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Monday, November 29, 2010

Trouble in the heavens




You may ask, what's the fuss about? The fuss my dear friends, is that something rotten may be happening in MCMC and by extension in the Communications Ministry.

MCMC's function is regulatory basically. It's to the communications industry like Indah Water is to the sewage industry. It does nothing other than wield its big dick stick. . The infra are all done by property developers and they just receive contributory money. Yet they talk big because the stick they wield is big.

Secondly, all the fuss has exposed the real character of Telekom Malaysia- it remains a eunuch. Who's the bloody CEO? Now, in this particular instance, what happened to the supposed brilliance of those brain boxes from McKinsey and others who infest the inner recesses of Khazanah? Telekom Malaysia is owned by them right? This earliest on the scene passes on like history.

I would have thought, rather than building up the infra from stretch, TM is the best business entity to provide the base infrastructure. What MCMC and the Minister of Communications and Information and whatever should do, is to remove the monopoly enjoyed thus far by ASTRO. Then let other players, Astro kah, Mediaprima kah, YTL communications kah, Mamat Communications rent/lease the space from TM.

But PM must replace the entire management team at TM for failing to see the emerging business trends. Then he should cut the umbilical cord that binds it to Khazanah because the sustenance that is passing through is unhealthy and maybe even arsenic.

This idea of giving monopolies to the select group is abhorrent to free market economics. It is unjust to hardworking people of all races. It matters not whether that monopoly is given to any particular race. It is inherently despicable.

The 700 mHz band is a hot property and up for grabs to the highest multi-billion dollar bidder if an auction is carried out. In other countries, the bandwidth is auctioned off. Here in Malaysia, they are given to a select group. Why? Because they are clever, they can manage better ad nauseum. These select groups of companies have their eyes on acquiring the 700 mHz spectrum and are prepared to spend whatever it takes to gain control of it. Who gets it and what they do with it will have an indelible impact on whether anyone who lives in our society will ever have any chance of privacy or anonymity in any form. The 700 mHz spectrum is extremely valuable for digital use because of its excellent signal propagation properties, especially when applied to broadband wireless computer networks, similar to what we know today as WiFi. In the analog days of broadcasting, we became accustomed to being able to tune our TVs and radios just about anywhere, in our homes or outdoors, and elsewhere.

Currently used for UHF analog channels portions of the 700Mhz band could be re-purposed to wireless carriers, mobile TV platform providers, or open access internet for anyone – perhaps especially in rural areas.

So, what is this piece of the spectrum useful for and why is there such a frenzy of political wrangling over it? Obviously is the monopoly over it and the chance to make lots of money.

The other telcos are upset that the 700 MHz spectrum is given to YTL. They will make a lot of noises over who gets control over the spectrum. In actuality, they ALL want a piece of the action.

Now is the time to set things right and make money for the government for once. Reconstitute TM first . Inject it with visionary management leadership. Make it the owner of the spectrum and let others lease space from it.

If the content providers used the spectrum for hybrid communications its ok. Later of they use it for telephonic or internet purposes, that's ok too.

Imagine the capabilities of the 700 MHz spectrum. They go far and can penetrate walls. After all, they've worked for analog TV and we all remember we can switch our TVs on almost anywhere with clarity right? So any cellular phone service provider might instantly lust after the possibility of fewer towers yet better reception. So what's the bull YTL is saying they will have to spend billions of money?

Of course the longer-range, more accessible signal comes with a price. And that price – at least with today's technology – appears to be bandwidth. But despite the apparent limitation this spectrum appears to have captured the imagination of lobbyists and corporations alike on the possibility of providing a 3rd pipe.

Everyone wants a piece of the action. Everyone wants to be able to broadcast their content.

Our government is poised to set the terms of the most valuable sale/grant or auction of spectrum — the public airwaves over which broadcasters and cell phone companies operate. We hope the government will use this authority to earn money for our government.

When the award of the spectrum takes place, incumbent broadcasters are to return their bandwidth to the government as nation moves on to digital TV. By the way, has somebody in the MCMC ben feeding insider information to Astro allowing them to hype up its HD TV?

The characteristics and location (in the 700 MHz band) of this spectrum make it ideal for the development of a third, nationwide broadband Internet provider that could compete with the powerful incumbent telephone and cable companies which control broadband lines in this country. But unless the government takes a very different course than it has in the past by giving a monopoly to somebody, this valuable resource will most likely end up in the hands of those very companies eager to retain their stranglehold on the communications industry.

Think of it this way – do you want to be trapped by a monopoly or near-monopoly environment for access to the public internet? Should 1 or 2 companies control access and set pricing? And if that were to happen then will restrictions on content and applications come next.

I certainly welcome the clarification by MCMC issued through Bernama. It clarified that the 700 MHz spectrum given to YTL communications is for broadcasting purposes so that YTL can launch its hybrid broadcasting. Another spectrum, the 800 MHz will be dedicated for LTE and Telcos.

I hope MCMC will follow through with this statement. If some people perceived this award of the 700 MHz spectrum to YTL as breaking up the monopoly thus far enjoyed by Ananda's Astro that is a curious perception. Why break a monopoly by giving another monopoly?

Why not open up the market to as many competitors who want to offer hybrid broadcasting and make them promise, they will not use the 700 MHz spectrum for any other purposes. I am sure we can treat their promises as sacred and on equal footing as the promise given by YTL communications.

courtesy of sakmongkol AK47

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