CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNamericas 02/20/15

CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNamericas 02/20/15

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Digicel, Virgin Mobile and Cable Bahamas bid for mobile concession in the Bahamas – Caribbean

DirecTV reports flat growth in Latin American units – Regional

Roundup: Tigo Money, Telmex Infinitum, Alcatel-Lucent’s malware report – Regional

Kaspersky: LatAm M-payment security advantage to be short-lived – Regional

ANALYSIS: Apple Pay to arrive in Brazil? – Brazil, Regional

 

Digicel, Virgin Mobile and Cable Bahamas bid for mobile concession in the Bahamas – Caribbean Digicel, Virgin Mobile and Cable Bahamas have submitted proposals for the second mobile concession and spectrum tender in the Caribbean nation.

Nine companies expressed an interest in the tender, but only the three aforementioned firms made bids within the deadline, according to the government’s Cellular Liberalisation Task Force (CLTF), which was established to coordinate and oversee the process to award the second mobile license.

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has made 119MHz of spectrum available in the 700MHz, 850MHz, 1700/2100MHz and 1900MHz bands.

The new concessionaire would compete with BTC, which has been controlled by Digicel’s archrival Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) since April 2011 and which enjoyed a post-privatization cellular exclusivity period that ran out in April 2014.

CWC CEO Phil Bentley said during a conference with analysts that the entry of the new operator will bring the company’s revenues down by between 15 and 20%, at least until its investments in broadband and IPTV start yielding results.

The whole concession process will take six months, with the new operator launching services before the end of 2015 and having full coverage within three years.

According to the CLTF, a license for a third operator cannot be issued before April 5, 2016 since the government intends to give the second operator a three-year grace period before a new operator is brought in.

Mobile penetration in the Bahamas reached 76% in 2013, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

DirecTV reports flat growth in Latin American units – Regional Pay-TV giant DirecTV posted some US$33.3bn in revenues for 2014, a 5% increase compared with 2013. Revenues for 4Q reached US$8.92bn, a year-on-year hike of 4%, the company said in an earnings release.

The company said that 2014 was a strong year, despite a difficult market environment.

“Our fourth quarter results, although marked by challenging macroeconomic conditions in Latin America and a conscious decision to reinvest in our US business, capped off another strong year of operations for DirecTV,” said CEO Mike White.

Revenues from the company’s Latin American subsidiaries were flat in Q4, remaining steady at US$1.7bn. For the whole year, revenues were up slightly from US$6.8bn in 2013 to US$7.0bn in 2014.

Total net income for the company reached US$778mn for the quarter, a slight decrease from the US$810 seen in 4Q13. Similarly, net income for the whole year also slipped slightly, falling to US$2.7bn from US$2.8bn in 2013.

This decline was largely the resut of a US$78mn decrease in equity earnings from Sky Mexico, DirecTV’s brand in that country, which was related to Sky’s recognition of certain one-time tax benefits in 2013.

Looking at this year, White said the merger with AT&T will make 2015 a turning point.

“2015 will bring additional challenges to our businesses, but given our solid continued operating momentum and the pending merger with AT&T, I am confident that we will continue to drive value for our shareholders for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Research firm Dataxis expects that Latin American customers will account for 56% of total DirecTV users by 2018.

Roundup: Tigo Money, Telmex Infinitum, Alcatel-Lucent’s malware report – Regional Tigo Money Honduras, the m-banking service that allows customers to send and receive funds, has reached 1mn users in four years.

Since it was launched in 2011, Tigo Money has added new services every year, including immediate transactions and payment options for public services and private businesses.

Millicom, Tigo’s parent company, created this service for those countries where banking services do not reach most of the population, including Guatemala, Paraguay and El Salvador, as well as several African markets.

Tigo Money reaches around 3.3mn people in Latin America and approximately 9.5mn worldwide.

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América Móvil’s Telmex has launched its new Infinitum plans to compete with Grupo Televisa’s Izzi offerings.

The plan includes 100 local landline calls and 5Mb of internet for 333 pesos a month (US$20), as opposed to Izzi’s unlimited fixed and mobile services and 10Mb internet a month for 400 pesos.

This is Telmex’s most affordable plan, after its 389-peso monthly plan which adds 200 calls to mobile phones. Unlimited phone calls to either fixed or mobile numbers are included in its 599-peso per month plan.

Telmex also says that local calls now include inter-state calls as well, since the introduction of the regulation that eliminated long-distance rates.

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Alcatel-Lucent Motive Security Labs estimates that 16mn mobile devices worldwide were infected by malware in 2014.

The number of infections of mobile devices rose 25% in 2014, compared with a 20% increase in 2013. Android devices are now as vulnerable as Windows laptops, which had been the prime target of cybercrime until now. iPhones and Blackberries accounted for less than 1% of infections.

The report also found that consumers who avoid shopping online out of fear their credit or debit card information may be stolen are actually at greater risk, since retail security breaches in 2014 were mostly from infections on cash registers, not online stores.

Kaspersky: LatAm M-payment security advantage to be short-lived – Regional While m-payment systems offer more security in Latin America today, this is only because adoption has yet to take off, according to Fabio Assolini, senior security researcher in the Latin American branch of Kaspersky Lab’s global research and analysis team.

Ecuador is well known for announcing a virtual currency plan to facilitate m-payment nationally. “Once it is widely used there will be attacks. The criminals are just waiting for that,” Assolini told BNamericas.

Advocates of m-payment solutions often cite enhanced security as one of the attractions of the system, as well as convenience and the opportunity to bring banking services to the informal market. However, Kaspersky’s research shows that the two most common types of mobile malware in Latin America are m-banking attacks and SMS scams, the researcher added.

“M-banking attacks are develped locally in Latin America as much as from outside. Last year we discovered the first Android banking trojans developed in Brazil. So sooner or later criminals in other parts of the region will do the same,” Assolini says. The SMS scams are different, usually installed via a legitimate app and automatically enrolling the number with a premium service, which rapidly consumes prepaid balance or is not detected until the end of the month by postpaid users.

On the bright side, Brazil has a lower rate of cloned credit cards than the US thanks to the South American country’s long history of protection measures like “chip and pin” cards. But Brazil still tops the list as the most attacked Latin American country, followed by Mexico and Peru.

Part of the problem is the lack or incompleteness of cybercrime legislation, and although Brazil is working on a data protection act and has the Marco Civil to govern internet practices, the sentences for cyber criminals are still very mild, in Assolini’s opinion.

ANALYSIS: Apple Pay to arrive in Brazil? – Brazil, Regional Unveiled in September during Apple’s annual product show, the Apple Pay m-payment service has became one of most talked-about launches among analysts and fans of the California-based brand.

The overall perception is that the system could provide the final push needed for the massification of the near-field communication (NFC) technology on which it is based, which enables connections between two different terminals by bringing them into proximity.

Apple Pay is still only available in the US, with the UK unofficially touted to be the first foreign country where it will be launched. But now it is rumored that the service will be launched in Brazil in the near future too.

According to various recent reports, three of the country’s largest banks – Banco do Brasil, Bradesco and Itaú – have been in direct negotiations with Apple to bring Apple Pay to the country.

Brazilian weekly business magazine Época Negócios cited two sources close to Bradesco and Itaú who claimed that meetings with Apple have already taken place, while separate reports also say that Banco do Brasil has been in open negotiation with the US company.

Contacted by BNamericas, none of the banks were willing to comment on the reports.

WHAT’S THE BUZZ WITH NFC?

But what is NFC really about and why is Apple’s launch so important for the technology to take hold?

NFC is not a new thing. The system has been present in various smartphone models for a few years already. It is similar to widely-used Bluetooth technology, but with the difference that NFC allows for faster and safer terminal-to-terminal wireless communication and processing of transactions.

The development of NFC involves various players; telcos, credit card providers and banks, as well as suppliers of terminals that can enable such transactions.

But factors ranging from reduced industrial scale, unclear business models, lack of integration between the various parts of the ecosystem and mistrust of the technology have been hindering development of NFC in many parts of the world, particularly in Latin America.

In addition to certain handsets, at the other end of the ecosystem, retailers’ points-of-sale (POS) terminals have also been NFC-enabled for quite some time. By October, for example, over 55% of Brazil’s leading card processor Cielo’s POS network was ready to use NFC.

Some banks and telcos have also begun trials with the technology. Two of the best-known trials of NFC technology in Brazil trials include a partnership between Banco do Brasil, Brazilian telecoms operator Oi and digital payments giant Visa, and a JV between operator Claro and Bradesco.

In Latin America, other similar partnerships between banks, telcos and IT companies have also emerged, in Panama, Nicaragua and Peru, for example. In Chile, operator Entel expects the Apple launch to provide a boost to the NFC ecosystem.

Essentially, all the technical factors required for Apple Pay to operate in Brazil are already in place, from NFC-enabled phones to NFC-enabled card machines. What has been missing for these systems to become more widespread is greater involvement on the part of the banks.

The global importance and attraction of a brand like Apple might just be the motivation the banks need to join these systems and help NFC gain acceptance.

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