Goodbye from Watching the Connectives: hello from The Digital Watcher

Rob Bratby

To all my readers, thank you and goodbye. This blog is now an ex-blog. Continue reading

Singapore decides framework for allocation of 235 MHz of additional spectrum and encourages 4th MNO

On the 18 February 2016, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Agency (IDApublished its decision on the framework for the allocation of an additional 235 MHz of spectrum. This follows their earlier consultations. Key points are set out below:

Two stage process to encourage market entry by new entrant (4th MNO)

The IDA wants to encourage market entry by a fourth mobile network operator (MNO), so has split the auction into two stages. First, a ‘new entrant’ spectrum auction for 60 MHz (comprising 2x 10 MHz in the 700 band, 2 x 10 MHz in the 900 MHz band and 20Mhz of the 2.3 GHz TDD band ) from which the existing MNOs are excluded, followed by a second auction of the remainder of the spectrum to the incumbent MNOs and new entrant (if any). The reserve price for the new entrant spectrum has been lowered from SGD 40 million to SGD 30 million. The process has been designed to limit market entry to only one additional MNO.

New entrant needs to pre-qualify

Any new entrant needs to pre-qualify for the auction. To pre-qualify a bidder must:

  • be an incorporated company;
  • not have rolled out or own any nationwide mobile system or network in Singapore; and
  • not be an associate of any incumbent MNO and/or of another qualified potential new entrant bidder.

The last condition means that any consortia will need to be formed prior to qualification for bidding.

In addition, pre-qualification will also require bidders to demonstrate:

  • their technical capabilities; and
  • financial capacity, including a bank guarantee and performance bond.

No other material regulatory assistance for new entrant

Apart from the spectrum allocation and price, there is no other regulatory assistance for the new entrant. The IDA has decided not to mandate wholesale roaming access for the new entrant, and is not proposing to relax any regulatory obligations.

Auction processes defined

The new entrant auction will be a simple ascending round auction, and the second auction a more complex ‘Clock Plus’ format.

Next steps

The IDA will make available a an information package for potential new entrants which will be available on 3 March. The IDA will issue further auction documents setting out more detail.

Governing development finance organisations: measuring development impact

Governance is important for both private and public sector organisations. For development finance organisations (such as IFC, CDC, Africa Development Bank and Asia Development Bank) which are publicly funded and invest in developing countries it is critical. A key part of governance is measuring the development impact that they have through setting goals and measuring the impact of their investments.

The objectives of development finance organisations are often framed at a very broad level of abstraction:

“[IFC’s] goals are to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity in every developing country.”

“CDC’s mission is to support the building of businesses throughout Africa and South Asia, to create jobs and make a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places.”

One of the governance challenges faced by these organisations is understanding how their day to day activities, and in particular their investments, contribute towards the achievement of these objectives. This is in part governed by the setting of goals and measurement of the impact of each investment.

By way of example, the IFC governs its development impact by:

  1. setting goals (IFC Development Goals);
  2. using its Development Outcome Tracking System (DOTS) to measure the development results of investment (and advisory) services, as shown below:










3.  the evaluation of outcomes and impact.

By contrast, CDC (focused on the growth of businesses and the creation of jobs) places appears to place more emphasis on assessing its ability to make development impact at the time of making each investment decision:

“We remain interested in achieving and measuring positive impact across a broader dimension, but the job creation focus ensures we direct capital thoughtfully and prioritise our limited resources behind a mission that inspires us.  We believe job creation is essential in both Africa and South Asia where two thirds of the those of working age are today without formal jobs and where demographic growth will greatly exacerbate this challenge over the next decade.  At an individual level, employment has a transformative effect on the life of an individual and his/her family and dependents.

We have therefore created an ex ante tool that turns theory into practice and ensures we invest our capital towards our objective of creating jobs, especially in the more challenging places. This new methodology, designed with the help of our shareholder and academics and economists, is embedded in our investment processes and we use it to assess every investment opportunity at Investment Committee for its potential to create the impact that we are seeking.”

Whilst in reality the approaches adopted by the various organisations are not so different, it would appear that the three stage governance process adopted by the IFC across the life-cycle of investments provides greater opportunity for scrutiny, reflection and learning at all stages of the investment process than that adopted by CDC.







Responsible investment in Myanmar

Myanmar image

Myanmar is a country with tremendous opportunities, but also tremendous risks. I was fortunate enough to host and chair a seminar in Singapore yesterday on responsible investment into Myanmar.

Introduction by Rt. Hon Hugo Swire MP

The seminar started with an introduction and overview by the Rt. Hon Hugo Swire MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Hugo provided an overview of Myanmar’s historical context (including explaining  that, in deference to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the British Government calls Myanmar Burma) and current UK government actions to support its development and reintegration with the international community, in particular giving examples of how the UK is working to improve the business environment as a whole by strengthening the Myanmar government’s capacity for economic governance, transparency and accountability.

A framework for responsible investment

The next speaker, Richard Welford, Chairman, CSR Asia, set out a framework for responsible and inclusive investment into Myanmar. Author of CSR Asia’s report “Responsible and Inclusive Business in Myanmar” report, he explained that responsibility encompassed developing six aspects  of Myanmar’s capital (in the economic, not geographic sense) and addressing three areas to increase inclusion:

Development of capitals through responsibility

Richard explained his view that responsible companies will contribute to development of
Myanmar’s capitals through their business activities, in particular how companies make their profits and how they provide benefits to stakeholders through their economic activities. The six capitals are:

  • Economical Capital
  • Political Capital
  • Legal Capital
  • Technological Capital
  • Social Capital
  • Environmental Capital

Including the poorest members of society

Richard went on to explain that “inclusive” business is a commercially viable and scalable way to incorporate low-income populations into corporate value chains. It aims to combat the poverty challenge in Myanmar and provides access to goods, services and livelihood opportunities for the poorest. The report outlines three ways of including poor people in Myanmar:

  • New employment opportunities and capacity building
  • New consumer markets and distribution networks
  • Business linkages along the value chain

More details on responsibility and inclusion (including practical steps) can be found in the full report.

CSR in ASEAN context

The final speaker, Thomas Thomas, CEO, ASEAN CSR Network is the lead author of the report on CSR and human rights in ASEAN for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. He explained the context for CSR across the ASEAN region and provided his perspective on practical steps companies could take.

The seminar closed with a lively interaction panel discussion of questions from the floor.

India opens telecoms sector to 100% foreign investment

On Tuesday 16th July the Indian Government announced its decision to relax its foreign direct investment rules to permit 100% foreign investment in the telecoms sector, up from the prior cap of 74%.

In the basic and cellular telecoms services sectors, 49 per cent foreign investment will now be allowed automatically, but investment above this remains subject to approval by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board

The rules on foreign investment were relaxed not just in the telecoms sector but across a number of other sectors, including insurance, media and defence manufacturing, the aim being to help support the Indian economy through encouraging more foreign investment.  

Although the investment climate in India remains challenging, I expect the relaxation of these rules to lead to a number of deals as existing investors seek to buy-out their minority partners. With the sector now in play I think we could also see both exits and new entrants.

Ooredoo and Telenor win Myanmar telecoms licences, Parliament debate telecoms law

Ooredoo (formerly known as QTel) and Telenor have won the process run by the executive branch of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for the award of two national telecoms licences. A consortium of Orange and Marubeni Corporation was named as the back-up applicant. The original field of twelve bidders was reduced to eleven following the withdrawal of the Vodafone / China Mobile consortium.

In a joint press release with Telenor and Ooredoo, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology,  has set out an overview of the winners’ licence commitments:


“Telenor is committed to the rapid roll out of a modern telecommunications network and affordable services that will deliver the benefits of mobile communications to the people of Myanmar. This includes building a state-of-the-art mobile network using HSPA and LTE-ready technologies for Myanmar to match the sophistication of leading networks around the world today, and plans to achieve nationwide network coverage in Myanmar within five years by establishing an extensive distribution network across the country. Telenor has committed to a nationwide geographic coverage of 83% for voice and 78% for data after 5 years. Telenor also has committed to more than 70,000 points of sales where SIM cards can be bought and more than 95,000 points of sales where top-up can be purchased, after 5 years. As a long-term player Telenor understands the strategic role of telecommunications in promoting a more vibrant, attractive and competitive business environment, and hopes that helping to modernise Myanmar’s telecommunications sector will enable sustainable economic growth and development.

Telenor is also fully prepared to contribute to the government’s goal to rapidly boost mobile penetration by providing affordable services for the mass market in Myanmar to remove entry barriers and enable more people to access the opportunities that connectivity presents. The company will offer highly competitive tariffs that are significantly lower than what is available in the market today, and will also leverage its experience and in-depth knowledge in Asia to provide cost-effective packages that are tailored for consumers in the prepaid segment while ensuring an excellent customer experience. For example, the tariff for prepaid voice during peak hours will not be higher than MMK 25 per minute (excluding taxes). SIM cards will cost not more than MMK 1,500. A full range of mobile services, both voice and data, will be commercially launched as its initial offering, anticipated to happen by the second quarter of 2014. It will also provide a comprehensive portfolio of value-added services to customers in Myanmar including mobile financial and healthcare services, as well as services tailored to the agriculture industry.

Telenor also places a high priority on contributing to the communities in markets where it operates, and will build on its strong track record of working with the government and relevant organisations to develop a corporate responsibility and community engagement programme in Myanmar. For example, Telenor will build 200 “Community Information Centres” with the aim of fostering user adoption of mobile services and Internet in rural areas and improving digital literacy through nationwide initiatives for schoolchildren. Telenor will recruit a strong Myanmar workforce at all levels and provide employees with solid career opportunities including working alongside a core team of experienced international technical experts and business leaders.

The company has also pledged to support the government of Myanmar through commitments such as a free central government SMS communication channel and free use of emergency services, as well as free access to important public, government, educational and health websites.”


“Ooredoo’s binding commitments will significantly contribute to the leapfrog of Myanmar’s telecom sector. Ooredoo has committed to nationwide geographic coverage of 84% (both voice and data) after 5 years. It has committed to a voice tariff during peak hours of up to MMK 45 per minute (for calls to another operator) and up to MMK 35 (for calls among Ooredoo subscribers). It will offer SIM cards at MMK 1,500 or below and will also have an offer with a SIM card for free. Ooredoo has committed to create a large distribution network encompassing 240,000 points of sales where SIM cards can be bought and more than 720,000 points of sales where top-up can be purchased after 5 years.

Ooredoo will offer a wide range of value added services. For example, its mobile money service will give customers the opportunity to send money to their family and friends. Local content including local video content and mobile applications will be made available to customers. A range of mHealth services will be provided including health-based advisory, monitoring services, access to doctors and the ability to submit the user’s health data to a database for automatic monitoring of key health indicators. Another service will function as an information service and portal for agriculture market prices, weather forecasts, and equipment rental services.

Ooredoo has also pledged to invest heavily in the Myanmar economy and strongly contribute to the development of the country. It will invest around USD 60 million into corporate social responsibility initiatives over the next 10 years. For example, Ooredoo will build 10,000 tele-centres across the country that will provide free public Internet connectivity to Myanmar people in both urban and rural areas. Additionally, Ooredoo has guaranteed at least one free Internet access-point for all public primary and secondary schools, universities and libraries. Moreover, it will provide coverage to all 900 hospitals and clinics around Myanmar, with each receiving at least one free Internet access-point. Ooredoo also intends to set up 15 mobile health clinics by the end of 2016, which will provide healthcare assistance to rural communities through routine and scheduled visits to designated locations, and which will focus on women, children and citizens who cannot afford any healthcare. 99.9% of Ooredoo’s employees in Myanmar will be Myanmar citizens after 5 years.”

Whilst the winning international licensees were announced by the Ministry (despite an attempt by the lower house of parliament to delay the award), Myanmar still does not have a telecoms law, which continues to be progressed by a parliamentary committee.

Myanmar announces 12 Pre-Qualified Applicants for telecoms licences

Following its evaluation of applications, the Government of Myanmar today announced 12 pre-qualified applicants for the two national telecoms licences being allocated by tender:

  • Axiata Group
  • Bharti Airtel
  • China Mobile and Vodafone Group
  • Digicel Group
  • France Telecom / Orange
  • KDDI Corp and Sumitomo Corp
  • Millicom International Cellular
  • MTN Dubai
  • Ooreedo (aka Qatar Telecom)
  • Singtel, KBZ and M-Tel
  • Telenor
  • Viettel

That means that of the 22 who submitted a pre-qualification application (it was rumoured that over 90 were part of the pre-qualification stage) 10 were not successful.  

At the same time the Government issued its invitation to tender, which includes a draft licence. Applicants now have until 29 April to submit questions on the tender and comment on the licence. Responses will be made by 13 May and the responses to the tender are due by 3 June. Although the timetable seems ambitious, the current plan is for the winning bidders to be announced on 27 June.

Singapore adopts 10 year master plan to become IP Hub for Asia

On 1 April the government of Singapore adopted a ‘Intellectual Property (IP) Hub Master Plan: Developing Singapore as a Global IP Hub in Asia’. Despite the date, this is emphatically no joke.  The plan helpfully summarises its key aspects in the following diagram:

Singapore IP Hub

     The initiatives adopted are:

Outcome 1:A hub for IP transactions and management  Develop a vibrant IP marketplace by attracting top IP intermediaries, and supporting promising initiatives to catalyse the development of the marketplace 1.      An Economic Development Board (EDB)-MinLaw Joint Programme Office will be set up to develop the IP and legal sectors. It will seek to promote quality IP marketplace players such as IP owners and service providers to Singapore.  
Facilitate IP transactions by increasing access to IP financing, and enhancing transparency and certainty in IP transactions 2.      The Government will introduce an IP financing scheme, where it partially underwrites the value of patents used as collateral in event of default. The intention is to encourage banks to recognise IP as an asset class, build IP financing capabilities among our financial institutions, and allow IP-rich companies to raise capital more easily using their IP assets.3.      Financial institutions undertaking IP financing-related courses (such as IP valuation) may be eligible for support under the Financial Training Scheme administered by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).4.      The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) will establish a new Centre of Excellence for IP Valuation, which will work with industry stakeholders to undertake a range of activities, including research on IP valuation methodologies, training and certification for IP valuation professionals, and establishing industry-wide best practices. 5.      The Singapore Exchange (SGX) will encourage listed companies to disclose their IP rights.  A clear and structured disclosure of IP rights of material importance can provide investors with better insights into the company’s strengths and potential growth. 
Outcome 2:A hub for quality IP filings  Create a strong value proposition to attract IP filings by offering world-class services, and strengthening international collaborations with other IP offices  6.      IPOS will invest $50 million to build up patent search and examination (S&E) capabilities in technology areas of strategic importance to Singapore. This will draw companies to register IP in Singapore. IPOS has started its S&E team in September 2012, and will be expanding this team progressively. The team is expected to be operational in mid-2013, after completing training by the European and Japan Patent Offices.  7.      IPOS will forge stronger cooperation with other national IP offices, and establish a comprehensive network of Patent Prosecution Highways (PPHs)1 building on our existing network with the US, Japan and South Korea. A strong network of PPHs will allow applicants to expedite the patent filing process in other jurisdictions from Singapore. 
Outcome 3:A hub for IP dispute resolution  Develop Singapore as a choice venue for IP dispute resolution, through a strong IP Court and deep IP alternative dispute resolution  capabilities  8.      The Supreme Court is establishing a specialised docket system for all cases.  For the IP Court, in addition to the current practice of assigning an assistant registrar to each IP case after it is filed, an IP Judge will also be assigned earlier. This will allow judges of the IP Court to build greater familiarity with IP cases and enhance the efficiency of case disposal. To support the IP Court’s adjudication functions, the Supreme Court will promote the use of assessors (for technical expertise) and amicus curiae (for legal expertise).9.      MinLaw will work with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) to establish a panel of top international IP arbitrators in Singapore. This will enhance the international profile of Singapore’s IP alternative dispute resolution capabilities and attract such cases to Singapore.10.   IPOS will collaborate with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Arbitration and Mediation Centre (WIPO AMC) to offer parties in patent disputes a new expert determination2 option. This option allows parties to select a trusted third party expert with the relevant expertise and experience from WIPO AMC’s panel, and will be implemented by Q2 2013. Benefits of this option include cost and time savings, as well as autonomy in the selection of their arbiter. 
Enabler 1:Skilled manpower resources networked to the region and                                                     beyond  Build a globally competitive IP workforce that is equipped with specialised IP skill sets and networked to other markets, and support the continued professional development of IP professionals  11.   IPOS will launch the IP Competency Framework (IPCF) to define the competencies required for key IP job roles in the industry, accredit training providers and their programmes offered under the framework, and to certify the attainment of these competencies into industry-recognised qualifications. 45 competency units under the IPCF will be rolled out in April 2013.12.   IPOS will invest $15 million to strengthen IP Academy to be the central agency to orchestrate the delivery of IP education and training for Singapore.      
Enabler 2:A conducive and progressive environment for IP activities  Enhance the tax environment to attract and anchor IP portfolios and substantive management activities 13.   The Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme, introduced by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and administered by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), covers activities such as the acquisition and registration of IP. From years of assessment 2013 to 2015, the scheme will be enhanced to include IP in-licensing for innovation or productivity improvements. 
Nurture a progressive environment that shapes and promotes IP thought leadership, and builds international perception 14.   We will leverage flagship events to create a nexus for the exchange of views among the international IP community. Examples include the Global Forum on IP and the IP Business Congress Asia Conference which Singapore will host in 2013. 

The plan is certainly ambitious.

Perhaps the biggest challenge (which the plan openly acknowledges on pages 14 and 15) is Singapore’s small domestic IP market, which means that the plan can only be achieved by tapping into international markets and bringing in expertise and capability.

With concerns about importation of foreign talent and expertise very much on Singapore’s domestic political agenda it will be interesting to see how Singapore manages to balance those interests with attracting the international talent required to turn Singapore into Asia’s IP Hub.

In my view, to achieve its objectives Singapore will need to significantly liberalise its market for service providers further – for so long as patent filing and IP litigation is restricted to local firms and some practicing restrictions remain on international law firms in Singapore, Singapore will find it hard to turn aspiration into reality.

For those interested in more detail on the IP dispute proposals, @singarbitration view’s can be found here.

Myanmar to increase international investor protections

International arbitration to provide unbiased disputed resolution mechanism for international investors

Myanmar’s long isolation from the international community has meant that it has lacked many of the protections available to international investors elsewhere. It is therefore very encouraging that on 7 March 2013 the Myanmar parliament agreed to sign the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of arbitral awards.  

There is an excellent blog post here for anyone looking for a detailed analysis of current protections and how this move will reinforce provisions of Myanmar’s Foreign Investment Law and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement. However, at a very high-level once Myanmar signs the New York Convention and effectively implements appropriate provisions into Myanmar domestic law it will mean that private parties can have disputes resolved by international arbitration outside Myanmar with the award enforced in Myanmar.

Myanmar invites applications for two telecoms licences

Myanmar today (15 January 2013) invited expressions of interest for two national telecommunications services licences.

I have blogged about the prospects for telecoms in Myanmar before, and today’s announcement starts to clear some of the fog obscuring the road ahead.

Policy framework

In the short press release,  the Government recites that their policy framework is:

“for the development of the country’s telecommunications and ICT industry by facilitating competition of both local and international operators in the sector”.

A more detailed overview is set out in an appendix to the expression of interest.

Policy Goals

The press release then states that the goals are:

“to increase the overall teledensity of the country to 75% to 80% in 2015-16 to make the telecommunications services available to the public at affordable prices, and to give the public the capability of choice for the telecoms services.”

Key licence terms and process

The expression of interest further explains that:

  • the telecommunications licences will be technology neutral;

  • there will be a range of spectrum available across multiple frequency bands;

  • the initial licence term will range between 10 to 20 years with the possibility of renewal;

  • there will be a requirement to meet or exceed specified population and geographic coverage targets;

  • there will also be a requirement to commit to reasonable tariffs and low initial registration fees in order to facilitate the Union Government’s accessibility and tele-density targets;

  • both new and existing licensees will be expected to enter into infrastructure and facilities sharing arrangements in order to achieve rapid and cost efficient network deployment;  and

  • the licences will be awarded via a comparative evaluation process.

 Information required for Expression of interest

The expression of interest sets out the information to be provided by bidders, which focuses on the existing operations of the bidders – presumably this is to qualify bidders and information about their plans for Myanmar will be collected at a later stage of the process.

Next steps

Expressions of interest are due by 3pm on 25 January 2013  with licences expected to be awarded by the first half of 2013. Although the process has a long way to go, the stated policy aims are very much in line with international best practice, which compares well with the approach taken by other lesser developed countries.