3 Dec 2008

Lebanese mobile market shake-ups: DT to withdraw?

A helpful colleague here at Informa Telecoms & Media recently forwarded me a story which reports changes on the Lebanese mobile market.
While preparing for our imminent GSM>3G Middle East conference in Dubai, I was surprised to receive news of a speaker cancellation. We had long planned to welcome the Chief Commercial Officer of Lebanese cello Alfa, one of the very first presenters to have confirmed his interest in sharing insights at the event. We have since replaced the planned presentation with one from Saudi Arabia's Mobily, but it's always disappointing to have to cancel a presentation which we have advertised for some time.

I cannot be sure, but we may have to assume that the Alfa cancellation is related to recent news that Lebanon's national unity government is forcing the company to abandon its contract to manage one of the country's two state-owned mobile phone networks, having criticsed its services. Alfa, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and Saudi Arabia's Fal Holdings, had to hand over control of the MIC1 network to the Telecommunications Ministry on 1 December, thereby ending its four-year management contract.

"With MIC1, we were not happy with the quality [of service] that we ended up with,"" says Gilbert Najjar, the head of the ministry's advisory board on the two networks.

The Kuwaiti operator Zain, which manages the country's second MIC2 network under its MTC-Touch brand, will also have to hand over its contract, but not until the end of January. Najjar has declined to criticise Zain's management of MIC2, and the Kuwaiti firm is therefore expected to rebid for its contract. Lebanon's telecoms regulator has indicated that Zain needs to reapply because the Council of Ministers (cabinet) is certain to change the terms of the contract.

"This is a legal and administrative issue. They are changing the terms of the contract so they cannot just renew the management contracts,"" says Lelia el-Khazen, a senior market analyst at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

2 Dec 2008

Turkish 3G awards: no surprises

The stalling and wrangling is finally over: the Turkish Government has awarded 3G licenses. The surprises? None.

As confirmed by today's Global Mobile Daily, the three established cellcos, Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea, all bagged licenses, raising between them a total of €822 million (US$1.04 billion) for the state coffers.

Market-leading Turkcell (55.54% of the subscriber base, according to WCIS as of Sep 2008) won the ‘A’ licence with the largest bandwidth block of 40MHz, with a bid of €358 million. Vodafone Turkey (26.56% market share) was awarded a license in the 35MHz spectrum band after paying €250 million, while third-placed operator Avea (17.90% market share) was awarded a 30MHz operating license €214 million. The auction for a fourth bid was cancelled due to a lack of suitable bidders.

The 3G licensing process will not, therefore, introduce any new MNOs onto the Turkish market, as has been the case in one European country. A Romanian 3G licence was awarded to RCS & RDS, a cable MSO and broadband service provider with no previous mobility proposition. Having launched 3G services in December 2007, RCS & RDS has now built a mobile market share of just under 4.5% according to WCIS figures.

If operators do face any new competition for subscribers in the recently-initiated era of MNP in Turkey, this will come in the form of MVNOs, which look set to enter the market at some stage in 2009. Those who track the Turkish market will not be surprised to learn that MNO, MVNE and MVNO strategies are set to be discussed at length at our Istanbul Eurasia Com conference (31 March & 1 April 2009), which will gather delegates from Caspian and Central Asian markets as well as from the host country.

1 Dec 2008

Azeri and Kyrgyz delegations for Eurasia Com strengthened even further!

Preparations for what turned out to be an extremely enjoyable weekend prevented me from blogging immediately about further welcome additions to both the Azeri and Kyrgyz delegations at our Eurasia Com conference (Istanbul, 31 March & 1 April). What I wanted to write on Friday afternoon was:
  • We're delighted to welcome Mr Iltimas Mamedov, the Deputy Minister of Communication and Information Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the panel of speakers.
  • We're also pleased that the Kyrgyz contingent has been boosted by the confirmed participation of Mr Vitaliy Uvarov, General Director of Aktel/Fonex, a CDMA2000 operator with approximately 200,000 subscribers.