Archive for August, 2010

Televisa-Nextel consortium wins Mexican mobile tender

The consortium comprising media group Televisa and Nextel Mexico, a unit of NII Holdings, has won Mexico’s second mobile spectrum auction. Mexican telecoms regulator Cofetel declared the consortium the winner of a nationwide licence that aims to increase competition on the local market. According to Cofetel, the consortium offered the minimum bid price of MXN 180.3 million (approximately USD 14.2 million) for 30 MHz spectrum in the 1710MHz to 2170MHz frequency band in each of the country’s nine mobile operating regions. The amount must be paid to the government within 45 days. Additionally, the tender winner will have to pay MXN 18.13 billion in annual instalments over the 20-year life of the licence. Market leader Telcel, a unit of America Movil, won 21 blocks of 10 MHz in all operating regions with a bid of MXN 3.79 billion, plus MXN 12.70 billion in other fees during the life of the licences. Telefonica’s local unit also won six 10 MHz blocks in six regions with a MXN 1.27 billion offer, plus the agreement to pay MXN 5.43 billion in other fees. Nextel said it plans to start selling service on the new network in parts of Mexico as soon as 12 months after it gets the airwaves.

Vodacom launches Android smartphone in South Africa

Vodacom South Africa has launched a low-cost Android smartphone. The VF845 is a slim touchscreen device with a 2.8-inch QVGA (320×240) 262k colour display, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G connectivity. In addition to the Android Market, the phone offers access to The Grid, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. The device runs on Android Eclair 2.1. The VF845 will retail at ZAR 1,399.

Kenya gets second IXP in Mombasa

The Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya (TESPOK) announced the creation of an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Mombasa. The new IXP will ensure that all the region’s traffic is exchanged locally, which will improve internet performance for end users, save operators the expense of backhauling regional traffic via Nairobi, and reduce the costs associated with traffic exchange between ISPs. The establishment of the Mombasa IXP was facilitated in part by the Internet Society’s African Interconnection and IXP Programme, an initiative to promote more robust internet connections within and between countries in Africa. The programme combines technical training, IXP deployment assistance, development of value added services at existing IXPs, and the establishment of regional communities to promote information exchange and joint problem solving. The Internet Society donated time, training, and equipment to assist the launch of the IXP in Mombasa. Located over 500km from the country’s first IXP in Nairobi, Mombasa is the landing point for all undersea fibre cables to Kenya and other landlocked countries in East Africa, making it an attractive location for international carriers to interconnect with the region. The first Kenyan exchange point was launched in Nairobi in 2001. The Internet Society’s Interconnection and IXP Programme is supported by the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the Deutscher Commercial Internet Exchange (DE-CIX) and Netnod, the Swedish Internet exchange provider.

EU loses WTO case over duties on electronic goods

The World Trade Organisation has ruled that European Union duties on certain electronics products broke international rules, the Financial Times writes. The decision claims that the EU violated its WTO obligations when it imposed tariffs on goods such as cable set-top boxes, computer monitors and certain printers that were developed after a 1996 agreement to eliminate trade barriers on technology goods. The case was brought by the US, Japan and Taiwan in May 2008, which insisted that the Information Technology Agreement, which slashed tariffs on a wide range of technology products, should account for technological changes and cover goods created in subsequent years. The EU countered that many of these products should be classified as consumer goods rather than technology products, allowing it to impose tariffs of up to 14 percent. It had argued, for example, that flat-panel computer screens that could be used to watch videos were more akin to televisions than to IT products. The European Commission said it would not comment before reading the 700-page report. It has two months in which to lodge an appeal.

Google can beat Facebook in usability

Google has made four acquisitions this month (August 2010), spending at least USD 400 million. CEO Eric Schmidt earlier said the company plans to step up the tempo of takeovers, and this is the latest evidence of that.

Since the company was started, Google has swallowed over 70 companies. The company is buying not only services and technology, but also people (especially engineers), revenues and in some cases, established market positions. Big acquisitions have included YouTube (video sharing, USD 1.65 billion in 2006), DoubleClick (advertising, USD 3.1 billion in 2007), Postini (email tools, USD 625 million in 2007), AdMob (mobile advertising, USD 750 million in 2010) and ITA Software (flight information and software, USD 700 million, still to be completed). Most of the other transactions had a value of a few million or a few tens of millions, with the occasional exception up to USD 150 million. These include some well-known names such as Picasa and Android. A very rough estimate would put Google’s total acquisition spend over the past ten years at USD 8-9 billion. In comparison, Google’s market capitalization is currently USD 155 billion and its revenues in 2010 are estimated at USD 21 billion.

All together that’s a significant M&A post. Acquisitions are important for Google’s growth, which is facing a slowdown in the coming years. The takeovers also offer new areas of activity, without having to develop a service internally each time. Google could set up its own teams to develop specific services, but by acquiring such a team at a later stage, there is less risk. However, there is also a price for that strategy.

Looking at the most recent acquisitions, it’s clear many are related to the ‘social web’: Bazaar Labs, Zynga, Slide and Jambool. This is driving speculation that Google is preparing an attack on Facebook’s territory, under the name Google Me. On the one hand, this could be a difficult task for Google. Various attempts in the ‘social’ area have already fallen short of expectations (eg Wave, Buzz), and Facebook is already the de facto standard with more than 500 million users. On the other hand, Google now controls much of the relevant technology and the user-firendliness of Facebook still leaves a lot to be desired – for example, the Facebook ‘privacy settings’, which many users find difficult to understand and repeatedly lead to problems. Fred Wilson, a partner at Union Square Ventures, recently sneered that Facebook is nothing more than a photo-sharing website. It won’t be easier but Google has a big chance to do better than Facebook in social networking.

Nokia unveils Touch and Type design with Nokia X3

Nokia unveiled the Nokia X3, its first device featuring its new ‘Touch and Type’ design. The device features a touch screen and traditional 12 button phone keypad and is expected to be on sale in Q3 for approximately EUR 125, excluding taxes and subsidies. Measuring 9.6mm thick, the Nokia X3 comes with a brushed aluminum back cover which will come in five vibrant colors. Other features include 3G, WLAN, a music player, FM radio and 5 megapixel camera with 4X digital zoom. It also features dedicated music and messaging keys allowing fast access to Nokia’s Ovi services, including social and entertainment applications. In addition to Ovi Mail, consumer e-mail and chat accounts can be pushed direct to the phone via Nokia Messaging. In certain markets, the new phone will also be available with Ovi Music Unlimited, enabling the owner to access music that can be stored on the available 16GB memory card. The Nokia X3 Touch and Type sits alongside the Nokia X3-00, a slider with strong music functionality, which was launched in September 2009. Music lovers can boost the Nokia X3′s inbuilt speaker with the new MD-11, a light pocket-size speaker with great audio quality. The Nokia Mini Speaker MD-11 is estimated to retail for EUR 25.

Argentina to launch number portability system in 2011

The Argentinean government has passed the decree for the introduction of the portability system in the country. A decade after the publication in the Official Gazette of the document that originated the present decree, President Cristina Fernandez has now ordered the regulation of the number portability system for mobile phone users, local newspaper Cronista reports. Argentina’s telecommunications secretariat Secom’s Resolution 98 stipulates that the portability system will be made available within the next 12 months. The portability system implementation is expected to require overall investments of nearly USD 40 million. Argentina currently has around 35 million mobile phone users, divided among mobile operators Movistar, Claro, Personal and Nextel.

MTN to sponsor English Premier League in Africa

Middle East and Africa operator MTN said it has signed a three-year broadcast sponsorship of the English Premier League (English Premiership) in Africa, after being the first and only African global sponsor for the recent World Cup in South Africa. CMO Santie Botha said the three-season deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, from 2010/11 to 2012/13 will see the operator sponsor SuperSport’s English Premiership broadcasts in South Africa and the rest of Africa as well as Canal+’s French broadcasts of the League in Africa. MTN will also sponsor the broadcasts of some of the best European league matches, specifically Bundesliga and La Liga.

Sweden scores highest in ccTLD brand strength

Sweden’s country code top-level domain (ccTLD) .se has the highest local value in terms of top-level domain awareness, relevance and preference in Europe, according to a study by the organisation that administers the European top-level .eu domain, EURid. EURid’s report shows that Sweden leads in Europe, along with the Czech Republic and Germany, in terms of citizens’ preference towards top-level domains. According to EURid’s ccTLD brand strength classification, .se is first with 234 out of 250 points, ahead of Czech Republic’s .cz with 218, Germany’s .de with 215, .com with 208, Denmark’s .dk with 207, .local with 197, UK’s with 191, Spain’s .es with 180 , Italy’s .it with 178, France’s .fr with 171, .org with 115, .net with 112, .eu with 98, .info with 65, and .biz with 55. In Sweden, .se scored nearly 100 percent in awareness, close to 90 percent in terms of relevance (highest in Europe) and 49 percent for preference, compared with 34 percent for the competing top-level .com domain. This means that all respondents know that .se exists and nearly everyone considers it relevant to use the top-level .se domain in Sweden. EURid’s report also shows that nearly 50 percent prefer .se to other top-level domains in the Swedish market. In December 2009, Statistics Sweden stated in a report that the .se domain dominates the Swedish market, while .com is losing ground. EURid suggests this trend is continuing.

EC appeals France Telecom state aid decision

The European Commission has appealed a European Court of Justice decision in May that found no unlawful state aid in the French government’s pledge of support to France Telecom when it was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2002. The appeal process could take months or even years, writes La Tribune. Former minister of Finance Francis Mer said the government would not let the 56.45 percent state-owned operator fail, specifically that “the state would take the necessary decisions for any financing problems to be resolved”. The government agreed a EUR 9 billion credit line, which France Telecom did not need in the end, because it managed to secure financing on the open market. The European Commission argues that the minister’s statements persuaded credit rating agencies to not downgrade France Telecom. The operator was not immediately available to comment to AFP.