Archive for December, 2014

Optus and the copyright issue (2012)

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Optus’s win of a court case battle with sport content providers – enabling it to use FTA signals to provide IPTV services to its mobile customers – created enormous upheaval in 2012. BuddeComm was very pleased with the initial outcome as these issues are most important in the development of the digital economy. However, the case was subsequently overturned by the High Court and is now challenged by Optus again

Interestingly, overseas response was along the lines of ‘what’s all the fuss about?’ Most other countries have some type of regulation in place, often known as ‘must-carry’, whereby FTA signals must be made available – for example, via cable TV networks. So what Optus is doing is normal practice in many countries. Australia is one of the few western countries that do not have such rules and for almost 20 years that has constituted a major battle arena between FOXTEL and the FTA broadcasters in Australia.

The basic argument in the initial judgement was that you can record FTA on your old video-recorder or modern PVR for personal use, and he didn’t see any difference from that and what was happening with the smartphone.

However, the most dangerous element of this case is the fact that if the government did in fact start changing the law for political reasons – simply to favour the sporting codes – it could seriously impede the future of the digital economy as it would then have to find a way to separate that legislation from cloud computing, since cloud computing would fall into that same category.

Also, a large part of the fuss relates to sporting rights, so how are we going to handle that if the content providers were to get it their way? What FTA can be recorded and what cannot?

And if a device other than the smartphone is developed that allows you to record ‘something’ – are we going to invent new regulation for each technology?

While its reaction was not as dramatic as some of the sport codes, Telstra was critical of the decision also. However, it should be pleased. It could still opt for certain rights that give it just that edge in the market (and we believe the market for this will still be there), while at the same time more people can use its network to download billable content. Also, cloud computing is a critical part of Telstra’s future.

We were also puzzled at the Minister becoming involved in the debate, threatening new legislation – totally unnecessary. This should be left to the courts to sort out – political meddling is the last thing that is needed.

It looks to us like a storm in a teacup. We believe that if all parties were to relax and start thinking about it, they would realise that their world hasn’t collapsed.

Singapore 2010 (RecordTV versus MediaCorp)

·         RecordTV provided an online service which allowed registered users in Singapore to record the FTA broadcasts and films of MediaCorp TV and to view the recordings online at a later date;

·         All recordings made using RecordTV’s online service ‘iDVR’ were stored at RecordTV’s premises.

·         RecordTV was accused of:

·         authorising registered users to make copies of MediaCorp’s FTA broadcasts and films without a licence;

·         communicating MediaCorp’s FTA broadcasts and films without MediaCorp’s licence.

 

The court held that

·         RecordTV did not authorise its registered users to make copies of and/or communicate to the public MediaCorp’s FTA broadcasts and films;

·         RecordTV’s registered users did not constitute ‘the public’, since any communications made by RecordTV were made privately and individually; each registered user had to request to record MediaCorp’s FTA broadcasts and films;

·         RecordTV’s registered users were the ones who had ‘communicated’ MediaCorp’s FTA broadcasts and films.

 

US 2007/08 (20th Century Fox Cartoon Network versus Cablevision)

·         Cablevision allowed subscribers to record FTA programs on hard drives maintained in Cablevision’s own central offices which they could access remotely;

·         Cablevision was accused as a direct infringer of both the reproduction and public performance rights for making remote DVRs available to its customers.

 

The court held that

·         The buffer copies (lasting less than 1.2 seconds) were not ‘fixed’ sufficiently and thus not ‘copies’ under the Copyright Act;

·         The consumers who press record are the ones who are making copies NOT Cablevision;

·         Playback of those copies (each of which was recorded separately for each consumer, even if thousands of consumers separately chose to record the same show) was not a public performance since each copy could be played only by the consumer who recorded it.

On the broader issue of copyright ……

We have argued that content ownership is indeed a real issue – that intellectual property is a valuable asset, and that owners should be able to have commercial protection against the misuse of it.

But the laws relating to this issue originated in 17th century Britain, and they were developed for book printing. The copyright laws in Britain made books very expensive and the book-printing business moved to Flanders and Holland. The USA did not follow the strict British laws either and they were able to boost their education system (cheap books) to deliver enormous social benefits to their society.

The lesson learned here is that too much protection could severely hamper new economic and social developments – and, in our case, hamper the digital economy. There also should be recognition of the rights of individual users, business, libraries and educational institutions.

We have also seen that it is futile to try to protect the old world – whether in relation to music, books, newspaper, broadcasting or retail. Technologies will always find a way and so it is much better for the relevant industries to develop new business models that allow them to profit from the many other opportunities that the new technologies will create.

The problem is that this is a very difficult proposition for these organisations. All these sectors need to shrink before they will be able to find a new base from which to start building up business again. The music industry is getting there, but interestingly it is a totally new industry that is now leading the way. The traditional record companies have largely lost their leading position in this market.

This should be a warning to everyone. There is no alternative but to adapt to the new environment. As well as this, new business models will need to be based upon the customers and not around the middlemen. That is not to say that there is no role for the middleman; there are always opportunities in packaging, bundling, marketing, etc. However, again, these will be completely different middleman models from the ones that are currently in existence.

Building up layers to try and protect the old world will ultimately be a waste of time.

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China Mobile leads the way as it claims around 50 million 4G subscribers by end-2014

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The government vowed, in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), to continue reforming the economy and emphasised the need to increase domestic consumption in order to make the economy less dependent on exports for GDP growth. According to the International Monetary Fund, China’s share of worldwide GDP was to grow from under 2% in 1991 to 11% in 2014. This highlights the massive change underway in China. Telecommunications is an important vehicle to drive through this shift in economic prosperity.

Not surprisingly the telecom market experienced a settling in period after the government initiated a major industry restructure in 2008. China Mobile remains the dominant player but the 3G segment has seen a more equitable distribution of market share. The mobile sector was continuing to expand – at between 5% and 10% per annum – and, after a slow start, 3G services had gained momentum supported by a more mature value chain. Total mobile subscribers were close to 1.3 billion by the start of 2015, with almost 40% of these being 3G.

There had been a surprising surge in 4G/LTE services as China Mobile rapidly expanded its TD-LTE network and busily signed up subscribers. It claimed more than 50 million subscribers on its TD-LTE service by late 2014. The operator was making the most of its early lead on rivals China Unicom and China Telecom, both of which had been far more conservative in their deployment of TD-LTE networks, relying instead on Frequency Division (FD)-LTE technology – full licences for which had yet to be allocated – over the home-grown TD standard favoured by China Mobile and, importantly, the MIIT.

Confronted with a continuous decline in the fixed-line market, the government has again intervened to set aggressive targets for broadband services. Globally, China became the leading country in the number of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) users in 2003 and by 2010 was the leading country in terms of FttX deployment. In the meantime, there has been a rapid development of internet businesses in China as the digital economy takes shape. The pace of development has escalated as more and more of the population gain access to the internet. The number of internet users had passed the 650 million mark by mid-2014, increasingly accessing websites via mobile phones.

China continues to build a substantial world-class telecommunications infrastructure and the investments show no sign of abating. As data traffic grows, the major operators are keeping pace by increasing both domestic and international connectivity through submarine and terrestrial cable links. The country also has high aspirations with its space program and has developed a local industry to develop, build and deploy communications satellites.

China is at the forefront of technology development, strongly supported by all levels of government. Amongst these initiatives are Cloud Computing and Smart Grid deployments and the building of Smart Cities that support the government’s climate change targets set out in the Twelfth Five Year Plan.

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

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LTE availability changing behaviour of Kiwi mobile phone users

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Vodafone reported a 177% increase in the number of LTE customers during the second half of 2013, and while total data use on its network grew 70%, LTE data use quadrupled. By October 2014 Vodafone NZ reported that more than 500,000 subscribers were on its LTE-enabled plans, and that LTE-capable devices accounted for a third of all device sales during the previous 12 months. Three-quarters of devices marketed by Vodafone are LTE-enabled, a strategy which contributed to the 77% increase in the LTE customer base in the six months to October 2014. LTE is now available at 54 locations around New Zealand, while LTE roaming agreements have been reached with network operators in 16 countries.

LTE subscribers account for more than 20% of network traffic, and Vodafone anticipated usage growth of up to 1,200% by 2017, compared to 300% growth for 3G data usage.

With average data usage by Vodafone’s rural customers having increased 50% in the last year, reaching 13GB per month, Vodafone recently doubled the amount of data allowance for customers on its Rural Wireless Broadband plans, to 30GB per month. Higher data use goes hand-in-glove with faster data rates, and customers becoming used to watching video and other online streaming content.

For its part, Spark recently signed an MoU with its existing vendor partner Huawei, which had helped it trial LTE in the 700MHz band. Huawei will increase mobile coverage and capability across Spark’s 3G and LTE networks, and deploy carrier aggregation (CA) technology to enable customers to access faster download speeds, and so make better use of their mobile devices for functions which had hitherto been undertaken via computer. For more on these developments see

See: New Zealand – Mobile Communications – Statistics, Analysis and Major Operators

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Bring parking meters into the digital age

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Continuing our series of highlighting new innovative developments. CellOPark provides Pay-by-App, Pay-By-Phone and ePermit technology to the parking industry. Every day thousands of CellOPark members enjoy the convenience of using their mobile phone to pay for a car space rather than feeding coins or credit cards into a traditional parking meter. ‘Providing Options’ to motorists and parking providers, including smartphone and non-smartphone payment methods linked to debit cards, credit cards, unique CellOPark pre-paid cards, or PayPal top-ups, CellOPark tailors integrated Smarter Parking solutions using multiple technologies for municipalities, universities and private parking providers.

In order to promote their services they produced these interesting statistics.

With parking fines costing an estimated $427m each year, out of fear for parking fines motorists are deliberately overfeeding parking meters to avoid being hit with a costly fine.

On average, ‘Parking Fine Paranoia’ leads drivers to pay approximately $2 extra every time they park, which soon mounts up throughout the year.

The study also found that almost a fifth (18%) of Aussies have been unfairly hit with a parking fine due to faulty parking meters or machinery and, of those, just over half (51%) still had to pay for the fine. In many cases, these parking meters are either broken, inaccessible or carried poor signage leading to confusion among motorists and unfair fines being issued.

The way drivers pay for parking has changed very little in over the past 40 years and the company argues that it is time for City Councils to address the issue. Over 80% of the motorists surveyed believe current parking systems need rejuvenating.  People just want to pay for the time they use their parking spot and modernising the parking payment process will eradicate the unnecessary overfeeding that is currently occurring, saving motorists hundreds of dollars in the process.

Old ticket machines are also a frustration to drivers, with over 75% of respondents supporting the use of modern smartphone technology to update current parking systems

CellOPark is currently available for use in many locations around Australia, they supports tens of thousands of its members, who are already enjoying the benefits of Pay-by-App, Pay-by-Phone and ePermit parking technology.

State Based Statistics:

NSW VIC QLD SA WA ACT Nationally
Total Amount Overfed into Parking Meters in the last 12 Months $5M $3.8M $2.25M $1.31M $1.9M $0.3M $15M
Total Amount Paid in Parking Fines in the last 12 Months $158M $144M $60M $21M $16M $8M $427M
Average Amount Overfed at the Parking Meter $2.50 $1.76 $1.70 $2.04 $1.91 $1.50 $2.00
% of people who think they were unfairly hit with a parking fine 21% 19% 13% 18% 23% 15% 18%
% of the above people who were unsuccessful at beat the fine. 45% 57% 59% 56% 43% 33% 51%
% of People who Think Smart Phones can update parking meters 78% 78% 74% 73% 80% 85% 75%
% of people who think the Parking System needs to be updated 81% 80% 78% 87% 80% 95% 80%

 

See also:- Australia Smart Transport

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Australian handset trends showing need for supporting network upgrades

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

A number of trends in Australia’s handset market have emerged during 2014. By mid-year the number of mobile subscribers with internet access via mobile handsets reached almost 20.6 million. This represented a 4.7% growth year-on-year. However, the volume of data increased 97% in the period, with mobile internet subscribers on average downloading 630MB of data per month, or 1.9GB per quarter, representing a 90% increase year-on-year.

Clearly this growth is associated with the rapidly expanding LTE networks being deployed by operators. Telstra saw an 86% increase in the number of subscribers using its 4G services in the year to June 2014, while Optus reported a 124% increase. For its part, Vodafone now has more than one million 4G subscribers. This growth will continue into 2015 when Optus and Telstra will be free to make use of their 700MHz concessions nationally. Thus far they have been allowed to deploy LTE in this band in a number of regions on a trial basis.

In addition, smartphone market growth is very much a recycled affair, with new devices being purchased by existing users every 12 to 18 months. This is partly due to the longevity of battery life, the ability of phone batteries to hold charge, but there are also considerations of utility and fashion. Of all smartphones sold in 2014, perhaps 1.5 million will be to users acquiring a smartphone for the first time, either as a new market entrant or when upgrading from a feature phone.

As for the tablet market, a characteristic of Australian homes in recent months has been the adoption of two or more tablets. This reflects a consumer shift wherein tablets, partly due to their size and portability, are viewed as personal rather than shared devices. As such, the personal nature of tablets showcases that they are predominantly used for viewing video rather than for work.

In addition, a new market in phablets (devices with a screen size of between 5.5 and 6.9 inches) is emerging. This remains a nascent market, but in coming years manufacturers will offer a wider range of such devices to capitalise on the versatility of smartphones while exploiting consumer preference for larger screens. There is also an emerging trend in ‘wearables’, with over one million smartwatches and fitness bands sold in Australia in the first six months of 2014. There are only a few products available as yet, though by 2015 many more editions of smartwatches will become available. The newly released iWatch is naturally attracting Apple buyers, while a number of manufacturers are marketing devices for the Android platform. For more detail and analyses on these developments see Australia – Mobile Communications – Smartphones, Tablets and Handset Market

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