Monday, June 06, 2005

Flak ahead as Bite flies to Latvia

I've been in Sweden at the high school graduation of my second oldest son (18) and also seeing my oldest (20) who was down from Umeå for the event Saturday. As a result I have been slacking off from the blog.
Some upcoming news – Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) is announcing mobile TV over GPRS, EDGE and UMTS later this week. It has signed up Latvian Independent Television (LNT), TV5 (the weird reality and interview shows) and some others.
The double announcement is a jump on "third"operator Bite Mobile, which has had EDGE in Lithuania for some time and also a jump ahead of "big half sister" Lattelekom, which is still cooking its internet television (IPTV) plans. LMT's service, like the planned Lattelekom IPTV (which half-mother TeliaSonera already offers in Sweden), is going to include some direct broadcast (not clips on demand, but apparently what is actually on LNT). Who knows. perhaps it's a test of a common platform? It would be a good sign that, hello!, LMT and Lattelekom are actually cooperating.
One reason for this launch that a number of mobile-TV capable handsets are already on the market or about to be launched. Look for them as the next campaign of subsidized phones in the stores in Latvia.

Turbulence for the bee?

It's probably not going to be such a smooth flight for Bite (means bee in Latvian and presumably, Lithuanian) coming into Latvia. Erik Hallberg, a senior executive at TeliaSonera and a member of the board of LMT made it clear in an interview with Neatkariga Rita Avize that LMT didn't have the spare capacity to be able to offer national roaming to Bite Mobile, the "third" Latvian operator.
Bite Mobile has said that two pillars of its entry into Latvia would be pre-paid cards (cash in hand, sell like hotcakes) and national roaming during a buildout. Hallberg's statement only confirms what I have been hearing from my LMT sources (and I hope I had it on the blog). Tele2, however, seems to be leaving the door ajar - after all, they and arch-rival Telia got together to pool resources for a UMTS buildout in Sweden, if I am not mistaken.
One thing is for certain, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission isn't going to have a hard market analysis to base any orders on until early next year at the earliest. They published a 40 page document that simply describes how they think they are going to analyze the umpteen various markets. They will be lucky to meet their own hopes and finish the whole business by late 2006. I mean, Ofcom they ain't, staff wise, and as I said to an official at the Latvian regulator, about halfway through that 40-pager, I would have decided (were I working for them) either to hang myself or apply to herd sheep in Ireland for better pay. That's Latvian black humor...
The serious point is that Bite Mobile is unlikely to have anything with big teeth behind it when it begs for national roaming. Jesper Eriksen is a little optimistic in thinking he will get this without a fight.
BTW, I am off to see Bite tommorrow (today in six minutes) and may try to blog something from Vilnius. I don't know how much more they will disclose than I have already lured out of them, but we shall see.

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