Digicel takes on the big boys in Myanmar

Here’s a piece I wrote about the, for some somewhat obscure, Digicel and its efforts to win a slice of Myanmar’s mobile pie. You can read the rest here.

SINGAPORE, April 29 | Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:54pm EDT
(Reuters) – Cellular operator Digicel Group Ltd jumped into Myanmar early and big, hiring staff, funding local sports, negotiating land deals for thousands of cell tower sites and signing up hundreds of partners for retail outlets.
The strategy helped propel it onto the shortlist for a mobile licence in one of the world’s last mobile frontiers, putting an operator that ranks 65th globally in terms of customers up against giants such as Vodafone Group Plc.
Whether its strategy pays off or not, industry insiders say, Digicel, largely unknown outside the Caribbean and some Pacific islands, has shaken up a usually conservative industry.
“They have been a disruptive force,” said Roger Barlow, a Hong Kong-based telecommunications consultant who has worked in Asia for more than 25 years. “Some of the big guys tend to look down their noses at them but they shouldn’t because they’re becoming a credible player.”
Myanmar this month short-listed 12 consortia for two licences it plans to grant foreign operators in late June. The government wants to expand mobile penetration from less than 4 percent to up to 80 percent by 2015-16.
While Digicel is up against behemoths such as Vodafone, China Mobile Ltd and Telenor ASA, several other big players failed to make the list – among them South Korea’s SK Telecom Co Ltd and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding SAE.

An Idiot’s Guide To Prepaid GPRS

Further to my earlier post about GPRS traveling woes, I asked Syd Low of AlienCamel to offer his thoughts on the subject. He’s something of an old hand at the game.

For the last two years I’ve gone “on the road” to the Alps. My journey goes through Asia, then Switzerland and finally Austria. In 2004 I had a Treo 600 and this year a Treo 650. I’ve used GPRS with prepaid SIM cards in five countries will almost perfect success to stay in touch with friends and colleagues using IM and Email.

In Europe, I usually look for a mobile shop at the airport or train terminal. Zurich airport is great – all three carriers are there -Swisscom, Sunrise and Vodafone. Just wander in, buy a card and you’re on your way in less than 20 minutes. When you return the following year, you just need to get a recharge card and you’re away in 5 minutes. In Asia and Italy, I found that all carriers have shops in the main street. Venice and Verona for example have Vodafone shops conveniently located among the shops and resellers everywhere. Same deal – quick and fast transactions. In Austria where there’s not much competition, the most convenient place is the post office where you can get A1 prepaid cards. Recharge cards are available at supermarkets.

The Treo 650 auto configures to all of these networks and there’s no need to manually make any setting changes. Just put the sim card in and everything just works. I’ve only had a minor glitch with A1. For a few days I couldn’t get GPRS coverage – not sure if it was my phone or the network high in the Alps.

Life would be a lot simpler if there was a carrier that did global roaming with fair rates, but I think it’ll be a blue moon when that happens. Until then, get yourself a little case to get a sim card for each country.

Thanks, Syd.  Oh and here’s a picture of his SIM-card stash:


News: Internet Payment Under Attack

 Internet payment system Worldpay is under hack attack from unknown assailants, hitting thousands of online retailers around the world, the BBC reports. The company’s payment and administration networks have been flooded with computer-generated requests, clogging the system and slowing transactions – also known as a “denial-of-service” attack. Worldpay is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. It has 27,000 clients around the world, ranging from heavyweights like Vodafone and Sony Music Entertainment to numerous small online retailers.

Column: Under the Wire


From 26 June 2003 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

You’re Fired

SMS, or text messaging, is great for staying in touch but isn’t so hot for conveying bad news. A recent spate of dismissals via SMS — staff of British insurer Accident Group, for example, were notified by administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers that they were being laid off and would no longer be paid — raises interesting ethical and legal questions about the medium. The new chief executive of Britain’s Vodafone Group, Arun Sarin, is taking no chances: His contract says he cannot be fired via “electronic mail or any other electronic messaging service.”

More on Spam

If you need more evidence that spam is big business, try this: DoubleClick, better known for its on-line advertising strategies, on June 12 announced initiatives “to further differentiate legitimate marketing communications from spam.” Given that I’ve seen very little difference in tactics between spammers and “legitimate marketing communications” I don’t find this particularly reassuring. Here’s something else: CNET, an on-line magazine, reported last week on a legal dispute between two anti-spam software makers over patents for something called challenge-response technology, which allows an e-mail recipient to check out the sender to see if he’s [a] a person, and [b] the person he says he is. The recipient receives an e-mail asking for verification, and if the e-mail goes unanswered, the e-mail gets dumped. Nice idea, but not rocket science, in my view, and kind of time wasting. Still, Mailblocks and Spam Arrest have been slugging it out, at least until a Washington district court denied Mailblocks a preliminary injunction. I stick by my advice: Go with free software developed by people genuinely committed to ridding us of spam, not to making money out of it. My Bayesian Filters from POPFile are working wonders: In the past week only five bits of spam have reached my inbox. But if you want to try out commercial solutions, here are a couple: AlienCamel [www.aliencamel.com], allows you to select what e-mails you want to allow through, and Spam Slicer [www.spamslicer.com] provides each user with a virtual e-mail ID, so the user can tell where a spammer got his name and can block subsequent spam from that source even if the spammer changes his e-mail address.

Keep Out the Hackers

Talking of sleaze, Zone Labs Inc. [www.zonealarm] have just released a new version of their excellent ZoneAlarm firewall program. If you have a computer connected to the Internet then you should have a firewall, software that does its best to prevent ne’er-do-wells from getting in, either to steal pictures of your dog’s wedding, or to use your computer to attack other computers. ZoneAlarm Pro 4.0 improves its security features, including one that examines not just inbound but outbound e-mails for harmful file attachments — usually a kind of virus called a worm. Another innovation gathers data on suspected hackers, helping security experts to track and report them to their moms. ZoneAlarm Pro sells for $50; a free version of the earlier model is still available, and should be enough for us amateurs.