Archive for May, 2014

Military rulers in Thailand reported to have ‘temporarily blocked’ Facebook

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

In the wake of the 22nd May coup Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) blocked access to the Facebook website at the request of the new military rulers. Facebook users were denied access for about 30 minutes, according to reports. More than one source reported that the junta blamed the shutdown on ‘a technical problem.’ The situation became confused, though, when the MICT itself confirmed that the site had been blocked to stop the spread of online criticism of the military following the coup.

The permanent secretary of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry was reported by Reuters as saying ‘We have blocked Facebook temporarily and tomorrow we will call a meeting with other social media, like Twitter and Instagram, to ask for cooperation from them.’ He added: ‘Right now there’s a campaign to ask for people to stage protests against the army so we need to ask for cooperation from social media to help us stop the spread of critical messages about the coup.’

The military has banned gatherings, imposed a curfew, arrested scores of activists and politicians and told print and broadcast media to refrain from critical reporting of the military. Foreign news channels like CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera have all been blocked. The military has also warned people not to spread what it considers provocative material on social media. Despite all this, small rolling protests against the military have taken place daily both in Bangkok and in some rural areas, especially the northern and north eastern strongholds of the ousted government.

In the meantime, the military continued to stress that Facebook had not been blocked. A spokesperson said ‘There’s been some technical problems with the internet gateway,’ adding that the authorities were working with internet service providers to fix the problem urgently.

Another source, in noting the Facebook outage, drew a much darker conclusion than a ‘technical glitch. ‘It was being suggested that Facebook was now being ‘hard traced.’ Something similar happened when YouTube was blocked in Thailand in 2007. In other words, it was implied that every FB conversation is being tracked.

See: Thailand – Key Statistics, Telecommunications Market, Regulatory and Infrastructure Overview and Forecasts

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Telkom Kenya up for sale, new MVNO licences, Essar exits market

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Kenya’s telecommunications and broadband market has undergone a revolution following the arrival of four fibre-optic international submarine cables, ending its dependency on limited and expensive satellite bandwidth. The country’s international bandwidth increased more than fifty-fold over the past three years. Prices had already fallen significantly following the liberalisation of international gateway and national backbone network provision a few years earlier, but they have now fallen by more than 90%, enabling cheaper tariffs for telephone calls and broadband internet services. However, ISPs have only reluctantly passed on the cost savings to end-customers, which has prompted the industry regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to consider price caps.

Companies that started out as ISPs have transformed themselves into second-tier telcos by rolling out national and metropolitan fibre backbones and wireless broadband access networks, offering converged voice, data and video/entertainment services. At least six major deployments of WiMAX technology and four Fibre to the Home (FttH) rollouts are underway. Advanced services such as IPTV/triple-play, e-commerce, e-learning and e-government are now rapidly evolving. However, the infrastructure investments have been costly and the market has become more competitive, which has led to takeovers in the sector. Several infrastructure sharing agreements have been forged.

A simplified and converged licensing regime introduced in 2008 has lowered the barriers to market entry and increased competition by allowing operators to offer any kind of service in a technology- and service-neutral regulatory framework. The country’s incumbent fixed-line telco, Telkom Kenya embarked on revamping its infrastructure and services under the Orange brand with fresh capital from its new majority shareholder, France Telecom, and it has also re-entered the mobile market. However, the company is still making losses and required a substantial cash injection in 2012 as part of major restructuring program, which prompted France Telecom to announce in early 2014 that it is looking for a buyer of its stake.

A price war has characterised Kenya’s mobile communications sector in recent years, following the market entry of the third and fourth network. This has led to accelerated subscriber growth, but it has also presented challenges to the profitability of the operators, forcing them to streamline their operations and develop new revenue streams in an environment of falling average revenue per user (ARPU) in the voice market. Third generation (3G) mobile broadband services as well as mobile payment and banking services are delivering these additional revenues, but all service segments are highly competitive. Following heavy subscriber losses, the two smallest players in the market, Orange and Yu (operated by India’s Essar) announced they are planning to exit the market. For fourth generation (4G/LTE) technology, the Kenyan government was following a unique open-access approach with plans to licence a multi-facetted consortium to operate the network, but this met with resistance from the existing operators.

This report contains an overview of Kenya’s mobile, fixed-line, Internet and broadband market, its emerging digital economy, profiles of the major players in all market sectors, relevant statistics, analysis, and forecasts for the mobile and internet market to 2015 and 2018.

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

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Tablets and other smart devices clear winners in a fragmenting entertainment market

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The broadcasting markets – FTA TV, STV, IPTV, Digital TV and Mobile TV have seen number changes over the last couple of years. Changes have included digitalisation of the Free-to-Air transmission frequencies, digital radio rollouts and continuing trials, increased availability of subscription TV, hotting up of the IPTV market and more TV viewing on mobile devices. As a result of this tightly contested market we have seen some lowering of access charges for some of the subscription-based services services. Often the audiences are altering their viewing patterns using available technology some legal and some questionable, with apps as well as online access to suit lifestyles and their viewing preferences rather than what the industry prescribes them to do.

Also in 2014 the online advertising sector is gaining a further percentage of revenue and it overtook the revenues of the FTA industry. Many of the traditional TV companies are already struggling and will now need to move faster if they are to remain viable towards 2020 when the NBN rollout should see most Australians with fast broadband that allows full-streaming digital access. The broadcasters are now hoping that subscription video on demand (SVoD) content can bring back revenue to them as they try to convert their catch-up viewers to this paying model from the current free replay services that they also provide.

With subscription TV household penetration still languishing below 30%, we are seeing more content available over-the-top (OTT) through the IPTV service providers. Telstra, the largest, has more than 600,000 customers to its bundled Pay TV service. Other providers in the growing paid for IPTV market include FetchTV, Quickflix, EzyTV, FOXTEL’s Presto, while some overseas companies including Netflix are eagerly watching the market. In this publication BuddeComm provides updates and reports on this sector, but BuddeComm remains pessimistic about the current commercial IPTV business models.

BuddeComm sees the traditional IPTV model as making something of a comeback, as new services are launched over higher-speed broadband networks and the introduction of competitively priced triple-play models. However, we believe that digital rights constraints are making it impossible for the service to take a larger share of the entertainment content market. It is therefore free catch-up TV series rather than movies and sport that are driving the current developments. Movie content available – under the basic IPTV subscription – is mostly B- or C-rated; A rated material and new releases are only available at extra charges.

There is a correlation between the availability of high-speed broadband and IPTV usage and BuddeComm estimates that further increases in high-speed broadband penetration will drive new IPTV developments. The rapid growth of smartphones and tablets is also giving this market a boost, as well as new business models like pay-per-view. By far the largest growth in IPTV video entertainment comes from user-generated content services such as YouTube, Facebook and a whole new range of services of short, and even super-short, videos. Catch-up TV would be the second largest category and the ABC’s iView is the clear winner here.

We report on the increase in advertising spending on the mobile sector that has followed increased smartphone penetration among users, with smartphones and tablets becoming the primary device for many consumers. The increase in online advertising comes as Australian businesses expand their presence online and aim to see local sales win over from sales made offshore.

The addition of revenue streams from alternative ways of watching subscription TV such as IPTV is being watched from within the industry. The FTA broadcasters as well as the marketers and advertisers who also need a return on their investments are watching all the available content options. There are still many years for the standard TV market to have its monopoly-based content system available until the NBN becomes ubiquitous across Australia, when alternative digital streams become commonplace and ubiquitous, it is now the time to get higher penetration rates.

Watching mobile video from tablets, catch-up on PCs and other mobile devices requires more and more data bandwidth. Streamed programs on 3G or 4G are fast becoming data hogs on the mobile networks. As small data caps are normally the only available option due to pricing and availability, usage is somewhat limited in 2014/15 as a typical TV show uses around 500MB in a two hour session. But this does not deter many viewers with WiFi connectivity as the number one catch-up service, iView has more that 50% of its viewers using it on a mobile device.

Although its advertising base is growing, the radio market continues to lose share to other new media sectors. While radio is still available over AM and FM frequencies and almost three-quarters of all radio is commercially operated, other technology including digital radio, podcasting and converged multi-media technologies are offering new revenue opportunities, threats and challenges. In this annual publication we provide and overview many of the major commercial radio broadcasters including the ARN, Southern Cross Media, Nova, MRN, Fairfax Media, Super Radio and Grant Broadcasters. These radio networks have established metropolitan and regional footprints through aggregation and together account for around 75% of the market with millions of listeners tuning in every day.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Australia – Broadcasting – Pay TV, IPTV, Mobile TV

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Rwanda’s joint venture with Korea Telecom to provide a national LTE network by 2016

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The Rwandan telecom sector has shown particularly strong growth in recent years, buttressed by a vibrant economy and a GDP which has sustained growth of between 7% and 8% annually since 2008. As a result, the country is rapidly catching up with other markets in Africa, with increased penetration particularly evident in the internet and mobile sectors.

Although the country was slow to liberalise the mobile sector, allowing South Africa’s MTN a monopoly until 2006 when the fixed-line incumbent, Rwandatel became the second mobile operator, there is effective competition among the three current operators, each of which provides wide geographic coverage. The launch of services from Millicom/Tigo in 2009 sparked renewed subscriber growth, though competition has eroded mobile services revenue and ARPU since then.

Rwanda’s internet and broadband sector has long suffered from poor fixed-line infrastructure and high prices, though recent developments in the fixed network market are improving connectivity and reliability. The operators are rolling out national fibre-optic backbone networks which also allow them to connect to the several international submarine fibre-optic cables which have landed on the African east coast in recent years. These cables have given the entire region fibre-based international bandwidth for the first time and brought to an end its dependency on satellites.

Interest from investors in the country’s ICT sector remains strong. An existing deal with Korea Telecom to build a national fibre backbone was supplemented in late 2013 with a deal by which Korea Telecom will build a national LTE network, for which it has secured spectrum and an exclusive licence to operate the network for 25 years. The government has longed encouraged the ICT sector, aiming to develop the country as a local hub.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing on the updated report on Rwanda’s telecom market see:

Rwanda – Telecoms Mobile and Broadband – Market Insights and Statistics

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Burundi’s mobile subscriber growth of 13% in 2013 backs up operator investment plans

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Burundi remains one of the most attractive African telecom markets for investors, following several years of stable GDP growth. The relatively low yet fast-growing mobile market provides considerable potential in coming years. The sector’s growth can partly be attributed poor fixed-line infrastructure outside the main urban areas, which has encouraged the six mobile services players to invest in network areas in rural areas, and so end their dependence for further subscriber growth on the capital and other main cities.

Market limitations have delayed the launch of services among some players: in late 2012 two GSM licensees had their licenses withdrawn after having failed to launch services. Two of the remaining mobile operators have launched 3G mobile services to capitalise on the growing demand for internet services.

Significant investments are being undertaken by the newly licensed Viettel and by the rebranded Smart Burundi. The number of mobile subscribers increased by about 40% in 2012, and by a further 13% in 2013. Given that mobile penetration, at around 33% in mid-2014, stands at only about half the regional average, Burundi is set to see considerable growth in this sector in coming years, despite the limited size of the population.

To overcome the limitations of fixed-line infrastructure, the government has been supported by the Word Bank in developing the national fibre backbone network, offering onward connectivity to submarine cable infrastructure landings in Kenya and Tanzania. The first sections of this network were switched on in early 2014.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see on the updated report on Burundi’s telecom market see:

Burundi – Telecoms Mobile and Broadband – Market Insights and Statistics

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