2014 April


Nine mobile operators have agreed to accelerate the implementation of interoperable mobile money services across MEA regions. Bharti Airtel, Etisalat, Millicom, MTN, Ooredoo, Orange, STC, Vodafone and Zain will implement the GSMA’s Mobile Money Interoperability (MMI) program. These operators represent 582 million mobile connections across 48 countries in the Middle East and Africa regions. As of December 2013, mobile money in this region showed following growth: The regions accounted for 58% of the world’s 218 mobile money deployments; Sixty-six percent of all registered accounts and 73% of active accounts are located in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa; Mobile money users in these regions accounted for 77% of global transaction value in June 2013, performing 341 million transactions totaling US$5.7 billion.
We rely on Kingdon’s concept of policy windows a lot. To effectively take research to policy, the necessary condition is a policy window: some kind of opening created in the “minds” of the relevant decision makers. It does not require much knowledge to postulate that current Indian election that will yield a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, whatever be the outcome, is such a window. But there is more. All the parties are promising improved governance and delivery of government services using ICTs, as the attached slideset shows.
In mid 2012 the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a public consultation on standards for quality of service (QoS) related to mobile data services. LIRNEasia responded. Nearly two years since, the issues that prompted the public consultation persist. Consumers are being wooed by telecom companies in advertisements regarding high speed wireless data services and product packs in which they are promised speeds of up to 7.2 megabit a second or 21 megabit a second.
LIRNEasia‘s timeline of significant milestones and achievements between 2004 and 2014 can be viewed interactively below. You can also view this timeline full-screen, or download a PDF here.
Issue of discrimination coming up in big data policy review. The value of big data is in understanding the consumer. But with understanding comes the ability to discriminate. Not all discrimination is bad. But some may be.
A recent case gave hope to those who wanted the n=all collection of telephone transaction-generated data to cease. But only court that can overrule Smith v Maryland is the Supreme Court. Now a FISA court has explicitly declined to follow Judge Leon. So n=all continues. A telephone company asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in January to stop requiring it to give records of its customers’ calls to the National Security Agency, in light of a ruling by a Federal District Court judge that the N.
Africa lags far behind in every front of ICT indicators, according to the latest report of ITU. Subsequently a recent study of Analysis Mason said, “Every African country has international fibre connectivity, but lack of competition at the national level is keeping prices high.” The study has detected that 35 of the 48 Sub-Saharan countries have no competition among national fiber providers. Eight have limited competition – that is, two providers besides the mobile companies, usually the incumbent fixed-line operator and either the government or the electricity transmission company. Only five countries (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) can be said to have effective competition among multiple players.
Contrary to popular belief, higher bandwidth and high download speeds does not necessarily mean better performance in terms of latency or round trip time (RTT). RTT is the measure of how long a packet takes to reach the destination server and return to the client (i.e. the PC or laptop or any device used to make the request). So the less time it takes the faster the web page will load (in other words, the lower the RTT the better).
PTA chairman Syed Ismail Shah was carefully optimistic about 3G and 4G spectrum auction in Mobile World Congress at Barcelona during February. Unlike the country’s political leaders, Mr. Shah lacks the luxury of being romantic about the financial windfall from this auction. The government has aspired for US$1.2 billion.
Asia accounted for 31% monthly active Facebook users (390 million) in Asia until Q1 of 2014. When Facebook issues its Q2 figures, Asia is expected to be the bigger than the ‘rest of the world’ segment. The social media behemoth also has 21% daily active users (216 million) in Asia. The ‘Asia’ chunk of the charts gets a lot slimmer when it comes to revenue. Facebook makes $0.
The shift from the economy of things to the attention economy is now almost complete. The buying and selling of things will continue, but will be subservient to the production of attention on an industrial scale and its buying and selling. The data economy is fast catching up as another key element of the picture. Since most people are accessing the Internet through mobile devices and their small screens, as we have been saying for many years, this has become the most critical battleground. For the last two years, Facebook has been growing like a beanstalk in mobile advertising, gaining ground against Google, its chief rival.
Born in 2001 with limited regulatory independence, the amended telecom law had further clipped the wings of BTRC in 2010. The regulator has always been the ministry’s obedient servant. Therefore, the hijacking of BTRC’s minimal jurisdictions made no difference with the minister’s authority. It, however, gives babus the pleasure of issuing licenses, approving tariffs and other issues to micro-manage. Predictably the ministry has miserably failed to discharge the duties it had hijacked from BTRC.
If someone can clarify why it is wrong to allow “fast lanes” in broadband but not wrong for the same content companies to pay CDNs like Akamai to bring content closer to the user and thereby make access to the paid data faster? If the new rules deliver anything less, he added, “that would be a betrayal.” Mr. Wheeler rebuffed such criticism. “There is no ‘turnaround in policy,’ ” he said in a statement.
I was looking for overall indicators for the Bhutan ICT sector a few years back. The only index that included Bhutan then was the ICT Development Index, published by the ITU. So I am happy that WEF has included Bhutan in the NRI for the first time. And they have placed at 94, ahead of all their S Asian peers other than Sri Lanka and India. Pakistan and Bangladesh on the other hand have slid back by 6 and 5 places, respectively.
I have never been a great fan of NRI type indices where the components are somewhat opaque and some are subjective. Instead of going into the details of the method and weaknesses of components such as the mythical (for the most part) numbers of Internet users, I thought I’d check in against four countries that have launched major initiatives on broadband promotion using government subsidies: Australia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Australia’s plan is the winner in terms of public money committed and Malaysia is the winner in terms of households already connected. Case studies conducted with Ford Foundation support should be on the web shortly. Australia is holding steady at 18th place.
As long as I can remember, India has been ahead of Sri Lanka in the WEF Network Readiness Index. But no more. Sri Lanka is now ranked 76th while India is ranked 83rd. The bad part of the story is that both countries have dropped in the rankings: Sri Lanka from 69th place to 76th, a fall of seven places, being overtaken by countries such as South Africa, Indonesia and Thailand. India’s fall has been more dramatic: a 15-place retreat from 68th to 83rd.