CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNamericas 05/20/16

CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNamericas 05/20/16

IN BRIEF: Regulator tells CWC Cayman Islands to appoint new CEO – Caribbean

Liberty Global to up the ante on content, could offer OTT services – Regional

Mobile roundup: Claro El Salvador, Digicel Barbados – Barbados, El Salvador

Flow introduces online study portal for Jamaican students – Jamaica

Fixed broadband caps, an old trend revisited in LatAm – Regional

IN BRIEF: Regulator tells CWC Cayman Islands to appoint new CEO – Caribbean

Global telecoms giant Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) has been told to appoint a new CEO for its operations in the Cayman Islands by the country’s sector regulator, ICTA.

After reviewing the purchase of CWC by Liberty Global, ICTA developed “serious concerns” about the legal employment status of certain persons in the company, according to a statement from the regulator.

The ICTA stated that “it is not appropriate to continue to consider certain individuals as legal officers of the Licensee,” and thus requested that CWC find a new CEO before communication between the two parties can continue.

 

Liberty Global to up the ante on content, could offer OTT services – Regional

TV and telecoms giant Liberty Global could offer OTT services in the future, leveraging the combined strengths of its TV and telecoms services in Europe and Latin America following the US$7.4bn acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), Liberty’s CEO Mike Fries said.

Speaking with journalists on Monday following the announcement that the acquisition had been completed, Fries told BNamericas that the company sees a “terrific” opportunity to embrace OTT-type services and even create its own content like Netflix.

Liberty currently has a streaming service called My Prime in Europe, which is designed to counter the likes of Netflix. The company spends some US$2.5bn on content every year and said that bringing better content to consumers would be a top priority.

“We want to ensure that the user experience is as good or better [than that of OTTs] and that we can provide that content on multiple devices,” Fries said.

“An OTT offering could become an interesting source of content. But we want to be sure we’re ready to launch OTT before doing so,” he added.

The executive said that Liberty will launch a cloud-based 4K TV experience this year and will continue to experiment with different TV experiences.

“We think we can bring a lot of added value to Flow TV [in the Caribbean]. We want all content to be interactive on the mobile phone, on TV, etc. We’ll bring a lot of innovative ideas,” Fries said.

NEW COMPANY

On combining Liberty Global’s LiLAC group, which consists of Choice Puerto Rico and VTR Chile and CWC’s operations across the Caribbean, Central America and Colombia, the new regional operation will have 10mn video, voice, broadband and mobile subscribers in more than 20 countries.

Liberty is also inheriting a B2B and submarine network business that CWC had acquired from Columbus Communications.

The businesses are expected to generate a combined US$3.5bn in annual revenues.

CWC’s outgoing CEO Phil Bentley will be replaced by interim CEO John Reid, who will work with Fries to evaluate how best to restructure the new company.

BROADBAND OPPORTUNITY

Asked about the current economic uncertainty in many Latin American markets, Fries underscored that the company is investing for the long term and that there are many untapped opportunities in the region, particularly in broadband.

Without giving a specific investment figure, Fries executive said that the company tends to reinvest 20-25% of its revenues in its network and said that the company was aiming to provide average speeds of 100Mbps in Latin America in the foreseeable future, as it does in its European operations.

“As a whole we see huge demand for broadband data and great growth potential. Broadband is growing at 50-100% per year. No other industry has that growth potential,” Fries said.

 

Mobile roundup: Claro El Salvador, Digicel Barbados – Barbados, El Salvador

Salvadorian mobile operator Claro, owned by Mexican telecoms giant América Móvil, is launching a new range of plans allowing prepaid users in El Salvador to make unlimited calls, according to the company’s website.

The unlimited calling “Superpacks” will allow users to make unlimited calls to a favorite contact for US$0.25 a day, rising to US$0.50 a day for unlimited calls to the whole Claro network and US$1.50 a day to all networks.

The new plans will be available from June 30, 2016 until December 31, 2016.

***

Caribbean telco Digicel has responded indifferently to the prospect of a new mobile competitor in the local market.

The company’s CEO, Conor Looney, stressed that Digicel’s focus would be fixed on meeting customers’ needs and expanding its team in the country, as mentioned during an interview with local daily Barbados Today.

Digicel’s customer base has grown rapidly since the start of the year, resulting in the company doubling the size of its staff, Looney said.

Digicel and Flow are currently the only mobile providers in the market, but a third company has revealed its interest in competing this year, according to the newspaper. It is not yet clear which company will be attempting to claim its stake.

 

Flow introduces online study portal for Jamaican students – Jamaica

Caribbean telecoms operator Flow has introduced an online study portal to help Jamaican students prepare for the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics examination, according to local daily the Jamaica Gleaner.

Flow Study is available on PCs and smart devices through a dedicated Android app. The portal provides access to video courses, virtual science labs, question banks and solutions, as well as paper solutions from previous exams in more than 32 high school subjects.

The portal will be free to all Flow customers, while non-Flow customers will have free access for the first two weeks, requiring paid subscription thereafter.

According to Kayon Wallace, director of corporate communications and stakeholder management, Flow is revolutionizing the learning experience and opening up a realm of possibilities, opportunities and educational success for Jamaican students using technology.

“The CXC-CSEC mathematics is one of the most important and far-reaching subjects, and one with which some students tend to struggle,” Kayon Wallace, director of corporate communications and stakeholder management at Flow, was quoted as saying by the daily.

According to Wallace, the company’s partner One on One Educational Services has maintained a 100% pass rate for mathematics among its students for years, with an average of 83% attaining grade one.

 

Fixed broadband caps, an old trend revisited in LatAm – Regional

Brazil’s Vivo, the local subsidiary of Spanish Telefónica and the leading Brazilian telco, caused an uproar when it announced recently that it would start reviewing the data cap procedures on its fixed broadband plans as from 2017.

The idea was to adopt monthly data allowances, as is already the case with mobile plans. Therefore, those who exceed the limit and do not pay an extra fee for a larger data allowance could have their speed throttled – or even see their internet service cut off.

Other operators, including NET/Claro, from the América Móvil group, and Brazil’s Oi, said they may go the same route. Oi argues it has large data allowances, hence the reason why charging extra, throttling or cutting has not been necessary. TIM, which sells fixed broadband through its Live TIM service, explicitly rejected putting limits.

As the public outcry grew, telecoms regulator Anatel vetoed the adoption of caps until further discussions are held. The communications ministry wants a negotiated solution, in which both unlimited and limited plans coexist.

The Americas is the region with the highest rate of countries offering basic fixed-broadband services with unlimited data caps, according to the International Telecommunications Union’s 2015 Measuring the Internet Society report. It states that 33 out of 35 countries offered in no limits on data for their basic monthly subscription in 2014. Caps on these plans were applied only in Canada (40 GB) and Uruguay (5 GB). Worldwide, over two thirds (70%) of the countries had a basic fixed-broadband basket with unlimited data allowance that year, compared to 65% in 2013.

But while unlimited data plans in the region give internet users an apparent advantage compared to other regions, speeds are relatively limited, ITU said.

Also, when it comes to premium plans, limits are way more common. Telefónica applies them in Chile and in Mexico, and may do so in Argentina and Spain as well.

José Otero, director for Latin America at 5G Americas, defends the caps. He told BNamericas that caps are so high that the vast majority of users do not reach them, and that they’ve been in place in markets such as the US for years. The country’s main carriers – AT&T, Comcast and Verizon – all have them in force.

ln Brazil, the limits imposed by Vivo are lower than those from Movistar in Chile. Vivo’s monthly limit varies between 10 GB and 130 GB, depending on the speed hired. Low limits can affect video streaming consumption, for example.

The discussion in Brazil extends to whether companies can cut off internet or reduce speeds once the caps are reached. Are those measures lawful or not?

“They do not infringe the law if applied to new contracts and if provided in the contracts,” Eduardo Tude, head of Brazil’s research and consultancy firm Teleco, told BNamericas.

In his opinion, the matter is commercial, and the consumption of data is growing intensely. “I think charging based upon usage is much fairer,” he said.

At a commission in congress, Anatel member Rodrigo Zerbone explained that the practice of charging for extra data is not prohibited in any country.

According to local consumer protection associates and legal experts, the country’s internet bill of rights states that the internet is an essential service and can only be cut off due to lack of payment. They also see charging after the caps as a form of double charging, which consumer laws would prohibit.

“The interruption of service once cap is reached is illegal, but measures such as charging extra and speed reduction are set out in the regulations in force and can be applied,” digital rights expert Victor Haikal told BNamericas.

BNamericas asked Vivo several questions about the caps, including which aspects of the legislation the carrier bases the practice on, but the company declined to comment, as did Teléfonica when asked about its cap plans across the region.

Vivo previously argued that the cap benefits users who make less data-intensive use of the plans (sending e-mails or browsing, for example), who would pay less, whereas those consuming more bandwidth would pay more.

CEO Amos Genish has been saying Brazilian regulation allows for it, and that carriers have the right to place limits on usage.

“Vivo presenting potential data packaging for fixed broadband from 2017 onwards is not a first. We are the third local operator joining this trend. It’s a worldwide trend, you have AT&T, Verizon, Comcast in the US, Bell Canada, British Telecom and many others all having some caps on fixed broadband,” Genish said in a conference call with analysts on April 29.

There is also a problem of legal attribution. According to legislation in Brazil and many other Latin American countries, internet is framed as a value-added service, and not a pure telecom service.

However, a source at the Brazilian communications ministry told BNamericas that even if Anatel does not regulate internet services, it does regulate the relationship between operators and users. “And who offers internet access?” the source said.

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