PharoahStrongman rulers delivering better results. We like to think democracy and openness are the keys to expanding broadband, and some very prominent ideologues have been making that claim. The data show otherwise. Egypt, the current growth leader, is a vicious military dictatorship.  Vietnam remains a single-party socialist republic. The Chinese government has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, one of history's greatest achievements. The horrors of 1958-1975 are now in the past, but it remains an authoritarian state. 

Thailand, #4 among nations with 1M or more connections, remains under a military government. #5 Belarus makes the Soviet Union look like a model Democracy. Among smaller countries, the leaders are Sri Lanka, Kosovo, and Syria.  The growth rates for Q3 2016 of these countries ranged from 3% to 8%.

Much as we'd like to believe it, the evidence is clear broadband growth does not require openness, freedom of speech, public private partnerships, light touch regulation, or the other recommendations of the Washington Consensus. Nor is "multi-stakeholder" control required. These may be good things - I support most of them - but making stupid claims in public is not the way to achieve them.  

For a decade, much growth in both broadband and ICT, has been in countries that do not live up to our aspirations. China I know best, which defined what the physical networks had to be and then manipulated the companies to build them. The government owns a strong majority of the shares and the Minister hires and fires the CEOs on a regular basis. The result: 270M Chinese have landlines, almost all of them fiber home. Landline growth is continuing despite over 500M 4G subscribers.

The U.S. instead believes in working indirectly, creating "incentives for investment," and urges that on poorer nations. The "invisible hand" is great when it works, but that's rarely true in telecom. The limited competition is most extreme where the need is greatest: rural and poor areas. The problem there - as in the noted States - is that it's hard to attract the 4-7 companies for strong competition. Most cities are now relatively well covered, even in poor countries. The priority today is the areas where competition isn't delivering. 

The rhetoric that plays so well in DC, the World Bank, Geneva, and the OECD often isn't the way to bring access to those who don't have a connection. The right answer needs to be determined empirically, rather than ideologically. Direct action will often be the right choice. 

 The gap between China and #2, the U.S. (104M) widens by the millions every quarter. 

(The data is Q3 from Point-Topic, for more than a decade the most reliable source of world broadband data. They do a better job than anyone else at weeding out misleading government claims. Data from OECD, etc. is not much different.)  

Latest

April 18

“My three biggest customers are marching to 7 and 5 nanometers.” Lip-Bu Tan. Moore’s Law ain’t dead yet.

Eric Xu, current Huawei Chairman, said consumers would find no “material difference between 4G & 5G.” Dozens of top engineers agree the "5G Revolution" is hokum, including  DT CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, FT/Orange SVP Arnaud Vamparys, and BT CEO Gavin Patterson.
     Politicians and marketers pushed b_______. What’s coming for 5-10 years is good for telco capacity but otherwise disappointing. Unfortunately. 
     On the other hand, mmWave & Massive MIMO are improving at a ferocious rate, advancing telco capacity enormously. Massive MIMO has made it practical to use 3.5 GHz frequencies, a second remarkable booster. The "5G Revolution" is dead; Long Live the real 5G and advanced wireless!
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U.S. attacks on Huawei and ZTE look to be an historic disaster.


China’s logical response is to invest to become independent of the U.S. They already have $100B on the table for memory chips and are rumored to add another $100B. Huawei/HiSilicon already holds their own against Qualcomm and everyone else in the world. 
    Zeng Xuezhong of Spreadtrum, world #3 mobile chipmaker, confirms: China will “speed up the chip R&D investment that is self-controlled and self-researched. We must never forget to make it bigger and stronger.”
     U.S. warships patrolling China’s seas inspire security fears. So does Trump’s threat to a country on China’s border."Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, [for] fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
     China would be stupid not to have domestic capacity just in case. The Chinese leadership is not stupid.
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The year's best wireless conference is next week. Ted Rappaport, Sandeep Rangan and colleagues bring the world's best engineers to the Brooklyn 5G Conference Summit. This year, Paulraj, Onoe, Fettweis, Katabi, and their peers are coming. Do not miss the webcast, http://bit.ly/2HuOKqW .

April 10

A special report: Who Are The Three Billion? The Color Of The Net Has Changed http://bit.ly/netcolor
1/3rd wireless only, 2/3rds in Global South, 75% not native English speakers.