THE WRAP: Service failures hit Asia; Private government network proposed

It was the week that saw services disruptions in the Philippines and Thailand, while the Indian government considered building its own private telecom network, and China Telecom came closer to getting its CDMA1x iPhone approved.
 
The week got off to a rocky start for incumbent Philippines telco PLDT and its mobile subsidiary Smart Communications after two cable breaks over the weekend caused service disruptions in four cities. The breaks caused outages to mobile and DSL services for most of Saturday before the cables were repaired.
 
In Thailand, second-ranked telco DTAC was also on the ropes over service disruptions with three major outages in as many weeks, including one on Sunday in which two redundant cables were severed.
 
DTAC chief Jon Eddy Abdullah apologized for the outages, but chalked them up to bad luck rather than mismanagement, incompetence or sabotage. Considering Sunday’s cable breaks were caused by separate incidents – one caused by a car crash, the other by a bush fire – within two minutes of each other, he had a point.
 
In India this week, the DoT proposed building a secure government-only telecom network to prevent classified messages from being stored in overseas servers.
 
The proposed 4.5 billion rupee (€68.2 million) voice and data network would provide services including email, VoIP and mobile services, and allow governmental data traffic – to include classified emails – to stay onshore rather than be routed via servers in countries where local government agencies could potentially intercept them (which is in no way ironic). 
 
 
Staying with India, state-owned telco BSNL is planning to outsource its tower management operations – and auction spare capacity on its fiber network – as part of its ongoing turnaround drive, according to reports this week.
 
In other news for the week, China Telecom came one step closer to finally adding the iPhone to its device portfolio after the China Radio Management Office approved Apple's application to launch a CDMA 1x version of the smartphone. However, Apple still needs to secure a license from China’s Telecommunications Equipment and Certification Center to proceed with a launch.
 
Thai cellco AIS revealed plans to trial LTE with state-owned telcos TOT and CAT Telecom on multiple bands starting at the end of this month. The TOT trial will use the 2.3-GHz band, including 20 MHz of AIS's existing spectrum, while the second trial will use CAT's 1800-MHz spectrum.
 
Meanwhile, UK regulator Ofcom looked to get the country’s 4G auction back on track, with fresh proposals that remove contentious minimum and maximum allocation rules. However, operators must increase their coverage commitments in return.
 
Stat of the week: ILD traffic grew just 4% in 2011, well below the long-term average of 13% annual growth, while cross-border Skype-to-Skype calls increased 48% during the year to around 145 billion minutes, according to research firm TeleGeography.
 
European fiber operator Infinera warned the launch of movie streaming service Netflix in the UK poses a risk to bandwidth unless operators raise their game. The service, which launched Monday, has around 25 millions users in the US alone.
 
Business news for the week: Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong joined forces with Vodafone Global Enterprise to enhance its enterprise services and expand its roaming footprint; Vietnamese state-owned operator Viettel grew pre-tax profit 23% to 20 trillion dong (€741 million) in 2011; and Vodafone India said it aims to triple its data revenue, in two years, provided it can get enough spectrum.
 
And finally, it was the week that broadband over powerline (BPL) finally died out. Again.
 
At least in the US, where BPL operator IBEC announced this week it was closing down its service after being unable to recover from the financial cost of tornado damage from last year. The closure is arguably the final nail in the coffin for BPL in the US, but it does live on via a trial in the Philippines with PLDT and Meralco – although testing that was supposed to be completed last year is still ongoing.

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