Archive for August, 2015

Iran telecoms market after the sanctions are lifted

Monday, August 31st, 2015

In recent years, foreign companies were reluctant to invest in Iran’s ICT market due to sanctions placed against it. But with the easing and possible lifting of these sanctions; it is expected that attention will again turn towards this potentially lucrative market.

Current penetration levels indicate room for continued revenue growth. Mobile data services are available but account for a small proportion of total revenue. This is expected to increase over time as mobile data services increasingly underpin future revenue growth, made possible by the launch of 3G/HSPA services. In November 2014 the first 4G LTE network was also launched by MTN Irancell.

Despite the relatively low penetration of fixed broadband in Iran; there are moves underway to improve broadband access, with the FttX operator Iranian-Net currently deploying a fibre network which aims to have 8 million customers by 2020.

Iran has a thriving start-up sector due partially to its reluctance to adopt and promote Western digital media services into the country. As a result a number of digital start-up services have emerged, with just some examples including:

  • Aparat – Iran’s YouTube like services;
  • Crood – Iran’s Facebook like services;
  • Mianblog – Iran’s blogging service;
  • Lenzor – Iran’s photo-sharing service;
  • Yooz – Iran’s own search engine;
  • Esam – Iran’s Ebay like service;
  • ZarinPal – Iran’s PayPal like service;
  • Digikala – similar to Amazon;
  • Cafe Bazaar – Iran’s mobile app store.

One example of a tech start-up operating in Iran is Avatech Accelerator, based in Tehran. The technology start-up sector is one area that may benefit greatly if foreign sanctions are lifted and investors flock to the country.

For more information see: Iran – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband.

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NBN Co should open up its networks to others

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

I strongly support NBN Co plan to allow retailers to buy telecoms services directly from the company.

Telecommunications has gone way beyond the traditional services of telephone calls, internet access and so on. It has become the digital infrastructure for the new economy, an economy that is far more reliant on a smart use of ICT. This includes Gigabit fibre infrastructure, cloud computing, big data, data centres, data analytics, IoT and M2M. The importance of the networked economy goes way beyond the interest of the traditional telecoms industry alone.

The ACCC made a very serious mistake when it gave in to the lobbying of the big telcos to increase the number of POIs (points of interconnect to the NBN) from 4 to 121. By allowing this to happen the ACCC shut the door on anyone other than the big telcos using the NBN for their specific digital services. In other words to deliver national services organisations such Woolworths, Australia Post, Google, Myer and Medicare would have to build their own connections to these POIs in order to deliver digital services to their customers. None of them would be able to build a network to all of those 121 points, and they are forced to use the telcos as the middlemen to get access to this new digital infrastructure. Such has been the result of the clever lobbying carried out by the big telcos back in 2010.

People like me successfully fought hard to at least give public utilities, including healthcare and education, an option to negotiate directly with NBN Co, as this major national investment was made for the social and economic benefit of the country and not just for the benefit of the telecoms industry.

With a utilities-based facility also in place for others – as has now been suggested by NBN Co – wholesale access to the NBN would become a viable option for all who want to utilise the digital economy in the most efficient and effective way; and it would be up to the telcos to come up with real value-added services to entice those other companies and sectors to utilise their services instead of going directly to NBN Co.

The way Telstra is providing services to the healthcare sector is a good example of adding value-add to basic wholesale access.

So I am all in favour of NBN Co rectifying the mistake the ACCC made, and I support its plan to link the POIs together itself in order to better facilitate the potential for opening up the digital networked economy to all. In the end NBN Co still only provides a wholesale service, but we should leave it up to the organisations who depend on the digital economy to make their own decisions about whether they want to go directly to NBN Co for wholesale access or utilise the intermediate (and value-added) services offered by the telcos.

Such a regime, with more open access, would also greatly stimulate competition and innovation.

Paul Budde

See also:

Australia – National Broadband Network – Developments and Analyses 2015

Australia – Fixed Broadband Market – Insights, Statistics and Analysis

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The need for smart infrastructure policies

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Ever since the beginning, around 2005, of the discussion on what is now the NBN BuddeComm has been suggesting to the government that it embed in these discussions and consequent policies the fact that this is not just another telecoms network to download movies, but a totally smart, but equally physical, infrastructure that can service a range of sectors such as e-commerce, the sharing economy, healthcare and education.

The previous government shared that vision and for example started to look at how the NBN could be used in the development of smart grids. For this purpose they took up our suggestion of the $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City project. Another example was that the then Minister for Infrastructure was asked to investigate how smarts could be embedded in bridges, roads, rail, waterways, tunnels, etc and how the NBN could assist in creating smarter infrastructure. Another example was that Medicare legislation was changed to include certain telehelath consultations and the NBN was also looked at in the context of education.

However all of these initiatives were discontinued after 2013. In May 2015 there was a ray of hope when the current Minister for Infrastructure opened up a new Inquiry on smart infrastructure. Also the setting up of the Digital Transformation Office, while less ambitious, does to a certain extent rectify the situation.

There was a moment of déjà vu when National ICT Australia (NICTA) responded to the smart infrastructure Inquiry with a request to the government to mandate the use of smart ICT infrastructure for projects accepting public funding. The support of this important R&D organisation will hopefully lead to better policies in this area, as the country is wasting valuable opportunities to become a smart country. When smarts are embedded at a greenfield level the extra costs are less than 10%, whereas if infrastructure needs to be retrofitted the costs increase by 30%-50% ( a lesson the government is now also learning from retrofitting the NBN)

Also NICTA believes that underutilisation of infrastructure assets is rife across Australia, in both the private and public sectors. What is needed here is government leadership and vision to include smart requirements to make infrastructure more efficient and effective.

One of the problems we noticed during the 2005-2009 period was that silo thinking was endemic. It was difficult (for this read ‘impossible’) for the minister for communications to convince ministers for infrastructure, healthcare etc to look at the use of ICT across government from a more holistic perspective. Often each of these sectors was trying to build its own infrastructure, developing proprietary solutions, etc – no sharing, no standardisation, no interconnection arrangements.

BuddeComm initiated the set-up of a separate industry group of CEOs to talk to the various ministers, promoting a more holistic approach to the use of ICTs, and in particular the NBN. In 2009, the Prime Minister authorised the Minister for Communications to act on his behalf on ICT-related cross-ministerial issues like this. Only then did we see a change in government policies across the various departments, looking at how ICTs can be used in a more horizontal way, to assist developments across departments. It is a real pity that we could not build on these early initiatives, instead dismantling them, to then, five years or more later, start all over again.

Of course, technology doesn’t get stopped by party politics. The emergence of IoT and M2M are making many of these smart infrastructure projects more and more feasible. The deployment of LTE-A(dvanced) and eventually (after 2020) 5G will further stimulate a full integration of infrastructure into the overall concepts of smart cities and smart countries. This will all happen regardless of government policies, but if we as a country could be smart and build rather than demolish, we could take a leadership role at the front of these developments instead of being relegated to the role of follower and buyer of overseas expertise, products and services developed by organisations in countries with a more visionary leadership.

Paul Budde

See also:

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Hong Kong – Affordable broadband underpins the digital economy

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Hong Kong’s telecom market continues to develop in line with its status as one of the leading economies in the world. Heading towards 2016, over two thirds of fixed broadband connections are fibre, with the remainder a mix of DSL and HFC. This has propelled Hong Kong to boast the highest peak average broadband speeds in the world, surpassing South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

Broadband proliferation is not just limited to fixed broadband, with three quarters of the population owning a smartphone. With such widespread access to broadband services it is little wonder that Hong Kong has developed a vibrant digital economy, where over half the population has accessed e-government services and the country’s healthcare system has launched a personal healthcare record, giving patients control over their data and supporting effective and efficient provision of healthcare services. Digital media, often the frontrunner of any digital economy, is well entrenched in Hong Kong with both legal and illegal streaming music and video in high demand.

The benefits of integrating technology into utilities is becoming evident; smart grid trials have shown consumers are willing to modify electricity consumption patterns in response to near real time feedback about usage. At the same time the government has taken the first steps towards coordinated development of a smart city, releasing a blueprint to oversee integration of technology into all aspects of everyday life to improve liveability and sustainability.

Underpinning delivery of these new digital economy services is increasing affordability and sophistication of end user devices and IOT connected sensors as well as continual investment in network infrastructure to connect devices reliably and with minimal delay, through new submarine cables as well as integration of new mobile related technologies designed to improve wireless broadband capacity and service quality.

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

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Disrupting the disability sector

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

For perhaps as long as 70 or 80 years telecommunications facilities within the disability sector has largely been supported by government handouts. Back in the 1920s the teletypewriter (TTY) was invented, which allowed for some basic communication by deaf and hearing-impaired people and up until the present day this remains one of the key subsidised tools available for this group. Innovation has largely bypassed this sector as it was ‘looked after by the government’.

This is all changing very quickly because of the rapid developments in ICT. Devices such as smartphones and tablets have led to an explosion in apps and several of these are aimed at the disability market. In general, however, for a number of reasons a significant proportion of the market has been slow to take up these new tools. It is by its nature a conservative market when it comes to change – change makes a considerable impact on the well-being of the person involved and so the tendency is to preserve the status quo.

There are two key reasons, however, why these new developments will totally disrupt the way this sector communicates.

Because of the subsidised nature of the market services have been strictly limited to those eligible for the service, largely ignoring people who have a partial disability – and, in the case of deaf and blind people for example, the way others communicate with them.

New smart technologies are changing this. With affordable and smart technologies it will be possible for most people to access new services without the assistance of subsidies; and at the same time those with partial disabilities, as well as friends, family and others who want to communicate with disabled people, will all now be able to share similar affordable communication and information tools to do so.

Furthermore, people with disabilities will at several points in their life have to review their tools because of changes to their environment. They start in a home environment, move into study and from there into work; and at all of these points the way they communicate will change. Taking this further, similar changes occur when people go on holidays, go on a business trip, or visit an event, performance, movie, museum, and at all these times new tools are available that would allow them to much more fully participate in these activities.

This enables people with disabilities to operate in a much broader market, and makes the integration far more inclusive and seamless.

Organisations that can harness these disruptive changes and position themselves in the middle of them will be able to build sound business models around these communities. There will always be the need for a government-funded safety net, but at the same time there are plenty of commercial opportunities that will benefit the community and that will allow them to be much more independent, making their own decisions and selecting from a competitive market rather than just being fed the product that is subsidised by the government.

This market, however, remains highly specialised and a large amount of personal service will still be required. And quality-wise it needs very trustworthy suppliers. A range of the personal care services will need to be integrated into this new environment and it is therefore critical for the carers and everybody else directly involved in this sector to play a key role in the transformation, and education, information and high levels of customer service are required to achieve this.

The organisations traditionally involved in this are therefore well-positioned to continue and extend their key role in these markets. However it is a disruptive development and also these organisations will have to transform, wean themselves – at least partially – off subsidies and look for broader opportunities to build new business models around the customers they service. As new technologies are in general significantly cheaper than the old ones, and closed systems and technologies are rapidly being replaced with open systems, the barriers for others to enter this market have been lowered and new companies will be very keen to jump in and take their share away from those who are lagging behind in this transformation.

As this market becomes far more inclusive it will cover much more than just disabled people. As mentioned, it will include others with whom they communicate, as well as businesses and organisations that need to communicate with them. However, a very specific sector is closely linked to these developments also, being the more general ageing population. As with the digital transformation in other sectors, here also disruption will come from outside the traditional organisations servicing these communities. This will lead to a far more horizontal development, breaking down the many silos that exists within the social sector many of them still trying to hang onto their traditional subsidy models.

Key technologies that are going to play a key role in the transformation are, aside from the devices such as smartphones and tablets, broadband for access and interactivity, data centres, cloud computing and data analytics. Developments in IoT (internet of things) and M2M (machine-to-machine communication) will see the private environments of people with disabilities becoming smarter as well.

All of this is good news for people in the disability sector, as they will be able to benefit much more from the innovations that are flooding the general market, at lower cost and based on far greater community inclusion.

Because of this inclusiveness more people and organisations are becoming positively exposed to people with disabilities, and as a result further developments and further innovations can be expected. This will lead to a far more seamless integration, affecting everybody. In the end this is a ‘good feel’ development for everybody and as such it will be supported by the broader community.

I will present at the ACCAN National Conference on the 2nd of September in Sydney. The theme is Dollars and Bytes – communications affordability now and tomorrow. I will also address the conference based on my views on how broadband can assist the disability community (free report).

Paul Budde

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