I have totally neglected this blog, but I will make an effort to get it back on track. Here is some news that may not have appeared elsewhere.
Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) has launched 4G services in the Latvian port city of Liepaja. This is one of the places where 4G was first tested a couple of years ago, but the first commercial launch of 4G (in the 1800Mhz band) was in the seaside resort of Jurmala near Riga, then in Riga and the immediate environs.
All of this has taken place without great fanfare, although, when asked, LMT officials will tell you that all new mobile internet modems sold are 4G capable. So it looks like the operator is planning to go nationwide. I have been given a test modem (passed on by a PR agency from another journalist). Unfortunately, it does not even show up on my MacBook, although my son managed to download the modem driver on his MacBook Pro, where the modem didn't work either. But that is, perhaps, an individual problem.
It should also be noted that LMT in its official presentations has downplayed 4G as a priority, saying instead that it would finish the build-out of its 3G network, which is capable of download speeds of up to 42 Mbps (the 4G network claims speeds of up to 100 Mbps). So is the Liepaja deployment a shift in strategy? Remains to be seen. For the moment, LMT isn't following this up with any high profile marketing activities.
Meanwhile fixed network operator Lattelecom has been presenting itself as a multi-platform TV distributor – digital terrestrial, interactive (IPTV) and internet TV (for watching on laptops, tablets and mobile phones). This is available for one package price (internet +various TV services+ increasingly less useful, but “free” fixed telephony), with free WiFi at Lattelecom sites across the country.
The next major issue Lattelecom faces on the television market is the end of its license to broadcast digital terrestrial as of December 31, 2013. It now looks like a)the Latvian State Radio and Television Center will be exclusively tasked with broadcasting the free-to-air public television channels of Latvian Television while b) “more than one packager” of pay television channels may be selected by tender. In practice, this probably means Lattelecom and another competitor will be awarded a license starting January 1, 2014, or so the government has indicated. Lattelecom has said it will participate in the tender, but has warned that if two winners are selected, there will be a duplication of functions and a division of the market that will more likely increase cost to both competitors, especially the newcomer.On the IT side, the real excitement in Latvia is the increasing number of internationally recognized start-ups, such as the alternative Macintosh/iOS address book Cobook, the digital goods selling site Sellfy, the question and answer site for teenagers ask.fm, as well as some applications coming out of the Latvian social network draugiem.lv's incubator IdeaBits, such as the productivity tool Desktime and systems for managing vending machines (Vendon) and vehicle fleets (Mapon).
The other “hotspot” of innovation is TechHub Riga, an offshoot of TechHub in London that provides a co-working facility for startups with plenty of interesting guest lecturers and seminars. Hopefully I will be able to do more on both of these centers of innovation, probably in the form of videoblogs introducing some of the movers and shakers on the Latvian IT startup scene.