Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Taking kind of a break

I am in the US for a couple of weeks, the main reason being that my father (91) is wheelchair bound from a back condition (degenerative disc disease or the like) and my second-oldest son (21) and I want to spend some time visiting my parents. Little or nothing is happening in Latvian telecoms, anyway.
Interesting to see how my son naturally uses Skype (my brother's house, where we are staying, has high speed Comcast) to videochat with his girlfriend in Sweden and with his half-brother (12) in Carnikava, Latvia (where we have a 10 Mbps Lattelecom connection). Plus he managed to transfer his entire music collection from his Macintosh (always on) at his apartment in Stockholm to his new, US-bought iPod Touch,
Will be back in Latvia on August 12, still the middle of the summer doldrums. 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Triatel: Why give it to the fish?

Triatel, the CDMA mobile and EVDO wireless internet operator, has launched a clever summer product -- maritime mobile internet. The company's engineers determined that signals from Triatel's EVDO base stations were reaching as far as 40 kilometers over the sea. The entire Gulf of Riga has coverage, it is claimed. So they are now launching internet for boaters.
The business logic is simple. Most inland base stations cover a 360 degree zone where there are potential customers everywhere. But base stations near Latvia's seashore beam a good part of their coverage out over the water, where there is no one but the fish and the occasional recreational boater. Owning a powerboat or yacht in Latvia sort of puts you in an upper income bracket, so paying around LVL 23 a month to have internet on board is not a huge expense and kinda cool.
I am waiting for the headline: Luxury cruiser hits sand bar, helmsman was surfing draugiem.lv*

*the Latvian social network with 2 million users, sort of like Facebook or Friendster.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Gefundenes Fressen" for the bee (Bite Latvia)

Bite Latvia, the third Latvian mobile operator, has offered to take on all the customers of TG Mobile, a virtual operator running on the Bite network. The announcement comes after Telekomunikāciju grupa (TG), a Latvian alternative telco service provider, said it was leaving the mobile business for undisclosed reasons.
TG Mobile's revenues rose 37 % to LVL 7.32 million in 2007. The withdrawal of TG from its MVNO business appears, on the surface, to be "Gefundenes Fressen" for Bite as the Germans would say (meaning a meal found lying around). However, time will tell. TG Mobile emphasized cheap voice services, while Bite has been moving to expand and deepen its mobile internet coverage and quality of service. In fact, the virtual operator (at least so a quick look at its home page shows) offered no data services. So the problem is -- will the folks who choose to stay with Bite (where they always have been -- TG Mobile started in January 2007) upgrade to Bite's mobile internet (which I have tested, and which, with a few strange glitches, works rather well). In any case, it is a big "Fressen" for Bite, which had revenues of LVL 11.8 million in 2007. If most or all of TG Mobile's customers stay with Bite, it will be a substantial boost to revenues on top of a doubling in 2007 and a 39 % rise in the first quarter of 2008.

Testing RSS

I have made an RSS feed link to nozare.lv . This is a test post to see if it works.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lattelecom Technology to upgrade SAP applications

Lattelecom Technology, the IT integrator and IT service company owned by Lattelecom, is about to start a major project helping upgrade SAP's current suite of application to the next generation of the SAP platform.
The work will be the first project undertaken by Lattelecom Technology's so-called software factory using (when fully operational) up to 200 programmers and IT specialists in Latvia to write software according to a rigorously defined process and schedule.
The software factory idea is something that Valdis Lokenbahs, the current CEO of Lattelecom Technology (and formerly an executive with Dati Exigen) has been talking about for several years. Now he has organized teams at academic institutions in Jelgava and Rezekne and inside the company to work on the SAP applications upgrade.
Contracts to start doing the work are said to be ready for signing this month.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

FTTx possible in Latvia?

Jay Hoge, an American businessmen and optical networks engineer living in Latvia, voices some views on the potential for developing fiber to the home/office/building (hence FTTx in the title). Jay's customers are almost entirely outside of Latvia, but he lives here for personal reasons and has some overview of the local market. I talked to Jay at an outdoor location (just after an outdoor cafe lunch where he could enjoy his cigar :) ), so there are some moderate problems with the sound. Sorry about that. This will also go on my Latvian language blog, hence the dual-language opening titles.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The half-mother stays single for now

France Telecom has withdrawn its bid for TeliaSonera, a mixed offering of shares and cash valued at EUR 33 billion. That leaves the half-mother of Lattelecom and holder of just over 60 % in mobile operator LMT "still single". The Swedish side initially rejected the offer and subsequent negotiations between the companies were apparently fruitless.
TeliaSonera was probably right to shrug off the bid, where the share portion could prove to be rather volatile in value, especially if it were to have taken the merged company a couple of years to get its act together.
As for Latvia, this should (theoretically only) remove a reason for the endless footdragging by the Latvian government that would finalize a deal allowing it to divest its last remaining holdings in LMT, and to at least temporarily nationalize Lattelecom in the hope of reselling at least the 49 % held by the half-mother to someone else.
In other words, no one can say : "What if we are soon owned by the French, then what?"and wait to see what it is that "the French"may want. Maybe they aren't (and, indeed, turned out not to be) interested in the Nordic-Baltic region?
My view: just because an excuse for delaying is gone, doesn't mean that there won't be any delays. The economy is in rapid decline, inflation will top 20 % with 25 % not an impossibility, so the value of almost any Latvian asset is being undermined. Who will make 100 LVL of Lattelecom worth 125 LVL next year just to stay a small distance ahead of inflation? It may even be prudent for the government to wait, although this will be mitigated (or rather, vitiated, worsened) by other factors such as stagnation on the Latvian telco market, the inability (without the participation of the by now totally frustrated and apathetic half-mother) to move boldly ahead. etc.
Whatever happens, we will be lucky to see a resolution of the privatisation or other disposition of Lattelecom and LMT sometime in 2009. But don't hold your breath.