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 ( and Mr. Aadil Umar Khalil, Assistant Director ( 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 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!