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EU to end mobile roaming charges next year

Consumers will next year be able to use their mobile phones across the European Union for the same price as at home, it is planned, after officials voted to fast-track major reforms of telecoms regulation.

Roaming fees for voice calls, texts and internet access will effectively be completely scrapped under the proposals, which are part of a broader effort to create a single European telecoms market.The group of 27 European Commissioners voted in Brussels on Tuesday to drive the package through in time for the European elections in May next year, to come into force as soon as 1 July 2014.“They agreed that this time next year we will have got rid of these charges,” a Brussels source said Officials will draw up and publish detailed proposals in the next six weeks.

They expect the death of roaming charges to typically wipe 2pc off mobile operators’ revenues, after several years of tightening regulations designed to put an end to shockingly high bills for holiday makers and business travellers. They argue that operators will gain in the longer term by customers using their mobiles more abroad, particularly to access the internet.

The reforms are designed to encourage radical consolidation of European mobile network operators. A source familiar with the plans said the European Commission believes there are far too many companies offering services across the 27 member states and that the fragmentation is a barrier to badly-needed investment. Without upgrades, mobile networks will buckle under the pressure of the rapid growth in internet traffic, it is feared.“There are around 100 operators in Europe and only four in the US,” the source said. “That’s not sustainable if we’re going to have a single market and investment. Europe has less 4G mobile broadband than Africa at the moment.”

“Consolidation is not the aim. The aim is a single market, but if it means we get fewer, stronger operators, that’s good.”With no roaming fees, officials believe the single market will mean foreign operators will be able to compete for British customers, and vice-versa. They are likely to form airline-style alliances that will lead to mergers, it is hoped.The plans set up a clash between Brussels and telecoms bosses such as Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao, who in February called for a "moratorium on regulation" in telecoms. He said industry had been a target for too long and it threatened employment. Neelie Kroes, the Commisisoner behind the reforms, told Mr Colao she would "call your bluff".

To sweeten the loss roaming revenues for mobile operators, however, the new package of will include provisions to simplify operating across the EU by synchronising national sales of airwaves. Operators could also be allowed to do business across the bloc based on authorisation from a single national regulator, such as Ofcom.In addition, there are no plans to impose further restrictions on mobile termination rates, the charges operators make to each other for connecting calls, which have been slashed in recent years to encourage competition.

The European Commission is also keen to push its telecoms reforms as evidence it is doing its original job of fostering a single market.David Cameron called on Brussels in January to press ahead with reforms as he sought to defend Britain’s membership of the EU by suggesting British business will benefit from more market integration.

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Japan firms aid Myanmar in building telecom network

Sumitomo and two business allies, NEC and NTT Communications, have concluded a contract with the Myanmar government to build an optical fiber telecommunications network to link the country's three major cities.

Under the contract, the three vendors will build a core high-speed network capable of transmitting data at 30 gigabits per second (Gbps), linking the cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw through the Web,The Japan Times reported on Tuesday.

The trio will also lay down fiber-optic networks inside each of the three cities to transmit voice and other data at a speed of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). The networks will also provide services such as long-term evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless communications, fixed-line phone, and Internet connections.The companies said they will take advantage of a 1.71 billion yen (US$16.7 million) grant which the government pledged to provide to Myanmar in late-December.

They hope to complete construction of all necessary facilities by the end of November, and provide operational support between December and mid-January to enable Myanmar people to utilize the new facilities.In a previous ZDNet Asia report, industry watchers said Myanmar was one of the few relatively untapped telecommunication market left in the world with its once-reclusive government opening the sector for foreign investment. However, the country's unclear regulatory regime and ICT infrastructure which does not support business growth meant telcos and service providers looking to enter Myanmar must advance with caution.

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SEA smartphone market tops $11b

May 20th, 2013 by Dylan Bushell

Smartphone sales in Southeast Asia climbed 61% in the last 12 months to 42.2 million units, worth over $11 billion, GfK estimates.But despite the impressive growth figures, an estimated two thirds of Southeast Asia's population are yet to make the transition to smartphones, the research firm said.

The region's overall mobile market grew 14% in value and 8% by unit sales over the same period, as declining feature phone sales were more than matched by smartphone demand. Roughly 108 million handsets were sold in the market over the last 12 months.Indonesia was predictably the greatest contributor to the region's smartphone sales volumes, with an estimated 15.8 million units shipping during the quarter.

But smartphone takeup in Indonesia, at just 30%, doesn't come close to the penetration rates in the Philippines (146%), Thailand (140%) and Vietnam (118%).While growth in the region is primarily driven by sales of smartphones in the $100-$200 range, GfK said the rise of local brands in the Philippines and Indonesia is driving market share for the sub-$100 budget smartphone segment.

Android dominates the Southeast Asian smartphone market, accounting for an estimated 70% of smartphones sold. The local market is also showing a growing preference for display sizes of 4.5-inches and higher, GfK added. This size range currently accounts for over 20% of total sales.

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Apple Acquires WiFiSLAM for its Indoor Location-Tracking Tech

And here you thought it was tricky enough to get the correct directions to your driving destination via the GPS-friendly app on your iPhone.Apple's allegedly upping the ante in the world of location services by acquiring a company that could help give it more of a foothold in the relatively unexplored world of indoor mapping.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal' Jessica Lessin, Apple recently acquired WiFiSLAM for approximately $20 million. The company specializes in a technology that allows mobile apps to pinpoint users' locations through the interaction between their smartphones and standard Wi-Fi signals – no GPS need apply.According to MacRumors, Apple has confirmed the acquisition, but has offered no additional details as to what it plans to do going forward and/or how WiFiSLAM technology might be integrated into Apple's product offerings.

However, the acquisition opens up the possibility that Apple could start making more headway in an area that rival Google has already start tinkering around in. According to one of Google's support pages, Google already has more than 10,000 different floor plans available for locations across 13 different countries - the company uses a mix of Wi-Fi hotspot triangulation and normal cell tower-based location estimations to let users know exactly where they are in these Maps-friendly locations.Although WiFiSLAM doesn't actually have a website of its own – at least, not since the company was acquired and the site was pulled offline – the company's listing on the website AngelList indicates that WiFiSLAM can deliver an accuracy of 2.5 meters "using only ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings."

Some are already considering Apple's move another "late to the game" attempt to catch up to Google's success in mapping, which brings to mind the Apple Maps debacle that occurred shortly following the company's introduction of its "Google Maps killer" in September of 2012. The company's first attempt to deliver a mapping and location service sans Google's involvement was met with immense criticism, and ultimately resulted in an apology from Apple CEO Tim Cook himself.

Of course, Apple Maps has gotten a bit better since its introduction – or at least, that's what PCMag.com columnist John Dvorak believes, based on his recent experience in a three-car, three-mapping-service road rally against fellow tech pundits.

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Myanmar's latest telecoms reforms unlock new opportunities for multinational and regional firms

Myanmar’s liberalization and its efforts to open up the telecom sector bodes welcome news for local and foreign telecom companies seeking opportunities to tap into new Asian markets. CMT’s Myanmar Telecoms Reform Update aims to provide detailed insight into telecoms developments in Myanmar and critical issues for decision making.

Poised at the brink of major changes in its telecommunications segment, Myanmar’s telecoms market is opening up for significant foreign investment, as multinational firms, local companies and various investors rush to invest in what is touted as the last Asian frontier market. Myanmar Posts and Telecommunication (MPT) recently revealed that telecommunications may soon be liberalized, which could mean many new investment opportunities.

Singapore-based conference organizers Centre for Management Technology (CMT), is launching the very first telecoms briefing in Yangon on 16 October 2012. Aptly themed “Plan and Prepare for the Opening of the Myanmar Telecoms Market”, the Myanmar Telecoms Reform Update will be held at the Park Royal Yangon. The main highlights of this intensive update relevant for private sector conglomerates and investors are effect of demographics on the telecom market, the impact of the Nation Building processes on telecom investments, realistic examination of the available opportunities in the telecoms sector and a forecast of the future trends and expected developments.

Mr. Than Htun Aung, Deputy Director, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications will be delivering a speech on “Telecom Regulations in Myanmar”, offering a detailed overview of Government policy & considerations, current regulation status, telecom reform process status, future policies on mobile, broadband and fixed line infrastructure.

The Myanmar Telecoms Reform Update is designed to enable companies to access crucial developmental and operational information, review new opportunities, recommended technology updates, and financial strategies. Among the eminent telecoms experts leading the update are Mr. John Stefanac, President SEA/Pacific, Qualcomm Inc.; Ms Stephanie Huf, Head of Communications, Ericsson; Mr Sami Tabbane, Professor, SFM Technologies, Mr Bertie McCrory, Managing Director, Contactica; Mr Charles Ashley, Regional Head, Tunetalk; Mr Hugh McGarry, Principal, Garnet Consulting; Mr Kyaw Naing, Chief Engineer of Amara Communications; Ms Yup Seng Ing, Managing Director, DigiCom; and Mr. Paul Crilley, Senior Consultant from Yatanarpon Teleport Co. Ltd.

In short, industry reviews, and an extensive update on future trends and developments would be the key focus of the briefing, which will prove ideal for strategic planners, project planners, corporate users, carriers and manufactures, investor financial analysts and all other supporting segments of the telecoms industry.

This briefing is followed by the 2nd New Myanmar Investment Summit on 17-18 October, and a Post-Conference workshop on “Business Contracts in Myanmar”.

Please visit the website athttp://www.cmtevents.com/aboutevent.aspx?ev=121046 for more information and details of available bundle deals, or contact Ms. Hafizah at Tel. 65 6346 9218 for further queries.

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A Taste of Telecom in 2012

April 30th, 2012 by Randy Fitton

Well I made a decision at the beginning of 2012 to whip up a short quarterly blog to post for my friends and colleagues. Well since it is now April 30th I will simply change that concept to this being a tri-annual or thrice yearly report.

Right off the bat I would like to make it clear that my goal is to simply document some of my observations as a user of telecommunications technology and as an industry insider. I will simply state what I see and suggest that if something catches your eye take a look online for more information.

I am always open to making new connections on Linked In and for a short chat and will gladly share any of the sources that I use to stay informed.

The first thing I would like to relay is from my own personal experience with over the top services in Q1, 2012. My wife had the opportunity to go from Singapore to the USA and visit her sister for a few weeks. As I have unlimited mobile broadband and my wife’s sister in the USA has the equivalent service there wouldn’t you know it that all of our conversations where on Skype or Tango. Lots of video calling and instant sharing of photo’s etc. transpired and there were none of those pesky IDD charges.

It worked very well but I would like to point out that in my experience the near end echo cancelling of Skype seemed to me to be much better than the experience on Tango. I also noted that for me managing the contacts on Skype seemed much more straight forward than on Tango. This is just my own subjective experience of course.

Part of my wife’s trip was a short cruise with her sisters in the Caribbean and wouldn’t you know it they had broadband. They had to pay for a block of time but it was not overly expensive for someone that wanted to be able to at least check email everyday.

The second area of focus for me in this current blog are the key takeaways from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that ran from the 27th of February to 1 March, 2012.

Though I did not have the pleasure of going (I love tapas) I did manage to catch up with several people that did go and learn some of the key points of interest.

There were approximately 28 conference keynotes at the event and close to 1500 companies showing off their wares. The key trends seen at the show this year were: cloud, LTE and small cells, smartphone's and other devices, mobile money, and connected world

I think it is clear that carriers are starting to put more time and effort into understanding, planning and articulating their cloud strategies. Whether it is cloud acceleration or working closely with vendors to build the services and connections that enable the data centre hosted applications. The age old question of how to avoid being a dumb pipe still appears to be front and centre for service providers.

At the show Ericsson demonstrated the first 150Mbps terminal and inter-band carrier aggregation. There was plenty of focus on Self Optimising Networks and Heterogeneous Networks. We see that WiFi is still alive and kicking as an off load strategy and autonomous subscriber connectivity between WiFi and the 3GPP networks becomes more the focus.

On the devices front we have the discussion of sub $50 smartphone’s for the emerging markets. Smartphone’s have penetrated 10% of world wide subscriptions yet only 30% of all handsets sold in 2011 were smartphone’s. It was noted locally that number for Brunei was greater than 50% and Singapore of course is even higher.

It has been noted that 40% of smartphone users access apps before they get out of bed in the morning. Smartphone users are sending and receiving data 74% of the time and using voice services a paltry 26% of the time.

Smartphone’s are expected to be ubiquitous and affordable for everyone in the coming two to three years. Quad-cores are there and the latest Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich as well as Nokia is still working to grow in the space and build their ecosystem. HTML5 was a hot topic.

The GSMA expected mobile money to be a key service in those markets where many subscribers have no bank accounts and no easy access to traditional banking services.

On the connected world front a few statistics were noted. Connected cars is predicted to be a top industry by 2020 worth over $600 Billion USD. M-Health projects such as connected pacemakers etc. are expected to drive healthcare cost savings and once again in the emerging markets new applications and mobile technology help bring services into communities that had no viable alternatives previously. Connected nappies and other baby monitors and a mobile baby monitoring service in Africa were discussed.

I think it will be very common that many connected devices will communicate via the user’s mobile phone when they are in proximity. I could foresee that a smart car monitoring services use WiFi built into the car and when I get inside the vehicle it could utilise my phone set as a WiFi hub device and access the mobile broadband network via that link.

Currently 2B out of 7B people globally have access to the internet. The market for mobile broadband continues to look very exciting. It is expected that mobile broadband subscriptions will exceed 5 billion by 2016 up from approximately 1 billion today. It has been calculated that every 10% increase in broadband penetration can increase a countries GDP by 1%.

I think we live in very exciting times either as people utilising telecommunications services or as folks involved in the telecommunications industry selling technologies or services.

Anyway I will try to jot down more key observations over the next few months. Like most of you out there in Telecom land I get a real buzz seeing the new technologies and emerging trends in this all connected world we live in. As stated my objective here is to simply list some things down and if you see anything that grabs your attention please go do some research. Good hunting.

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