Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays to all

I must admit that I have been working like a mad dog (to translate a bizarre Latvian phrase I often use recently) at my day job. We're all reporters now, with me covering telecoms in the broadest sense, including postal services (often a disaster in Latvia), so I get asked to go to some pretty strange events (Santa Claus at a Riga post office).
Anyway, it is only now that I get around to wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza and belated Happy Hanukkah (this lunar/?/ calendar thing of Jewish holidays shifting around always confuses me). Also, all the best for the New Year and new decade (or is it?).
As for me, I am taking a break from the "running of the mad dogs" (skrienam kā traki suņi) to go to the US via London on Sunday (Monday -- to the States). I will spend a few (maybe too few) days near Boston at my mom's place and visit my brother and nephews/son's cousins (my wife and son are also flying). Then we go to Orlando for around a week (for the warm weather) and back to Latvia via London again.
I hope to get into a groove again despite my different workload and write more often for this blog in the New Year. Consider it a resolution with, perhaps, the same fate as most...:)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

TeliaSonera honcho on the 4G launch

I happened to be in Stockholm on December 14, when TeliaSonera announced it was launching the first commercial LTE network in the Swedish capital (and its Norwegian subsidiary NetCom was doing the same in Oslo). TeliaSonera's Mobility Services honcho Kenneth Karlberg spoke to this blogger just after the launch press conference. The video has bilingual English/Latvian titles, as it also appears on my Latvian-language blog for my "day job".

Sunday, December 06, 2009

SAP regional honcho on sustainability solutions

Karen Nilsen, SAP's regional CEO for the Nordic region and the Baltic States, talked to this blogger ahead of the Copenhagen global climate conference about SAP's solutions for sustainability management. Basically, it is a matter of extending the functions of the ERP system to gather and analyze data relevant to such matters as carbon emissions and other environmental factors. So there is no new rocket science involved. The leaders in adoption of SAP's and competing technologies are the Nordic countries with their long history of environmental awareness, according to Nilsen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Coordinating telecoms innovation at Kista Science City

Continuing my series of videos from a recent visit to Stockholm, here is an interview with Annica Englund, head of communications for Kista Science City, a cluster of several hundred IT and telecommunications-related companies in and around the Stockholm suburb of Kista, which some call Sweden's SiliconValley.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Swedish media getting a grip on mobile and multimedia?

Tomas Bennich, who runs the Swedish Mobile & Multimedia Showcase, formerly known as the Swedish Mobile & Broadband Showcase, formerly known as the Swedish Mobile Showcase (a mere three years? ago), talks about how the business is changing, how Swedish big media are taking the new seamless mobile/broadband/always-connected world seriously, as well as about the special entrepreneurial climate in which new solutions are created. Oh yes -- you probably knew that Spotify and Voddler are Swedish innovations?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Lattelecom looking to LTE for its mobile side?

Lattelecom, the Latvian fixed network operator owned 49 % by Sweden's TeliaSonera, may be looking in the medium term to build out a 4G or LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile internet network (with voice capability).
With the future of telecoms privatization in Latvia stalled and highly politicized, there is a good chance that in the next three to five years, Lattelecom could end up sold or owned seperately from its distant sister company, mobile operator LMT. Both companies have done little or no cross-selling or integration of their products.
Without some kind of mobile business, any modern telco operator that doesn't want to be a mere ISP (and even an ISP with national coverage) is hobbled. In the medium term, LTE, which hasn't even been allocated frequencies in Latvia, is a viable option. Latvia's mobile operators -- Bite and Tele2 -- have indicated they will go for LTE and its up to 100 Mbps internet speed at some point. Tele2 in Sweden is launching LTE next year together with Telenor, as is LMT's parent TeliaSonera.
Lattelecom is already cooperating with wireless/mobile internet provider Triatel (the mobile internet offering is still in the works) which runs an EV DO network countrywide and offers an unspectacular download speed of 3.6 Mbps (compared to 3.6 Mbps on the GSM/UMTS operators HSDPA networks, with 14.4 Mbps promised soon by Bite).
The Latvian government has yet to allocate frequencies for LTE, but this will happen in 2010. As far as Lattelecom and LMT goes, it still remains for the Latvian government to (as I wrote to the great amusement of a high executive in the Nordic telecoms industry) to unfuck itself on the issue of privatization (i.e. a sale to TeliaSonera of at least all of LMT). With 2010 an election year, this is unlikely, but in 2011, with yet another round of drastic budget cuts upcoming, Latvia may be ready for anyone tossing coins into its begging bowl.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reflections on IOD 2009 and the Babylonian Sheep

IBM's conference Information on Demand 2009 (IOD 2009) took the IOD story a step further with considerable attention paid to predictive analytics. No surprise, as IBM just completed the acquisition of SPSS, a Chicago-based predictive analytics company.
Indeed, the IOD sequence has gone from gathering and grooming data (a single, hopefully truthful view of the company/customer base), making it all accessible (de-siloing), finding hidden gems (data mining and analysis) to using the data to look into future trends and developments (predictive analytics or wild guessing with lots of numbers/??/).
Common to all of this is that we have a large global base of electronic data that various smart spiders can zip through and give us the answers we need. But that sort of presumes that this vast electronic data base, growing by exobytes every year, will still be fully searchable and subject to analysis in 50 or 100 years.
Which brings up the Babylonian Sheep Question that I put to a few IBM folks, including Ambuj Goyal, but got no really satisfactory answer. Which is fine, because there probably is none. It is not so much a question as a kind of meta-framework setter.
So what is the Babylonian Sheep Question?
Simply, that if I want to get a rough idea of what the market was like for sheep in Babylon 4000 years ago, much of the data warehouse (clay tablets) are still there. One can drill down to the single transaction record level -- Uruk sold 20 sheep to Gilgamesh for 50 bushels of wheat, or whatever. Since the data warehouse (scattered among various museums) has survived 4000 or more years, I can safely assume it will be around in 200 or 300 years, never mind 50 years down the road (assuming no nuclear holocausts or the like, although that would only bake the clay more...).
Now, as for all those exobytes -- I really don't know what will be accessible in 2030. I certainly can't access some of the floppy disks I still have with stuff I wrote in the 1980s. With the global datasphere growing at petabytes per week (month?) it is clear that we will have to have new data compression and storage technologies. Otherwise we will be replacing the world's forests with forests of blade servers. I can imagine that 10 years from now, most data will be stored holographically in the cloud or in some other extreme volume storage technology. That is a long way from the floppy disk.
Ambuy Goyal, by the way, talked about data decommissioning, which addressed the issue of keeping relevant data around and instantly accessible, while putting historically interesting, but operationally irrevelant data stored elsewhere. Fair enough. But no answer to the Babylonian Sheep question. Because irrelevant as Uruk's sale of 20 sheep is 4000 years later, it is still there and available in printed translation from the cuneiform inscriptions. What will happen to my first American Express purchase records (from 1977 on some mainframe), which may be of some relevance when I am a 80 year old geezer some 20 years from now is another question. It may be solved, probably will be solved. But I am not all that confident that our entire electronic record of the world and daily life will be as durable as those fragmentary records of the Babylonian sheep market that we can still examine and analyze today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IBM IOD 2009 second day highlights (videoblog)

Here is my video of what I thought were highlights of the second day of IBM's Information on Demand conference (IOD 2009) in Las Vegas. I also shot a lot of footage of Malcom Gladwell's address on the third day, but I may not be able to post that until I am back in Latvia.

A look at SPSS, IBM's new predictive analytics acquisition

I had a chance, while at IBM's IOD 2009, to talk to Jason Verlen, the chief product strategist at SPSS, a predictive analytics company recently acquired by IBM. Here is a video, unfortunately filmed near a source of green light which I did not notice. Did my best to make Jason look less Martian with iMovie :).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Anyone sending an AYPFC? message to Tele2 Latvia?

An AYPFC message is one that starts with " Are you people fucking crazy??" Maybe it should be sent to Tele2, Latvia's biggest mobile operator (it claims) in terms of customer numbers. It was Tele2 that organized the "meteorite falls in Latvia" stunt that got the country its 15 minutes (or more) of underserved international fame. As if a meteor strike on top of a devastating economic crisis was something positive. It was certainly not something that Latvia "caused" by its own activity.
The publicity stunt, which caused underpaid Latvian firemen, police and soldiers to rush to a huge smoking crater outside Mazsalaca, a kind of Latvian Podunk, certainly had no message about mobile telecoms services. It had the unintended and black humor effect of causing some totally batshit* local lady (reputedly a local town councilor, where they don't check if you are batshit or not) to stand in a road selling tickets for 1 LVL apiece to curiousity seekers.
I am beginning to wonder whether Tele2's marketing director Jānis Spoģis has gone off the deep end. Maybe not, because the previous goon-show style Tele2 commercial, with adults skateboarding off rooftops into swimming pools and doing burnouts on a kitchen floor with a motorscooter reputedly came from Sweden, where the Tele2 group is headquartered. So the Vikings are back to eating those mushrooms again...
By contrast, the local Latvian commercials for the Zelta Zivtiņa (Golden Fish) prepaid cards have been charming even when bizarre, such as when the cow Gauja moves into the "Friends" - style apartment with the usual characters. Or when one of the characters sews a huge crocodile for "nothing" -- the price of calls to a circle of friends on the Tele2 network.
Apparently this is not the end of the Viking mescalero (people who chew hallucinogenic cacti) campaign. We will probably see fake sea (lake) monsters rising from a Latvian lake or perhaps UFO-style balloons floating high in the sky (we'll see if Tele2 will be as ready to pay for scrambling NATO F-16s as it was to compensate the fire department). Well, the balloon thing was already done by a family of wackos in America.
I am in Las Vegas as I write, the capital of "unreal" in the US, though at a a very real IBM Information on Demand (IOD2009) conference and the whole meteorite incident seems even beyond building a second Eiffel Tower (where you can get married) which the Vegas folks have done.

* from the urban dictionary :)

batshit insane

When someone has crossed into extreme insanity.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Highlights of day one at IBM's IOD2009

I am in Las Vegas on assignment from my day job at IBM's Information on Demand (IOD2009) and recorded some highlights of the opening day's presentations by Ambuj Goyal and Frank Kern.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No one first to name a price in Latvian telecoms deal?

NOTE: I got tweeted by an executive at Lattelecom, see below.

The Latvian government seems to have re-opened the seemingly dormant issue of selling its holdings in fixed network operator Lattelecom and mobile operator Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT). During an October 16 television talk show, where this blogger was one of the journalist participants, Minister of Economics Artis Kampars said the government was ready to consider selling its telecom assets, but added that the most eager (and probably only) potential buyer, Sweden's TeliaSonera, had not named a price in talks with the Latvians in early September. By Kampars' account, that meeting was one where the sides got nowhere by saying: "What do you want for the companies?" "No, you tell us what you are ready to pay." "No, you please tell us what you want..." and so on.
Kampars also repeated what he had said publically a few days earlier, that state assets, including Lattelecom and LMT, would not be sold "on the cheap." TeliaSonera recently completed acquisition of all remaining shares in Eesti Telecom (which, unlike Lattelecom and LMT, is a traded company and already had a majority holding by the Swedes). Telia Sonera was less successfully with Lithuania's TEO, failing to get the necessary percentage of shares to delist the company and force the sale of any remaining minority shares.
I haven't been in touch with my Swedish sources about the latest chapter of the neverending story of trying to buy Lattelecom and LMT, but will try to do so before I leave for the States on Wednesday to attend an IBM conference in Las Vegas (October 25 -28).
Latvia is in dire need of any revenues to patch its budget deficit and, considering that telecoms have not suffered too badly in the crisis and against a background of rising stock markets in Europe and the US, the two unlisted companies could probably be sold for a decent price. Of course, Kampars and the Latvian government will never see another LVL 500 million bid by the Swedes, as was made a couple of years back in one of the "fat years" of real-estate bubble and lending frenzy. Interestingly, the sum is exactly as much as international lenders want Latvia to cut from its spending in 2010 and 2011 (for a total of LVL 1 billion). But that chance was blown. Maybe they could try for, say, LVL 400 million and settle for LVL 375 million -- these are just my wild guesses. Even without the deep recession, which I think will last at least until 2014 in Latvia, the value of any fixed-line network will decline as everything goes mobile and 4G networks appear. So the best bid has already been lost -- maybe it is time to seize the opportunity.

From Twitter: A Lattelecom executive tweeted me that he believes the company will gain in value because of broadband, IP TV and content distribution (IP TV, video on demand and the like). Welcome to the new web order :).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bite honcho talks about mobile broadband, free call business model

Fred Hrenchuk, the CEO and board chairman of mobile operator Bite Group, talks about mobile broadband (a forthcoming jump to 14.4 Mbps), the effects of the economic downturn and the BiFri free calling business model.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lattelecom announces jump to 500 Mbps fiber to the home

Lattelecom will start offering upgrades to 500 Mbps of its fiber-to-the-home (office)or FTTH service in the second half of November, Raivis Mackevics, the head of Lattelecom's optical technologies unit told this blogger. The current top speed to its around 2 600 FTTH subscribers is 100 Mbps. Another 700 connections are on order.
Lattelecom says just under 25 % of Riga's households (more that 77 500 housing units) will have access to FTTH by year end, with an FTTH build-out to start in the cities of Jelgava and Daugavpils by year end as well.
The slow uptake of FTTH, which in some package deals is priced under Lattelecom's existing DSL services, may reflect the operator's slow and cautious approach with the new technology. Rival cable TV, telecoms and internet service provider IZZI suffered from a Twitter-driven public uproar earlier this year when its 100 Mbps DOCSIS-based high speed internet suffered glitches.
Also, Lattelecom may see FTTH as the last great hope for its IPTV service, which recently chalked up 30 000 subscribers, compared to well over 100 000 subscribers each at Baltcom TV and IZZI, who offer conventional and digital cable TV. FTTH at 500 Mbps is more than adequate to feed several TV sets watching high-definition programming and Lattelecom says multiple watching of different channels will be enabled with its optical internet.
However, viewing habits may be hard to change -- cable has been around since the 1990s, and Latvian viewers will be reluctant to switch, rip out old cables and set-top boxes and adjust to a new assortment of channels. Also, in times of economic crisis, the number of HD flatscreens owned by households is unlikely to rise rapidly, never mind multi-screen households.
As I put it in my Latvian-language blog, Lattelecom's FTTH "beast" isn't loved by very many people yet. Given the chance, of course, I will get the service as soon as it is offered in my downtown (Center) Rīga building. Lattelecom, however, is prioritizing the so-called bedroom areas of Riga with their large, Soviet-era multi-unit high-rises (9 stories is "high"), which makes sense.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Latvian Railways offers WiFi on Moscow trains

Latvian Railways (Latvijas Dzelzceļš) in cooperation with the wireless telecommunications company Triatel will start offering free wireless internet access from October 1 on its daily trains from Riga to Moscow. The service will be available along the entire route from Riga to the Latvian-Russian border at Zilupe, allowing passengers to surf the internet for just over four hours. WiFi internet is not available once the train crosses into Russia. It is understood the service will also be available on Latvian-operated trains on the return leg of the trip on Latvian territory.
The internet on the train service is apparently provided through Triatel's EV-DO wireless internet network, which offers users speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps on direct connections. Evidently the WiFi on the train will re-route signals from Triatel towers and base stations along the railway right of way allocating adequate bandwidth to each train passanger using the service, rather than sharing a single 3.1 Mbps link to the whole train.
Latvian Railways will be holding a press conference on October 1 at Riga's main train station to explain details of the new service.
The internet-on-a-train is the latest project in which Triatel has teamed up with a major Latvian or international enterprise to co-sell or resell its wireless internet services. Triatel has been cooperating with Lattelecom to provide fixed wireless voice telephony and internet in remote rural locations, it has used the cable television and telecommunications services company IZZI as a reseller of its fixed wireless internet and just teamed up with the satellite TV company Viasat (part of the Swedish Modern Times Group)to offer a combined TV and internet packages (the television by satellite, the internet by EV DO) called Viasat Connect. Triatel is also behind a mobile internet service under development by Lattelecom (with USB plug modems), which are already being sold or leased to direct customers of Triatel and, apparently, as part of the ViaSat Connect package (the internet service is called " mobile").
With HSDPA networks run by the mobile operators in Latvia and offering speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps and possibly 14.4 Mbps in the near future, it may be time for Triatel to move to the next higher-speed generation of EV DO in order to keep up. LTE (promising an unlikely 100 Mbps, but probably a decent two-figure speed) is just around the corner, too, some say. Tele2 is building out in Sweden in 2010 and local sources say the Latvian "little brother" wants the same toys as the Swedes and soon!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A non-reportage (?) from Sweden's Silicon Valley

I spend a long weekend -- Saturday to Monday -- in Stockholm and got a hold of one of my best sources, Tomas Bennich of the Kista Mobile & Broadband Showcase (soon to be called something else). He was too busy to talk on camera, in fact, the whole scene around Kista Science City, the umbrella (not roof, as I say on camera) organization for various high-tech and telecoms related activities seems to be jumping. So here is my take on what is happening:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

John Strand skeptical on mobile TV

I met John Strand, the somewhat iconoclastic mobile telecoms analyst, at the Dream on Demand digital broadcasting conference in Tallinn, Estonia about a week ago. I asked him to comment on mobile TV (which is available in Latvia through LMT, though not on their network, but on air) in the Baltics.
Right now, however, Strand is debunking the iPhone in a more that 100 page report, as well as on YouTube, where he expounds on the findings. Don't get me wrong -- Strand doesn't diss the iPhone as a device. His argument is that from a mobile operator's point of view, the iPhone is no miracle from heaven (in terms of revenue generation, etc.) and probably with negative effects. But watch that stuff seperately. Here he is from Tallinn on August 27, 2009.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stockholm School of Economic in Riga to videocast lectures

The Stockholm School of Economics in Riga (SSE Riga) will start videopodcasting and podcasting its lectures by the end of September, this blogger has learned. According to my sources, this will make SSE Riga the first institution of higher education in the Nordic-Baltic region to offer its lectures to a global audience on the internet.
Lectures will be videocast live and stored for download or viewing later on demand. Viewers will be able to post written questions and comments to the lecturer during live videocasts, with commenting likely to be restricted to students and registered users (to prevent abuse).
Teaching at SSE Riga is in English, making the lectures accessible to a broad global audience.
SSE Riga has reportedly bought Apple servers and other equipment as a platform for the videocasts/podcasts and archive.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Estonian president Toomas Ilves on digital media

Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves talked about digital media at the Dream on Demand conference at the Estonian TV tower in Pirita, a Tallinn suburb on August 27. The video is a fragment of his speech, in which he also wondered whether the huge tower could become a "gravestone" for conventional broadcast TV (I did not record this :( ). Latvian viewers, please excuse the typographical error in the Latvian title, I am correcting it for inclusion in my blog next week

Monday, August 24, 2009

TeliaSonera offers complete buyouts of Estonian and Lithuanian subsidiaries

TeliaSonera has offered to buy the remaining shares in its Estonian and Lithuanian subsidiaries for just under SEK 5 billion cash. The Swedish telecoms group is offering SEK 3.3 billion for the remaining shares in Eesti Telecom, a holding company that owns 100 % of mobile operator Estonian Mobile Telephone (EMT) and fixed network operator Elion. It is offering just under SEK 1.6 billion for the remaining shares in TEO LT, the Lithuanian fixed network, internet TV, call center and data center services company. Telia Sonera currently holds around 60 % of both companies,
The offer has been criticized as somewhat low and taking advantage of the economic crisis by a Danske Bank analyst. However, this appears to be bottom feeding on the part of the Swedes, not real vulture capitalism (which presumes that the buy-out subject is near financial death).
All of which is fine and dandy, because Eesti Telecom shareholders can get more than 24 % above the last market price for their shares, while TEO LT shareholders are offered a premium of nearly 31 %. The offer also bounced up both the Tallinn (13.3 % at one point) and Vilnius (9.7 % in mid-session) bourses, and even got a 2.7 % rise out of Riga. Which is not to say that it takes much in any of these places.
However, in terms of the Latvian telecoms market, TeliaSonera has ignored its two other (as some European languages put it) daughters or semi-daughters -- Lattelecom (where it holds 49 %) and Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) (where it holds around 60%). The reason is that all the rest of the shares are held by the Latvian government --which, to use a term of management disfunction assessment often spoken but seldom written-- cannot unfuck itself to make any kind of decision.
So, while the Estonian government will get a considerable sum for its 24 % in Eesti Telecom, and many private Lithuanian shareholders will at least smile, if not laugh all the way to the bank (the state owns less than 1 % of TEO), the Latvian government will continue to hold its shares (which it could have unloaded for USD 1 billion a couple of years back) like a turkey guarding a shitpile (tītars uz sūdu kaudzes -- is that a Latvian expression?). Or am I wrong??

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

IZZI hires a "twitterista"

IZZI, the Latvian cable TV, telco and internet services provider who faced a storm of criticism for poor service on Twitter, has hired a full-time employee to look after its interests on Twitter and other social networks.
This, of course, happened while I was on vacation in the US, which is why I am reporting it only now. However, the Twitter firestorm was well under way before I left. There were both anti-IZZI and pro-IZZI (though this was apparently a spoof) Twitter accounts launched.
The problem apparently started when a customer, dissatisfied with IZZI's internet service (claiming up to 100 Mbps speeds for some customers) and frustrated in attempts to get the problem solved, started to badtweet the company. See my earlier post.
The issue also got attention on Latvian TV, causing more bad publicity for IZZI in the "mainstream" media. The company quickly reacted by seeking someone to manage its reputation on Twitter and other social networks. It asked that the letter of application be sent in tweet format, 140 characters. There were quite a few applicants.
This is a good development, early adoption of awareness that company reputation can be made or broken on social networks, also that valuable information about customer attitude and problems can be found on these networks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

IZZI easily gets its corporate a** Twittered

IZZI, the Latvian cable TV, internet and wireless internet company, whose name is intended to suggest the word "easy" was just shown how easy it is to get your reputation badly ....twittered (as in tattered). The company announced in the spring that it would be first to deliver up to 100 Mbps internet to most of its cable network customers (and, apparently, some on a newer fiber-to-the-home network). It seems that for some customers, this didn't work out. While there are glitches in all new systems, what apparently also didn't work was customer service response and explanations of the problem. Customers were left baffled and without any internet service (or only a slow sporadic connection). Maybe there were not so many customers, but they were the wrong ones for IZZI, inadvertently or otherwise, to screw over.
Riding on a Twitter boom in Latvia, the angry internet users started bad-tweeting IZZI and soon, the uproar (which may well have been a tempest in a teacup involving some equipment on one delivery chain)spilled over into the blogosphere and finally ended up on the evening TV news. It took only a few days, or a couple of weeks at most.
What this proves is that internet service providers can get chewed by the very applications, social and blogging networks that their connections support. The best defense is seeing the early warnings and moving fast to correct the problem, or at least explain it to the customers, so they don't tweet all over the place what a bunch of intellectually challenged persons of apparently light hair color seem to be running customer service and parroting some kind of generic call-center script. I can put that in a politically correct way, but when you are angry and tweeting in 140 characters, it boils down to saying you have been bullshitted by some dumb blonde on the phone.
The problem is being resolved after some mea-culpas from IZZI. Interestingly, Balkom's new/old NGN (next generation network) service promising equally high internet speeds has so far not attracted the angry tweetmob. Perhaps they are using the tried and proven MPLS and other stuff that has been around for some years to load balance and prioritize so that customers get what they paid for almost all of the time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ericsson sees 50 billion mobile broadband gadgets in 2020

Ericsson sees some 50 billion mobile broadband devices on the net by 2020. That's what Mikael Bäcksträm, President of Nordic & Baltics, said at a June 22 event in Stockholm when I wasn't filming him. In my videoblog, he talks about some other issues, plus we see some shots of the ocean yacht races in the confines of Stockholm harbor. It is to me, a non-sailor, a wonder that there were no collisions between the yachts and all kinds of watercraft following them around.
On my Latvian-language blog, some commentators expressed skepticism about the 50 billion figure, but I suppose that will include very large numbers of security, monitoring and surveillance devices embedded or attached to anything you can imagine. Ericsson didn't say this, but I could even see individual trees in a stand of several thousand "talking" to the nearest LTE base station and updating their individual status to a database. Never mind all the electricity and water meters...

Here is the video;

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Controversial former PM quits Lattelecom advisory board

Aigars Kalvitis (People's Party/TP), a controversial former Prime Minister of Latvia, has resigned as chairman of the advisory board of Lattelecom, a high-paying post he got in political horse-trading when the current government of Valdis Dombrovskis (New Era/JL) was formed earlier in the spring. The deal at the time was "either Kalvitis gets the Lattelecom job, or Dombrovskis doesn't get to head the new government". This was reported by Latvian media and confirmed as recently as just hours before Kalvitis resigned (in a radio interview with Finance Minister Einārs Repše where I took part on June 15). Kalvitis said the reason he resigned was to encourage austerity and the abolition of unnecessary advisory board for companies jointly owned by the government and private investors. The Latvian state owns 51 % of Lattelecom, 49 % is owned by TeliaSonera.
Kalvitis appointment cast an undesirable political shadow on Lattelecom for two reasons. First, many Latvians and the media have blamed the ex-prime minister for ignoring signals that the economy was overheating already in 2006 and 2007, leading to the present economic collapse. The appointment was seen as a sinecure for a failed and despised politician (Kalvitis, who is of portly build, has been compared to the anti-littering character Cūkmens -- Piggyman, an actor dressed as a pig who discourages littering in forests and nature preserves). Secondly, the ex-politician is trained as a dairy farmer and could bring little value added to a post paying around 2800 LVL per month in what is a telecoms and high-tech company. His reputation as a manager can be summed up by the current near-depression in Latvia.
With Kalvitis gone, Lattelecom, a company that should not be associated with partisan politics, can yet again continue its work without the aura of somehow coming under the influence of a political party, the TP, with one of the lowest ratings among established Latvian parties.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Huawei, Latvia's MWTV to build out open access FTTX

MWTV, a Latvian networking company, using Huawei's infrastructure solutions, is starting to build out an open access, fiber to the home ready (FTTX, until end-subscriber connections are ordered) network in residential areas of the capital, Riga. The network presently reaches around 40 000 households, with the aim of reaching 100 000.
As MWTV project manager Otto Šrams explained, the idea is to build a superfast fiber network capable of delivering around 2.5 gigabits per second (Gps) to an apartment building -- more than enough to ensure at least 100 Mbps internet as well as moderately compressed or uncompressed high-definition video to each household. The fiber connections to the building would, upon a resident's choice of services, be extended to the residence and terminate in a optical fiber to Gigabit Ethernet converter, to which any number of end-user devices -- a digital HD TV set-top box, a WiFi router, a PC or Mac, or even a voice telephone, could be attached.
Šrams explained that the MWTV network architecture would also allow content providers outside of Riga or even abroad to offer their services directly to subscribers on the network.  Satellite broadcasters such as Viasat could reach subscribers who cannot mount satellite dishes on their apartment buildings or are blocked from the satellites by other structures. It would allow foreign IP TV providers to reach Latvian subscribers directly.
Although MWTV didn't go into too many details, it is known that the company is negotiating with Lattelecom and other internet and cable TV providers (such as Baltkom and IZZI) who have declared their intention to offer 100 Mbps internet and at least some HD TV channels and/or video on demand. Leasing the MWTV network would save the operators the time and expense of building their own fiber optic networks under Riga. A model cited by MWTV is the solution offered by Stokab in Sweden.
MWTV is understood to be linked to Latvia's Mono Group, a kind of conglomerate involved in alcoholic beverages, logistics, and banking (former owners of Lateko Bank, now Icelandic-owned Norvik and presently involved in setting up a Postal Bank) among other things. MWTV, as its name suggests, was set up to be a cable TV operator, but soon discovered that it was not going to master content aggregation and provision, and focused on the business idea of an open-access fiber optic network instead.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Huawei GPON deal coming in Latvia?

My sources say that a local customer (not Lattelecom) is doing a deal with China's Huawei to build a GPON optical network. More on this Tuesday, June 2.
This is not surprising for two reasons 1) the big internet service providers in Latvia are all promising three-digit megabit speeds and you need optical for that 2) Huawei, having set up, literally, in Ericsson's back yard (the Kista district of Stockholm), is now making an effort to take regional market shares. So far, globally, the Chinese company is not doing badly, if news reports are accurate. More on this in a day or two.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kenneth Karlberg (TeliaSonera) comments while in Rīga

Here is a short video of TeliaSonera's Kenneth Karlberg making some brief remarks about the telecoms situation in Latvia during a short visit and informal lunch meeting with journalists.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Latvia looks to improve mobile services procurement

Sorry to be a bit late with this, but on May 13, Tele2 organized a round table discussion gathering almost all players in the procurement of mobile services for the public sector in Latvia. Present were representatives of the host, Tele2, LMT, Bite, Baltkom, the State Auditor (Ingūna Sudraba in person), the Procurement Oversight Authority, the State Chancellery, the City of Riga, the Latvian Telecommunications Association and others.
After hearing complaints that procurement was biased toward certain players (implied was LMT), and that the state could save at least LVL 4 million by doing things differently, including regular reviews of tariffs and shorter contract periods (Bite's Fred Hrenchuk pointed out that no private business would ever lock itself into a 60 month or five year contract when mobile services prices were dropping month on month).
Jānis Lelis, managing director of the Latvian Telecommunications Association, said that mobile service consumers (including the public sector) need to be educated about their options, which would help them make considerable savings. He gave an example (naming no names) where the association had advised a customer to go to another operator and get an offer. The offer was for a substantial cut in costs, but the customer then brought the offer to his existing services provider and got an even better deal.
This confirmed my suspicions that Tele2 and perhaps Bite -- while their claims of lower tariffs are quite true -- are often used as bargaining chips by LMT customers to -- at the end of the day -- squeeze better deals from LMT. This doesn't mean that Petras Kirdeika, the managing director of Tele2 in Latvia is wrong in saying (as he has for about a year) that he can cut the public sector mobile bill by 30%.  He probably can. The incumbent, with some grinding of teeth, can probably offer 33 % (or some other package -- like free calls to all users from the same government agency) and keep the customer.
The most interesting outcome of the discussion was general agreement with Ms. Sudraba that public authorities could purchase mobile services according to one basic standard and possibly under one umbrella agreement rather than drafting tender rules and standards for each and every ministry, state agency and municipality. It would also avoid drafting unreasonable standards - such as 95 % national coverage for services to be used largely within a single municipality.  As Bite's Hrenchuk asked rhetorically: " Why do they need coverage near the Russian border?" (referring to a town a couple of hundred kilometers from the border zone.
It now appears that some kind of working group will be formed to work out how umbrella standards and procedures could be drafted for mobile (and telecommunications services in general) procurement. This would move Latvia toward the models used in other countries, such as Sweden's authority for coordinating state purchases

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sweden's IQUBE looks to Latvia

IQUBE, the privately-owned Swedish business incubator, is applying for European Union funding to set up a similar incubator in Latvia as a joint venture with a local partner. In the video, new business manager Christian Fricke talks about how IQUBE works in Sweden, then Business Development director Michael Ahlström tells about the project in Latvia.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Kalvītis named to Lattelecom board

Former prime minister Aigars Kalvītis  of the People's Party (TP) was named as one of three new member of Lattelecom's board, as earlier predicted by Latvian media. He is likely to be made chairman of the board.
The ex-politician (whose government is blamed for ignoring warnings of economic overheating) will earn a salary of around 100 000 LVL, around what outgoing chairman Gundars Strautmanis, a telecommunications profession, earned.
Also named to the board were Jānis Bergs, the head of FMS, a Latvian enterprise management software company and an IT professional as well as Uģis Zemturis, a former banker.
Of the three appointments, Kalvītis is a purely political gesture under pressure from the government coalition partner, the TP. The former prime minister has business experience in dairy farming. With the TP enjoying "popularity" of around 1.7 %, the appointment is generating a huge public uproar (nearly 1000 comments on the portal). In times of austerity, the granting of what appears to be a huge "political pension" to 43-year-old Kalvitis is seen as a example of the complete political insensitivity and "friendship corruption" (looking after our folks/savējie) by the political elite.
The appointment will also bring public attention back to Lattelecom after a period of quiet when the once-monopoly "Great Satan" of telecommunications in Latvia has built up a good, relatively low-key reputation and stayed out of controversial headlines about privatization models and the like. It will cast an unncessary aura of political corruption over what should be a company running like a competitive private enterprise judged by its service to customers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Highlights of a Bite press event

Bite Latvija held a press event to talk about how it was moving toward profitability (lots of data and graphs) and how (copies of new customer's recent mobile bills from brands X and Y, sanitized for personal details) it was moving prices downward in Latvia. Here are some excerpts on video from the event (the video is dual use for my Latvian-language blog, hence the bilingual titles).

Monday, April 27, 2009

100 Mpbs--Latvia's new (lower) speed limit?

There haven't been any real dramas in the Latvian telecommunications market, so I have been remiss in blogging. However, these past few weeks it has become apparent that the new internet speed benchmark is soon going to be 100 Mbps. IZZI and Baltkom have already started offering cable internet with such speeds in parts of Riga. Lattelecom has completed a pilot project of 100 Mbps fiber to the home (FTTH) in the Zolitude district of Riga and hopes to replace most of the DSL network in most of Latvia with FTTH in three years.
100 Mbps is starting to feel like a commodity even as only a few hundred users are actually getting it, so that the operators are launching marketing campaigns to make their products stand out. IZZI has adopted a peculiar sado-masochistic tone to its ads, offering "internet speeds that spank you" and even conducting a marketing action at the Forum Cinemas Parex Plaza multiplex feature models in leather(vinyl?) with whips. Baltkom called its 100 Mbps offering a "Next-Generation-Network" (NGN), although elements of NGN (Lattelecom's use of MPLS) have been around for a while. The interesting thing one can read into the emphasis on NGN is an implied warranty of quality of service (QoS). In other words, Baltkom is saying that it will deliver a consistent "best effort" close to 100 Mbps.
IZZI talked a lot about delivering excellent customer service, which sounds to me like another promise of  QoS. What is the point, after all, of having a customer service rep pick up after three rings if he/she cannot fix a complaint about a slow or lagging connection? 
Lattelecom notes that its 100 Mbps FTTH offering is only the start-- it hopes to jump to 500 Mbps by the end of the year or early 2010 (for some users at least). What you do with 500 Mbps in the home (unless you have a small data center in the basement) remains to be invented. 
Both Baltkom and IZZI are offering combined internet and digital cable packages. But if the connection carrying both is going to offer such high bandwidth, what will you fill it with? Both operators have a handful of high-definition (HD) channels (two or three at most). Big deal...
Meanwhile, Lattelecom is said to be part of a project to transfer many Latvian films (both classic Soviet-era favorites and newer films) to HD for streaming on demand.  Having a wide collection of HD movies (Latvian and international) for rent on demand makes sense, assuming there is a audience with the equipment to watch it. With the present economic crisis, and the price of HD flat-screen televisions falling (including obscure brands sold at hypermarkets), it remains to be seen whether a substantial HD audience will develop. With salaries falling by 20 % or more, I don't see an 40 inch HD TV set at the top of most family shopping lists. Indeed, insofar as many HD sets may have been bought during the wild credit boom of recent years, one can only hope that these luxury goods are low on the list when the banks start repossessing the chattels of an increasing number of Latvians who are delinquent or in default of their loans. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Waiting for the 17.99 operator

I was at Riga's first Mobile Monday (unless I am hallucinating something like this happening several years ago). It was well attended (but no one from any operator!!) and I made an impromptu presentation on what is happening on the local market.
Basically, my points were:

--the market is nearly saturated with more than 2 million users of mobile services out of a population of 2 million plus.
--pricing is moving toward flat rate or quasi-flat rate (x-hundreds of minutes for a fixed fee), and flat rate on mobile broadband.
--the network is used less and less for revenue-generating voice and more and more for mobile broadband access.
--new revenue is coming from apps and web-based services on, operators aren't getting a cut of this and their biggest problem will be -- how to share in the new "hamburger" model of mobile services (network layer, operating systems, apps, etc.).
--if operators don't find ways to capture this new, de-coupled revenue, they will have to be satisfied with the 19.99 per month all-you-can-eat customer until the 17.99 offering comes along.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Former PM Kalvitis seen as Lattelecom board chairman

Latvian television and the news agency BNS report that former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis, who announced his retirement from politics, may be named as chairman of Lattelecom, the fixed network operator owned 51 % by the Latvian government and 49 % by Sweden's TeliaSonera.
Kalvitis would replace Gundars Strautmanis, whose mandate as chairman ends this year. The former Prime Minister and People's Party politician has not been associated with telecommunications in the past. Born in 1966, he has academic training (including study in Ireland and the US) in agriculture and the food industry and practical experience as a dairy farmer before he entered politics. From my personal experience, Kalvitis speaks very good English.
If the former politician is named to the Lattelecom post (which pays, judging from what Strautmanis salary is) more than 100 000 LVL per year, there could be considerable controvery. Kalvitis is widely blamed for what is seen as reckless economic policies and declarations that Latvia was enjoying "fat years" when, in fact, it was riding a credit-fueled real-estate boom and wage-price spiral.
In some of the more strident criticisms of Kalvitis, who is of a portly build, the former PM has been depicted as an evil hog. Television cameras have caught him dozing during sessions of the Latvian parliament, the Saeima.
Recently, an investigative television program claimed that Kalvitis' wife was trying to privatize some state-owned fish hatcheries. The privatization attempt was rejected after the TV show aired.
Less emotional critics of the ex-politician, whose party enjoys popularity ratings below 2 %, will be concerned by his lack of experience or education in managing a telecommunications operator that faces a number of challenges.
The issue of privatizing Lattelecom, whether by a sale to TeliaSonera or some other solution, has been put on the back burner because of the economic crisis and depressed international financial markets. This effectively prevents the company from going into mobile telecommunications in direct competition with its "sister" company LMT, although the two have never been close nor have they reached a functioning cross-selling arrangement. The uncertainty over ownership also restricts Lattelecom's freedom to compete on regional and international markets.
This year, Lattelecom will be replacing its DSL internet infrastructure with fiber-to-the-home that will offer 100 Mbps speeds to start with, 500 Mbps by the end of the year, and a mind-boggling 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) to end users, apparently for those willing to pay. The company is also entering the new business of building out a terrestrial digital television broadcast network.
Although most of this, on a day-to-day basis, will be dealt with by CEO Juris Gulbis and his management, Kalvitis will have to oversee these projects at the board level. Whether his dairy-farmer education and experience, coupled with many years in politics, will suffice remains to be seen. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

IZZI to launch 100 Mbps internet in April

IZZI, the Latvian cable TV, internet and telephony services provider will start offering its customers 100 Mbps internet speeds in early April, according to Helmut Kohl of IZZI's owner Contaq Latvian Cable.
The company will use DOCSIS 3.0 technology to deliver this speed over existing cables as well as some direct optical connections. The internet access will be independent of and unaffected by watching cable TV or digital cable TV over the same connection.
Kohl hinted that once the high speed network was running successfully for a while, it would be possible to offer what amounts to a service level agreement (SLA) for private customers and small businesses. SLAs often specify that data throughput speeds will not fall below a certain level and IZZI is hoping to make such guarantees at a future date.
IZZI business development director Sandra Kraujiņa said in a Latvian-language video interview that IZZI will expand its own subscriber bas to 126 000 by the end of 2009 and aggressively look for acquisitions on the Latvian cable TV market (it has already bought six smaller operators last year). She said the purpose was to take the largest market share in Latvia, unseating Baltkom TV, which claims the leading spot today.
IZZI officials said the company had a "double digit millions of LVL" war chest for this purpose, but did not disclose the precise sum. This money will be spend in addition to extensive investment in upgrading and consolidating its network. In a Latvian-language video interview, Kraujiņa invited small and regional operators who wanted to sell their business to come to IZZI.
The company also announced that it was implementing a two-year long program of discounts for triple-play services (telephony, internet and cable TV service) for pensioners, the unemployed, students and the parents of newborns. While pensioners are unlikely to change their status, Kohl said that he was counting on other groups (persons finding employment, students completing their studies and going to work) to apply their discounts on a "fair use"basis.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Apple event in Riga (videoblog)

Apple distributor AVAD arranged a small conference and product presentation in Riga on March 11. I attended briefly (for me, any Apple event preaches to the converted) and was able to talk to Jonas Jonušas, a small and medium business manager for AVAD. Here is the video:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Microsoft honcho talks about Windows 7

I have to catch up with some videoblogging (already posted on my Latvian-language blog with some Latvian titles). We will start with this talk I had at the end of February with Michael Hartman of Microsoft, who is responsible for partners in the smaller East European countries and has an extensive background in the Windows division. Naturally, he talks about Windows 7.  I was busy pumping out some articles for Kapitāls, the Latvian business magazine owned by my employer LETA, and this blog was somewhat neglected. I am now killing some time in Stockholm (heading back to Latvia on Sunday evening).

Monday, March 02, 2009

Vodafone sharing toys with its fattening calf in Latvia

Vodafone will share its high-speed HSDPA+MIMO technology with Bite, the Latvian mobile operator. Tests show that this (for all practical purposes) 3.5 G technology can achieve data rates of up to 20 megabits per second (Mbps). Fred Hrenchuk, who heads Bite Latvia told the LETA news agency the technology could be tested in Latvia later this year or in early 2010.
If the high speed link (to be deployed in urban areas with intensive business use) is implemented, it will be the fastest mobile internet technology in the Baltics. Tele2, another regional and pan-European player, has offered 21 Mbps HSDPA in Sweden.
A new technology also stirs up the market competition, which has, of late, drifted into competing quasi flat-rate low pricing schemes with similar marketing ("call your bunny rabbit, talk all you want to your honeybunch) and that sort of thing.
For me, the most significant thing about this is that it is yet another signal that Bite (the Bite Group including Lithuania) is probably being fattened for a takeover by Vodafone at some point. Why else would the global mobile services player be sharing its best toys with the rapidly maturing kid on the Baltic block? Sort of like the Latvian folk song about waiting for the girl across the river to grow up, so she can be married. Did I get that right? Or something to that effect...

Nothing special :)

The switch from February to March left the "front page" of this blog strangely and surprisingly blank 8/! So I am writing just to put some content in so people don't think the whole thing has died.
It is, however, a pretty dead time in Latvian telecoms. The mobile operators are trying to outdo each other on quasi-flat rate deals (I am going to Paris with Tele2 next week, they may have something interesting to say). Tommorrow (March 3) I am going to Paris for Alcatel Lucent and will do the usual video blog reports, etc. New leadership, Pat Russo & Co. are gone. It will be interesting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gmail back, Alcatel-Lucent said to f**k up Lattelecom's network

Gmail, for now, seems to be back, but February 24 is a bad day for electronic communications in Latvia. Lattelecom in a press release is saying that "unsanctioned" work by equipment and systems supplier Alcatel-Lucent on the fixed network operator's intelligent network platform disrupted telephony services in Riga. It was difficult to call mobile phones, numbers that have been ported to other operators, as well as some free 800 and pay per call 900 (phone sex?) numbers.
Why the headline -- it got you to read this, I hope, and I was merely rephrasing what Lattelecom put in more polite terms. Besides, everyone makes mistakes. Alcatel-Lucent is a long time provider of central switches and other equipment to Lattelecom (since the 90s).

Latvia and the world blocked from Gmail

Gmail, the allegedly cool, hip, whatever alternative to other web-based mail services, has been down for a couple of hours, making me wonder whether, after a week of endless error messages last November, I was right to abandon Yahoo! mail for this. Moreover, that was a paid Yahoo service (Ok, only 19.95 USD per year or whatever).
I use my web-based mail for "everything" but try to concentrate my workplace accessible only work e-mail on my job with LETA. So if during a break, I want to check and answer some personal e-mails, I use Gmail and used to use Yahoo.
As the hours drag on and I need to retrieve some important information for something I am doing tommorrow, my loyalty to Gmail fades by the minute. But what are the alternatives?, the purely Latvian site? Or Hotmail? Or are we entering an era of on again, off again, weird for now, back again "free" web based e-mail service? Well, they are not free to those placing (discreetly) ads on the Gmail platform. When I get f**ked for free by Google, these ad clients ar f**ked for their money

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More from the Interactive Institute in Kista, Sweden

Here is more of my video interview from the Interactive Institute in Kista, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. The Institute is Sweden' s answer to the MIT New Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of the institute' s creative advisors, John Paul Bichard, talks about the role of the institution and its plans for a project in Tallinn, Estonia in the fall of 2009.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interactive Institute in Stockholm

Last week I paid a visit to the Interactive Institute in Stockholm, a kind of Nordic New Media Lab (the MIT project that is not as friendly to journalists :( anymore). I finally got around to doing an English-language version of a videoblog (originally posted on with Latvian titles and a Latvian intro). So here it is:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nokia 5800: non-review of a roach hotel phone

I don't especially like writing mobile phone reviews,  because it means taking the SIM card out of my working phone (a Nokia N-95) and putting it in a strange device. This sometimes has some unexpected consequences. One phone I tried was able to handle only half of the contacts on my SIM. Enough said that this was a bother.
So when I was offered to test the latest, touch-sensitive Nokia 5800 Xpress Music phone, I took up the offer but gave it to my 13-year old youngest son, who has been writing reviews of XBox 360 games on a Latvian website. 
For various reasons (school work and teenage laziness -- you figure out the relative proportions) the kid didn't get around to writing anything (I was going to post it on my Latvian language blog) by the time the PR agency wanted the phone back.
So now, in a last minute move, I have tried to pack the phone for return and discovered 1) that the side slot SIM card (unlike most Nokia phones to date) is a roach hotel. That is, like in the American TV commercial, the SIM card "checks in, but doesn't check out". (The real roach hotel is a little box with holes in its side, filled with poisonous bait so that real roaches go in, eat, die and never get out). 
I have not been able to extract my son's SIM card from the side slot of Nokia 5800 and I hope that a colleague who also tested an identical phone will be able to help. It turns out that the test phone I got came with two manuals, both in Russian. Great!
Finally, the packaging contains some useless cardboard thing that I cannot fold so that it fits into the box again. What purpose it serves and how it was folded before we opened the box is a a mystery. It is simply a wasted 1/ 1000 of a tree. Maybe look to Apple who has been cutting down on packaging waste?
Anyway, this is not a review of the merits of the Nokia 5800. It is probably a very good phone. My oldest son, 23, whom I met while in Stockholm, says he is considering buying one (he probably wants to carry his music on it, etc.) So there must be good buzz about it among 20-somethings. Meanwhile, I still hope my youngest will write something for the Latvian blog once he gets past whatever was delaying him for the two weeks or so that he had the phone. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lattelecom officially approved to do digital terrestrial TV

The Latvian government officially confirmed the results of a tender process granting Lattelecom the right to build out and operate digital terrestrial TV in Latvia. The government decision stipulates that Lattelecom must sign an agreement with the Latvian State Radio and Television Center to use the state-owned network of broadcast towers for implementing the digital conversion. The process must be finished by 2013 and deliver the digital signal to 99 % of the territory of Latvia.
Although Latvia started working on digital television in the early 2000s, the first project was beset by scandals and cancelled, with most of those involved presently on trial on various criminal fraud charges. While some government officials may have exceeded their authority and known of the concealed offshore involvement of Latvian businessmen in the aborted project, private sector actors maintain that they delivered all that was contracted for and therefore have committed no fraud.
The delays mean that Latvia will be among the last countries in Europe to implement digital TV. Most urban dwellers in Latvia view TV through cable networks and are unaffected by the analog-to-digital switch on the terrestrial broadcast network. The change will mainly affect remote rural areas and views unable to afford satellite dishes. This is seen as an audience with relatively low purchasing power.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The fastest f**king internet in the world = true

I don't get letters from BMW or Maserati dealers. But if I did, and they offer the latest model with, say, 350 horsepower, or even 500 horsepower, I would say, yeah, cool. But if I got a brochure saying that my next BMW would have two F-16 fighter jet engines welded to the roof allowing the vehicle to do Mach 2 or more (before disintegrating ?), I would ask what are they smoking? Car sales have fallen so badly that I don't exclude the use of hallucinogens to pass the time down at the dealership any more...
I had similar thoughts when I heard some Lattelecom honchos talk about 10 gigabit (yes GIGA) internet connections. Surely, they are talking about the carrier grade line that will link to their various fiber to the home (FTTH) projects (one such line could sustain around 100 connections delivering 100 Mbps). But it was unclear what they meant. Even when the news services picked up the story as claiming 10 Gbps to the end user, I thought, WTF? Someone has been misunderstood. And then I saw it in a press release on the Lattelecom website. Latvians love pickled mushrooms, and maybe the wrong kind got picked, pickled and put on a table at some press office after-work party (Latvians love to celebrate name days, etc. at the office). So I called and double-checked.
Yes, Lattelecom does intend to build the capability to deliver 10 Gbps to end users. The technology exists and is being implemented. I think this will be a service mainly oriented toward corporate users. I can't imagine any home having the kind of supercomputing capability needed to actually deal with 10 Gbps of anything (maybe wire together a couple of Playstation 3 with their Cell processors?). But for the record, if this gets built, Latvia will have the fastest internet on the planet. F**king A!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lattelecom--500 Mbps internet by end of 2009

Latvia's Lattelecom hopes to implement 500 megabit per second (Mbps) symmetical internet connections by the end of the year, using fiber-to-the home (FTTH) technology, according to CEO Juris Gulbis. Gulbis said that initially, the FTTH connections would have speeds of 100 Mbps but by end-2009 would jump to 200 and 500 Mbps.
Lattelecom has started a three year project to convert most of its current DSL network to FTTH over the next few years. Around 30 apartment buildings in a Riga suburb were the first to be connected recently with the intention to replace DSL with FTTH in all residential buildings with at least 30 units in Riga and other urban centers.
Gulbis said that HD television, including HD films on demand would be one of the services made possible by the higher connection speeds. Initially, however, FTTH will meet the bandwidth needs of households with several home computers and television sets, including HD TVs.
Lattelecom is also in the early stage of planning a software as a service plaform for home and small businesses that would be available over its high speed, so-called "Future Network".
"Our goal is the have the fastest internet in Europe," Gulbis told this blogger.
Gulbis said that the higher speed services will be offered for the same price as present internet and/or triple-play packets, starting from around LVL 20 per month (tariffs have been boosted by higher VAT from January 1)
At the same time, Lattelecom has started to market Triatel's EV-DO based wireless and mobile internet service to more the 30 000 potential customers who cannot be connected to the company's fixed internet network. The service will initially offer 3.2 Mbps download speeds and will be available in around 70 % of Latvia's territory.