Monthly Archives: March 2009

Spatial competition for … GPS frequency

China is set to claim a frequency that the European Commission wants to use for a security-oriented portion of the Galileo navigation satellite project.

Talks between European and Chinese officials have failed to resolve the dispute, adding another obstacle to Europe’s hopes of challenging the GPS network’s global monopoly, just as China and Russia are moving ahead with competing programs of their own. As Gallileo is being delayed, the Chinese are moving forward with their own system which goes under the name Beidou (named after the Big Dipper constellation).

The problem? China plans to transmit signals on the wavelength that the European Union wants to use for Galileo’s Public Regulated Service. Following ITU policies the first country to start using a specific frequency is granted priority status, meaning that Europe would be unable to use the wavelength unless it received China’s permission.

The real problem? The Galileo consortium had hoped to recoup part of its USD 2.5 billion investment in Galileo by selling receivers and commercial signal subscriptions in China. Now that Beidou is set to offer a free non-military service inside China the European business model will need some rework.

Chinese viral art


A painting entitled “Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante” by Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An (2006, oil on canvas) has been spreading across the Internet for quite some time.

By clicking on the image, you can now put a name on all the faces.

Ever heard of Chongqing?

Not only is Chongqing allegedly the biggest city in the world (with more than 32 million inhabitants), it now has a significant ambition in building an industrial park for 3G. The Chongqing government has just announced plans to build the first “RMB100 billion* output” 3G mobile phone industrial park in western China.

The Chongqing industrial park will focus on circuit chip manufacturing, mobile phone manufacturing and mobile phone design for their domestically-developed 3G standard (TD-SCDMA). The industrial park is expected to produce 30 million 3G mobile phones in 2015. But competition from other industrial zones will be tough: China’s three telecommunication operators announced they will set up a TD-SCDMA park in Zhejiang province before 2011.

Although these grand plans may raise doubts in terms of their feasibility or pledged investment one has to remember that a big part of China’s economic devlopment took place in special economic zones (SEZs) during the 1980s with the success we know…

*Around USD 14 billion

Where does your hard disk come from?

Does “Made in ….” really mean anything anymore? If you are a Champagne producer, the answer would probably still be “yes” and one could argue that in this case origin and brand carry a lot of meaning too for consumers.

But what about a hard disk or for that matter any component of a computer? The answer would probably be “no”. In fact, that’s a good thing since determining where a product comes from is increasingly difficulty when components criss-cross the world to be used as inputs in “moving” assembly plants.

But who cares if a hard disk and its parts comes from Vietnam, South China, Malaysia or Japan… Well, we should, since moving around of all these parts carries an important environmental cost – economists would speak about negative externalities. Hopefully, one day product traceability will allow us to put a price on the environmental cost of these sophisticated supply chains and make informed and sensible purchasing decisions.

Supply chain for a hard disk assembled in Thailand: components are sourced from no less than 11 countries

Source: Baldwin R. and Evenett S. (2009) The collapse of global trade, murky protectionism, and the crisis: Recommendations for the G20

Is China an information society?

ITU just released a report measuring the information society. A few points stand out:- China started offering fibre-to-the-home FTTH: with 1.5% fiber-connected households, the country ranks 11th in the world;
- By the end of 2008, more than 20% of Chinese used the Internet and the country reported over 1.5 million local websites;
- On the ICT development index (IDI), China still figures in the medium segment, with countries like Indonesia, Cuba or Albania;
Source: ITU (2009)
- In 2007, China had 27 fixed-phones per 100 inhabitants, 41 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants and 22% of households with access to the Internet (doubled in 5 years).

For sure, the strategy “build it and they will come” – aka the Korean model – seems to be working when it comes to rolling out fiber. But the government still have plenty of work to go, starting with e-government. The numerous “golden” projects to make China a knowledge economy didn’t really hold their promises and for a country with 600 million mobile phone users, “only” 120 million access the Internet via their mobile phone.