Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Desperate mapmakers and lucky outsourcers

I should pay a bit of attention to the IT side on this blog. Jana Seta, a Latvian publisher of print and digital maps, has repeatedly called me with a lamentation that 85 % of their digital product has been stolen and copied. Welcome to the real world...
However, the problem is that the editors of a certain paper don't think that the story is worth publishing (if 85 % of the warehouse of, say a major home electronics company were carted off during the night, it would be another story). One argument is the belief that Jana Seta used old Soviet maps (USSR state property?) to make its digital maps (GIS systems, really) , therefore it is more OK to steal from them than if they had made the maps from scratch (just imagine what doing original satellite photography and aerial surveillance would do to costs...).
Whatever the reason, the story of the pillage of Jana Seta by various cyberpirates (including those who put the maps on their websites for commercial purposes, i.e. how to find our office, etc.) isn't going to get told, except here. So now some justice is done..
Another story that I think is in a holding pattern for the trash/underplayed bin is that TeliaSonera has selected Latvia Dati Exigen as one of its 14 suppliers of IT services over the next two years. TeliaSonera has cut the number of suppliers from 29 and Dati Exigen is the first East European country to be selected. This is a signal that, despite having such luminaries and giants as Accenture and TietoEnator among the 14, TeliaSonera is slowly shifting its IT operations to the somewhat cheaper, high quality, high efficiency Baltic nearshore. This has already caused some alarm on the Scandinavian IT services market, I am told. Unfortunately, TeliaSonera doesn't disclose its specific IT spending, but it appears that the Dati Exigen share of it will be a substantial single figure millions of USD sum, and will push the capacity of the Latvian company (with headquarters in San Francisco) to the maximum. As many as 100 people may be needed to do the work for the Swedes.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Jesper goes Swiss, Dutchman to fly in

Jesper Thiell Eriksen, the head of Bite Group and a trusted but sometimes unshakeable source for this blogger/journalist, has been reassigned by his parent company TDC to head TDC Switzerland. He will be replaced by Maarten van Engeland, a Dutchman who comes from an executive vice-presidency at TDC Solutions, a part of TDC's fixed line operations.
As far as I can determine, there is nothing particular behind these fast and unexpected changes, it is simply TDC's style to move their managers around like they were airborne Rangers, in, do the mission and out before anyone realized what was happening. Meanwhile the private equity consortium that formed Nordic Telephone Company (NTC) has announced it has just over 88 % of the shares in TDC and will give precise figures on January 25. We may then also learn more about what they intend to do with their new asset.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Not news, not yet...

I discovered Wednesday (January 18) that my paper had not published the story that Lattelekom was going to offer 10 Mbps DSL internet at some point in the first half of 2006.
The story needed a slight re-write, placing less emphasis on "the Great Satan" Lattelekom, although, like them or not, the dominant actors do set the national benchmark. So to my mind, if Lattelekom does it, for better or worse, it is/will be done. Baltkom, at best, has around 9000 fixed internet connections, best top speed 2 Mbps, only in certain parts of Riga. IZZI probably has somewhat fewer connections, again in restricted parts of Riga. Lattelekom has around 57 000 household DSL subscribers, which is a bit more and they are in different parts of the country, though presumably, mainly in Riga.
I did find that a company called Balticoms, which operates in the Riga suburbs, does offer pretty genuine looking 10 Mbps international traffic internet for around LVL 16.50 per month (it says it has its own 300 Mbps international channel, not bad).
Anyway, the story didn't run, it was here only on the blog, but no one in the Latvian media picked it up!
Ever since a certain journalist left the news agency LETA and another one from BNS joined a certain paper, nobody watches the blog and now they have missed a perfect episode of what could have been unintended blowback (when you let others beat you with your own story :) as carried by some other media ). I was sure my story would run, so I blogged what was pretty much an exclusive on Lattelekom and when it didn't make the paper, I was sure someone would pick it up...
Oh yes, and nobody in the Latvian blogosphere noticed either, not even Kristaps Kaupe, whose company I actually called for comment (they are a small IT outfit providing internet at 512 Kbps international traffic, much faster domestic in an area covered by one big spool of Ethernet cable around their office in downtown Riga)
Well, I now feel safer about publishing whatever I know and whatever comes to mind here, no risk of compromising exclusivity for my paper ...:)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Look for 10 Mbps Lattelekom DSL by this summer

Lattelekom will upgrade its consumer DSL services to offer download speeds of 10 Mbps or more by this summer, company officials told this blogger (Latvian readers, see or the January 18 newspaper). The reason is increasing competition from alternative and small operators already claiming to offer higher speeds (though most often only within the Latvian network).
The high-speed service will most likely come only at a small premium to the present 512 Kbps HomeDSL service, which costs around LVL 15 per month.
Lattelekom is facing competitive pressure not only from other fixed network providers, but from the prospect of mobile operator Bite Latvija offering fixed-fee mobile internet with mult-megabit speeds on the UMTS network, using HSDPA technology.
Business DSL services will also see much higher speeds but will also be priced, as now, substantially higher in line with service levels.
A Swedish survey by analysts Berg Insight of Gothenburg says that in the next few years there may be as many as 50 million HSDPA users in Europe who surf the internet anywhere (within 3G coverage) for a flat fee and at speeds of 3.6 Mbps or higher.
In the new housing projects (apartment buildings and individual home villages), both Lattelekom and Latvenergo, the national energy utility, are offering fiber-to-the-home solutions that will enable speeds of up to 100 Mbps to individual subscribers and "gigabit" speeds to the local router.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bite bites the wired internet market in the...

Bite Latvija's announcement that it will be launching UMTS using the state-of-the-art fastest HSDPA technology for data transmission has had a interesting knock-on effect on the wired internet connection market. Lattelekom is now saying it will roll out ultra-fast DSL (in the 10 Mbps to 10 Mbps) range later this year. However, they say this is inevitable even without Bite because there are some 200 competitors in Riga offering a variety of alternative connection speeds and prices. However, most of these are localized "Sharashkin's Offices" (an expression in Latvian derived from a Russian expression meaning a small, fly-by-night or perhaps, fly-by-twilight operation), whereas Bite's HSDPA coverage will attempt to be uniform for the whole city and several other Latvian towns, as well. With unlimited mobile internet costing the equivalent of LVL 20 per month on Bite's business-class service (business services will also be launched around the time Bite goes 3G), many people will be able to use the internet through their mobile phone at a speed several times higher than the 521 Kbps of Lattelekom's HomeDSL (2 Mbps for services in their "open garden"). HSDPA (did I spell that right :) ?) is supposed to deliver very high speeds, over 8 Mbps, perhaps even 20 Mbps, but that is in the laboratory, not in practice. But even 3 to 4 Mbps over a mobile link, anywhere, anytime (well, in Riga) for LVL 20 flat is a pretty good deal and it outruns even Triatel's nomadic 1 Mbps (perhaps 2.4 Mbps) service, that costs a little over LVL 25 monthly, plus the cost of a seperate wireless modem. With HSDPA, that comes with the 3G phone.
Generally, however, Bite doesn't expect 3G to take off in Latvia until 2010, when it will have 20 % penetration, and go mass market (over 50 %) in 2012.
Apparently Bite is counting on 3G to be a "force multiplier" for its business package, also due out in the first half of 2006. The business class service will offer, as it does in Lithuania, a privileged roaming service with Vodafone, basically offering one tariff for calls in most of Europe and an automatic link to Vodafone or a Vodafone partner whereever one is (no more making that first call from the airport with a superexpensive service that has a powerful base station just outside the terminal.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Google fuckwits at it again!!/Lattelekom IPTV looks OK

Google says the Latvian Telecoms Vlog video is live and available. They could have watched King Kong (3 hours) 12 or 15 times in the time they took to verify it. But when I look up my video on (search under Latvian), it says that it is not available for viewing. It just goes to show that whatever is free is often garbage. Perhaps Lattelekom will launch its video archive service soon and one will be able to put the occasional video blog on it.
I borrowed my youngest son's Packard-Bell Wintel laptop and found that Lattelekom's IPTV worked rather well (it doesn't work on the iMac G5). I put the LNT broadcast of the movie Air America on full screen, and it looked about like a DVD played on the computer would look. So, I give them a good mark for effort and await:

a) that it works for Macintosh
b) that we get some foreign, non-Russian channels, like CNN and BBC World.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Vlogging on Google Video is a disaster

It now seems that it takes more than 24 hours for Google Video to "verify" that a less than two minute video of my "talking head" (in English, not Latvian) is not offensive or pornographic. Since blogging is a form of news reporting, this is unacceptable. I will look for some other hosting solution, though it doesn't look promising. There is some tutorial on how to put video on hosted blogs, but I tried that and ended up in a loop -- to put the video on some public archive, I had to log into some other site, which then asked that I be authorized on the first site-- you get the picture.
I am thinking of doing 30 seconds of video simply chanting "Google, maukas!" :) :) so their verifiers can determine that I am saying how tasty they are in Finnish. Latvians may find this both funny and offensive, but tell me, who hasn't brought one of those cartons of flat bread back to the office from Helsinki?
For the non-Latvian speaking:

maukas = cheap whores (Latvian)
maukas = delicious (Finnish, also a brand of flat bread with a big logo MAUKAS covering the whole carton :) :) )

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Master Telecom to become a postpaid operator

Master Telecom, hitherto an "alternative" fixed network voice services provider, intends to become a mobile operator offering postpaid GSM services. It will invest considerably in infrastructure short of its own base stations (switches, billing and customer service systems will be owned and operated by Master Telecom). The network capacity is being negotiated with an undisclosed operator. Bite Latvija, mentioned in some press reports, has denied that there have been any talks. However, it is a common practice for all operators involved in such negotiations to agree to confidentiality.
Master Telecom intends, starting in February or March, to become the first operator in Latvia to offer both mobile and "true" fixed line services. Triatel already offers "telecoms in a box" based on its wireless cdma 450 solution which offers mobile phones, fixed wireless desktop phones, and EVO standard high speed wireless internet modems.
Your blogger learned about Master Telecoms plans in an extensive background briefing by Master Telecom's top management.
There may be some interesting developments with Master Telecom in a distant, large country by the summer. Master Telecom is the company mentioned in my somewhat ironic earlier post on a possible cdma operator. They didn't get the 800 Mhz frequencies they applied for, and they are still rather secretive (as far as publishing, because of ongoing finalization of certainb agreements) about their detailed plans. These will be revealed at the end of January. So place your guesses and bets, but if its on the Latvian honey-maker that sounds in English like what dogs do, the odds aren't there for a big win. Read between the lines...

Yet another Vlog

I bought a webcam in Stockholm so I don't have to screw around with my DV video camera every time I want to experiment with vlogging. I have put up another vlog on for what it is worth, yet another test. It should be live in several hours. They are slow in verifying stuff at google. No way yet to link it directly to the blog or to insert the movie in the blog using blogger.
I also hope to try cam chatting, probably with my oldest son in Umeå, Sweden, whose girlfriend may have gotten a webcam for Christmas. So if there are any serious cam chatters out there, it might be interesting.