[FoRK] Various and sundry

Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo ken_ganshirt at yahoo.ca
Wed Jan 20 20:06:44 PST 2010

--- On Wed, 1/20/10, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
> --
> Ken, re: the telecom thing:  clearly understood re:
> the capex issues involved domestically.   ... 
>  ...  And again, the biggest
> opportunities here are not domestic, but third-world. 

Perhaps you missed the part in my friend's cv where I pointed out that his experience with cellular is building networks in the Phillipines and Kenya? The issues are the same as domestic only moreso. 

These countries have learned all about how easy it is to make a big buck from selling spectrum licenses so they charge similarly usurious fees as in the developed world.

The site infrastructure isn't cheaper. And some of the issues are more complicated. To illustrate: The last landline phone system they built in e.g. Tanzania it was necessary to use steel poles because wooden poles were promptly removed and used for firewood. The lines had to be steel because copper was so valuable as salvage that each new segment strung would disappear overnight. And they had to guard the spools in storage like Ft Knox. Similar issues exist with cellular site infrastructure to be dealt with.

Nothing cheaper about doing this stuff in the third world.

Even labour isn't actually cheaper. Oh, the wages for grunt labour are lower, for sure. But for skilled work you either spend competitive money to get the skilled workers in from outside the country or you spend time and money on training local talent.

There is another issue in the developing world related to the unavailability of skilled workers: ongoing network health. 

If you build the network for, and turn it over to, the locals to operate and maintain themselves, the won't. They'll use it until there are major problems then they'll hire a foreign company to come back in and fix it. Typically that will involve periodically rebuilding major portions of the network.

I know that sounds condescending but it is experience. The telco I worked for for nearly thirty years has an international consulting division providing engineering and project management talent all over the world. We worked in Tanzania for years on the project I mentioned above and others (not me, personally, but personal friends and coworkers). We also did the cellular network and a fibre optic network in the Phillipines that my engineer friend was the project manager and lead engineer on. The stories of neglect from so many of these places are enough to make you cry when you think about the waste and wasted opportunities.


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