Sunday, September 10, 2006

Moving!

This blog is moving. The new home for this blog is now at

http://pakng.wordpress.com

I have a number of my reasons for moving my blog from blogger.com to wordpress.com which forms the first post at the new home.

As a symbol of evolution, the title of this blog 'Tee Emm's Window to Pakistan' which was apt when the blog started somewhere in year 2000 has now been changed to 'Tee Emm on Pakistan Next Gen Issues' to reflect the subject of the blog more appropriately.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Newsbite: Telenor's Edge


Telenor's latest advertisement promoting their EDGE offering in the bigger cities of Pakistan.

Mobile Internet will be an high growth sector in Pakistan. Once, arond 1997, SMS was the only 'data thing' the general public could do on the bulky handsets. Today, in just less than a decade, even the Pakistani market is getting its taste of EDGE (left) and even faster CDMA2000 1X (153 kbps/Telecard) and CDMA2000 EVDO.

GPRS gave the first glimpse of Internet on your phone experience to the users. At 20 kbps, that's hardly of any use unless you have good WAP applications to make use of. Nobody is interested in the Wall Gardens of cellular operators anyway.

While moving towards the utlimate UMTS scenario, GSM operators will follow the GSM-GPRS-EDGE-WCDMA route while the CDMA 2000 operators will probably follow the CDMA2000 1x (153 kbps), CDMA2000 1xEV-DO (800 kbps), and CDMA2000 1xEV-DV (2 MB) route.

In between these 'arranged marriages', there are these forth generation disruptive technology heroes of HSDPA and Wimax (Dancom) who promise to 'pluck' the bride (the market and its mindshare) from the GSM and CDMA operators.

Wireless IP - May you live long!

'Imported' Internet

Subsequent to PTA's public solicitation, I've submitted my comments to the Consultation Paper on Bandwidth Tariffs issued by PTA on September 4th, 2006. I am re-producing the same here:
Following are my comments on the paper:
  1. [Page 10]: Yes. The list of the countries sh ould be further expanded. While the current list contains neighbouring countries, we need to look up the tariffs in European and North America as well because this is from where (BPO, Call Center and Out-Sourcing) businesses are going to relocate to Pakistan if we can provide them with equal or comparable enabling environment.
  2. [Page 10]: Prices of the DPLC should be up to the landing station only. DPLC charges for local access should be separated to allow the DPLC sector to grow as a service market.
  3. [Page 10]: Price Multiples for E1:E3:STM1 should be 1:5:10. This is driven by the following logic: 5 E1s (10 MB) should justify the buyer to opt for a DS3 (45 MB) and 2 DS3 (90 MB) should justify a buyer to opt for an STM1 (155 MB)
  4. [Page 11]: Main POINT: IPLC tariffs for voice and data services should NOT be charged separately. This prevents companies from building high performance Internet networks within the country. As it happens, a high performing Internet infrastructure allows for various by-products of services.Making sure that the Internet IP Bandwidth is available for both Data and Voice uniformarly, this will be an incentive for all the operators to build out high quality Internet infrastructure in the country. Keeping two highways for data and voice will keep better Internet infrastructure from coming up. Note: Better Internet Infrastructure means a state of extensive internetworking, private peering and public traffic exchanges within the country to approach the ideal internetworking state. Currently, we do not have a specific policy and associated enablers for establishing and supporting public internet exchanges, private peering etc. The misnomer PIE is but a good business plan for one of the players.
  5. [Page 13]: Yes, PTCL should offer same tariffs for voice and data services. However, those requiring high quality voice should automatically go for the DPLC+IPLC combination if the Internet-voice quality (provided by PTCL and other operators) is not good enough for them.
  6. [Page 13]: Yes. PTCL should offer IP bandwidth on shared basis as is offered in other cuntries such as India. Reason being that we need to have one restrictions-free internet across Pakistan for the true promotion of its exciting applications. However, since the Internet is still a game of multiplexing packets, providers should be free to provide various shades of contention which suits various market segments. IMPORTANT: The lack of this highlighted scenario has lead to enormous costs being attached to what is reffered (erroneously) in the local market as CIR circuits - where the customers is made to pay through his/her nose on the promise of giving the full bandwidth despite the fact that in an internet (multiples of network), such a guarantee cannot be provided in any case (unless the claimer own every bit of the Internet infrastructure).
  7. [Page 15]: As mentioned earlier, since there should be NO separate tariffs for voice and data on the Internet, there should be one reasonable (i.e. compared with the neighbouring countries) rate formula for the DPLC services provided by PTCL. The logic here is to allow the greater development of the DPLC market in Pakistan. As more and more PTCL competitors energize their long haul capacities (NTC, Wateen/Warid, Multinet etc), this is one of the most critical segment totally focused on the 'national Internet infrastructure' part of the game. A stable and virbrant DPLC market is a guarantee for an healthy Internet infrastructure which is a key socio-economic driver of our times.
Additional Comments (besides the questions asked in the Paper):
  1. The Authority should focus on a well-thought-out Internet development phase II in the coutnry. Currently, Internet is mistaken for the leisure and news contents that form a majority of Internet usage in Pakistan (like any other developing country). However, Internet, especially with the IPv6 incarnation of this amazing animal, we go beyond reading news and following show-biz events. The 'imported' Internet, i.e. where we just connect to the outside world for our misplaced infotainment needs, a local-Internet is where the true potentials reside. Being able to connect seemlessly, for an arbitrary application with both end-points anywhere in the country over a well-structured local Internet should be one of the prime objective of the Authority.
  2. To make 1. happen, the Authority needs to ingnite a competition within the country, to provide the best possible, diversified and high-quality Internet experience to the end users and enterprises. This will only happen once the Internet is considered by its users beyond its current misplaced infotainment value. Internet should be the same ever-extendable flexible low cost media in Pakistan that has left remarkable changes - even paradigm shifts - on other advanced societies.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sponsored News?

telecomsYou know the competition is getting bloodier when the commercial press cannot keep maintain its nuetrality. Consider a 'news analysis' carried by Daily Times (29th August 2006) below. Despite the fact that the contents of the article are generally true in the larger sense, what is amusing is the 'analyst', (who by the way, considers CDMA's EvDO as e-video - giving the impression that at least part of the contents were dictated over phone where such an amusing errors is possible) has taken a very negative view of one of the major player (Wateen/Warid) in the article. Ture, organizational excellence is not very common in Pakistan especially in an exploding sector where at least in the short term growing is more important than growing efficiently. Buy why single out one player when it comes to pointing out financial efficiency of a player when it is still in the deployement phase!

Who will be No 1 in telecoms?
By Sharif Ahmad,
News Analysis, Daily Times
29th August, 2006
[Actual Clip here]

KARACHI: The major mobile operators are aggressively fighting for market share with every day bringing a bewildering new set of ‘packages’ and ‘offers’ to confused potontial consumers. But two things are clearly emerging from this chaos - the consumer is a major beneficiary,and connectivity is progressing at a breakneck speed. The clear market leader is Mobilink followed by Ufone, Telenor, Warid, Paktel and Instaphone. Among these, Warid Telecom has launched a media campaign offering rates that are aimed at creating a new price war in the industry. Desperate to create an impact, Warid seems to be a victim of its own hype. It has a relative poor quality of service and has slipped behind Mobilink, Ufone and Telenor. After the new $600 million expansion of Ufone awarded to Huawei, it is clear that PTCL is throwing its full weight behind its mobile subsidiary. Warid has the lowest arpu (average per unit) among the mobile leaders t under $4 and a bare 5 per cent of the market. Mobilink has 63 percent, Ufone 25 percent with Telenor at 7 percent. Mobilink is fueled by vibrant marketing and a first mover advantage and is therefore way ahead of the pack. Telenor is not to be taken lightly. It is building a stable and reliable network that should take it to second position over the next six months. Its new campaign “Talkshawk” has caught on. Telenor has the advantage of being equity financed while Warid has borrowed up to the hilt.

What appears even more disturbing for Warid is the huge financial roll out of its sister company Wateen in projects whose financial plans seem dubious. Wateen is laying out a fiber backbone at a cost of $100 mn (the fourth company to doo). PTCL already has excess capacity on its long haul fiber. Mobilink has almost completed its backbone and has a submarine fiber link to its sister company TWA which will be the next national media provider after PTCL. Multinet, a subsidiary of Malaysia Telecom, is rolling out a similar network. Since PTCL and Mobilink have their own captive business and Telenor apparently is planning to join with Multinet it looks like Warid will be in solo flight.

In order to create more hype, Wateen is acquiring 3.5 ghz of wireless frequency for launching Wimax broadband (a futurist technology with limited use in Pakistan). The Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) of Wimax is not yet institutionalized and does not as yet have wide scale deployment in developed economies. The CPE of Wimax is not rationalized and is far too expensive for Pakistan, which already has plenty of broadband access through e-video (CDMA), internet over cable and DSL. Wateen is also trying fiber connectivity to the last mile.

They are dabbling in hybrid fiber coaxial networks to provide triple play (a complex technology) of which they have no experience. Recently they bid unsuccessfully in Islamabad for a 200 km core fiber network which has been awarded to a competitor, Worldcall Telecom.

In the emerging scenario, it seems the Wateen / Warid management is in danger of losing its direction. Having paid $290 mn for a mobile license and still unable to get market share they have abandoned their core business. Excess capacity and confused objectives are a recipe for disaster, says one analyst.

When the market consolidates, three clear players will emerge. Instaphone are at the bottom of the league and may end up looking for a buyout as they do not have the money for rollout or the mobile license fees. Paktel, after the failure of its owner company Milicom to find a buyer, also looks destined to fight for survival. Warid and Wateen are up to their necks in red ink and it is a matter of time before the Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi realize their local management is a disaster. Three clear leaders – Telenor, Ufone and Mobilink will survive and it will be interesting to see the strategies they deploy in the fight for number one position.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bandwidth Tariffs - PTA Seeks Comments

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has published a Consultation Paper on the issue of revising (downwards) the prevalent Bandwidth Tariffs in Pakistan. As most readers of this blog must be aware, the earlier orders of downward rates revision of PTA were met with stiff resistance from the born-again PTCL which revised the rates based on its own scheme (and which were higher than what PTA was asking for).

This is not the first time the watchdog body has been made to appear a lapdog entity by the high handedness of PTCL. Anyways, PTA has published a new Consultation Paper on Bandwidth Tariff on its website yesterday.

According to the PTA's website:
This Consultation Paper is an extension to the Consultation Paper issued by the Authority on April 17, 2006. The purpose of this paper is to seek response of stakeholders including the ISPs, Call Centres & LL/LDI operators on the questions raised in the Paper. The stakeholders are requested to send their comments on the Paper in writing within 15 days. This Paper does not convey in any sense a decision of the Authority in respect of the issues discussed in this Paper. Your response, queries and clarifications may be addressed to Ms. Fatima Khushnud, Assistant Director (fatima@pta.gov.pk) and Mr. Aadil Umar Khalil, Assistant Director (aadil@pta.gov.pk) PTA Building, F-5/1 Islamabad Fax: +92-51-2878133

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Internet Governance in Pakistan (II)

We have got some detailed comments on my blog on Internet Governance in Pakistan. Just to put the record straight, I have never suggested that Government in Pakistan should be managing any aspect of the Internet - whether name registration or Internet address resources management. I have been proposing functional participation of the GoP in these activities in the capacity of a 'stake holder' sitting side by side with other parties such as professional bodies and concerned trade and technology groups.

Coming back, we have PakSys submit the following detailed comment to my original post. By posting the same here, I DO NOT endorse every part of it but am reproducing it here to carry on the dialogue. Hopefully, we will have PKNIC engaged in the dialogue too subsequently.

Here is what PakSys submitted:
Glad to see that our fellows, at least now, have realised the importance of such issues and are raising these kind of questions. Good Job, Mr. Mustafa! One of my friends, Badar, drew my attention to this blog and happy to read it. A few things as being an CEO of PakSys Software, PakHost and PAKNIC (the only ICANN accredited domain Registrar in Pakistan):

1. We (PAKNIC/PakSys) have been trying our best to draw Government of Pakistan and ICANN attention to these issues especially about the future of ccTLD .PK for the last almost 2-3 years. I have personally raised such issues to Federal Secretary (IT), Members and Directors of Board (IT), other Federal Secretaries and last year Internet Governance meeting at Geneva. So far I have been encouraged from all corners with promising support. But we need action rather than just empty words and promises.

2. Role of PKNIC and Internet Governance are two separate things. Government may not be interested to take over PKNIC due to a several reasons but they can for sure do something to help the nation.

3. Role of Imarn in ccTLD is equal to nothing except that he fought for imarn.pk in 1997 (I guess) and he got it. Mr. Ashar Nisar has been ccTLD Manager since the very first day when he graduated from Universirty of Southern California (Good luck for him as there was no opposition or competition in 80s)

4. Mr. Ashar Nisar has been doing a tremendous job for keeping DNS servvers up but just as a part-time (that is what I see) but now is the time to move on to next level, either do it or let other country fellows to do it.

5. I have been constantly requesting a face to face meeting with Mr. Ashar Nisar in any part of the world and at any time but no luck yet. First he said he is not availabel until 2nd quarter of 2007 and now it looks like he is even running from 2007 as well. I offered him that I can travel to his house in CA from where he is running PKNIC and am waiting for the response.

6. PAKNIC being the first and only ICANN accredited domain registrar, we have been refused to give PAKNIC.COM.PK or PAKNIC.NET.PK or PAKNIC.PK or any .PK domain name, even that we hold trademark in Pakistan.

7. The PKNIC "Advisory Group" and label of "Re-delagation" to other Pakistani Companies are just a trick to play with ICANN terminology. DNS Re-delegation in ICANN terms has a specific meaning which is not true in PKNIC SRS program. SRS is just a commercial reselling program.

8. I have seen and I have proof how PKNIC terms and conditions are illegitimately fabricated and changed time after time just to punish some people or to revoke some domain names. Thanks to Google caching which can prove different versions of PKNIC "terms and conditions" just to revoke domain names without presenting to so-called "Advisory Group" which is just for political purpose.

Making a long story short, it is the time and there is utmost need to make some drastic changes for the benefit of nation and country ccTLD. If we keep on thinking and keep on delaying, our nation will remain backward in the darks, people and government will remain ignorant, and some folks will keep on washing their hands in sunshine. It is time for all of us "educated Pakistani class" to raise our voice and make authorities to hear of it.

Good luck to all of us!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Third CDMA Operator in Karachi


Worldcall concluded its supply and built deal for its CDMA Wireless Local Loop business in Karachi with Huawei. The deal, reportedly valued at $10 million, is among the series of business wins that the Chinese vendor has recently secured in Pakistan.

This brings the count of CDMA operators in Karachi to three - Telecard's Go CDMA, PTCL's VPTCL and Worldcall's Worldcall Wireless. If the head-hunting reports of Great Bear in Karachi are true, Diallog would be the forth CDMA operator to enter the WLL market in the commercial, but rain-ruined, capital of Pakistan.

Earlier, Ufone's expansion deal - cited being as big as the entire current Ufone infrastructure itself, was snatched by the tech-ginnie from the land of Changez Khan from Erricson. Rumoured reasoning has it that Huawei's offer was 25% cheaper and they offered a long term vendor financing making the deal irresistable for the fast expanding GSM operator.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mitnick's Legend Still Attract Hackers from Pakistan


Kevin Mitnick's legend lives strong in the young crowd of Pakistani hackers and script kiddies. While most of you must be reading the Internet and the newspapers about the history-making Oval incident of the Cricket world, a group of hackers operating out of Pakistan defaced a number of websites of former convicted hacker. More details about the defacement are available here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Internet Governance in Pakistan

Some quick facts before we begin:

  1. Government of Pakistan and all its IT and Telecom departments are typically the last one to understand any new concept specially if it is related to new age communication and Internet. [There are smart guys in these ranks, no doubt, but I am talking about the outcomes, such as legislations and 'instructions' that come out of these corridors - horribly clueless!]
  2. The industry - whether it is Telecom in general, cellular sphere or even plain Internet Service Providers - has not been able to produce world class trade-associations that can help the Government in new-age matters that are beyond its quick comprehension. All that we see are plain, old trade unions void of any professional thrust and effective technical acumen.
  3. Pakistan, like the rest of the South Asian countries, is facing an upsurge in Telecommunications and given its socio-economics problems and the potential of ICT to prove helpful here, it needs to make sure that nothing stands between itself and scalability of Telecommunication and Internet.

Domain Names, IP Addresses, Spam, Identity-theft etc might be 'the issue of 0.1%' in Pakistan but that 0.1% might be meaning a lot in terms of influence to the rest of the country. Hence, dealing with these issues early on is a sensible course. We have some problems with all of these areas and they need to be fixed - sooner or later. The earlier, the better.

The .pk ccTLD (country code top level directory) has been historically managed by a group of ex-pat Pakistanis. In the very early days, it used to be Imran. Then, the stewardship went to Ashar Nisar who has steadily been there at PKNIC for a long time now. PKNIC has been working satisfactorily (from an end customer's perspective) providing reliable services. However, we have some problems:

  1. PKNIC is a misnomer. If you go by the convention, XYZNICs are typical bodies that manage IP addresses and other common, collective resources for a given country or economy. PKNIC has been a 'domain registration' shop so far. It does not do any of the other essential Internet resources (such as IP address, AS Numbers etc)
  2. Its 'satisfactory working' aside, PKNIC remains an 'elusive' body. You cannot 'walk' to the PKNIC office and meet some human representative there. In a booming Internet and Telecommunication market such as that of Pakistan, would you imagine that PKNIC does not have a physical presence in the commercial capital of Pakistan - Karachi? A perfectly logical answer to this objection might be the financial state of the registry and the subsequent inability to have multiple physical offices in Pakistan but hold on - answer this question: Could it be the traditional working style of PKNIC that has been limiting the growth of the services that it provides?
  3. PKNIC's Pakistan office does not even has a telephone number. Just one ghostly fax number that has been sitting there ever since we grew up! The website of PKNIC remains poorly designed in terms of user-interface and usability. From 1996 to 2006, I can only remember 2 or 3 site design changes (I might be grossly wrong here). True, as long as the services are being rendered, this does not make any difference but just try to see the point I am trying to make here - lack of symptoms life!
  4. Because any NIC is so important to any economy in this digital age, it needs to be run democratically, with useful participation from the relavent masses. Once again, PKNIC has tried hard to 'dress up democratically' by having a 'PKNIC Advisory Group' membership to which is open to all. However, what is the exact use (if any) of this group except that it happens to receive a few policy level updates once in a blue moon. Whether this group has the power to make new changes or undo previous once is certainly unclear.

At the peril of being misunderstood as a clueless PKNIC critic, here is what I would suggest:

  1. PKNIC needs to be a vibrant body - something you can feel and touch right here in Pakistan. The servers can happily sit in the bandwidth rich North America but we need to have the rest of the things in Pakistan. At least I am ready to given life-long ownership/stewardship of this national asset to the current organizers but please bring it here. Imran and Ashar Nisar are national assets for us and they have been doing great work for all of us but God forbids, if a natural calamity hit, do we have a transparent succession planning and a DRP?
  2. PKNIC needs to enhance its role - not just should it be handling domain names but it should be enhanced to the level of a Regional Internet Registry (RIR) or a National Internet Registry (NIR) so that it can manage IPv4 and IPv6 addresses for Pakistan. Just to give you an idea, the ~200 odd ISPs licensed in Pakistan pay ~ $200,000 per year to APNIC for a limited amount of services.
  3. By breathing in a 'local life' into PKNIC - we can even have roaming PKNIC ambassadors in each city where there cannot be a full fledged office - we can double or even quadruple domain name registration and usage in the .pk ccTLD. This would bring down the cost per domain and further fuel the usage and consumption.
  4. PKNIC can be an excellent forum of discussing and solving other related issues such as Internet traffic exchanges between local networks, policies related to SPAM, content filtering, privacy and identity crisis etc and be the social forum of choice for handling Internet age issues in Pakistan
Now, getting back to the start of this post, here is the problem statement:
  • Government has been traditionally clueless on the new-age stuff (read Internet)
  • PKNIC guys did a great job in managing the .pk ccTLD at a time when both public and governmental awareness of the subject was next to nothing
  • Pakistan is at a take-off state in terms of IT and Telecommunication and will needs lots of shared Internet resources such as domain name space, IP address space, IPv6 and general network
  • Current PKNIC set up is working satisfactorily but there is a huge potential that remains to be unlocked in terms of possibilities. And as the needs rise, these unlocked potentials will become unaddressed pains
  • Current PKNIC set up needs to be 'revived' in terms of local presence and participation while upholding and acknowledging the services and contribution the current PKNIC leadership has provided
  • In case we cannot get PKNIC revived in the above sense, an ugly, loose-loose war is immanent where a late-awakening PTA and other governmental wings will try to create a parallel body with a split support of local industry that might support them due to the current participation void that they feel with PKNIC.
I invite your comments here to take this issue further.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is your ISP ready for Vista?

Microsoft's oft-delayed, next generation operating platform - Vista is now expected to arrive in January 2007. Vista is reported to be extensive on collaboration and security fronts. To achieve many of the new feats that Vista promises to its users, the 1-Gig OS requires IPv6.

All applications made for the new platform are IPv4/IPv6 compliant and some are reportedly IPv6 only. Since Microsoft knows that not every ISP that the new Vista users connect to would be providing IPv6 services, it has come up with IPv6-over-IPv4 tunnel services that will tunnel the traffic from the end users to Microsoft tunnel servers hosted at one of its data centers.

To ensure scalability, natually, Microsoft has no other choice but to team up with local ISPs in each country to distribute the traffic load as close to the users as possible. This brings up the question of this post - who, if any, is the possible ISP who can contend for this slot. What is the requirement that if fulfilled, this tunnel service could be passed on as a co-located service to the local ISP.

I am starting a series of interaction with the local Microsoft office in Karachi to get an answer to this very question and would be sharing this with you here.