Telecom Archives — Page 2 of 5


I was sending email to Sri Lanka from around 1991 through LAcNET, but many do not consider that real Internet because it was store-and-forward by Sanjiva Weerawarana at Purdue using MCI Friends and Family calling plans that we all contributed to. So after they officially launched in April 1995 and then finally got SLT to connect the wires properly on 11 May 1995, the first commercial and full-fledged (all of 64 kbps) Internet connection between Sri Lanka and the world had been activated. The organizers of the celebration, ISOC Sri Lanka, were kind enough to ask me to speak for 10 minutes. I figured others had a comparative advantage on history, and talked about what we needed to do to give our people an Internet worthy of the name where latency problems did not cause us to pull our hair out. The slideset.
First results from Telenor Myanmar, from Telecom Paper. Telenor ended its first quarter in Myanmar with 3.406 million mobile customers. The new mobile operator generated NOK 287 million in revenues in Q4 2014 and an EBITDA loss of NOK 248 million. It spent NOK 598 million in Q4 and NOK 4.
Parvez Iftikhar will be amused that I am proposing a fund, after objecting to his favorite Universal Service Fund. But that is how the policy game gets played. We look at something that does not work at all or produces more bad outcomes than good (government-owned telcos with universal service obligations in the old days; government-owned media organizations now) and propose a solution that will reduce the harm (universal service fund for telecom; public media content fund for media). Then we see how the solution works and propose sunsetting it or shutting it down if it has been hijacked by nefarious interests. Deng Xiao Ping called this crossing the river by feeling the stones.
I was asked to participate in panel that posited a series of questionable propositions as its starting point. “Regulation was becoming less relevant; ITU had done a good job building regulatory capacity; now it needed to find new things to do” is a rough paraphrase. We have now fully emerged from an environment where service and carriage were tightly related, and where regulation was self-contained within a single organisation. New dimensions today include some where the ITU is a participating entity in a broader formal regulatory canvass, and some where facilitation relies on multi-stakeholder freewheeling market forces such as are associated with the Internet. This represents a challenging cultural change for the ITU to establish its active participating role.
Usually, profits go to those who take the risks and do the work. What is MPT’s contribution to the JV? Being “the industry regulator,” which I hope is a misstatement of facts? Contributing the land and existing assets? Middle management?
Ownership matters. That is why we take special precautions when the incumbent telecom operator is owned by the government. There is a tendency for the government to want to look after its creature, even if it means that the “playing field” is tilted against private competitors by the regulator. It’s been a long time since the government of Fiji “privatized” the government department that provided fixed telephony services. But the new owner was not a truly private entity, but the Pension Fund.
It is important that the government-owned telcos modernize their management in the face of competition by well-endowed modern companies such as Ooredoo and Telenor. If they do not, their fate will be the same as those of BTCL in Bangladesh and BSNL in India. Cash negative, if not for propping up by government using tax payer money. But it appears that KDDI is not willing to absorb all the MPT staff. For a big country like Myanmar, 11,000 does not seem too high a number.
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.
Two years ago, with the help of Haymar Win Tun I published in a Myanmar newspaper a piece entitled “Myanmar is last in the world in telecoms: What can be done.” It was to be published in Bamar as well, but some sad events stopped that from happening. I was happy to see a key concept in that article, that of the “late-starter advantage,” has got legs. Myanmar’s dynamic and understudied market provides a singular chance to observe the “last-mover advantage” as it unfolds. Although Myanmar’s greenfield telecom market holds huge potential, opportunities must be viewed in light of real challenges, including lack of physical supporting infrastructure,poverty, human and institutional capacity and ongoing ethnic tensions.
A recent case gave hope to those who wanted the n=all collection of telephone transaction-generated data to cease. But only court that can overrule Smith v Maryland is the Supreme Court. Now a FISA court has explicitly declined to follow Judge Leon. So n=all continues. A telephone company asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in January to stop requiring it to give records of its customers’ calls to the National Security Agency, in light of a ruling by a Federal District Court judge that the N.
Following on from the previous post re Bangladesh making do with an obsolete national telecom policy from 1998, I’ve been asked why we need policies, when in my time in government in Sri Lanka first as a regulator and then handling policy, I had not done much about Sri Lanka’s own obsolete policy (a couple of sheets of paper from 1994). A national policy provides a framework for decision making. A national telecommunications policy lays down basic principles to guide decisions of all relevant government agencies (not limited to the Ministry in charge of the subject) and other stakeholders, including service providers, investors, and even consumer organizations, which makes stakeholder input vital for its formulation. Not just the end result, but the process is also important. One needs stakeholder input; one also needs stakeholders to own the policy.

Praise for regulators in US

Posted on February 27, 2014  /  2 Comments

They say mergers are coming in both India and Sri Lanka. I’d prefer clear guidelines rather than discretion, for reasons like this. A rash of consumer-friendliness has broken out across the mobile data industry. Over the last year, the four major carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — have cut prices and offered greater flexibility in how they sell their voice, text and broadband services. The industry could be on the verge of an all-out price war.
A presentation and discussion of LIRNEasia research from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh  

Military-telecom complex in Cuba?

Posted on February 12, 2014  /  1 Comments

Now that Myanmar is on the move, Cuba’s position in the telecom league tables is likely to decline further. Or will it? Minority partnerTelecom Italia (who says Communists are against foreign investment?) has been given USD 706 million to go away by Raul Castro’s son-in-law’s company. If they have that kind of change, perhaps they are planning to invest in the sector as well?
We know how much pent up demand there is in Myanmar for voice and data communication. The government has fast-tracked reforms to respond. World Bank and others, including LIRNEasia in our small way, are striving to help. Some tunnel-visioned do-gooders are trying to hold back informed reforms that will learn from the experiences of countries that have liberalized their markets before Myanmar, but we hope they will fail. Giving the people of Myanmar what most people take for granted poses significant challenges.