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A4AI Study Shows Broadband Pricing Data Still High

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By peter oluka

Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has promised to produce annual updates on mobile pricing data for low- and middle-income countries, and to assess annually the extent to which countries are making progress toward meeting the “1 for 2” target.

A report by was recently released by A4AI on the subject; a broad coalition working to enable everyone, everywhere to access the life-changing power of the Internet, with more than 80 diverse member organisations from around the world — from civil society, and the public and private sectors.

In the report, it happens that in 2015-16 Affordability Report, the Body set out a new “1 for 2” affordability threshold — 1GB of mobile prepaid data for no more than 2% of average monthly income — in order to enable all income groups to afford a basic broadband connection.

They assessed whether countries were meeting this target in our 2017 Affordability Report, and today, we are excited to share with you an update to that assessment, based on more recent pricing and income data.

This new data — which analyses the cost of 1GB of mobile prepaid data across 59 low- and middle-income countries at the end of 2016 — finds that while affordability continues to improve across the board, the cost to connect remains out of reach for many.

Just 19 countries have affordable internet (i.e., meet the “1 for 2” target), and the cost to connect averages nearly 6% of monthly income across the 59 countries surveyed.

While the Asia-Pacific region boasts the most affordable broadband — 1GB of data costs citizens, on average, 2.5% of monthly income — not one of the regions surveyed meets the “1 for 2” target.

Costs remain highest in Africa, with 1GB costing 9.3% of a citizen’s average income; however, Africa also experienced the most significant cost reductions of any region — an average drop of 3.2 percentage points across the continent drove most of the global improvement in affordability seen in this data.

While prices are dropping globally, affordability continues to be a major obstacle to access — an obstacle that is compounded by high levels of income inequality, the body said.  

Even in countries like Colombia and the Philippines, where 1GB is priced at around 2% of average income, the lowest 20% of income earners have to pay 11% and 6% of their income, respectively, for 1GB of mobile data.

Mobile network operators in some countries are responding to the issue of income inequality through market segmentation — i.e., by offering very small plans (50MB or 100MB) or very big plans (2GB and above).

One implication of this trend is that using a single price point (e.g., 1GB) to assess affordability might not be appropriate for all countries, and having additional price points (e.g., low, medium, high) will be useful — something we will explore in further updates.

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ATCON Fumes as Rivers Seals 9mobile Office

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has decried the unilateral closure of 9mobile Port Harcourt Regional Office by officials of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS).

 

A petition addressed to the Executive Chairman, RSIRS jointly endorsed by Engr. Gbenga Adebayo and Kazeem Oladepo, ALTON chairman and executive secretary, respectively, lamented that the sealing of EMTS premises is to compel the collection of alleged tax liability of N107,958,536.96, which represents its disputed outstanding tax liability arising from Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) of expatriates, erroneously believed by the revenue agency to be subject to tax within the Rivers State.

“As you know PAYE obligations are to states in which the employees reside, therefore, since EMTS did not have any expatriate(s) on its payroll who were residing in Rivers State within the assessment period, EMTS is clearly not indebted to the government of Rivers State for the alleged tax. EMTS had, at several meetings and by various correspondence explained and maintained that it is not indebted to the government of Rivers State as alleged by the RIRS, as it has never had expatriate employees working or residing in the state, and provided relevant documents in support of its position,” the petition read.

 

ALTON said based on its findings, it wishes to categorically reiterate that EMTS is not indebted to the government of Rivers State and that the sealing of EMTS’ premises is illegal, especially as it was carried out without a court order and without adherence to the due process of law.

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“The conduct of the RIRS in this regard, apart from being a clear contravention of the law, goes against the efforts of government at improving Nigeria’s position on the global Ease of Doing Business index, to encourage foreign investment. Also by applying self-help remedies especially in a situation where the claim is erroneous, the RIRS has portrayed the state in very bad light as unfriendly and not welcoming of investors.

 

“We also wish to draw your attention to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) directive that no government agency should seal any BTS site as they are designated Critical National Infrastructure. In this instance the directive has clearly been contravened by RIRS in sealing 9Mobile premises where a critical site is also situated, which has become inaccessible with the attendant security implications,” ALTON said.

 

It said EMTS has suffered incalculable financial loss as the sales outlet which is within the premises has remained closed, preventing it from serving its esteemed customers. EMTS has also suffered severe reputational damage from the bold display of the sealing order on EMTS premises, creating the perception that EMTS is a tax defaulter. EMTS employees have suffered untold hardship due to this wanton act, as its employees have been unable to resume at their duty posts for over two weeks.

“All entreaties to meet with the RIRS for a reconciliation was rebuffed; rather, the RIRS has compelled EMTS to make a payment of 30 per cent of the alleged sum amounting to N32,387,561.088 as a pre-condition to unsealing EMTS regional office. EMTS has been severely prejudiced by the refusal of the RIRS to give EMTS an opportunity for a reconciliation meeting, despite several requests for the same.

 

In view of the foregoing, ALTON requests RIRS and the state government to desist from any acts inimical to the normal operations of our members in the state and to unseal EMTS premises immediately to enable it to continue its operations to offer Rivers State it usual world class services, while granting EMTS audience for a reconciliation meeting at which we trust the matter would be finally resolved,” the operators said.

 

Copied are the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); National Security Adviser, (NSA); Minister of Finance; Minister of Trade & Industry and Secretary, Joint Task Board (JTB)

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Mobile Phone Makers Mark World Emoji Day with Redesigned Emoji

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Yesterday was the fifth annual World Emoji Day, started to celebrate the use of little characters in communication.

The day was created in 2014 by Jeremy Burge, an emoji historian, with 17 July chosen because that was the date shown on the Apple calendar emoji. In 2016, Google altered its calendar emoji to display the same date.

To commemorate the day, several smartphone manufacturers, including HMD Global and Apple, are releasing new or redesigned emoji for their devices.

HMD Global, the Finnish company that owns the rights to produce and sell Nokia handsets, has said its new Nokia Android smartphone range will include 60 redesigned emoji, which are exclusive to Android devices.

Meanwhile, Apple has announced that more than 70 new emoji characters are coming to iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac later this year in a free software update.

The new emoji designs include more hair options to better represent people with red hair, grey hair and curly hair, and a new emoji for bald people.

Apple will also include new smiley face emoji which will include expressions like cold face, party face, pleading face and a face with hearts.

There will also be a superhero emoji and a few more animals and food items, such as a kangaroo, peacock, parrot, lobster, mango, lettuce, cupcake and moon cake.

Emoji were first created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita. There are now over 2 600 emoji.

According to HMD Global, the most popular emoji in the world is ‘person shrugging’, while South Africans favour the ‘kiss and wink’ emoji.

In 2015, the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year was an emoji, the ‘face with tears of joy’.

According to Emojipedia, founded by Burge, the creator of World Emoji Day, some of the most requested emoji include afro, a bagel and hands making a heart.

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High Spectrum Prices Inimical to Social Welfare in Developing Countries – Study

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Better spectrum pricing policies are needed in developing countries to improve the economic and social welfare of the billions of people that remain unconnected to mobile broadband services, according to a new report, ‘Spectrum Pricing in Developing Countries’, released by the GSMA yesterday at the Mobile 360 – Africa conference in Kigali.

The study reveals that spectrum prices in developing countries are, on average, more than three times higher than in developed countries, when income is taken into account. This high spectrum pricing is a major roadblock to increasing mobile penetration.

Authored by GSMA Intelligence, the study also found that governments are playing an active role in increasing spectrum prices to maximise state revenues from spectrum licensing.

High spectrum prices are linked to countries with high levels of sovereign debt, and alarmingly average reserve prices in spectrum auctions are more than five times higher in developing countries than in developed, once income is accounted for.

The report also identifies a link between high spectrum prices and poorer coverage, as well as more expensive and lower quality mobile broadband services, all of which hinder the take-up of services by consumers.

“Connecting everyone becomes impossible without better policy decisions on spectrum,” said Brett Tarnutzer, Head of Spectrum, GSMA. “For far too long, the success of spectrum auctions has been judged on how much revenue can be raised rather than the economic and social benefits of connecting people.

Spectrum policies that inflate prices and focus on short-term gains are incompatible with our shared goals of delivering better and more affordable mobile broadband services.

These pricing policies will only limit the growth of the digital economy and make it harder to eradicate poverty, deliver better healthcare and education, and achieve financial inclusion and gender equality.”

The GSMA study assessed over 1,000 spectrum assignments across 102 countries (including 60 developing and 42 developed countries) from 2010 through 2017, making it the largest-ever analysis into spectrum pricing in developing countries, as well as the drivers and their potential impacts of spectrum pricing on consumers.

Among the countries included in the analysis are Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, India, Jordan, Mexico, Myanmar and Thailand – all markets where spectrum licensing is a priority.

Setting high final prices administratively or setting high auction starting prices (e.g. reserve prices), artificially limiting the amount of licensed spectrum available, not sharing a clear spectrum roadmap, and setting poor auction rules are some of the policy decisions highlighted in the report that are driving high spectrum prices in developing countries.

Mobile Connectivity Index

In related news, GSMA Intelligence today launched its latest Mobile Connectivity Index, which measures the performance of 163 countries (representing 99 per cent of the world’s population) against key enablers of mobile internet adoption.

The Index highlights recent progress made on widening access to the mobile internet and explores key roadblocks to adoption, including spectrum policy.

At the end of 2017, 3.3 billion people (or 44 per cent of the global population) were connected to the mobile internet, representing an increase of almost 300 million compared to the previous year.

That still leaves more than 4 billion people offline and unable to realise the social and economic benefits that the mobile internet enables. The majority of people that remain unconnected – 3.9 billion – live in developing countries.

Mobile broadband networks still do not cover 1 billion people globally, and approximately 3 billion people who live within the footprint of a network are not currently accessing mobile internet services.

In low-income countries, around two thirds of rural populations are not covered by 3G networks.

The Mobile Connectivity Index highlights the importance of factors such as the affordability and quality of mobile broadband services, and network investment in connecting people, both of which can be impacted by high spectrum prices.

“If mobile operators don’t get affordable and predictable access to spectrum, it will be consumers who will suffer the most.

“Developing countries have the opportunity to catch up with the developed on mobile adoption; however the investment case in some of these markets is being put at risk.

“Operators cannot keep paying significantly more for spectrum when consumer incomes and expected profits are much lower in these markets. This is making network investment challenging at a time when policies should encourage the development of the mobile sector to maximise the benefits it can bring to everyone,” said Pau Castells, Director of Economic Analysis at GSMA Intelligence.

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