Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cuba’s Etecsa advances on blocking irregular phones – Cuba

AT&T’s DirecTV LatAm subsidiary files for IPO – Regional

Brief: Arcep assigns 3.5GHz spectrum in Saint-Martin – Caribbean

Cuba to launch 3G nationwide in 2018 – Cuba

US could provide US$950mn telecom relief for Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands – Puerto Rico


Cuba’s Etecsa advances on blocking irregular phones – Cuba

Cuban state telco Etecsa has begun blocking cell phones with irregular or duplicated International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) codes, local news outlet Cubanet reported.

The measure falls under a 2016 ruling from the Cuban communications ministry and is in line with similar initiatives taking place in other countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, among others.

After postponing the implementation of the ruling a few times, Etecsa had given users until May 18 to replace any irregular phones.

However, Cubanet cites a user who has been without phone services since Wednesday. At one of Etecsa’s offices the client was informed that her phone, sent by her son from the US, had a “blacklisted” IMEI number.

The IMEI is a pre-recorded serial number for a handset and serves as the device’s ID. It can be used for global identification of a phone and is transmitted when the phone connects to a carrier’s mobile network.

Etecsa has an online verification system on its official website for users to check their IMEI number and the validity of their mobile phone. The IMEI is considered legitimate if it is not repeated (duplicated) and it must contain 15 numerical digits, without letters and without beginning with 00.

The IMEI is engraved on the back of the phone, near the battery, and can also be identified by typing *#06# on the phone keyboard so that the aforementioned code appears on the device screen.

Brazil and Argentina are also due to start blocking phones with irregular IMEIs this year.

AT&T’s DirecTV LatAm subsidiary files for IPO – Regional

AT&T subsidiary Vraio Corp, which holds the company’s DirecTV Latin America assets, filed for an initial public offering with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday, as its parent company seeks to pay down debt.

The preliminary filing, with a nominal value of US$100mn for common “A” stock, states that after the IPO the company would be listed on the NYSE. AT&T will remain the controlling company, it added. The amounts listed in preliminary filings are usually placeholders and can change at later dates.

Under the DirecTV brand, Vraio operates pay-TV services in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, as well as Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Curaçao, reaching nearly 14mn subscribers as of December, 2017. It reported revenues of US$5.57bn in 2017, up 10.9% from the previous year.

The company listed Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Securities, Citigroup Global Markets Inc. and Morgan Stanley as its underwriters.

AT&T is looking to reduce its debts as it tries to close the acquisition of Time Warner, which industry analysts believe will raise the telco’s debt burden to more than US$180bn.

Brief: Arcep assigns 3.5GHz spectrum in Saint-Martin – Caribbean

French telecoms regulator Arcep has granted the use of the 3.5GHz band in the French overseas territory of Saint-Barthélemy-Saint-Martin to enable operators including Orange Caraibe to offer LTE connectivity in areas damaged by Hurricane Irma last September.

In related news, Arcep granted Digicel’s French Guiana operation to operate fixed wireless services in the 8GHz, 13GHz and 18GHz bands.

Cuba to launch 3G nationwide in 2018 – Cuba

Cuban state telco Etecsa is in the process of upgrading its base stations and is due to launch 3G nationwide on the island in 2018 for normal citizens.

Etecsa’s marketing head Gustavo López Cruz said that while there is no date yet set for completion of the work, it would be this year, according to local press. Upgrades have been underway since 2015.

At the beginning of February, satellite services provider SES Networks said it had signed an agreement with Etecsa to boost connectivity on the island, complementing the telco’s existing terrestrial infrastructure with high-performance fiber, as well as medium earth orbit capacity.

In 2015, Cuba had the lowest rate of mobile telephony penetration in Latin America at 29.7%, half of that in Haiti (68.8%), according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

However, due to new policies to improve connectivity, allowing normal citizens to own mobile phones since 2008 and access the internet since 2013, communications have been improving in recent years.

US could provide US$950mn telecom relief for Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands – Puerto Rico

US telecoms regulator FCC has put forward a proposal to assign US$954mn to restore communications networks in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that were destroyed by hurricanes Irma and María in 2017.

The funds would provide short and long-term support and be divided into US$750mn for the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and US$204mn for the Connect USVI Fund.

“The people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still recovering from last year’s devastating storms. That means the FCC’s work is far from over,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

“With the 2018 hurricane season less than three months away, we need to take bold and decisive action.”

The plan includes:

  • An immediate infusion of US$64mn in additional funding for short-term restoration efforts.
  • A proposal to allocate US$631mn in long-term funding for the restoration and expansion of fixed broadband connectivity.
  • A proposal to allocate US$259mn in medium-term funding for the restoration and expansion of 4G LTE.
  • Not offsetting funding given to carriers last year against future universal service support payments.

The plan would be funded by approximately US$256mn in new funds as well as repurposing universal service support to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Pai will travel to the islands from March 7-10 to review recovery efforts and see what lessons can be learned with future disasters in mind.

Actions taken by FCC so far include some US$77mn in universal service funding to help the recovery; the acceleration of auctions to support broadcasters; and the expediting of approval of experimental licenses for Alphabet’s Project Loon to provide internet access to residents.

The 2017 hurricane season knocked out 90% of cell sites in Puerto Rico and seriously damaged much of the fixed line infrastructure. Moreover, 80% of transmission lines, which take power from the plants to distribution centers, were destroyed.

In its latest March 5 update on the state of telecommunications, FCC said 4.3% of cell sites were still out of service in Puerto Rico and 13.8% in the US Virgin Islands.

Pictured: Damage caused by Hurricane María in Puerto Rico.

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