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Belgacom expands relationship with Cisco to evolve network

Belgian telecommunications service provider Belgacom has purchased additional Cisco mobile internet products to help develop its mobile network. The Cisco ASR 5000 Series will reportedly allow for unified management of Belgacom’s existing 2G and 3G services, as well as presenting a foundation for the service provider’s new Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. In addition, Belgacom expects to see ‘immediate benefits’ from running 2G, 3G and 4G on the same platform, while the use of the Cisco ASR 5000 Series for its mobile network will also enable ‘access innovation, such as carrier Wi-Fi, small cells and HetNet self-organising network (SON)’.

Wim Bouckenooghe, Head of Core Service Platforms at Belgacom, was cited as saying: ‘The Cisco ASR 5000 Series is a single-packet core platform that allows us to operate multiple technologies including 2G, 3G, LTE and small cells in our mobile network. Cisco’s elastic architecture also allows us to easily and rapidly scale mobile Internet services, which are a fast growing market in Belgium.’

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Belgacom, which offers mobile services under the brand name Proximus, held 42.0% of the Belgian subscriber market share at end-June 2014, with 5.323 million subscribers at that date.

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Emaxx teams up with Huawei for 4G network rollout

Cambodian broadband company Emaxx has signed a contract with China’s Huawei for the development of a nationwide 4G network, the Phnom Penh Post reports. Under the contract, Huawei will roll out LTE base stations in eight cities, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Battambang. The project is scheduled to be completed within the next two years, with services expected to be initially launched in the capital in early 2015. ‘The aim is to fulfil the increasing demand for data usage in the Kingdom,’ commented Emaxx board member Sean Ngu, adding: ‘Both Emaxx and Huawei will progress to build the most reliable and stable 4G LTE network here’. *The announcement follows the acquisition of a 65% stake in Emaxx by Chinese firm Shenzhen Keybridge Communications (SKC) earlier this year. In April the company revealed it would invest USD148 million in new infrastructure projects, as part of plans to transform itself from a retail provider into a wholesale fibre-optic and 4G network supplier.

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Vodafone Hutchison Australia critical of ACCC’s MTAS proposals

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has criticised plans put forward by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) related to the pricing of the declared mobile terminating access service (MTAS). According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in its submission responding to the regulator’s discussion paper on the matter VHA has claimed that incumbent Telstra’s ownership of most fixed voice lines meant it had generated large amounts of money from the system, while also arguing that cutting MTAS charges would reduce the amount Telstra paid other networks for certain calls. ‘This is not an appropriate time to further enrich Telstra … The declaration of MTAS has been a succession of aspirations, gambles and ultimately missed opportunities. The spurious correlations the ACCC have used in its discussion paper … do not meet the basic standards for evidence commonly used in other legal or regulatory processes,’ VHA was cited as saying in its submission.

However, with VHA claiming that Telstra had not passed on lower wholesale fees to customers, arguing that the price of two-minute phone calls to other networks had actually risen since 2003, the fixed line operator was quick to reject such suggestions as being ‘totally incorrect’. Indeed, Telstra argued that the ACCC’s analysis actually showed that lower prices were being passed through, with the telco noting: ‘Prices for fixed-to-mobile calls have fallen every year for the past decade, including by over 10% each year for the past three years … Telstra has more than passed through the reductions in the MTAS rate to fixed-to-mobile pricing.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, last month the ACCC published a discussion paper on pricing the declared MTAS, with this consultation forming part of the MTAS final access determination (FAD) inquiry which got underway in May 2014. In this inquiry the regulator confirmed it would continue regulating terminating services for mobile voice calls until 2019, while also revealing it would begin regulating terminating SMS services for the first time. Having published the paper the ACCC said it was seeking stakeholders’ views on appropriate ways to determine efficient prices for both terminating mobile calls and SMS messages. Further, it also proposed setting a new regulated price for mobile voice termination services, which is currently AUD0.036 (USD0.033) per minute. Submissions from interested parties had to be submitted before the deadline of 29 August 2014.

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Uniform roaming fees in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda from 1 October

Patrick Nyirishema, director general of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), has announced that telecom operators in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have committed to cap the minimum roaming charges in the three countries to help boost integration of the East African Community (EAC) from 1 October 2014, AllAfrica reports. The executive revealed that the unified network project would be fast-tracked as soon as a minor setback involving the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is ironed out. Nyirishema was cited as saying: ‘We are committed to achieving this objective. However, Uganda’s sector regulator, the UCC, has had to review [its] policy, which delayed the process.’ South Sudan is set to join the initiative later this year, with other countries in the region also expected to follow suit. Although Tanzania and Burundi did not participate in the initial talks that led to the pact, the two countries have been given until 31 December to carry out studies on the minimum roaming charges they expect. *As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the five EAC member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – have seen cross-border roaming charges increase dramatically over the last few years, prompting cellcos to demand that the roaming fees should be scrapped. In 2012 RURA increased the charges for receiving a call to RWF144.3 (USD0.2) from the previous charge of RWF59, while regulators in Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania introduced similar taxes. Calls to Uganda and Burundi previously cost RWF60, which was hiked to RWF120 and RWF350, respectively. Enos Bukuku, EAC deputy secretary general for planning and infrastructure, pledged that the secretariat will come up with a model that will make roaming rates affordable, and called on operators and governments to discuss the issue.

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RJIL inks tower deal with GTL

Wireless startup Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) has added to its growing list of infrastructure partners by signing a tower sharing agreement with GTL Infrastructure, the Business Today reports. Details of the deal were not released, but GTL operates around 27,800 towers across all 22 of India’s operating areas. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, RJIL, owned by petrochemical giant Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has signed a host of infrastructure deals in an effort to boost its coverage when it launches services and to hasten the rollout of its own network. To date the cellco has signed deals with Reliance Communications (RCOM) – to share fibre networks as well as towers – Bharti Infratel, Viom Networks, American Tower Coperation (ATC), Tower Vision, Ascent Telecom and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).

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iBurst in takeover talks with three players

David Hilewitz, director of Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), the parent company of WiMAX operator iBurst, has revealed that the company is currently in discussions with three different companies players regarding a possible takeover deal, and is considering one offer, BusinessTech reports. Whilst the internet service provider (ISP) has previously been linked to acquisition talks with MTN SA and Dimension Data, Hilewitz has disclosed that the current offer is not from either of these companies. Further, the executive pointed out that that no deal has been concluded, adding: ‘We are really comfortable owning WBS/iBurst.’ Hilewitz also said that the operator is also looking at building a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network using its 1800MHz spectrum, and then partnering for the use of this network.*As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in October 2011 MTN SA managing director Karel Pienaar dismissed rumours that the mobile giant was set to acquire WBS, by revealing that whilst MTN had held exploratory discussions with iBurst, a deal was ‘highly unlikely’. More recently, in August 2013 Dimension Data was said to have offered ZAR250 million (USD22.6 million) for the unit, but the bid was rejected, with WBS shareholders allegedly seeking offers in the region of ZAR500 million.

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Orange Romania launches 300Mbps-capable LTE

Orange Romania yesterday (18 September 2014) announced the launch of upgrades to its 4G LTE mobile network to enable peak theoretical mobile data speeds of up to 300Mbps in six cities – Bucharest, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Galati, Iasi and Timisoara – under the ‘4G+’ banner. The French-owned operator disclosed that the upgraded LTE services will be available from 22 September for business and consumer subscribers on selected packages. Orange also announced that its LTE network (originally launched in December 2012 and significantly expanded in April 2014) has been extended to an additional 200 towns/municipalities, reaching a total of more than 1,300 municipalities and 48% of the Romanian population (and 78% of the country’s urban population). Furthermore, Orange has also launched 4G network coverage of the Bucharest Metro train system, which carries an approximate 650,000 passengers daily. Since July, Orange Romania customers can access 4G internet speeds on all subscriptions at no additional fees compared to 3G/2G surfing.

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MOTIV discloses further details regarding LTE plans; Ericsson named as rollout partner

Yekaterinburg-based regional mobile operator MOTIV has reportedly deployed ‘portions’ of its planned 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, Yamal-Nenets and Khanty-Mansi. According Comnews.ru the network is being deployed by Swedish vendor Ericsson, and the service is expected to go live later this autumn. *TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that MOTIV’s subscriber base totalled 2.408 million as at 30 June, equivalent to a 1% market share. The Sverdlovsk Oblast currently accounts for around 95% of its users, the Comnews.ru report suggests.

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Cordoba co-op begins offering IPTV

Argentine telecoms co-operative Cooperativa de Servicios Publicos de Jesus Maria y Colonia Caroya, which operates in the province of Cordoba, has launched commercial IPTV services, NexTV Latam reports. A range of 88 channels in standard definition and 16 in high definition are available, while a video on demand (VOD) service is also on offer. Last September the Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA) authorised the use of IP-based technology by local co-operatives for the transmission of audiovisual content, although the country’s main telecoms operators remain barred from offering the service. Earlier this month, three co-ops – located in Pueblo San Jose (Coronel Suarez, Buenos Aires province), Morteros (Cordoba) and Buenos Aires’ Telpin de Pinamar – became the first of their kind to launch IPTV services. The four co-ops are part of a group of ten that have worked together to introduce IPTV, with the remaining six – located in Tortuguitas (Buenos Aires), Villa Gobernador Galvez (Santa Fe), RioTel in Rio Tercero (Cordoba), Corpico in General Pico (La Pampa), Funescoop in Funs (Santa Fe) and Telviso from Del Viso (Buenos Aires) – expected to begin offering the service before the end of the year.

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Sprint offloads 900MHz spectrum to former Nextel co-founders

Mobile workforce communications provider Pacific DataVision, which is led by former Nextel Communications co-founders Morgan O’Brien and Brian McAuley, has acquired all of Sprint Corp’s 900MHz licences, giving it 6MHz of bandwidth nationwide for use in a push-to-talk (PTT) radio network. According to Fierce Wireless, Pacific DataVision intends to use an unspecified Motorola Solutions’ digital radio technology – not iDEN as Nextel used – for its PTT network, which should launch in initial markets before the second quarter of 2015. Pacific DataVision will initially target small- to medium-size businesses and look to serve critical infrastructure companies. Pacific DataVision is also seeking FCC permission to launch a wireless broadband offering using its newly acquired spectrum. McAuley serves as Pacific DataVision’s chairman, while O’Brien is the vice chairman and has the responsibility for the company’s spectrum strategies.

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