Latest Analyses, blogs and news

New regulator for Kuwait seen as a positive step 12 Feb 2016

Kuwait was one of the few remaining countries in the Middle East where a government ministry, the Ministry of Communications (MoC), acted as both monopoly operator of fixed-line services and as regulator. Over the years some competition was introduced in data services and Internet provision but not in fixed-line voice.

Acknowledging the potential benefits from privatisation, the government engaged a number of advisors in early 2012 to provide advice on privatising the incumbent. During June 2013 a draft law was passed to establish a telecoms regulator. Market competitors have called for some time for the establishment of separate regulatory authority to ensure fair competition.

In April 2015 parliament again showed support and approved the bill to establish a separate telecoms regulator. The new commission will be responsible for mobile, landline and broadband but the exact scope of its role is yet to be determined. On February 2nd 2016 the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) was formerly launched, according to an announcement by Chairman and CEO Salim Alozainah at the 2nd Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications (GET-2016).

The lack of an independent regulator has thought to be one inhibitor to fixed broadband investment in Kuwait.

A report released by The World Bank in 2014 found that in regards to home broadband penetration; Kuwait was falling behind other Middle Eastern countries with a penetration of 32% compared to 69% in the UAE; 69% in Qatar; 89% in Bahrain and 52% in Saudi Arabia.

Total broadband connections (including mobile broadband) were also slightly lower at 67% when compared to GCC countries such as Bahrain with 74%; UAE with 69% and Saudi Arabia with 56%. The World Bank recommended opening up competition could do much to further growth in the Kuwait broadband market, as has been witnessed in the mobile sector.

Other recommendations from The World Bank include improving regulatory frameworks; developing an open market policy; better usage of existing fibre optic infrastructure and developing Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

Kylie Wansink

Senior Analyst – Global and Middle East Markets

For related information, see separate report: Kuwait - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband.



Fibre accounting for two-thirds of broadband lines in Lithuania 11 Feb 2016

Lithuania’s small telecoms market is among the more developed in Europe. A number of alternative operators offer services although the incumbent TEO, owed by TeliaSonera, remains the dominant operator in the fixed-line and broadband sectors. The number of fixed-line voice subscribers is in steady decline, attributed to fixed-to-mobile substitution.

The cable and DSL broadband sectors remain vibrant, offering effective competition in urban areas, though the focus among telcos as well as the government has been on investing in fibre networks, with an emphasis on delivering gigabyte data speeds. By early 2016 fibre accounted for the majority of new broadband connections. As a result of these efforts, Lithuania has one of the highest fibre broadband penetration rates globally. Regulatory measures have ensured that there is effective competition to TEO, while the government has also committed to providing €1 billion for fibre-based national broadband infrastructure. Widespread internet usage has also resulted in a fast-emerging internet society, with a range of ICT services improving social and economic development, and with various e-commerce, e-government, e-education and e-health services increasingly available and used.

A burgeoning digital TV market is evident as a consequence of the transition to digital-only broadcasting. TEO is well positioned to develop the sector due to the company’s involvement in both videostreaming services and digital terrestrial TV.

The mobile market is served by Omnitel, Bité and Tele2, as well as by a number of MVNOs. In addition, the state-owned broadcaster Telecentras has become the fourth mobile operator, with an extensive LTE infrastructure using spectrum formerly assigned to its WiMAX offering.

SIM card penetration is high for the region, and while the prepaid sector accounts for the majority of subscribers the proportion of postpaid services is increasing. With dwindling new subscriber acquisition opportunities, mobile operators are heavily marketing mobile broadband services, made possible from past investments in 3G and HSPA networks and ongoing upgrades with LTE technology. By early 2016 services based on LTE networks were available to more than 90% of the population.

The recent acquisition by TEO of the remaining shares in Omnitel, the second largest player in the mobile market, has also provided the company with a secure presence in the market for convergent services and bundled offerings.

This report provides an overview of Lithuania’s telecom sector. It includes a variety of statistics from the regulator and the main players, as well as an overview of regulatory developments, and telecommunications network infrastructure. The report also reviews Lithuania’s highly-developed mobile market, covering the major operators, regulatory developments, mobile technologies, mobile data services and the development of 5G which is expected to be commercialised by 2018. In addition, the report offers a wide range of statistical data on the fixed and wireless broadband markets, including forecasts to 2020, as well as an overview of the videostreaming and digital TV sectors.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Lithuania - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses



Foreign owners lose control of North Korea’s largest mobile operator 10 Feb 2016

North Korea possesses an underdeveloped yet growing market which has markedly improved in recent years as noted by growing mobile penetration. North Korea’s telecoms infrastructure developed largely through foreign investment, most significantly by Thai investors and more recently, Egyptian telecoms investment company Orascom Telecom Holdings.

Communications with the outside world is restricted as everyday citizens are only able to receive news through government controlled channels such as TV and radio broadcasting as well as the government controlled Intranet. Technological improvements are evident, most notably through the introduction of high definition TV (HDTV) digital broadcasting in 2015.

North Korea has taken steps towards developing a digital economy as part of efforts to modernize its economy as well as a means to generate export income, especially in the field of IT services. Specific initiatives include domestic production of computers, mobile phones and a Linux operating system. E-education initiatives have been launched to improve access to learning while e-commerce sites have launched to improve convenience in ordering products and services.

North Korea’s mobile market is a major driver of telecoms infrastructure development. A 3G only network has been deployed providing almost universal population coverage, one of few countries in the world that is able to claim that its entire mobile market is comprised of 3G subscribers. However Orascom, the majority owner of North Korean mobile operator Koryolink, revealed in late-2015 it had effectively lost control of its North Korean operations.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: North Korea - Telecoms Market Overview and Statistics



MVNOs become firmly established in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 10 Feb 2016

Saudi Arabia’s ICT market is the biggest in the Middle East in terms of capital value and volume of spending, accounting for more than 70% of all ICT markets in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). Growth in ICT spending is expected to increase, driven by strong demand for smartphones and high-speed networks. Underpinning future growth is also a government that regards ICT industry development as a national priority.

Today the fixed-line, internet and mobile markets in Saudi Arabia have all been liberalised. In another move towards liberalisation, three Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licences were put up for auction in mid-2013. Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia launched MVNO services in September 2014, and Jawraa Lebara (Lebarar KSA) did so in the following December. Since launching, the MVNOs have become firmly established with Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia reaching one million subscribers in October 2015 and Lebara KSA announcing a partnership with Huawei to provide MVNE services to other telecoms operators.

Competition in Saudi Arabia’s mobile market has increased significantly with both the introduction of MVNOs; along with a reduction in Mobile Termination Rates (MTRS). As a result the pre-existing operators are all feeling the pressure and Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Mobily and Zain all reported profit losses during 2015.

The uptake of mobile broadband is pushing the broadband services market forward and it is also being driven by the increasing number of high tech projects which are strongly supported by the government. The government itself is making great progress in its own transition to digital technologies and there are a number of e-government services now available.

One example of an ambitious project underway in the kingdom is the Smart City named King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), which will house around 2 million people and is expected to be completed by 2035.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Saudi Arabia - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband



Now is the time to review smart meter/smart grid strategies 09 Feb 2016

Read the full article in Energy Source & Distribution magazine

..... a decade and many billions of dollars later, energy companies are starting to understand that more is needed than a meter that reads the usage at 5 or 30 minutes intervals. Over the least decade other smart grid technologies have been implemented throughout their infrastructure and significant investments have been made in the IT infrastructure. At the same time they have learned the difficult lesson that the customer should not be ignored.

So now we are finally seeing a real interest in the broader concept of a smart grid environment. Energy companies have a much better understanding of what ICT can do to their operations and some of the leading utilities around the globe are even venturing into developing new business models built around their new ICT capabilities – and are venturing into smart building, smart city, smart community and smart campus offerings, often also integrating other elements such water and waste management, street lighting for councils, zero-net communities and transport (EVs). They are already generating new revenues from building, managing, organising and facilitating these new developments, even going so far as to offer the end-users ‘free energy’.

Of course, in this newly emerging smart grid environment the old way of thinking about the proprietary low-data telecoms systems is on the way out. Most energy companies are facing the reality that for several reasons – such as spectrum restrictions in relation to their proprietary networks, coverage issues and the lack of capacity – these networks will have to be replaced with a much higher quality telecoms network, and the modern 4G LTE and soon to arrive 5G networks are an obvious sign of where this is going. For the transition, and perhaps even beyond the transition, the solution will include heterogeneous wireless network configurations in which RF-based mesh networks can also have a place. The utilities now understand that having an always-on meter connection that allows them to better monitor and manage their network leads to significant cost savings and happier customers. These meters are becoming critical ‘sensors’ in their networks.

Companies are now looking at transitional processes – how to arrive at this new smart grid environment – helped by the fact that the telcos have also learned their lesson and are now prepared to talk affordable wholesale products with the electricity companies. As well as more flexibility in the telecoms technologies there has to be unlocked SIMS and new M2M and IoT technologies and applications. There is still some way to go but it looks as though the combination of the new mobile networks, together with new advances in IoT/M2M (more competitively-priced products), now brings a successful transition to the new smart grid environment within reach.

Now is the time to take a new strategic look at where the future energy developments are going. We have a good idea of the disruptive elements that are shaking the industry on its foundation on the technology side. They include large-scale renewable plants, PV, EV, battery storage, micro-grids, data analytics and cloud computing. On the strategic side they include the need for much more serious energy efficiency, CO2 regulations, smart cities, smart buildings and, through new telecoms devices such as smart phones, tablets and home management tools, much greater customer involvement in all of this.

Paul Budde



Growing 3G penetration transforms Mongolia’s broadband market 09 Feb 2016

Mongolia possesses a liberalised and competitive telecoms market served by multiple competing players and an incumbent operator that no longer holds a dominant share of its market.

Operators have focused on expanding network reach and capacity to support the growing popularity of fixed and mobile broadband services, doubling the amount of fibre optic cable in Mongolia within the past five years alone and extending into Mongolia’s sparsely populated rural regions.

The growing popularity of mobile broadband has underpinned overall broadband growth and coincided with a contraction in fibre subscriptions, suggesting some end users are migrating from fibre to mobile. Broadband growth in 2016 will continue to be underpinned by mobile, consolidating Mongolia’s position as a “mobile first” telecoms market and shaping the future direction of Mongolia’s developing digital economy.

High mobile penetration levels in Mongolia are indicative of healthy competition although the market is undergoing transition. Overall mobile penetration levels as well as mobile voice traffic is contracting while 3G accounts for an increasing proportion of total subscriptions, with the total number of 3G subscriptions expected to overtake 2G subscriptions by 2017.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Mongolia - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet



Spectrum review and mobile affordability 08 Feb 2016

Those arguing for ceasing to ‘pour money’ into the fixed copper network in rural areas and looking instead at using the mobile system to replace such services, should do what I did last week.

I spent one night using my mobile phone to watch two episodes of The Last Kingdom on Netflix, altogether just over 2 hours. It cost me 1 Gig of data (one-third of the package that I have). In normal circumstances (when not watching long videos) this package gives me more than enough data to use my mobile phone for all of my mobile data use, including YouTube, Facebook and family video clips, etc, without having to be concerned about my usage.

So just watching one series of an average TV show (10 episodes of one hour each) would roughly cost me 5 Gig, or nearly all my data use for 2 months.

Putting aside the cost related to this, I have to say that the quality of the video over mobile and on my smartphone was just fantastic.

In the current debate on radio spectrum reform, some are advocating that this should also be used to discuss the use of the mobile phone instead of the fixed line for people in rural or remote areas. Those advocating this approach argue that the cost involved in maintaining the fixed network outweighs the cost of using the mobile network.

From an infrastructure perspective those people are right. However the reality is that the majority use of the mobile networks is not making voice calls, but accessing applications and services that require high-speed broadband quality and, as indicated above, any services that require significant broadband capacity is prohibitive cost-wise for most users under the current pricing models offered by the mobile operators.

While it could be argued that one can buy more data more cheaply (eg, prepaid packages) the reality is that in order to be able to use the mobile network for good quality video/entertainment services a good quality smartphone is needed, and the cost of a combined package of a good quality smartphone and a large data package remains too expensive a proposition for most users in regional and remote areas, especially if one compares this to a similar fixed line package.

By all means let’s look at using the mobile network wherever we can; but we can’t do this without also addressing the affordability of such services in comparison to similar services that are offered over the fixed network.

At the moment the element of affordability in the context of mobile-only-services is seldom discussed. The current spectrum review looks at the changes needed to cope with the increase in demand for spectrum and changes in technology, markets and consumer preferences.

Furthermore, in line with the Australian government's deregulation agenda, the review sought to simplify the spectrum management framework. This will make it easier to administer, make it more accessible, and reduce compliance costs for users. The review suggested ways of reducing regulation and making non-legislative reforms where possible.

This is all well and good but if we want to enhance the notion of mobile only services/networks we will need to add affordability to that review.

Paul Budde

See also:



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UAE introduces fixed network sharing agreement 01 Feb 2016

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most advanced telecoms sector in the Middle East and with a government actively supporting Smart City and Digital Transformation initiatives – the future for the sector continues to look bright. This is assisted by the high rate of fibre penetration in the Emirates, where around 85% of all fixed broadband subscribes utilise FttH/FttP.

A milestone was reached in October 2015 when the TRA announced it had implemented fixed network sharing across the UAE. Both Etisalat and Du are now able to utilise fixed infrastructure and market services across all locations. This signalled the end of six years of negotiations between the TRA and the operators. While the arrangement does not currently include Pay TV it is expected this will become included by the end of 2016.

The UAE possesses a strong mobile market which includes high smart phone penetration. The focus of the operators in recent times has been revenue growth through offering increased service options such as bundling aimed at increasing mobile data usage. Their efforts are succeeding with mobile data now making up over 30% of both Etisalat’s and du’s mobile services revenue in the UAE.

Further opportunities for telecoms in the UAE exist around the growing enterprise sector, underpinned by a high number of SME’s operating in the country. In particular there is a growing need for data centre and managed services, along with M2M solutions and increased mobile broadband offerings.

The UAE government at both federal and emirate level has been proactive in the digital economy and digital media sectors, with programs to encourage computer and internet use. Like other countries in the Middle East, the UAE aims to transition into a ‘knowledge based and highly productive economy’ by 2021.

Generally speaking, e-commerce is growing in the stabilised markets of the Middle East and the UAE’s growing wealth and internet usage have spurred the development of e-commerce, with more and more shoppers being attracted by the value of online purchases, secure payment facilities, the reputation of the website, and the speed of transactions. The United Arab Emirates is also a prime location for the rise of streaming video and video-on-demand services due to its strong mobile and fixed infrastructure and a population which traditionally enjoys TV and entertainment.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: United Arab Emirates – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband



Australia's NBN Co gears up for HFC launch 18 Jan 2016

There are almost 13 million broadband subscribers in Australia, of which about one million are on cable (HFC) networks operated by Telstra and Optus. These networks were built more than ten years ago. To various degrees these networks have been neglected by the two operators as they have concentrated investment on DSL infrastructure and upgrades to their mobile networks. Both operators have sold off parts of their HFC plant to NBN Co, and this will be utilised within the multi-technology NBN in areas where HFC is deemed to offer a better service than alternative FttN.

 

Thus far Australia has lagged behind many other markets, particularly in Europe where it is common for operators to offer speeds at up to 300Mb/s. Here, many nodes are still limited to 30Mb/s, and all too often they serve too many premises for the shared bandwidth to provide a dependable service for consumers.

 

In August 2015 NBN Co published its latest corporate plan, to fiscal 2018. Taking all technologies into account it stipulated 2.63 million serviceable premises by FY2016, 5.44 million by FY2017 and 9.06 million by FY2018. The planned HFC components of the network will account for 2.36 million premises by FY2018.

 

Clearly fibre has its advantages over cable. When building a totally new network based on a 20-30 year investment plan, fibre wins (fibre plants also have lower maintenance costs). Yet in areas where HFC already exists it can be cheaper to maintain and upgrade an existing network than it is to start from scratch. In such situations it makes sense to undertake incremental improvements through either DOCSIS3.1 or fibre, based on a sound business case for each of the areas under consideration. Given the capabilities of DOCSIS3.1 (having the potential to deliver data at up to 10Gb/s) there may be little disparity in service offerings between the two technologies.

 

NBN Co is scheduled to commercialise its HFC services in June this year, following limited trials held since mid-2015. These deployment plans have been supported by the recent certification of DOCSIS3.1 equipment by CableLabs, which is overseeing the standardisation process.  NBN should be able to ship modems compatible with DOCSIS3.1 later this year, and so its customers should be ready for when the upgraded network comes on stream in 2017.

 

For more on developments with the NBN see Australia - National Broadband Network - HFC Networks



German ISPs to deliver on vectoring and G.fast for superfast broadband 18 Jan 2016

Germany has one of Europe’s largest telecom markets, as befits a country with a population of more than 81 million. Penetration in the broadband and mobile sectors is about average for the region. Both the fixed network and broadband markets are dominated by Telekom Deutschland, though other notable players including freenet, Vodafone and Telefónica, have gained market share as the incumbent continues to rebound from a poor performance which has led to declining revenue since 2010.

Germany also has the second largest broadband market in Europe. The dominant DSL platform is led by Telekom Deutschland which has invested in network upgrades in recent years, with a focus of VDSL and vectoring technologies combined with fibre. The company has also trialled G.fast technology to add to the mix, and so provide a more economically feasible super-fast broadband product to meet the demands and timetable of the government’s national broadband targets by 2020. The strategy is also aimed at competing with cablcos, which by 2017 will begin deploying DOCSIS 3.1 networks and hardware capable of delivering data at up to 1Gb/s.

The mobile market is the largest in Europe, with about 118 million subscribers generating the largest proportion of revenue in the telecom sector as a whole. In common with most markets the main area of growth is in mobile data, with the number of mobile broadband subscribers having increased rapidly in recent years on the back of extensively available 3G and LTE networks. The market was long dominated by Telekom Deutschland and Vodafone Germany, though the acquisition of E-Plus by Telefónica has effectively created a triopoly of MNOs with relatively similar market share among them. There is also healthy market competition from an increasing number of resellers and MVNOs, which has placed pressure on voice and data tariffs, resulting in lower ARPU. Regulatory pressure on roaming charges and mobile termination rates have also eroded operator revenue, and encouraged them to step-up their development of data applications to improve profits.

These investments provide enormous potential for future growth, particularly given recent spectrum auctions which have enable operators to improve the reach and capabilities of their networks. As well as having refarmed digital dividend spectrum for mobile broadband use, the regulator auctioned additional spectrum in the 700MHz band in June 2015, paving the way for national mobile broadband coverage when this spectrum becomes available from 2017.

This report introduces the key aspects of the telecom market in Germany, providing comprehensive data on the country’s fixed network infrastructure as well as key regulatory developments including the status of interconnection, local loop unbundling, number portability, and carrier preselection. It also profiles the major operators, and details the development of Next Generation Networks. The report also provides statistics and analyses on the mobile market, including an overview of the main operators and their strategies for dealing with competition and emerging technologies in coming years. In addition, the report covers Germany’s fixed and wireless broadband markets, including analyses of developments with related technologies such as Fibre-to-the-Premises, powerline broadband, wireless broadband, Wi-Fi and internet via satellite.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Germany - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses



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