OECD


I was reading the 2014 Annual Report of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, where on page 37 the PTA reports that international calls being terminated on Pakistani mobile networks has decreased dramatically since 2011-12, from 10.8 billion minutes to 5.6 billion minutes in 2013-14. The PTA even says that “one view is that this is due to the introduction of the International Clearing House (ICH).” But no reaching of the obvious conclusion: abolish the ICH and stop playing ineffective cartel manager.
OECD has done a good analysis of the wrong-headedness of raising international voice call termination rates, and indeed of having international termination rates. Outside the OECD countries, the price has been dropping too, accompanied by a huge increase in traffic. Calls from the United States to India increased eight fold over 2003-2011 for example. But not everybody has benefited. Despite a massive increase in the number of telephones in Africa, international calls to that continent from the United States remained stagnant during this same period.
We’ve been placing our bets on wireless as the platform for connecting our people to the Internet. People like Eli Noam have criticized this as a neglect of Fiber. But consumers are communicating their preferences. The number of wireless-broadband subscriptions rose by 14% last year among the members of the OECD, a mut ainly rich-country club. At the end of 2012 these countries had an estimated 781m subscriptions, of which 85% were standard mobile broadband; satellite and fixed terrestrial wireless systems accounted for less than 1%.
Mexico is not really within our sphere of activity, but the irony of having Carlos Slim as the co-chair of the Broadband Commission has caused me to write a few blogs about telecom sector developments there. Most recently, there was this stunning news that a political consensus had been achieved to attack “the great problem of concentration in telephony, internet and television.” One year ago, the OECD conducted a review of the telecom sector in Mexico. The conclusions came under fire from the entities that benefited from the status quo. Is there a causal relation here?
LIRNEasia was unhappy with the ITU’s practice of reporting the prices of telecom services on the basis of a three-minute call. From 2006, we worked on popularizing the OECD basket methodology. We started becoming increasingly unhappy about the accuracy of the method because of the widespread use of discounts. At the same time, the ITU adopted the basket method and started reporting prices on that basis. We declared victory and stopped price benchmarking for voice calls.
Mergers. mergers, everywhere. We’re told there are merger reviews on in Pakistan and the Philippines. But it’s the AT&T acquisition of T Mobile that’s getting the media play. Sam Paltridge, Member of the Scientific Advisory Council of LIRNEasia, is quoted on the implications of the merger for visitors: Mr.
CHAKULA is a newsletter produced by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). Named after the Swahili word for ‘food’, it aims to mobilise African civil society around ICT policy for sustainable development and social justice issues. The latest issue features an e-interview with LIRNEasia’s CEO Rohan Samarajiva, but it is not the only reason why we thought of highlighting the issue. The content is interesting and very readable. We publish two e-interviews from July 2010 issue here fully, as they are not available on public domain.
I was invited to conduct a discussion at the Cabinet Office in Brasilia with senior government officials driving the Brazilian Broadband Policy that will shortly be announced. Representatives of the relevant ministries, ANATEL the regulatory agency, the public telecom operator and a local think tank participated in what proved to be a lively discussion. Given the policy was almost fully formulated, I decided to focus on performance indicators, a subject I was working on for both UNCTAD and one which had preoccupied me since the time I was a regulator. It is also a subject that LIRNEasia has developed considerable expertise in. My guess was correct.
“When a business model, rather than direct government action, is delivering the goods the most appropriate government action is that which supports the business model. Policy and regulatory actions must be derived more from analysis of the requirements of the business model and less from public administration theory.” How it applies to Internet and broadband is what Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO, LIRNEasia explained in his keynote speech at the workshop ‘Expanding access to the Internet and broadband for development’ on November 16, 2009, at the Internet Governance forum 2009.  His presentation entitled, ‘How the developing world may participate in the global Internet Economy:  Innovation driven by competition’, can be downloaded here. The session was chaired by Dimitri Ypsilanti, Head of Information, Communication and Consumer Policy Division, OECD.
Rohan Samarajiva, LIRNEasia Chair and CEO, made the lead presentation on access to ICTs at an OECD/infoDev Workshop on the Internet Economy yesterday in Paris. The workshop, “Policy coherence in the application of information and communication technologies for development,” is currently underway. In his presentation, Dr Samarajiva described the new “Budget Telecom Network Model” developed in South Asia that is enabling mobile operators to serve low-income customers who yield very low ARPUs [Average Revenues per User] and discuss its extension to enable broadband use.  Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have offered the lowest total costs of mobile ownership since 2005-06 while still yielding adequate, though somewhat volatile, returns to ensure continued investment in network extension and new services.  LIRNEasia research shows that this has been made possible by business process innovations to reduce operating expenses, and the minimizing of transaction costs made possible by widespread prepaid use.
Full participation in the global Internet Economy requires electronic connectivity of considerable complexity. Today, due to a worldwide wave of liberalization and technological and business innovations in the mobile space, much of the world is electronically connected, albeit not at the levels that would fully support participation in the global Internet Economy. Yet, many millions of poor people are engaging in tasks normally associated with the Internet such as information retrieval, payments and remote computing using relatively simple mobiles. Understanding the business model that enabled impressive gains in voice connectivity as well as the beginnings of more-than-voice applications over mobiles is important not only because widespread broadband access among the poor is likely to be achieved by extending this model but because it would be the basis of coherent and efficacious policy and regulatory responses… This is an excerpt from a background report by Rohan Samarajiva, to be presented at “Policy coherence in the application of information and communication technologies for development,” a joint workshop organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Information for Development Program (infoDev) / World Bank from 10-11 September 2009 in Paris. The report has been published in the OECD’s Development […]

Defining broadband

Posted by on August 21, 2009  /  2 Comments

In our work, we refer to both the OECD and ITU definitions of broadband. They are quite different, indicating this is not settled science. Now the FCC has entered the fray, asking for comments on interpreting broadband. This is what one online commentator says: Nicely put, but defining and, even more, “interpreting” broadband may be a tough call. The FCC’s Notice certainly doesn’t make it easy.
The OECD countries are racing toward a broadband solution based fixed access, ADSL, Cable or FTTH. THE number of people subscribing to broadband in OECD countries increased by 13% last year to 267m. More than a fifth of the combined population of the 30 mostly rich nations in the OECD now have high-speed access to the internet. The broadband penetration rate is above a third in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. Adoption is lowest in poorer countries such as Mexico, where just over 7% are broadband subscribers.
Several years back, Korea topped the OECD’s broadband rankings and the ITU’s Digital Opportunity Index. That caused a lot of countries to reexamine their broadband policies. It caused others to develop new indices. The NYT carries a report on one: After the United States, the ranking found that Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway rounded out the five most productive users of connectivity. Japan ranked 10, and Korea, 18.
An article written by Rohan Samarajiva on Bangladesh’s proposed universal service taxes has been published in The Daily Star, Bangladesh; an excerpt follows. Bangladesh currently has the lowest mobile prices in the world and perhaps the world’s highest mobile growth rate. Pretty good, by any measure. A universal service tax can ruin the business model that has given millions of Bangladesh citizens the opportunity to get connected to an electronic network for the first time and to use telecom services at affordable prices. Instead of solving a problem, it will create one.
The central question of whether ICTs do any good, is discussed in relation to always-on broadband connections in the OECD. The question is, of course, of even greater importance in developing countries. The OECD released its latest report on May 19th. It surveys the broadband landscape to December 2007, and tells a warm tale. The number of broadband subscribers in the world’s 30 biggest countries grew by 18% to reach 235m, or one-fifth of those countries’ total population.
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