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Downturn to delay 3G in emerging markets

22 апреля 2009

The global economic downturn could see planned 3G licence award procedures placed on hold in some emerging markets in Asia and eastern Europe, according to Fitch Ratings.

However, speaking on a teleconference focusing on capex trends in emerging markets on Monday, the credit ratings agency also predicted that 3G auctions will go ahead as planned in Latin America this year.

In emerging Asian markets where there are commercial 3G services take-up has been "less than impressive," said Priya Gupta, director in Fitch's Asia Pacific TMT team, noting that services have been launched in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, while licences were recently awarded in China.

3G auctions are due to take place this year in India and Thailand, but "these may be delayed due to the global financial crisis," Gupta predicted.

Meanwhile, in Russia and the CIS, 3G rollout is scheduled for this year and next, but "is being delayed by about 18 months at least," said Michael Dunning, head of Fitch's EMEA TMT team.

Dunning sees mobile operators cutting capex by 20% to 25% in 2009, compared with 2008.

"3G won't be cut back completely, but the investment will be slowed down dramatically," he said.

In Latin America, capital expenditure on the mobile side of the market is also expected to fall this year, although Sergio Rodriguez, director in Fitch's Latin American TMT team, notes that spending across the region was high last year, including licence awards, in Brazil in particular, and 3G deployments.

"Some licences may be auctioned this year," said Rodriguez, including WiMAX concessions in Mexico and 3G licences in Peru and Chile.

Regulators in Peru and Chile are interested in auctioning new spectrum, explained Rodriguez. "They are looking for new operators to bring some more competition into these countries."

In Africa, Fitch sees continued high spending, but expects operators to make an effort to curtail their investment in some ways.

"Capex levels [will] remain high and even increase over the next few years," as operators still need to boost their GSM coverage and move into the 3G market, said Apostolos Bantis, associate director in Fitch's EMEA TMT team.

There has been considerable investment to back Africa's substantial mobile growth in recent years, but "billions of dollars are still required," to build out better quality networks and increase coverage, he said.

Most African governments cannot back these projects, therefore "the majority of the funding will come from the private sector," he added.

Major telcos have recorded capex-to-revenue figures of 25%-30% in recent years, Bantis continued. He sees capex budgets rising by an average of 10% in 2009.

However, Bantis was keen to point out that African telcos are not immune to the economic crisis and will look to make some savings.

Consolidation will increase, he predicted, and we will see "infrastructure-sharing projects, especially within mobile tower facilities."

Projects like this will help "mitigate the rising impact of capital spending," Bantis concluded.


Источник: Total Telecom

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