In partnership with Ford Foundation, LIRNEasia is working on a project on ‘Facilitating and enriching policy discourse on improving broadband access by the poor‘. This work is expected to result in greater awareness of practices and innovations in the region on increasing broadband penetration. As part of this project, a research was undertaken by Nalini Srinivasan and P Vigneswara Ilavarasan on National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) in India. This research was published in Economic and Political weekly last week. The abstract of the published paper is as follows: The National Optical Fibre Network is being implemented largely by public sector organisations in the country.
No one yet knows the actual composition of the joint venture that will get the fourth license. But the results are already being felt. Starting this month, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the state-owned operator whose monopolistic rights ended last year, cut its Internet charges from 7 kyat (Bt0.21) per megabyte to 6 kyat. The short message fee was also reduced to 10 kyat, the lowest in the industry.
The first part of the Quartz article is the usual complaint about Whatsapp getting a free ride. While they may be eating into the messaging and voice revenues of mobile networks, OTTs like Whatsapp aren’t completely bad for business. They can help fuel data consumption—a growing revenue stream for network operators if exploited well. South Africa’s third largest network, with 19.6 million subscribers by the end of 2014, saw an opportunity a year ago by zero-rating Whatsapp on its network for close to a year.
LIRNEasia CEO participated in two more events at the ITU Telecom World 2015 held in Budapest, Hungary. The ICT Economic and Industry Round Table aimed to look to the future to imagine with digital development would be. Helani spoke about state investment into the backhaul infrastructure, and about private sector entry into connecting the unconnected through zero rating. The other panel today was titled The Data Rich, Decision Making Poor: How to use Big Data for Improved Government Action. Helani showcased LIRNEasia’s Big Data research and our research inputs into the the Western Region Megapolis plan in Sri Lanka.
LIRNEasia CEO took part in the Leadership Summit at the ITU Telecom World 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Yesterday she took part in a panel discussion making innovations in ICT work for social impact, and used the results of LIRNEasia’s Systematic Review titled “Mobile-phone interventions for improving economic and productive outcomes for farm and non-farm rural enterprises and households in low and middle-income countries” to make the point about network rollout and good regulation.
As election campaigning heats up in Myanmar with D day less than one month away, Facebook is being used as a key tool in getting information across to the public. According to the news item published in the Frontier Myanmar, a member of a key political party in Myanmar claims that this is a useful medium by which to keep the public updated. The length and breadth of mobile usage, and particularly, the outreach of Facebook in the country, has been quoted from the nationwide baseline telecommunications survey carried out by LIRNEasia in February and March this year; the results of which were disseminated in July. The full article can be accessed here
below is the long version of the pitch we made to the Stockholm Internet Forum. Hopefully, it will gain enough votes to be included. Billions are yet to be connected to the Internet. Some lessons can be drawn from the case of the previous success story of connecting billions to voice telephony. For example, from experience with industry-specific taxes and universal service funds we have a much better understanding of how taxes and subsidies are likely to affect access to and affordability of Internet.
Manu Joseph hits back at the overheated rhetoric driving the opposition to zero rating. He also mentions the Quartz piece citing Helani’s report from the field in Indonesia. A lazy, neurotic suspicion of the large corporation is also behind the obtuse alarm over Free Basics. But the very strength of the parallel Internet for the poor is that it is corporate strategy. Mark Zuckerberg has tried his best to give it a humanitarian spin, which may not be wholly a lie, but I do hope the venture is not purely altruistic.
We tried very hard to get the Teleuse in Myanmar research findings disseminated before the big tidal wave of the 2015 Myanmar Election rolled in, washing away all else. But we were not completely successful and were somewhat disappointed in the amount of coverage we received. So we were very pleased to see the data being used in conversations about the election: Since the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector in 2014, unprecedented numbers of Myanmar citizens have obtained mobile phones, and with that internet access. A recent survey conducted by LIRNEasia on Myanmar’s ICT development found that 58 percent of households have access to a SIM card and 57 percent to a mobile phone handset. The survey also found that 17 percent of all phone owners use the Facebook application, behind only those using “Voice over IP” applications such as Viber and Skype (24 percent) and chat applications like Whatsapp and Facebook messenger (20 percent).
Now for something completely different. Empathy is a trait I greatly value. Apparently, it is not being destroyed by Facebook. “In face-to-face connections, you tend to stay with people you’re most familiar with or have most in common with,” said Tracy Alloway, an associate professor of psychology and the lead author of the paper. “But Facebook can break down those boundaries.
To me, Google Loon has always been just another backhaul option. And one in the early testing stages. It fitted with Google investments in undersea cables and O3B. Couldn’t quite understand what people were getting their knickers in a twist about. This is now confirmed.
It certainly is nice to see social media being put to good use. Since 2009, the US Government Scientists (USGS) have teamed up with social media giant Twitter in receiving data on earthquakes. The USGS has about 2000 sensors planted in and outside the US listening to tiny movements in the earth’s crust. The responses vary. Sensors pick up movements and report back to the federal agency, but some are too small to cause panic.
Helani Galpaya asks the most basic question in a Council on Foreign Relations blog. She bases her position on evidence from the field: her direct observations in Java that went around the world and the recent Myanmar baseline Teleuse study. In the end, the best defense against the possible downsides of ZR is high levels of competition at all parts of the broadband value chain—content, application, devices, international connectivity—not just in retail mobile connectivity. Given the low capacity of many regulatory institutions in Asia, it probably makes sense for regulators to focus on creating a competitive environment and let the ZR battle play out, while being ready to act if actual harm occurs. If regulators insist on acting to enforce net neutrality policies, they could take other actions, such as making ZR offerings time-limited or mandating the first click outside of the walled garden also be zero-rated.
I titled a piece I wrote on Myanmar a while back as “10 to 80 in five years.” Now after just one year of operations, Telenor Myanmar, not the largest operator in Myanmar, has over 20 SIMs per 100 people, all by itself. That would place the overall SIMs/100 number above 50. After just one year. So it may be time we shift our attention to more interesting and challenging things, like getting more people access to Internet.
Spectrum is a scarce resource, made even more scarce by the difficulties governments have in refarming it. Efficient use of spectrum should be a high priority. It is obvious that allowing firms to use market mechanisms to use the resource more efficiently is a good thing. The question is why this is not done. One part of the answer is the need of governments to maximize revenues from spectrum.
When everybody and everybody seemed to be in the running for licenses in Myanmar, Digicel was one of the most aggressive competitors. Digicel already employs 893 people in Myanmar, with a further 3,500 earmarked for hiring. Digicel is currently the title sponsor of the Myanmar Football Federation and the Myanmar Special Olympics Federation. But now it’s out. Selling out to a major regional operator, Axiata, according to reports: The Myanmar tower market is expected to be one of South East Asia’s largest and fastest growing telecommunication infrastructure service markets, the statement added.