Thursday, February 02, 2006

The word from the "beefather" and other stuff..

I was on my way to an event where Maarten van Engeland, the new CEO of the Bite Group was introduced when the whimsical thought occured to me to ask the Hill & Knowlton girls at the door whether this was the place the new beefather (bištēviņš in Latvian) was having his reception. Bite means bee in Latvian, and bištēviņs would mean a kind of main man to the bees, except that bees don't have any main man, they are a female heirarchy ruled by a queen where the poor drone or drones (bee sex specialists can comment) have little to say or do...
Anyway, the new man is just as cagey as Jesper Thiell Eriksen was (you can get half a word of ambiguity out of him on future plans, etc). Nevertheless, I was able to get "the word from the man" – which is to watch Bite in Lithuania. Whatever they do, and whatever works (unless it is something weirdly Lithuanian, like phones in the shape of cepelinas, some kind of fat-dripping dumpling our southern neighbors favor), will be adapted to Latvia. First in line, perhaps, is HSDPA, the high speed data standard for 3G being installed at BiteGSM (all Bite Group now). When this comes on line in Latvia, it will be part of the business services package, one can assume.
Interestingly, the honchos at Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) are shrugging at HSDPA, saying there ain't no equipment available yet. I downloaded some stuff on HSDPA, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Bite is installing something more than promises on its infrastructure in Lithuania, one would like to think.
Another interesting thing will be that most of Bite's bells and whistles will be available when Master Telecom launches its MTS postpaid mobile service in Latvian in the next couple of months. That is because the service will run on the network infrastructure of an unnamed but easily guessed new existing operator with MTS' own switches, billing, marketing, customer service, etc. It will also be the first fixed/mobile offering from one vendor, with some interesting corporate deals, especially for those who switch operators. A hint -- no cheap phones for anyone, but nice discounts on call volume. I have said more than my anonymous source will be happy with.

On the crackpot scene...

A Latvian parliamentary commission has approved a redraft of the Radio and Television Law as an Audiovisual Service Providers Law, which will require the licencing and regulation of all providers of audiovisual broadcasting services, including the internet and mobile networks. The established internet media in Latvia are a bit worried -- who will regulate (if it is at all possible) and who will be held accountable for user-generated content? And will every podcaster and videoblogger need a licence? Give me a f**king break!!! Information is free, it got away a long time ago, and unless you want to make a mini-China of Latvia (the big China is also barely suceeding in its censorship and regulation efforts), it is best not to start down this path. Otherwise the rather charming lady Ingrida Circene of the New Era party, who heads the commission, will be like the old hag trying to sweep back the tide with a broom made of twigs.
For better or worse, all the genies are out of the bottle, everyone is an internet connection and a DV camcorder away from being a broadcaster. Face it.
For the commercial media in Latvia, self-regulation seems to work. Really offensive ravings on websites and live chats are stopped, the Latvian guys who did an early video blog of themselves, drunk, burning a live pigeon, were caught with the help of the Latvian portal where they posted, so let's not try to fix what isn't really broken.

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