Dubai’s win-win-win free Wi-Fi

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2017-03-16

One of the key indicators of a smart city is how accessible all the new digital services being generated are to the general public. Accessibility implies affordability and mechanisms to access the digital city resources. Because we live in the mobile broadband smartphone world, the apps which power the digital interfaces to city services must be available to all, even …

India’s mobile market making space for Jio

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2017-02-14

I first heard of Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), in early 2004–a couple of years after he launched Reliance Communications (RCOM) for his terminally-ill father. Reliance had struggled to enter the mobile telecoms market in India in the mid-1990s, when the government first auctioned spectrum. But in 2002 it obtained, through administrative process, a nationwide 800 …

What makes a city smart?

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2017-02-03

By the end of this year Planet Earth will be home to nearly 7.5bn people, 55% of whom will live in urban areas. By 2050, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the planet will have to support 9.8 billion people, 70% of them living in cities. This is the world we must plan for, starting right now. Citizens …

LTE for All

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2017-01-11

There are clear signs it is the beginning of the endgame for the GSM standard’s 25 years of mobile market leadership, with mobile operators announcing the planned shutdown of GSM networks on almost a weekly basis. That is a very long life cycle for a technology, reflecting its durability and many accomplishments. Launched commercially in Finland in 1991, GSM fought …

Will Smart Riyadh bring social change?

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2016-04-10

Amongst the various smart-city experiments in the Middle East, Riyadh is the most intriguing. It raises a big question: Can technology and new urban infrastructure advance social change? Saudi Arabia’s capital has allocated $5.6 bn to become smarter. In spite of low oil prices and an economic slowdown, the city remains a construction site. A new metro, more highways, and …

Women in telecoms: A long journey to the top

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2016-04-04

On the recent International Women’s Day (March 8) talk at TechPolis turned to women in telecoms, and quickly became a discussion of the apparent lack of women in the telecoms industry’s top ranks. Having racked my brains and come up with various female CEOs in the ICT industry as a whole (Ursula Burns—Xerox, Ginny Rometty—IBM, Safra Cruz—Oracle, Marissa Mayer—Yahoo, Carly …

Strangely satisfied mobile industry finds identity

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2016-02-26

News of the demise of the mobile telecoms industry has been greatly exaggerated.  This week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona made a strong case for the vigor of an industry which, more than 30 years after its launch, is now a mature one.  Although in the past few years revenues have grown at an annual rate of only 3% …

How WhatsApp is reshaping the mobile business model

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2016-01-30

No over the top (OTT) application is having a bigger impact on the mobile industry than WhatsApp, which is literally reshaping mobile services in emerging markets. Although WhatsApp is still trying to discover its own business model, it is having a significant effect on the business of mobile operators. What’s happening in Brazil is a good example. A recent drop …

Dust of WRC-15 settling, it’s time to assess IMT challenges for 2019

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2016-01-05

The dust is clearing from WRC-15’s last frantic days at the end of November. But all players are already beginning to look ahead to the next WRC four years from now, and in particular the technical groups’ preparations to assess bands for IMT2020 (which will identify additional spectrum for 5G). Delegates at WRC-15, when deciding the future agenda for 2019, …

The challenges of bringing broadband to the descendants of Genghis Khan

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-12-14

Earlier this year I spent a fascinating two weeks in Mongolia, most of the time in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. I was there to research and write a report on the state of the Mongolian Telecoms sector. I was able to meet key private-sector executives and government officials in a large, sparsely-populated, landlocked country little known to anybody except its …

A mobile strategist’s takeaway from WRC-15

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-12-01

The spin doctors are shooting out press releases claiming victory at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15). It is in the nature of the consensus politics of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that there is always something for everyone. In radio communications, it was in 2000 this approach took root, as a commentator then said: “The WRC-2000 introduced a new …

Mobile Consolidation: is four the new three?

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2015-10-05

A year can be a very long time in the world of telecoms. In September 2014 we wrote a blog headlined “Mobile Consolidation: is three the magic number?” Perhaps not magic, we thought, but there was a clear trend in most markets around the world toward three mobile operators, often tri- or quad-play operators, although there were notable exceptions. A …

Internet in Cuba: revolution or snail’s progress?

Author: Marc Schryer
Published: 2015-09-28

  Cuba’s official stance toward Internet proliferation is to protect its citizens from “indecencies and immoral content.” Reading between the lines this means guarding against any outbreaks of democracy and blocking access to US-funded propaganda. Since the mid-1990s, Cuba has backed off from being an early adopter of computerization. Today, however, the penetration rates of computers and internet access are …

Mobile Internet set to benefit from post-sanctions windfall in Iran

Author: Henrique Barbosa
Published: 2015-09-13

As the Iran nuclear agreement reached in July passed the U.S. Congress challenge, a new era of relations between Iran and the West begins. Following years of tough sanctions, Iran is preparing to deal with a huge economic windfall as they are lifted. The government regains access to billions of previously-blocked dollars in foreign assets, and has new potential markets …

Rebuilding trust after layoffs in tech companies

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-09-07

There is much debate about the relative strength of the technology industry in the United States vis-a-vis Europe and other parts of the world, but one aspect of it rarely examined – because it is not pretty – is labor market flexibility.  The technology industry, be it electronics, IT or Internet applications, is in constant flux. Empires fall, start-ups rise to …

New telecoms data in Brazil confirms substantial ‘special M2M’ growth

Author: Marc Schryer
Published: 2015-08-11

Since TechPolis’ recently-published research note, How to Grow M2M in Brazil, new data on M2M connections in the country has become available from Brazilian telecoms regulator, Anatel. The statistical update, the first since January 2015, was released on July 17, 2015 and provides a full year of M2M data with breakdowns by tax classification. In September 2014, when federal activation …

Sacrifices at the Regulatory Altar

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2015-07-27

During the past few years, regulators and competition commissioners around the world have tended to look kindly on telecom industry mergers—even the highly-publicized ones between mobile operators which have resulted in markets shrinking either from five to four players or, more commonly of late, four to three. About half of the more than 30 mergers which have taken place since …

South Asia the next hot spot for M&A activity

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-07-19

By any international comparison the countries of South Asia simply have too many mobile operators for each of them to be economically viable. In the developed countries of the Asia Pacific between 2005 and 2010 mobile markets rapidly concentrated, but South Asia has experience a sticky larger number of players. China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore all have …

New guard at EC to tighten up on telecoms M&A approvals

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2015-07-15

There is tension in the European Union between those pushing for more economic and political unity and several national governments wanting increased sovereignty. The telecoms industry is part of this battle, and M&A will be at the forefront in the next few years. It will be harder to get approvals for telecoms mergers & acquisitions (M&A) in the European Union …

China’s state-owned operators just keep rolling along

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2015-05-03

It came as a surprise to many when China’s premier Li Kequiang recently criticised the country’s mobile Internet as being expensive and slow. Average mobile connection charges are just as fast—in cities at least—as in the US and Europe. Data usage charges, at around $11/GB are no more than in the developed world. And there has been a very rapid …

Policy versus regulation in the Internet of Things

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-04-19

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), we find policies generally focusing on incentives to accelerate the expansion of IoT and promoting investments to bring economic and social benefits. The goal is to promote IoT. Regulatory issues emerge in two ways. Firstly, how previous regulations are being affected by the growth of connected things (for example, numbering issues …

Should China create a Universal Services Fund?

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-04-12

For the past 15 years China has been successful in expanding both fixed and mobile networks out from the cities and into the towns and villages of its densely-populated countryside. Alongside this there has been a gradual liberalization of the telecoms market resulting in increased exposure to market forces. The Government is now rethinking its universal service policies and central …

Cyber warriors “attack” the Internet of Things

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-04-04

Everything is becoming connected over the Internet. In developed countries, most critical infrastructure is already connected or will be connected soon. Internet Protocol (IP) enables remote management and this exponentially increases productivity and lowers costs. The downside to these benefits is increasing vulnerability to cyber-security breaches. Cyber criminals have created new business models (for example the spam botnets driving illegal …

Rocket Internet: mCommerce in emerging markets, the gift that keeps giving

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2015-03-22

Founded in 2007, but really starting to gain traction since 2011, German start-up incubator Rocket Internet is well on its way to fulfilling its mission statement of becoming the leading Internet platform outside of the US and China. It is growing so fast facts and figures are hard to pin down, but as of end 2014 Rocket employed about 25,000 …

IoT pushing mobile operators’ business models to the edge

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-02-23

Most mobile operators’ business models are outdated. Global mobile revenues have flatlined at around $1 trillion per year. Going forward, there appear to be three ways operators can grow. One is expanding into the bottom of the pyramid, as only 50% of the world’s population fits the category of “unique subscribers” to mobile services. The second one is selling more …

The top 5 IoT innovations of 2015: Global Mobile Awards shortlist

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-02-15

The winner of the ‘Best Mobile Innovation for the Internet of Things’ award will be unveiled on March 3 during the 20th Global Mobile Awards ceremony, part of the Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. A five-strong shortlist from which the winner will be chosen has been drawn up by the judges and comprises: • AT&T Cargo View with …

What to expect from Mobile World Congress 2015

Author: Michael Newlands
Published: 2015-02-08

The mobile telecoms world’s annual lovefest kicks off in Barcelona in less than a month, with Mobile World Congress 2015 poised to be the biggest and most eventful MWC yet – building still further on the conference and exhibition’s tremendous success in previous years. Organizers the GSMA estimate there will be 84,000 telecoms executives, hailing from just about every country …

Big future predicted for Li-Fi

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2015-01-19

Li-Fi, an emerging technology which uses the visible light spectrum (VLS) to transmit wireless data, has passed the proof-of-concept stage and the first commercial applications are coming to market. The term Li-Fi is short for light fidelity and is a play on words derived from wireless fidelity or Wi-Fi. It was first used by Edinburgh University professor of mobile communications …

Dumb pipes: Africa’s data-only LTE operators satisfying pent-up demand

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-12-27

A new business paradigm is being driven by the voracious demand for data in Africa – the data-only LTE operator. The business model as such is not entirely new as data-only early WiMAX deployments were competing with, or being developed due to the lack of, DSL providers. Now that WiMAX is gone, a new batch of data-centric operators with no …

UK market consolidation is ripe: setting a trend for the world?

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-12-16

Two UK telcos with quite different business models are in talks to buy out two other major operators in the United Kingdom. If these talks come to fruition the face of the UK telecoms market—a trend setter for the world—will be drastically changed. Fixed-line incumbent British Telecom (BT) first talked to Telefonica about buying back mobile operator O2, which it …

Net-neutrality realities changing quickly for business and regulators

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-12-01

The battle for “net neutrality” has waged for more than a decade and is from far over. However, we are clearly moving into a new phase where a variety of policies are being developed, allowing for different things to happen on a country-by-country basis. At the same time, telecom operators and over the top (OTT) players are still bashing each …

How Free disrupted the French mobile market

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-11-24

French mobile operator Illiad only recently came to international attention with its audacious offer to buy T-Mobile’s US operation. Xavier Niel, Illiad’s quirky founder and majority shareholder (64%), has developed a business model based on cost and price cutting. Although this model is quite common in wireless services, the surprise has been the huge impact it can still have, in …

Son shining brightly

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-11-10

Masayoshi Son’s Softbank embodies what a mobile operator’s new business model should be: closely embedded with all-things Internet, integrating connectivity, content, e-commerce, new devices, and restlessly innovative. Softbank started investing in the Internet in the mid-1990s.  A lot has happened since then, and Son’s focus has switched largely to the mobile Internet and mobile e-commerce. Thanks to his early understanding …

The fate of Nokia and Blackberry, or how strength turns into weakness

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-11-03

During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2007, I had dinner with two senior executives of Research in Motion (RIM), now Blackberry. The two were truly content because their Blackberry mobile devices were riding a great wave of success. Having already conquered the corporate and government markets, they were starting to become popular with consumers. At the time …

VoLTE versus VoIP

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-10-27

Over the coming years mobile operators around the world are going to see a major shift in their business models thanks to the introduction of voice over LTE (VoLTE). To some extent VoLTE has crept in under the radar, despite the influential GSMA having launched a VoLTE initiative to promote “the industry-agreed progression of voice services” and ensure international uniformity …

Telecom Operators’ Innovation Dilemma

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-10-18

Professor Clayton Christensen, the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation, believes many large companies pay too much attention to their customers’ perceived needs, but are slow to catch-up with new technology and business models. A successful innovator of an earlier era would agree. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” is a quote …

Adeus WiMAX: lessons from the fall

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-10-10

Goodbye WiMAX, but Wi-Fi keeps rolling along. Both technologies were fostered and strongly supported through their birth pangs by Intel Corp, which produced chipsets and platforms supporting both standards, and it is ironic that while WiMAX is terminally ill Wi-Fi is in good health and destined for ever-greater things. To understand why one fizzled out and the other is still …

Mobile consolidation: is three the magic number?

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-09-12

Consolidation has been the focus of the mobile industry for some time, but there are changes in what drives it. The new, accelerating trend is the creation of three quad-play operators in most national markets. Organic growth of the subscriber base is no longer the way to boost profits in the many markets approaching saturation point. Growth by acquisition of …

Pakistan’s IT-BPO Services Export Opportunity

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-07-25

Pakistan has, to date, largely missed out on the global information technologies and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) opportunity. The telecom sector in emerging markets—longhaul, backhaul and last mile—is essential to build the high-bandwidth connectivity which brings societies together and links them to the world. As telecom penetration rises, there are huge gains in productivity and social benefit.  And in emerging …

Smart Dubai: Scaling Through Data

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-07-22

In the run up to Dubai Expo 2020, the Emirate’s government aims to make the City “the smartest city in the world” by digitally interconnecting all government services and most private economic and social activity. Establishing global leadership in smart cities will not be an easy task for Dubai as competition with more mature projects in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Chicago, New …

Cyber Security in Brazil

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-06-13

Late last year, the Brazilian Senate Commission on Foreign Relations asked TechPolis to prepare a paper on cyber security. Against the backdrop of Edward Snowden’s revelations of U.S. espionage in Brazil, the Senate created a Special Investigative Commission (in Portuguese, CPI) to analyze the status of cyber security in the country and suggest new directions. Now the work of the …

India Telecom M&A: Thirteen into six might go

India Telecom M&A: Thirteen into six might go

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-03-19

Recent and upcoming reforms in the Indian telecommunications market, particularly the liberalisation of M&A rules, are expected to result in considerable market consolidation. In the first acquisition of one operator by another in six years, market leader Bharti Airtel is buying one of the smallest operators, Loop Telecom. Loop's three million customers and infrastructure are all in the key market …

Political turmoil tests telecom sector: Egypt rising to meet the challenge

Author: Ricardo Tavares
Published: 2014-03-10

How do political-economic crises affect the telecommunications sector? We take a look at Egypt. Egypt's telecommunications market showed a strong demand for mobile broadband access throughout the crisis that followed former President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow. Unique subscribers' numbers remained static, but demand for broadband skyrocketed with strong 3G HSPA growth. Egypt's political crisis drove the economy to its knees. But …