Innovation ousts orthodoxy. Soft-switch has replaced telephone exchange equipment. Undersea optical fiber cables have marginalized satellites in intercontinental and transcontinental connectivity. Terrestrial optical fiber networks – along the highways, railway tracks, power grids and gas pipelines – are replacing microwave radio links. All these physical networks lead to data centers at home and abroad.
The World Economic Forum recently published some broadband price comparisons that generated some social media conversation, mostly because Sri Lanka, which had the lowest broadband prices according to the ITU, was now the 17th cheapest. LIRNEasia Research Manager Shazna Zuhyle who is active in the ITU’s indicators committees had this to say: The WEF has employed a consulting consultancy firm to gather the data that was then analysed by cable.co.uk. They have simply captured all fixed residential broadband plans per country, averaged the monthly cost and converted to USD.
Nepal Telecom and Hong Kong-headquartered China Telecom Global has connected each other across Nepal’s northern border with Tibet through a mix of underground and all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) optical fiber cable network. Activation of this link on January 12, 2018 has ended the exclusivity of Tata’s and Bharti Airtel’s international connectivity to the landlocked Himalayan state. Now Nepal can procure IP-transit, interconnection bandwidth, international leased circuits and cloud services at highly competitive rates from Asia’s one of the two carrier-neutral hubs at Hong Kong (Singapore is the other one). Nepal has reportedly activated only 1.5 Gbps through the Chinese carrier, due to technical constrains of the ADSS link.
The consultation document on Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy includes the following paragraph: For Myanmar, mobile voice and broadband data services are considered basic communications services and thus are part of the country’s universal service definition. In 2016, 83% of households have a mobile phone, and 78% of mobile phone owners have a smartphone, allowing broadband Internet services to be used on mobile devices. Clearly, the large majority of the population enjoys these services, therefore these ‘universal’ services also need to be made available for the minority that do not have these services today. Given how many countries debated whether or not broadband should be included in universal service subsidy programs, the above conclusion at the very outset of the program is quite significant. The conclusion is based on specific evidence.
Mustafa Jabbar, the newly appointed minister for the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, cannot waste much time on receiving bouquets and greetings. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has offloaded this portfolio on him after unceremoniously ejecting her veteran comrade in October 2014. Since then Hasina had been minding this ministry besides discharging her prime ministerial duties. She depended on two junior ministers – Zunaid Ahmed Palak for Information Technology and Tarana Halim for Posts and Telecommunications – to run the show. It had been a poor show and Jabbar must fix it.
Most of the organizations that were given time at the First Session of the Steering Committee meeting used the time to advertise themselves. I chose instead to present our broad range of contributions to AP-IS in the form of a short presentation of work done under the Project on Myanmar as an Inclusive Information Society. I briefly described some findings from the baseline and endline surveys, pointing out that much of what came out from the ITU on Internet users was worthless. We are not expecting to do such surveys again, though there is value in surveys being done periodically. My second point was on the need to develop an understanding of broadband quality of service experience.
Two and a half weeks after the Sri Lanka Broadband Summit, the coverage continues, this time in the highest-circulation English language newspaper, the Sunday Times. The Sri Lankan government should be focusing more on investment and not subsidies to develop telecommunications in the country, says Rohan Samarajiva Chairman of LIRNEasia. Addressing the second Broadband Forum held at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo recently Mr. Samarajiva said that the Government said, “The Sri Lankan government should focused more on investment and not subsidies. Taxing incoming and outgoing calls in this day and age is silly.
Unlike many countries, Sri Lanka did not impose a universal-service levy on customers of telecom services, directly or indirectly. One reason was the clause in the SLT privatization agreements that no universal-service levies would be imposed on the company. When you exempt the biggest player, you can’t then go and impose levies on the competitors. So that was an intended good result of the privatization. However, when the international telecom market was liberalized in 2003, the government imposed certain fees on incoming and outgoing calls that were to be kept in a fund and given to the companies which generated the calls when they provided documentation that approved rural infrastructure investments had been completed.
A lot of the discussion in the concluding sessions focused on implementation, as intended. Here is a participant writing about the highlights in Setopati, a digital newspaper: Similarly, senior Director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority Anand Raj Khanal said broadband could be leveraged to graduate country from the least developed status to the developing on by 2022. Arguing that NTA’s primary role is the infrastructure development in terms of expansion of broadband, Director Khanal expressed doubt whether the contracts NTA had with Nepal Telecoms and other companies would be completed on time to ensure broadband access to people. According to him, contracts were signed this April and May to ensure broadband internet access for 11 quake-hit districts. He too admitted, “We’re smart in policy formulation but weak at implementation.
The big news from the last broadband course we taught in Nepal was that only 2.6 percent of all the universal service funds collected since 1998 had been disbursed. This information, unearthed in the course of completing an assignment, was presented to decision makers in government who came to judge the mock public hearing. It was published in the Nepali media. Two years later, the Senior Director of the Nepal Telecom Authority who spoke about the regulatory aspects of broadband rollout did not speak in vague generalities or in the future tense.
The Nepali Reporter was the first to carry a story on the Ford Foundation supported course being conducted in Dhulikhel, July 14-17, 2017. The training organized by LIRNEasia, a Sri Lankan think-tank, Internet Society Nepal Chapter and Centre for Law and Technology, is engrossed on multifarious issues relating to internet and information as inclusion in information society, affordable broadband of adequate quality, services and applications that are of value to Nepali users, broadband infrastructures, measures to enhance and assure trust and security, ICT in disaster risk reduction and disaster response, demand size research and the research techniques as searching and managing data, and utilization of internet.
Comcast has for long been cast in the role of opponent of net neutrality. But according to this report, the roles are beginning to blur. “We support permanent, strong, legally enforceable net neutrality rules,” said Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, which once successfully sued the F.C.C.
It was in 2007 that we first wrote about white spaces. Ten years later, the talk continues. The technology is sometimes known as “super Wi-Fi” because it behaves like regular Wi-Fi but uses low-powered television channels to cover far greater distances than wireless hot spots. It is also more powerful than cellular service because the frequencies can penetrate concrete walls and other obstacles. Promoting the white-spaces technology could reap rewards for tech companies: The remaining 24.
When I first came across O3b in the Pacific, I asked a lot of questions about latency. Because the answers were right, I’ve been recommending O3b type solutions to people who want satellites as part of the solution to broadband connectivity problems. O3b went from four to twelve medium-earth-orbit satellites, serving niche markets that could not be served by fiber. Its weakness, if any, was that it could not serve the northern latitudes. Now Greg Wyler, a founder of O3b, is seeking to fill that gap with a massive constellation of over 700 satellites in a new system that has the financial backing of Intelsat and was just licensed by the FCC, OneWeb.
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has had the opportunity to identify the top consumer issues at the first Telecommunications Summit organized by the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology recently. She writes about it in TelecomAsia: Although I’m very passionate about consumer woes—and it’s very easy to get carried away—I showed the results of studies and analyses by third (mostly disinterested) parties, as researchers are wont to do. I gathered statistics from Akamai Technologies, OpenSignal, The Economist Intelligence Unit, ITU’s Broadband Commission, and Measuring the Information Society reports. For validation, I threw in some of my own research done for LIRNEasia and a latest collaboration using Big Data analytics. What was common in these studies was that the country’s internet service is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the region.
The Broadband Commission’s “Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide” is now available online. Our CEO, Helani Galpaya, consulted as an external expert to the commission on this document. The report highlights the need for urgent action to bridge the digital gender divide, and makes broad recommendations to governments/policy-makers, the private sector, NGOs, IGOs and the academia, in the following areas: Collecting and understanding the kind of data that reflects gender disparities in internet and broadband access as well as use Involving women and other relevant communities in the process of developing digital strategies, policies, plans and budget Addressing the digital gender divide in terms of key barriers including problems with accessibility, affordability, safety of use, digital skills and relevance of content Enhancing cooperation between stakeholders to share good practice and lessons Read the full report here. See more of our work on the digital divide here.