Appears Myanmar will have two mobile money services in operation by end 2017, raising interconnection issues for which there still is no regulatory mechanism in place. The new mobile money services, M-Pitesan, will enable the telco’s customers to send money instantly within the country. Customers will also be able to buy airtime for themselves or others, said Jacques Voogt, Chief M-Commerce officer for Ooredoo Myanmar. Since the entry of foreign telecom players in 2014, Myanmar has seen its mobile penetration cross 90 per cent. With about 77 per cent of the population lacking access to banking, mobile money services offer an opportunity to drive financial inclusion in the country.
With massive numbers detailed in the Mobile World Live report, Tanzania is the current success story in mobile-led financial services. What caught my attention was the need for interconnection rules if the market has four suppliers. World Bank country director for Tanzania, Somalia, Burundi and Malawi, Bella Bird (pictured) said: “The mobile money revolution has made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people who can now send and receive money and thus save at low cost. With more effort, the remaining one-third of Tanzanians could also have access.” According to the latest GSMA Intelligence statistics for Tanzania, by the end of Q1 2016 there were four competing mobile money services available in the country.
There was a time when regulation had three priorities: interconnection, interconnection and interconnection. Was it Maeve Sullivan who came up with that line? Anyway, we fought those battles, and then we got beyond that. So anyway, looks like it’s coming back in the form of interconnection of mobile financial services. Mr Collymore agreed that the industry needs greater cross-platform interoperability even as he argued that the process should be driven by market forces rather than regulatory intervention.
By my lights, the project should have started by now. We first went public on this two years ago. But at least they are still talking: A proposal to link the two countries’ electricity grids could ultimately see improved reliability and stability of the Sri Lanka power supply and, in the long run, allow the country to purchase and export electricity depending on variability in price. The interconnection – a high-voltage, direct current line to run from Madurai in India to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka – is initially planned to transmit up to 500 MW, scalable up to 1 GW. Pre-feasibility studies of the proposed Sri Lanka-India transmission network have already been completed, according to Sri Lanka’s electricity regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka.
We highlighted the value of interconnecting with the South Indian grid almost three years ago in a presentation made to a public hearing of the PUCSL and kept the issue alive through subsequent writing. Would have been happier if construction had commenced, but good to know at least the talk continues. There is a big opportunity here,” Damitha Kumarasinghe, director general of Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka said. “Now India is connected to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka is the country which is outside this grid at the moment and there are power deficits at various time intervals in both countries.” He was speaking at the recently concluded 22nd Steering Committee Meeting of South Asia Forum for Infrastructure Regulation (SAFIR) held in New Delhi, India.
It is a good thing that Digital India builds upon the previous unexecuted plans for taking fiber to rural India. What we said then, and what we say now is that the government must put teeth into the claim that NOFN will be “a national non-discriminatory infrastructure.” Give the private providers certainty by spelling out the terms and conditions of non-discriminatory access to the fiber. Australia made it too complicated, but there are lessons to be learned from that experience. Digital India weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single comprehensive vision.
All the plans for advancing the lives of people in South Asian countries, including Internet access, are not likely to achieve fruition unless the electricity problems are solved. For this, one essential action is the the tapping of the abundant potential of the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Another is interconnection of the national grids of the South Asian countries. The Economist wrote about this, focusing on sub-continent, and leaving out Sri Lanka. A second reason, says Raghuveer Sharma of the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), was radical change that opened India’s domestic power market a decade ago.
There is value in having deep pockets. My information gives August 4th as the formal launch date of Ooredoo Myanmar. We’ve done qualitative interviews in the Yangon-Nay Pyi Taw-Mandalay triangle where all companies will concentrate their early efforts. Looking forward to completing the analysis and getting the results out. Ooredoo Myanmar has announced it will make mobile phone and internet services available to 30 percent of Burma’s population sometime between July and September this year.
Namibia poses an interesting question. The regulator acts to reduce one of the key costs of providing offnet calls, the mobile termination rate. But the operator holding 85 percent market share refuses to make a corresponding reduction in offnet call charges. Now the regulator has responded by ordering reduction of offnet call charges. Namibia has led SA in cutting call termination rates — the fees the operators charge one another to carry calls between their networks.
Payal Malik, Senior Research Fellow, will represent LIRNEasia at an upcoming seminar on “Interconnection in Mexico” on 27 October 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico. The seminar is being organized by the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, A.C. (CIDE/Mexico) and the Telecommunications Research program Telecom CIDE. The event brings together a select group of government, academy and civil society representatives.
The UK regulator, Ofcom, has proposed cuts in interconnection fees (also known as mobile termination rates), the wholesale charges that operators make to connect calls to each others’ networks. It has unveiled plans to cut the rate in stages from 4.3 pence ($0.065) per minute to 0.005 pence per minute by 2015.
Namibian Communications Commission (NCC) has ordered the convergence of interconnection rates between operators (Cell One, Telecom Namibia and MTC) through the introduction of a standard charges structure; rates will be reduced bi-annually over a two-year period. Symmetry between mobile and fixed termination rates supports fixed-mobile convergence and removes distortions caused by previously higher mobile-to-mobile rates. A benchmarking study conducted by Research ICT Africa, LIRNEasia’s sister organization, on behalf of the NCC indicates that the cost of termination of an efficient operator in Namibia is NAD 0.24 (USD 0.03).
The roll-out plans of new mobile players could be dampened with some of the existing pan-Indian operators demanding higher rates for providing interconnection. This includes higher termination rates (levied for ending calls from a new operator’s subscriber to an incumbent player’s network) and port charges (for accepting traffic from a new player to an existing network). Incumbent operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are at an advantageous position because they have a large subscriber base and, therefore, it is necessary for the new players to interconnect. If the new operators do not interconnect with them then their subscribers will not be able to call users on the incumbent player’s network. “The interconnection charges being imposed by the existing players are based on the telecom regulator’s order issued in 2003.
In a fullpage advertisement that will be published in the Sunday papers on October 5th, Tigo, Sri Lanka’s “third” mobile operator (not that we place that much stock in market share calculations based on numbers of active SIMs), will effectively end the unloved receiving-party-pays regime in Sri Lanka. Its tariff scheme is about the simplest I have seen in a long time: all incoming calls free; offnet outgoing 10 LKR cents a second (roughly USD 0.001); onnet outgoing 5 LKR cents a second (roughly USD 0.0005). No time periods.