The surprise in this story is that the offending government is the government of the United Kingdom, a country many in the world looked at when engaged in telecom reforms. Now that the slapping of arbitrary taxes and levies on telcos has become the fashion, perhaps the UK example will become the governing one again. In 2015, regulator Ofcom was asked to increase spectrum fees, which trebled the annual licence fee of many operators and resulted in the industry having to cough up £200 million a year for licences. UK operators sought a judicial review, stating Ofcom had wrongly calculated the amounts, for instance by not taking into account network running costs. The Court of Appeal upheld the challenge based on European Commission laws on infrastructure investment.
The UK has been a leader in telecom reforms. Thus OFCOM’s encouragement of BT to have a de facto separate unit called Openreach to permit non-discriminatory use of the infrastructure caught the attention of many. Now, OFCOM wants to take next logical step and is proposing real structural separation: Openreach to become a distinct company. Openreach should be a legally separate company within BT Group, with its own ‘Articles of Association’. Openreach – and its directors – would be required to make decisions in the interests of all Openreach’s customers, and to promote the success of the company.
This debate about access to data about railway delays in Britain has interesting implications in other fields such as electricity. She told me part of the problem is when public services are provided by the private sector; such firms claim that selling data is a revenue stream for them, and ask for public-funded subsidies to make it open. For example, the state-owned Ordnance Survey mapping company has made much of its data open, but takes a £10 million annual subsidy to do so, according to The Independent. “It’s particularly frustrating when organisations aren’t making much money from it,” Tennison added, noting that the costs of selling data—including lawyers for licensing and enforcing terms—often outstrip any revenue. Tennison hopes that’s not the case.
The pilot project being implemented by the UK regulator should yield useful learnings for all who want to make better use of spectrum. Ofcom is inviting the industry to take part in the pilot, which is scheduled for the third quarter of 2013. Locations will be chosen once the trial participants are on-board. It also noted that following a successful completion of the programme, “Ofcom anticipates that the technology could be fully rolled out during 2014, enabling the use of white space devices across the country”. Issues to be explored include the interoperation of white space devices, white space databases, and the processes to mitigate against interference to current spectrum users.
One more qualified bidder than number of slots is a prescription for a bidding frenzy. But then, something like this has been done before. In the UK they had one more slot than there were existing operators. The consequences of being the only 2G operator who failed to get a 3G license drove up the prices. That should do it in Bangladesh too, unless someone comes up with a clever solution.
We have been grateful for funding from the UK Department for International Development channeled through IDRC. In the speech that I quote from below, the UK Minister for Universities and Science, comes out strongly for public availability of publicly funded research. Therefore, it is pleasing to be able to report that LIRNEasia has insisted on making its publicly funded research, publicly available, with almost no exceptions. Our starting point is very simple. The Coalition is committed to the principle of public access to publicly-funded research results.
Making m payments work is not easy. Common standards have to be created and accepted, so that retailers have to invest in one piece of equipment. They are trying to do it in the UK but also giving the elbow to a disruptive competitor. That may be changing, however. In France, the government in 2010 began trials of mobile payments for bus and train tickets in Nice and Paris.
It seems that all governments under threat fear communication media. Instead of the kill switch, Cameron of the UK seems to be proposing a narrower ban: social media use by miscreants. How does this work? Does the government know who is planning mayhem and who is not? Does it shut down base stations in affected areas, or does it target specific people?
Auction design is hot. The Economist reports on 4G auction design in the UK: The government will want to squeeze as much revenue as it can from the sell-off, but it must also preserve competition in a consolidating industry. The recent merger of Orange and T-Mobile has left Britain with four mobile-phone operators: Everything Everywhere (the imperious name for the newly merged company), Vodafone, O2 and Three. That is a healthy number compared with some countries, such as America, where AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA would create what some regard as, in effect, a duopoly. But Three warns that it would struggle in an unrestrained bidding war with its larger rivals for the new spectrum.
For a number of reasons, including our conclusion that for most of the BOP the path to the Internet runs through a mobile handset, LIRNEasia is interested in how people use smartphones. Here is a report summarizing research findings: The average smartphone owner spends 667 minutes a month using apps. That is more time spent with apps than spent talking on a smartphone or using it to browse the Web. But not all smartphones are equally friendly to apps. Programmers have an easier time designing apps for iPhones and Android phones, giving these devices a much broader pool to draw from.
Last research cycle, we did work on payments through near-field communication for busfares. One barrier that was identified was the lack of standard NFC capability in handsets. Looks like the London Olympics may solve that problem, according to BBC. Moving the experience on to the mobile is something consumers want, according to Jason Rees, head of m-payments at Everything Everywhere. “Studies show that people are more likely to forget their wallets than their mobile phones.
We expressed skepticism when the Labor Party first announced it. We are pleased it is being cancelled. The previous Labour government hummed and hawed about this rural-urban “digital divide”. Eventually, in 2009, it proposed levying a 50p tax on every fixed telephone line in the country: the proceeds were to be given to BT to allow it to connect even the remotest hamlets by 2012. The new coalition administration abandoned that plan, ditching the tax and pushing the target date back to 2015.