Amsterdam Smart City came Down-Under

April 2nd, 2015, by

I spent last week with my good friend and colleague Frans-Anton Vermast, the strategic advisor on connected communities of Amsterdam Smart City (ASC), visiting state government and city councils in Victoria and NSW. He also addressed the Smart Grid Australia Summit in Melbourne.

Globally there is a political shift going on that sees cities becoming far more prominent in relation to policy-making issues.

First of all, their sizes are increasing. Some cities are now as big as a province or a state, or even as big as a country.

But perhaps even more importantly, with less money available at federal and state government level, more and more services will need to be addressed by local councils. Also, with increased political ineptness at the higher levels, councils are more closely aligned with the citizens and with their needs and interests.

On top of that, a better educated and connected community is becoming more involved and more vocal on issues such as transport, healthcare, education, sustainability and the environment.

Councils are increasingly taking a visionary role here, linked to facilitating its citizens and businesses, working with them on many of those issues, creating a more sharing economy and society, assisted by apps and the internet. Key to this is the ability of the local council to provide an open government and open data environment to their community. A smart council is a prerequisite for a smart city.

A key message from Amsterdam was the need for council vision and leadership, linked to a hands-off approach once projects have evolved from that. Amsterdam established the Amsterdam Smart City Platform, and its seven employees function as facilitators and matchmakers, as well as the direct liaison with local government to ensure that red tape is limited and obstacles are removed. Key also is not to develop a road map but to look instead at the low-hanging fruits that are being identified, developed and investigated in their Living-Labs.

Engagement with the people is critical and for that purpose they have extended their PPP concept to PPPP (Public Private People Partnership. Every month ASC selects the Amsterdam App of the Month – it gets lots of media attention and an award from the mayor. Fascinating apps are being added to the list all the time.

Via the ‘Apps for Amsterdam’ competition (an initiative to make available as much city data as possible that leads to social and economic innovation) app developers are invited to send in applications that use at least one available source of information of the (local) government. The monthly winner receives an award from the Lord Mayor. This receives lots of media attention and new apps are added to the list all the time.

The smartest city will be the city with the best apps (this was one of the points we mentioned after our visit to Barcelona).

Frans-Anton also freely shared the various mistakes that ASC has made. Since its inception, seven years ago now, valuable lessons were learned from that by the councils he visited.

Key projects within Smart City Amsterdam include:

  • High-speed broadband (FttH)
  • City-zen – Largest Smart Lab in Europe – in the City-zen project several innovative solutions are demonstrated in the field of smart grid, heat networks and sustainable housing
  • Smart Electric Energy Boat
  • E-Harbours – ReloadIT
  • Ship to grid
  • Vehicle2Grid
  • Flexible street lighting

Amsterdam Smart City was initiated back in 2008 by the Amsterdam Economic Board, telco KPN and electricity operator Liander.

KPN, the Dutch Telecom incumbent, commented: The core objective of the new partnership is to give (SME) companies the opportunity to test innovative applications in the practice. The last two years Amsterdam Smart City together with KPN, Liander, AIM and the City of Amsterdam have already been making this possible for various stakeholders with a strong focus on energy transition.

Liander, the Amsterdam electricity operator, stated: it wants to offer the people of Amsterdam smart technological options that enable them to save energy and make optimal use of the latest developments, such as electrical transport and domestic generation of clean energy.

Australia has been lagging behind in the development of smart cities. While many cities have launched many smart projects so far we have not come across one council that has a holistic plan based on an overall vision of a smart city.

However, the interest Frans-Anton’s presentation aroused in top management of some of the leading cities in Australia is a very promising sign that this is set to change. The key to success is indeed leadership – standing above the silos and using smart technologies to build horizontal relationships between the various sectors, industries and communities.

Paul Budde

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Ukraine’s telecom market revenue hit by loss of Crimea

April 2nd, 2015, by

Ukraine’s national telecom infrastructure is being modernised through considerable investment in both the mobile and fixed-broadband sectors. The political tension which erupted in late 2013 has been exacerbated by the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and by the continuing secessionist activity in eastern provinces. This has resulted in considerable disruption, rendering it difficult for telcos to maintain network upgrades and services. Telcos once active in Crimea left the peninsular after their licences were made over to Russian firms. The telecom regulator’s assessments of market statistics, including revenue, now exclude data from Crimea and the separately administered city of Sevastopol. Continuing political and military difficulties in the country’s eastern provinces have.

Competition is provided from a number of alternative operators, though the incumbent Ukrtelecom remains the dominant player. The country’s sizeable broadband market enjoys effective cross-platform competition. DSL remains the dominant access platform, though cable is also widely available and there has been considerable investment in FttP and FttB in recent years. LAN and wireless platforms such as WiFi and WiMAX exist on a smaller scale. Digital TV is accessible from the cable and satellite platforms, while DTTV has progressed, though not without controversy in the selection of broadcasters.

The mobile market is dominated by the three network operators MTS Ukraine, VimpelCom’s Kyivstar and Astelit, while the incumbent Ukrtelecom’s subsidiary, trading as TriMob, trails as a fourth player. Although the MVNO market is still in its infancy, and few operators have been licensed thus far, a gap in the low-cost sector may provide the opportunity for them to thrive in coming years. Competition resulting from mobile number portability has also been stymied by the regulator having delayed its introduction.

Mobile broadband services present a significant growth opportunity, and have stimulated investment in LTE and WiMAX technologies. The CDMA operators have stepped into this market: having initially offered fixed-line services they have since moved into the mobile segment, launching mobile broadband services.

A new BuddeComm report provides an overview of Ukraine’s telecom market, including profiles of the major operators, a review of telecom network infrastructure, regulatory measures, and recent network developments. It assesses the broadband and digital media sectors, covering major players and technologies, and offering a wide range of statistics. It also details the mobile market, providing statistics and analyses on industry developments.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Ukraine – Telecoms, IP Networks and Digital Media

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Ghana – Government invests in Eastern and Western Corridor fibre

April 1st, 2015, by

Ghana’s telecom sector has benefited from it having been one of the first on the continent to be liberalised and deregulated. The privatisation of Ghana Telecom in 1996 was the catalyst for an extraordinary growth in market competition across the mobile, internet and fixed-line sectors. The company has been part of the Vodafone Group since 2008. Other international players which have invested in Ghana’s telecom market include Bharti Airtel, MTN and Millicom, all three of which are significant regional players.

The landing of two international submarine fibre optic cables in 2012 and 2013 has significantly increased international bandwidth, leading to significant activity in the broadband sector. In addition, the government’s investment in its Eastern and Western Corridor fibre project has linked businesses and anchor tenants including government offices as well as a number of Community Information Centres, built to help push ICT into rural communities.

Since launching the first cellular mobile network in sub-Saharan Africa in 1992, Ghana has developed one of the continent’s most vibrant mobile markets, with six competing operators including regional heavyweights. While growth in the voice market has slowed with higher penetration, there is enormous potential in coming years for mobile data and mobile broadband. Operators are capitalising on consumer demand for services by upgrading existing 3G infrastructure with LTE.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Ghana – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

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Lack of trust is undermining the digital economy

March 31st, 2015, by

Perhaps one of the biggest threats to our current society is the erosion of trust. It is happening in government, politics and in business. Once people feel their political and business leaders can no longer be trusted they will react in very negative ways. The way that people now talk about politics, social media, copyright, video piracy, and the increasing level of social and economic inequality points to the fact that trust is being severely undermined.

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital trust is rapidly becoming a dominant economic factor.

Trust is more than currency – it cannot be bought. It is a highly prized commodity that must be earned. It is hard to earn and easy to loose. Some key questions that companies and politicians will have to consider are:

  • Do I tell/present the truth?
  • Is what I offer fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Recent research in the USA has indicated that 90% of the users don’t trust the companies that are using these big data analytics. Also, interestingly, on the other hand 70% of companies involved in big data analytics are disappointed with the results. So a better system could be a win-win situation for both the demand and the supply side.

Statistics shows customers don’t trust B2B companies

  • 91% agree that consumers have lost control over how personal info is collected and used by companies
  • 55% lie or hide to keep from being known by name online
  • 92% worry about their privacy

Ad & tracking blocking stood at 22.5% in August

Apparently trust levels in Australia are on par with these findings and are even a bit more negative.(Various sources quoted by Doc Searls)

See: Australia – Digital Economy – Privacy and Security issues

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Mobile data traffic soars in the Middle East

March 30th, 2015, by

Mobile penetration levels are high in the Middle East, having passed the 100% milestone in 9 out of 14 countries – the highest rates can be found in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, where penetration rates range between 170% and 200% (except Iraq, which is still below 100% mobile penetration).

The saturated market is creating an environment where it is increasingly harder for operators to grow mobile voice revenue. In addition, the rise of Over-The-Top (OTT) service providers and introduction of MVNOs in some markets is creating increased competition for existing operators. To address these challenges, operators are trying different strategies such as moving into fixed services, expanding into other countries, improving mobile packages or focusing on mobile broadband services. In 2014, the region was the fastest growing globally in terms of mobile data traffic, and strong growth rates are expected to continue in the coming years.

While the region has matured in terms of mobile subscriber penetration, this tech-savvy population has been quick to embrace smart phones, creating one of the hottest markets for smart phone growth worldwide.

Looking at some of the countries individually, we can see that while Bahrain possesses the smallest market in the Middle East, its telecoms industry is arguably one the most developed. Early to introduce liberalisation, it is one of the most open markets in the region, underpinned by a relatively well-developed regulatory environment.

Iran’s telecoms market is the second largest in the Middle East (after Turkey), given the size of its population. Mobile services are widely available from six mobile network operators, three of which offer services on a national basis. Since the start of competition, Iran has seen a huge growth in mobile subscriber numbers and vast improvements in its mobile market, which was previously characterised by a severe level of unmet demand for services. Penetration levels indicate room for continued revenue growth.

Mobile services have been a big success story in post-war Iraq, with mobile operators emerging as the star performers in the telecoms sector, given the speed at which their networks could be deployed. The market has grown rapidly, partly due to the lack of fixed-line service. Mobile data services are becoming an increasingly important source of new revenue given the maturing mobile voice market. With smart phone becoming more affordable and mobile data networks in place, the focus is shifting to mobile internet offerings.

Israel possesses an extremely competitive market served by five mobile network operators as well as by a number of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). Strong competition has led operators to focus on costs, resulting in a number of infrastructure sharing agreements. Factors that have helped drive competition include full mobile number portability and regulatory barriers that prevent operators from linking sales of handsets to services, or offering discounts to customers that commit to longer periods.

An important showcase of the Middle East’s emerging ICT sector, Jordan boasts a burgeoning technology start-up industry and a modern liberalised telecoms market. All three mobile network operators have launched 3G/HSPA networks, driving rapid growth in mobile broadband subscriptions, and Zain, one of the region’s leading mobile players, launched the country’s first LTE network in February 2015. However, the country’s operating context is being challenged by the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Kuwait possesses a competitive mobile market shared by three mobile network operators. With voice penetration reaching saturation levels, mobile broadband offers the best revenue growth opportunity for mobile operators, supported by the launch of 3G/HSPA/LTE networks.

Lebanon holds a unique position in the Middle East’s telecoms industry given the continued high level of government ownership. While most fixed line incumbents in the region are government owned, Lebanese government ownership extends to the country’s two mobile operators. Several unsuccessful privatisation attempts have been made, with auction dates scheduled and then postponed. The fact is, market liberalisation and privatisation are contentious issues, as revenue from the telecoms industry contributes to a significant proportion of the government’s budget.

Oman’s mobile market continues to be the most dynamic in the region, served by two mobile network operators and two MVNOs. Between them, the two MVNOs have managed to gain more than 10% of the market. With the mobile voice market reaching saturation, the focus has shifted to the mobile broadband market, underpinned by the launch of HSPA and LTE networks. One of the impacts of the increased proliferation of mobile internet and smartphones has been the falling number of SMS/MMS messages sent.

Qatar’s mobile penetration was already well beyond the 100% mark even before the start of competition when Ooredoo was the only provider of services. Vodafone Qatar launched services commercially in July 2009, managing to gain a quarter of the market measured by subscribers. Both operators have also launched mobile broadband services over HSPA and LTE networks. Adoption of such services provides a new revenue growth opportunity as the mobile voice market comes under increased competition.

The Saudi Arabian mobile market is fiercely competitive, with services offered by four mobile network operators, and it may become even more competitive as the regulator has announced plans to allow MVNOs to enter the market. With mobile SIM card penetration reaching levels indicative of maturity, future revenue growth will centre on mobile broadband services and applications, made possible by deployment of HSPA and LTE networks.

Syria’s mobile market is served by a duopoly comprised of two operators. Both have been impacted by the ongoing civil war, with base stations taken out of commission. Mobile data services are becoming an increasingly important source of new revenue as the mobile voice market begins to mature.

Turkey’s mobile market is one of the largest in the region due to its sizable population, which is characterised as young, increasingly urbanised, and technically literate. Healthy infrastructure-based competition exists between three mobile network operators with GSM/HSPA networks. LTE technology has been trialled by the operators, but it has yet to be launched commercially. The market potential of LTE is considerable, considering that mobile broadband has emerged as the most popular broadband platform in Turkey, overtaking ADSL.

The mobile market in the UAE is served by a duopoly, but mobile penetration was high even prior to the launch of competing services – a fact attributed to the country’s significantly sized and fluid expatriate population. Often, consumers own more than one SIM card to take advantage of various promotional offers. Up until late 2013 when Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was finally implemented, multi-SIM ownership was further exacerbated by the lack of MNP. Both operators have deployed sophisticated HSPA+ and LTE networks.

Yemen’s mobile networks were shut down a number of times due to war or security problems until being reconnected in early 1998. The market is served by three GSM and one CDMA operator. Current penetration levels indicate there is much room for growth, with prepaid services accounting for the majority of subscriptions.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Middle East – Mobile Voice and Mobile Operators Market

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