|O3b signs with Arianespace for four more satellites – Regional
Satellite services provider O3b has signed a contract with Arianespace for a fourth launch to expand its existing fleet of 12 satellites to 16.
The launch will take place from the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in early 2018 and put four additional O3b spacecraft in an equatorial medium earth orbit.
The contract also includes a firm option for a fifth launch to be performed in 2018 or later.
The first 12 O3b satellites were put into orbit in 2013 and 2014 and each provides more than 10 Gbps of capacity.
Jersey-based O3b, which stands for the “other 3bn” people who live in remote areas that do not have access to broadband, was formed in 2007.
O3b satellites, which are closer to the Earth than traditional GEO satellites, reduce latency, increase internet speed and improve voice and video quality for the user.
Last month Ecuadoran state telco CNT partnered with O3b to offer broadband internet to the Galápagos Islands and Chilean telco Entel inaugurated a new satellite link to remote Easter Island.
Elsewhere in Latin America, O3b has contracts with Ozônio Telecomunicações for Brazil’s Amazon region, Skynet Colombia for the Colombian Amazon, and Guyana’s ISP E-Networks.
It also has a contract with cruise line operator Royal Caribbean, providing “smart” cruise ship capacity.
Investors behind the project include SES, Google, Liberty Global, and HSBC.
Costa Rica’s Racsa grows for first time in 6 years – Costa Rica
Costa Rican broadband provider Racsa will emerge from 2015 with its head above water. The telco reports that revenues will reach 3bn colones (US$5.7mn) more than last year, and expenses will fall 1bn colones.
This year will be the first in the last six that Racsa has reported a profit, reaching some 4.5%.
Francisco Calvo, general manager at Racsa, said that the change in the firm’s financial situation responds to a remodeling of the business strategy.
“This is the result of efforts made in new business opportunities, innovations, customer retention, finance discipline, and synergies within the Grupo ICE,” he said.
Racsa had been in trouble for several years and has been the subject of bankruptcy rumors for some time now, with the Costa Rican government taking some action in the matter. ICE recently sued the nation’s comptroller’s office for auditing the broadband provider, claiming it is interfering in decisions involving the future of its subsidiary.
The telco gave back several of its spectrum concessions in September, including some critical to deploying 5G network services in the future.
Claro Nicaragua launches m-banking service – Nicaragua
Claro Nicaragua has launched its m-banking platform “Mi Claro,” which allows customers to pay their phone, pay TV and broadband bills online, the company announced on its blog.
Customers will be able to top up their credit online, check their account and order new services. The platform is available for iOS and Android smartphones.
This is Nicaragua’s first play in the m-banking business. Online financial services have been making strides in the region, with Central America taking the lead. El Salvador has reached 4.6% penetration, higher than any other country in the region.
The largest economies in the region are well behind: Mexico has 3% m-banking penetration and Brazil just 1%. The average penetration rate for Latin America is 1.7%.
Smartphone penetration in Nicaragua is just over 20%.
How the US Fed hike will impact LatAm – Regional
The US Fed’s 25bps benchmark interest rate hike, its first in nearly a decade and a harbinger of likely future increases in 2016, leaves Latin America between a rock and a hard place.
The central bank’s accommodative cycle, which started in 2008 as a mean to boost growth in amid the US financial crisis, had been forecast to end for some time, as the jobless rate declined to 5% and the economy showed increasing signs of recovery. But the hike had been largely postponed over doubts as to the strength of the US recovery and global economic slowdown.
The US interest rate hike to a range of 0.25% to 0.5% is expected to hit Latin America hard.
“Emerging market economies with limited buffers and policy space will remain most at risk to adverse capital flows and investor sentiment”, said Steven Hess, Senior Vice President at Moody’s Investors Service. “The US dollar may strengthen further.”
The depreciation of local currencies in Latin America usually fuels inflation, which is already above the range tolerated by central banks in countries like Brazil and Chile. And it also increases the financial cost of debt servicing for these countries. Add to that the low price environment for commodities exported by the region and the scenario worsens significantly.
Megan Greene, chief economist for John Hancock Asset Management, said, “The biggest concern for emerging markets is related to currency. As every other central bank continues to ease and the Fed is hiking gradually, the dollar will continue to strengthen.”
“There is no doubt that a higher interest rate in the US will have an impact on exports, as well as on foreign direct investment in Colombia”, said Iván Felipe Campos, from Alianza Valores, quoted by El Tiempo.
On the positive side, the rate hike should bring more certainty and return financial markets to a “known zone with better conditions to resume sustainable growth rate,” Mario Correa, chief economist in Scotiabank Mexico, was quoted as saying by local paper El Economista.
LatAm still high growth for international voice traffic – wholesaler – Regional
Despite competition from over the top players (OTTs), Latin America and the Caribbean is still one of the highest growth markets for international voice, according to Brussels-based wholesale carrier BICS.
The company announced in November that the volume of minutes used on its network across Latin America and the Caribbean had doubled within the last two years thanks to the establishment of 40 new interconnections to the BICS Global Network across the region meaning the company now works with 80% of the major operator groups.
“International voice traffic is still growing but at a slower pace than previously. However as Latin America is still a growth region we expect international voice termination to grow at a CAGR of 2.6% for the next five years,” Brian Troesch, managing director of BICS North America, told BNamericas.
“Voice revenues are declining due to price erosion and increased competition. However this doesn’t exclude the potential of tactical price increases as witnessed in other regions.
“For data, prices are being revisited continuously and will continue their downward trend to cope with the booming demand while leveraging the roll-out of 4G coverage,” he said.
However, with app-based communication services providers like Skype, LINE and Whatsapp chipping valuable voice minutes away from operators’ this calls for operators to revisit pricing strategies and service features in order to differentiate themselves.
On the one hand, Troesch believes new technologies such as HD Voice, VoLTE and Rich Communications Services (RCS) should help operators differentiate their offerings to end-users, though many of these services will not begin to gain traction in the region until after 2017 when 4G LTE is more widespread.
On the other hand, in addition to providing voice calls and data connectivity BICS also provides to operators’ value added services such as fraud protection and analysis tools for carriers.
“We consider fraud to still be a major industry problem…BICS can now protect operators from any type of telecom fraud, whether these are interworking or roaming related,” Troesch said.
“Our roaming analytics environment, Smart Webvision, is also gaining traction in the region as mobile operators look for ways to improve the visibility and the tracking of their roaming activity…These include the detection of silent roamers and real-time, tailor-made marketing campaigns,” he said.
The full interview with Troesch is available at this link.