One purpose of this blog has been to hint at what may be news in telecoms and IT in Latvia in the near future. Some of the following was gleaned during a recent trip to Sweden accompanying the Latvian business delegation that accompanied Latvia's president Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
A multimillion banking IT deal?
Look for a Latvian IT company landing a contract with a major Swedish bank to do software maintenance on the bank's COBOL-based legacy systems running on mainframes and to eventually oversee the migration of these (sometimes core functions) to modern computing platforms. This will be a multi-million deal, in SEK, at least.
Smoothing the road to privatizing Lattelekom...
The feeling is that Sweden's TeliaSonera is no longer being stone-walled by the Latvian government on the issue of getting a majority in Lattelekom (it currently holds 49 %). The new government of Aigars Kalvitis and Minister of Economics Krisjanis Karins appear to be open to privatizing at least part of the government stake in Lattelekom and TeliaSonera appears to have reduced expectations of getting 100 % as it has publically declared earlier. The Swedish company has obtained just over 50 % of Estonia's fixed telecoms company and seems to be happy with that, having met its minimal goal of seeking a majority holding in all of its Baltic associated companies.
...and to IP TV in Latvia
TeliaSonera is apparently satisfied with the early phase of its IP-TV over broadband offering in Sweden and will be helping Lattelekom launch a similar product in Latvia in the next few months (see this blog earlier).
Ericsson looks to Bite
The "old news" by now is that Bite GSM, a subsidiary of Danish TDC, won the auction for Latvia's third GSM and UMTS licence by offering to pay more than LVL 6 million (the starting price was LVL 1.3 million). TDC and Bite are old Ericsson customers, and the Swedish-based telecoms multinational expects to compete to supply the new operator in Latvia. Under the auction terms, the new operator has to spend at least EUR 150 million on a distinct new network, so that is the smallest cake that Ericsson and other foreign companies (including newcomer Huawei) can hope to divide. Good for them, but what was the Latvian government thinking? Infrastructrure prices are falling and the new operator's cost of build-out is one of the most significant elements of how it will have to calculate its return on investment (and, in turn, set tariffs or position value-added services).
Bite's victory also means that virtual operators will blossom in Latvia, challenging Tele2, whose customer base is largely prepaid, as well as throwing down the gauntlet to Amigo, the virtual operator leasing Latvian Mobile Telephone's (LMT) network.
Who knows, now that Easyjet is flying to Riga, perhaps the airline's mobile phone card affiliate will also turn up here. Indeed, it appears that once Bite in Latvia (or however it will brand itself) will have a number of virtual operators among its first customers. However, this will happen in the late fall at the earliest.
Higher HomeDSL speeds announced
Lattelekom, as this blog anticipated, has also announced it has doubled the speed of its HomeDSL service to 512 kbps from the previous 256 kbps, effective April 1 (no joke I hope). I have not really noticed the difference yet, but there is always a disparity between real throughput (involving all links of the internet) and the "official" speed of a link.