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Closed September 6, 2007

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Dear Readers
This blog is closed untill further notice.
However, should you wish to contact me, I can be reached on jasper.mikkelsen@gmail.com.

Sweden: PTS on broadband February 21, 2007

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[Based on T-Regs] On 15 Feb 2007, the Swedish regulatory authority PTS issued a 164-page document (available only in Swedish) containing extensive proposals for a new national broadband strategy. 

The stated aim of PTS is to achieve an increase in the accessibility of broadband infrastructure with the short-term objective of broadband for all households (permanent housing), businesses and public entities no later than 2010 and to promote and protect sustainable retail market competition for broadband services. Broadband is defined in the context of this 2010 target as connections that can be upgraded to a downstream transmission speed of at least 2 Mbit/s.

Several simultaneous ‘policy trajectories’ are put forward by PTS to achieve the stated 2010 goals. The first trajectory involves financial and regulatory requirements for government funded infrastructures; the second trajectory addresses regulation of the fixed incumbent operator TeliaSonera’s network infrastructure and wholesale activities (including proposals for functional as well as legal separation). The third trajectory focuses on openness and neutrality of (often government-owned or funded) fibre infrastructures. 

In terms of government funded infrastructures PTS suggests the following: 

  1. Continued government support of initiatives representing a global investment of SEK 1135m (€864m) for the rollout of broadband infrastructure (of which SEK 567.5m (€432m) financed by EU structural funds). 
  2. Imposition of minimum requirements on infrastructure established with public funds (e.g. minimum transmission rate). 
  3. Any broadband networks financed with ‘central government support’ should be open to service providers other than the network owner during the (entire) lifetime of the networks.

In order to be able to fulfil point 3, PTS is requesting (from the legislator) powers to impose access requirements through regulation and wishes to be given a mandate to monitor compliance and to take the measures available under the Swedish Electronic Communications Act with regard to these networks. 

Municipal authorities are bequeathed with a monitoring and structuring role (data collection of existing infrastructure and rollout plans). PTS also asks for legislation allowing municipalities (as broadband providers) more freedom to allow for cross-municipal collaboration. PTS is also advocating the inclusion of access to broadband in the scope of universal service (in the context of the review of the EU Universal Service Directive 2002/22/EC). This, according to PTS, also brings along the need to re-evaluate and change the financing model for universal service based on the allocation of net service costs between the providers of electronic communications networks and providers of communications services. 

PTS also suggests that the Swedish Government should encourage coordination of construction of telecommunications infrastructure with other infrastructure, e.g. electricity infrastructure.

In terms of TeliaSonera’s wholesale activities (especially the local access network) PTS indicates that equal access to TeliaSonera’s local access network is neccessary in order to achieve long-term and sustainable competition in the broadband market. PTS considers that this will reduce inertia in the market and improve predictability. 

PTS is of the view that the most suitable model to do away with potential favouritism of the incumbent network for its retail division is to adopt a model of ‘functional separation’ and/or ‘a stronger legal separation’. Although TeliaSonera Network Sales AB (operating under the trade name ‘Skanova’) already has been separated out as a legal entity, wholesaling fixed network infrastructure, PTS notes discrepancies of treatment with regard to information flows and differences of procedures for installation and maintenance between the affiliated retail organisation and alternative wholesale customers (alternative operators).  

PTS also envisages a complete separation of the workforce and suggests separating all wholesale human resources from the rest of the company. In addition, PTS wants to eliminate any exchange of information between the wholesale organisation and other parts of TeliaSonera that could benefit TeliaSonera’s retail operations at the expense of other market players. 

PTS indicates it would set up a compliance board (including PTS officials) whose task it would be to continuously monitor the outcome of the proposed functional and/or legal separation model. The compliance board would be the forum to which TeliaSonera would report, but it would also be the place for alternative market players to have their voice heard in the discussions regarding the new separation model. 

PTS encourages TeliaSonera to reinforce such separation voluntarily, as it considers that there is limited scope under the current Swedish Electronic Communications Act to impose separation as a sector specific remedy. PTS is however convinced that the new model will bring advantages to TeliaSonera and that this should be sufficient motivation for the company to proceed voluntarily to separation. 

Australia: shareholder letter February 21, 2007

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Telstra has sent a letter to its shareholders describing it competitors as leeches:

Like leeches, foreign companies are encouraged by lopsided regulations to act like parasites on Telstra’s infrastructure

Can you believe it…this has got to be a new low in Telstra’s attempt to turn the tides of regulation in their favour. And by the way Tealstra are also trying to convince the broad comunity that they are are the only hope for regional broadband. Of course Telstra is entitled to campaign to get the best deal for its shareholders, but as noted by Crickey to dress itself up as some kind of philanthropist consumer advocate fighting an unreasonable government is more than a bit rich.

Seinfeld January 28, 2007

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Some Sunday fun, Jerry Seinfeld on cell phones. Click here. Enjoy.

Netherlands: sub-loop unbundling January 25, 2007

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The Dutch regulatory authority OPTA published a letter yesterday where it essentially dennounces it previous intention to abandon to publish policy rules for the phasing out of local loop unbundling from Main Distribution Frames. Specifically, OPTA states that permitting KPN to withdraw MDF access would only be conceivable if market entry possibilities and the continuity of service provision by alternative operators would be sufficiently guaranteed. According to OPTA, the studies conducted, and input received from alternative operators, indicate that it is not sufficiently clear that a fully fledged alternative would be sufficiently guaranteed.

A study by Analysys is quoted that concludes that the business case for an alternative operator using sub-loop unbundling from street cabinets is slim, i.e. is likely to be economically viable under very few circumstances. A summary of the report is available here (last two pages in English).

[From T-Regs]

Update: OPTA has now released a public version of the study entitled ‘The Business Case for Sub-Loop Unbundling in The Netherlands‘. The report can be accessed here.

Australia: Mobilising shareholders December 20, 2006

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Incumbent Telstra has announced that is devoting AUD 1 million to a campaign to recruit its shareholders as foot soldiers in its battle with the Federal Government over telecommunications regulation.

Most of the 100,000 people who became new Telstra shareholders in the recent T3 share sale will this week receive flyers in the mail from Telstra, urging them to pressure the Government to soften laws that allow its rivals to use its phone and broadband networks.

“We can lead the world: but you must have your say,” the flyer states, referring shareholders to its nowwearetalking website for more information – a website that in my opinion has zero credibility.

Personally, I doubt that they will accomplish much for their million dollars.

Australia: Broadband in WA December 4, 2006

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The Western Australian (WA) government has unveiled a plan designed to connect homes, businesses, schools and all state government departments to a high-speed state-wide broadband network (see media release here). The StateWide Broadband Network (SBN) strategy will provide broadband speeds of 10 M-bits in the early stages. The government will pool the $A100 million it currently spends on telecom services each year to offer a 10-year, $A1 billion contract to facilitate the installation of the network. The WA government says that the scheme, which is based on a model implemented in Alberta, Canada, will be put out to tender in early 2007. For more information on the SBN, click here.

Australia: Overview November 27, 2006

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For those interested in a comprehensive overview of the Australian communications market, I suggest you read the  Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) recently released report on the communications industry (for 2005-06).

According to the report reform of the Australian telecommunications sector has resulted in significant economic benefits. Australia now has more than 19.7 million mobile phones – 1.3 million added in 2005-06 – and more than 5.9 million Internet subscribers. 3G mobiles are now used by 8% of Australian consumers, and a third of all households now connect to fast Internet access services. Access the Report here.

Gaming November 25, 2006

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I have been looking at the gambling and electronic gaming machine sector lately. A lot of exciting things happening in this sector, in particular online. Interestingly, we may soon be able to do some serious gambling using our mobile phones. According to Reuters, online gaming group 888 Plc is close to signing deals with some of Europe’s bigger mobile phone operators to offer their customers gambling over their handsets, by incorporating 888 mobile into their offering.

Australia: The saga continues November 20, 2006

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According to the The Autralien, Telstra and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are attempting to keep pivotal documents about the aborted deal to deliver high-speed broadband out of public sight in a hearing about access to Telstra’s network.

Telstra is appealing the ACCC decision to turn down Telstra’s bid to charge its rivals $30 per month for its raw copper wires and wants the wants the judge to not admit four emails. These emails contain discussions between Telstra’s public policy chief Phil Burgess and ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel on the scraped $4 billion residential FTTN deal. Telstra’s competitors have applied to have the documents made public because they might shed light on a FTTN deal.  But Telstra has pushed for another document – advice from the ACCC to the Government about its decision on the charge for raw copper – to be made public. According to Telstra this document is central to the company’s case against the ACCC.

The Australian Competition Tribunal will decide on what documents will be considered and made public today.

Canada: Punctuation November 13, 2006

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It is some time ago (July 2006), but this has to be one of the more peculiar determinations there have been in a while. A dispute between two Canadian telecom companies (Bell Aliant and Rogers Communications) has been decided by the use of a single comma in a 14-page contract. Rogers believed it had a 5-year contract allowing it access to power poles for a certain annual fee, until Bell Aliant cancelled the deal and announced new access rates. Aliant submitted that:

…based on grammatical rules of punctuation, since the comma in section 8.1 closed the clause “and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms”, the subsequent qualifier “unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party” qualified all of the preceding section.

The Commision agreed:

The Commission is of the view that the wording in section 8.1 of the SSA [Support Structure Agreement] is clear and unambiguous. The Commission notes that based on the rules of punctuation, the comma placed before the phrase “unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party” means that that phrase qualifies both the phrases “[the SSA] shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made” and the phrase “and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms”.

The Commission further notes that the phrase “unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party” does not specify any triggering event from which to give notice. The Commission agrees with Aliant Telecom that had the intention been to limit the right to terminate to the end of the current and any renewal term of the SSA, clear wording would have been included specifying by what date the notice was required. The Commission considers, therefore, that notice of termination under section 8.1 of the SSA is not limited to any specific period in time. In light of the above, the Commission is of the view that the plain and ordinary meaning of section 8.1 of the SSA allows for the termination of the SSA at any time, without cause, upon one year’s written notice.

In other words the placement of the comma allowed for the termination of the contract at any time, without cause, upon one-year’s written notice. Access the CRTC Decision here. Just goes to show the art of correct grammar is still very valuable.

New Zealand: Inspired Networks November 9, 2006

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I received a mail yesterday from CA*net 4 which had excerpts from an e-mail from James Watts of Inspired Networks in Palmerston NZ. Inspired Networks has been working with contractors and city water people to throw in a fibre duct every time they open a trench. Some rather refreshing excerpts below.

Inspired Networks has been laying duct and/or fibre around our town for the last several years, we have done it in a variety of ways, the cheapest way is by providing kegs of beer to Christmas functions etc for contractors, and they keep me informed of where they are digging. They also often throw our 100mm duct into the trenches they dig at no or minimal charge (sub $10NZ/metre). Consequently we keep a stock of duct in each contractors yard that we can locally, and they just let us know what they have layed… Its also a sweetener to them for jobs where we will often pay them to dig an extra 10 or 20 metres off the end of their job to hook up to our closest duct, meaning they can make a bit more money while they have their diggers/trucks on site, and also meaning we get away with not paying things like traffic management fees and road closures etc, as they have already been done.

My latest initiative is I have our local council finally onboard (at the lowest levels anyway) and have done a deal with the city water planner, and he is charging me $10/metre to lay duct where ever they are laying watermains…

I must mention another of our current finance options, we have been talking to a lot of the people building subdivisions and the local monopoly Telco has fixed rates for putting copper into new subdivisions, a recent example is one about 40km out of town, they quoted $3500/section to provide service, and it’s a requirement for resource consent to have it. They used to get away with this due to no competition, so I made the suggestion we could do fibre with a phone service at $450/section, and they matched the cost. This saved the subdivider $3000 per section, and he agreed that in exchange for us helping him get the cost down that he paid us to put in our fibre also. So therefore instead of $3500/section he paid $450 to us and $450 to the monopoly provider, and all his houses have both services, a win for everybody.

Well there you have it, a few kegs of beer will get you far and monopolists always pay themselves too much.

Hong Kong: Freedom of speech November 1, 2006

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A telecommunications authority in operation…..

Maverick legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-Hung, was arrested a couple of weeks ago by officers from the Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) during a ‘Citizen’s Radio’ broadcast for suspected use of unlicensed radio transmitters. Mr Leung will appear in court on 17 November, charged with contravening section 8 of the Telecommunications Ordinance, which proscribes the possession or use of any apparatus for radio communications or any apparatus of any kind that generates and emits radio waves. If convicted, Mr Leung Kwok-Hung will face a maximum penalty of a HKD 50,000 fine and 2 years’ imprisonment. 

The arrest has reignited freedom of speech debate in Hong Kong. Parliamentarian Mr Chan Wai Yip has responded by stating that the actions of the OFTA constituted the suppression of freedom of speech, vowing to table a motion to the legislative council to require the government to open up radio stations and frequencies to all residents of Hong Kong.

Australia: Developments in FTTx October 26, 2006

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Although Telstra has declined to upgrade its access network to fibre, there have recently been some developments in FTTx in different regions.

In Tasmania, a FTTH broadband trial involving more than 1000 residential and business users will begin within the next few weeks. Dubbed TasCOLT (Tasmanian Collaborative Optical Leading Test-bed), the two-year project is designed to test the commercial viability of high-speed broadband services. Trial participants will be offered a range of packages that include high-speed internet access, a VoIP phone service, video conferencing and movies on demand. Exact details and pricing of the packages are yet to be revealed, however, it is likely connection speeds of up to 100Mbps will be offered.

Initially announced almost two years ago, the TasCOLT project struck a range of delays due to the complexity of the technology involved and a requirement to train local contractors in its implementation. The formulation of an environmental impact study and the process of securing planning approvals from local councils also took longer than expected.

The project is supported by a consortia including Hitachi, Intel, Cisco and Corning Cable. The FTTH network will use Ethernet Passive Optical Networking (ePON) technology and be fed by a head-end operated by Tasmanian electricity company Aurora. Trial services will be offered in two suburbs in Hobart as well as the city of Devonport on the State’s north coast. The bulk of the optical equipment for the test bed is being provided by Hitachi with specialist assistance from Melbourne-based optical technology specialist CEOS. Both companies are also responsible for a similar test project in Ballarat, Victoria.

Earlier this week, the Queensland Government announced that it is looking into investing in the next generation of broadband (FTTH) and spending about half a billion Australian dollars in doing it. The government will be seeking expressions of interest from the private sector next month to gauge commercial interest in funding the project. It is envisaged the private sector would lay fibre-optic cables using government-owned assets such as pipes, electricity poles and road and rail easements, and profit from the service. Queensland Premier Mr. Beattie said: 

If we are going to compete in a global world this is what ‘Smart State’ is all about … if we don’t then we get left behind.

Country Energy and Soul have recently completed their Fibre Towns project in regional New South Wales. It has linked over 70 health and education facilities to high speed data exchange and internet access. The project received funding from the NSW and Federal governments. The installation of fibre optic cable is on existing infrastructure – in this case, Country Energy’s power poles. According to Energy Minister, Joe Tripodi:

Health and education facilities are the first to be connected, but we foresee the technology being available to other businesses and the wider community very shortly.

Chairman of Soul, Rob Millner, said the installation of broadband cables on power poles is an innovative development in the telecommunications industry and testament to public and private sector partnerships working together to get Australia connected.

Sources: Country Energy, Australien IT, m-net

Japan: Broadband statistics October 24, 2006

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The recent OECD broadband statistics showed that Japan leads the OECD in fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) with 6.3 million fibre subscribers in June 2006.

Japanese broadband statistics may be found on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications website. Download an excel spreadsheet here. Amoung other things it contains quarterly data on the number of subscribers to broadband communications subdivided into: Internet services through CATV, DSL services and FTTH services. In addition, there is a “subscribers to internet services through mobile phone” category. [pointer from Dirk]