2015 August


Earlier today, I made a presentation at a well-attended lunch-time seminar at the LKY School at the National University of Singapore on the work done by LIRNEasia’s systematic review teams on mobile phone impacts in rural areas, mobile financial services and ICTs in the classroom. Sujata Gamage, the leader of the education SR team, presented the education section. The slides are here. Perhaps the most interesting thing I took away from the discussion was that generally SRs tend to systematically confirm what we already know. At most, like with our SR which showed that the evidence of impacts from mobile-based information services was not solid, it questions established knowledge.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) of Myanmar has received 17 applications from local companies to form a consortium, which will operate the fourth mobile network. The winner will be announced in September. Authorities will start the process of selecting a foreign investor for the local consortium thereafter. The license will be granted for a 15-year term, said Reuters. Meanwhile, TeleGeography has reported that there is already an informal fourth mobile operator named MECTel in Myanmar.
I moderated CPRsouth 10’s opening plenary that looked at the competitiveness, privacy and marginalization issues associated with the emerging field of big data. Attached are the questions that I circulated beforehand to the experts who participated in the discussion. Here is an excerpt. The document also contains several annexes that provide examples and definitions about the terms that are used. 5.
Today, I had to field questions on behalf of Shazna Zuhyle and Grace Mirandilla Santos who made a canned presentation at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei on Measuring Broadband Performance: Lessons Learnt, Challenges Faced, because they could not be present in person. The principal question asked by the discussant (from Australia) and Enrico Calandro (Italy/South Africa) was why Zuhyle and Mirandilla Santos were proposing that national regulatory agencies (NRAs) should take on the responsibilities of broadband quality monitoring. Another person from the floor asked why Philippines and Asian broadband quality and value for money were so poor. I saw the answers to both questions as being connected. I said that the paper very clearly established that there was no one single method that was objectively superior to the alternatives.
For most of human history, people have moved. It is only in the relatively short window after the establishment of the Westphalian state, especially after the collapse of the empires after the Second World War, that these movements have been constrained. The logic of globalization is based on the mobility of factors of production. Some economists like Paul Collier have chosen to ignore the need for labor to be mobile too. Those who see the technology glass as half-empty have seen the strong surveillance capabilities of the state as putting an end to movement of people across borders.
While announcing lowered call and data rates, CEO of Telenor Myanmar, Petter Furberg goes on to say that almost half of all mobile subscriptions is Telenor. 12 of the 14 states and regions of Myanmar are now covered by Telenor, 55% of whose subscriber base are data users. He further claims that while expanding coverage in the country, the strength and quality of signal is being improved in areas that are already being served. This is definitely a welcome sign, in a country where 70% of mobile phone users are on smart phones. The full news item can be found here.
It was in 2008, seven years ago, that we said that Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos exemplified the success of our capacity building approach, whereby we achieved greater results for less money than others in the region. Today, she was the dinner speaker at the special event held to mark the end of Young Scholars Program that she attended as a Young Scholar in January 2007 at CPRsouth1 in Manila, her hometown. Today, she talked about how she had been able to influence Philippines policy on measuring broadband quality and giving people value for money. We should have taped her. Here are her slides, here’s what will be carried in our 2014-15 Annual Report.
Further to Rohan’s remark, I am embedding the NTP-2015_Draft_English. Recent outcome of the ILDTS Policy may also excite or intrigue the readers.
At the Young Scholars’ program at CPRsouth10 in Taipei today, I was privileged to interview Grace Mirandilla Santos, a CPRsouth alumna (Young Scholar at CPRsouth 1; paper presenter at CPRsouth 2, 3, 4 and 10). The slides that I used to set up the talk are here. When describing how she managed to become a critical player in the Philippines broadband quality debates, she emphasized the role played by senior colleagues such as Jaime Faustino and Al Alegre in opening doors. But she was able to make use of these opportunities only because she had done the research, could leverage her networks to supplement what she knew and communicate what she knew effectively. She exploited the policy window using skill, but chance played a role too.
It was only when Professor Kamolrat Intaratat sent me a picture that I realized I had neglected to post the slides I had presented at a session where she and I both participated. The slides are here. But the fuller updated set is here.
I did not have the opportunity to study the draft NTP during its brief airing, so I will not comment on the document itself or on my colleague Abu Saeed Khan’s comments. But if it does not void the counter-productive Internation Long Distance Telecom Services policy, it cannot deliver. Once approved, the revised policy will supersede the one of 1998. Yet the International Long Distance Telecom Service (ILDTS) Policy of 2010 remains applicable. This controversial policy was enacted by the unelected and unaccountable government during 2007-08.
We saw that Myanmarese were bypassing feature phones and directly going to smartphones more than a year ago. The numbers we saw from the demand side survey conducted in Feb-Mar 2015 were close to 65 percent. This report says 70 percent. Should be right. The telco’s user base now exceeds 10 million people across 12 of 14 regions and states, Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg said in an August 19 statement.
Myanmar is breathing on Malaysia’s neck in terms of unique mobile subscribers. Its unique mobile subscription is already ahead of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia – according to GSMA. Nielsen also advises its clients to bet on “rapid up-take of mobile technology” by Myanmar’s youngsters. Repeated outages of Internet, however, stain the country’s digital profile. Doug Madory of Dyn Research compares the situation to closing a highway at rush hour.
I can recall the astronomical ARPUs in Afghanistan (over USD 80/month) when that market was opened up. Then, after normal Afghans who were not earning expat salaries started using the service, the ARPUs came down to more normal levels. There are plenty of expats roaming the streets of Yangon, but they have no discernible impact in the fast-expanding networks of this country of 50 million plus. But the ARPUs are high. We can confirm this from the sample survey we conducted in Feb-Mar 2015.
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has been playing a leading role in getting the new rules on broadband quality approved. Here is one news report quoting her: INTERNET users in the Philippines are “paying more for less” as the actual speed of their connection has never reached the “advertised speed” by Internet service providers (ISPs), a study showed. Mary Grace Santos, a research fellow of the LIRNEasia, presented the results of their study during the hearing of the Senate committee on trade on the impact of slow and expensive Internet in the country. Santos, said LIRNEasia is a regional ICT (Information and Communications Technology) think tank policy that has been conducting quality of service testings since 2010. Read more: http://technology.

No fun drags on

Posted by on August 17, 2015  /  0 Comments

We predicted this would happen if BSNL continued to be in the driver’s seat. In what could be another blow to the broadband dreams of millions, the deadline for rolling out national optical fiber network (NOFN) across all 2.5 lakh village panchayats has been extended by two years by 2018, according to sources close to the government. “The project will be now completed by 2018, instead of 2016,” the sources said. The national Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), which will play a crucial role in government’s Digital India program, was initiated in 2011 with an aim to provide broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) gram panchayats of India at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore ($4 billion).
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