Friday, March 30, 2007

Interview with Johnny Svedberg, Tele2

Johnny Svedberg, Tele2's executive vice president in charge of the Baltics and Russia, talked to this blogger about the future of mobile telecoms generally as well as some of Tele2's plans for Latvia. In terms of customers, Tele2 is the largest operator on the market and Latvia is the only market where Tele2 is number one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lattelecom CEO speaks-- a videoblog

Lattelecom CEO Nils Melngailis talks about the telco, IT and BPO group's offering for foreign companies in nearby Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Marion the librarian and Lattelecom's plan C

No, this is not the title of an Ed Wood movie along the lines of Plan 9 from Outer Space. It has to do with a credible scenario for how Lattelecom could move into mobile WiMax (thus mobile services on a new, very likely flat-fee quad-play package) over the next few years.
First-- let us recall the plans for getting into the mobile market once the connection to Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) is eventually broken. Plan A was to buy Bite, but Bite has been bought by others and the price was probably too high for Lattelecom. Plan B-- start a strongly branded and marketed Lattelecom Mobile as a virtual operator on the Bite network (everyone is welcome, the more the merrier...)
Plan C is to wait for mobile WiMax to ripen in 2008 and then go ahead and build out a WiMax network that eventually brings high speed wireless broadband and VOIP plus mobile VOIP to everywhere in Latvia that it is commercially practical. If positioned as a flat fee (though perhaps premium service) mobile WiMax with Skype or some other VOIP service would be the wireless equivalent of free calls on the Latvian network now offered as part of the Mājas komplekts (Home Package) deal.
But we are getting way ahead of events and forgetting about Marion the Librarian? Where does she come it? Lattelecom has just finished its WiMax tests and is evaluating the results. It looks like they will show the viability of the technology--after all, it works in other countries, why not here?
Also, Latvia will soon announce a tender for connecting all 800 libraries, many of them in rural villages, to high-speed broadband. If Lattelecom can win the tender with its test-proven WiMax, it will get at least partial government and European Union financing to unwire the libraries. Then, with many WiMax towers in place, it will have the bones and (some meat) of a national WiMax network, just as mobile WiMax starts to become viable.
So once Lattelecom unwires Marion the Librarian or Baiba bibliotekāre (for all you Latvian speakers) and give her the best of its megabits (do you read sexual innuendo in this? Why?) the next...conquest could be the new mobile communications market that WiMax will open up once the right handsets, antennas and base-stations are available (having built a tower for Marion/Baiba, Lattelecom will just add the new gadgets and software). And we are not too far from the handsets, since we now have multiradio gadgets coming on the market (like the Nokia N-95, talk about sexy), so adding WiMax should be no problemo.
If you ask me, by the time whoever is in the zoo called government in Latvia by late 20o8 finally decides what to do with LMT -- like closing the deal with Telenor Sonera (not a misspelling) or Deutsche Telia or Nordski Telefonski (if the Russians get a big piece of the pie when TeliaSonera is fully privatized and wheeled and dealed into something bigger than itself --OK, maybe Telenorski Telefon :))--when all this is over, Lattelecom just might be ready to go straight to Plan C. We shall ---"C"....

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

IPTV in Latvia -at long last?

It looks like Lattelecom will launch IPTV for ordinary TV viewers at long last. The company is holding meetings to finalize its pre-launch and launch activities on March 21. First, it will offer connections (modems and decoders) to a broader range of testers ( I have been asked :)), then the service will be made available to the public, probably just after Easter, that is, mid-April. It looks like the offering will be a do-it-yourself kit available, perhaps, at retail outlets or by mail/courier. Considering the disastrous state of the Latvian Postal Service (which has hopelessly clusterf**ked its new periodicals delivery systems, filling the data base with garbage addresses and running a desperate shortage of mail delivery staff at the same time), I would prefer picking up my FIUY* kit at a hypermarket or electronics store.
Lattelecom promises 40 channels of IPTV with the possibility of turning off the Russian soundtracks that have been added, by default to great channels like Discovery by other cable TV operators. I shall soon see and report...

*F**k it up yourself (what did you think? :) )

Monday, March 12, 2007

The World's Biggest Mobile Phone?

I have been in Sweden for a few days for various reasons, including researching a story for Kapitals, the magazine owned by my employer and some freelance work for IDG News. One of the companies I visited was InView, the maker of the IPPI device for receiving and projecting MMS messages (as well as SMS and e-mails) on ordinary TV screens. Mats Segerström, Managing Director of InView, tells why the IPPI can be consider the world's biggest mobile phone.

The IPPI was nominated for most innovative mobile device at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. Red Herring bizarrely reported that the IPPI was a device for speaking SMS messages on TV sets.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Telenor reportedly interested in TeliaSonera

Norway's Telenor is in preliminary talks to acquire the Swedish government's shares in TeliaSonera, according to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter (DN). DN says preliminary contact has taken place between Telenor, the Norwegian state (which owns a bit over 53 % of Telenor) and the Swedish government, which recently filed a bill to approve the sale of TeliaSonera and five other state-owned companies.
DN also claims that Russian financier Mihail Friedman, who holds interests in several Russian and East European telcos through the Altimo holding company, is also interested in the deal. Friedman could be willing to swap his shares in these companies for a slice of a new Nordic-Baltic-Russian telco group. However, both the Norwegians and Swedes are said to be cautious about dealing with the Russian magnate. TeliaSonera, as I have often written, is the half-mother of Latvia's Lattelecom and LMT, and holds controlling interests in Estonia's Elion and LMT as well as Teo and Omintel in Lithuania.
This is just a quick take on it, may write some more later.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Baltcom Fiber doubles capacity to 5 Gbps

Baltcom Fiber, the unit of the Baltcom electronic services group that owns a subsea optical link from Latvia to Sweden, has doubled the capacity of the cable to 5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) from 2.5 Gbps hitherto.
The reason is is an increasd demand for capacity from internet service providers carrying a higher volume of multimedia traffic. Power utility Latvenergo, which is building out a couple of pilot fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) projects in Riga, is one of Baltcom Fiber's customers. They call it, amusingly, "Optics up to Your House" :).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

VOOM!!! IZZI launches HDTV in Latvia

IZZI, the mult-electronic communication services company, has launched High Definition TV in Latvia, starting with a version of the US-based channel VOOM. Kaspars Spunde, Marketing Director of IZZI, explains in this video:

Some other interesting hints -- look for IZZI to take part in a fiber to the home pilot project as soon as they find a suitable partner. FTTH is the obvious way to deliver the many HDTV channels and eventual HD video on demand services that will arise in Europe and Latvia in the next few years. IZZI will also soon launch ordinary video on demand. They are also thinking of packaging their HDTV and digital cable offering with a discount on a flat screen TV.
The HD service will cost LVL 3 per month in addition to the basic digital TV service (LVL 4) and rental of the HD decoder(LVL 7, or buy the thing for LVL 240, in interest free installments of LVL 40, if you wish)