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    Lebanon’s new telecoms minister focuses on fixed network improvements 24 Jun 2017

    Significant improvements are planned for Lebanon’s fixed network, according to Lebanon’s new telecoms minister Jamal Jarrah. The plans should result in 500,000 new landlines becoming available in 2017, the installation of fibre-optic networks and faster DSL services. Ogero Telecom is working in conjunction with the government to deploy the planned works.

    The improvements will be welcomed by consumers and enterprises alike. Lebanon has trailed behind other countries in the region in almost all aspects of broadband networks and services. ADSL services were not launched until 2007 and broadband has been available at only low speeds and at high prices. This has changed somewhat in the last couple of years with proactive measures being made to reduce prices but speed is still an issue.

    4G services have been available in Lebanon since 2013 and initially the coverage was only small. During 2016 both Touch and Alfa implemented substantial 4G upgrades and expansions, supported by Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson. By the end of March 2017, according to the Telecoms Minister, there would be an 85% coverage of 4G mobile broadband across most parts of Lebanon.

    The improvements to Lebanon’s broadband infrastructure will boost the already flourishing digital economy as well as the start-up culture that has attracted international interest and recognition.

    For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Lebanon - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses


    Puerto Rico Sprint and Open Wireless agree to combine their mobile businesses 23 Jun 2017

    Puerto Rico has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in the Latin American and the Caribbean region, at about 160%. However, although it is a US territory it lags well behind the mainland US states in terms of fixed-line and broadband penetration. This is partly due to a continuing economic recession, high unemployment rates (and consequently low disposable income) and poor telecoms investment in a market largely dominated by the incumbent Puerto Rico Telephone Company. The activities of the US-based telcos, including T-Mobile US, Sprint and AT&T continue to impact on the Puerto Rican market. This has recently been seen in these operators securing spectrum in the 600MHz, which included licences covering the island.

    The Puerto Rico Telephone Company’s fixed-line market dominance was augmented following its acquisition by the largest wireless company in Latin America, América Móvil. In contrast, with six network operators, the mobile (cellular/wireless) market has been experiencing more robust competition and growth. Although América Móvil’s Claro briefly took the lead from AT&T Mobility in terms of subscriber numbers, AT&T regained the top position following its acquisition of Centennial Communications. In early 2017 Sprint and Open Wireless agreed to merge their networks in a bid to offer better market competition by increasing their scale and spectrum holdings.

    With emerging VoIP and videostreaming sectors and steadily a growing broadband market, as well as satellite TV services (which have caused a decline in the cable TV subscriber base in recent years), the growth and convergence of digital media looks promising. The acquisition by Liberty Global of the remaining cable TV operator Choice Cable, completed in mid-2015, has created a monopoly player in this sector. Liberty Cablevisión, now part of Liberty Global’s LiLAC Group, is in a stronger position to capitalise on scale, and so provide improved services based on greater investment in technologies, including the anticipated DOCSIS3.1 standard.

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


    NBN legislation might still work out positively 23 Jun 2017

    There are many problems with the NBN, but one of the few elements of the original plan that has not been changed might have a longer-term positive outcome – that is, if the nbn company is in fact able to upgrade most of its network to FttC and FttH.

    I am talking about the monopoly that the nbn company enjoys. And I will have to make a qualification here – under the FttN rollout to which a large number of customers are still relegated, the legislation that underpins this monopoly works against them.

    As I have argued previously, for a nationwide FttH network that provides a quantum leap over the old existing infrastructure a monopoly is quite acceptable. However, such a monopoly based on an FttN network is a very bad thing indeed, as it prevents any fixed broadband-based competition from providing currently available products that are much better than FttN, such as those established on a premium-based FttH infrastructure.

    But, OK, if the company does indeed continue with FttC we are getting close enough to the original plan that warranted such a monopoly.

    The reason the original legislation is important became very clear when, a few months ago, Google decided to stop the rollout of its FttH networks. It simply wasn’t economically viable to do this in competition with the incumbent telecoms carriers in the USA, who were using all tricks in the book to undermine Google at every step they made in that direction.

    This has been the argument all the time. A high-speed national broadband network is a utility and needs to be treated as such. There are no examples anywhere in the world of FttH networks being built in competition with each other. At the same time the end goal of all telecoms infrastructure upgrades are aimed at FttH, be it from DSL-based or HCF-based networks. Even Australia’s Prime Minister has mentioned this several times.

    So let us hope that the nbn company will continue to eliminate as much as possible of its FttN rollout in favour of FttC. If that happens we will nearly be back on track with the original NBN plan. It is just very sad that politics have got in the way – causing so much grief for the customers that are badly affected, and for those who are now being bypassed because their connections are ending up in the too-hard basket; and inflicting pain on the nbn company and the government as well.

    All so unnecessary if reason had won out over politics.

    Now that the nbn seems to have taken a better turn it is to be hoped that other botched policies, such as the one around smart energy, might follow. For those waiting for the end it would be better to wait a little longer if it means you will be connected to an FttC service.

    Paul Budde



    Latvian mobile operators begin the transition to 5G 22 Jun 2017

    Latvia’s telecom market has been shaped by the European Union, with the EU’s 2002 regulatory policies and the revised 2009 New Regulatory Framework being adopted as core components of the sector’s regulatory measures. The country is as also a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU, and has adopted the euro as its national currency. It became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD in June 2016.

    Latvia’s broadband market continues to suffer from inadequate progress on local loop unbundling, though the government has stepped up its efforts to build a national fibre broadband network, part-funded by the European Commission (EC).

    Four mobile network operators compete in the market. LTE services have been launched commercially, while operators including Tele2 have expanded the reach of their LTE-A services, adopting carrier aggregation technologies to boost data speeds. Operators such as Bité Latvia have also begun the process of transitioning their networks to support services and applications based on 5G. To this end there has been greater development of technologies to develop IoT (Internet of Things) applications, initially in Riga.

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


    IoT network for farmers 22 Jun 2017

    Agriculture is forecast to be one of the key industries where the Internet of Things can make a significant contribution to Australia’s future growth and competitiveness.

    The future of farming is in collecting and analysing big data in order to maximise efficiency, mitigate risk and drive productivity. Connected farmers will be able to monitor and understand a broad range of specific areas of their farm without physically checking, from soil moisture, paddock specific rainfall critical water infrastructure, track livestock movements, and remotely control irrigation and other on-farm resources. These deep insights will then provide the basis for better production prediction and analytics, along with creating new data driven finance and insurance solutions.

    In mid 2017 a new joint venture was launched between Discovery Ag and the National Narrowband Network Co (NNNCo) involves the formation of a new company, Connected Country, to build and operate a nationwide Rural Internet of Things (IoT) network to bring hi-tech agriculture solutions to Australian farmers.

    NNNCo, established as the Australian LoRaWAN network, is providing a commercial grade low cost narrowband network for IoT as an end-to-end scalable solution to service the whole of Australia. The company is a leading authority on LoRaWAN global standard technology, which it is implementing for key industry segments including energy, water, buildings, cities and now agriculture.

    The Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) will provide the backbone infrastructure for secure, standards based shared networks of low-cost wireless sensors that constantly report on essential farm metrics like soil moisture, rainfall, crop health, water levels and livestock data. The roll out of the network started in mid 2017 and will cover 1 million acres in NSW encompassing of dry land crops, horticulture and livestock and a number of rural tows. By 2019 the joint venture partners intend to extend across vast areas of the nation’s farming regions.

    The Joint Venture is the first of its kind in Australia’s emerging IoT market. Connected Country is dedicated to providing carrier grade networks to enable smarter, cheaper and more ubiquitous sensors by leveraging local innovation in conjunction with a global ecosystem of providers. The goal is to drive productivity, efficiency and risk management solutions across rural and regional Australia.

    Key partners include:  Cisco and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

    One of the key success factors for Connected Country will be its ability to help farmers collate and analyse large amounts of data from IoT devices and signals, and then use that information to make better decisions.

    Two of the biggest predictors of crop yield are soil moisture and rainfall, which can vary widely across different parts of a farm. The decisions farmers make about when and where to irrigate, what to plant in which paddock, use of chemicals and fertilisers, and when to harvest can have a huge bearing on their annual production. The new network can help them make better decisions across multiple aspects of farm management, the productivity gains will be significant.

    The impact of the new network on current pricing structures will also be important, representing opportunities for farmers keen to employ new technologies to boost profitability and efficiencies, but who up until now have been deterred by price.

    The network will significantly drive down the cost of connection for data communication and the cost of sensors using this technology. This will make the difference between isolated usage and widespread deployment of the sensors which will in turn provide more granular information and higher value to the industry.

    LoRaWAN’s capabilities are well suited to agricultural requirements. The technology is already used in farms across in Europe and the USA and has proven to be low cost and effective. LoRaWAN-enabled sensors are available at a relatively low cost and a LoRaWAN on-farm gateway can cover large areas and connect to thousands of sensors at an affordable cost.

    A key capability of LoRaWAN is the extremely low power consumption as well as the flexibility to support a wide range of use cases. For example, bi-directional communication and multicast functionality which enable farmers to communicate with sensors on an individual and group level.

    Instead of simply receiving data, farmers can control key aspects of their farm such as water infrastructure, asset tracking, demand feeding and watering and emergency signalling amongst a host of other applications.

    Data ownership and privacy are other important elements. Farmers need to be able to own and control their own data. Through Connected Country, the data remains in Australia and is controlled by the sensor owner – in this instance the grower. Being an open standard technology other sensor developers are encouraged to connect to and leverage the network over time. This is key because the industry will demand sensor choice and competition. Rather than being tied to a proprietary network with a silo solution, LoRaWAN will ensure they become part of an ecosystem.

    See:- Australia - Smart Farming


    Internet penetration is low in the Solomon Islands 21 Jun 2017

    While mobile penetration is considered to be quite high in the Solomon Islands; internet penetration remains very low. Some rural and remote areas still lack access to mobile networks and in areas where it is available -  the cost can be prohibitive. Many rural mobile base stations in the Solomon Islands also only support voice services; further inhibiting growth of mobile broadband services.

    Satellite internet services have traditionally been too costly for citizens to access on a regular basis and ADSL is only available in limited locations. There are also geographic difficulties in deploying fibre-optic cables in the Solomon Islands. Remote islands are separated by large distances of open ocean, and almost all rural villages have no reliable power - if power is available at all. Around 85% of Solomon Islanders live in tiny functioning rural communities scattered across 100 populated islands.

    The Solomon Islands is also vulnerable to the seasonal natural disasters including cyclones and earthquakes. Despite these significant challenges, the Solomon Islands government has acknowledged it is time to prioritise improving the telecoms sector and has outlined plans in its current National Development Strategy to do so.

    For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Solomon Islands - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses


    Burundi to apply the One Area Network conditions later in 2017 21 Jun 2017

    Given its high population density and the low penetration rates across all telecom sectors, Burundi remains one of the most attractive telecom markets in Africa for investors. Nevertheless, investor reticence is still evident given the country’s low economic output and the fact that outside the main urban areas fixed-line infrastructure remains poor. To overcome these difficulties, the government, supported by the Word Bank, has backed a joint venture with a number of prominent telcos to build a national fibre backbone network, offering onward connectivity to submarine cable infrastructure landings in Kenya and Tanzania. The first sections of this network were switched on in early 2014, and additional provinces are being connected into 2017.

    Since 2012 Burundi has had improved access to international cables, thus ending its dependence on expensive satellite connections. International bandwidth tripled in 2015, resulting in lower retail prices for consumers. There have also been efforts to encourage the country’s ISPs to join the national IXP in a bid to cannel internet traffic locally and thus reduce the cost of providing services to end-users.

    Two of the four mobile operators have launched 3G and LTE mobile services to capitalise on the growing demand for internet access. The number of mobile subscribers grew rapidly for several years, though this slowed in 2016. Mobile penetration, at 50% by early 2017, remains low for by regional standards, suggesting considerable room for further growth. A new player, Viettel Group, which received a licence to provide mobile services in early 2014, launched 2G and 3G services in June 2015 and LTE services in February 2016. It signed up customers very quickly, and claimed to have more than 1.79 million by March 2017, making it a leading player in the country. The operator has built up an extensive fibre-backhaul network which it aims to use to provide fixed-line services. These developments make Burundi one of the most attractive growth markets in Africa, despite the limited size of the population.

    The long-established plans to privatise the national telco Onatel (which also operates one of the mobile networks), have been delayed several times, but the government since 2013 has made efforts to kick-start the process.

    For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Burundi - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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