2013 June


There is no debate that the developing world needs regional platforms for the multiple stakeholders to get together and come closer to agreement on what works best in regulation for their regions. We have tried to create such platforms; our sister organization has tried in Africa. We both came up short in building sustainable platforms that would be supported by players within the region, rather than subsidies from outside. Now Informa, which has quite a track record in Europe, is trying its hand and we thought we should help them in the hope this effort will stick. The program has attracted quite a few prominent speakers from the region.
We used to talk about the hegemony of Wintel, the ironclad command exercised by Microsoft and Intel. The world changed. Internet came center stage. Mobile became the new thing. People like Jobs figured it out.
Xenophobes are not very bright. What Myanmar needs to achieve its target of connecting its people very quickly is massive investment. Myanmar Buddhist capital could not connect even five percent of the population in all these years. Now the government has decided to allow foreign capital to do the job. What color is money?
These were framing comments I made at the Panel discussion on “Regulatory challenges arising from the new mobile ecosystem,” GSMA Public Policy Forum at the Mobile Asia Expo 2013, Shanghai, 27 June 2013. The keywords are ecosystem and regulatory. It is widely recognized that the emerging Internet-centric communication system is far more complex than the old voice-centric one and that many more actors are involved, beyond the telecom operators, their vendors, regulators and policy makers. In particular, content and applications providers play an increasingly important role. Unfortunately, they are not represented on this panel, a shortcoming that I hope will be remedied in future episodes of what has to be a continuing conversation.
It has been quite a story, the issuance of licenses in Myanmar. Poor Digicel, even sponsoring soccer teams was not enough. Telenor’s ads seem to have worked though. It would have been a lot simpler to have an auction that factored in investment and coverage commitments. But the licenses are finally given.
Bob Pepper of Cisco is speaking on LTE, with specific reference to the 700 MHz Band. If the FCC had the knowledge it now has about how to make the digital transition work, they would have taken back 160 MHz, not 108 MHz. Auction for the digital dividend spectrum in US was in 2007, but actual switch-over was in 2009. It was important to create the stakeholders to ensure pressure was maintained on the regulator to keep to the schedule and not backtrack. Pepper is talking about White Space.
Julie Welch of Qualcomm is speaking on LTE at the GSMA Public Policy Forum in Shanghai. She sees LTE as a complement to HSPA, not one replacing the other. She states that LTE is showing the fastest growth rate they have seen. Qualcomm is working very closely with equipment manufacturers on devices. Only Band 28 core requirements have been finalized by 3GPP in June 2012.
I would have tweeted this, but this is China. I am at the Public Policy Forum of the GSMA Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai. Listening to Mike Wright of Telstra on the 700 MHz Band. He just said that they are done with 3G. Investments cancelled.
LIRNEasia has always been vocal on Mobile Payment/Mobile money. Under the research theme Mobile 2.0 we looked at both horizontal (Telco and regulations)  and vertical (m-payments) aspects of mobile money. In 2009 facilitated by LINREasia, LIRNEasia‘s then Senior Policy Fellow Muhammad Aslam Hayat, wrote on the possibilities of having mobile money in Sri Lanka.  Dialog, after many years of negotiations with the regulators, implemented  ez Cash in June 2012.
The government of Sri Lanka has adopted a policy of “Mobile First” for delivery of e government services. This makes us at LIRNEasia very happy because the evidence from our research since 2005 supports the giving of primacy to wireless platforms. We have been pushing for voice-based delivery of e gov services through widely disseminated papers and talks since 2007. So keeping to the theme of more than voice and emphasis on m apps, the talk this year seeks to put some flesh on the commendable Mobile First policy.
With the commencement of work on the privacy aspects of big data in 2013, I found myself going back to a line of research and teaching I had thought of in the past tense. In terms of citations as recorded by Scholar.Google, a privacy piece from 1997 is still occupying 2nd place. So it was not too much of a stretch to respond to a request from the organizers of the 2013 Cyber Security Summit in Colombo on 25th June 2013. The overview piece is not that dependent on slides, so the slideset is quite small.
Complaints against the negative effects of social media (described as weapons of mass distraction) are not new. They had been leveled against the original social media: the coffee houses that were introduced in the 17th Century. Not everyone approved. As well as complaining that Christians had abandoned their traditional beer in favor of a foreign drink, critics worried that coffeehouses were keeping people from productive work. Among the first to sound the alarm, in 1677, was Anthony Wood, an Oxford academic.
Someone forwarded an email that said that Jeff Bezos should now add Spymaster to his titles because Amazon had won a contract to supply cloud services to the CIA. My immediate response was “I fail to see what the problem is. Firms have been selling computers to the CIA and NSA for years without their CEOs being called spymasters. Why the excitement about the sale of a service? What is the conceptual difference between Cray and IBM selling computers and Amazon selling cloud services?
That is the title of a 2013 Utilities Policy article by Malcolm Abbott and Xiaoying Ma. I was quite intrigued because it addresses the central problem sought to be addressed by the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Center (PiRRC), that LIRNEasia has been assisting with over the past two years. As is unfortunately the case with too many peer-reviewed journal articles these days, there are few new findings/insights. But the quotes below pertain directly to the problem being tackled by the region’s regulators and the World Bank and the ADB (though there is no mention of the PiRRC, which has been in existence since 2011): A number of strategies have been made to ensure staffing and expertise levels. One approach is to employ specialist consultants outside of the country.
These are impressive numbers, but they should be made available on TRC or ICTA website as a regular monthly/quarterly report. TRC reports much lower numbers. Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) CEO Reshan Dewapura noted that today, there are close to four million Sri Lankan citizens on the internet, which is a 20% penetration of the population. Over half of them access the internet through either mobile phones or wireless broadband dongles, which has grown eight times more than what it was in 2010. He also estimated that the total data consumption in Sri Lanka via mobile sims both on wireless broadband dongles or mobile phones is currently estimated at 2,000 terabytes per month.
First they had a uniform tariff for roaming. And now they announced to get rid of roaming charges altogether. Roaming fees for voice calls, texts and internet access will be a thing of the past across Europe from 2014, after European politicians voted to fast-track reforms of the European telecoms market. The European Commission — a group of 27 politicians who represent the best interests of Europe as a whole, rather than individual countries, voted in Brussels to push the reforms through before the next European elections, which will happen in May 2014. The resulting legislation will come into force on 1 July 2014.