Archive for November, 2005

TELSTRACLEAR DITCHES NATIONAL AMBITIONS

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Failing government policies
After a five-year-long battle with the New Zealand Government/Commissioner, TelstraClear has thrown in the towel and abandoned its ambitions to operate a national telecoms service in competition with the incumbent Telecom New Zealand.

This may be a victory for the incumbent, but it is a severe loss for the country. With New Zealand already at the bottom of the global penetration list for broadband, the likelihood of Telecom now becoming more active has lessened even further with its major competitor withdrawing from the market.

Also, TelstraClear’s retreat has delivered a severe blow to the pro-competition lobby. TelstraClear has been the major contributor to pro-competition submissions and, its lobbying power has provided other valuable resources to the industry over the years.

It will be interesting to see how the government now intends to stimulate innovation and competition in the New Zealand telecoms market. Competition is the key driver for this purpose, and TelstraClear’s retreat will severely undermine future progress.

I would argue that New Zealand, more than any other country in the western world, depends on telecoms for its future. Its remoteness from key international markets requires a high level of telecoms service penetration in new markets such as broadband, triple play, broadband TV, etc. And, furthermore, if New Zealand wants to promote its unique lifestyle features, telecoms is a major element to underpin such a strategy.

Without first-class access to such services overseas businesses and residents will have little interest in considering New Zealand. Without competition Telecom will continue to delay the introduction of new services – a decision that will be based on profit and not on the national interest. It is completely up to the government and its regulators to avoid such market dominance and to stimulate innovation through competition.

As far as I know this is the first time that telecoms competition has failed to such an extent anywhere in the world.

Back to the Trans-Tasman future
As I have said many times, Telstra’s role in New Zealand should be questioned. The New Zealand market is very small and I have never been able to see a clear role there for a company the size of Telstra. It should have bought Telecom if it was ever serious about the New Zealand market.

It now appears that it is retreating to its traditional 100-year-old interest in the country –Trans-Tasman traffic. Perhaps it needs a presence in New Zealand for that purpose alone – all the other services will arguably reduce the profitability of the company.

It is interesting to see that this is the second full circle for the company. After an early move into the New Zealand resale market in the mid-1990s the company decided to retreat into the Trans-Tasman business, and now, after the Saturn and Clear ventures, the picture is looking awfully familiar once again.

Niche NGN ambitions
For the time being, however, things have not gone that far yet. TelstraClear has indicated it will concentrate on expanding its own residential assets in Christchurch and Wellington, as well as focusing on its corporate and government business, closely linked, of course, to its Trans-Tasman business.

But, principally, it is about maximising its on-net assets rather than its off-net (resale) activities.

However significant new investments are needed to optimise these assets, and I question whether the New Zealand market in this niche segment will be big enough to deliver a reasonable return on investment.

While, a few years ago, the TelstraClear network could have been classified as superior to that of Telecom’s, the arrival of IP has eliminated that advantage and TelstraClear needs to become more serious about integrating the Saturn, Clear and Telstra systems.

For this purpose, investment in NGNs will be needed before the cost benefits are delivered. It will be interesting to see if Telstra can compete with Telecom in the corporate and government markets at a niche market level. Although this is possible it does require a very high degree of IT skill to move into a market that is rapidly changing from telecoms into IT. To date potential IT customers have avoided using telcos for such services. In Australia, Telstra has a very bad record indeed, and it certainly shouldn’t be used as an example of how to move forward.

Ongoing mobile saga
It is now even more unlikely that TelstraClear will roll out its own network – we have consistently maintained that this would never happen. Nevertheless the company does need a good mobile offering for its corporate customers.

I would argue that, while its current arrangement with Vodafone might not be ideal, it is still more profitable than running its own network in a market which, with 86% penetration, is rapidly reaching saturation point.

Paul Budde

We invite your comments: Comments Off on TELSTRACLEAR DITCHES NATIONAL AMBITIONS

NEW ZEALAND’S 3G OFFERINGS COMPARED

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Telecom rolled a new 3G mobile service in New Zealand in November 2004 on its CDMA EV-DO network. Telecom’s 3G offering is being pitched across 2 networks – the base 1x RTT network, and the EV-DO high speed network available currently only in the main centres of Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch and a handful of holiday destinations. 200 out of a total of 800 cell sites had been upgraded to EV-DO by mid 2005.

Outside these destination speeds drop back to around 60-70Kb/s on the 1xRTT network. They are marketed under the one brand – T3G. Telecom plans to extend network coverage to all towns with more than 10,000 people by December 2005. By launching the service, Telecom has become first telecommunications provider in the world to provide international data roaming over 3G EV-DO technology.

The service allows customers high-speed access via mobile phones, WiFi hotspots and fixed line broadband. Customers can access data at broadband speeds averaging more than 500 Mb/s using laptops equipped with T3G mobile data cards or EVDO capable PC phones. The offering is primarily targeted at corporate data users desiring high speed email and Internet access and the ability to efficiently run thin client applications.

Whilst Telecom decided to roll out its own network, Vodafone on the other hand has contracted Nokia to build it a new W-CDMA network on rival standard UMTS for $NZ 400 million. The service was launched in August and video conferencing is the key differentiating offering for Vodafone.

Another difference is Vodafone’s nationwide coverage, unlike Telecom’s T3G service which is limited to major cities and holiday destinations. Telecom’s service however has a faster service.

The roaming cost in August 2005 of Telecom’s T3G services was NZ$19.95 per MB. Vodafone NZ responded by cutting its global data roaming rate by two-thirds to NZ$10 per MB.

Exhibit 1 – Comparison of 3G offerings from Telecom and Vodafone

Telecom
Vodafone

Technology
CDMA EV-DO
W-CDMA

Deployed
December 2004
August 2005

Network Operator
Lucent Technologies
Nokia

Maximum data speed
2.4 Mb/s
384 Kb/s

Average speed
500 Kb/s
150 Kb/s

Data speeds
Higher
Lower

Coverage
Limited to major centres and holiday destinations
Nationwide

Global roaming
Limited
Superior

Devices on launch
Limited
Greater range

Alliance
With US carrier Sprint
Part of largest global mobile group

(Source: Paul Budde Communication based on Telecommunications Review and company data)

See also:
New Zealand – Mobile Communications – Statistical Overview and Major Operators
New Zealand – Mobile Communications – Market Overview & Analyses
New Zealand – Mobile Communications – Spectrum

We invite your comments: Comments Off on NEW ZEALAND’S 3G OFFERINGS COMPARED

VENDORS BECOMING TELCOS

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

The trend has been much slower than I expected, but there is a slow movement in the direction of total outsourcing to the vendors of the building and operation of telecoms infrastructure.

I have been expecting this to happen for more than a decade, but finally the trend has started, and more and more networks are being outsourced. With monopoly rents disappearing rapidly, telcos have to work with lower margins.

Another reason is that the introduction of NGNs requires a totally different approach to infrastructure architecture, and the telcos have little or no expertise in this area. On top of that, the internal silo-based structures are generating a lot of opposition to the introduction of these NGNs, as they are tearing down the ivory towers and will result in very significant job losses.

Also, in a number of developing markets where new networks are being built the costs have to be low enough to sustain very low ARPUs, and savings can obviously be made by letting the vendor build and operate the network.

Some telcos are still reluctant. The most common arrangement at the moment is that the telco still ‘owns’ the network while the vendor builds and operates the infrastructure.

Unfortunately, rather than using this concept to their marketing advantage, the telcos have resisted it. They are only being forced to look at it now because they need to cut costs.

I also predicted at that time that this would lead to more formal structural separation, which eventually would result in vendors also owning the network and sharing it with other operators. In many situations infrastructure is a natural monopoly or, at best, an oligopoly.

The competition should be focused on the services delivered over those networks, with ongoing regulatory safeguards to keep a check on the infrastructure monopolies.

Paul Budde

See also:
Global – Analysis – Telecommunications Industry

We invite your comments: Comments Off on VENDORS BECOMING TELCOS

WILL HSPDA DETHRONE WIMAX

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

WiMAX arrived too late to make a major impact on the fixed broadband market. But with hindsight I believe that this would not have had a major impact even if it hard arrived a year or so earlier. It is mainly moving into to those broadband markets that don’t have DSL, or where only ADSL is available. Wireless has the potential to compete with fixed systems in these markets; however, it often does not constitute more than 10%-25% of the total broadband market and here it will also compete with satellite and BPL. Furthermore, the closer to populated areas, the bigger the threat that fixed line operators will extend their reach.

So, while it is still a strong contender in this space, we started to direct our consideration of WiMAX to new markets and have been talking about wireless broadband taking over where mobile data has failed. The mobile technology is not well positioned to deliver high-speed, low cost broadband in a wireless environment – partly for technological reasons and partly because of the business models currently being used by mobile operators.

WiMAX could build this wireless grid in an open fashion, which would provide content and service providers with an economically viable way to develop new services for a wireless environment. And there will be plenty of such opportunities – just think digital photo cameras for one – sharing those ‘Kodak’ moments with people on the other side of the wireless broadband connections.

Now these technologies are theoretically also available on mobile networks, but they are far too expensive, too cumbersome and, with the dozen or so different technologies used, certainly not seamless and universal.

Last year, for the first time, I began to report on HSPDA and at a very interested analysts conference in Shanghai Ericsson was once again enthusiastic about this technology. Now a year later it has the first trials in place.

Theoretically, yes, it all looks great and fantastic. The pics on the mobile phones look better than the one on 2½ G phones, but, on the other hand, the hype is more of the same. I can’t see operators rushing into this. Most are still coming to grips with the first generation 3G, and they are now already being forced to look at the first upgrade, with many more to come. But, apart from the obvious costs involved for the operators, they will still need to change their business models, otherwise HSPDA will end up on the same pile as WAP, GPRS, MMS, POC, and half a dozen variations on the theme. It is this change in business modelling that is required before mobile operators will ever be able to successfully enter the wireless broadband market beyond a range of niches.

The mobile operators do have the advantage of having systems in place for billing, customer service and so on, and that makes them formidable competitors to anyone daring to enter their turf with WiMAX. But if WiMAX delivers it will certainly upset the mobile market – it will be the biggest disruption this industry has seen in its entire history.

So, let the games begin.

I doubt that it will be HSPDA that will drive the change, but it will be a competitive tool for mobile operators if WiMAX becomes successful. Mobile operators will certainly start looking at new technologies such as HSPDA, and eventually super 3G with 100/50Mb services .Without the threat of wireless broadband competition it will just be more of the same, running the gamut of 2½G services

Paul

Roundtable: WiMAX moving towards mobility -21st September
WiMAX launched itself as a potential alternative to fixed broadband services. There are still opportunities to challenge fixed networks in niche markets and regional markets; the government’s regional fund is certainly going to boost these developments.

The next big opportunity is to develop a 4G solution, combining mobile technologies and wireless technologies to address markets such as wireless data, telemetry, RFID and a range of other new services that will emerge around this 4G concept.

We predict that 3G, i-Mode and EVDO are just stepping stones to a deployment of WiMax in late 2007.

This will create a totally new infrastructure well beyond the current fixed and mobile limitations. Together with new developments in consumer electronic devices, increased storage and parallel processing, the wireless broadband network will become the core of a new phenomenon which I call the AI (artificial intelligent) network brain. I will explain this further at the Roundtable

Cost:
$350 per person (excluding GST) – this includes morning/afternoon coffee and lunch

Venue:
The Observatory Hotel
89-113 Kent Street, Sydney

Booking:
Call or e-mail Genny Scott to make your booking.
Online registration
Telephone: 02 4998 8144
E-mail: pbc@budde.com.au

We invite your comments: Comments Off on WILL HSPDA DETHRONE WIMAX

WIRELESS BB USA HOTTING UP

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

Although cable companies and wireline telcos dominate the US broadband market, and cellular phones the voice market, developments in fixed wireless access and digital voice technology are changing the communications landscape.

In early 2005, the dominant US cable company, Comcast, threw down the gauntlet to the wireline incumbents by introducing voice over IP (VoIP) telephony services. This marked the coming of age of VoIP, and moved VoIP into the mainstream.

Since then the communications market has converged into a single triple-play market with all providers of broadband access competing in the same market. This includes cable modem, wireline DSL, FttH, satellite DTH, WiFi, WiMAX, broadband over power line (BPL) and wireless multipoint distribution services (MDS).

The USA leads the world in adopting WiFi LAN services. WiFi outlets have become commonplace, not only in restaurants, airports and shopping malls, but also in offices and homes and WiFi modems are in-built in laptop computers. With cheap VoIP telephony available over WiFi in business premises and public places, customers are choosing to save on mobile tariffs and use WiFi to place their calls. Rather than compete with this trend, the cellular companies are converging their networks with WiFi networks, giving their cellular customers the option of roaming to WiFi when in range and to cellular networks when out of range.

Whilst WiFi networks are short-range local area networks (LANs), the new WiMAX technology is potentially even more disruptive. WiMAX base stations have a 30-mile non-line-of sight range, the same range as 3G base stations. When meshed together WiMAX networks can form blanket coverage over complete metropolitan areas, called metropolitan area networks (MANs).

The fixed wireless WiMAX standard, IEEE802.16-2004, was approved by the WiMAX Forum in June 2004. Since then around eight prominent equipment makers have been racing to bring their WiMAX products to market. The fixed-wireless WiMAX business model stands up well in comparison with DSL and cable in metropolitan areas, and is even more competitive in areas underserved by wireline incumbents.

In May 2005, Intel released its Rosedale silicon chipset, which will be used in the manufacture of WiMAX equipment. Intel is a leading force in the WiMAX Forum and has invested around $200 million in WiMAX technology development, and in making strategic investments in WiMAX industry players such as the dominant pre-WiMAX operator, Clearwire.

The mobile WiMAX standard, IEEE802.16e, is expected to be approved during 2005. Once approved, WiMAX will become a substitute for 3G, enabling users to connect to broadband or make VoIP calls on the move. With the same range as 3G base stations, WiMAX base stations could cost as little as half that of 3G base stations. Similarly WiMAX modems are likely to be cheaper than 3G handsets and WiMAX spectrum is cheaper that 3G spectrum. Also WiMAX is a single global standard, so the WiMAX equipment market is highly competitive, driving costs down further.

In April 2005, Intel announced that some 3G telcos were lobbying to make the mobile WiMAX 802.16e standard compatible with the 3G UMTS HSDPA. If this occurs it would enable roaming between WiMAX and 3G networks, and ultimately the two technologies could merge.

It is clear that WiMAX has the potential to be a major disruptive force in the broadband market. Many commentators, however, have expressed reservations based on the history of fixed wireless access (FWA) technology. In 1999, there was enough hype and optimism in wireless broadband over the LMDS band to fund and launch three major start-up companies. After spending billions on spectrum and network infrastructure, they failed miserably in attracting subscribers. All three went bankrupt within two years. It is worthwhile, therefore, to compare the business models of LMDS in 1999 and WiMAX in 2005. On closer inspection, one can see that the main causes of the demise of LMDS, such as expensive spectrum, lack of standards and interoperability, non line-of-sight, high infrastructure, CPE and installation costs, poor quality, etc, are not present with WiMAX.

It is also profitable to look at the history of FWA over the MMDS band since 1999, as this is the spectrum over which WiMAX transmits. MMDS was originally used for broadcasting analogue TV, and it still is by BellSouth. Its potential for broadband access was realised in 1999, when WorldCom and Sprint bought out most of the spectrum. Both companies invested heavily and launched the service with great fanfare. By 2001, it became apparent that the operations would not be profitable and in 2002, Sprint stopped offering the service to new subscribers. In 2003, WorldCom sold its MMDS spectrum to Nextel.

The merger of Sprint and Nextel in 2005 leaves over 50% of US MMDS spectrum in the hands of one company. Only two other companies hold significant MMDS spectrum, BellSouth and Clearwire. Of these Clearwire has become the pioneer in WiMAX with pre-WiMAX networks operating in seven cities. Clearwire has powerful equity partners in Intel and Bell Canada and plans to launch full WiMAX services in 20 cities by the end of 2005.

If WiMAX is successful, Sprint-Nextel could become a dominant WiMAX player. In February 2005, In Stat estimated that it would cost $3 billion to build a nationwide WiMAX network. Sprint-Nextel have the necessary resources to do that. If WiMAX is a success, it is likely that the FCC will release further spectrum for WiMAX in lower bandwidths. In this case, current MMDS spectrum holders will receive a windfall in the high value of their MMDS spectrum assets.

The success of WiMAX will depend largely in the cost for customers to connect to the service. To address this, Intel plans to develop very low cost WiMAX cards for laptops by 2006 and for mobile phones by 2007-8. Intel believes that WiMAX modems will become in-built standards in laptop computers, as has happened with WiFi.

Satellite DTH remains as the alternative wireless technology. Rupert Murdoch’s DirecTV has been investing billions in improving its interactive-TV offerings over satellite which can bundle broadband Internet access. Its new SpaceWay satellite to be launched in 2005 will be able to deliver up to 2Mb/s for households and up to 16Mb/s for businesses. The success of this technology to deliver broadband access will depend on its success in the TV broadcasting market, where it competes against cable-TV, and in the next few years FttH IPTV. The high cost of satellites, ground stations and customer receiver equipment may confine the success of satellite broadband to remote and underserved areas.

Roundtable: WiMAX moving towards mobility -21st September
WiMAX launched itself as a potential alternative to fixed broadband services. There are still opportunities to challenge fixed networks in niche markets and regional markets; the government’s regional fund is certainly going to boost these developments.

The next big opportunity is to develop a 4G solution, combining mobile technologies and wireless technologies to address markets such as wireless data, telemetry, RFID and a range of other new services that will emerge around this 4G concept.

We predict that 3G, i-Mode and EVDO are just stepping stones to a deployment of WiMax in late 2007.

This will create a totally new infrastructure well beyond the current fixed and mobile limitations. Together with new developments in consumer electronic devices, increased storage and parallel processing, the wireless broadband network will become the core of a new phenomenon which I call the AI (artificial intelligent) network brain. I will explain this further at the Roundtable

Cost:
$350 per person (excluding GST) – this includes morning/afternoon coffee and lunch

Venue:
The Observatory Hotel
89-113 Kent Street, Sydney

Booking:
Call or e-mail Genny Scott to make your booking.
Online registration
Telephone: 02 4998 8144
E-mail: pbc@budde.com.au

We invite your comments: Comments Off on WIRELESS BB USA HOTTING UP