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Monday, October 16, 2017

COMESA Seals Deal to Abolish Mobile Roaming Charges

Members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have agreed to abolish mobile phone roaming charges in the bloc, according to a news report. The bloc said that although pricing of voice services in many African countries was becoming competitive and comparable with those in the rest of the world, the cost of broadband continued to be out of reach for most people. It said that users in Africa paid on average 25 percent of monthly gross national income per capita on mobile calls, compared with 11 percent in other developing nations.
 
As part of the deal, the ministers agreed to draft regulations to support investment in MVNOs as a way of enhancing competition. In Africa, MVNO permits have been issued in Morocco, Kenya and South Africa.
 
 
Famously, the European Union abolished roaming surcharges this past June, and now we see another large region moving to do the same. However, rather than interpreting this as a trend, we should draw attention to the differences between the two situations.
 
In the EU, the move to end roaming charges was largely in response to consumer revolt, within the context of a highly developed set of economies and mature mobile markets. In COMESA, mobile economies are still developing and are still far from reaching maturity. Africa represents 7 percent of internet users across the world; the 18 COMESA member states represent over 37 percent of internet users in Africa and 2.5 percent of the world’s population of internet users. Lack of affordability of services has proved a persistent barrier to entry for too many potential mobile device users in the region. Therefore, the move to get rid of roaming surcharges is motivated by a desire to promote growth of the market.
 
This is not first time roaming charges have been eliminated within the region. The East Africa Community (EAC) has already implemented the concept of uniform phone charges, and Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have implemented harmonized voice and SMS charges under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects initiative.
 
Of course, more than simply abolishing roaming surcharges will be needed to increase affordability of mobile services in COMESA countries, but it is a valid first step. The fostering of an MVNO sector should also help to increase the uptake of mobile services. 


Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 
To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

U.S. Regulator’s Finding Could Aid T-Mobile–Sprint Merger

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. regulatory agency, voted to approve a report that stated that there is “effective competition” in the U.S. mobile market for the first time since 2009, according to a news report. The finding is a strong indication that the FCC will be favorable to the proposed merger between the third and fourth ranking mobile operators in the U.S., T-Mobile and Sprint, which are said to be close to an agreement.
 
The commissioners, however, were not unanimous in their opinion; the vote was 3–2. The agency’s chairman, Ajit Pai, was in favor, stating, “Most reasonable people see a fiercely competitive marketplace. This is strong, incontrovertible evidence.” On the other hand, one of the Commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, said, “While this report celebrates the presence of four nationwide wireless providers, let’s be mindful that a transaction may soon be announced that seeks to combine two of these four. For my part, any transaction before us will require someone to explain how consumers will benefit, how prices will not rise, and how innovation will not dissipate in the face of so much more industry concentration.”
 
And the other dissenting voice came from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who stated that the report at hand “takes a decidedly myopic view of the ecosystem, and instead focuses only on ‘competition in the provision of mobile wireless services.’ This is like a doctor looking at one organ and pronouncing a patient fit as a fiddle.”
 
While it is outside the scope of these remarks to assess the rights and wrongs of the competition report that came before the FCC, we can cite the FCC itself to state that the four major U.S. operators control 98.8 percent of the market. The current number of operators represents a significant reduction from the seven that divided the market between them 10 years ago, so the question of what the market would be like if it were consolidated to three is obviously a pressing one.
 
In finding the mobile landscape to be more than adequately competitive, one of the facts that the report and the approving commissioners stressed is that prices have gone down over the past six years, despite the investment of $200 billion made by the operators in their networks.
 
However, one could argue that one of the major reasons for the downward trend in prices has been the massive disruptive “Un-carrier” strategy pursued by T-Mobile, which is firmly based on undercutting the competition on price. If the merger were to go ahead, would the resulting third operator continue to pursue such a strategy, in order to vanquish AT&T and Verizon? Or would it become more complacent? Presumably, with T-Mobile the senior partner in the deal, the new entity’s goals would be more those of T-Mobile than of Sprint, as currently constituted.
 
In any case, whether a merger would be good or bad for the U.S. mobile market, the FCC’s stance on competition makes it seem likely that it will give its blessing to the union. That represents a turnaround since 2014, the last time T-Mobile and Sprint announced merger talks. At that time, the Obama-era FCC and Justice department said that they would not give the green light to a merger and the deal was dropped.


Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 
To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Telefónica Mexico Chooses Tutela for Mobile Network Analysis

Canadian mobile analytics company Tutela Technologies has announced an agreement to help Telefónica Mexico improve its network quality. The partnership will give Telefónica Mexico access to quality crowd-sourced network data from over 150,000 Mexican mobile phone users, including details of signal strength and quality, device usage and download speed patterns.
 
The insights will enable the operator to analyze the experience of its own and rival networks, identify opportunities for improvement and troubleshoot performance problems as they arise, according to Tutela, which said that it collects over 10 billion mobile quality data points every day globally, with over 100 million data points per day in Mexico alone.
 
Spain-based multinational Telefónica, operating in Mexico under the Movistar brand, has experienced a difficult time in Mexico since entering the market over a decade and a half ago. While Movistar is number two in the market in terms of subscribers, it lags far behind the leader, 
América Móvil -owned Telcel, with 25 million subscribers to Telcel’s 75 million as of the first quarter of 2017. Furthermore, Movistar is facing a major challenge from new entrant AT&T, which has over 12 million subscribers and is growing fast. Telcel has also become a more aggressive competitor lately, ever since national regulators imposed measures to reduce its market dominance. As for Movistar, it has seen revenues drop more than 16 percent year-over-year, with subscriber numbers flat.
 
In Open Signal’s March 2017 tests of Mexican mobile networks, Movistar came in last of the top three operators, with Telcel leading in 4G/LTE and AT&T taking the lead for combined 3G and 4G quality. Movistar won in no categories. With these facts in mind, it seems that boosting network quality would be a very good strategic move for Movistar.
 
By partnering with Tutela, Telefónica Mexico will be engaging the services of a well-reputed firm with the ability to garner the high-quality, meaningful data that the operator will need in order to chart a course forward for its network. Granular data that pinpoints exactly where and how the network is not delivering what customers want will be essential, and comparative data about rival operators’ networks will likewise be indispensible.
 
While rumors have gone around in the media to the effect that Telefónica has been considering exiting the Mexican market in the wake of AT&T’s advent, the effort to seriously address its network concerns is an indicator that, at least for now, Telefónica is staying put.



Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 

To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

U.S. Regulator’s Finding Could Aid T-Mobile–Sprint Merger

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. regulatory agency, voted to approve a report that stated that there is “effective competition” in the U.S. mobile market for the first time since 2009, according to a news report. The finding is a strong indication that the FCC will be favorable to the proposed merger between the third and fourth ranking mobile operators in the U.S., T-Mobile and Sprint, which are said to be close to an agreement.
 
The commissioners, however, were not unanimous in their opinion; the vote was 3–2. The agency’s chairman, Ajit Pai, was in favor, stating, “Most reasonable people see a fiercely competitive marketplace. This is strong, incontrovertible evidence.” On the other hand, one of the Commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, said, “While this report celebrates the presence of four nationwide wireless providers, let’s be mindful that a transaction may soon be announced that seeks to combine two of these four. For my part, any transaction before us will require someone to explain how consumers will benefit, how prices will not rise, and how innovation will not dissipate in the face of so much more industry concentration.”
 
And the other dissenting voice came from Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who stated that the report at hand “takes a decidedly myopic view of the ecosystem, and instead focuses only on ‘competition in the provision of mobile wireless services.’ This is like a doctor looking at one organ and pronouncing a patient fit as a fiddle.”
 
 
While it is outside the scope of these remarks to assess the rights and wrongs of the competition report that came before the FCC, we can cite the FCC itself to state that the four major U.S. operators control 98.8 percent of the market. The current number of operators represents a significant reduction from the seven that divided the market between them 10 years ago, so the question of what the market would be like if it were consolidated to three is obviously a pressing one.
 
In finding the mobile landscape to be more than adequately competitive, one of the facts that the report and the approving commissioners stressed is that prices have gone down over the past six years, despite the investment of $200 billion made by the operators in their networks.
 
However, one could argue that one of the major reasons for the downward trend in prices has been the massive disruptive “Un-carrier” strategy pursued by T-Mobile, which is firmly based on undercutting the competition on price. If the merger were to go ahead, would the resulting third operator continue to pursue such a strategy, in order to vanquish AT&T and Verizon? Or would it become more complacent? Presumably, with T-Mobile the senior partner in the deal, the new entity’s goals would be more those of T-Mobile than of Sprint, as currently constituted.
 
In any case, whether a merger would be good or bad for the U.S. mobile market, the FCC’s stance on competition makes it seem likely that it will give its blessing to the union. That represents a turnaround since 2014, the last time T-Mobile and Sprint announced merger talks. At that time, the Obama-era FCC and Justice department said that they would not give the green light to a merger and the deal was dropped.



Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 

To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Monday, October 2, 2017

EU Residents Slow to Increase Roaming Usage Despite End to Surcharges

Although a large majority of European Union residents are aware that roaming surcharges were abolished on 15 June, a majority of those who traveled within the EU since that date are still restricting their usage in some way, according to a survey by Eurostat. The survey, which was conducted in late August across all 28 EU states, found that 71 percent of people know about the end of roaming charges, and of those who have traveled to another EU country since 15 June, the figure is 86 percent.
 
Thirty-one percent of respondents said they used mobile internet as much abroad as at home since 15 June, compared to 15 percent of those who traveled in the EU before the changes took effect. The number who do not use mobile data abroad fell to 21 percent from 42 percent. More than twice as many also made calls abroad (24 percent versus 11 percent.)
 
However, 60 percent of those who traveled after 15 June said they made an effort to either turn off their phones, turn off data roaming or buy an alternative SIM card or roaming package. Of those who traveled before 15 June, the figure was 66 percent.
 
After all the hoopla attending the debate over roaming charges within the EU and the eventual, long-awaited abolition of such charges, one would imagine that European mobile users would be reveling in their new-found freedom to “roam like at home.” And yet as this survey shows, significantly more than half of travelers are still acting as if there were a reason to avoid using mobile services, especially data. Considering the small physical footprints of most EU states and the frequency with which EU residents cross borders, this is a serious issue.
 
While mobile operators generally opposed the end to roaming charges on the grounds that they were a rich source of revenue, non-utilization of services cannot be good for operators. If the surcharges were in fact keeping subscribers from using services, ending those charges should eventually have a positive effect on revenue.
 
However, it is clear that user behavior has lagged behind changing realities, most likely for no other reason than that old habits die hard. Since this usage pattern represents a shortfall in both revenue and network utilization, it should be addressed aggressively. MNOs should be thinking creatively about how to raise awareness and publicize the advantages of roaming. And if information alone is not enough (and it may not be, given that the vast majority of users say they know that the surcharges have ended), then something more may be necessary. Operators may wish to consider promotions offering incentives to those who keep their data switched on while traveling abroad.
 
Another thing that operators could do, which does fall under the heading of providing information, is to make clear to users that the service caps that are in place under the new regulations are not set at a level that would interfere with ordinary use, especially during short-term travel. Since users are often unaware of their usage levels per unit time, a clear explanation could help in this regard.





Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 
To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tigo Ghana Launches Communication Package for Fishermen

Mobile operator Tigo Ghana, in partnership with USAID’s Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project and the Ghana Fisheries Commission, has launched a communication package for fishermen in the country’ coastal communities. Starting off as a pilot project, the integrated package includes voice, internet, Tigo Cash and Tigo Insurance services. It also comes with subsidized mobile handsets.
 
Stephen Essien, Chief Business Officer for Tigo Business, said the pilot phase will run until the end of the year and then will be expanded based on outcomes. The initial roll-out targets Adina, Bortianor, Elmina and Axim, coastal communities in Ghana’s Central and Western regions.
 
A recent report on 135 countries by Ericsson concludes that mobile internet penetration is a major driver of GDP. The study, titled “How Important Are Mobile Broadband Networks for Global Economic Development?” and conducted in partnership with the Imperial College of London, found that in 2016, increasing penetration by 10 percent lifted GDP by 0.6 percent to 2.8 percent. The report noted that developing countries in particular have used mobile broadband to “leapfrog” in their economic development over the past 10 to 15 years.
 
Tigo Ghana’s fishermen’s package is a small but compelling example of how this process works and how mobile operators can play a role in the development of countries in which they are based or do business. Africa is notable for its emerging “mobile-first” economies; by providing grass-roots-level small entrepreneurs such as fishermen with the means to communicate via mobile and access vital business information via mobile data, Tigo will be able to significantly increase their ability to generate revenue. Providing handsets will only aid the process, given the fact that the initial investment of buying a device could be prohibitive for some. And by connecting the service to Tigo Cash, its mobile money service, the operator is taking the idea to its logical conclusion, since the rural-based economies in many African countries are now driven mainly by mobile money.
 
It should be noted that in order for this public-private pilot program to succeed, there must exist an appropriate level of network connectivity in the relevant regions. Presumably Tigo either already can provide this quality of service or will be creating it as part of the initiative. 








Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 
To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Orange Makes Exclusive Offer of New Apple Watch in France

Orange France has begun accepting pre-orders for the LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3. According to the operator’s website, the device will be available exclusively on its network starting on 22 September 2017. Eligible customers—meaning those with unlimited calling plans with Orange or its budget brand Sosh—will have access to a voice and data add-on, called Multi-SIM, with which they can share their allowances with the watch.
 
This deal is being offered free of charge for the first six months, to customers who make their purchases between 22 September and 3 October. After that, the subscription for the add-on will cost €5.00 (US $5.97) per month. Customers must have a compatible handset (iPhone 6S or later model) in order to make use of the Apple Watch Series 3.
 
With all the fanfare surrounding Apple’s announcement last week of its iPhone X and iPhone 8 models, the new Apple Watch seems to have gotten a little less attention. However, while the improvements to the company’s flagship handsets are more or less incremental, the wrist-based unit comes with a quantum leap (albeit one already made by Samsung and LG)—cellular connectivity, and LTE at that.
 
Now that the Apple Watch no longer needs to be tethered to a nearby iPhone, users have greater freedom to access voice and data services at times when they may not have the ability or desire to have their handsets with them. And Orange is well positioned to benefit from this situation by achieving (for the time being) market exclusivity in its home base, France. While we of course cannot be sure at the moment what the level of demand and uptake there will be for the LTE-enabled watch, Orange’s first-mover status will allow it to garner all the revenue in this sector for a while and possibly to keep ahead of its competitors even after they enter.
 
According to a report, Orange’s exclusivity is due to technical reasons rather than to a privileged deal inked with Apple: Currently in France, only Orange’s network is capable of supporting e-SIMS, which is the system used by the Apple Watch Series 3. This circumstance could cause the period of exclusivity to last longer than it would otherwise.
 
Adding a free six-month promotional period to the offer is a savvy move, although the future cost of the Multi-SIM add-on is certainly not onerous. While the operator will make money from this surcharge, we expect that if the Apple Watch Series 3 catches on among French users, it will create a serious revenue opportunity in the form of increased data consumption. 






Tarifica is the global leader in monitoring and analyzing telecom pricing. Covering hundreds of operators in every region of the globe, Tarifica’s databases of mobile and fixed line data and voice tariffs are among the largest and most in-depth in the world. Tarifica is also a leading publisher of benchmark and other pricing reports, and its analysts are recognized authorities in the telecom industry, relied upon by operators and businesses worldwide for pricing insight and guidance. 
To learn more about Tarifica, please visit www.tarifica.com