Namibian telecom regulator pursues infrastructure sharing plans

July 28th, 2015, by

Namibia was one of the last countries in Africa to introduce competition in the mobile communications sector when a second network finally launched in 2007. Despite this relative lack of market competition, the country has achieved a telecom penetration rate well above the regional average. However, the average revenue per user has more than halved since then. Both GSM operators – MTC (managed by Portugal Telecom) and TN Mobile (formerly Cell One and Leo, now owned by Telecom Namibia) – have entered the internet and broadband market with 3G mobile broadband services in a bid to create new revenue streams. MTC introduced fourth generation (4G) technology in May 2012 when it launched an LTE network in the capital, Windhoek. In addition, Telecom Namibia (TN) offers 3G mobile broadband services using EV-DO technology, and in 2013 contracted ZTE to roll out a network to provide converged fixed and mobile services, including LTE.

Fixed-line services are still a monopoly of TN, but as a member of the WTO the government plans to open the telecom sector to full competition. TN entered the lucrative mobile market as the third player with a CDMA network but was put on hold by the industry regulator, the Namibian Communications Commission, until a new communications law was enacted which, among other issues, addresses fixed-mobile convergence. Since then, however, the absence of effective regulation during the transition to a new regulatory authority, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, has led to further delays in market liberalisation.

Although Namibia’s internet and broadband sector is reasonably competitive, with six ISPs active, its development was long held back by high prices for international bandwidth caused by the lack of a direct connection to international submarine fibre optic cables. This changed in 2011 when the WACS cable landed in the country. International cable services were launched in May 2012. In parallel, Namibia is working to diversify its transit access routes via neighbouring countries, but broadband price reductions on the retail level have remained moderate.

The country’s boom in broadband services has been helped by developments with 3G and 4G mobile services, as well as by investments in national fibre backbone infrastructure. Several WiMAX and other wireless broadband services offer additional access options and are standing by to bring additional competition to the voice market as well, once internet telephony is deregulated.

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

We invite your comments: Please click here to comment

Tagged in: , , , , ,

Cloud Computing market – analysis mid-2015

July 28th, 2015, by

The uptake of commercial cloud services remains relatively low but the market is reaching a level that will see ongoing growth in years to come. Customers are increasingly relaxed about not having to build their own cloud because there is now trust and confidence in the commercial sector. And, rather than building their own IT systems, more and more they are looking to buy the specific services they need.

At the same time there is an increased adoption of hyper-scale cloud services, hybrid cloud offerings and a layered approach to cloud.

This trend is driven by the new companies entering the networking economy, as well as large enterprises who want to reach outside their organisation to their customers. The data flows generated by these developments is enormous and the management of this is becoming beyond the players themselves. At the same time the business model, especially from companies operating in the networking or sharing economy, is based on being light on assets and staff.

What is happening now is that these software-as-a-service organisations are realising that they can no longer limit their business to software services – they also need to provide the underlying ICT infrastructure.

This is resulting in the emergence of a new wave of cloud providers.  They include software licensing organisations, enterprise resource planning providers, internet of things providers, and database companies that are supplying their own cloud infrastructure. Interestingly, we also see a similar trend in the datacentre market, where companies are moving deeper into the cloud and looking for a holistic offering of services that includes bandwidth and cloud as well as datacentre facilities.

The importance of infrastructure becomes clear when looking at some data provided by Cisco.  According to them, in 2013 cloud-based activities accounted for 54% of total datacentre traffic, but by 2018 cloud will account for 76%, with a 32% CAGR, or a fourfold growth. Not being involved in infrastructure will put them at a clear disadvantage in the market.

Traditional (wholesale) telcos are feeling the pinch of service commoditisation and have an equal need to start looking at new business models. Traditionally these players are very slow to move, but nevertheless they will at least try to get a piece of the action too. They are also ill-prepared for the changes in data utilisation, generation, consumption and storage that will be created, for example, by cloud computing, IoT and M2M. Regulatory restriction on wholesale competition aimed to protect NBN Co, and the fact that this company will mainly install old infrastructure, will make their position even more difficult.

All of these market dynamics will lead to interesting battles between these different groups and the winners will no doubt be those who are able to harness the three different sectors and from that position deliver seamless services to their customers.

Paul Budde

We invite your comments: Please click here to comment

Tagged in: , , ,

How to move cybersecurity forward in a more positive way

July 28th, 2015, by

In 2013 I wrote a blog Telecoms as a spying tool, in which I mentioned that those who use the internet to spy indiscriminately will have to face the reality that such activities will only start a cat-and-mouse game – the technology will always be able to stay one step ahead of those who are using the internet for criminal purposes.

Since that time some very significant developments have taken place that have confirmed our prediction.

When we wrote that article encryption technologies had already been around for some time, but they were not being used by the majority of internet users. Some websites, particularly those from financial institutions and at least some of the government sites, used encryption technologies, but even at a business level security still had rather low priority. Data breaches that are still hitting the news show that this continues to be a problem for many of the organisations and people using the internet.

Beyond that, encryption was being used by those who wanted to avoid detection, such as criminals and terrorists.  However, in reality people who carry out illegal activities often make simple mistakes, and so in many cases those offenders were eventually caught, with or without the assistance of technology. This is still the case – mass surveillance usually contributes little or nothing to the capture of criminals or terrorists. More targeted approaches that have been used over the years, including the use of technology, have delivered far better results.

Obviously most people were fully aware that the police and security agencies were using technology to try and catch those criminals and there was little or no outcry about it, as people obviously understood the benefits of having vigilant security services. They trusted that those agencies would use the appropriate warrants to conduct their investigations, or that secret actions were at least overseen by their national parliaments.

However, the revelations of Edward Snowden showed that these tools were not only used to catch criminals. They were also used for mass surveillance purposes, and this revelation shocked the entire world. It became clear that very personal information from friendly government leaders was spied upon, and also that computers from companies such as Google were hacked into in order to obtain information on people without any warrant attached.

This immediately brought about a chain reaction (as in the cat-and-mouse example). Internet companies do have a legal obligation to protect the integrity of their ICT infrastructure, the security of their data and the privacy of their customers; and so this was a clear wake-up call for them to massively step up their security. If NSA can tap into these networks and services, others with criminal intentions will also find ways to do so. So encryption technologies were used, this time to introduce a far more general level of protection both at national government levels and in relation to consumer-based services from Google, Facebook and others. Furthermore massive amounts of money were pumped into this market to create even better encryption solutions.

With this explosion in encryption, consumer devices, having data in them, are now also being encrypted. The reality is that encryption is rapidly becoming the norm.

In this cat-and-mouse game law enforcement agencies are complaining that the techniques they used before are not working as well as they did in the past – in fact, for them it is only getting worse. We are already hearing political murmurings, in the UK and Australia for example, that encryption technologies should be banned. This is a clear indication that those politicians have very little idea about technological developments – that they are largely unaware that encryption has already become a very critical part of internet services. Banning encryption is not only counter-productive in an economic sense; it is also too late, since large amounts of information have already been encrypted over the last two years.

The encryption explosion has other impacts too.  The cellular networks that used to use deep packet inspection (DPI) to do traffic management are now unable to manage traffic in the same way.  Microwave links that use compression to increase capacity are no longer able to carry the same amount of traffic.  Content filters and firewalls that used to be used to control access to information are unable to perform these functions anymore without explicit intervention by the client to load compromised security certificates, etc.

However these technical issues will no doubt be resolved over time.

Nevertheless the whole spying affair has totally backfired on those spy agencies that used these tools in ‘illegal’ ways, and as a consequence the whole web is going dark. It is predicted that by the end of the year the majority of US internet will be encrypted, and even email traffic is now being encrypted on a broad basis.

So within a few short years the internet world has changed.  So what needs to be done in order to assist police and security agencies in doing their job?  Law enforcement agencies still of course have the ability to investigate websites and to get content with warrants.  But the reality is that this is becoming a much harder task and will take many more resources than it used to. Governments are trying to insist on access to key materials to allow them to decrypt data in flight as they did before.  But this is a very hard thing to enforce without creating holes in the internet and the networking economy that can be exploited by others as well.  The internet has become far too important in an economic sense to allow for undermining the communication security of everyone simply in order to enhance the ability to intercept traffic.  And it is also Snowden that reminded us that the government can’t keep secrets that well either.

There is no good solution here, only tradeoffs.  The risk to security by trying to embed holes for law enforcement is unwise and unworkable.  This is an international problem and needs international cooperation – and how will it be possible to get all of the countries to play along? If the certification authorities are deliberately compromised in the cat-and-mouse game new ones will simply spring up that will create an alternate system, maybe run by companies in countries that are less democratic and have even less oversight.

On the other side, technology companies have developed tools to detect network compromises, and it will be more difficult (but of course not impossible) for criminals and terrorists to exploit these holes than it used to be.

Totally predictable within a complex, dynamic technological environment, the natural result of government overreach in this spying affair, is the encryption explosion – especially as it has become clear that adequate supervision is not being applied.  The draconian political reaction that we see in the ‘Five Eyes’ countries clearly shows that some of these lessons have not been internalised by policymakers.  In other less democratic countries this might also be the case but we obviously hear very little about that from them.

Technology usually doesn’t operate with the degrees of freedom that policymakers want, and engineers are almost always faster than policymakers in adapting to new rules and laws.  It’s a losing battle to try and contain that technology.

What this means is that there is a need for governments to be more open and transparent, and to work with the industry in a legitimate way to address some of the problems we all face (terrorism, cybercrime, child pornography, and so on). Governments who are simply playing the cat-and-mouse game are not likely to achieve outcomes that benefit both their people and the institutions that are needed to keep us safe.

Paul Budde

See also: Australia – Digital Economy – Cyber Crime, Privacy and Copyright issues

We invite your comments: Please click here to comment

Tagged in: , , , ,

Islamic militias in Libya undermine investor confidence

July 27th, 2015, by

Libya’s civil war has crippled the country’s economy and disrupted its telecommunications sector. It is estimated that more than S1 billion worth of telecom infrastructure was destroyed, including about 20% of the country’s mobile tower sites. Reconstruction efforts continue to be stymied by political and military disturbances which affect much of the country, while with two opposing administrations, in Tripoli and Tobruk, there is no consensus as to how to rebuild infrastructure on a national scale. In early 2015 the state telco (along with many other businesses) decamped to neighbouring Malta, and since then both rival administrations have fought in the Maltese courts in an attempt to assume control of the company. GDP growth fell to a negative 14% in 2013 and negative 24% in 2014, affected by intensified civil unrest, though there are indications that positive growth of up to 7% may be possible for 2015.

Under the Gaddafi regime, virtually the entire telecom and internet sector was in government hands, with the unique situation of three government-owned mobile networks supposed to compete with each other. One of these networks, Libyana, was to have been privatised through an IPO in late 2014, though instead elements of the operator’s mobile network were split off to create a separate operator serving the eastern part of the country.

A new Telecommunications Law has been drafted and the government is in the process of establishing an independent regulatory authority. Since the downfall of the old regime, 25 ISPs have already been licensed to compete with the government-owned former monopoly, as well as 23 VSAT operators.

Despite the destruction, Libya’s telecommunications infrastructure is superior to those in most other African countries. Massive investments had been made by the former government into a next-generation national fibre optic backbone network. There was considerable expansion of DSL and WiMAX broadband services, and new international fibre connections and upgrades made to existing ones. Libya also had one of Africa’s first Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) deployments. The first terabit international fibre optic cable landed in the country in 2010, followed by a second in 2013. Investments into telecommunications infrastructure totalling S10 billion were earmarked for the 15 years to 2020, though given the civil strife in recent years it is difficult to say how much of this will be put into effect.

With one of the highest market penetration rates in Africa, the mobile voice market is approaching saturation, supported by some of the lowest tariffs on the continent and one of the highest per capita GDP levels. Opportunities remain in the broadband sector where market penetration is still relatively low. So far only one of the mobile networks has launched third-generation (3G) broadband services. Fixed-line penetration has fallen significantly as a result of the war but is also expected to see a renaissance, including fibre, as the demand for very high-speed broadband increases.

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

We invite your comments: Please click here to comment

Tagged in: , , , ,

Interest in 5G is heating up

July 27th, 2015, by

Interest in further developing the next generation of mobile technologies, known as 5G, is certainly heating up with a spate of recent joint venture announcements. In July 2015, for example, three companies signed a joint agreement to work together to further develop 5G. Softbank, Huawei and ZTE plan to focus their efforts on Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output (MIMO) and spectrum efficiency technologies.

In addition it was announced in July that the Chinese solutions provider, Huawei, would also work on various 5G projects in collaboration with Europe’s 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP).

Ericsson announced its latest move to further develop 5G; signing a MoU with Turkey’s Turkcell which will see them collaborate on various 5G research projects.

SK Telekom and Intel announced a partnership this month which will specifically explore 5G chipset requirements and the development of MIMO.

A further consortium emerged in 2015, which again involves Huawei, along with Samsung, Intel, Nokia, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Orange and Telefonica. The joint venture is known as mmMAGIC and it too will test a number of solutions.

These are just some of the most recent examples of the global collaboration that is taking place to further advance mobile technologies in preparation for the future. The ITU plans to have 5G standards finalised by 2020 and it recently formalised its timeline to reach this goal.

Kylie Wansink

Senior Analyst – Global and Middle East Markets

For related information, see separate reports: BuddeComm Intelligence Report – LTE-A and 5G – a Glimpse into the Future.

We invite your comments: Please click here to comment

Tagged in: , , ,