PTA chairman Syed Ismail Shah was carefully optimistic about 3G and 4G spectrum auction in Mobile World Congress at Barcelona during February. Unlike the country’s political leaders, Mr. Shah lacks the luxury of being romantic about the financial windfall from this auction. The government has aspired for US$1.2 billion.
Asia accounted for 31% monthly active Facebook users (390 million) in Asia until Q1 of 2014. When Facebook issues its Q2 figures, Asia is expected to be the bigger than the ‘rest of the world’ segment. The social media behemoth also has 21% daily active users (216 million) in Asia. The ‘Asia’ chunk of the charts gets a lot slimmer when it comes to revenue. Facebook makes $0.
The shift from the economy of things to the attention economy is now almost complete. The buying and selling of things will continue, but will be subservient to the production of attention on an industrial scale and its buying and selling. The data economy is fast catching up as another key element of the picture. Since most people are accessing the Internet through mobile devices and their small screens, as we have been saying for many years, this has become the most critical battleground. For the last two years, Facebook has been growing like a beanstalk in mobile advertising, gaining ground against Google, its chief rival.
Born in 2001 with limited regulatory independence, the amended telecom law had further clipped the wings of BTRC in 2010. The regulator has always been the ministry’s obedient servant. Therefore, the hijacking of BTRC’s minimal jurisdictions made no difference with the minister’s authority. It, however, gives babus the pleasure of issuing licenses, approving tariffs and other issues to micro-manage. Predictably the ministry has miserably failed to discharge the duties it had hijacked from BTRC.
If someone can clarify why it is wrong to allow “fast lanes” in broadband but not wrong for the same content companies to pay CDNs like Akamai to bring content closer to the user and thereby make access to the paid data faster? If the new rules deliver anything less, he added, “that would be a betrayal.” Mr. Wheeler rebuffed such criticism. “There is no ‘turnaround in policy,’ ” he said in a statement.
I was looking for overall indicators for the Bhutan ICT sector a few years back. The only index that included Bhutan then was the ICT Development Index, published by the ITU. So I am happy that WEF has included Bhutan in the NRI for the first time. And they have placed at 94, ahead of all their S Asian peers other than Sri Lanka and India. Pakistan and Bangladesh on the other hand have slid back by 6 and 5 places, respectively.
I have never been a great fan of NRI type indices where the components are somewhat opaque and some are subjective. Instead of going into the details of the method and weaknesses of components such as the mythical (for the most part) numbers of Internet users, I thought I’d check in against four countries that have launched major initiatives on broadband promotion using government subsidies: Australia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Australia’s plan is the winner in terms of public money committed and Malaysia is the winner in terms of households already connected. Case studies conducted with Ford Foundation support should be on the web shortly. Australia is holding steady at 18th place.
As long as I can remember, India has been ahead of Sri Lanka in the WEF Network Readiness Index. But no more. Sri Lanka is now ranked 76th while India is ranked 83rd. The bad part of the story is that both countries have dropped in the rankings: Sri Lanka from 69th place to 76th, a fall of seven places, being overtaken by countries such as South Africa, Indonesia and Thailand. India’s fall has been more dramatic: a 15-place retreat from 68th to 83rd.
The latest data compilation from the World bank is out. I found particularly interesting Table 5.11 which reports electricity and ICT indicators. Despite all the talk of the power of the Internet, only fixed and mobile voice indicators are reported. I guess that is better than reporting bad data on Internet users.
The Expert Forum on Broadband Policy and Regulation Conducive to Access by the Poor 2014 was the second of the series of Expert Forums organized under the current Ford Foundation funded project. This was a small interactive event to gain insights from experts including regulators and policy makers from India, UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Mexico and Sri Lanka. The topics covered included what India can learn from the National Broadband Network initiatives of Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia, an analysis about the current status of the National Optical Fiber Network of India, the Mexican Shared Spectrum Model and its relevance to South Asia, Spectrum policies conducive to broadband rollout and why the Indian app market has not been as successful as expected. The web-based Broadband Policy Resource Centre focused on Indian policy makers (http://broadbandasia.info/ ) was also launched at the Expert Forum.
The recent kerfuffle about Google flu trends showed all kinds of critics of big data come out of the woodwork. This is normal for anything new. I am sure there was an outpouring to hostility to the motor car when the first accident occurred. What I found useful was the cooling of the hype associated with big data. I have no doubt it is big and will, in fact, lead to a data economy.
Google is working on a modular mobile phone that will eliminate the need to buy a new phone every few years. If it works, it will save money and reduce the industry’s contribution to the waste stream. Project Ara is Google’s attempt to reinvent the cellphone as we know it. Instead of a slab of glass and metal that you have no ability to upgrade, save for buying a new device, it’s an attempt to launch a phone where all of the main components are interchangeable via modules that click in and out, attaching via electro-permanent magnets. Despite being highly customizable, it will only come in three main sizes, helping to eliminate the kind of device fragmentation that currently plagues Android.
Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung have joined AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile US, US Cellular and Verizon Wireless to protect the consumers from phone theft. The technology companies have committed to providing a “baseline anti-theft tool” at no cost to consumers that is preloaded on devices or downloadable. The tools will enable the remote wiping of user data; make devices inoperable by unauthorised users (via password or PIN); prevent the reactivation of devices without user permission; and reverse inoperability and restore data if the smartphone is returned to its owner. The mobile operators are committed to permitting the anti-theft tool to be preloaded or downloaded to devices. Some device makers already offer similar functionality.
One of the most interesting things that happened within government in Sri Lanka with regard to electricity policy was that they started asking a different question. Instead of asking only the question”how much does the proposed electricity generating option cost” they started asking the question “what are the costs to the economy of load shedding.” The end result of this shift in thinking is that Sri Lanka in the only South Asian country (other than Bhutan and possibly the Maldives) that can assure its citizens and industries more or less 24/7 power. Power in Sri Lanka is a lot more expensive than in the region, but our companies and people do not have to invest in generators, inverters and various other back up mechanisms. It seems that the government of Pakistan should also start asking a different question with regard to 3G and 4G frequencies: “what are the costs to Pakistan of not having wireless data networks,” not “what is the one-time revenue boost the government will get from an auction.
Facebook is seeking regulatory nod for mobile money service, initially in Ireland. The license would be valid throughout the European Union. The social media behemoth is working on an international remittance service via mobile devices as part of its strategy to crack emerging markets. The money transfer project, led by Sean Ryan, Facebook’s vice-president of platform partnerships, signals a strategic shift for the company, which makes most of its money from advertising. It also comes as other internet groups – in particular, China’s Tencent and Alibaba – race to turn their sites into mobile payment platforms, according to the Financial Times.
Last week in Vanuatu, a whole bunch of satellite providers and one builder of undersea cables were asked by Dean Bubley of Disruptive Innovations whether they had any thoughts on the potential disruptions posed by the various tech solutions to Internet connectivity being bruited about. They were not worried in one voice. Perhaps the news yesterday that Google had bought a drone company made them rethink their response. Here’s what is on the horizon: First of all, they’re autonomous robots that are nearly the size of a commercial jet that can stay aloft for five years running on solar power. Think about that.