Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Brightpoint to distribute Skype products and services

Brightpoint, Inc. has entered into a non-binding cooperation agreement with Skype Technologies S.A., under which Brightpoint will act as an authorized distributor.

Brightpoint will initially focus on promoting Skype products and premium services to its independent agent/dealer channels, mass and specialty retailers (including university bookstores, hot spots, copy/shipping retailers, mall kiosks) and wireless network operator customers in the United States, Australia, the Philippines, India and New Zealand.

The companies will work on a definitive binding agreement, and at this moment no assurance can be given that Brightpoint can or will enter into the definitive binding agreement with Skype.

TV may finally marry the PC in RP


YOKOHAMA, Japan — If PLDT’s Manny V. Pangilinan seems persistent in taking over, or at least buying a part of television network GMA-7, he may not be thinking of just expanding his company’s telecommunications empire. He might be preparing for the marriage of TV to the PC in the country.

The fusion of these two different but still related technologies, to be called IP TV, is a major direction that technology firm Alcatel is pushing and which PLDT, if and when it acquires the television station, is in a position to bring to fruition.

In a recent forum held in here, Alcatel officials said telephone operators, particularly those that also maintain cable stations, are the ideal parties that can offer television programs via the Internet. Going by these requirements, PLDT is a perfect fit since it is the country’s dominant carrier, owns a stake in Beyond Cable (the holdings company of Sky-Home Cable), and can use GMA-7 programs as content for viewers of IP TV.

"The TV, not the PC, will be the future carrier of information and entertainment," said Fazal Bahardeen, vice president for fixed solutions of Alcatel. "The IP TV is for real."

The Alcatel official explained the IP TV technology market makes a lot of sense since based on the current ratio, TV sets outnumber PCs in homes six to one.

"In terms of accessibility and viability, IP TV can be both beneficial to the consumers and the operators. Instead of a cable box, subscribers can just buy a setup box which, by the way, has gone down significantly in cost," he said.

With IP TV, Bahardeen said viewers can avail of video-on-demand, allowing them to watch programs at their own pace and not be tied up on the television station’s programming schedule.

If attempts in the past failed to merge the identity of the PC and TV, today’s more mature technology market is better prepared to accomplish that goal, he said.

The executive said that numerous advances have been made since the technology was first broached five years ago. One of them, he said, is Alcatel’s recent partnership with software giant Microsoft to provide a platform where programs can be delivered through IP TV.

According to Bahardeen, the partnership is a formidable one because it combines the leading broadband technology of Alcatel (for the back-end) as well as the dominant position of Microsoft (for the front-end) to provide the integrated network infrastructure of IP TV.

Aside from the Microsoft partnership, Paris-based Alcatel has made strategic investments in the video space, including acquisitions of four video-related companies. It has conducted extensive R&D in video technology, and even forming a broadband entertainment group within the company in 2001.

"Besides, PC has proven itself to be a poor carrier of video. Nothing beats viewing video in a TV set," he said, adding that Alcatel has established an "ecosystem of partners" with consumer electronics vendors as well as video and digital high-end manufacturers.

But the realization of IP TV in the Philippines, as in any other country, Bahardeen said, will still largely depend on the regulatory environment. "Regulation is a ticklish issue that each country has to address first as this will determine whether the technology will flourish or be hindered."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ignorance of security measures makes networks vulnerable

SECURITY threats – whether hacking or denial-of-service attacks, Trojans or viruses – are fast evolving into far more malicious attacks on companies vulnerable due to ignorance or slow implementation of security strategies, experts said at a recent security forum.

Such a trend is nothing new but where attacks happen, few are reported and, in most cases, human ignorance and tardiness make things worse. Many of today’s attacks are not just for kicks by pranksters but by criminals with more malevolent intent. One such security threat that’s seeing a revival is “ransomware,” a criminal technique of threatening to damage a company’s infrastructure or database unless ransom is paid.

Congress proposes tougher cyber crime law

A House committee is proposing passage of a law that will get tough on illegal activities committed in cyberspace, including computer fraud, forgery and sabotage and unauthorized access.

Emphasizing the importance of passing a cyber crime law House Committee on Information and Communications Technology chairman and Cebu 2nd district Rep. Simeon Kintanar said Thursday that crimes committed through the use of information and communications technology should be a foremost concern.

"Cyberspace is fast becoming a fertile ground for individuals and groups in launching and pushing their illegal activities. We need a law specifically to address this growing threat," Kintanar said.

Ilocos Sur 2nd district Rep. Eric Singson said that cyber crimes committed over the past years, like the release of a virus that disrupted major computer networks worldwide, has gone unpunished simply because there is no law covering these abuses of technology.

The proposed measures, House Bill nos. 1246, 2093, 2528, and 3777 cover activities such as computer fraud; forgery and sabotage; damage to computer data or programs; unauthorized access to or interception of computer data; data or system interference; and unsolicited commercial communications.

Consolidations of the bills are now being forged as the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology has begun hearings on the measures.

The proposed measures also complement the E Commerce Law, the Intellectual Property Rights Act, the Consumer Act, Revised Penal Code and other relevant laws by further specifying computer related offenses and providing for their corresponding penalties.

Singson one of the main proponents of the bill, said it is imperative to set up policies dealing with cyber crimes since they are getting more sophisticated by the day.

Appearing at the hearing of the committee, National Bureau of Investigation's Anti-Fraud and Computer Crime Division chief Atty. Efren Meneses, Jr. said the proposed measures are comprehensive since they covered all the important aspect to address cyber crime.

He said that vital to the NBI's effort are the provisions concerning data retention, child pornography, the grounds for refusal to cooperate with international agencies, and the creation of a body to coordinate the law enforcement.

Undersecretary Wencelito Andanar of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) noted that cyber crime is considered a transnational crime.

"Cyber terrorism is one areas of concern in the ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting on Transnational Crime," he added.

The other authors of the bills are Reps. Amado Espino (2nd District, Pangasinan), Nanette Castelo Daza (4th District, Quezon City), and Harlin Cast. Abayon (1st District, Northern Samar).
By Alexander Villafania INQ7.net
THE CONGRESSIONAL committee on information and communications technology (ICT) is pushing to include penalties against wiretapping of mobile phones in the wake of the alleged wiretapping of President Gloria Arroyo’s conversations.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

NTC requires wireless firms to report on network security

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva INQ7.net

THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has asked Philippine mobile phone operators in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday to submit a report on how they secure their networks.

This is in the wake of the current exposé on alleged wiretapping of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's mobile phone conversations, supposedly with a poll body official, an NTC official told INQ7.net.

The report will be used as additional information in a joint investigation of the wiretapping incident by the NTC and the Department of Transportation and Communication, according to NTC Deputy Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento in a telephone interview.

For two hours, Sarmiento and NTC Commissioner Ronald Solis met with legal and technical representatives of Globe Telecom, Smart Communications, Bayantel, and Sun Cellular to solicit information on

how they secure their GSM networks from eavesdropping or interception.

The NTC official said the operators assured the NTC that they have internal measures in place to ensure the security of their communications networks. The operators admitted however, that they “have no way of preventing eavesdroppers from intercepting GSM calls,” Sarmiento said, quoting local mobile phone operators.

“But they assured us that the calls [are] all encrypted," he added, saying that it’s the job of the operators to ensure that mobile phone calls are not vulnerable to eavesdroppers or interception.

"If they say that they had no way of detecting external attacks, then we think they're not doing their job to protect their subscribers," the NTC official added. "I believe the operators should not wash their hands [of] the possibility of such external attacks from happening."

The NTC deputy commissioned appealed to Malacañang and the National Bureau of Investigation to provide them the necessary information to aid their investigation.

"In the first place, we still have to establish if the wiretapped call was intercepted over the air. We need to know this first because right now we're just working on what we read in the newspapers," he added.

In separate interviews, spokespersons of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications had stressed earlier that intercepting GSM calls were impossible. "Our supplier guarantees that our network cannot be tapped. This has been the case for the past 10 years. But in any case, we still have to establish if those taped conversations were indeed intercepted over the air," said Jones Campos, Globe Telecom’s assistant vice president for public relations.

"They are now asking us to report on how secure is our networks but they’re not considering that this can affect our business," he said, adding, “Neither is it clear whether the wiretapped conversations were from a mobile phone call or a landline call.”

Ramon Isberto, head of public affairs of Smart Communications, for his part said that the mobile phone operators are "as much the victims here." "This is something that we don't want to happen to our subscribers, especially to that special subscriber [Macapagal-Arroyo]," he quipped.

Former Alcatel executive Jun Lozada, for one, believes that, “Mobile phone calls using the GSM network can be scanned and intercepted using a special equipment. Operators use scanning equipment to test their network. But in the matter of intercepting calls, this is a different matter," he told INQ7. net in a telephone interview.

"If a testing equipment can scan GSM calls, then it is also possible to intercept it. But only law enforcement agencies can avail of such equipment," said Lozada, a certified electronics and communications engineer who worked for Alcatel for 10 years.

"There's no doubt that a law enforcement agency agent from the present or past administration intercepted those calls. So it's possible to eavesdrop on the existing GSM network," he observed.

He revealed that law enforcement agencies, past and present, have been using such special eavesdropping equipment - worth about half a million dollars - for anti-terrorism and anti-kidnapping activities in the Philippines the past years.

"So there is really good use for this technology. Marami nang na-resolve na cases sa Pilipinas using this technology (A lot of cases have been resolved in the Philippines using this technology). So let's not put the jobs of these good people in law enforcement [in] jeopardy due to some political interest of some people," Lozada added.

Eavesdropping on GSM calls is not really a technical issue because it is now possible if you have the money buy such equipment, he stressed.

What GSM is all about

Philippine mobile phone networks are currently using a technology called GSM, short for global system for mobile communications. It is a digital mobile telephone system now widely used in Europe and other parts of the world.

A mobile phone is essentially a radio. Whenever a phone call takes place, a call (audio signal) is encrypted into a digital signal and transmitted over the air using a specific frequency. This encrypted digital signal is transmitted by so-called base stations to the intended receiver. The digital signal is then decrypted and assembled back into an audio signal that you can decipher. It works like a walkie-talkie, albeit a more sophisticated one.

A ZDNet article on May 2005 however quoted a Melbourne-based firm on the possibility of intercepting and decrypting GSM network calls using special scanning devices.

"There are devices available for interception and decoding [GSM calls] in real time? Although they are strictly speaking illegal in most countries, you can buy them," Roman Korolik, managing director of SecureGSM was quoted as saying in a ZDNet article. Krolick believes these scanners are already being used to intercept sensitive GSM calls.

In 1999, Finnish professor Lauri Pesonen of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Helsinki University of Technology exposed the security risks of GSM networks He wrote in a paper that the "GSM security model is broken on many levels and is thus vulnerable to numerous attacks targeted at different parts of an operator's network? If somebody wants to intercept a GSM call, he can do so. It cannot be assumed that the GSM security model provides any kind of security against a dedicated attacker."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

NTC seeks telcos' help in wiretapping probe

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva INQ7.net

THE NATIONAL Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has scheduled a meeting with local telephone companies on Wednesday, as it begins its own investigation into the alleged wiretapping of the telephone conversations of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with a supposed Commission on Elections official, an NTC official told INQ7.net.

"We're calling the telephone companies into a meeting to look at how could this happen. We will tap their expertise, although we're not really implicating them in this recent incident," said NTC Deputy Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento, quoting NTC Commissioner Ronald Solis.

The official stressed that NTC would seek the technical expertise of the telephone companies, the official added.

Wiretapping, unless permitted by a court order, is illegal in the Philippines.

Malacañang has ordered the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the NTC (NTC) to step into the investigation of the telephone conversations of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that were allegedly wiretapped and digitally altered.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has personally asked DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza and the NTC "to do something about this so this can be prevented and at the same time cause an investigation as to why this happened."

Malacañang released on Monday two compact discs containing what it said was original telephone conversations of the President and another version that Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye claimed had been "spliced" to make it appear she was talking to an election official about the rigging of the May 2004 elections.

Bunye has claimed that the President had been talking to a political operative and not an elections official.

Copies of the CDs have been sent to the National Bureau of Investigation for examination.

Bunye alleged that a small group within the opposition was behind the wiretapping of the President's conversations.

Broadband bandwagon

Broadband technology is fast becoming a raging fashion in most of Asia – and guess what – the Philippines is not into it, at least not yet.

I arrived at this impression just recently after I attended the Broadband World Forum Asia last week in Yokohama, Japan. The event was organized by the IEC (International Engineering Consortium) and supported by major broadband players such as Alcatel, which sponsored my trip as the lone media representative from the Philippines.

Japan, the world’s second largest economy, hasn’t attained that same level of success in terms of broadband penetration as compared with its next-door neighbor South Korea. But this may soon change as Japan, known for being always at the forefront of technological innovations, has made clear of its vision to transform into a broadband nation.

And when the Japanese say they want to deploy broadband connectivity to homes and offices, they’re referring to fiber-optics, not to copper-based xDSL that is already pervasive in that country.

This case is roughly the same for Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, which are often lumped together with Japan and South Korea, as countries in Asia that can claim to have mature broadband markets.

But how important really is broadband to the life of a nation? Is it as vital as having, say, a good telephone network? The answer is much more than that.

The picture is far broader than just having a working telephone, radio, TV, and Internet infrastructure.

The runaway success of South Korea is a case in point.

It has made broadband technology its nervous system where almost all economic activities of the nation emanate. Thanks to broadband, the country is now the undisputed king of online gaming, earning millions of dollars of revenues from popular titles such as Ragnarok Online.

This is one rewarding effect that, I think, even the visionary leaders of South Korea did not expect when they were still laying out the broadband infrastructure of their country. An accidental benefit that brought in the money, as some might say.

It may be costly — or even risky — to jump on the broadband bandwagon, but as shown by the Korean example, it is the only way in which struggling nations can tap the power of modern technology and the Internet for their own advantage. Also, the advent of 3G technology would make that jump to broadband inevitable.

Obviously, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, the NTT Group, has gotten a firm grasp of this reality. Noteworthy is the welcome message of its president and CEO, Norio Wada, to the broadband forum participants: "The field of infocommunications is now facing a great turning point throughout the world. We are witnessing the spread of the broadband and ubiquitous network environment through the shift from fixed-line to mobile and from voice to data and video communications."

Indeed, the Philippines is now on a crossroads, only in a different level with that of Japan. While Japanese carriers are now contemplating of a massive deployment of fiber-optic-based broadband network, the Philippines is still grappling to migrate from dial-up access.

As indicated in the latest study done by research firm IDC, dial-up continues to be the most popular Internet access service in the country in 2004, although it did not disclose its actual market share. It cited, however, that "broadband access, particularly ADSL, is on the upswing."

The survey also noted the total Internet access services subscribers reached 3.2 million, or a 45-precent growth from the end of 2003. "Pure-play Internet service providers (ISPs) dominate the dial-up market in terms of number of subscribers, while carriers lead the broadband market," IDC said.

This survey puts into the spotlight the crucial roles of industry players and the government in establishing a sound broadband policy that would benefit the whole country.

In order that roll-out of broadband technologies can be made easier and faster, the government can perhaps cultivate a more open and collaborative environment where private enterprises can freely compete to offer the best service. I’m not talking here about fiber-optics; a DSL connection can be a good starting point.

The private sector, on the other hand, can assist the government in delivering basic services to the people via the Internet using broadband technology.

Government agencies can then be linked to each other using the same infrastructure. This way, e-governance is facilitated which in turn will pave the way for a healthy economy.

Too good to be true? South Korea and Japan are living proofs that these can happen.
Comments to melvsgc@yahoo.com or infotech@mb.com.ph

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

NTC is under attack anew

By edu h. lopez MB

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is under attack as more sectors have called for the revamp of the regulatory agency.

Earlier, former NTC chairman and now Rep. Joseph Santiago of Catanduanes has called not only for a restructuring but the abolition of the NTC.

"The regulatory agency has abandoned its duty to supervise and keep up the network efficiency standards of cellular mobile telephone system (CMTS) operators," says Rep. Santiago in a statement.

"NTC has voluntarily rendered itself toothless. In its latest ruling, the commission virtually surrendered its power to set and require compliance with minimum network performance standards to the very operators that are supposed to be regulated by the agency," said Santiago, who once served as NTC chief for two years.

"The NTC has just committed hara-kiri. What is the point of Congress giving the agency public funds for spending? We might as well abolish the commission."

Santiago was referring to a provisional order issued by the NTC last week. The new order effectively scrapped the network quality standards previously imposed on CMTS operators.

Under the new NTC guidelines, CMTS operators may set their own minimum service performance standards for new price plans, as long as the standards are disclosed to the NTC and to the subscribing public.

Under the previous NTC order, Memo Circular 07-06-2002, CMTS operators were mandated to maintain a Grade of Service (GOS) of at least seven percent and a dropped call rate (DCR) of no more than five percent.

This means that in order for a network to be considered efficient, at least 93 out of every 100 calls should succeed on the first attempt, and that no more than five out of 100 calls shall be prematurely and involuntarily terminated.

"This is pathetic. The NTC’s idea of upholding network efficiency standards is to allow CMTS operators to set their own rules. What the commissioners do not dare admit is that the NTC does not even have the ability to determine if the operators are in fact complying with their self-imposed standards," Santiago said.

He stressed that the NTC has not been conducting network efficiency tests regularly, nor sanctioning those violating previously set performance standards.

"This is totally wrongful. The NTC seems to be rewarding operators that have not been complying with mandatory performance standards. The commission also appears to be punishing operators that have invested large sums to build up their networks in order to comply with the minimum standards," Santiago added.

"During our watch, we worked hard to strengthen the NTC and make it a more effective instrument for the public interest. Sadly, the existing NTC leadership appears bent on emasculating the commission and on undermining its legal and moral authority," Santiago said.

NTC issued the new order pending resolution of the administrative cases earlier filed by Pilipino Telephone Corp. (Piltel) and Innove Communications Inc. against Digital Mobile Philippines Inc., operator of Sun Cellular, for alleged violations of NTC Memo Circular 07-062002.

Piltel, a sister firm of Smart Communications Inc., and Innove, an affiliate of Globe Telecom Inc., had alleged that Sun Cellular was operating well below the network efficiency standards set by the NTC circular.

"Assuming for the sake of argument that the new NTC order is valid, Sun Cellular is technically still in violation because nowhere in their advertisements did they warn prospective subscribers of a dismal call completion rate when they (Sun Cellular) launched their unlimited 24/7 promotion," Santiago said "At this point, even Globe’s grade of service appears questionable because you can connect only after three attempts," he added.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Republic of the Philippines
City of Olongapo

June 6, 2005

The Commissioners
National Telecommunications Commission


This pertains to the application of GV Broadcasting System, Inc. to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for a certificate of public convenience (CPC) relative to its plan to operate an FM station in Olongapo City.

Even as the City of Olongapo respectfully requests for an extension of fifteen (15) days from today within which to formally submit its written opposition to said application, in view of lack of material time for the City Council to deliberate on the matter and craft the necessary resolution, we, nevertheless, would like to express today our opposition to the application.

The market of Olongapo City is quite small for it to accommodate another player in the broadcast industry. For FM stations alone, there are now 3 stations servicing the City and the Subic Bay Freeport. In addition, there are 2 AM stations and 2 TV stations.

In the meantime, we cater to an audience of about fifty thousand (estimated number of population with access to radio and TV). Local commercial establishments that avail of media space only number to less than a hundred.

It is thus plain to see that one more player would, at this point, wreak havoc to the viability of the existing broadcast networks in the City. Another player would insufferably saturate the already bloated local broadcast industry.

We, therefore, express our objection to GV Broadcasting System, Inc.’s application for CPC, including the granting of provisional authority, from the Honorable Commission.

Thank you.

City Councilor
Chairman, Telecom & IT Board
Chairman, Committee on Telecommunications