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  • BTC expands IPTV beta testing

    Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has expanded its IPTV beta testing following positive feedback, the Nassau Guardian reported. BTC CEO León Williams said the company had expanded the service, which provides digital channels through a broadband connection to Cat Island, Long island, Inagua and Andros. Williams noted that the company's next challenge lies in identifying optimal transmission methods specific to the infrastructure needs of each island. "The technology and methodology of the network we're using may be completely different by island. So for example in Bimini we may be using DSL and VDSL, and in Cat Island for example we're using point-to-point protocol," Williams said. Cable Bahamas currently controls over 92% of the country's pay TV market. BTC launched beta testing in Bimini last December, ultimately testing the service with approximately 130 people. Although Williams did not have a concrete timeframe for the service's commercial launch, he said that beta testing would conclude in 2015. BTC was privatized in April 2011, with Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) taking over a controlling stake of the former state operator. This year CWC's proposed acquisition of Columbus International was approved.

  • Facebook's Internet.org a 'risk,' Rousseff told

    Dozens of Brazilian NGOs, consumer defense organizations and digital activists signed an open letter to President Dilma Rousseff in which they claim Facebook's Internet.org project might represent a "risk" to open and free internet in the country. During the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama, Rousseff and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met and announced the arrival of the Internet.org initiative in Brazil – although much remains unclear about how the project will be actually implemented there. The main concern of the signatories relates to the concept of network neutrality. The Internet.org initiative aims to take digital inclusion to underserved areas by offering, in partnership with operators, free access to selected public services apps or websites. The problem is that, in Brazil, there is an ongoing debate about whether such access would represent a prioritization of traffic – since other players would not have the economic power to close similar deals with carriers – and therefore contravene the network neutrality rule. "While we are in accordance with the diagnosis that there is a large deficit in the quality and reach of access to fixed and mobile internet in developing countries like Brazil, we believe that this project, promoted by Facebook in several countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, could jeopardize the future of the information society, the economy in the digital environment and the rights of users in the network, such as privacy, freedom of expression and net neutrality," the letter states. According to those critics, free and exclusive access to certain services and applications – known as zero-rating – limits internet access to other existing services on the web and goes against the country's civil internet law, the Marco Civil da Internet. In their opinion, while enabling access to some services, in the long run zero-rating deals end up generating concentration of infrastructure and monopoly over data network traffic, "reducing both the availability of content, applications and services on the internet and the user's freedom of choice." They ask Rousseff not to sign any deal with Facebook under Internet.org's "free internet" scope. They also claim that any eventual agreement with companies such as Facebook must respect Marco Civil da Internet's principles and that it be preceded by a debate involving civil society. The letter also invokes the principles of "open internet" enshrined in the NetMundial meeting on internet governance and by the Brazilian multi-stakeholder internet steering committee CGI.br. Furthermore, it says Facebook's platform is a "door" to mass surveillance. Internet.org critics cite Uruguay's Plano Ceibal as a example of "excellent international alternative" to boost digital inclusion.

  • Facebook's Internet.org a 'risk', Rousseff told

    Dozens of Brazilian NGOs, consumer defense organizations and digital activists signed an open letter to President Dilma Rousseff in which they claim Facebook's Internet.org project might represent a "risk" to open and free internet in the country. During the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama, Rousseff and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met and announced the arrival of the Internet.org initiative in Brazil – although much remains unclear about how the project will be actually implemented there. The main concern of the signatories relates to the concept of network neutrality. The Internet.org initiative aims to take digital inclusion to underserved areas by offering, in partnership with operators, free access to selected public services apps or websites. The problem is that, in Brazil, there is an ongoing debate about whether such access would represent a prioritization of traffic – since other players would not have the economic power to close similar deals with carriers – and therefore contravene the network neutrality rule. "While we are in accordance with the diagnosis that there is a large deficit in the quality and reach of access to fixed and mobile internet in developing countries like Brazil, we believe that this project, promoted by Facebook in several countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, could jeopardize the future of the information society, the economy in the digital environment and the rights of users in the network, such as privacy, freedom of expression and net neutrality," the letter states. According to those critics, free and exclusive access to certain services and applications – known as zero-rating – limits internet access to other existing services on the web and goes against the country's civil internet law, the Marco Civil da Internet. In their opinion, while enabling access to some services, in the long run zero-rating deals end up generating concentration of infrastructure and monopoly over data network traffic, "reducing both the availability of content, applications and services on the internet and the user's freedom of choice." They ask Rousseff not to sign any deal with Facebook under Internet.org's "free internet" scope. They also claim that any eventual agreement with companies such as Facebook must respect Marco Civil da Internet's principles and that it be preceded by a debate involving civil society. The letter also invokes the principles of "open internet" enshrined in the NetMundial meeting on internet governance and by the Brazilian multi-stakeholder internet steering committee CGI.br. Furthermore, it says Facebook's platform is a "door" to mass surveillance. Internet.org critics cite Uruguay's Plano Ceibal as a example of "excellent international alternative" to boost digital inclusion.

  • Telefónica Celular S.A. (Celtel)

    Telefónica Celular (Celtel), a subsidiary of Millicom International Celular, is a mobile telephony provider in Honduras operating under the brand name Tigo. The company operates a GSM and a 3G network and has also acquired a WiMax license but has not yet performed a commercial launch. Celtel launched operations in 1996 as the first mobile operator in Honduras and held a monopoly status until late 2003, when Megatel entered the market as a second operator. In 2014, Honduras' congress extended the concession contract of the company until 2028. That same year, Tigo launched its 4G LTE network in the country. Celtel was founded in 1994 and is based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

  • TREND: Pension funds face longer life expectancies

    Longer life expectancy is forcing pension funds to rethink the retirement age of their affiliates throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). In 2010-15, women aged 65 could expect to live an additional 18.6 years in LAC countries, and by 2050-55 they are expected to live an additional 22 years, according to the Pensions at a Glance report compiled by the IDB, OECD and The World Bank. Men of the same age could expect to live 16.1 more years in 2010-15, and 2.8 more years in 2050-55. As a result of the forecasts, pensions at age 65 will become 15-20% more expensive, forcing countries to consider increasing retirement age, the report said. A leading example of this trend is Chile, where women reaching 65 in 2050-55 are expected to live another 25.8 years. Costa Rica leads in the region in the case of men, with an additional life expectancy of 22 years by 2050-55. Chile's pension fund regulator has submitted a new mortality table for public consultation. It estimates that women will live an additional 31.1 years upon reaching 60, while men of 65 will live another 20.6 years. The new table will come into effect in July 2016.

  • comScore, Inc.

    ComScore is a US IT consultancy which provides a digital marketing intelligence platform that helps customers make business decisions and implement digital business strategies. This capability is based on a global cross-section of approximately 2 million internet users who have given comScore permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing. The company's services are used by over 950 clients, including Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and Google. With its recent acquisition of M:Metrics, comScore is also a source of data on mobile usage. Based in Reston, Virginia and with regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile, the company also has offices in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Peru.

  • Mexico school water project 'stuck in starting gate'

    Mexicans are ranked the world's heaviest consumers of bottled water, with each person consuming on average 67gl a year. But a government program could see that level of consumption inch down – if it is carried out. Last year, the Mexican government launched a school drinking water fountain plan. It ordered that by 2017 drinking water fountains be installed in all elementary schools, middle and high schools, according to information in the country's official gazette. But not all is going to plan, Nathalie Seguin, coordinator of action group freshwater action network (FAN-Mexico) told BNamericas. "The program is not being accomplished at all; the government has not even awarded the budget, coming from a soda drink tax, that it had to assign to this program," Seguin said. In order to achieve its goal, Mexico must to invest 3.5bn pesos in year one, 3.8bn pesos in year two and 4.1bn pesos in year three, according to information from Mexican civil organization El Poder Del Consumidor (power of the consumer.) In January 2014, Mexico introduced a tax on soda drinks to help reduce rising rates of obesity and diabetes in the country. Revenue from the tax is meant to help fund the school water fountain program. During the first half of 2014, 7bn pesos in soda drink tax was collected, but not one fountain had been installed, senator Marcela Peimbert said last October. THE DATA In Mexico there are 205,931 schools, according to data from statistics agency Inegi. – 148,931 receive water from the public network. – 19,647 receive well water – 15,415 receive water in containers – 7,555 receive water from a pipe – 6,489 receive no water

  • Mexico's grid upgrades continue apace

    In a bid to upgrade its aging infrastructure and stem losses, Mexico's state utility CFE has awarded a smart grid contract to Silver Spring Networks for the capital city's central district, reducing power theft and allowing customers to monitor their consumption. Around 47% of the country's transmission lines are more than 20 years old, with only 8% built within the last five years. In partnership with Tecnologías EOS, part of the Megacable and Hola Innovación consortium, Silver Spring will deploy a canopy network across various residential and commercial areas of Mexico City's Centro Histórico neighborhood (pictured) for approximately 140,000 residential and commercial customers, providing connectivity solutions to cabinets housing a group of centralized meters. Silver Spring will also provide its multi-application IPv6 network and UtilityIQ software suite to connect and manage the individual cabinet meters, the California-based utility solutions firm said in a press release. "Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the Americas. We're honored to partner with Tecnologías EOS for the Megacable and Hola Innovacion consortium, and to help CFE modernize their infrastructure to help reduce energy loss, ensure revenue protection, and improve service and reliability to millions of their customers," the company's executive vice president of global sales and development Eric Dresselhuys said. "CFE is developing a model that energy providers across Latin America can look to for guidance as they begin to roll out infrastructure modernization programs in their regions." The CFE loses 45bn pesos a year (US$3.4bn) due to technical faults and theft, the energy regulatory commission (CRE) said last May. Of those losses, 15.3% is due to technical faults and 6% due to theft or illegal connections to the grid. That percentage can rise to 35% in some parts of Mexico City, Silver Spring said. In March the CFE said that, during the current administration, it was committed to reducing losses to around 10-11% from the current 15%. Silver Spring's cabinet-level networking and software solution will enable the CFE to reduce non-technical losses, increase billing accuracy, deploy remote connect and disconnect operations, and help ensure the safe delivery of its energy supply to its customers. Earlier this month, the CFE reported it had reduced the number of power outages in Mexico City and neighboring Mexico state by some 87.5% since 2010 as a result of infrastructure upgrades. Residents of the Valley of Mexico, which comprises the capital city and part of the neighboring and heavily industrialized Mexico state, suffered an average of 55 minutes of power interruptions in 2014, down from 440 minutes, (7 hours and 20 minutes), in 2010. The CFE has invested 3.76bn pesos (US$244.2mn) in upgrading the area's transmission and distribution infrastructure over the last four years. Works have included the installation of new circuits, new insulation on power lines and posts, upgrading of the underground cable network in Mexico City's central neighborhood and the modernization of substations, among other maintenance and repair tasks. BNamericas will host its 3rd Mexico Electric Power Summit on May 13-14 in Mexico City.

  • Brazil signs energy, mining deals with South Korea

    Brazil and South Korea will exchange expertise in the areas of nuclear energy and smart grids under a cooperation deal announced on Friday. The agreement was one of 10 memorandums of understanding signed during a meeting between President Dilma Rousseff (pictured) and her South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye in Brasília, Brazil's mining and energy minister (MME) said in a statement. The leaders also struck a deal for US$2bn in financing for projects belonging to Brazilian mining giant Vale. The funds will be provided by Seoul-based export credit agency Korea Eximbank. No further details were provided about the loan. The nuclear talks also included José da Costa Carvalho Neto, the president of Brazil's state-run power group Eletrobras, and the CEO of Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco), Cho Hwaneik. Rousseff said the deal would lead to technical visits and the sharing of expertise, with collaboration from Eletrobras subsidiary Eletronuclear. "The association between Eletrobras, Eletronuclear and Kepco will allow the exchange of technology and experiences in the area of thermonuclear technology with advantages for both sides," Rousseff said. Park Geun-hye said South Korea was willing provide technical and commercial advice in the smart grid segment.

  • The case for gas-fired power plants in Central America, Caribbean

    Plans to introduce natural gas to the power grids of Central America and the Caribbean are gathering momentum. Both regions are heavily dependent on liquid fuels to produce electricity, which is problematic for two reasons, according to Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Energy Division Chief Ariel Yépez. "[Oil prices] are highly volatile," Yépez said in an interview with BNamericas. "Additionally, basically all of the oil used to produce electricity in these countries is imported ... This has made us think about how we can help these two countries to diversify their energy matrices." IDB carried out two studies that identified natural gas as the most viable option for diversification of the regions' respective grids. The Caribbean – excluding Trinidad and Tobago – relies on petroleum for practically 90% of its power generation needs, Yépez said, while in Central America that figure averages above 70%. IDB sees "great virtue" in natural gas as a cleaner, economically viable source of fuel, one that's reliable in terms of supply and which "has the advantage of reducing the vulnerability of these two regions to the consumption of oil." In the Caribbean, IDB views a potential LNG import hub in a country like the Dominican Republic (where AES Corp already operates an LNG import terminal) Jamaica or Puerto Rico as the most economically attractive options, in order to take advantage of the region's geography and to maximize economies of scale. In Central America, which as of now does not use natural gas for power generation, the IDB has advocated a pipeline from Mexico as the best initial option for importing natural gas. The full interview with Yépez will be published on Monday.

  • Santander, Pioneer to create asset manager for LatAm, Europe

    The asset management arm of Spanish banking giant Santander and Pioneer Investments will join forces to create a leading asset manager for the Latin American and European markets. The move follows that of other asset manager players that are expanding in Latin America, including French bank Natixis. A preliminary agreement has been reached to combine Santander Asset Management and Pioneer Investments into a 353bn-euro (US$384bn) global asset management firm, Santander said in a release. Santander's asset management unit and Pioneer Investments have around 173bn and 225bn euros in assets under management ,respectively. Under the agreement the two will create a new company under the Pioneer Investments name, in which Santander, Italian bank Unicredit, and private equity fund managers Warberg Pincus and General Atlantic will each hold a 33.3% stake. The partners expect the new partnership to benefit from greater scale and diversification in terms of markets, products, clients and distribution channels. The transaction values Santander Asset Management at 2.6bn euros and Pioneer Investments at 2.7bn. Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic will make additional equity investments into the new company as part of the transaction, the release said without disclosing how much they will invest. The head of Santander Asset Management Juan Alcaraz will be the CEO of the new company, while Pioneer Investments CEO and CIO Giordano Lombardo will its CIO. The two parties said that they would now work toward a definitive and legally binding agreement that will be subject to corporate and regulatory approvals.

  • Brazil watchdog approves Santa Maria wind startup

    Brazil's power regulator Aneel has approved the commercial startup of the 29.7MW Santa Maria wind project in Rio Grande do Norte state. Located in the municipality of João Câmara, the project comprises 11 generating units, according to Brazil's official gazette Diário Oficial da União. Santa Maria belongs to Curitiba-based developer Santa Maria Energias Renováveis. Rio Grande do Norte boasts Brazil's highest installed wind capacity, having surpassed 2GW last week. According to local energy think-tank Cerne, the state's wind generation park is now greater than those in Greece, Belgium and Norway.

  • Ecopetrol ups aromatics output amid US demand spike

    Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol increased production of aromatics by 10% at its Barrancabermeja refinery in the first quarter amid higher demand in the US. Output of the crude oil-derived aromatics reached 250,000b in the first three months of the year, Ecopetrol said in a release. According to the company, the US has become a key market for benzene, a key feedstock in the production of plastics, resins, lubricants and synthetic fibers. Ecopetrol signed a contract in February to guarantee export of up to 10,000b of benzene per month for use in the US market. The refinery also produces cumene, xylene, toluene and orthoxylene. The company aims to increase aromatics sales by 20% from last year to 876,000b in 2015. Output of these chemicals are also forecast to climb to 950,000b in 2016 and 1Mb in 2017.

  • The case for gas-fired power plants in Central America, Caribbean

    Plans to introduce natural gas to the power grids of Central America and the Caribbean are gathering momentum. Both regions are heavily dependent on liquid fuels to produce electricity, which is problematic for two reasons, according to Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Energy Division Chief Ariel Yépez. "[Oil prices] are highly volatile," Yépez said in an interview with BNamericas. "Additionally, basically all of the oil used to produce electricity in these countries is imported ... This has made us think about how we can help these two countries to diversify their energy matrices." IDB carried out two studies that identified natural gas as the most viable option for diversification of the regions' respective grids. The Caribbean – excluding Trinidad and Tobago – relies on petroleum for practically 90% of its power generation needs, Yépez said, while in Central America that figure averages above 70%. IDB sees "great virtue" in natural gas as a cleaner, economically viable source of fuel, one that's reliable in terms of supply and which "has the advantage of reducing the vulnerability of these two regions to the consumption of oil." In the Caribbean, IDB views a potential LNG import hub in a country like the Dominican Republic (where AES Corp already operates an LNG import terminal) Jamaica or Puerto Rico as the most economically attractive options, in order to take advantage of the region's geography and to maximize economies of scale. In Central America, which as of now does not use natural gas for power generation, the IDB has advocated a pipeline from Mexico as the best initial option for importing natural gas. The full interview with Yépez will be published on Monday.

  • Santander, Pioneer to create asset manager for LatAm, Europe

    The asset management arm of Spanish banking giant Santander and Pioneer Investments will join forces to create a leading asset manager for the Latin American and European markets. The move follows that of other asset manager players that are expanding in Latin America, including French bank Natixis. A preliminary agreement has been reached to combine Santander Asset Management and Pioneer Investments into a 353bn-euro (US$384bn) global asset management firm, Santander said in a release. Santander's asset management unit and Pioneer Investments have around 173bn and 225bn euros in assets under management ,respectively. Under the agreement the two will create a new company under the Pioneer Investments name, in which Santander, Italian bank Unicredit, and private equity fund managers Warberg Pincus and General Atlantic will each hold a 33.3% stake. The partners expect the new partnership to benefit from greater scale and diversification in terms of markets, products, clients and distribution channels. The transaction values Santander Asset Management at 2.6bn euros and Pioneer Investments at 2.7bn. Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic will make additional equity investments into the new company as part of the transaction, the release said without disclosing how much they will invest. The head of Santander Asset Management Juan Alcaraz will be the CEO of the new company, while Pioneer Investments CEO and CIO Giordano Lombardo will its CIO. The two parties said that they would now work toward a definitive and legally binding agreement that will be subject to corporate and regulatory approvals.

  • Brazil's OAS expects 25% revenue drop this year

    Brazilian engineering group OAS is forecasting a net revenue drop of 25.2% to 5.35bn reais (US$1.79bn) this year, as it faces a federal government corruption investigation, a project portfolio renegotiation and a bankruptcy protection request. The group also reported a 6% fall in net revenue last year to 7.15bn reais from 7.6bn reais in 2013. Some of this was due to an adjustment in the company's project portfolio, local paper Valor Econômico reported. Through the renegotiation of 15 of its 85 projects, its portfolio value dropped to 11bn reais from 21.8bn reais. According to Diego Barreto, corporate development director of the group's core company Construtora OAS, the group's focus right now is on heavy construction works, the report said. Net sales are expected to continue to fall to about 3.1bn reais in 2017, representing a 56.6% drop from 2014, or an average annual decline of 18.7%. Growth is expected to make a comeback with annual revenue increases of 5.7bn reais in both 2018 and 2019 to some 8.8bn reais and 14.5bn reais, respectively. Fonte Nova stadium in Bahia state capital Salvador operated by OAS and Odebrecht (CREDIT: OAS)

  • América Móvil 'focusing on Telesites'

    América Móvil has abandoned its asset sale plan in favor of focusing on its new tower infrastructure rental company Telesites. CEO Daniel Hajj said during a first quarter results call that the company was not anticipating selling any assets in the traditional sense. "I don't think we are interested in selling assets [stakes in América Móvil businesses] as such, but infrastructure and such," he explained, adding that they are waiting to see how the market develops in order to make a final decision. Even though selling stakes in the company was América Móvil's first strategy to stop being classed as a preponderant market player, Hajj said recent events had led them to change direction. "We had the plan to divert some assets, but with the new view of how the Mexican market is shaping with AT&T buying Iusacell and Nextel, we are reviewing how we can reduce our market share," he said. América Móvil took the sector by surprise with its strategy change. The company had been trying to sell billions of dollars in assets since it was branded a preponderant player last year, a move that resulted in a Mexican court putting a stop to a planned asset sale before any interested parties emerged. After an emergency meeting and a shareholder vote, Telesites was created. The new rental company will absorb 10,800 of América Móvil's towers, which will be available to other operators. It is unclear, though, whether Telesites will actually help América Móvil shake off its preponderant status. The new company will be owned by the same shareholders of América Móvil, which could spark a debate on the real autonomy of Telesites. Telesites is expected to be up and running by June.

  • Ecopetrol ups aromatics output amid US demand spike

    Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol increased production of aromatics by 10% at its Barrancabermeja refinery in the first quarter amid higher demand in the US. Output of the crude oil-derived aromatics reached 250,000b in the first three months of the year, Ecopetrol said in a release. According to the company, the US has become a key market for benzene, a key feedstock in the production of plastics, resins, lubricants and synthetic fibers. Ecopetrol signed a contract in February to guarantee export of up to 10,000b of benzene per month for use in the US market. The refinery also produces cumene, xylene, toluene and orthoxylene. The company aims to increase aromatics sales by 20% from last year to 876,000b in 2015. Output of these chemicals are also forecast to climb to 950,000b in 2016 and 1Mb in 2017.

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