hakim, Cignifi’s chief executive. “But while they may have jobs, and some have bank accounts, there really is no credit history for them.” One thing they do have? Mobile phones.
More than 40,000 ultra-orthodox Jewish males had attended a rally to discuss the evils of the Internet while the women (who are segregated) watched from homes, according to the NYT. What I find interesting is the use of ICTs to discuss the evils of ICTs. The Amish who keep the telephones in a separate shack outside their homes, seem less hypocritical. The rally in Citi Field on Sunday was sponsored by a rabbinical group, Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane, that is linked to a software company that sells Internet filtering software to Orthodox Jews. Those in attendance were handed fliers that advertised services like a “kosher GPS App” for iPhone and Android phones, which helps users locate synagogues and kosher restaurants.
LIRNEasia has been working on making agriculture markets more efficient since 2007. Here, in a discussion of decelerating growth in India, is a justification for our focus and our intention to do more work in agriculture. Agriculture employs about half of India’s work force, for example, yet the agricultural revolution that flourished in the 1970s has slowed. Crop yields remain stubbornly low, transport and water infrastructure is poor, and the legal system is hostile to foreign investment in basic agriculture and to modern agribusiness. Note that the earlier general growth bursts of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were all preceded by significant gains in agricultural productivity.
LIRNEasia conducts large-sample surveys. We explain that they are scientific surveys because random sampling is used. Sometimes we don’t emphasize it enough. But apparently we should. A US Representative has exhibited his ignorance by announcing that random is not scientific.
A story on fines imposed on Etisalat’s Nigerian affiliate describes its international reach (without mention of the Sri Lankan affiate): It is easy to see why the company continues to look outside its home market despite the risk of complications. Pressed by Dubai’s agile operator, du, Etisalat has seen eroding domestic profits and market share. Meanwhile, revenues from the company’s international operations, driven by strong performance in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Afghanistan, grew 21 percent in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the same period last year. Etisalat’s international gains helped first-quarter total revenue rise 2 percent to 8.2 billion dirhams, or $2.
Senior Research Fellow Nuwan Waidyanatha recently completed an action research project on how local-language voice communication can be used in early warning and other disaster management tasks. A 10 mt video has just been released.
Our sister organization RIA has been pushing hard for lower termination rates in South Africa. Now in the context of a retail price war, a small operator has joined the call. This nicely refutes the claim that mobile termination rates have nothing to do with retail prices. In a move that will no doubt irk MTN and Vodacom, Knott-Craig says he wants the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to drop the rates even further beyond the 40c/minute they will reach in March 2013. “To Icasa, I say: ‘Drop mobile termination rates even further, provide Cell C with asymmetrical rates to help us achieve the scalability we need to compete even more fiercely with the large incumbents, and we will surprise you and them with our response.
Few months back, our COO Helani Galpaya was out in the field in Indonesia, doing qualitative interviews with BOP teleusers. She picked up an odd response pattern: negative answers to questions about Internet use that would lead us to conclude the respondent was not an Internet user but claims that they were using Facebook on the mobile. So it seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook. This is the gist of the argument in Wired: Today, after just eight years in existence, Facebook now has more than 750 million users all by itself. At that astonishing rate of growth, the company is on track to accomplish much more than just a multibillion-dollar IPO.