Update 2014 Kenya has been held back by politics around the analog shutoff but Rwanda has pressed ahead, allocating 140 MHz of prime spectrum to KT as a single operator.

Rwanda’s Patrick Nyirishema sees major savings
Only the best engineers believe mobile will reach a gigabit (shared) in the next few years, with individual speeds often 100 megabits and caps 50 times as high as today. Ericsson drove around Stockholm connected at 900 megabits/second in this video. Even seeing isn’t believing. Urban areas in the developed world will rarely see those speeds in early years because most spectrum is restricted and only available in 20 MHz bands.  But Africa, Pakistan and some in Latin America are seizing the opportunity.

   Kenya is the most advanced. They plan to leapfrog Europe to the gigabit by extracting 100 MHz bands from the digital dividend and other empty spectrum.  The politics is murky: one regulator was recently displaced, another overruled by the President when he tried to reduce Safaricom’s termination rates. The funding and cost of the analog switchoff are making headlines that suggest some very bad planning or worse.

  But the logic of building a single advanced network is so strong that Rwanda is considering following what’s now being called the “Kenyan model.” Jennie Bourne and I spoke with Patrick Nyirishema of the Rwanda Development Board at the Broadband Commission. Nyirishema acknowledged the technical advantages of the single network and pointed to crucial cost advantages as well. Much of the country is too poor or sparsely settled to be attractive to mobile operators. The government will have to find the resources to extend coverage. Building a single network requires less subsidy than helping two or three operators. The network is cheaper to build if it has more spectrum.

insert video

   The “Kenyan model” selects a single operator to build and manage the 100 MHz network. That operator would have to “unbundle” the offering, allowing other carriers to resell the service and compete on features and at the retail level. France and Britain proved unbundling works well for consumers when backed by a strong regulator that keeps prices down. Building three to five overlapping networks certainly makes competition sharper, but is extremely costly.

Rwanda’s Patrick Nyirishema sees major savings
Only the best engineers believe mobile will reach a gigabit (shared) in the next few years, with individual speeds often 100 megabits and caps 50 times as high as today. Ericsson drove around Stockholm connected at 900 megabits/second in this video. Even seeing isn’t believing. Urban areas in the developed world will rarely see those speeds in early years because most spectrum is restricted and only available in 20 MHz bands.  But Africa, Pakistan and some in Latin America are seizing the opportunity.

   Kenya is the most advanced. They plan to leapfrog Europe to the gigabit by extracting 100 MHz bands from the digital dividend and other empty spectrum.  The politics is murky: one regulator was recently displaced, another overruled by the President when he tried to reduce Safaricom’s termination rates. The funding and cost of the analog switchoff are making headlines that suggest some very bad planning or worse.

  But the logic of building a single advanced network is so strong that Rwanda is considering following what’s now being called the “Kenyan model.” Jennie Bourne and I spoke with Patrick Nyirishema of the Rwanda Development Board at the Broadband Commission. Nyirishema acknowledged the technical advantages of the single network and pointed to crucial cost advantages as well. Much of the country is too poor or sparsely settled to be attractive to mobile operators. The government will have to find the resources to extend coverage. Building a single network requires less subsidy than helping two or three operators. The network is cheaper to build if it has more spectrum.

insert video

   The “Kenyan model” selects a single operator to build and manage the 100 MHz network. That operator would have to “unbundle” the offering, allowing other carriers to resell the service and compete on features and at the retail level. France and Britain proved unbundling works well for consumers when backed by a strong regulator that keeps prices down. Building three to five overlapping networks certainly makes competition sharper, but is extremely costly.


   The disadvantage is the creation of a monopoly which can be abused without good regulation. In the U.S., we’re currently seeing the effects of having only two landline competitors and a weak regulator. Broadband prices in the U.S. have typically gone up 15-35% at most carriers while going down in most other parts of the world. Pricing and bundles in telecom are so complicated you can select data to come to almost any conclusion, but in general U.S. prices are 30-60% higher than England, France, and perhaps Germany. Several East Asian nations are even cheaper.

   Robert Pepper of Cisco is particularly concerned with weakening competition. Pepper, a friend, is one of the most admired policy people in the world. Everyone looks to him for ideas; I noticed Carlos Slim of Telmex, the richest man in the world, respectfully walk over to ask his opinion at the Broadband Commission.  Pepper was the key force at the U.S. FCC when six national wireless networks seeking customers drove U.S. rates lower than almost everyone else. In much of Africa, intense competition is unlikely and other solutions may be best.

   The technology is clear even if the politics are murky. LTE Advanced, now beginning to ship, is designed to deliver a gigabit over a 100 MHz block. The previous LTE was limited to 20 MHz. Five times the MHz yields substantially more than five times the bandwidth. Dividing 100 MHz into 5 or 10 slices, the current system, wastes perhaps 30-50% of the capacity. Inevitably, even at peak times, some of the companies are overloaded while others have unused capacity. Sharing the whole band eliminates that issue and also reduces the need for “guard bands” unused between carriers.

   Alcatel has played a crucial role, providing the technical vision that’s inspiring African policymakers to innovate.    

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein

Latest

Professor Noam's "Many Internets" http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/nyregion/ultra-orthodox-jews-hold-rally-on-internet-at-citi-field.html . More from Noam http://bit.ly/ManyNets

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more http://bit.ly/RussiaDNS

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board http://bit.ly/CEOPromises
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,http://bit.ly/CEOPromises

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling http://bit.ly/SorryPai
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors http://bit.ly/SorryPai

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More http://bit.ly/VintTim
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list, http://bit.ly/VintTim