Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hooray for toxic cannibal fish!

Tele2 has launched its Urā! prepaid for LVL 0.70 (near candy-bar price) and calls within the network at LVL 0.049 per minute. My only question is - will this product, which looks like it is aimed at Bite Latvija's Toxic and Zetcom's Hello – not end up cannibalizing the low-end Golden Fish (LVL 0.99 if I am not mistaken)? We shall see...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Some words on freedom as we pass 200 posts

Yes, the blog passed 200 posts. Not bad, didn't think I would keep it up, but stuff keeps happening.
Just to give you some idea of how the US legal doctrine on freedom of speech and prior restraint looks, compared to the implicit arguments of the Economic Police in the matters concerning and SIA Bizi Team.

The Doctrine of Prior Restraint
Quote are from a website with extracts from decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States.

''Liberty of the press, historically considered and taken up by the Federal Constitution, has meant, principally although not exclusively, immunity from previous restraints or censorship.''
''Any system of prior restraints of expression comes to this Court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.''

The United States Supreme Court's first encounter with a law imposing a prior restraint came in Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, in which a five-to-four majority voided a law authorizing the permanent enjoining of future violations by any newspaper or periodical once found to have published or circulated an ''obscene, lewd and lascivious'' or a ''malicious, scandalous and defamatory'' issue. An injunction had been issued after the newspaper in question had printed a series of articles tying local officials to gangsters. While the dissenters maintained that the injunction constituted no prior restraint, inasmuch as that doctrine applied to prohibitions of publication without advance approval of an executive official, the majority deemed the difference of no consequence, since in order to avoid a contempt citation the newspaper would have to clear future publications in advance with the judge. Liberty of the press to scrutinize closely the conduct of public affairs was essential, said Chief Justice Hughes for the Court.

The following quotes may find some favor with BlackHalt :), the miscreant purveyor of scandal :):):) :

''The administration of government has become more complex, the opportunities for malfeasance and corruption have multiplied, crime has grown to most serious proportions, and the danger of its protection by unfaithful officials and of the impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect, emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press, especially in great cities.

And the Economic Police should translate and put on their desks the following, in even bigger letters:

The fact that the liberty of the press may be abused by miscreant purveyors of scandal does not make any the less necessary the immunity of the press from previous restraint in dealing with official misconduct. Subsequent punishment for such abuses as may exist is the appropriate remedy, consistent with constitutional privilege.

It is no secret that from a European and Latvian point of view, a lot of weird and bad things have been happening to the image of the United States and in the name of the United States. Still, I think there are lessons to learn from the efforts and the ongoing struggle in the US to maintain the highest standards of freedom in the world

Da man speaks, so watch what you speak?

The Economic Police have sent this blogger (in my day job as a business reporter) a statement regarding the issues surrounding the publication of an article on security holes at the Latvian domain registry and allegations that police were pressuring Bizi Team, a Latvian hosting company, to completely shut down the Latvian IT portal which published the article.
Without attempting to translate the documentfrom PR/ bureaucratic Latvian, it basically confirms that there were contacts between the police and "the portal" claiming that one comment posted on datuve and signed by a poster using the name of a police inspector had been removed.
Otherwise, the essence of the statement was that police were right to take measures to stop what they considered was a publication that "affected the rights of others", giving as examples libel and slander (also of state authorities), violation of privacy of physical persons, disclosure of state secrets and the disclosure of vulnerabilities of infomation systems and the explaining ways to overcome information system security.
I am not prepared to write an essay on freedom of expression vs such interests as libel and slander and national security. As I have spend the first 27 years of my life (minus one year in a German refugee camp) in the US, I can only admire the way the First Amendment has applied to protect freedom of expression both in libel and slander cases involving public officials and in national security (the Supreme Court ruling on The Pentagon Papers).
Where the statement by the Economic Police gets dangerous is in alleging that there is a right, which they can enforce (even by pressure or "persuasion"), of affected parties to have information disclosing vulnerabilities removed. This is open to extremely broad interpretation and could be applied to almost any software review. For those who remember those fantastic few hours some years ago when the home page of the Latvian parliament (Saeima) was graced by a bare-breasted lady on a motorcycle (the page had been hacked) in front of the Saeima building , it was soon revealed that the rather common web page design software was set by default to leave all aspects of any page open to modification. So it was pretty easy to put in the motorcycle babe -- but should it be grounds for banning a publication that points this out (I think it was Microsoft Front Page that was used).
So how far are we going to go?? Exploits by the dozens are published on the internet every day, and to try to stop this is like sweeping back the ocean with a broom. Moreover, to even attempt or think of attempting to ban an entire portal largely dedicated to discussion of legal commercial and open-source software and programming techniques is absurdly, dangerously overbroad, like carpet-bombing a city because Osama bin Laden might have been seen in a park.
My firm belief is that the freedom of expression must almost always take the upper hand and be untoucheable, maybe restricted only in wartime (regarding operational facts), but never under such circumstances as this case. If anyone feels harmed by datuve's information, let them prove it in a civil court.
The paper will be doing something on this in the next couple of days, emphasizing the press freedom issues and the potential threat to as well as the statement by the Economic Police, to be fair and balanced.

Covering Riga, softly with UMTS

Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) has nearly covered Riga with UMTS service, although there is not much beyond a fast data link available. Currently there are 1 500 UMTS capable phones on the network, so one can understand why there is no rush to deliver services. In addition to mobile internet, you can also watch mobile TV for LVL 0.05 a minute. Have fun with that...
In any case, those who shelled out LVL 400 or more for their ultracool Nokia 3G models will now be please to see a little 3G on their screens in the better part of Riga.

Second prepaid service to launch on Tele2

A second pre-paid service, to be called Urā! (Hooray) will be launched on Tele2's network October 27. It is not clear whether the card will be an ultra-low cost companion to Tele2's Zelta zivtiņa (Golden Fish) prepaid or a separate virtual operator. My sources say it will not be a MVNO (like Amigo and Hello, who operate on Latvian Mobile Telephone's (LMT) network). So we shall see.
In any event, it looks like someone has come up with an answer to the el-cheapo (LVL 1) Hello, and is trying to pre-empt any prepaids that Bite may host once its network capacity is sufficient. Also, the other competitors must fight the aggressive, give-away marketing of Bite's own Toxic card.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Waitin' for Da Man*

Actually it is a kind, probably young lady, Kristine Mezaraupe, the press secretary of the Latvian Police, who says she is doing her best to check out just what the 6th department of the Economic Police was doing to get both the people at Bizi Team (a hosting service) and oolee, the informal editor of so upset (they believe there was an effort, which they resisted, to censor them). It seems that she can't get ahold of the people at the 6th department. I did, but one of the inspectors said the boss was away at some training courses. I was not supposed to call these guys directly :). I will hit myself the next time I do. Remind me...
A new nuance – it seems the cybercops were after a person called BlackHalt, who actually delivered petruha's little essay (all of this is in Latvian) about f**king with to datuve. was actually pleased, at the end of the day, that it could make some effort to improve its processes. BlackHalt, it seems, has a history with both and Latnet and with the cybercops, who may have suspected the dude (well, small chance it could be a girl :) ) was planning some new tricks.
Nobody likes to deal with any kind of police. In fact, I have even felt mildly negative to be stopped and found to be sober, driving at the allowed speed, with a properly registered vehicle and a valid licence. Since the people who were called by the cyberpolice may feel the same, I have to make sure where the subjective ends and the facts start.
There will, hopefully, be some kind of story here and in that certain newspaper...

*Da Man, from Afro-American slang for an authority figure one necessarily doesn't like. As opposed to "My man", who is a good guy, homeboy of some stature. Afro-American readers, please excuse any bizarre interpretations of your culture/slang :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Gathering the facts...

Just to update on the domain and censorship scandal, I have contacted the Latvian Economic Police Unit 6 (apparently, the cybercrimes unit) who are accused of trying to have the Latvian IT portal «dehosted» by its hosting company Bizi Team. Managers at the hosting company say this demand was made, but I will hold back judgement until I hear the police side of the story. If anyone needs to have the confidence of the IT community, it is this police unit which, after all, is a line of defence (if they work efficiently) against malicious hacking and cyberfraud. So let us chill here. I must admit, when it come to allegations of censorship, I tend to explode just a little.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A domain registration and censorship scandal

Thanks to Latvian-language blogger Kristaps Kaupe, I have been tipped off to a scandal over the last week concerning NIC.Lv, the Latvian domain registration service. It seems that the Latvian language IT news and discussion portal Datuve discovered that it was possible to use some kind of e-mail trick to change domain registration data and, essentially, to kidnap domains. Once this information started circulating, Datuve said the company hosting its sever was asked in a phone call by the Latvian Economic Police to remove the Datuve website. While the article may have explained how simple it was to steal domains or get them for free ( is a fee-based registration service), the action by the police was a blatant attempt at censorship or, even in the most charitable intepretation, vastly overbroad. If one article may have contained instructions on committing a crime(that, if Datuve's story was accurate, was begging to be committed and idiot simple as well), it is hardly reason to shut down an entire internet medium. Instead, the Economic Police should be talking to NIC.Lv the way the ordinary police patrolmen would talk to someone who has left his warehouse unlocked.
This is yet another case of residual Soviet mentality – if in doubt, censor and forbid rather than understand the problem and do your best to solve it with a minimal intrusion into such vital and unassailable rights as the freedom of expression.
Now that I think about it (even it it is a week late), this is definitely a story for my daytime job. Apollo may have picked it up, but I am not sure about the print media.

No IPTV yet and other thoughts

October 15, one of the dates that I was tipped off would be the start of Lattelekom's IPTV service, has come and gone. The only sign of IPTV is a new and dead link (Apollo TV) on the revamped Apollo portal (for Lattelekom's Apollo internet platform). So it would appear that the TV launch is still around the corner, just the corner is farther off than I was told.
Meanwhile, Triatel also pushed back the official announcement of its cdma450-based high speed wireless internet service. This has been running experimentally over the summer, but it appears the company is holding back on a launch until number portability is implemented on December 1. The reason – it wants existing Lattelekom customers (with no DSL/relatively slow DSL for one reason or another) to come to its network and take the whole new package -- cdma450 mobiles, wireless deskphones and broadband. This is what they will be selling in some parts of the country from the "Magic Bus"(see the earlier post). Now that I think about it, not too many Latvians will recognize this song by The Who,. Maybe "Omnibus" by the Latvian singer and comedian Fredis would be more suitable, except the "omnibus" in that song is a little menacing, since (if you follow the Latvian lyrics) it runs over people's vegetable gardens. Well, Lattelekom is one company whose countryside veggie garden will be uprooted by the Triatel "omnibus", but we shall see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Here comes Triatel's Magic Bus

If this were a podcast, I would run "Magic Bus" by the Who in the background. Anyway, Triatel, Latvia's cdma450 operator, is planning to hit the Latvian countryside (the larger cities and towns outside Riga) with a bus or busses selling Triatel's complete communications solutions in a box.
The way it will work is that a bus, painted in Triatel colors and logos, will arrive stocked with mobile phones, wireless and laptop modems, and fixed wireless desktop phones, allowing small business customers to pick what they need, sign the necessary subscription papers, and have it all packed in a single box to be taken to the business premises, unpacked and "plugged and played" on the same day.
The company has determined that small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) outside greater Riga are going to be the core of its customer base. With 68 % of Latvia's territory and 80 % of the population to get coverage by the end of 2005, Triatel hopes that the "non-Riga" businesses will snap up its offering for a number of reasons:
1) Triatel is probably the only broadband alternative out there.
2) Triatel offers free calls within the company network (be it five or 50 phones, mobile or desktop wireless), voicemail and a web-configurable virtual PBX and call record tracking service.
3) Triatel offers super-cheap (by Latvian standards) international calling, with the US, for instance, for LVL 0.079 a minute (that compares with rates offered by some fixed line IP services that have been leafleting Riga mailboxes).

Already, around 45 % of the company's customers (said to number a few tens of thousands) are SMEs and this will be the future growth focus.
So far, nothing seems to have come of Lattelekom's plans to cooperate with Triatel on using cdma450 to complete the so-called digitization of the Lattelekom network. This may be happening unofficially, as at least one Lattelekom SME customer for whom no affordable Lattelekom solution was available was taken to see Triatel. In this case, while Lattelekom didn't get the subscriber, it did do a service for the (non) customer and build some good will. Pretty smart.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I don't buy Tele2's reasons

Again interesting things happen while I am at the wrong place, or better put, in the right place (Stockholm) doing the wrong thing (covering a Baltic Development Forum). So Tele2 is stopping investment in fixed telecoms in all three Baltic States? While there have been problems, I don't think that the poor operator has been passed around by the Baltic authorities (at the behest of incumbent fixed-line operators) for a multiple clusterf**k. My quick take on this is that the problem lies elsewhere -- the fixed voice market is shrinking rapidly and there will soon be little return on any investment here. The only legitimate issue, mentioned in reports of Tele2's decision, is that it has not been given a chance to participate in broadband markets. This may be a legitimate problem, but all it means is that Tele2 has been denied the opportunity to make a falling revenue (starting at, say LVL 10 per month) for a relatively small number (a couple of hundred thousand in the region, perhaps) of DSL or other broadband lines.
I think that Tele2 simply has other fish to fry on the European market, that it may also have some hidden problems, and that blaming the nasty little Baltic dwarves is the best way to cover one's retreat.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Lattelekom rumors and speculations

Look for Lattelekom to expand its international data transmission network over the next few weeks and months. The first step will be a point-of-presence (POP) in Moscow for Russian corporate customers to run virtual private networks (VPNs) with their affiliates in the Baltic countries. The next move will be to extend Lattelekom's network into the Ukraine and possibly Poland. Here the demand is coming from customers in Sweden and Scandinavia, where Lattelekom already has a POP in Stockholm. The idea is to run traffic to and from the Ukraine cheaper and more efficiently that via Russia. where there are apparently problems with the Moscow to Ukraine link.
Does this coincide with any plans by Telia International Carrier, the Lattelekom half-mother's international network? This blogger doesn't really know, but heard one opinion from an informed source that "the Swedes aren't that good at the international business", especially in the former USSR. Lattelekom, apparently sees no reason to wait for the half-mother to catch up.

Lattelekom to go Danish?
Another rumor concerns the possibility that Lattelekom and the half-mother will disown each other, just as the Widow's Son wants it (see earlier posts regarding the Minister of Economics' insistance that anybody but TeliaSonera own Lattelekom if TeliaSonera buys the rest of Latvian Mobile Telephone/LMT).
The latest rumor sees two possible buyers for Lattelekom - Denmark's TDC, which would take over the fixed line/internet business to complement its mobile Bite Latvija operation. Then Lattelekom's growing data network tentacles/POPs would fit nicely to the Scandinavian Song data network that TDC recently bought. With everything migrating, eventually, to high-speed, multiservice IP networks, this makes perfect sense (as far as I know, Lattelekom already manages its backbone and carrier networks with MPLS, so these would fit nicely with Song and its customers).
One should also note that two groups of private equity funds are studying whether to buy TDC. This is very interesting because 1) most recent and rumored (such as Telefonica and KPN) telecoms mergers have been operations driven (gaining customers, network footprint, etc.) 2) private equity expects a very good return on investment, so they are bargaining on TDC and perhaps the telecoms sector, selectively or as a whole, earning substantial profits. What do they know that we don't?
Still another rumor - Telenor of Norway may buy Lattelekom. Not so likely, as it has no mobile network (TDC has Bite) to complement the Latvian fixed line operator with.

As far as the three-minister working group trying to figure out what to do with Lattelekom and LMT, it seems to have become a standing committee. No decision, just studying the question (is it that f**king complicated, gentlemen??). We may see some movement on this next week, when Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis comes to the Baltic Development Forum in Stockholm and will apparently meet with TeliaSonera. Whether or not the half-mother has any new persuasive arguments for becoming the full mother remains to be seen. This blogger has the feeling that the Latvian government believes competition arises by having several small, half-assed and weak players rather than regulating the inevitably increasingly big and strong few players.
As far as being worried about the size of whoever owns parts or all of Latvia's telecoms system, what will they do when 3 to 5 years from now, LMT is just a small subsidiary of a medium size subsidiary of a giant global telco?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Win some, lose some...

Bite Latvija is announcing its full web store (buy phones, Toxic cards, refills, etc) today, October 13. It won't be a roll-out of its GPRS flat-fee service, although it is possible to purchase unlimited GPRS use on a Toxic card for a specific period of time, say, 24 hours, a week, whatever, so say my sources. One tries to outsmart oneself...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Schoolyards, cathedrals, junkyard fences and flat-rate GPRS/EDGE?

It looks like Bite Latvija will launch its much anticipated flat-rate mobile internet service on October 13 (say I, going out on a limb). They have called a press conference concerning some such matter, and are being very cagey (not saying anything) about just what it will be. Knowing myself, I wouldn't talk to me either ....:). Bite already has flat-rate GPRS/EDGE in Lithuania and charges the equivalent of LVL 20 for it. Look for the same or lower here.
I checked their website and it doesn't look like this internet related thing has to do with self-service, because that is already available to anyone who can push back his floppy, oversize backwards baseball/porkpie hat out of his/her eyes and log on as a Toxic prepaid card user.
There are plenty of those now for a good reason -- Bite is handing them out in the schoolyards around Riga, sometimes arriving with a boombox to play the kind of imitation Eminem stuff that the Toxic crowd goes for. Several of my work colleagues with early-teenie kids have reported this.
As for the website, the part for Toxic users contains a Flash sequence showing, among other things, the Riga Russian Orthodox Cathedral behind what appears to be a sheet-metal junkyard fence. The famous Laima clock pillar is also similarly presented. I'm not one of those people who starts frothing at the mouth when irreverance is shown toward so-called national/religious symbols. Indeed, I always say that I prefer living in countries that are so free in terms of individual expression that anyone can burn the national flag without threat of sanctions (assuming fire safety and littering laws are respected). However, I wonder if the priest of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral has seen this art work?. I don't know if the Russian-language version of contains the same stuff, but it might just be a little over the top for a Riga landmark that suffered the «indignity» of being a planetarium, cafe and disco during the Soviet era. Not to mention that someone may be watching over the place. It is reported that a Komsomol activist supervising the removal of the Cathedral's crosses fell to his death. So if lighting hits a few Bite base station towers...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Triatel set to launch wireless DSL

Triatel, the cdma450 mobile and fixed wireless operator, is set to launch its wireless DSL-equivalent internet access service in early November.
The wireless link promises speeds up to 2.4 Mbps, which is pretty fast compared to Lattelekom's 512 kbps over copper wires. It remains to be seen what the price-performance ratio will be once Triatel announces its tariffs. I would keep it in the LVL 20 to 25 per month zone to be competitive.
The fast internet offering almost completes Triatel's "telecoms in a box" offer where an SME can get mobile and fixed wireless telephony, plus internet and set it up almost instantly. The final step is a promised virtual PBX to link calls among different phones in the average company.
Triatel will also be a step ahead of the companies looking to launch some kind of WiMax service in Riga next year, noteably Unistars and rival Telecentrs, which is suing to have some of Unistars frequencies redistributed. The competitor battles in Latvian telecoms continue to be fought in the courthouse, as mentioned earlier.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Courthouse battles shape the market

After what has been going on, I suggested jokingly to a news editor at the paper where I work that we could merge the telecoms beat and the courthouse beat (beat is US journalist slang for an area that a reporter regularlty covers). The big operators have all taken to the Administrative Court to carry on their battle with the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission regarding a ceiling the regulator put on interconnect charges. It represented a very sharp cut in interconnect for both Lattelekom's fixed network and the mobile networks of both majors -- Latvian Mobile Telephone and Tele2. Both Lattelekom and Tele2 appealed the ruling and then asked the court to suspend the ruling coming into force on October 1 as planned. The lower court found in favor of Tele2 and Lattelekom in two separate cases, but now on appeal, the suspension of the ceiling has been overruled for Tele2. It would seen natural that Lattelekom will also lose on appeal, but we must wait and see.
In terms of administrative law, it is a tough case as it asks for a kind of injunctive relief (suspending the disputed ruling) pending a hearing on the merits (whether the ruling was legal or not). On the one hand, it makes sense not to make a party suffer until a ruling that will cause it some economic loss is judged legal or not. On the other hand, there is a certain presumption of legality of the rulings of a regulatory authority which also bring certain economic benefit (lower interconnect charges) to others. It is difficult decision to make without showing one's thinking on the case on the merits. Any Latvian lawyers out there to comment on this?

Yes, it's Lattelekom doing IPTV and vlogging...

Just to confirm the obvious, it is Lattelekom that, within a week to ten days, will launch its IPTV service that will include (next year if not sooner), the ability to upload one's own video files, in other words, to vlog (videoblog) or post various works of real or intended art. Let a thousand vlogs bllom. It will be the end of vaguely regulared television as we know it in Latvia. I wait with interest to what extent the political parties will pick up on vlogging as a campaign tool next year. Somehow I think the New Era (Jaunais Laiks/JK) will be first, followed closely by the People's Party, but you never can tell. Often the political loonies are out there first.
With all due respect for a fellow blogger with whose politics I would strongly disagree, I wonder whether Kristaps Kaupe might not be vlogging soon for his fellow radical nationalists? That would be rather interesting technically, and as an IT specialist, Kristaps could pull it off.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Vlogging, user-created IPTVbroadcasts coming

At a risk of generating some "blowback"*, I can say that a major operator's IPTV project is going to include the possibility to record broadcasts on demand (on a remote server for later viewing), as well as to chat while watching TV on a PC and to upload personal video files. My international contacts tell me this is pretty radical and unique. Very few of the few places that have launched IPTV, including TeliaSonera in Sweden, have these features. Well, the vlogging (that's videoblogging) feature won't be available until next year, probably, but it still has this local operator beating BT (as in British Telecom) to the punch in launching internet television.
All of these things (yesterday's newscasts, stored and searchable video) do exist here and there on the net, but putting them on one platform is still a new and cutting edge thing for Latvia. Late October launch for the TV part, most likely 11 channels (five local, six "free" Russian satellite feeds). I know the Russian stuff is popular here, but I can't picture the "typical cable TV viewer", the ethnic Russian pensioner, sitting at a big-screen PC watching one of the Russian channels and chatting about the latest soap opera or detective thriller (these are supposed to be rather good on Russian TV) with other pensioners :).

*blowback is a term that comes from espionage tradecraft, when one "plants" a story (usually disinformation) in a distant foreign country's press only to have the local New York Times stringer pick it up and report in the homeland press (i.e. Congo press reports disinformation that another African president keeps a goat as a mistress, NYT reports this , then exposes that "Congo Journal Story of Goat-o-phile Bongowongo President was CIA plant" ). Well, by rather bad analogy, this means that some Latvian journalist reading this blog guesses what the story is all about and reports it in his newspaper or agency, beating, say, a certain Latvian business newspaper where I work :). This may have happened with my blogging of the August visit of the Prime Minister and various Latvian IT honchos to Microsoft. I had it on the blog well ahead of the Latvian media.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Strange, but uncontested ruling on MicroLink purchase

The Latvian Competition Council's (CC) fears of market domination by Lattelekom if it were to keep intended acquisition object MicroLink's data transmission network seem based on the IT company's ownership of a citywide network in Riga called Metro. Most of the rest of the company's data network seems to be leased lines from other operators such as Latvenergo or even Lattelekom itself. It is just in Riga that we see a lot of competition, with parallel optical and other cabling by Telia MultiCom (a cable TV and internet company that no longer has any ties to TeliaSonera), Baltcom TV and other, local companies. This makes it hard to understand what the problem perceived by the CC was. In any case, Lattelekom isn't contesting the issue and there are potential buyers for the MicroLink network, including Telia MultiCom. The reason – anyone would want some of the mid-sized businesses that have become customers of MicroLink. The potential buyers are out after the customers, not the fiber (which there is plenty of). Thanks for the business opportunity, CC.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bite sells 1000 Toxic cards, MicroLink deal stumbles

Well, Bite Latvija just sold more than 1000 of its Toxic cards. Good for them, nevermind the name, just count the money. We will see what they roll out next.
Meanwhile, the Latvian Competition Council has demanded that Lattelekom sell the data transmission business of MicroLink if it wants to acquire the company (together will Estonia's Elion and Lietuvos Telekomas, both majority owned by TeliaSonera). The problem is – Lattelekom and the other were most interested in the data business. So who will buy in? Possibly only another major operator, who will then have to be satisfied with a rather small market.
The problem faced by the competition authorities in a case like this is that this runs contrary to the economies of scale in the telecoms industry as well as the, call them, economies of convergence. A competitive operator has to be a) with a large if not global network b) with all possible services from fixed to internet to mobile. The Latvian government with its insistance that Lattelekom and Latvian Mobile Telephone be sold to different owners, and that MicroLink be sold without its data transmission business is going against these trends. This is probably not the way to get more competition, regulatory rules are a better answer, making the large networks open and equally accessible to others, not chopping the networks and operators up into Lilliput-size units (on a global scale) and then hoping that there will be serious competition among dwarves.
Look at it this way - what economies of scale does a Lattelekom (fixed line only) with around 600 000 customers have against Tele2 on the cost side? Tele2 buys network equipment on a revenue base of 30 million customers and on a much larger scale. Can Lattelekom cut the same deal and reduce its costs? Probably not. The same question can be asked regarding TeliaSonera, which is no giant on the world scale.
There is no way that one can have small and competitive telecoms companies EXCEPT in a regulatory environment where the large global networks are open to all at a small cost/plus tariff and competition is based on niche services and efficiency of operations. So the future, perhaps, lies with virtual operators of one kind or another.