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 Tuesday, July 17, 2012

MTN Nigeria has introduced a range of new services for business customers based on the recently launched West African Cable System (WACS). IT News Africa reports that the services are managed by MTN Business and will provide high quality, low latency internet access to wholesalers such as internet service providers (ISPs), internet bandwidth resellers and carriers, as well as mobile users across the country. ‘MTN has the unique advantage of a pre-existing extensive terrestrial Internet Protocol (IP) and broadband backbone infrastructure, enabling us to deliver high grade and highly available internet capacity to anywhere and everywhere in Nigeria,’ said MTN’s chief enterprise solutions officer, Babatunde Osho. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the USD650 million WACS cable system went live in May 2012, linking Europe, West Africa and South Africa with landings in the UK, Portugal, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia and South Africa. In Nigeria the cable is managed by MTN from its landing point to the last mile operated service. The total capacity of the system is 5.12Tbps.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:41:26 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Telecel Zimbabwe, the country’s second largest cellular operator, has announced that it passed the milestone of two million active mobile subscribers on its network by the end of June 2012, up from 1.83 million users it reported three months earlier, and an increase of 700,000 from 1.30 million customers recorded at mid-2011.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:39:47 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Honduras’ ailing state-owned national PTO Hondutel (Empresa Hondurena de Telecomunicaciones) has announced plans to establish a joint venture (JV) to offer a dedicated mobile broadband service in the country. CentralAmericaData writes that the PTO will be the majority shareholder in the new venture, and quotes Hondutel director Romeo Vasquez Velasquez as saying that the new business model will help the firm out of its current financial crisis, made worse by a lack of investment. ‘The only alternative we have is to open [Hondutel’s] doors to any [business or individual] in the country [or abroad] wanting to invest in our mobile broadband service to develop and improve the company’s future income streams. And we are working on it,’ Romero Velasquez said. It is believed that setting up such a venture in Honduras would require investment of around USD500 million.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:38:22 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Tanzania’s telecoms watchdog the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) reports that the African country was home to a total of 26.978 million fixed and mobile subscriptions at the end of March 2012, up from 25.827 million at the start of the year. Of the total subscriptions recorded at 31 March 2012, 26.805 million were cellular connections to one of the country’s leading mobile operators. Market leader Vodacom closed out 1Q12 with a total of 12.633 million mobile users (although around 19% are classed as inactive), while second-placed Airtel (formerly Zain) signed up a net 112,232 new users in the three-month period for a total of 7.106 million. Third place operator Tigo boosted its base by 47,067 to almost 5.498 million by end-March 2012, and Zantel Mobile — once the nation’s fastest growing cellco — shed roughly 12,000 net customers during the period for a total of 1.511 million. Trailing far behind the big four, the mobile arm of fixed line operator Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) had an estimated 96,000 subscribers and Benson Informatics Limited (BOL) had 1,221 data-only subscribers, down roughly 5,300 since the start of the 2011.

In the fixed line segment, TCRA reported 173,075 fixed lines in service as at 31 March 2012, up from 161,063 at the start of the year. National PSTN operator TTCL claimed the lion’s share with 158,348 lines at 1Q12 (its December 2011 figure was 159,364) with Zanzibar Telecommunications’ (Zantel’s) fixed line division taking the remaining 14,727, up from 1,699 previously.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:36:19 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Brazil’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, Vivo Participacoes, says it has reached its goal of 3G coverage of 85% of the population, well ahead of its target date of April 2016. In a statement, the cellco said it achieved the magic figure last Thursday, at which date its third-generation network served 2,832 municipalities out of a total of 5,566. Launched in 2010, Vivo’s ambitious rollout plan envisaged covering more than four-fifths of Brazil’s people with mobile internet access of up to 10Mbps within six years, in line with the regulator Anatel’s licensing terms – although even then, it said it was confident it could reach that goal by 2012. Local online news site Globo reports that Vivo is in the throes of connecting the last antenna as part of the project, serving the town of Rancho Alegre in Parana state, where 4,000 people live.

Although Vivo has hit its 3G target in terms of population coverage, it is still short of achieving its goals when it comes to towns and cities served. Currently, the cellco’s coverage is in less than half of all Brazil’s municipalities – and is especially weak in those with less than 30,000 inhabitants. Nonetheless, Vivo says it will continue with its aggressive plans for mobile network rollout to meet its coverage obligations.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:34:33 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

South Korean regulators have decided to let mobile operators charge users extra fees for VOIP applications or block their use entirely, according to a report by Networks Asia.
 
As per the report, Korea’s top mVoIP app, KakaoTalk, has gained rapid popularity among smartphone users. Other players in the mVoIP market include Microsoft’s Skype, Google Voice, Fring, Line 2 as well as other independent and operator-driven services.
 
 With widespread use of these mobile applications adding data traffic and cutting into their text and voice profits, the major Korean operators – SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus – have decided to raise prices for data usage, as revealed in the report. As the country’s regulator is allowing the telcos to charge for use of apps such as KakaoTalk, some are claiming that this is a violation of net neutrality rules.
 
 The report claims that Jiho Park, an activist with the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, said that this will set a precedent for coming apps such as FaceTime, where SKT and KT already said they will apply the same pricing policy as with local apps, and this can clash with global players like Apple and Google.
 
Apple’s FaceTime is only available on Wi-Fi networks now but with iOS6 this fall, people will be able to use it over 3G or 4G LTE, too. SK Telecom and KT currently offer unlimited data plans, which allow users to freely download apps on their networks, whereas LG U+ used to block over-the-top programs entirely. The companies have not yet released specific information on their new rates, says the report.
 
KakaoTalk has 36 million Korean users and 9.2 million international users. More than half of 50 million Korean cell phone owners use smartphones, according to the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).
 
The Korean government released its open Internet guidelines last year, designed after the U.S. network neutrality rules released by the Federal Communications Commission last year. Under these principles, consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use and what content they want to access, create or share with others.
 
Unofficially, the KCC has already permitted operators to enact policies of their choice regarding third-party apps, as per the report.

Source: Wireless Federation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:33:24 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Verzion has revamped their prices by raising fee for data services with an intention to increase its data revenue. These hikes will largely effect smartphone users who are not availing the unlimited text and calling facility will be charged $10 extra for services they are not using increasing their expenditure to $100 per month. The lightest data plan will now come for $50. Families using unlimited text, talk and 1GB data will be on the beneficial side by saving $60 per month. They will now just have to spend $150 a month.
 
Text messaging and calls are the major source of revenue and due to increase data services the users have been drifting apart from these services which are doing no good to the companies.
 
Scott Sloat, a spokesman for Sprint, which offers unlimited data usage for a flat fee, said that sharing data across devices significantly increases the potential for upsetting customers with surprise monthly bills due to data overage charges.
 
The users will be able to share multiple devices like Tablets and Laptops with its Share Everything Plan.  Users will be able to pay a flat monthly fee for each device they want to connect: $40 for smartphones, $20 for portable hotspots or notebooks, $10 for tablets, and $30 for standard cellphones. The dedicated plan offers additional charge of $50 for 1GB and $100 for 10GB.
 
As told in an interview to Reuters by the Chief Marketing Officer Tami Erwin that Customer who will use multiple devices will quickly identify the value in the plans. Many customers have to pay extra for going over their data allowance on their tablet even though they may not have used their full smartphone data allowance. With a shared plan that would not be an issue, Erwin said.
 
The new plan requires a monthly access fee of $40 that includes unlimited calls and texts for a single smartphone, and another fee of $60 for two gigabytes of data, which could be shared with up to 10 devices. Each additional device requires another access tariff such as a $10 fee for a tablet or a $20 fee for a laptop.
 
Verizon Wireless customers will have a choice to stick with the existing service plans, but any new customers will be required to sign up for the shared plans from June 28 onward, even if they do not intend to connect a second device.

Source: Wireless Federation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:31:11 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

A West African fibre-optic broadband deployment has been completed, with 120km of fibre rolled out to link Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso, Ghana Business news reports. Work on the Bolgatanga–Cinkasse International Fibre Connectivity Project started in November last year and was run by Vodafone Ghana and the Ministry of Communications in Ghana.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:27:43 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced that it has supplied Turk Telekom (TT) with a loan worth EUR100 million (USD126.2 million) with a view to expanding the company’s broadband services in the eastern regions of Turkey. The EBRD’s financing will support the carrier’s plans to extend fixed broadband connectivity to all Turkish provinces by 2016. The loan will be used to finance the company’s network expansion in the regions of Adana, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Kayseri, Samsun and Trabzon. The EBRD notes that there are currently ‘considerable discrepancies between the Istanbul area and the eastern regions’.

Mustafa Uysal, TT’s chief financial officer, commented: ‘Turk Telekom believes in the future of the country and that the Turkish economy will be ranked among the world’s top ten economies by 2023. Technology and innovation will be the main instruments to achieve this ambitious vision. Therefore, Turk Telekom, by carrying out its investment programme all throughout Turkey, assumes an important role in shaping Turkey’s future and makes it clear that it will be a leading contributor to and part of that future … We see the EBRD as a partner in this journey rather than just a lending institution and our investment has a value above a monetary contribution. EBRD vision overlaps with TT’s and we hope to continue this partnership in the long term’. Since the start of its involvement in Turkey, the EBRD says that it has committed close to EUR2 billion to various sectors of the country’s economy, mobilising additional investment of over EUR5 billion.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:51:24 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Reliance Globalcom, the submarine cable subsidiary of Reliance Communications, has announced that it has connected Iraq to its FALCON cable network at the Al-Faw landing station, which was built in partnership with Iraqi Telecommunications and Post Company (ITPC). Reuters cites a company statement from the Indian firm as saying that the launch of the landing station will connect Iraq directly to countries in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America. Reliance Globalcom said the station has a design capacity of 680Gbps with two diverse routes, which are integrated into the firm’s FALCON network. It will initially provide 50Gbps on each route to cater to existing market demand. ‘This is an extremely important strategic initiative that will facilitate the connectivity of all countries in the Middle East region to Iraq and also significantly improve the quality and speed as well as the reliability of Iraq’s connectivity to the rest of the world,’ Iraq’s Minister of Communications, Mohammed Allawi, was quoted as saying in the statement. Reliance Globalcom owns an undersea cable system spanning 65,000km, making it one of the world’s largest independent operators of submarine cables.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:50:06 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Spain’s Comision del Mercado de las Telecomunicacinoes (CMT) has revealed proposals in which it plans to deregulate the pricing of Telefonica de Espana’s monthly access fee, which is currently set at EUR13.97 (USD17.15) per month, excluding tax. The move, the regulator noted, comes after an analysis of the country’s fixed voice sector, which it said had shown that competition ‘had improved substantially, in particular by the pressure of bundled services’. Traditionally the CMT has been responsible for setting Telefonica’s access fee on an annual basis, and as noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the regulator’s most recent decision regarding the charge came in September 2011, at which date it confirmed that it would remain at its EUR13.97 level until at least the end of 2012.

In outlining its plans, the CMT has noted that its original decision for the current pricing structure will remain valid, after which, from end-2012 Telefonica will be permitted to increase the rate, although by no more than the rate of inflation, until 2016. Further, in the retail market analysis of access to fixed telephone networks, the watchdog has said that it will keep a number of other obligations related to the fixed voice sector, including: that Telefonica should notify the CMT of fares and promotions prior to their introduction; that the incumbent’s prices will be examined to ensure it is not acting in an anti-competitive manner; and that carrier pre-selection services continue to be offered.

A public consultation on the proposals will now be conducted, and interested parties have been given one month to submit their views. Once the consultation has been completed the CMT said it will forward the draft measures to the European Commission (EC).

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:49:01 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

PSTN operator Angola Telecom has introduced a national single rate tariff to standardise the cost of making calls to all areas of the country within its network, news agency ANGOP reports. The wireline and CDMA network operator has set off-peak and peak tariffs for destinations countrywide between its subscribers, at KWZ7.20 (USD0.075) and KWZ8.93 per minute respectively. To promote the move Angola Telecom is offering customers free calls at the weekend this month.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:47:52 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Paraguayan telecoms operator Copaco launched its long-delayed IPTV service in Asuncion this week, after experiencing myriad technical problems. According to local press reports, the USD25 million product launch was initially expected to materialise on 15 December 2011, only to run into unspecified problems. A second date, 2 March 2012, also passed without fanfare, although this delay was blamed on premium US TV provider HBO, which deemed Copaco’s IPTV system vulnerable to piracy.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Copaco’s new triple-play service will be priced at PYG299,200 (USD64.8) per month, with free installation for all customers. Alongside 54 IPTV channels, the telco will also offer a video-on-demand (VoD) service, with movies priced at roughly USD3 apiece. The official product launch is expected to take place at the Mariano Roque Alonso Trade Show, which is being held between 7 July and 22 July. Copaco director Nilton Amarilla has revealed that the company has purchased 11,000 decoders which it expects to sell within three months of launch.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:44:49 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Swisscom, Switzerland’s largest telco by subscribers, has inked a deal with Lausanne Industrial Services (SiL) to roll out a fibre-optic network in Laussane. The pair intends to deploy fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) infrastructure connected to all buildings in the city by 2017. Swisscom will carry out the majority of the work, whilst SiL will conduct the rollout in the Chailly district. The city of Lausanne will create a Lausanne-owned company that will handle the new network and 50% of the infrastructure constructed by Swisscom will be transferred to this new company by 2017. This new company will own the network built in the Chailly, Ouchy, St. Francois and Vernand districts, whilst Swisscom will retain ownership of the fibre in the Bergieres, Chalet-a-Gobet, Maladiere and Sallaz districts. Under the terms of the agreement, the partners will grant each other indefeasible right of use of the fibre-optic cables in the districts in which they do not own the network for a minimum period of 70 years.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:43:35 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Amid concerns that it is not competitive, the UK’s rural broadband rollout strategy has reportedly been placed on hold while European regulators examine it, British broadsheet The Guardian reports. The development comes after confirmation that just two companies – fixed line incumbent BT and Japanese technology firm Fujitsu – had been selected to receive funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), a team within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) set up to deliver the government’s broadband strategy. BDUK’s main role is to allocate and distribute GBP530 million (USD829 million) in funding with a view to bringing superfast broadband to the third of UK homes and businesses which are not expected to be provided for by commercial rollouts.

The state had originally aimed for an open process in which community groups and private firms would be commissioned to build Europe’s ‘best superfast broadband network’, with BDUK having published a framework covering 35 local authority areas, under which contractors competed to win equipment supply deals. However, with claims that the selection criteria had proved insurmountable, a number of companies, including Geo and Cable & Wireless withdrew from the process last year.

With both BT and Fujitstu having reportedly signed contracts last Friday for their respective portions of funding, it has been confirmed that no work will move forward until the European Commission is satisfied with the plans. It has been suggested that one of the main concerns with the setup is that BT is unprepared to offer access on a sufficiently open basis to the infrastructure it will roll out, with Brussels thought to want the incumbent to allow rival operators to be able to rent its dark fibre. A BT spokesman was cited as saying of the development: ‘Discussions between the UK government and the commission continue on the issue of state aid. This is an EU issue as the commission is developing rules that need to work across Europe as well as taking the different conditions in the UK into consideration … We are working with the UK authorities for an outcome that both incentivises further investment in fibre broadband and delivers vibrant competition in broadband services … We believe there needs to be consistency with the wider regulatory framework which has given the UK the most competitive broadband environment in the world.’

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:42:17 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) announced yesterday that it has decided to reduce the maximum wholesale termination fees an operators can charge each other for making calls on their networks. Reuters notes that the watchdog has been gradually trimming termination rates in the country in line with EU regulatory norms, and between 2005 and 2011 has cut them by 65.3%. Under the latest cut, the wholesale termination price will reduce to CZK0.55 (USD0.027) per minute from CZK1.08 from 15 July 2012, for all new contracts (and from 15 September will be extended to include all existing contracts).

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:41:13 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Movistar Venezuela has expanded its HSPA-based mobile broadband services in the central region of the country with the deployment of six new cell sites costing VEF7.1 million (USD1.7 million), reports BNamericas citing Entorno Inteligente. The spending forms a small fraction (0.33%) of the Telefonica subsidiary’s VEF2.16 billion, or around USD500 million, annual investment budget for projects including doubling its 3G+ capacity. The cellco’s CAPEX in the first quarter of 2012 represented 16% of the total investment figure, and was largely spent on 3G coverage and capacity, to meet data services demand in Venezuela that Movistar corporate communications VP, Douglas Ochoa, said expanded by 400% last year. Movistar Venezuela’s revenues reached USD831 million in Q1 2012, up 23.5% year-on-year, as data turnover climbed 33.4%; non-SMS data accounted for 51% of total data revenues during the quarter.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:39:52 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The recently launched Rwandan mobile operator Airtel has announced the launch of its new high speed HSPA+ platform, which will offer subscribers mobile data download speeds of up to 21Mbps. The equipment for the deployment was supplied by Ericsson. Airtel launched its first 2G networks in Rwanda in March this year and had promised that its mobile broadband service would follow shortly. Initially only available in the capital Kigali, the HSPA+ service will be deployed in other cities in the coming weeks. The Indian-owned cellco is competing with Rwanda’s two established players, MTN and Millicom/Tigo.

Source: TeleGeography.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:38:32 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Crnogorski Telekom, Montengro’s fixed line incumbent, has rolled out its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network to 7,700 households, the company announced today. Whilst fibre-based services have so far been limited to the capital, Podgorica, Telekom has begun deploying infrastructure in the coastal town of Budva and Bijelo Polje, near the Serbian border. Subscribers to the telco’s fibre broadband packages have access to download speeds of up to 40Mbps, with options for a triple-play package including voice, broadband and TV. New subscribers to the service are exempt from set-up fees and equipment costs.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 4:11:34 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has launched a national project aimed at providing basic telecoms services to over 150 villages in remote and rural areas of the country, Times of Oman reports. Implementation of the project will begin in the third quarter of this year and is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. Work will be carried out in cooperation with the Sultanate’s two licensed telecoms operators, Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) and Nawras, which will build a total of 120 base transceiver stations (BTS) in rural areas. ‘Telecoms companies usually target areas with high population density that have economic returns in order to develop their networks and provide various services,’ noted Dr Hamed Al Rawahi, chief executive of the TRA, adding: ‘Though this initiative will provide telecoms services in many additional areas, there would be areas that will remain without services. This is an issue that the TRA is currently working on through implementing field surveys in the remaining areas, upon specifying such areas the TRA will set the plans to accomplish the coverage of the remaining villages, in coordination with other government authorities.’

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 4:09:55 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Cambodian wireless operator Smart Mobile has announced that it signed up its three millionth customer in May 2012, five months after crossing the two million subscriber mark at the start of the year. The cellco said that by the end of May, its mobile customer base had increased to 3.24 million, placing it second in the market in terms of users behind Vietnamese-owned Metfone, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. ‘It is another milestone we have achieved and we are very happy to see this growth,’ said Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Mobile, adding: ‘Considering that Smart Mobile is still a comparably young player in this market, launched commercially in February 2009, it is a massive endorsement to us by our subscribers to have reached the number two position within only three years and three months since the commercial launch… We are highly committed to keep investing into the network to cater the constantly growing demand but also to further innovate by introducing new products and services.’ The press release adds that Smart Mobile’s GSM/GPRS/EDGE network currently covers around 87% of the population and is present in all 24 provinces, while coverage of the cellco’s HSPA+ mobile broadband network, which was commercially launched in August 2011, has grown from 14 provinces at the start of 2012 to parts of all 24 provinces six months later.

Smart Mobile (owned by Latelz, a subsidiary of Cyprus-based and Russian-owned Timeturns Holdings) became Cambodia’s eighth mobile operator when it launched commercial GSM services in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep in early 2009. At the start of 2011 Smart Mobile merged its operations with Applifone, the local unit of Swedish telecoms group TeliaSonera, under the Smart Mobile brand. TeliaSonera’s 75.5%-owned unit TeliaSonera Asia Holding owns 25% of the new company, and Latelz the remaining 75%.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 4:08:14 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Togo Telecom has announced that it is doubling mobile internet bundles for customers using its HELIM NOMAD tariff plans, without increasing their monthly bills. The move follows the announcement that the telco hoped to reduce prices once the West Africa Cable System (WACS) lands in the country. As reported previously by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, on 11 June Togo Telecom confirmed that it had inaugurated WACS with the central landing of the fibre-optic cable in Afidegnigba. At the time, the telco said it hoped to usher in a ‘new era’ in telecommunications for the Togolese, offering more affordable broadband internet connectivity for the nation.

True to its word, the telco says that from now the cost of a 1GB package bundle will be XOF7,880 (USD15) – it used to cost USD30 per month for a 1GB bundle – a 2GB bundle will now be USD30 a month, and the premium 3GB offer on the same tariff will be USD45. Togo Telecom has however, increased the cost of its fixed line (ADSL) connections – branded HELIM FIXED – but ‘honoured its promise to reduce internet tariffs for mobile subscribers,’ it said.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 4:05:28 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

True Corp’s fixed line and broadband division, True Online, says that it will invest around THB8 billion (USD250 million) in the short term in its True Internet broadband operations, with the expenditure going towards projects including expanding high speed infrastructure to serve businesses in provincial areas. Bangkok-based True, which is the broadband market leader in the capital in terms of subscribers, plans to cover 36 provinces by the end of 2012 with high speed fixed network services, and 61 of Thailand’s 77 administrative regions (76 provinces plus Bangkok) by the end of next year, before continuing the rollout nationwide. The expansion plan was announced by Charoen Limkangwanmongkol, chief commercial officer of True Online, and reported by Thai newspaper The Nation. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that True Online’s DOCSIS 3-based HFC cable broadband network passed 1.1 million homes in 20 provinces by February 2012, up from 16 provinces including the Bangkok Metropolitan Area in October 2011, and while the majority of True’s 1.4 million broadband subscribers were on its xDSL networks in Bangkok and other areas as of the end of March 2012, this is changing as the quadruple-play group concentrates on expanding its HFC cable network, which also supports its TrueVisions high-definition pay-TV services.

True Internet expects to grow its internet access revenues by around a third to THB8.5 billion this year, broken down as THB1.5 billion from corporate services and THB7 billion in the consumer segment, with Bangkok expected to contribute 85% of turnover and the provinces 15% over the twelve months. It is also focusing on winning corporate customers in the hotel, hospital, education and real estate sectors, The Nation’s report added. The fixed broadband unit has around 3,000 large corporate clients, or around a third of approximately 9,000 corporations using high speed services nationwide, according to its own reckoning, and it expects the corporate internet market to grow by 12% this year. General manager of True Internet, Vasu Khunvasi, said: ‘We have major competitors, [Triple T Broadband’s] 3BB and [state-owned] TOT, in the upcountry market. However, the upcountry market has high potential, since it is a start-up market. The firm will utilise network infrastructure and one-stop services to expand its customer base upcountry.’

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 4:03:47 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

NBN Co, the public private company overseeing the construction and management of Australia’s in-deployment National Broadband Network (NBN), has revealed the first locations where it expects to roll out fixed wireless broadband services. Using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, NBN Co has confirmed that, subject to final radio frequency planning and other approvals, the fixed-wireless broadband service will be made available to around 22,000 premises across 14 local government areas, with those councils expected to lodge planning proposals being: Ararat Rural City Council, Buloke Shire Council, Colac-Otway Shire Council, Corangamite Shire Council, Glenelg Shire Council, Hindmarsh Shire Council, Horsham Rural City Council, Loddon Shire Council, Moyne Shire Council, Northern Grampians Shire Council, Pyrenees Shire Council, Southern Grampians Shire Council, Warrnambool City Council and Yarriambiack Shire Council. The fixed-wireless broadband service, which will be made available to operators on a wholesale basis, will offer downlink speeds of up to 12Mbps, and NBN Co noted that facilities will be switched on in stages from around mid- to late-2014. Ultimately, the fixed-wireless broadband service is expected to be made available to around 4% of Australia’s premises.

Meanwhile, the company has also confirmed the local government areas where planning proposals will be lodged to deliver high-speed fixed wireless broadband in Tasmania, with around 32,000 premises across 28 local government areas to benefit from the service. Switch-on of the network in Tasmania is expected in the second half of 2013. Alongside the announcement of fixed-wireless broadband developments in Tasmania, NBN Co has also named a number of new locations where fibre-based broadband has been made available commercially. With services in Triabunna, Sorell, Deloraine and Kingston Beach having now come online, it is understood that around 12,800 premises in total across Tasmania can now connect to the fibre optic network. Looking ahead, the activation of the network in George Town and St Helens is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, adding a further 4,900 homes and businesses to the NBN footprint in the state.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 4:01:04 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Europe’s largest pre-pay mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) by subscribers, Lycamobile, has rolled out services in Ireland, claiming to offer affordable, low cost international mobile calls for as little as EUR0.01 (USD0.0125) per minute (with no connection charge), and national calls for EUR0.03 a minute. In a press release Lycamobile says that in the launch phase it will offer a number of introductory ‘Pay As You Go SIM’ offers in Ireland that will be tailored to deliver a range of voice, data and SMS text propositions. In addition to its low cost calls prices, the MVNO says its new business model will offer ‘free unlimited’ 3G internet connection and text messages for just EUR0.09 to national and international numbers. To complete the suite of offers Lycamobile customers will also get unlimited free on-net calls and SMS.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:58:21 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Costa Rican regulator the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones (Sutel) has announced plans to implement mobile number portability (MNP) by the end of 2012, or early 2013. The watchdog will select a company to manage the service by the end of August and the company will be given three months for infrastructure work, followed by a month of testing. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Sutel originally planned to have MNP available when it ended the monopoly of incumbent operator ICE Celular last year but chose to delay its implementation when the regulator failed to decide how to distribute the costs. MNP is expected to shake up the market further and level the playing field for the market’s two newest entrants, Mexican-backed Claro Costa Rica and Movistar Costa Rica. Even without MNP, the new players – backed by Latam heavyweights America Movil and Telefonica – have begun eating into ICE’s customer base: in the first three months of 2012 alone, ICE lost more than 400,000 subscribers to the new operators, reducing its market share from 93.1% to 87.8%.

In other Costa Rica news, Sutel has invited interested companies to take part in a preliminary hearing to receive comments prior to the watchdog’s launching of a tender for ‘Monitoring and Managing the National Spectrum’. The regulator is inviting comments on the draft tender until 25 June.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:56:19 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat), the United Arab Emirates’ incumbent telecoms operator, has slashed the price of its basic broadband packages in the face of increasing competition from sole rival Du. The National cites Rashid Majid Al Abbar, Etisalat’s vice president of home products marketing, as saying that the company has reduced the price of its 1Mbps internet package, which includes a fixed telephony line, from AED259 (USD70.5) per month to AED189, with the aim of enticing users away from slower 256kbps and 512kbps connections. ‘That is the long-term strategy… We want to have more high speed customers,’ Mr Al Abbar said. Etisalat is also studying the possibility of reducing landline rates by between 10% and 30% for local calls, as well as international calls to ‘specific destinations.’ The move could be implemented in the second half of the year, the Etisalat executive said, but first requires the approval of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). The regulator is currently gearing up for the commercial introduction of bitstream access later this year, following a trial service with selected customers launched in July 2011. The introduction of bitstream access will break the monopolies held by Etisalat and Du within their respective areas by enabling consumers nationwide to choose between the two providers for their fixed line voice and broadband services.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:53:57 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Telekom Malaysia™ has announced that it now has more than two million fixed line broadband subscribers on its books, Bernama reports. TM CEO Datuk Seri Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa said that the reaching of the milestone reflected increased broadband adoption in Malaysia as a whole, adding that his company’s achievements would help the government in reaching the 75% broadband penetration target set out by its National Broadband Initiative (NBI) by end-2015. ‘TM has been in the pivotal role of fulfilling this agenda as the company is currently contributing more than 40% of the national broadband penetration,’ the executive was cited as saying.

Of the two million broadband customers signed up with TM, almost 360,000 of those have opted to take a service offered over TM’s in-deployment High Speed Broadband Network (HSBB). Take up of such services – which are offered under the ‘UniFi’ banner – has continued to gather pace, and as noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, with March 2012 seeing TM confirm that it was planning to roll out the next phase of its HSBB in second-tier industrial areas and state capitals, customer numbers are expected to climb further still.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:52:17 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the nation’s largest operator by subscribers and revenues, said yesterday that it passed the three million-mark for broadband subscribers in the first quarter of this year. Napoleon Nazareno, PLDT and Smart president and CEO, said that his company currently leads the broadband segment in the Philippines, with revenues from high speed fixed and mobile internet services increasing 34% year-on-year to PHP5.8 billion (USD134.7 million) – equivalent to 14% of consolidated service revenues. Broken down by technology, PLDT DSL generated PHP2.6 billion in revenue in 1Q12, up 15% y-o-y, while the group’s mobile arm Smart contributed PHP1.7 billion from its wireless broadband services and newly acquired unit, Digitel (Sun Cellular) chipped in with a further PHP800 million. PLDT and its group subsidiaries controlled around 65% of the overall retail broadband market at the end of March 2012, he added.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:50:27 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Uzbekistan national operator Uztelecom continues to reduce the price for use of its internet gateway by ISPs. The rate was cut from USD 457 to USD 442 per 1 Mbps. It has been the fifth reduction this year, dropping from USD 500 in January.


Source: Telecompaper

CIS | Internet | Tariffs
Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:46:47 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Azerbaijan mobile operator Azercell has launched its LTE network in Baku, reports Trend. The network is operational in the capital city only, and the operator plans to double the coverage by the end of the year. Azercell offers USB modems supporting LTE for AZN 149, and the monthly subscription for unlimited broadband costs AZN 45. CEO Ali Agan said that the LTE launch should support a reduction in mobile data prices in Azerbaijan.

Source: Telecompaper

CIS | LTE | Tariffs
Wednesday, July 04, 2012 3:44:29 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Angola’s Education Ministry and private sector mobile network operator Unitel have partnered Chinese telecoms equipment company Huawei to launch a project designed to provide free internet access for selected groups of public and private secondary school students, reports ANGOP news agency. According to a note from Unitel, the project, called ‘E-Net’, began last week and will involve all 18 provinces of Angola.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:48:32 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The World Bank’s board of directors has approved the extension of Nicaragua’s Rural Telecommunications Project, with an additional credit line of USD5 million. The funding will be used to expand telecoms access to more than 200,000 rural inhabitants in Rio San Juan, the Region Autonoma del Atlantico Norte (RAAN), the Region Autonoma del Atlantico Sur (RAAS) and the Alto Wanki Territory. The rural initiative, which was introduced in 2007, with an initial investment of USD7 million, has already installed broadband access points in 101 municipalities, expanded mobile phone coverage to 37 rural communities, and installed almost 600 public phones in rural areas. In these areas, poverty levels reach almost 55%, and the problems are especially prevalent in indigenous communities which lack access to the country’s national communication networks.

Orlando Castillo, executive president of the Instituto Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones y Correos (Telcor), commented: ‘With the extension of this project, we will be able to increase regional access to telecommunications services by at least 40%, something that will have a positive effect on the local economy.’

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:39:51 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Ireland’s national telecoms regulator the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has released its ‘Quarterly Report on the Irish telecommunications market’, covering the period January-March 2012. According to its findings, total quarterly electronic communications revenues fell 2.7% quarter-on-quarter to EUR930.3 million (USD1.17 billion), largely the result of a fall in mobile sector revenues. Total voice traffic declined 1.1% over the same period to around 4.34 billion minutes, with fixed voice traffic reporting a 1.8% q-o-q fall and mobile voice traffic, down 0.7%.

ComReg said that overall broadband subscriptions (including mobile internet) in the Republic rose slightly (0.1%) to 1.666 million, although when including dial-up users, the country total decreased 0.1% in January-March 2012, to 1.687 million. Fixed broadband users totalled 1.083 million at that date (+1.2%), mobile broadband (HSDPA) reached 583,031, down from 593,438 and dial-up accounts fell by 4,000 to 20,654. The watchdog reported that ADSL connections declined by 0.3 of a percentage point in 1Q12 to 726,814, cable modem users rose 6.1% to 275,499, fixed wireless access users slipped 2.6% to 69,566, and other broadband increased 8% to 11,519. As at 31 March 2012 the fixed broadband per capita penetration rate reached 23.6%, with the total broadband per capita penetration rate (including mobile broadband) was 36.3%.

ComReg also notes that consumers are increasingly opting for faster broadband connections, with 19.1% of all broadband subscriptions now in the >10Mbps category compared to 10.7% at end-March 2011. The highest proportion of customers in the >10Mbps category are using cable broadband, it said. Finally, the watchdog estimates that approximately 79% of TV homes in Ireland received a digital TV service by May 2012. Approximately 7% of Irish TV homes had an Irish DTT service at the same date.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:37:44 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Ukraine’s Antimonopoly Committee has ordered the country’s two largest cellcos by subscribers, Kyivstar and MTS Ukraine, to lower their mobile service tariffs to ‘economically justified’ levels, the committee announced in a statement, reported by Ukrainian News Agency. The two companies have 15 days to report their proposed new tariffs back to the anti-trust agency. The committee stated that in 2012, Kyivstar has ‘increased the cost of SMS text messages by 28%, the cost of MMS by 33% and the subscription fee in certain tariff plans by 25%.’ It added that MTS Ukraine has ‘raised the cost of SMS by 22%, the cost of MMS by 20%, the cost of calls within the MTS network by 50%, and the cost of calls to subscribers of other operators in Ukraine by 20%.’ It said that these increases in retail prices occurred at a faster pace than the growth in the consumer price index for goods and services in Ukraine as a whole, and in the communications sector in particular.

Concurrently, the Antimonopoly Committee is conducting an investigation – launched in February – into whether international roaming tariffs charged by Kyivstar and MTS Ukraine are economically justified. The two cellcos have responded to the committee’s scrutiny by saying that they are taking measures to reduce tariffs for subscriber and inter-operator international roaming services.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:35:48 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Zain Sudan, a unit of Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain Group, aims to sign up an additional one million mobile subscribers in 2012 to boost its total customer base to 14 million by year-end, Reuters cites the company’s chief executive Elfatih Erwa as saying. The company is targeting growth outside of the capital Khartoum, but Erwa said that earnings gains will be offset by weaker operating margins due to higher taxes and a growing economic crisis. In December 2011 the Sudanese government introduced a new tax on telecoms operators to make up for the loss of oil revenue from newly independent South Sudan. Sales and services taxes for telecoms firms were increased from 20% to 30%, while a tax on profits was hiked from 15% to 30%; Erwa said that Zain has added the sales tax to its tariffs, but fierce competition meant it could not offset the profit tax increase with further price rises. Last year Zain Sudan began dividing its operations into two units after the South seceded in July 2011, but has yet to agree a licence fee with the newly independent country.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:34:01 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

State-owned telco Une-EPM has begun offering commercial services over its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, the first of its kind in the country. At present the mobile broadband service is available to 80% of the populations of Bogota and Medelin, but will be expanded to Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena and Bucaramanga later this year. Une intends to achieve 90% population coverage by end-December 2012, and sign up 120,000-180,000 subscribers by that date. Une is offering pre- and post-paid plans with maximum download speeds of up to 12Mbps, with download limits of 6GB or 12GB for monthly contract subscribers and 1.2GB, 4GB or 8GB for pay-as-you go users. Post-paid subscriptions start at COP89,900 (USD49.78) per month, plus COP33,400 for the USB modem.

Commenting on the launch, Une president Marc Perret Eichmann said: ‘4G will contribute to the development of the country, putting it at the forefront of telecommunications infrastructure in the region.’

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:32:29 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Senegalese telecoms watchdog the Agence de Regulation des Telecoms et Postes (ARTP) has published state owned fixed line PTO Societe Nationale des Telecommunications du Senegal (Sonatel’s) new catalogue for interconnection services covering 2011/12. In a website announcement ARTP reports that the new rates were approved on 24 May 2012, in accordance with Decree No.2005-1183 (6 December 2005) on the interconnection made under Article 13 of Law No.2001-15 (27 December 2001) of the Telecommunications Code – as amended by Act No.2011-01 (24 February 2011). Full details can be found at: http://www.sonatel.sn/documents/catalogue_2012.pdf

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:30:05 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

State-owned national PTO Vietnam Post and Telecommunications (VNPT) will stop providing dial-up internet access next month, due to falling demand for the service. Tuoitrenews reports that VNPT has obtained approval from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to end the service from 15 July 2012, and the operator will focus on the provision of its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) ‘FiberVNN’ and ADSL ‘MegaVNN’ broadband internet services.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:28:35 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Vodafone India and Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL, also known as MTS India) have joined the recent trend of slashing rates for 3G-based services. According to the Times of India, Vodafone, following similar action by Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communication (RCOM), cut the price of its pre-paid data plans by 80% to INR0.02 (USD0.0004) per KB whilst lowering its post-paid packages with the new prices ranging from INR25 per month for 25MB of data to INR1,599 per month for 12GB. An unlikely addition to the 3G tariff war was SSTL. Although the operator maintains that data services are the core of its operations, as one of the providers to have its licences revoked by the Supreme Court earlier this year, its future in India is uncertain. SSTL increased the amount of data on its ‘MBlaze’ packages, offering 750MB of usage for INR198 per month, up from 200MB, whilst its 350MB and 512MB offerings were upped to 1GB and 2GB.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:26:57 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

According to a report by the Information Society & Media Directorate-General of the European Commission, Slovenia’s mobile broadband service penetration rate (on all devices) reached 29.1% in January 2012. However, the report added that the figure was well below the European Union (EU) average of 43.1%, whilst it saw ‘no significant signs’ of substitution between fixed and mobile broadband. Penetration on large screens, as measured by dedicated data services (via cards, modems or keys), was near-static year-on-year at 2.5% in January 2012, according to the report, which also said that Slovenia’s rate of regular internet use (at least once a week) stood at 66%, below the EU average of 69%, and was virtually unchanged from a year earlier.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:25:22 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Telefonica O2 CR has announced the launch of a commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, making it the first carrier to bring 4G services to the Czech population. At launch, the new LTE network covers the municipality of Jesenice (district Prague-West) and its surroundings, serving a total population of around 10,000 people. Further, the operator says its LTE signal is also available in approximately half of the Chodov shopping mall in Prague, where its flagship ‘O2 Experience Centre’ store is based.

Telefonica O2 CR is using so-called ‘network neutral’ spectrum to support its LTE launch and is using equipment supplied by Huawei of China. The cellco’s fledgling 4G system comprises 2×10MHz of bandwidth in the 1800MHz band. From 19 June O2 customers can purchase one of two devices that support LTE with a SIM card, it says. It is offering customers an option of three tariffs for the new service, branded ‘LTE Mobile Internet’, with prices starting at CZK333 (USD16.5) per month for 2GB of downloads, rising to CZK800 for 40GB and a maximum 60Mbps/25Mbps connection.

Source: Telegeography

LTE | Tariffs
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:21:23 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

New data from TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Pay-TV Research Service show that IPTV penetration of telcos’ worldwide broadband subscribers reached 15 percent in Q1 2012, equivalent to 67 million subscribers and 8 percent of the world’s 812 million pay-TV subscribers. However, widely differing IPTV and pay-TV penetration rates by region point to radically different IPTV growth prospects.

North American telcos, led by Verizon and AT&T, have succeeded in selling IPTV service to almost 40 percent of their broadband subscriber base. However, with over 80 percent of households subscribing to some form of pay-TV service, North America’s market is saturated, and subscriber growth is at a standstill. Western Europe’s pay-TV market is also nearing saturation despite having a penetration rate 20 percentage points below that of North America. Market slowdowns here, as well as in Eastern Europe, can be attributed to the continued prevalence of free-to-air service in many countries. In these three regions, telcos will be hard pressed to extend their IPTV subscriber base much further, as success will depend on taking subscribers away from other operators in highly competitive markets.

IPTV and Pay-TV Penetration Rates, Q1 2012

 Pay_TV_6-2012.png

Source: TeleGeography

Three other regions will also see IPTV growth stymied, but for different reasons. IPTV opportunities in Latin America are tightly constrained by market structure and lack of a supportive regulatory regime, while the prevalence of free-to-air services and wide-scale piracy are barriers to growth in Africa and the Middle East.

In contrast to the mature markets, the Asia-Pacific region has a pay-TV household penetration rate of only 46 percent, and telcos have sold IPTV services to just 12 percent of their broadband subscribers thus far. This leaves plenty of room for market growth, while the 987 million households in the region present a huge opportunity for IPTV.

IPTV subscriber growth over the past three years has been impressive. Although the number of IPTV subscribers has grown by 36 percent in the last year alone, some operators are now seeing subscriber declines. Most of the remaining growth in IPTV will come from the Asia-Pacific – the region is expected to account for two thirds of global subscriber growth over the next five years.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:17:16 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has issued an order to the country’s dominant telecoms operator Batelco, setting new wholesale regulated access and interconnection rates for 2012. Under the order the telco’s bitstream and wholesale DSL charges are decreasing by between 2% and 26% compared to current prices; interconnection links charges are being cut by between 30% and 50%; interconnection services charges remain unchanged; duct access rates are similarly unaltered (although the TRA has introduced a maximum price that Batelco can charge to alternative operators for the field study stage required prior to cabling); domestic leased line wholesale costs are dropping by up to 46%; fees for international leased half circuits to Gulf countries are falling by between 28% and 68%, and for Southeast/East Asia, Europe and the USA, the wholesale tariffs have been cut by between 41% and 45%.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:14:58 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Airtel Zambia is reportedly aiming to have deployed some 200 new mobile towers in rural areas of the country before the end of the year, with a view to enhancing coverage in underserved areas. According to AllAfrica, Airtel managing director Fayaz King noted that the infrastructure rollout forms part of a partnership with Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), with the duo working on a universal access project that will see Airtel Zambia construct more than 350 shareable base stations in rural areas nationwide. It is understood that 171 towers have already been built and are now up and running, with constituencies that have benefited including Chiengi, Senga Hill, Lufwanyama, Kabompo East, and Chifunabuli.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:11:11 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Airtel Chad has launched the nation’s first mobile banking service, dubbed Airtel Money, allowing its customers to carry out financial transactions such as paying utility bills through their mobile phones. It is hoped that the service, which was launched in conjunction with Ecobank, will contribute to job creation and business opportunities. The cellco’s CEO, Salia Gbane commented on the launch: ‘This service allows customers to send money to their relatives, pay essential bills such as electricity and water, tuition fees, bookings and even buy groceries without having to carry cash. The phone essentially becomes an electronic wallet. This partnership clearly demonstrates the revolutionary role that mobile communications can play in improving the living conditions of the communities that we serve.’ As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Airtel’s main rival in Chad, Luxembourg-backed cellco Tigo Chad, has previously announced plans to extend its Tigo Cash service to the country during 2012, but has been beaten to the punch by Airtel.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:07:26 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Macau’s Bureau of Telecommunications Regulation (DSRT) has postponed the country’s planned switch-off of 2G services for Macanese subscribers to 1 January 2013, from the previous deadline of 9 July 2012. Cellcos in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) will provide exclusively 3G services to their subscribers from the start of next year, with their 2G networks to be restricted to offering roaming-only services for tourists from that date. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database shows the penetration of 3G services in Macau reached 95% of all mobile subscribers in the territory at the end of March 2012, when there were 1.35 million 3G customers. The regulator stated that there were 30,000 remaining 2G subscribers at the end of May 2012, and noted that some residents remained concerned about the full transition to 3G service, and therefore decided to allow more time to complete the switchover.

The SAR’s largest cellco, Companhia de Telecomunicacoes de Macau (CTM) said that it welcomed the DSRT’s decision to extend local 2G services until the end of this year, giving more time for ‘residents to get acquainted to 3G service while enabling telecom operators and the government to further discuss the service transition in details in accordance with the actual response of the market.’ CTM added it was making efforts to help senior citizens and members of vulnerable groups in society to complete 3G network migration, with special packages offered including ‘CTM Elderly Buddy’.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:36:11 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

According to online news portal Agence Ecofin, regional mobile operator Africell is poised to launch commercial services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), almost two years after receiving rights and spectrum to offer wireless services there. Africell, a subsidiary of Lebanese firm Lintel Holding, already operates mobile networks in Sierra Leone and the Gambia, and has now been authorised to launch in DRC by Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and New Information Technologies and Communication, Tryphon Kin-Kiey, on 18 June. Speaking at Africell’s launch ceremony, Kin-Kiey advised the newcomer to ‘innovate’ by deploying its network infrastructure over a wider footprint than those of its rivals, and by rolling out base transceiver stations (BTS) in less profitable areas, rather than concentrating on major centres and provincial capitals.

The news agency notes however, that the cellco’s commercial launch is not actually expected to take place until next month, with a three-tiered rollout mooted by the firm. The first stage will encompass Kinshasa and the provinces of Bandundu, Bas-Congo and Katanga, followed by a second phase rollout in the provinces of Kasai Occidental and Kasai Oriental; the third and final batch of deployments will take in the Eastern Province, Ecuador, and north and south Kiwu.

Agence Ecofin’s report describes Africell as the DRC’s ‘sixth mobile operator’, although it remains unclear when a fifth mobile operator actually inaugurated commercial services in the country. Airtel DRC, Vodacom DRC, Tigo DRC and Congo Chine Telecom (CCT) are widely acknowledged as the country’s four established mobile operators, but over the years as many as 16 companies have been granted wireless licences, only to come unstuck due to myriad legal and financial issues, muddying the waters somewhat.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in October 2010 Africell launched a tender process to identify a vendor to roll out a mobile network using 2×9MHz of bandwidth in the 1800MHz band as well as 2×4MHz of 900MHz band spectrum; a provisional launch date of April 2012 was later suggested.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:34:50 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Malawian mobile operators have criticised an increase in corporate tax on the wireless sector to 33% from the standard rate of 30%, calling the move unfair and unjustified, The Business Times cites senior officials at Airtel Malawi and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) as saying. The tax rise on the sector was announced by Finance Minister Ken Lipenga earlier this month in his 2012/13 budget statement to parliament. Describing the tax as ‘punitive’, Airtel Malawi’s managing director Saulos Chilima said: ‘It is unfortunate that we [mobile operators] have been singled out [for the tax rise]. There is an element of discrimination here which is of concern to us as a company.’ He added that cellular operators, under the initiative of the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), will meet Lipenga to discuss the matter and ask the government to review the tax. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the country’s other operational cellco, TNM, called the tax on the mobile sector unjustified. ‘Our capital investment is huge and this increase will have an impact on some investments that may have gone into the network. The impact may not be apparent now but certainly in the near future, this will be felt,’ Wilma Chalulu commented. Malawi has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in Africa, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. The rate stood at around 24% of the population at the end of March 2012, less than half the average wireless penetration for the region (65%).

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:33:16 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

A European Union-funded twinning project aimed at harmonising Israeli communications regulations with those in Europe has been successfully completed. The project, which was funded to the tune of EUR600,000 (USD753,000) by the EU, saw Israel’s Ministry of Communications (MoC) and a consortium created by the telecommunications regulators from Germany’s Federal Network Agency (FNA), Spain’s Comision del Mercado de las Telecomunicacinoes (CMT) and Italy’s Autorita per le Garanzie Comunicazioni (Agcom) work towards fostering competition in the Israeli telecommunications markets and increasing the protection of the Israeli consumers. In the wake of the project’s closure, the head of the EU Delegation to Israel, Ambassador Andrew Standley, underlined the symbolic dimension of the project, including ‘the many tangible contributions and results of the twinning project, which contribute to the reinforcement of the regulator’s role in ensuring a smooth functioning of the communications market that achieves a high level of consumer protection’. The ambassador also suggested that in the wake of the project a national and independent regulator could soon be established by the Israeli Government, in line with the most advanced EU framework.

The project, which was entitled ‘Assist the Israeli Telecommunications regulator to establish greater approximation to the European Union regulatory approach, specifically with wholesale markets’, commenced in February 2011, and during the 16-months that it lasted EU partners sent around 50 experts to Israel. The MoC and EU experts worked on a number of topics as part of the scheme, including: pricing methodologies for technologically neutral wholesale market regulation; differences between regulatory frameworks and roadmap for desired approximation; data collection; enforcement methods and objectives; dispute resolution; consumer protection; and technical aspects of the Israeli wholesale market.

Source: Telegeography

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 1:31:53 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     |