Mobile broadband penetration in Armenia to reach over 50%

June 27th, 2017, by

The Armenian telecom market continues to attempt to put an effective national telecommunications service in place. With its relatively small population and low GDP per capita, it does not offer a hugely lucrative market opportunity. However, the government and the operators have been systematically building telecom networks and offering services.

The number of fixed lines Armenia levelled off by 2012 and started a slow decline in the period from 2013 to 2017, driven by strong growth in the mobile broadband segment.

The fixed broadband has grown strongly over past decade from a small base but still remains low by international comparisons. There has been a steady increase in penetration has increased from 2008 to 2016. Further strong growth is predicted over the next five years to 2021.

After a run of strong growth in mobile subscribers in particular, the market in Armenia experienced a major slowdown triggered by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2009. There has been some strong overall recovery since then, although growth has been somewhat erratic. By 2017 there had been considerable improvement in both the economy and the country’s telecom market.

Mobile broadband subscribers have grown strongly over the past five years supported by widespread rollouts of 4G infrastructure and the release of a growing range of mobile broadband packages by the major mobile operators.

Growth has been relatively flat in the mobile market over the past five years with penetration actually declining slight over the past two years. Mobile subscriber growth is expected to remain fairly flat over the next five years to 2021. The Orange Group signed an agreement with Ucom to sell 100% of its mobile subsidiary Orange Armenia. The sale to Ucom effectively created a new converged player able to offer a range of fixed and mobile services.

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

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Telecommunications revenues rising in the Kingdom of Bahrain

June 26th, 2017, by

There are many positive developments occurring in the liberalised telecoms market of Bahrain. The major telecoms operators include Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco), Mena Telecom and Zain Bahrain and also operating in the mobile sector is Viva Bahrain (owned by Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC).

Telecommunications industry revenues are rising, mobile subscribers continue to grow and mobile broadband subscriptions dominate. There are now well over 2.8 million mobile subscriptions in the Kingdom and penetration sits at over 200%.

Consumers are reaping the benefit of competition which has led to a decline in prices for services.  While this has led to a drop in licensed revenues – it is the unlicensed sector, led by handset devices, which has resulted in a revenue growth of 88% between 2014 and 2015.

With mobile subscribers accounting for the majority of broadband subscriptions in Bahrain, the operators are focusing heavily on mobile infrastructure. LTE networks are well established and the operators are looking towards new services like VoLTE, M2M and the potential of 5G in the future.

Bahrain’s Fourth National Telecommunications Plan was prepared by the end of 2015 and given approval by the Ministry in May 2016. It will focus on fibre-optic infrastructure and affordable prices for high-speed access. It also includes 5G development and readiness.

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

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Lebanon’s new telecoms minister focuses on fixed network improvements

June 24th, 2017, by

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

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

June 23rd, 2017, by

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

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NBN legislation might still work out positively

June 23rd, 2017, by

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


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