Archive for March, 2006

NOUVELLE CALÉDONIE – TRAVEL REPORT

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

Introduction
The first thing you notice on arrival is that this South Pacific island is more French than France itself.

The other surprise was that the earth (red) and the vegetation is very Australian, unlike that of other South Pacific islands, demonstrating the close Gondwanaland relationship between these two countries.

Another major feature of this island is the hospitality and warm smiles that are the trademark of the South Pacific.

And, last but not least, like Australia, New Caledonia also has a convict history – an era that began around the time that Australia’s was coming to an end.

The French people, supported by the French government, are determined to maintain the French character of Nouvelle Calédonie. Over US$1billion is poured into the territory every year by the mother country – New Caledonia and French Polynesia have by far the highest trade deficit in the Pacific, making them all the more dependent on France.

The French government is trying to recoup some of these subsidies through high import and export duties, which makes life in New Caledonia very expensive, as most consumer goods are imported from France.

The country is the world’s third largest producer of nickel, and during our travels we drove through some of these working mines. They are so large that they simply absorb the existing road system.

The mines do, however, leave deep scars in the environment and we saw the damage this does to the coastal reef system. Slowly but surely, however, more ecological requirements are being placed on the mining industry, especially now that this market is slowly being opened up for overseas (Canadian) investments.

Officially a new independency referendum is due between 2012 and 2020, but with 2,500 Frenchmen being added to the population on an annual basis this referendum could easily end up in the same place as all the previous arrangements – on the scrap heap. Currently 44% of the population is Kanak and 34% European, with a mixture of other South Pacific people, North African and Asians making up the rest.

Outside the capital, Nouméa, where over 70% of the 230,000 New Caledonians live, the situation is completely reversed. This is where Kanaky (what the indigenous people, the Kanaks, call their land) begins. There are only a few larger towns – maximum 5,000 people, 95% of which are indigenous. It is very strange to see French military police patrolling the street, as we saw in La Foa. This is a clear indication that France has no interest whatsoever in any independence movement. In the past they have not shied away from using brute force to impose their rule over the Kanaks.

Since 1998, in order to make independence less of an issue, the French government, under the so-called Nouméa Accord, has been pouring large sums of money into the development of the country, and we saw evidence of this during our travels, with big social and cultural centres in Kanak territory.

Nevertheless, the national 20% rate of unemployment is concentrated almost entirely around the indigenous people, and they earn only a third of the income earned by the French citizens of the country.

On the other hand, medical care and education are among the best in the Pacific. Infrastructure is another great gift from the French, as we experienced during our trip. There are not many South Pacific Islands where you can drive around the countryside with ease, which of course provides a great opportunity to make contact with the land and its culture.

Telecommunications
Modern services
In Nouméa I met with Olivier Verdier and Johnny Lasiman from OPT and they provided me with an update on the latest telecoms developments in their country.

While telecommunications was not a part of the Nouméa Accord, government policies have resulted in excellent communications services. OPT is able to cross-subsidise its services between post and telecoms, as well as between metro (=Nouméa) and the villages. Over the last few years both mobile and broadband communications have enjoyed a continuing boom.

OPT
The market is dominated by the state monopoly OPT; the market is simply too small to warrant infrastructure-based competition. There is limited competition in the Internet arena, with some five players. OPT also operates in this market through Offratel, a 50% joint venture with France Câble & Radio. Other players are MLS, Kanel, Edge and RENATER (university). Some consolidation is expected in the not too distant future.

Internet and broadband
Internet penetration is low, with only 20,000 subscribers, half of them on broadband. Prices are also relatively high, first in relation to equipment such as PCs (because of the high import duties), but also the subscription rates are relatively high, starting at US$30 per month for dial-up and $70 a month for entry level 128Kb/s broadband. The 128Kb/s service was introduced after the original higher speed/higher cost services generated a limited uptake only.

But progress remains a key issue as well, and in 2006 ADSL2+ will be introduced in the country, commencing, of course, in the capital Nouméa.

Optical cables
Nevertheless the government is determined to promote broadband and currently 50% of the local communities are connected to the broadband network. As a consequence, extensive fibre upgrades have already taken place in Nouméa and OPT is now also planning to link the west coast optical fibre cable to the east coast, from Koné to Poindimié. Currently Hienghène, a stronghold of the independence movement, is the only town on the east coast that has broadband access, linked with the west coast by microwave.

Talking about cables, Olivier also confirmed that an RFP was issued in December for a fibre optic submarine cable from Nouméa and Sydney, it is expected that a start will be made later on this year.

In the harbour of Nouméa we saw the big submarine cable maintenance ship from Alcatel, Ile de Rene. According to Olivier the ship is always in the harbour, indicating the high level of quality of the submarine cables in the Pacific; the ship doesn’t need to get out for cable maintenance work (

Mobile communications
Mobile communication is still a rapidly growing service; there are now 130,000 subscribers, of which 80% are on prepaid. And, indeed, in all the villages we visited on our travels I noticed that there was mobile coverage. This is not the case in the areas between these towns, which is further complicated by the ruggedness of the country and, of course, the low population distribution outside the capital.

Competition
OPT has pledged that it will not become involved in the content market and seven companies are active in this field, of which six are local companies offering ringtones and other content services via the incumbent’s mobile network.

Revenues are shared on a 60/40 basis in favour of the content providers. VoIP as a voice service remains a state monopoly and it will be interesting to see how technological developments in broadband are going to test the boundaries between basic services and content services.

Since 2003, to compensate for the lack of competition, 50% of the Board of OPT is made up of representatives from the 43 local communities. I questioned whether people power could influence, for example, the roll-out of broadband and Olivier told me about one of the board members, the mayor of La Foa, who is playing an active role for his community. I was not surprised by this, having visited La Foa and having experienced the pride and energy that is apparent in this community.

While we were in New Caledonia the government announced a relaxation of government legislative requirements in relation to OTP’s procurement requirements, this will open up opportunities for other suppliers to compete for the business of the carrier, and at the same time OPT will be able to negotiate more competitive contracts.

Paul Budde

Report of the week – New Caledonia – Telecoms Market Overview & Statistics

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SIEMENS NUMBER ONE IN DSL CPE MARKET

Friday, March 24th, 2006

The Dell’Oro Group has reported that Siemens again leads the overall DSL customer premise equipment (CPE) market in both revenues and units shipped. Siemens has held global market leadership for three consecutive quarters and currently leads with 14.6 % of total market revenues and 14.7 % of total units shipped. This quarter Siemens also took leadership of the North American DSL modem market, delivering 35.1 % of total units shipped. The portfolio of broadband customer premises equipment includes wired and wireless DSL modems, gateways and routers. In addition to ADSL modems, the portfolio includes residential and business-class gateways and routers, especially wireless (802.11x) models, WiMAX modems and feature-rich Integrated Access Devices (IADs), as well as remote device management software enabling a “no-touch” CPE deployment model.

See also: Global Broadband

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Vodafone Live!

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Vodafone’s key content service is Vodafone Live! It is the multimedia offering of entertainment and information mainly targeted at the young adult segment.

It includes messaging (SMS, MMS, video), personalised content (ringtones/wallpapers), games, mobile Internet (for news, sports, entertainment, etc) and mobile email. Subscribers can download, listen to and watch music, music videos and movie trailers. Vodafone Live! supports full-track music download, live-performance videos and stream clips and video calling, video messaging and mobile TV (watching TV programs made for mobile from Fox Sports and Sky News on mobile phones). It also provides high-resolution 3D arcade-style games and standard services such as voice, PXT and TXT.

In 2006 Vodafone introduced ninemsn Mobile Hotmail and Instant Messenger to provide subscribers with access to Hotmail while on the go. In addition, it offers Yahoo! Messenger for SMS and Yahoo! Mail for SMS, allowing subscribers to send messages using any Vodafone Mobile connected phone to any logged on to Yahoo! Messenger for SMS.

For more information on Vodafone, see separate report: Australia – Telco Company Profiles – Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Ltd.

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WIRELESS BROADBAND SPECTRUM

Monday, March 20th, 2006

While wireless broadband can operate in both the licensed and unlicensed spectrum, in the end the licensed spectrum provides the right infrastructure for carrier-grade wireless broadband services.

In Australia spectrum for these services is dominated by Unwired. Not only do they have a near monopoly on this spectrum – they also have approximately ten times more spectrum than the mobile operators.

If we narrow wireless broadband down to WiMAX then we see that this technology can not be used within the spectrum range in which the current WiFi services operate.

Over time, devices will have an increased capacity to support multiple radios through silicon integration. Recently handsets were launched which support BluetoothforPersonal Area Networks (headsets). WiFi in the handsets will be next providing for LAN capability. Towards the end of this decade handsets (and other devices) will also include WiMAX.

With the ability to connect to several networks, these devices will startto manage a hierarchy of how it connects. I already can do this today with my notebook; it understandswired vs. wireless connections and has the ability to identify and select which wireless network I want to connect to. The wireless connection decision treewill need tobecome easier/seamless over time.

This, of course, sets the scene for interesting scenarios in the future. If wireless broadband is indeed getting off the ground along the lines I, and others, envisage, there is no doubt that a spectrum reorganisation will follow, opening up more spectrum for such services. Regulators around the world are currently addressing this issue, and in Australia the regulator, ACMA, is also actively preparing itself for such a changed environment.

In particular, there is a lot of pressure on utilising 2.5gHz spectrum, which is currently in use by broadcasters for electronic news gathering purposes (ENG). Often based on old technologies, many services are wasting an awful lot of spectrum. In the old days this wasn’t a problem, but, with more sophisticated products now being offered, this market needs be tidied up and reorganised in order to facilitate the many new developments that are in the offing.

See also: Broadband Wireless Global

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HORIZON TV

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

Horizon Global Ltd is a technology company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (code HZG). It owns Horizon TV (Operations) Pty Ltd and has developed software to provide TV-like, high quality content and interactive services delivered over the Internet and is now progressing the commercial application of this software.

HTV is an Internet platform designed for users of cable, Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), DSL and other broadband technologies. HTV technology developed in two parts, HTV1 and HTV2, with HTV2 providing significantly enhanced characteristics and features over HTV1. In January 2003 the company announced that enhancements of HTV2 would be gradually and sequentially added to HTV1. Such enhancements included peer-to-peer networking, superior encryption, interactivity, and ultimately even better quality streaming. The technology is now referred to as HTV. The streaming and channelling capabilities of HTV were complete and ready for commercialisation in 2003. Attempts were being made to commercialise HTV via a combination of channel leasing, advertising revenue, and outright sale of the technology, but they have been unsuccessful so far.

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