The Middle East is the next target market for mobile gaming

May 25th, 2016, by

Generally speaking, the Middle East is one of the world’s fastest growing markets for online and mobile gaming. Traditionally gaming companies have not focused on the opportunities presented by this large market –  but this is quickly changing as game developers begin to incorporate more localised content and Arabic language into their offerings.

Tamatem.co is one company in the MENA region which offers to publish mobile games in Arabic as well as the ability for consumers to download games. In 2015 mobile games developer Tapinator formed a partnership with Tamatem which will see it publish local versions of its most popular games in the region.

With high smart phone penetration existing in many Middle Eastern markets – mobile gaming is considered to be a key growth area going forward. The UK social gaming company Palringo is also reportedly finding success in the Middle East, offering access to multi-player chat games in various languages including Arabic.

A study by Strategy& found that the video gaming industry in the Middle East was worth around US$680 million in 2015 and was forecast to grow to US$2.3 billion in 2022.

Kylie Wansink

Senior Analyst – Global and Middle East Markets

For related information, see separate report: Digital and Mobile Media – Apps, Entertainment, Social Networks and Gaming.

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Can we please have a rethink of the NBN soon after the election?

May 25th, 2016, by

A recommendation in a recent report from Infrastructure Australia states: “The Australian Government should work with communities and businesses to maximise opportunities created by the National Broadband Network”.

Obviously this makes total sense. Back in 2001 I launched a campaign, The Broadbanding of Local Communities. In all, 70 councils from around the country were represented at the conference I organised and subsequently I assisted 50 of them in the following years.

When the FttH NBN started to become a reality, from 2007-2009 on, most of the local councils took a back seat and left the ‘broadbanding’ in the hands of the Federal Government.

However, the real leaders in local councils didn’t sit still. They began to lobby the government to be included in the first part of the rollout of the FttH network, and these councils are now the front-runners in Australia in the development of smart cities.

In the meantime other local councils have also embarked on smart cities and many more will follow now that the government has announced its own Smart City Policy.

Interestingly none of the councils – and I repeat – none of the councils that fully understand what a smart city is and what impact it has is indicating that all they need is the so-called multi-technology-mix (MtM) solution for the NBN. They all understand that the long-term solution has to be fibre all the way, and increasingly councils are questioning the deployment of the hundreds of thousands of boxes (nodes) in their streets, which they see as obstacles to getting fully-fibred cities.

True, many councils have absolutely no understanding of the concept of smart cities and/or the impact of the MtM NBN, but those in the know are not happy. Some are actively talking to the NBN company and are lobbying for extra money from their state government to increase FttH in their area, but for many others there is little they can do because the NBN company has a national monopoly.

There is already a backlash in towns that are half-fibred (the haves) and those who are now getting, or will be getting, the MtM (the have-nots) and councils have a real problem on their hands explaining this to those affected.

In other areas the FttN, often at least partly based on old infrastructure, is creating severe headaches with a total breakdown (for several months now) of the telecoms systems – people losing their phone connections for a week or more, slower ADSL speeds and congested FttN nodes. Congestion is also starting to occur on some of the fixed wireless systems, and in order to prevent congestion on the satellite the waiting list for new connections has already moved towards the end of the year.

I will be the first to accept that with any new system there are teething problems, but, talking to the councils in the affected areas, none of them are happy. And they are all becoming increasingly confused about the NBN as a whole.

They are deeply concerned about the impact the second-rate NBN will have on their citizens and their economic development and they see the MtM in shrill contract to government’s innovation policy. All of their start-up are demanding fibre connections. They are already getting a backlash from their affected citizens and they expect that the situation will only get worse as more and more people start to understand what a second-rate NBN will mean to them.

For several reasons a rethink of the NBN is necessary and overdue. As well as the abovementioned problem there is the looming funding challenge. Government investment money runs out at the end of the year, and with questions regarding the end value of an MtM NBN there are concerns that private industry will not be prepared to cough up the $20 billion (at least) that is needed to complete the job.

Enough reasons to sit down and regroup. I accept the reality that a Coalition government will not fund an FttH network, but accepting the advice from Infrastructure Australia mentioned above I suggest sitting down with local councils, communities and businesses to sort out what they want.

An obvious issue will be that many will want FttH. So the best way forward would be to open up the market and allow competition to come in to fix the problem. Fttdp is an obvious solution, as is FttH, and (who knows?) 5G linked to deep fibre in the street. If the NBN company changes its model and delivers fibre not to the node but to the street can we then get other companies to invest in either bringing FttH into the house or linking the home to an Fttdp or 5G solution?

Furthermore, as Tim Nulty  has demonstrated, there are many rural communities that can be fibred by private companies without the need of the NBN company. If that is the case why not open up the market? There are plenty of examples of such community networks in the USA and in the Netherlands, and in some of the Nordic countries we see that nearly all of the councils are involved in facilitating FttH in their cities and towns. In the Netherlands more than half of the small towns now have FttH networks.

Another worrying element that requires a review is that perfectly good FttH and fibre-to-the-basement networks in multi-dwelling units, operated by private companies such as OPENetworks and LBNCO are being overbuilt by the NBN company, now bringing two superhighways to these homes. How silly is that? This at a time when the majority of Australians are screaming to get one good high-speed connection, and, perhaps even more ridiculous, people living on the other side of the street to those who have two high-speed connections don’t even have one, and the NBN company has indicated that they are not yet on their rollout plan.

It is highly unlikely that the NBN company of itself will ever be able to provide the return on investment the government had hoped for, so let’s face reality, write off at least a large part of it, and use private investors to finish that last mile. Again quoting from the Infrastructure Australia report: “Reforms should aim to deliver an effective and competitive rollout of the NBN, meet demand for telecoms over the coming decades and reduce service disparities between urban and regional areas”.

The bolding is mine, just to counter the minister’s comment that we don’t need a better NBN because today only a few are taking up the higher speeds products. Or comments from another minister that 25Mbs is all that Australians need today to download movies.

Last but not least, the same report states “To prepare for a future sale, it will be important that NBN Co doesn’t enmesh different technologies in a way that cannot be separated later”. This, in my view, occurs when we put in the FttN nodes in order to mesh copper and fibre; and these nodes are the obstacles to moving ahead towards a full fibre network.

I am also happy to turn the arguments around, and as a matter of fact I have always been of the opinion that before we started building an NBN we should have asked ourselves what we, as a nation, wanted from it. That, then, would have established the requirements for such a project.

Infrastructure Australia puts it this way (abstracted) : “With the right infrastructure, such as high-speed broadband, these cities could enable more Australians to live in a smaller city and access employment opportunities in one of our major metropolises (making use of telecommunications to work from home or a local workplace)”.

I totally agree, but if that is an outcome we want from high-speed broadband we need to ask what infrastructure is needed (for decades to come) that will be able to deliver this outcome. The same question should be asked about the requirements of e-health, e-education, smart grids, smart cities and so on). We have never ever done this, and politicians don’t want to do it, as most likely it will tell them that the MtM won’t cut it, definitely not in decades to come.

So my comment to both parties is that, regardless of which party wins the election, let’s sit down and review the NBN. It doesn’t make sense to continue to move in the wrong direction simply because of politics.

Paul Budde

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Strategic smart city insights from my European tour

May 24th, 2016, by

The aim of my recent smart city trip to Europe was to obtain insights into the strategic development in various cities that have been involved in smart cities, some for up to a decade. Obviously there are valuable lessons to be learned from them.

I specifically was not interested in having a look at the various smart city projects; however during the many discussions I had people talked about some of them, and some of them also provided an excellent example of what starts to happen if you look at them in a strategic way. I deliberately don’t mention individual cities in order to provide my own analysis on the strategic issues as I see them.

Across all of the cities common issues occur like red threads. These are issues that we, too, have discussed many times, and they include:

  • the need to develop smart communities from the perspective of the citizens;
  • the need for a smart city vision under the strong leadership of mayors;
  • the need for smart councils under the leadership of CEOs/general managers;
  • better integration with private sector (business and investment models, innovative procurement);
  • the need for long-term structural changes and the need for quick wins.

No smart city without a smart council

Even after many years of operating a smart city model these are still issues these councils have to work with. At a political level in particular mayors and councillors change and that often creates new disruption, especially if council-wide strong smart city management structures have not been created. In the end the smart city concept needs be embedded within every aspect of council and all of the directors and staff involved in running the council need to have embraced the concept and act upon it.

Only when that has happened will it be possible to develop a true smart city.

There is not yet one city in the world where this has happened smoothly, in a fully integrated way`. It is key for the smart city team/manager – which now exist in all of the cities I visited – to actually make themselves redundant. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon as the smart team is needed to create that horizontal structure, develop multifunctional systems, stimulate interoperability and stimulate, facilitate and educate throughout the organisation.

All of this needs to be internalised; in other words an outside bureau linked to the council doesn’t deliver the same outcomes as a fully-internalised smart city operation.

Also, at a national government level, the first steps are now being undertaken to create policies that will make it easier for cities to embark on this journey. Lessons learned include the fact that national and international cooperation between cities is very beneficial, as scalability and the ability to replicate are key to the creation of sustainable business and investment models. Rather than each city testing a pilot of its own projects it makes far more sense to form alliances, whereby certain cities develop certain projects and together learn from each other and work together. In the Netherlands the national government has appointed a smart city ambassador, who not only provides a coordinated role but at the same time is the central business point for all of the organisations involved in smart cities. Overseas business and project enquiries for smart cities are, in most cases, directed to the commercial partners. This creates national economic potential for those organisations and also takes the pressure off councils, which are often overwhelmed by the interest from the outside in their projects.

On the international side I had a meeting with the Global Smart City & Community Coalition. This organisation links city councils and their mayors together and specifically concentrates on the social and economic benefits that can be created for their citizens.

Lack of finance and innovative procurement systems

Other recurring issues were the lack of finance and innovative procurement systems. As complex, interoperable and multifunctional smart city developments need to be embedded within the existing council structure, the inflexible and cumbersome procurement systems often make this simply impossible. The financing of smart cities needs to be based on partnerships with private industry and on sound, long-term business and investment models. Financial models need to allow for learning on the job, adaptations to developments as they occur, risk-taking, and the reality that some projects will simply fail. All of this is counter to the nature of traditional councils. The cultural changes that are required are among the most difficult elements of smart city development.

While there are little or no revenue-generating smart city models, the savings models are very substantial, and at the same time the big issues of today such as demographics, climate change, changes in social behaviour and changes in technology are forcing councils to change. Citizens expect cities to become more citizen-friendly, more liveable, fun to live in, and to create economic opportunities for them. Councils cannot afford to ignore this, or citizens will simply move away – we are already seeing this trend, worldwide.

The massive changes that are taking place in the economy as we speak are leading to a massive loss of traditional jobs – and there is more to come. The smart city will have to be the platform for new job creation, which will increasingly depend on new innovative small businesses. The smart city will be the platform for start-ups, many of which will need to become the economic engine of our future. This living lab platform is also essential for the education sector, since most new jobs for the future have not yet been invented.

For all of this it is essential that cities develop a vision that will inspire their citizens and their businesses, and mayors play a key role here. This and a ‘smart council’ – along the lines described above – are the most essential elements for the creation of successful and sustainable smart cities. Technology is not the issue, and, while R&D is another important element, there is now plenty of R&D to guide us. We need to move into action. From now on R&D should be linked to live projects.

With that in mind, in reality the most successful smart city projects so far are greenfield projects, such as new suburbs, transport upgrades, inner-city redevelopments and so on. It is far easier to implement the integration, interoperability and digital infrastructure needed for a smart city in such situations. Most of the time the extra cost of new technologies is compensated for through sharing models, and the social and economic benefits of doing it smart outweigh any potential extra costs (often less than 10% of total costs).

These are great projects to learn from and to build up the management expertise needed to take it from greenfield to brownfield.

Regarding brownfield – look at pain points, complaints, ideas and suggestions from citizens and try and to use ICT to improve the situation. While a fully-integrated smart city model will take many years to develop and build, some easy short-term gains also need to be made. This is important to show the citizens what smart city applications can do for them and it allows the political leaders (individual councillors) to show some scores on the board.

But always start with a vision and an end goal in place.

Digital infrastructure

The key to ‘smart’ – apart from people – is digital infrastructure, linked to data management (big data, data analytics, cloud computing, data centres).

The central element of any smart city project is data management. Access to executable data on all levels is what allows a city to become smart. Once the technology and expertise for these ICT elements are in place, everyone involved needs to learn how to best use it and manage it. It is impossible to develop the exact outlines of this, so the best starting point is to have a high-level governance model, particularly in relation to privacy and security, and to develop the data hub as we develop the smart city. Councils will need to take the lead here to establish the data hub and create an open data policy. All relevant organisations linked to a particular project will have to contribute their data to it in that same context.

Furthermore, there is not one city that doesn’t see a fully-operational fibre optic networks as the most essential part of their digital infrastructure, with mobility linked to it through mobile and IoT networks.  Apart from linking people and businesses to a fibre network, cities are starting to link all sorts of other infrastructure to that network (light poles, EV charging stations, roof-top solar power, public transport infrastructure, physical infrastructure). The smarter they make their city the more obvious it becomes to them that a citywide (national) fibre optic network is essential. Key elements for them are the robustness of the network, capacity, security and low latency, only end-to-end fibre based networks can deliver such infrastructure.

Paul Budde

See also:-

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Bolivia’s Entel planning to set up eight business divisions

May 23rd, 2016, by

Although Bolivia has enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years, GDP remains among the lowest in South America. Many areas of the country outside the main cities are poor and undeveloped, and there is a sizeable proportion of the population which live in remote valleys and areas where telecom infrastructure has been chronically neglected. As a result, the penetration of telecom services is low.

The structure of Bolivia’s fixed telecom market is different from most other countries. Local services are primarily provided by 15 telecom cooperatives. These are non-profit-making companies privately owned and controlled by their users. Since liberalisation, the cooperatives have also provided long-distance telephony, and several offer broadband and pay TV services. They have invested in network upgrades in a bid to improve services for customers, and to expand their footprints.

Bolivia has a multi-carrier system wherein consumers can choose a long-distance carrier for each call by dialling the carrier’s prefix. A number of operators have adopted VoIP, while others use fixed-wireless technologies, and some rent fibre-optic capacity.

State-owned Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel) is the country’s incumbent long-distance operator. It also offers local telephony, DSL broadband access, and satellite pay TV services. Its subsidiary Entel Movil is Bolivia’s largest mobile company.

Bolivia’s fixed broadband services remain the slowest and the most expensive in Latin America, and are unavailable even in some of the major urban areas. Being a landlocked country, Bolivia has no direct access to submarine cable networks. It must therefore connect to the rest of the world either via satellite or through terrestrial links across neighbouring countries.

Since it was renationalised in 2007, Entel has focused on providing telecom services in rural areas under a project known as ‘Territory with Total Coverage’. This project aims to increase telecom coverage through mobile rather than through fixed networks.

Bolivia has more than ten times as many mobile phones as fixed lines, and the trend towards fixed-mobile substitution continues. Besides Entel, another two companies offer mobile telephony: Tigo, wholly owned by Luxembourg-based Millicom International, and NuevaTel, trading as Viva and controlled by US firm Trilogy International.

All three mobile companies offer 3G services. Due to the poor quality, high cost, and unavailability of DSL, 3G has become an attractive alternative in Bolivia. The number of mobile broadband and smartphone accounts has also escalated. Tigo’s launch of an LTE service in mid-2014 heralded the emergence of a new era in mobile broadband.

The launch of a new satellite in December 2013 heralds improved telecom services across Bolivia following the satellite coming online in April 2014, with additional capacity expected to be sold to other countries in the regions. Entel launched a new satellite TV service in May 2014 and by the end of 2015 it had signed up about 24,500 subscribers.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see:

Bolivia – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses

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Government initiatives supporting broadband connectivity across the region

May 20th, 2016, by

Although fixed broadband penetration in the LAC region remains below the global average, and significantly so in a number of Central American countries, in recent years there has been a greater appreciation among policy makers that higher broadband penetration translates to economic productivity and growth in GPD. The varied social benefits of broadband adoption are well known, and thus social inclusion, as well as reducing the digital divide between urban and rural communities, forms the cornerstone of government-sponsored national broadband strategies. Poor fixed-line infrastructure in many areas of the region remains a legacy of under-investment, which is being tackled through a number of projects having national scale. Governments have also promoted projects which provide subsidised computers and free Wi-Fi connectivity in a bid to address relatively low computer penetration and low use of broadband services.

Providers have been required to contend with limited revenue growth, exacerbated by relatively low ARPU and low purchasing power among many subscribers, and with high capital cost required for new infrastructure builds and upgrades. In consequence, most fibre deployment thus far has been limited to affluent suburbs within certain cities, where operators can expect a higher take-up of services.

However, the convergence of mobile and fixed-line services, and the growing popularity of OTT delivered content, has encouraged operators to invest in infrastructure in a bid to develop their bundled service offerings, and so attract new customers and reduce churn. The creation of integrated mobile and fixed networks enables providers to offer a full portfolio of services to customers while reducing operating costs.

While investment in fixed-line infrastructure continues, the market in coming years will benefit from the mobile sector where the principal regional operators are scaling up their network upgrades to provide wide-spread and increasingly affordable mobile broadband and data offers. Growth in mobile data requires additional investment in backhaul infrastructure.

There remain wide differences in broadband penetration among the countries of the region. Some countries within the Caribbean, as well as Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico have the highest fixed-line broadband penetration rates in the region. By contrast, countries including Haiti, Paraguay, Cuba and most Central American countries have particularly low penetration. Generally, higher broadband penetration can be found in the southern countries and some of the wealthier Caribbean islands (particularly those with economies strongly dependent on tourism), while the lower rates are prevalent in Central America and in the poorer countries on the northwest coast and interior of South America.

Governments have taken an increasingly active part in promoting broadband adoption and facilitating the deployment of infrastructure. This is partly due to concerns related to social inclusion, but is mostly related to efforts to improve faltering economies and encourage growth in GDP. Improved international connectivity has also played an important part in the overall picture, with higher bandwidth leading to dramatically lower access costs for consumers, which in turn has encouraged broadband adoption among the lower socio-economic demographic.

See: Latin America – Fixed Broadband Market – Statistics and Analyses 

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