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    International expansion has strengthened the operations of many mobile operators 24 Mar 2017

    In 2017 the global mobile market has its sights firmly set on the opportunities offered through mobile data as well as looking for potential new revenues streams presented by the enterprise sector, data mining, 5G and international expansion.

    Mobile saturation has occurred in many of the developed markets and this has forced some of the operators to look for new opportunities – particularly those offered by expanding regionally or internationally. This has occurred in most regions of the world – and as a result some operators have become powerful and dominant regional leaders.

    In Latin America, for example, the mobile market continues to be dominated by a small number of operators which each have businesses in multiple countries.  These include Telefónica Group; Mexico’s América Móvil, trading as Telcel in its domestic market and as Claro in the remaining 16 markets in the region; Telecom Italia, AT&T Mexico and Millicom International. The dominance of these operators is being gradually eroded however as a result of efforts by a number of national regulators to facilitate the entry of MVNOs and to encourage the participation of smaller players in spectrum auctions.

    In the more developed markets of Asia, growth is shifting away from a focus on subscriber numbers  and towards the expansion of new generation platforms and increased data usage driven by value-added services and increased ARPUs. There are those companies such as SingTel, Vodafone, and Axiata (formerly Telekom Malaysia International) that have built a substantial presence around the Asian region beyond their own domestic market through their shareholdings in operators in multiple other markets.

    In the Pacific region; the Australian mobile market is dominated by the three major mobile network operators Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone (VHA), though there are numerous MVNOs which have a significant market share. These have been able to offer LTE services on a wholesale basis since early 2016, thus encouraging growth in the LTE sector and cementing the role which MVNOs play in the overall market.

    Fiji is one of the telecoms leaders in the South Pacific region, along with Papua New Guinea. Similar to many developing nations, it is heavily reliant on mobile technologies rather than fixed lines. The percentage of unique mobile subscribers in Fiji sits at around 69%. Vodafone Fiji Limited (VFL) and Digicel Fiji are the major mobile operators and the only MVNO is Australian company, Inkk Mobile which operates on VFL’s network.

    Three mobile service operators provide services in Papua New Guinea including Digicel, Bmobile (Vodafone), and Citifon (Telikom PNG). However, in February 2017 it was announced that Dataco, Bmobile and Telikom PNG would be merged together to form Kumul Telikom. The three entities would be able to share resources and infrastructure, making it potentially more cost effective and competitive.

    Although there are a large number of network operators across the African continent, and also smaller niche MVNO players, there are also a small number of pan-regional network operators. These include Millicom, Orange Group, Vodacom and Bharti Airtel. Some rationalisation of their operations continues as these players adjust their strategies to fit in with market positions and expectations.

    There are a number of companies which have a large presence in the Middle East. Zain, Ooredoo and MTN are three examples of companies operating in multiple markets and the international players of Orange and Vodafone also operate in region.

    As with Latin America and Africa, the European region is notable for having half a dozen pan-European operators with interests in several key markets. These main players include Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, Vodafone Group, Hutchison and TeliaSonera. There has been much jostling among these operators as they seek to strengthen their presence in particular markets. This has in turn caused some disquiet among national regulators and European competition authorities, which are keen to preserve a quorum of key players (generally four) within a given market.

    This BuddeComm publication provides a global overview of the mobile market, supported by statistics as well as an overview of the mobile markets for each major region of the world. Country case studies for each region are also included, along with identification of the major MNOs and MVNOs operating in each region/country.

    For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Global Mobile Operators - Regional Leaders - Overview and Statistics  

    Luxembourg on track to becoming Europe’s first fibred country 23 Mar 2017

    Overall revenue from electronic communications services in Luxembourg has increased steadily in recent years, though it fell in 2014 before showing a moderate recovery in 2015. Declining revenue in 2014 was partly caused by the effects of regulatory measures on areas such as interconnection tariffs and roaming charges, as also by lower consumer use of fixed-line voice services and by the prevalence of VoIP/VoBB over traditional PSTN lines. Nevertheless, the market is adjusting to these pressures. In recent years the incumbent telco POST Telecom (formerly P&T Luxembourg) has concentrated on cloud and managed services, as well as on offering bundled packages. The company by early 2016 offered a 100Mb/s service nationally, while the footprint of its 1Gb/s service is making gains. This work is in line with the government’s program to provide a 1Gb/s service to all citizens by 2020, and to make Luxembourg the first fully fibred country in Europe. Investment in infrastructure is being encouraged by these ambitions, and as a result investment in both fixed line and mobile networks has increased considerably in recent years. Apart from benefitting domestic customers, fibre-based broadband availability within the Duchy is also attracting international companies seeking high-end connectivity. POST Telecom remains the dominant player in all market sectors, despite the telecoms market having been liberalised in 1998. Regulatory measures during the last few years have encouraged broadband competition through local loop unbundling, yet the proportion of unbundled lines remains relatively low. High mobile penetration has slowed subscriber growth in the mobile market since 2005. Partly as a result of fixed-mobile substitution, Luxembourg has one of the lowest fixed-line densities in Europe. For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Luxembourg - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses

    Montenegro’s spectrum auctions supporting LTE growth 22 Mar 2017

    Montenegro continues to make steady progress in its ambition to join the European Union and NATO, and so further integrate itself with its main trading partners. As part of the EU accession process the country has received financial aid to build public institutions and improve cross-border co-operation under the EU funding mechanism Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. The telecom sector has also been aligned with EU norms, which has opened up the market to competition and guided the development of elements such as access and tariff structures. Fixed broadband services are available via a variety of technology platforms including DSL, cable, leased line, fibre and wireless. The fibre sector has shown particularly strong growth since 2010 as the incumbent has invested in infrastructure upgrades, albeit mainly to serve apartment blocks in the main towns. DSL is also strong given the legacy reach of the incumbent’s copper network, coupled with its existing market presence and range of service offerings that include broadband TV. Mobile penetration is particularly high, though this is partly due to the significant number of tourists visiting the country seasonally, as also to the popularity of subscribers having multiple prepaid cards Networks based on WCDMA/HSPA and LTE technologies have been launched, while investment in LTE technologies have made mobile broadband a viable alternative to fixed-line broadband in many rural areas. Recent multi-band spectrum auctions have stipulated that mobile broadband should be made available to 95% of the population by mid-2018. Network upgrades have formed the basis for new and expanding mobile broadband services. For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Montenegro - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses

    Haiti again turns attention to digital broadcasting 21 Mar 2017

    Haiti’s economic and social indicators remain far lower than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The recent years of political and economic turmoil and natural disasters, most recently Hurricane Matthew which hit the island in August 2016, have stifled most sectors of the economy, including the telecoms sector which remains one of the least developed in the world. The regulator reported that Hurricane Matthew caused about $35 million in damage to equipment owned by Natcom, Digicel and Access Haiti. In the internet market, poor fixed-line infrastructure obliged most businesses to rely on satellite and wireless technologies. However, the launch of services by Natcom in late 2011 has provided a significant boost to the sector. The company in subsequent years built three international gateways and quadrupled international connectivity. As a result broadband services are much more readily available, and Natcom has become a wholesale provider for the small number of other ISPs in the market. Nevertheless, there remain significant barriers to fixed-line broadband development, not least of which is the low income level among the majority of the population, low PC penetration and the perennial problem of equipment theft. Although Natcom has built a fibre backbone running to dome 6,500km, which is steadily growing fixed-line broadband sector, practical challenges mean that for the majority people and businesses connectivity is achieved through mobile networks. Natcom also introduced a competitive boost to the mobile sector in 2011, though this was set back to some degree by the Digicel Group’s acquisition of the number two player Voilà, and the integration of the latter’s mobile network in late 2012. With the collapse of the third operator HaiTel in mid-2013, this left Digicel with about 74% market share of subscribers. Nevertheless, the economies of scale together with Digicel’s interest in promoting LTE as well as innovative mobile data services such as mobile banking should considerably improve internet connectivity in rural areas in coming years, and enable communities to make greater use of internet services where fixed-line infrastructure remains inadequate. For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Haiti - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses

    No smart energy policy for Australia 21 Mar 2017

    My involvement in the Australian energy market started in 2001 when I brought the energy companies together in Sydney. At that time we were looking at utilising their infrastructure to assist the ailing competition in the telecommunications market that was dominated by Telstra, which at that point was unwilling to introduce residential broadband services to Australian users.

    Within the alliance, called Utilitel, a range of telecoms-related businesses were initiated at that time.

    But the big change came during 2006-2007 when climate change became the hot political topic of the day. Energy companies realised that in order to respond to this ecological disaster they would have to change their operations, as 30% of national carbon emission was directly linked to their operations.

    The first action undertaken by what would become Smart Grid Australia was to petition energy ministers in COAG, urging them to use the smart grid, rather than smart meters, as a strategy. We used the analogy of promoting cars without having the appropriate roads. But our advice fell on deaf ears and the resulting disastrous rollout of smart meters in Victoria was a clear indication that a holistic national smart energy policy would be needed before embarking on any details.

    At the same time there was internal resistance to such an approach. After all, saving energy would mean less income for energy companies. Perhaps the best example of this came from Basil Scarsella, at that time the CEO of ETSA, the energy distribution company in South Australia. I sat on a panel with him at the ENA Energy Australian conference in 2007.

    There I participated on behalf of Smart Grid Australia, arguing for smart grids. Basil made it very clear that ETSA would not do anything without clear government policies and regulations. ETSA (now SA Power Network) is a privatised energy company majority-owned by Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings. Basil made it very clear that without a national policy his company would not invest in any significant new energy investments beyond their normal run of the business.

    Things started to look up with the government announcing an Energy Trading System, as this was seen by countries around the globe as the best basic policy system for the future (and this is still the case).

    Climate change, together with government leadership, meant that the energy companies’ communications interests changed from external opportunities for their network – such as public telecommunication services – to an internal strategy on how communications could assist them in modernising their infrastructure in order to become far more energy-efficient. Organisations such as Ausgrid (at the time Energy Australia) had indicated that a full-blown smart energy operation could deliver energy efficiencies between 30% and 40%.

    The government of the day picked this up and in 2009 made $100 million available for what became known as the Smart Grid Smart City Project. A further $200 million was added to the project by direct and indirect private investment. The project included smart grids, micro-grids, integration of renewable and the deployment of an electric vehicles infrastructure. The geographic area covered Sydney, Newcastle and the Upper Hunter region (Scone).

    The project would run for three years and would become the blueprint for a national approach to smart grids. The project was seen as one of the most significant smart grid projects in the world and gained international attention, especially as part of the project was that the data gathered would be made available nationally and internationally (this has happened and many organisations from around the world have received that information from the Australian government).

    What, however, became very destructive was that while the federal government at that time launched its new policies the federal opposition undermined it by mischievously calling it a carbon tax system. Ever since then a bi-partisan political energy solution has eluded the country.

    This was based, not on the national interest, but on party politics.

    What also hasn’t helped the situation was the sometimes rather militant position taken by many people and organisations involved in the green movement. It is simply not possible in the short and medium term to replace all of our energy needs with renewables. This was used politically by the more conservative forces in politics to oppose anything renewable – resulting, for example, with leading national politicians bringing coal into Parliament to undermine renewable energy policies. Similar unhelpful actions were taken by senior politicians ridiculing wind energy. As a result we still don’t have a long term energy policy that let’s say over a period of 20-30 years would transform the Australian energy market to one mainly based on renewable resources.

    In this already convoluted environment another disastrous policy was taken.

    For more than a decade natural gas had been seen as another cleaner energy solution, and Australia is one of the largest producers of natural gas. But in its infinite wisdom the Australian government issued gas mining licences allowing the producers to export nearly all of that gas, with only a small proportion to be made available for Australia. Changing this policy now (as mentioned by the Prime Minister) will mean that Australia will have to buy back its own gas at prices significantly higher than customers in Asia are paying for it.

    Despite constant warnings the organisation in charge of national energy management, NEM, together with the Australian Energy Regulator, have largely been asleep at the wheel. The NEM has belatedly mentioned that Australia is facing a national energy crisis as there will not be enough energy available for the running of the country. Where were these organisations a decade ago, to add their weight to the development of sound national policies?

    Even now political disarray continues, with the Prime Minister plucking yet another rabbit out of the hat – an upgrade of the Snowy Mountain Hydro System. Something that came totally out of the blue, with no consultation with the country, the industry or the energy experts. Another ill-considered development in a non-existing national energy policy that is simply aimed at quick political scores rather than addressing the long-term national interest.

    Paul Budde

    See Australia smart grid reports


    Iran to see arrival of MVNOs amid other reforms to telecoms sector 20 Mar 2017

    Mobile services are widely available in Iran with services on offer from three major mobile network operators which are able to offer services on a national basis. These include MCI, MTN Irancell and Rightel. In March 2017 competition in the mobile sector was set to increase further with the country’s largest ISP, Shatel Group, reportedly given permission to begin offering full MVNO services in Iran. It would operate under the brand name Shatel Mobile. HiWeb, which signed a partnership deal with Vodafone Group in October 2016, was also awarded a license from the CRA to offer SIM cards under a local brand name. Mobile data services are available but account for a small proportion of total revenue. This is expected to increase over time as mobile data services increasingly underpin future revenue growth, made possible by the launch of 3G/HSPA and 4G LTE services. Recently WiMAX services in Iran were replaced with TDD-LTE services by two operators, Irancell and ISP MobinNet. Iran is currently implementing its 6th Development Plan which runs between 2016 – 2021 and contains a number of measures to transform the telecoms sector. For example, the development plan aims to increase Internet bandwidth; encourage foreign and private investment in the telecoms sector as well as make structural changes to the telecoms incumbent, Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI). Internet usage is growing due to improved accessibility brought about by competition and government initiatives designed to improve ICT accessibility. Iran has been developing its own National intranet that will host only approved Islamic content. Known as the National Information Network (NIN); it went live e in August 2016 and will offer speeds of up to 10 Tb/s as part of an upgrade underway in 2017. The NIN is designed to complement the Internet and operates on Iran’s fibre network. The lifting of economic sanctions in early 2016 was expected to facilitate a big boost to Iran’s economy. However, in 2017 it became apparent that the economic transformation of Iran is occurring at a slower pace than expected, with industry analysts commenting that Iran needs to reduce its reliance on oil and strengthen other industry sectors. For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Iran - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

    Greece’s telcos secure multi-million Euro loans to build out NGNs 17 Mar 2017

    Greece’s telecoms market has undergone some very tough economic conditions in recent years, leading to lower sector revenue and investment. Operators across the board have seen gross profits tumble, and the continuing economic turmoil will make market conditions particularly tough during the next few years. The dominant player remains the incumbent telco Cosmote (OTE). The company has experienced significant challenges, but is supported by the organisational ability and financial clout of its parent Deutsche Telekom. Despite market liberalisation, Cosmote continues to dominate all sectors in the market. The telecom regulator EETT has shown increasing success in promoting competition, with local loop unbundling well utilised to deliver competing fixed-line services. Promoting competition has become one of the EC’s conditions for Greece’s financial bailouts. In February 2017 access for competitors was extended to Cosmote vectoring VDSL infrastructure. The main broadband operators have recently secured loans to enable them to build fibre-based next generation networks and so reach European broadband targets by 2020. The slowly increasing consumer take up of broadband services and a steady deployment of faster VDSL infrastructure has in turn encouraged the development of a range of IP services including streaming videostreaming. Greece’s well-developed mobile market is dominated by the three mobile network operators Wind Hellas, Vodafone Greece and Cosmote. Tariffs have fallen in recent years as a result of competition and regulatory mandated reductions in MTRs. Operators have invested in LTE infrastructure and technologies including carrier aggregation to provide networks capable of meeting customer demand for data services. This in turn is helping the operators to grow revenue and offset declining revenue from voice and SMS services. Wind Hellas and Vodafone have a mobile network sharing deal in place, and have also partnered to develop a large-scale fibre-based fixed-line NGN. This report introduces the key aspects of the Greek fixed-line telecoms, wholesale and IT markets, outlining the regulatory environment, assessing the major players and providing relevant operational data and financial statistics on both the operators and the market. The report also reviews the mobile market, covering regulatory and market developments as well as financial and operating statistics for the key players. In addition the report analyses the fixed and wireless broadband markets, providing an assessment of developments relating to vectoring VDSL and fibre networks as well as subscriber forecasts to 2022. For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Greece - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses

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Paul is by far, the leading telecommunications analyst in Australia. Not only is his company's research first class and timely, it is superbly contextual to the complexities of today's modern media and communications technology. He is always extremely generous in sharing his knowledge with others and has a great ability to connect people together and be a thought leader on topics of National interest such as the NBN, FttH and Smart Grids.

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