A Tale of Two Bands and other telecom stories

A Tale of Two Bands and other telecom stories

Photo credit: The first European antenna for ALMA is handed over to the observatory by European Southern Observatory

It was the best of times for MVS in 1989, now forth largest telecom operator in Mexico.  By then, it was awarded with a part of the 2.5 Ghz band of the spectrum.  With time, it negotiated and obtained 90% of the band that nobody wanted. Originally planned for microwave CATV, MVS pioneered in pre-wimax technology partnering with Intel and Clearwire on 2003.

By 2005 its first concession titles started to expire and engaged into negotiations with Ministry of Communications (SCT), and on 2008, MVS launched Dish in Mexico.  With billing help from Carlos Slim, this project successfully targeted low-income segment. On 2010, negotiations with SCT failed.

On 2011, MVS pitched to SCT a project called “Broadband for Everyone” (Banda Ancha Para Todos) teaming up Clearwire, Intel and Alestra (former Mexican Partner of ATT) to offer broadband under a carrier-of-carriers model. MVS had an estimate of 55 million of users.   The Project was upheld on negotiations until 2012, but received the approval from Anti-trust Commission (COFECO) and at first by Telecom Commission (COFETEL), which thereafter revoked.

It was the worst of times for MVS on August 8, 2012. SCT started the recovery of 2.5 Ghz band from all concessionaires, even those that expire on 2020.  This action would affect 11 telecom operators, heavily to MVS, owner of 190 Mhz.  The arguments were the low use of that band from MVS.   Thereafter, SCT argued consideration.  Supposedly, Government set price of renewal for $2 Billion USD and MVS offered $860 Million USD returning 50 Ghz. MVS further argues that it will pay a consideration adjusted to income per capita of Mexican consumer.

Aside from legal and technical arguments, MVS made serious accusations to Government on favouring Televisa with the recovery proceeding and future re-auction, but Government denied them. Furthermore, MVS escalated this proceeding associating the recovery with the firing/rehiring scandal of radio journalist Mrs. Carmen Aristegui during February 2011, adding up a freedom of speech element to the story.

Leaving aside scandals, the recall proceeding is on its way.  SCT has even declared that might resolve on making a partial recovery or not making it at all.  A Federal Court has already denied an injunction on the grounds of public interest of recovery for implementing new technologies, but there is still one pending to be resolved.  Mr. Vargas and his lawyers have anticipated a 5-year litigation with an uncertain outcome.  Other concessionaires have presented constitutional injunctions.

On the other side, we have the 700 Mhz band or “digital dividend”.  COFETEL already started works to segment that band.  Currently, Mexico uses most of that band for free-to-air TV, being Televisa a main player on that.  Supposedly, a document is being prepared by the Regulatory Prospective Unit and will be presented to COFETEL Commissioners for approval.  From official documents, it appears that the band will be used for mobile broadband, but timeframes, auction and recovery, if any, are yet to be determined. When digital TV is fully deployed by 2015, this band would be freed and re-auctioned.

Calderon Administration is leaving on December 2012, and there is not enough public information to foresee the outcome, but one thing is certain: if parties follow the way of the court, victory will be pyrrhic for either of them.

However, no matter what path SCT and COFETEL will follow, five key resolutions from Supreme Court will play main role on their forthcoming decisions on those bands:

  • Government has the right to recover spectrum for implementing new technologies. Will Government have the right timing and resources to overhaul telecom regulation before we face spectrum scarcity, and then price increases? Is carrier of carriers a feasible model for broadband? Again, Calderon administration is handing over to next one, and this process might affect the pace of telecom agenda.
  • Government has the right to receive a consideration for spectrum use.  Under official information, Government followed rules for setting up consideration based on average OECD income per capita. However, as MVS argues that such adjustment must be according to Mexican income.  Economists have wide debates over spectrum valuation and there is not a fair market price on that, so Mexico needs to develop its own valuation method rather than importing or referring to other countries auctions.
  • Renewals of concession titles are not automatic for radio and TV.  Right holders must participate in an auction against other competitors, but will have the right of first refusal on a tie-in.  Certainly, this criterion may be applied to other spectrum-based services, but it is a grey area whether or not could be applied to recovery proceeding.
  • Authorities must not privilege economic terms over benefits to society in spectrum auctions.  And here is where MVS, having a relatively small market share on CATV and barely any on broadband, may benefit its cause.
  • Internet is a basic service necessary for the development of the Country. In this resolution, Supreme Court makes a small cameo on declaring right to internet access.  This basic service status does not automatically translates into a universal service policy, but certainly, is a basis for supporting the need of expediting development of broadband infrastructure before mobile internet users breaks down operators backbones, again.

Mr. Peña Nieto´s incoming administration must accelerate pending telecom tasks such as implementation of service level interconnection agreement, evangelization for digital TV transition, universal internet access policy, media regulation, COFETEL autonomy, privacy policy, just to name a few.  Seems titanic, but in fact some public discussions have been around for a long time, and is just a matter of get things done.

Post-script

There seems a groom outlook going around believing that Mexican telecom industry is a war between a telephone tycoon and a media mogul. I believe it is more than that. It is certainly a contact sport with a political show on half time.

However, nobody is acknowledging three factors that are moving this industry ahead. The first, NGOs and organized citizens are demanding updates on regulation of telecom and media. The second, technology is not static and disruptive technologies, such as IP solutions, will eventually break the status quo. The last one, cost for content production has been dramatically reduced, and traditional media does not longer monopolize popular and marketable content.

Bottom line, the big data age is just a tool for the ideas age.  Now, content is king.  Think of that before you build your next business.

 

Proposed amendment to NOM-024-SSA3-2010: Systems for Health Electronic Records

Proposed amendment to NOM-024-SSA3-2010: Systems for Health Electronic Records

Photo credit: IMSS by Juan Pablo Ortiz Arechiga

Ministry of Health is proposing amendments to upgrade NOM-024-SSA3-2010 for standardizing SIRES (Information Systems for Health Electronic Record) on interoperability, processing, interpretation, confidentiality and security for a better practice management.

This Standard is a complement to NOM-040-SSA2-2004 (health information) and NOM-168-SSA1-1998 (clinic files).

Ministry of Health will provide with rules for implementing these systems across the health centers in the country, preparing and providing guides and formats for the SIRES to implement.

Each health professional using a SIRES, requires to enter a minimum set of data into its system, as provided by the Standard.

This Standard implements some rules from HL7 (Health Level Seven), an international non-profit organization that develops standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information for medical practice management.

Opportunity for proving comments ends on October 14. These comments are not mandatory for Ministry of Health to include into the final version, but clearly will provide with localized and tested knowledge on how these systems can successfully be implemented in Mexico.

Keyword here is “evangelize“. After all, if a standard will influence changes on practice management or IT business, it is better to influence that standard before it takes effect.

Power to the Chambers

Power to the Chambers

Photo credit: Banco de México by Joaquín Martínez

According to the Regulations for the Commercial Chambers and its Associations, Federal Government may request opinion related to matters in which they have interest. This is, Construction Chamber may be requested with an opinion in relation to construction regulations, as well as associations of chambers, and so on.

There is a draft in review from the Federal Administration that pretends to amend these Regulations, providing that requesting opinion from chambers will be mandatory for the authority.

Opinion will not be binding, but certainly will increase the representation of chambers in the making of regulations. On the other side, associations, non-profit organisations and individuals will only have the resource of providing opinion through the regulation improvement proceeding before COFEMER.

Finally, there are no rules to determine how the Government will decide the competence of related chambers, and what will happen if they do not do it.

Hopefully, this provision will increase interest of groups for regulation and providing feedback before such regulation enters into effects.

Welcome to the Fiberhood

Welcome to the Fiberhood

Photo credit: Mario at Google Fiber – Kansas City, MO by UCFFool

According to recent publication of OECD on internet speed, Japan and Sweden are the fastest countries with the impressive advertised average download 149,616 and 101,807 kbit/s, respectively. The US is at a 27,563 kbit/s speed. Mexico, has 5,325 kbit/s.
Since July 26, 2012, Google is officially challenging internet speed in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO with bi-directional connectivity at around 1 gigabit per second.
As Google indicates, this is a joint effort between people, fiberhoods and Google to connect local homes, hospitals, libraries and schools.
Fiberhood is about belonging to a community. Google actually delegated the responsibiity to neighboors to engage into fiber project and enroll other neighboors for pre-registration. What is the incentive? Fiberhoods with most pre-registrations will receive fiber fist.
There must be a localized lesson for each city or community in the World. For Mexico, regulation of ISPs allows SMEs or start-ups, or even neighbors to adapt the fiberhood model. This is, they may associate for negotiating higher speeds at better prices, and maybe form an ISP for self-use.
Because for the rest of us, who do not live in Kansas or planning moving there, there is an underlying lesson here: Internet is not only about sharing content but to sharing access. That is what internet is made of.

Mexican Federalism and the Digital Age

Mexican Federalism and the Digital Age

Photo credit: Mexican Symbol by bradleyolin

Mexico, as other many countries is organised as a Republic, with three levels of government (Federation, State and Municipalities), and different branches each (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary).

That system of checks and balances, credited mainly to Montesquieu, is reflected in all terms of organization of the State, including the digital Government.

A small part of that digital Government, is to open, update and manage websites to provide  services and information to citizens. In terms of transparency, those websites play a major role of that “check and balances” principle.

However, before implementation of digital Federalism to all 2443 municipalities of 31 States and 1 Federal District, with their respective congresses and courts, Mexico finds a big opportunity to take the Federal Pact to the information age.

Among the Government domains, you can find www.finanzas.gob.mx (Ministry of Finance to State of Zacatecas), www.mexicocity.gob.mx (Ministry of Tourism for Mexico City), www.benitojuarez.gob.mx (Municipality in State of Veracruz), www.delegacionbenitojuarez.gob.mx (Division of Mexico City), www.encuentra.gob.mx (Google-customized search engine) and www.gob.mx (redirected to the latter), and the list goes on.

On the other hand, there are many cities with similar names. For example, only in Oaxaca we have 16 municipalities called “San Francisco”, 3 municipalities called “Tuxpan” in different States and 48 with the name “San Pedro” throughout Mexico.

Under rules of Registry MX, to register .gob.mx is only necessary to evidence appointment of an officer and make a formal request of such registration. Only registrants are able to make changes to registration. Registry MX is not a Mexican authority nor has ability to challenge or distinguish rules of Mexican Federation. This explains why www.finanzas.gob.mx belongs to the state of Zacatecas, while any other entity could rightfully claim it.

Under Federalism rules, it makes sense that Federation, States and Municipalities, or their congress or courts, make and manage their own registrations. There should not be a centralized registrant. This would break the dynamics of government actions and take over Registry MX purpose.

I agree. We are facing bigger problems like digital TV, broadband access or bidding of new TV channels. Ambitious and titanic projects. However, if as a Federation, we target to reach 55% of homes nationwide with 5 Mbps broadband by 2015, it is expected that part of those citizens receive internet-based services and information.

For all Governments, this is an opportunity to think ahead of what the digital government needs to deliver to citizens in the near future. For the IT businessmen, this is an opportunity to evangelise public sector and get ready before all “San Pedros” come of age, the digital age.

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