Saturday, December 27, 2008

What may happen in 2009

Any of my Latvian-speaking readers may recognize this as a slight re-hash of what I wrote on my Latvian-language blog. However, having woken up at an early jet-lagged (or jet-pushed, as I am "ahead" and waking at 0530 after going to bed around 2230) hour here in the US, I will share some thoughts on what may be ahead in Latvian telecoms in 2009.
The government (or whatever government is in charge) will continue to endlessly drag its feet on the privatization of Lattelecom and mobile operator LMT. With the financial markets globally in a shambles and share prices down to rock-bottom, it is unlikely that anyone will pay or get a good price for either Latvian operator. The offer made by TeliaSonera to pay over 500 million LVL for the remaining state stakes in both companies would have been the deal of the decade. The Latvian government simply blew it. On this issue, there is no direction home (as Bob Dylan put it).
Lattelecom, meanwhile, will be very busy. It has to start its DSL to FTTH conversion (offering 100 Mbps to internet subscribers, instead of the present 10 Mbps) that will replace copper with fiber over the next three years for most Lattelecom internet users. The other project it will have to start immediately is setting up a digital terrestrial television network across the country. It won a tender for this project to convert the national television broadcast system to digital by 2011(?). The company has experience putting together a program package for its IP television service (which does not have a spectacular number of users, though it is growing), but terrestrial broadcast could be something new for it.
Meanwhile, cable operator IZZI will be boosting its internet services network to deliver 100 Mbps as well. What will Baltcom do?
The mobile operators, after a winter of advertising how easy it is to have "heartfelt conversations" with you darling kitten or beary-poo (the latest marketing campaigns by Bite and LMT have this kind of stuff), may get back to some real competition. One area for re-slicing the market could be government and local government, where Tele2 has been repeatedly claiming it can cut phone costs for such organizations by up to 30%. Now that we are starting a year (0r several) of santims-pinching, it may be worth a try to check out whether Tele2 can come up with the goods.
Triatel, the CDMA and EVDO wireless internet operator, will still be looking for a buyer (this has been a low-key story for some months) but will face the same market conditions as everyone. Not a good idea to sell itself on the cheap. Oh, and I think the CDMA voice business is no big deal, it is the rural wireless internet coverage that may make this company attractive.
On wireless/mobile internet, look for everyone in the Latvian mobile space to jump to 14.4 Mbps by the end of the year, perhaps to the HSDPA on steroids of 21 Mbps (Tele2 is doing it in Sweden).  2010 or 2011 may see some attempts at LTE on the Latvian market, or what will be left after the economic ravages many people are expecting.
At last, the light is sweating (Latvian- gaismiņa svīst) here in Newton, MA, so I may get back to this topic later.  Now  a shower and some breakfast. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays to all

I want to wish Happy Holidays (be it Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza or Winter Solstice) to all my readers. I will be in the US from December 26 to January 11. To the extent possible, I will post anything of interest on this blog.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Swedish touchscreen phone bites the dust

Neonode, a Swedish designer of touchscreen phones (they were built in Asia, of course) has gone bankrupt. Just over a year ago, I was in Sweden and did a videoblog post about them. Too bad, it looked like a good idea, especially coming ahead of the wave of touchscreens that were launched by major manufacturers, such as Samsung and LG and, of late, even Nokia. It came just a few months after the first version of the iPhone. But lacking the market weight of either Apple or the Koreans and, given the finance markets crisis, Nenode went under. A good try...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Blackberry Bold comes to Latvia

The Bite Group has introduced the Blackberry Bold to Latvia and Lithuania. The Riga presentation was held at a wine bar/wine shop, which explains the background in the video. Somewhat surprising was the candid admission by Bite honcho Fred Hrenchuk that there were only 700 Blackberry service users on the Bite network in Latvia. Perhaps this is because there are now a number of mobile e-mail platforms and services available -- various Nokia phones, the iPhone and other smart phones. The Blackberry has to compete with these, unlike North America, where Crackberry addiction spread like wildfire under different pre-conditions. However, I met one businessman who already had a Bold (from the US side of his business) and would gladly buy another 10 (for his Latvian staff?) if Bite could meet a few specific conditions. So there is potential for growth.