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Fiji - Internet penetration increases as mobile broadband helps bring access to the people 23 Jul 2014

Fiji is one of the largest of the Pacific Island countries in terms of population, with just under 900,000 living there. The majority of the populace ie, around 85% live in just two of the more than 100 inhabited islands. Economic growth in terms of GNI has continued to increase since 2010 as the interim government continues to oversee the country’s operation until the parliamentary elections for a new government are held in September 2014. Further growth through to 2014/15 is expected to slow, possibly pending the election results. Tourism continues to play a major role in the economics of the islands.

Internet market

While the fixed-line telephone and broadband market has seen substantial reductions from its small base, the introduction of mobile telephony has been similar to what occurs in most countries. The current government has made many fundamental changes that have brought mobile telecommunications and its economic benefits being available to the people of the islands. The increase in mobile broadband and the introduction of tele-centres that provide free access has seen internet penetration increase by double-digit figures since 2010 as additional users gained access to the internet. The international submarine connectivity through the island from Australia to the USA is now providing faster connectivity to some of Fiji’s neighbours even though they are around 1,000kms away.

Mobile market

Mobile communications availability covers the majority of the population with more than 100% SIM penetration occurring with around 95% using the prepaid option. The pricing reductions in data and hardware together with an increase in bandwidth availability has seen mobile broadband penetration increase dramatically over the last couple of years.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Fiji - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Market Insights and Statistics

Steady rise in El Salvador’s mobile broadband customer base 22 Jul 2014

Relatively densely populated, El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. Economic prosperity has been stymied by income inequality, poor infrastructure and inadequate social capital.

Despite these difficulties, the telecom sector has been one of the more successful in the economy. This is particularly true of the mobile telephony and data sectors, which are emerging as the country’s preferred telecom services given the poor state of fixed-line infrastructure in many areas. The use of text messaging and multimedia has gained traction as an alternative for voice services, and there is a clear trend towards services supported by 3G networks as these are expanded by network operators.

El Salvador’s fixed-line teledensity is substantially lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average. However, there has been a significant drop in the number of fixed lines since 2010, largely due to the substitution for mobile-only alternatives.

Mobile penetration is remarkably high considering El Salvador’s economic indicators, being about 35% higher than average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Of the estimated total number of telephones in the country, 11% are fixed and 91% are mobile.

El Salvador’s telecom legislation is one of the more liberal in Latin America, encouraging competition in most aspects of the telecoms sector and permitting foreign investment in all areas. However, there are no regulations as yet which promote wholesale broadband, and thus the ADSL market remains a virtual monopoly for Claro. The only effective cross-platform competition in the broadband market comes from the few cable operators.

Although many companies launched services when the telecom sector was liberalised, the market has been undergoing a gradual process of consolidation, leaving a few dominant multinational operators (notably Millicom’s Tigo, América Móvil’s Claro, and Telefónica’s Movistar), which have managed to expand into almost all sectors through a process of convergence.

The mobile market is served by five operators: Tigo, Movistar, Claro, Digicel, and Intelfon.

The fastest growing sectors in coming years will continue to be pay TV and broadband (both fixed and mobile). The outlook is especially promising for mobile broadband, which could help to bolster the slipping mobile ARPU figures in the medium term. The longer-term prospect is also promising, particularly in the mobile sector where competition between Claro, Tigo, and Telefónica will oblige the operators to diversify services and reduce prices.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: El Salvador - Telecoms, IP Networks and Digital Media - Insights and Statistics

Valuable M2M project still sitting on ice 22 Jul 2014

Already for several years, the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) has funding to commission research into the migration of traffic lights and public alarms to the NBN fibre network if necessary.

Telstra may notify TUSMA that a technological solution does not exist for the carriage of public interest services (defined as 'traffic light' and 'public alarm' services) over fibre. If TUSMA is reasonably satisfied that a solution does not exist, TUSMA will either request Telstra or a third party for proposals to develop the solution. Any solution that is funded by TUSMA will be owned by TUSMA (unless agreed otherwise) and made available to all service providers on an equivalent basis.

At this point in time, TUSMA has not been approached by Telstra to fund research.

A specific issue is that traffic light and alarm communication systems were depowered in a fibre environment. Solutions are being explored to ensure they were acceptable to NBN Co and to agencies providing the public interest services.

An aged healthcare facility in the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, has already migrated its alarm system to the NBN. The alarm functionality is provided over the NBN voice port. Access to the NBN for national utility purposes is possible through what is called the retail clause, allowing for access on a utilities cost basis.

See also: Australia - M2M and The Internet of Things

Upgrade to EASSy cable promising cheaper internet connectivity in Sudan 22 Jul 2014

Sudan now makes up the northern part of a country which in 2011 was separated to form the new state of South Sudan. Three quarters of the former population live in the north, where mobile market penetration is far higher. The country has a relatively well-equipped telecommunications infrastructure by regional standards, including a national fibre optic backbone and international fibre connections. The chronically poor performing economy has hindered the ability of operators to improve revenue from services and sufficiently invest in infrastructure upgrades, while social unrest in South Sudan continues to impose practical difficulties for telecom operators.

The national telco, Sudatel was privatised more than a decade ago, with major shares and management control now held by Etisalat of the UAE and by Qatar Telecom. It is also listed on several regional stock exchanges. The company presided over the world’s fastest growing fixed-line market until it started substituting traditional copper lines with CDMA2000 fixed-wireless access in 2005.

Competition in the fixed-line market comes from Canartel, which is also majority-owned by Etisalat. The operator also opted for CDMA2000 technology to cost effectively roll out fixed services and, like Sudatel, offers wireless broadband services through this network, having upgraded to the EV-DO standard. The company is lobbying for a licence to offer mobile services as well but is meeting resistance from the other operators.

The market for mobile internet services is flourishing, and traffic for services such as SMS more than tripled in the year to June 2013.

Market highlights:

Higher telecom taxes impact on sector growth; telecom networks separated between North and South Sudan; intensified mobile broadband competition; wide variation of broadband pricing and mobile ARPU; rapid growth in SMS traffic; Canar Telecom sees a continuing decline in its fixed-line market share; regulator concludes its SIM registration project; upgrade to EASSy cable enabling 10Tb/s.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Sudan - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Market Insights and Statistics

Number Portability becomes operational in Costa Rica 21 Jul 2014

Since the market was liberalised, Costa Rica’s telecom sector has shown considerable growth in the number of subscribers, revenue and competition. The internet market is particularly vibrant, with emerging fibre broadband deployment, while consumer use of VoIP services has been stimulated by the recent hike in tariffs for fixed-line calls. The mobile market was liberalised in late 2011, and by the end of 2013 the major new competitors Claro and Movistar had captured about 20% of the market.

State-owned ICE remains the dominant provider of fixed-line services, while its subsidiary Racsa offers broadband via cable modem and WiMAX services.

Costa Rica’s broadband market is the most developed in Central America, with the highest broadband penetration for this sub-region. Geographical distribution however is unequal, with a much higher digital gap than in the case of telephone services. Compared with the whole of Latin America, Costa Rica’s broadband penetration lags behind Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and some Caribbean islands.

The DTT market is underway, with the first digital broadcast in 2012. The switch to DTTV is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Key telecom parameters – 2014 (e)

Penetration of telecoms services: Penetration
Fixed-line telephony 19.5%
Fixed broadband 10.9%
Mobile SIM (population) 133.4%

(Source: BuddeComm)

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Costa Rica - Telecoms IP Networks and Digital Media - Insights and Statistics

As India’s telecom market recovers from its recent turmoil, it looks towards a fresh period of growth 19 Jul 2014

Growth in India’s huge mobile market had effectively stalled in 2012 and the market was looking very subdued coming into 2013. However, by early 2014 there were positive signs of a recovering market, following some major adjustments. There was also evidence that some serious restructuring was taking place.

Back in 2010/2011, mobile operators in India added around 370 million new subscribers to their networks, an average of 15 million per month over the two years, to bring the total number of subscribers to around 900 million by the start of 2012. However, in the twelve months that followed we saw some erratic behaviour of the subscriber base and by the year end there were just 865 million subscribers. The drop in subscriber numbers was a combination of falling customer demand and the effect of operators ‘cleaning out’ their data bases. The drop was predominantly in the urban markets with the rural subscriber base actually continuing to grow during this period.

Despite the big drop in mobile subscribers the key drivers were considered to still in place; the mobile market was continuing to be driven by cheap call rates, low handset prices and rising incomes among the hundreds of millions of the population that are described as the country’s middle class. While offering some of the lowest mobile tariffs in the world, India’s market had also been running for many years with one of the highest usage rates in the world with the average customer using around 500 minutes per month. (This had dropped to around 350 by 2013.) Additionally, the operators were continuing their push into the rural and remote parts of the country.

One of the reasons for the operators culling their databases was to lift Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). Mobile ARPU in India had been steadily declining over the years as competing operators offered cheaper tariffs; at the same time usage levels have remained reasonably high thus slowing the decline in revenues. At the same time, there had been a major push in recent years to take mobile services into the poorer and rural areas of the country; this inevitably weighed heavily on ARPU. Countering this trend, the long-awaited 3G licensing has seen networks across the country finally delivering mobile data services to customers. Although still struggling with coverage issues, 3G has started to see operators boosting revenue. By 2012/2013 there were positive signs that the decline in ARPU was ‘bottoming out’ as operators began reporting increased ARPUs.

By the end of January 2014 India’s mobile subscriber base was increasing again and had reached 893 million. Figures from the TRAI also showed that Mobile Number Portability (MNP) transfer requests in January stood at a healthy 2.56 million. Most importantly, there was a renewed interest in data services. For example, 4G / LTE networks were being rolled out and this was shaping as a key battleground in the market once newcomer Reliance Jio launches its 4G services in the December 2014 quarter and goes head-to-head with Bharti Airtel.

In the meantime, the fixed-line market, which had grown strongly over a number of years, began experiencing zero and then negative growth. Fixed-line subscriber numbers stood at 28 million by early 2014. With less than 3% fixed-line penetration, India has nevertheless achieved a remarkable national coverage, with 99% of the population having some form of access to a telephone. It has been the heavy investment in telecoms infrastructure over the last decade, plus a number of key regulatory initiatives that have combined to see India’s huge population delivered at least some level of telephone service.

In terms of online access, there have been a number of efforts by the government to promote broadband internet throughout the country; broadband development had long been languishing, but there was new hope for a serious expansion phase in this segment of the market. By early 2014 there were around 15 million fixed broadband subscribers – a lowly penetration (by population) of slightly more than 1%. Meanwhile, the impact of mobile broadband was finally starting to hit the market and in the medium term this was expected to lift broadband penetration significantly.

Although facing serious functional and regulatory challenges, there is much that is positive to be found in India’s telecom industry. Sweeping reforms introduced by successive governments over the last decade or so have dramatically changed the nature of telecommunications in the country. A number of factors have been responsible for the amazing growth in India’s telecom sector; apart from the obvious booming economy and the rapid expansion in the country’s middle class, the growth drivers include low tariffs, low handset prices and most notably a highly competitive market created by the government and the regulators. The government continued its commitment to opening up the market to more and more competition and investment. The launch of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in 2011 added yet another dimension to what was already an intensely competitive market. The anticipated removal of the cap on foreign investment in the telecom sector in 2013 was yet another strong signal to the market of the government’s intentions. The government has been continuing to push on a broad front to advance the restructuring of the telecommunications regulatory regime.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: India - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

African Mobile broadband growth doubling each year, with three-quarters of all connections to be 3G/4G by 2020 18 Jul 2014

The African region is witnessing one of the strongest increases in mobile data use in the world. Forecasts suggest that mobile internet traffic across Africa will double between 2014 and 2015, and will see a 20-fold increase by the end of the decade. Services based on 3G networks will be dominant within three years, replacing older and more limited 2G technology. By 2020, about three-quarters of all mobile connections will be on 3G or 4G, and thereafter the focus for operators will be on making use of released spectrum to expand the reach of LTE networks beyond the major cities.

This growth in traffic is being spurned on by the maturing social media sector, data-rich applications and mobile video. The region is also hosting a new wave and locally built cheap smartphones which is making such devices more readily available to a larger proportion of the population.

Another key facilitator is mobile banking and m-commerce. Mobile banking has taken root in a number of markets, particularly in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda and Tanzania. This has supported a fast developing m-commerce sector which is enabling mobile-based transactions, remittances and payments between a growing number of participating banks. Such facilities across borders are making m-commerce a viable international service within the region.

Regulators and governments have encouraged improvements in national backbone networks, as well as international connectivity, to enable operators to increasing traffic volumes as well as customer expectations of a reliable service. These developments are providing the bandwidth needed to connect millions of additional citizens to the internet, while the cost of services has plummeted as networks are no longer constrained by expensive satellite links.

To encourage improved services, quality of service parameters in a number of countries in the region have been tightened during the last two years, which have obliged network operators to upgrade networks and improve services offered.

Broadband based on DSL technology remains limited in most markets, since it is offered by telcos on fixed-line networks which are generally underdeveloped. As such, the future of connectivity for many markets in the region, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas, lies in mobile broadband. The cost of mobile broadband, traditional far more expensive that limited fixed-line alternatives, is being driven down by the combination of network upgrades and the pressure of market competition.

Having introduced HSPA+ technology, in recent years many operators, particularly the main players including Bharti Airtel, Millicom, Etisalat, Orange and MTN, have launched or trialled a number of commercial LTE networks. Various regulators have worked to address the shortfall in available spectrum by enabling spectrum refarming and releasing digital dividend spectrum for mobile broadband.

Given these rapid developments, mobile broadband and data services are beginning to contribute a higher proportion of African cellcos’ overall revenue. SMS remains a leading contributor to data revenue, but in coming years operators will expect greater returns from data-rich services carried on upgraded networks.

Mobile voice services are covered in a separate report: Africa - Mobile Voice Market and Major Network Operators.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Africa - Mobile Broadband Market

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