TELECOM REPORT PANAMA


PANAMA TELECOM REPORT NO 1, 2004

Panama is the new strategic location for Internet Data center and telecommunications companies in Latin America due to the burgeoning technology industry in the area and the country growth as a technology hub with the best submarine Fiber Optic Connection in Latin America. Leading Internet companies and Carrier are already leveraging the benefits using Panama as the gateway for the region.


(PRWEB) January 28 2004--
PANAMA TELECOM NEWS LETTER No 1 2004
Panama is the new strategic location for Internet Data center and telecommunications companies in Latin America due to the burgeoning technology industry in the area and the country growth as a technology hub with the best submarine Fiber Optic Connection in Latin America.

Leading Internet companies and Carrier are already leveraging the benefits using Panama as the gateway for the region.
Important players like Global Crossing, MCI, Sky Online, new world communication, Cable & Wireless and Nautilus have decided to install Network Operation Centers in Panama, taking advantage of the geographical location providing an abundant supply of submarine fiber optic communications circuit on both coasts and which makes possible interconnection close to north and Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the world over redundant routes.


Panama has become an increasingly important technology hub for Latin America," said Nils Petterson, the founder of ALTEC1 the first internet data center in open two years ago in the City of Knowledge Tecnopark in Ft Clayton a US military base converted in a Tecnology park, research center and Education Campus, the vision of Mr. Petterson open the door for company as DELL, Telecarrier, Spherion, MCI, Unicef, Isthmus Crossing, open a presence in Panama and establish." Network Access Points (NAPs), Data Centers, Call Center aimed at supporting and serving the growing demand for those services in Latin America and a prime choice for company from anywhere in the World in need of a secure place to keep data and secure communication based on the availability of fiber optic cables, the geographical location, the fiscal incentives granted by the local government, the dollars base economy and the social stability of the country. This year Altec is opening the first Carrier Hotel were the Incumbent Telecom Company and start up find the best location and pricing to start the business to compete in the local market or to use Panama as the gateway to transit traffic to other Latin American Countries.

Most of the data transmission technologies found in developed countries like ADSL, Cable modem, ISDN, wireless , frame relay , Ethernet and ATM with support for high speeds and broadband services are widely available in Panama from several supplier including Cable & Wireless, Tele Data, Telco Virtual, GbmNet, Sky on Line. Union Fenosa, ACP (Panama Canal Authority) Isthmus Crossing and Etesa have built Telecommunication Network to compete again the main operator and offer connectivity across the Isthmus of Panama.

"Panama Internet Data center�s and Carrier Hotel gives the region's technology companies the ability to choose from the premier telecom companies to optimize their Internet presence and improve business performance and revenues the best infrastructure, security, scalability, performance, connectivity, reliability and convenience for web site an E-Business in a Tax Free environment. Response times for end users, is among the fastest in the industry, thanks to the direct access to all the mayor submarine Fiber Optic cable including Pan American, Global Crossing PAC & MAC, Maya 1, and Arcos 1.

A good news for the consumer, on january 16, 2004 the Government abolish a 1$ tax on every International call and replace the tax by a 12 % value added tax, reducing the cost for the consumer in 50% or more, this new tax apply to call using any Tecnology available including Internet .


PANAMA COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

?��� Availability of several Neutral Data Center , built with world class quality and fully redundant
?��� Panama is the landing point for several fiber optic sub-marine cable systems on their way to Latin America and the rest of the world including:
?��� Maya 1 connecting to Honduras, Mexico and Miami
?��� Pan American connecting USA, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile,
?��� Global Crossing PAC network link Mexico and California and South America
?��� Global Crossing MAC network link All South American Cities
?��� Arcos 1 links all the Caribbean Islands and Central America territories.
?��� Tax Free Environment: No Tax in the City of Knowledge and Howard.
?��� The U.S. dollar is used as legal tender in Panama.
?��� Banking institutions in Panama have strong ties to both Latin American and G7 countries. There are more than 120 banks in Panama City, making it a serious player in the international financial stage.
?��� Panamanian law firms are amongst the world most international, and have substantial exposure to Latin American clients.
?��� Panama as a distribution center for the world: Panama has long been the physical and cultural gateway to Latin America. It is the main distribution center for commercial goods and merchandise to Central and South America. The Colon Free Zone is one of the world's largest redistribution points, and as the economy of Latin America continues to expand, this trading role of Panama will grow in importance. The demand for trade financing will escalate accordingly. In the cultural sense Panama is the transition point from the industrialized world to Latin America. It is one of few countries that are equally capable in common law as in civil law; in English as in Spanish.

SECURITY:

?��� No Earthquakes
?��� No Hurricane
?��� No active volcanoes

QUALITY OF LIFE:

?��� No pollution
?��� Nice weather all year round
?��� Natural environment
?��� Fully Bilingual

MARKET OVERVIEW
Panama's population is estimated at 3.1 million. Approximately 72% of Panamanian households have a telephone line. Local calls represent 73 % of total traffic, and the mobile market is growing very fast with 810,000 customers
The telecommunications sectors have great potential to contribute to the economic development of Panama via direct investment in technology and infrastructure. Other sectors with growth potential are depending in technology as tourism and transportation, through the multi-modal transport infrastructure that includes the canal, ports, highways, railroad and telecommunication.
The telecommunication market open in January first 2003, and a legion of company with and without experience have receive a license from the Ente Regulador de los servicios publicos the local FCC who have grander more than 1419 licenses to 176 operators, the primary objective for most of the new players is International long distance and the use of services such as VOIP (voice over Internet) and VON (voice over the net). During 2003 the price of international call get down to 0.10 a minute and will go down to 0.05 when new operator start operation, especially using VOIP.
In 2003 The Regulatory Authority has ruled that in order to provide these services a license needs to be obtained. In an apparent attempt to stem telephone company revenue losses due to Internet telephony, the news operators TELECARRIER, CLAROCOM and CABLE & WIRELESS who use the technology for reducing their cost of operation but try to block the access to the free world ask the government of Panama to block 46 UDP ports by all Internet service providers. The ports include ones that are commonly used for voice over IP as well as some that are used for other purposes, apparently with the idea that these, too, could be used to circumvent the POTS (plain old telephone system, a term of art) in making telephone calls
According to the largest local telephone company, the amount of traffic generated by VON or VOIP represents a market of approximately US$30 million. VOIP future is still unclear because the Ente Regulador must rule on the use of VOIP.
On january 16 ,2004 the National Assembly approve the Law No 98 to eliminate a $ 1.00 tax on every International Call and replace by a 12 % tax on all International Call using any Tecnology : legacy Telecom, Internet, call back, prepaid card, This steep is the first intent of the Government to reduce the lost of around���� $ 30 Millions dollars the Traditional carrier are leaving to the Informal carrier as Net2Phone, Internet Telecom, DowNetwork and more 100 Internet caf� selling Internet call.
CALL CENTER
19 licenses has been issued for Call Centers since The government of Panama agreed to eliminate a US$1 tax on international calls in order to make call centers competitive with the rest of the world The principal participant are DELL, Health Link Networks, Language Line, Sitel, Spherion , and 5500 jobs have been already created.
ON LINE GAMBLING.
Panama has passed its fully regulated Internet Gaming laws. This makes it the only regulated jurisdiction in the world issuing licenses now to those operators wishing to stay on the good side of US law. Panama�s laws are of the same high standards as the Isle of Man, Nevada�s large casino-resorts� choice for I-gaming. Until now a very few company have apply for the license, mainly for the huge paperwork and the cost of the license. Costa Rica is still the success story with more 6000 casinos on line and gambling site.
The expectation of a large exodus of company from other Central American country as Costa Rica and several Caribbean island were the situation is unclear and the price of bandwidth is astronomical compare to Panama as not been a success yet, Panama must review the Business model and the cost of the license in order to actively participate in this market.
MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
Two authorized operators Cable & Wireless and Bellsouth Panama are fighting each other to gain customer but the price is still the higher in the region because of this dual monopoly .Total cellular phone users reached 810,000 in 2003 with good prospects for continued growth in the future, especially pre-paid services. Approximately 85 % of the estimated total market for wireless services (US$133 million) comes from Pre-Paid Services. The remaining 15% comes from Post Paid services, oriented primarily to corporate and personal high consumption users. Bellsouth, the largest cellular operator, accounts for 55% of the market. The other 45% is controlled by Cable & Wireless Panama. In 2003 Cable & Wireless mobile launch its new GSM/GPRS platform on 850 MHz, launched to upgrade its current TDMA platform, with capability for data transmission services. Bellsouth also launch a new platform (CDMA) which was operational in December 2002. Market growth due to the new platforms is expected to be at least 16% over the prior year.
A challenger Tricom, based in the Dominican Republic, which is offering cellular-look alike products based on Motorola�s IDEN digital radio trucking technology is trying to enter the market and resolving the legal issue be resolved by the Supreme Court, regarding the services directed to the corporate market to reduce the high cost of cellular and a new company is already been sued by MultiHolding the largest share Holder of Bell South. At this moment, however, the penetration of Tricom does not go beyond 6% of the total market and they are negotiating the exit of the market.
VOICE SERVICES
Voice Services include local, domestic, international long distance and public pay phones. Since the privatization of the government-owned operator (INTEL), Cable & Wireless has been offering basic services on a five year exclusive concession. This market condition granted by law ended on January 2nd 2003, when the market was opened to competition. With 420,000 lines installed (around 12.6 lines for each 100 inhabitants) and 365,000 customer on a digital platform installed by ALCATEL and Ericsson, Panama offers first class service compare to most of the Latin American countries. The total voice market in Panama is estimated at US$ 424 million. Local Services, including domestic long distance, represent about 80% of the total.
LOCAL SERVICES
As of january 20, 2004 , over 15 new operators have applied for Basic Service concessions. Operators such as Bellsouth, Telecarrier, Cable Onda, Galaxy Communications, Tricom, one world communication, cable Onda and Advanced Communications are already in operation and a price war help the customer to get a choice a services and price. Most of those concessions are only targeting the most populated zones of the country, mainly Panama City and Colon, leaving the rest of the country to be served by Cable & Wireless. This situation is largely due to the investment required not only to provide the service but to comply with the service standards set by the local telecommunications authority. The local Player with the best position will; be cable Onda who is already offering cable TV and Internet and will be offering Local, Long Distance and International telecommunication services soon..
DOMESTIC LONG DISTANCE SERVICES
26 licenses have been issued to operators that are going to provide Domestic Long Distance. Most of the operators currently own network infrastructure being used to transport data and to provide Internet services and last mille with Cable & Wireless, the price a an National long distance call was reduce from 0.15 to 0,10 by Telecarrier, and the Ente Regulator Fine $ 200,000 Cable & Wireless for not interconnecting other Carrier.
INTERNATIONAL LONG DISTANCE (ILD)
53 licenses have been issued to new operators of ILD This use to be the most profitable market segment, requiring lower infrastructure investment... Most of the new players are relying on third party network infrastructure as Altec Carrier Hotel and Telco Virtual and local loop provider to transport voice traffic. Interconnection agreements, service level agreements and local loop availability is the most important issues being faced by new entrants in this segment, and the Dominant operator is still trying very hard to not facilitate the entry of new carriers who will be waiting on line for the next two years in the Ente Regulator take a serious look of the situation and facilitate the intercommunion process between the company, for example a intercommunion agreement with Telecarrier or Bellsouth take 2 or 3 Weeks and with Cable & Wireless at least 9 months.
PAY PHONES
15 operators have obtained licenses to offer services representing a $ 50 million dollars market mostly in the largest city, leaving the largest part of the country without telecommunication services due to the high cost of installation and operation, cable & Wireless already asking a fair treatment from the Ente Regulator for universal access.
PRIVATE VOICE CIRCUITS
42 operators have been granted licenses to offer private voice circuits since January 2003.
DATA SERVICES
At least 47 companies have licenses to offer services for last mile and Internet dedicated access solutions the widespread use of wireless technologies such as Spread Spectrum and LMDS solutions, fiber optic and ADSL targeted to corporate and private users has been evolving since 2002...
The leaders is TELECARRIER who take over several companies including Alianza viva, TeleData, net2net and Fuzion telecommunication and still trying very hard to resolve technical issue cause by a wide range of disparate equipment from several manufactures, a other incumbent player is Optynex Telecom who use existing fiber optic cable from UFINET, ACP and Global Crossing and agreement with System One World communication to resale telecommunication value added service , other smaller players are GBnet, Sky On Line( Diveo &Teleglobe) Commnet,
Data services, account for a market size of US$75 million, with approximately 9500 point-to-point private circuits in operation.
INTERNET
79 providers are trying to survive with 145,000 paid internet accounts and an average 3 users per account, and more than 4000 direct connections through leased lines and other dedicated links, Public kiosk have been install around the country by SENACYT a Government sponsor institute , and INTERED a public peering point . The number of Internet dial-up connections kept growing in 2003 with the introduction of new prepaid services and charges per minute of connection.
Cable & Wireless launched in 2003 an aggressive campaign to penetrate the Internet market with ADSL technology. The Kilobyte price for dedicated Internet access dropped significantly, as the main providers such as Cable & Wireless, Telecarrier and Cable Onda lowered their rates. The new pricing structure benefited both residential and corporate markets, reaching a level of $39 per month for a dedicated 128K connection. Internet access, hosting and first tier IP services represented approximated a US$27 million market, showing an increase of 18% over the prior year.
PANAMA MARKET SIZE
US$ Million��� 2000��� 2001��� 2002��� 2003
Population��� 2.9��� 3.0��� 3.0��� 3.1
User POT Line��� 429,135��� 381,912��� 386,904��� 365,100
Mobile user��� 410,401��� 475,141��� 525,845��� 810,00
Local call��� 1,241��� 1,146��� 1,099��� 1,068
International ��� 39,3��� 39,5��� 39,4��� 39,5
National Call��� 397,2��� 378,3��� 416,1��� 394,8
call POT Line��� 1,677��� 1,593��� 1,554��� 1,5003
Data Revenue��� 55,0��� 60,0��� 65,0��� 75,0
Internet��� 29,0��� 31,0��� 35,0��� 40,0
��� ��� ��� ���
DENSITY PER 100 HAB��� ��� ��� ���
FIX LINE��� 14,6��� 12,7��� 12,6��� 11,7
MOBILE��� ���� ���� 13.9��� 15.8��� 17.2��� 26.0����
Source : Ente Regulador de los Servicios Publicos

BUSINESS OPORTUNITIES
The telecommunications sector offers excellent growth opportunities for the immediate future with very low investment using the existing infrastructure provided by Cable & Wireless and other incumbent enterprise.
THE BEST OPPORTUNITIES ARE:
IDC (Internet Data Center) and carrier Hotel, disaster recovery center, Collocation, Hosting, Data transmission and data switching, Internet access, internet Kiosk, value added mobile services.
The most growth potential is Voice over IP (VOIP) Over the last year VOIP has been considered an illegal activity by the telecommunications regulatory office but this solution is already offer by more than 40 company and the market leader is NET2PHONE who have more than 6000 customers and 90 % of the Colon Free zone customer who use to be the largest international long distance customer segment, the Ente regulator if trying is best to fine the companies without any success and is under severe pressure from international and local organization to eliminate the decision to block the 24 internet port who will create a regional chaos in the industries because of the submarine fiber optic cable carrying the traffic to the region.
On the positive side, VOIP is a reality and the new law may facilitate the use of the internet to make cheap phone call , several official carrier are using the Tecnology and Telecarrier CEO , Luis La Rocca quit is job to work with VOIP Panama one of the first legal carrier using this Tecnology to reduce the cost .
In Panama It very easy and inexpensive to apply for a license from the Ente regulator at this date more than 1,419 licenses as been issued and is no limit of the quantity of new operators. However the market tends to be highly concentrated, as 6 operators controlling 80% of the market and the red tape impose by cable & Wireless cause already several casualties with the new Carrier trying to make a �Bingo�, without experience and investment, for example Telecarrier is losing $ 675,000 monthly to enter the market and the only success story is ClaroCom who take over 32 % of Cable & Wireless International Business in the last 6 month.
The remainder are small companies operating long distance switch , trunking radio services, paging, Internet services, data transmission, fax store & forward, teletex, and many� paper company� without money or real intention to participate actively just trying to make money selling the licenses to new investors.
For complete Information related to the public services is available from the Ente web page: www.enteregulador.gob.pa that at the moment is only available in Spanish and if you are interested to enter the market without to many red tape you may use our service to speed up the process and reduce your cost, we have expert in every field including legal, technical, local support and the best location in a tax free environment in the City of Knowledge TecnoPark www.telcovirtual.com