Of all the sessions that LIRNEasia people spoke at (eight officially; nine if the one where I was asked to speak on our big data work is included), the zero-rating session had been the most controversial. Understandably, it has drawn the attention of journalists. Helani Galpaya, CEO of LIRNEasia noted that mobile phones have a high penetration across countries in South-East and South Asia, and that there even exist a fair number of low priced data plans. However there are many at the so-called bottom of the pyramid for whom even a low priced data plan is still challenging. Zero rating has helped them come on aboard.
The 90 day period for finalizing the licenses is still not over, but information has been released on the planned pricing structures (this is unusual, since normal practice is to keep it secret until the day the products are launched). But then we should not expect normal from Myanmar. Norway-based Telenor said it will charge 25 kyat ($0.03) per minute for calls, while Qatar’s Ooredoo will put the price at 35 kyat ($0.04) per minute for on-net calls and 45 kyat ($0.
Lots of ideas for people thinking up new applications for agriculture, anywhere. FarmLogs, however, uses the pricing format of software-as-a-service start-up: a free trial, no setup fees, and monthly plans based on the size of operations. Costs range from $9 a month for the smallest farm to $99 a month for farms of more than 2,000 acres. Farmers’ income arrives unevenly, in big lumps over the course of a year rather than in a steady monthly stream. That could make it hard to persuade farmers who are now using notebooks or spreadsheets for record-keeping to add a new and recurring expense category, software-as-a-service, even if the amount is tiny when compared with annual income.
We’ve been taking the position that flat-rate pricing (all you can eat) is not what will work in the context of the Budget Telecom Network. Some of our past comments are were in the Indian media and simply blogposts. But now it looks like the big boys in the US are moving away from flat rate. Usage-based billing is seen by some as a fairer alternative to broadband caps, a term most closely associated with Comcast, which had been enforcing a limit of 250 gigabytes per Internet customer per month. Although only a small minority of customers ever exceeded the cap, it became a lightning rod for competitors like Netflix, which accused Comcast of unfairly favoring its own services.
The long dragged-out drama of license renewal in Bangladesh has taken one step toward closure, according to the Daily Star. The government yesterday finalised the process of how it will charge four mobile operators — Grameen-phone, Banglalink, Robi and Citycell — for renewing their licences for the next 15 years. A high-profile meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina decided that the operators will pay at the rate of Tk 150 crore for per megahertz of airwave, which will be multiplied by the total allocated spectrum and a ‘market competition factor’. The meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office also decided to give 3G (third generation) technology licences through auction. The per-MHz amount has been set arbitrarily.
It started with something innocuous. Within a very short period of around a week all the mobile operators in Pakistan announced they would charge 10 Paise for balance inquiries. The Competition Commission of Pakistan naturally initiated an inquiry. The mobile operators said there was no price fixing and that this move was intended to reduce the overuse of this service. But then someone turned up with copies of emails showing the existence of a CEO Forum and details on discussions of prices, not only for balance inquiries, but for other services as well.
A JICA study on investment climate has come up with some interesting findings, according to a news report. It reflects what LIRNEasia found through its benchmarking work. Bangladesh did demonstrate herself as competitive in eight components, including lowest rates among all the countries surveyed with regards to monthly telephone charge and monthly gas charge. However, it remained less competitive in most areas related to foreign investment, including container transportation, land price of industrial estate, internet connection fee, monthly internet fee, telephone installation fee, mobile phone subscription fee, and corporate income tax among others. The report, however, highlighted high internet fees among these.
In our work on teleuse@BOP, reports on the use of missed calls attracted a great deal of attention. It seems to be generating even more press at the MobileActive conference in South Africa: “Donner said in a phone interview with MobileActive.org: “I started writing on [missed calls], based on being an outsider. We just simply don’t use missed-calls (in the US). But if go anywhere else, particularly in the developing world, where there are pre-paid systems, and pay-as-you-go, and people really watch their minutes, you’ll see it everywhere.
One of the key debates on broadband is between those who believe in “all you can eat” service packages and pricing and those who do not. Our research so far indicates that broadband can only be provided to the Bottom of the Pyramid using the same kind of business plans that were effective in providing mobile service to the BOP, that is, not all-you-can eat. Comcast, a leading US ISP, has just announced caps on downloads. If this is the future for rich country users, can there be any doubt about what the future for BOP users in poor countries?