CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNamericas 01/23/15

CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNamericas 01/23/15

Jamaica gives nod to CWC-Flow merger – Jamaica

Cuba to maintain mobile rates – Cuba

SPOTLIGHT: Cuba’s journey on the internet – Cuba

Choice Wireless deploys LTE in US Virgin Islands – Caribbean, Virgin Islands

SPOTLIGHT: Futurecom changes hands – Brazil, Regional

 

Jamaica gives nod to CWC-Flow merger – Jamaica Jamaica’s government has approved the acquisition of Columbus Communications, which operates in the country under the Flow brand, by Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC).

Phillip Paulwell, the country’s science and technology minister, told local daily The Jamaica Gleaner that the government had secured a number of concessions from CWC to ensure fair competition.

“The law is quite clear how an application like that is to be dealt with, and it doesn’t give the minister a lot of room,” he said.

“What I have sought to do is to go beyond the law and to extract certain conditions,” he said, adding that the company had accepted them.

Concessions include commitments to preserve access to Flow’s undersea fiber cables, CWC antennas and other broadband entry points to Digicel and other competitors. LIME, CWC’s operating brand in Jamaica, also agreed to be ready for number portability by May 31.

LIME Jamaica added 165,000 users in 2014, up 31%, according to the company’s annual report.

CWC announced its intention of acquiring Columbus International in November for a total of US$3.02bn, including absorbing US$1.17bn in debt.

The merger was not welcomed by rival telecom Digicel, which said CWC was overpaying for Columbus. Three regional regulators said they were going to look into the transaction.

Cuba to maintain mobile rates – Cuba Cuba’s state-owned telecom Etecsa does not plan to lower its mobile phone plans, despite the fact that current rates are too high for most citizens.

According to local daily Diario de Cuba, the firm currently charges 10 convertible pesos (US$10) per month for 20 hours of internet, while 50 hours cost 15 convertible pesos and 220 hours cost 60 convertible pesos. Additional hours cost 0.30 convertible pesos.

These prices have been criticized as being too high, as the average working class Cuban has a monthly salary of around US$20.

Cuba’s mobile rates are too high for most citizens. (CREDIT: AFP)

Luis Manuel Díaz, Etecsa communications director, told Cubanet.org that the telco has no plans to lower the rates, except for international calls.

The telco expects to activate 800,000 new mobile lines and 30,000 landlines in 2015, according to Díaz, up 42% from 2014, when the company added 565,000 new mobile users.

The island has 2.4mn active mobile accounts since Raúl Castro’s government lifted the ban on mobile lines in 2008. Cubans are allowed to register to up to three mobile lines since November.

SPOTLIGHT: Cuba’s journey on the internet – Cuba Cuba is on the brink of a new era, what with the US announcing the rekindling of relations, and the island taking steps to open up its borders and provide its citizens with public internet access.

The country’s telecom and IT market remains one of the most underdeveloped in Latin America.The latest data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) places Cuba’s internet penetration at 25.7% as of 2013, according to a report from watchdog Freedom House.

For one, the country must modernize its crumbling telecom infrastructure. Cuba began receiving internet service in 2013 through a connection with Jamaica via submarine cable.

Etecsa, the country’s sole telecom provider, announced it would be launching Wi-Fi hotspots in 2015, and expanding public internet access centers in the country. It currently has 154, up from 118 in 2013.

The company also began selling household internet on September 15, 2014. According to local daily Diario de Cuba, the firm charges 10 convertible pesos (US$10) per month for 20hrs of internet, while 50hrs cost 15 convertible pesos and 220hrs cost 60 convertible pesos. Additional hours cost 0.30 convertible pesos.

Internet prices in Cuba have been criticized as being too high, as the average working class Cuban has a monthly salary of around US$20, according to the report.

In March, the country began allowing citizens to have their e-mail connections accessible via mobile phones. By November, there were some 460,000 users of the service, the Freedom House report added.

Etecsa has said it plans to make an additional 800,000 mobile lines available, bringing the total in the country to more than 3mn since Raúl Castro’s government lifted the ban on mobile lines in 2008. Cubans are now allowed to register to up to three mobile lines since November. Previously, each customer could register just one line.

The US announced its intention to invest in the country’s web network, but the specifics remain unknown.

The Cuban government continues to control the legal and institutional structures that determine who has access to the internet and how much access will be permitted. This regulation extends to the sale and distribution of internet-related equipment.

Choice Wireless deploys LTE in US Virgin Islands – Caribbean, Virgin Islands US Virgin Islands (USVI) operator Choice Wireless began deployment of 4G LTE technology, the St Croix Source reported.

The company expects to be able to offer LTE on the islands of St Thomas and St John, with connectivity in St Croix to follow.

Choice has already invested US$2.7mn in the network expansion, and plans to invest an additional US$2mn to bring LTE service to all of its customers.

The company, which operates in the USVI since 1999, is the largest internet provider across the US territory. Choice is a subsidiary of Atlantic Tele-Network, a fixed and wireless provider that has operations in North America and the Caribbean.

According to Telegeography, the USVI contains a mixture of local companies including Innovative Telephone (formerly Vitelcom) and Choice Wireless – and regional offshoots of US operators.

According to the Global Suppliers’ Association, Sprint commercially launched its band 25 LTE networks in April, 2013, while AT&T Mobility commercially launched band 17 LTE on St Croix and St Thomas in July 2013.

T-Mobile acquired spectrum following its 2007 purchase of SunCom Wireless Holdings, although it lacks a fully fledged commercial presence there, according to Telegeography.

Verizon has an indirect presence via international roaming agreements.

Puerto Rico, another US territory, was the first in the Caribbean region to deploy LTE back in November 2011. The island has five deployments. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has three deployments and Antigua and Barbuda has two.

SPOTLIGHT: Futurecom changes hands – Brazil, Regional Latin America’s main information and telecom event, Futurecom, has changed hands.

After 16 editions, the conference was sold by the Veiga family, who created and organized it through the Provisuale events company, to UK’s Informa Telecom & Media group.

Contacted by BNamericas, Informa confirmed that the deal closed on the eve of Futurecom 2014. The company did not disclose a value for the transaction.

Informa is known for a series of conferences on ICT held around the world, including the LTE Latin America Forum, and events focused on MVNOs, cloud computing and TV.

Futurecom’s former owners will remain involved in the event’s organization during a transition period involving the next two editions.

The news that the Brazilian event was sold to a foreign group is highly symbolic, as it marks the end of an era for the conference, as well as suggesting that consolidation might be around the corner not only for the country’s telecom sector, but also for its events industry.

Futurecom arose in 1991 from Semint, the first telecom event created by engineer Laudálio Veiga Filho, who at the time worked for the now defunct Paraná state telco Telepar.

The first official Futurecom conference, however, took place in 1999. Held in Santa Catarina state capital Florianópolis, the event brought together 3,000 participants.

After ten years being held in Santa Catarina, the conference was moved to São Paulo until 2011.

The event went to Rio de Janeiro in 2012-13, returning to São Paulo last year.

Last year’s edition, held in October, gathered 14,500 unique visitors, 4,500 congress delegates, 302 speakers and 350 exhibitors.

Although the event has grown in size and scope, it cannot compare to Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), currently the world’s most important telecom conference. Last year’s MWC featured 85,000 attendees and over 1,800 exhibitors, according to is organizers.

Futurecom 2015 is scheduled for October 26-29 in São Paulo.

The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CANTO and/or its members

It's Day 3 of CANTO's 138th Board Meeting in Aruba! *Top pic* Recently appointed V.C. David Cox (L) & CANTO Chair Julian Wilkins (R) met with Aruba's Regulator Ludwig Jansen, Directie Telecommunicatie. *Bottom pic* The Board also met with Roland Croes (L) Director of @SETARnv pic.twitter.com/4Q4ZNG0uJk

About 15 hours ago from CANTO's Twitter via TweetDeck

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