World Telecommunication Day 1998

May 4, 1998

Business Briefs


Alcatel Espace, the satellite arm of the French conglomerate Alcatel Telecom, is planning to design, build and operate a 64-satellite low-earth-orbit satellite network, SkyBridge, to provide interactive multimedia services by 2001 to end users, the company has announced.

Developing Countries and Trade

The ITU has pledged 1 million Swiss francs ($670,000) to help developing countries in the introduction of new financing schemes for the development of their telecoms networks. The pledge will also be used to provide advice on negotiating within the framework of the World Trade Organization and on adapting to reform of the international accounting and settlement system.

Hongkong Telecom

Hongkong Telecom, the region's incumbent telco, has more than 220,000 kilometers (136,400 miles) of fiber optic cable in place - more than in the whole of many European countries. Hong Kong has become the first major city in the world to offer interactive services on a commercial basis. The services offered by the company's interactive multimedia unit include video on demand, home shopping and banking, and a racing service. The future looks uncertain for Wharf Cable, which has spent more than 5 billion Hong Kong dollars ($645 million) building its cable TV network in the territory since 1993.


Lucent Technologies claims that its new Intelligent Network software will make a clutch of features available to Global System for Mobile (GSM) cellular phone users. Networks employing the software will be able to accept prepayment from cellular phone owners, obviating the need for a contract. It will also allow subscribers to be reached on one phone number wherever they are or have calls routed to voice mail.


Norwegian telecoms manufacturer Nera has launched its lightweight WorldPhone, which has a lid that acts as a antenna link to the latest generation of Inmarsat satellites. Special adaptations are available for use in cars, ocean-going yachts and coastal craft.


Nokia of Finland has signed a $150 million contract with Texas-based Western PCS Corporation, a subsidiary of Western Wireless Corporation, for the supply of GSM 1900 network equipment. The contract covers Nokia's base station subsystem and its Network Management System NMS/2000, which collects and manages the network operations and data on its maintenance.

Saudi Telecommunications Company

A joint stock company, the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC), is to be established with a capital of $2.66 billion in preparation for its privatization later this year, according to reports from Riyadh. The PTT minister, Ali al-Johani, said earlier this year that STC would take over the telephone and telex facilities of his ministry, as well as all other telecoms rights and properties owned by the kingdom, including its local and international investments. STC is due to begin operations by the end of June.


The privatization of Brazil's federal telecoms giant, Telebras, will involve the consolidation of its 26 state-level companies into three regional companies, the establishment of nine other entities to operate mobile services and a separate sale of long-distance operator Embratel, according to a report in the London-based monthly Privatisation International. The privatization is expected to take place before the end of June. The state of Rio Grande do Sul is also planning to sell its 54.2 percent stake in regional telecoms operator Companhia Riograndense de Telecomunicacoes, the report added.

In a $22 million cooperation agreement, the International Telecommunication Union will provide independent advice to Brazil on creating a stable regulatory environment to ensure fair competition among players in the telecommunications market.

Telecom Africa

Telecom Africa aims to provide scientific and technological capability to countries of the region and to provide a full range of services, including line and wireless telephony, video and data communications, Internet, private networks, broadcast, distance learning and telemedicine. Telecom Africa will operate as a commercial venture while providing services at affordable prices. It will be open to partnerships with global institutions in areas such as joint research, testing and software/content development.

Africa Telecom 98, a forum and exhibition organized by the ITU, begins Monday in Johannesburg. African Renaissance: Spectrum of Opportunity is the theme of the event. The ITU is organizing a pan-African pavilion where all 55 countries of the continent will be represented. Speakers will include President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Craig Barrett of Intel Corp.

Web site:

ITU stand: Number 5030, Hall 5.

Telephone: +27 82 990 8127 or +27 82 990 8454.

Telecom Egypt

State-owned Telecom Egypt announced in March that it intends to sell 30 percent of its shares, worth $1.9 billion, in the next few months. However, given the need to restructure the company to separate its roles as operator and regulator, analysts say the process could, in fact, take up to 18 months. An offer for 30 percent of the shares in a new public telecoms company, the Egyptian Mobile Telephone Services Company - in which Telecom Egypt holds 28 percent of the shares - closed in February 33 times oversubscribed, according to press reports from Cairo.

Telekomunikacja Polska

Thirty percent of the shares in Telekomunikacja Polska, Poland's most profitable company, are due to be sold in the second half of this year through an initial public offering. Ten percent will be offered to domestic institutions and the other 20 percent to foreign institutional investors. The remaining controlling stake held by the government is to be sold at a second stage, possibly next year.

Wave-division multiplexing

Ciena Corp. and Lucent Technologies are slugging it out to discover who can squeeze the most transmission capacity out of fiber optic strands using a technology called wave-division multiplexing. Simply put, WDM works by sending multiple signals of different length through a fiber simultaneously. Ciena now claims it will be able to carry 96 channels (each of which could carry a phone call) on a single fiber later this year; Lucent had recently upped the ante with 80 channels.